By Mike Vasilinda
May 4, 2007 6:58 p.m.
Snags on property tax reform will bring them back to the capitol next month, but that doesn't mean the session was without its accomplishments as some 300 bills are headed to the governor for his signature.
Children in elementary school will now have two and a half hours of physical education each week. College students won’t have to pay a sales tax on textbooks, but they might see a tuition hike unless the governor vetoes it.
On the final day, the hallways at the state capitol were not as crammed with lobbyists as years past. Still, several high profile bills remained to the final hour. Not only did lawmakers fail to lower property taxes, they actually increased them. The new budget requires local school boards to raise property taxes by $545 million.
House Minority Leader Dan Gelber calls that the irony of this session.
“And we have put on the backs and the shoulders of homeowners an incredible education burden, and we have just walked away from here,” says the Miami Democrat.
Charlie Crist got his way more often than not. Expensive touch screen voting machines will go to the scrap heap in favor of reliable optical scan machines that have a paper trail, and the state will have one of the first presidential primaries in the nation. Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster says even without property tax relief, the session was a success.
“Success is not based on how many laws you pass," says the Orlando Republican. "It’s how you get them.”
The legislative break is short. Lawmakers are due back June 12 when the only thing on the agenda will be property tax relief.