The day in Tallahassee, March 19, 2009
The Associated Press
Builders and developers could soon find it easier to build in cities across Florida.
A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure that would eliminate or streamline many regulations for builders seeking to put homes or businesses near cities, while making it easier to allow developments in rural areas if they create jobs.
Supporters of the measure, SB 360, contend the legislation is needed during a time when Florida’s economy is stumbling. It would speed up permitting for some large developments and even exempt some developments from rules that block them unless nearby roads can handle increased traffic.
But both environmental groups and those representing developers said they were not completely satisfied with the bill, which next heads to the full Senate.
Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday put a 15 percent hold on general revenue spending for the last quarter of the budget year in case Florida’s financial swoon worsens.
His budget director, Jerry McDaniel, sent a memo to state agencies saying they would get only 85 percent of their appropriations when money is released at the start of the fourth quarter, which runs from April through June. McDaniel added his office will inform agencies as soon as possible on releasing remaining funds, citing a need for "an abundance of caution."
The governor’s office did not put a dollar figure on the holdback, but it could amount to more than $700 million based on previously released revenue estimates.
Florida voters may be asked to stop using taxpayer money on political campaigns.
A Senate committee on Thursday approved legislation that would ask voters to end the use of public money on campaigns for governor and three other statewide offices. Voters approved using taxpayer money for campaigns in 1998.
The proposed constitutional amendment heads next to the full Senate, which must approve the measure by a three-fifths vote to place it on the 2010 ballot. Many Democrats opposed the idea.
Lawmakers are also considering another measure that would place spending limits on campaigns for next year’s election. Candidates for governor would have to agree to limit spending to $7 million in order to qualify for taxpayer help. In 2006, the limit was about $20 million.
A state senate committee says lobbyists cannot have a say in how $1 billion worth of money for hospitals should be divided up each year.
The Florida Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee voted Thursday for a measure that would bar lobbyists from serving on a group that recommends how to parcel out money from a health care account holding state and federal aid.
Legislators rely on the recommendations when divvying up money to hospitals.
The bill (HB 556) heads next to the full Senate.