Backroom Briefing: How high will tax cuts go?

(iStock / peanut8481)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Based on past years, and comments from House and Senate leaders, Gov. Rick Scott will get a tax-cut package to sign in 2018 when he is expected to be ramping up a run for U.S. Senate.

The package may not be exactly as he's requested --- a nearly $180 million proposal made up of sales-tax “holidays” and a rollback of some 2009 hikes on driver's license fees.

But odds are, lawmakers will give Scott at least part of what he wants.

Sen. Rob Bradley, who this week took over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers will look carefully at Scott's proposal.

“We also need to make sure that what we consider to be the basic needs, fundamental needs of the state government, are financed appropriately,” Bradley said. He added, “We've always been supportive of tax cuts. Whether the number ends up at $180 (million) or something less, that remains to be seen.”

House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said the details will depend, in part, on the growing state tab for Hurricane Irma.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran was more confident.

“Of course, we look forward to partnering with Governor Scott on his tax cut proposal,” Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a statement.

Scott made several appearances across the state this week promoting the proposal, and even made a rare appearance before Renner's committee.

Scott's proposal would reverse portions of fee increases imposed on motorists in 2009 after the recession hit. He also proposed a 10-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes and school supplies and three week-long disaster preparedness tax “holidays” in May, June and July.

No 'Trump slump' here

Forget talk of a “Trump slump” on tourism, Florida's tourism czar told Brits this week.

Visit Florida President Ken Lawson said Florida, even with the lingering impacts from Hurricane Irma on the Keys, is getting a “Trump bump” when it comes to travelers.

Lawson's comments were reported by London-based TTG Media, which covers travel professionals in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Lawson's talk of a “bump” came during the World Travel Market “WTM” event in London, days after he traveled with Scott to Toronto to try to entice people from Canada to spend money in the Sunshine State.

“He said Brexit was `not a concern' and that UK visitors were still coming, though a weak pound meant they were more likely to stay in a lower priced hotel than before,” TTG Media reported about Lawson's comments.

Back in June, some Visit Florida officials, including Chairwoman Maryann Ferenc, expressed concern that President Donald Trump's America First and immigration policies could have a negative impact on international travel.

“We've seen that at the international shows that we've gone to,” Ferenc told board members during a June meeting. "It's a variable that we really have not a lot of control over and we're going to suffer from.”

Lawson has maintained since Hurricane Irma blistered the state two months ago that Florida continues to seek a record 120 million tourists this year, which would be about a 6 percent jump from 2016.

As part of Lawson's appearance in London, he announced that the state's international budget will be $11 million, with a $2 million winter campaign starting in January in the United Kingdom that will feature radio promotions targeted at Manchester and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom accounted for 1.7 million visitors in 2016, the second highest for Florida's international travelers behind Canada.

Bears beware?

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski is going west.

The commission announced this week that Yablonski, the Gulf Power external affairs director and one-time policy director for former Gov. Jeb Bush, is leaving to become executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont.

“Florida has been my home for more than 25 years. Its great beauty, bountiful fish and wildlife resources, and good friends working in the stewardship arena, will always have a special place in my heart,” Yablonski said in a prepared statement. “To serve on behalf of our fish and wildlife in a state that served as an inspiration for Theodore Roosevelt has made all the difference.”

Yablonski has been appointed five times to the state commission since 2004 and has helped decide numerous issues, including being credited for efforts to provide more opportunities for hunting and fishing.

He also will be remembered for being on the majority side of votes to postpone controversial bear hunts the past two years.

The vote in April, in which Yablonski cast the deciding vote, included directions to staff delaying talk of another hunt until at least 2019.

The commission, with Yablonski in support, had backed a hunt in 2015, which was the first in more than 20 years.

Commissioner Aliese P. "Liesa" Priddy, who has voted for bear hunts, will take over as interim chair.

Cash and Florida carry

Florida Carry is raising money off a case filed at the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a gun-toting man arrested in 2012.

“The costs involved in bringing a case to the U.S. Supreme Court are considerable,” the Second Amendment advocacy group said in an email to members Wednesday. “Florida Carry is not alone in funding this effort, but our share is on par with national level organization participation. For a statewide grassroots group, this is a large financial burden to bear.”

The Supreme Court on Nov. 21 is expected to consider whether to take up the challenge to the constitutionality of a Florida law that bars people from openly carrying firearms in public.

In March, a divided Florida Supreme Court upheld the longstanding state ban.

Dale Norman challenged the constitutionality of the law after being arrested in 2012 in St. Lucie County for openly carrying a gun in a holster.

A jury found Norman, who had a concealed-weapons license, guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, and a trial judge imposed a $300 fine and court costs.

The Florida Supreme Court majority found that the ban on openly carrying guns "regulates only one manner of bearing arms and does not impair the exercise of the fundamental right to bear arms."