Florida Backroom Briefing: Passing Grade

TALLAHASSEE — Orlando Rep. Anna Eskamani, the ranking Democratic member of the House House Ways & Means Committee, gave a “B” to a tax package that passed this month.

That was mostly because she said the package (HB 7073), which will trim state and local revenue by $439.6 million in the 2024-2025 fiscal year, was more “consumer-centric than previous versions.”

“It doesn’t have any dramatic benefits for constituents really,” Eskamani said during a Facebook appearance with House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa.

Unanimously approved by the House and Senate, the package didn’t include a cut in a commercial-lease tax or changes involving tourism-development taxes that were in an initial proposal rolled out of the Republican-controlled Ways & Means Committee.

Instead of cutting the lease tax for businesses, lawmakers decided to reinstate a program that will give bill credits to frequent toll-road users — a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The toll credits are tucked in a newly passed budget (HB 5001) that is connected to the tax package.

The budget and tax package have not been formally sent to DeSantis. The package includes such things as a series of sales-tax “holidays” on back-to-school items and disaster-preparedness supplies, a break on taxes collected on property-insurance policies and credits for corporations that employ people with disabilities.

SPIN ROOM

The Florida Republican and Democratic parties wasted little time spinning the results of Tuesday’s presidential primary election.

“Tonight’s results underline what we already know: Florida Republicans are united and ready to send Joe Biden back to his basement in Delaware this November,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Evan Power said in a prepared statement.

A short time later, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried said, “The contrast in this election couldn’t be clearer between Donald Trump, who is running on hatred, revenge and retribution, and President Biden, who is fighting to protect our freedoms and democracy and to make sure everyone has a fair shot.”

Both releases were issued before 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, more than 30 minutes before polls closed in the Panhandle, which is on Central time.

Both candidates had essentially wrapped up their parties’ nominations before Tuesday, with Democrats not even having a presidential primary in Florida. Trump faced a cast of candidates who had already dropped out of the race.

BRUSHING UP

DeSantis doesn’t expect the former swing state of Florida to get much national “top of the ticket” attention this November.

“I remember 2016, 2020. Turn on the TV. It’s like non-stop ads,” DeSantis said Wednesday during an appearance in Miami Beach. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time.”

A day earlier, Secretary of State Cord Byrd suggested Florida voters use the time before the Nov. 5 general election to get acquainted with proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.

“With a longer ballot, be prepared,” Byrd told reporters while giving an update about the presidential primary.

“That language is longer,” Byrd said of the amendments. “And so, voters need to do their homework, need to do their research and be fully informed when they go into the polling place so that we don’t have long lines or delays.”

The ballot will include measures about shifting to partisan school-board elections, enshrining a right to hunt and fish in the Constitution, eliminating a public campaign-financing program and making a change in the homestead property-tax exemption. Lawmakers approved placing those proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Meanwhile, initiatives aimed at allowing recreational marijuana and guaranteeing abortion rights await Florida Supreme Court rulings about whether they can go on the ballot.

TASTE OF FLORIDA

After halting his presidential campaign, DeSantis is once again promoting places across Florida to eat.

Before signing a bill Wednesday at Santorini by Georgios in Miami Beach, he encouraged owner Georgios Vogi to give out the restaurant’s name and website and asked about the operating hours while the event was being livestreamed.

Earlier this month, DeSantis stopped at El Mago De Las Fritas in West Palm Beach, according to his schedule. While there, DeSantis tweeted a photo of himself with owner Ortelio Cardenas and raved about “a truly ‘magic’ Cuban frita.”

Also, DeSantis made appearances March 4 at the Strawberry Festival Parade Day Luncheon in Plant City and March 7 at the Busy Bee in Live Oak, both of which required picking up treats to take home for the kids.

“I’m on a mission,” DeSantis noted while at the luncheon. “I’ve got to bring back as many strawberries as we can fit to bring back to Tallahassee.”

A week earlier, DeSantis noted making a stop at Grouper and Chips in Naples, where he tweeted “if you are in the area — you won’t be disappointed.”

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK: “Little Marco no more, six sources tell NBC News Trump eyes Sen. Marco Rubio as a potential VP pick.” — NBC News reporter Matt Dixon (@Mdixon55) on X.


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