2023 Florida Legislature Priorities
As Florida’s population surges and the state posts a record surplus, there are common causes for Republican and Democratic legislators convening March 7: Defending against natural disasters and water shortages, upgrading infrastructure and providing for affordable housing and workforce needs.
- AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Florida’s population growth has outstripped its inventory of affordable homes and rental units, potentially putting a damper on efforts to recruit and retain employees. Housing is widely considered “affordable” if it costs a household no more than 30% of its income.
A plan crafted by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo offers tax incentives to developers to create housing that includes affordable units and tax relief to property owners who rent out affordable housing. But it would provide no rent relief and would prohibit local rent control programs such as one approved last fall by voters in Orange County. The plan comes with an $811-million price tag. Last year’s legislative appropriation for general affordable housing was half that: About $363 million (plus $150 million in special funds for housing recovery in the hurricane disaster areas).
“More and more would-be home buyers are choosing to rent, which has placed further pressure on the state’s rental market and subsequently caused price spikes,” says Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro. “In fact, there has been a 36% increase from January 2020 to December 2022 alone, adding burden to household budgets that were already straining.”
Select committees on resilience and recovery, created by Passidomo and new House Speaker Paul Renner, met in January to outline their 2023 goals.
Republican Jim Mooney, representing Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade, serves on the House Select Committee on Hurricane Resilience and Recovery and told his colleagues in January he is on a mission.
“I’ve probably experienced more hurricanes in my life than anyone in this room, having grown up in Islamorada, and I still live there. Having served in local government for 10 years and leading recovery efforts through Hurricane Irma (and other disasters), clearly there are multiple deficiencies within the systems,” Mooney says. “There is a multitude of things that we can do to correct the deficiencies across the state of Florida, from building codes to LDRs (land development regulations) to comprehensive land-use plans. They’re not necessarily fun; they’re not necessarily easy. But they must be done if we’re going to be resilient.”
In the Senate, Republican citrus businessman Ben Albritton is chairing the new Select Committee on Resiliency. His mostly inland district stretches from Polk to Charlotte counties. He says the new Senate president demonstrated vision by prioritizing resilience to support the state’s growth.
“Climate change is influencing three drivers of coastal flooding in Florida: Sea-level rise, storm surge intensity and the intensity and frequency of rainfall,” Albritton says, with one in five Florida properties “at substantial risk” of flooding. “As sea-level rise continues, financial impacts may include an increase in flood-insurance costs, a decrease in property sales or property values and an increased risk for lenders.”
Democratic Vice Chair Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami-Dade attorney, says overdue bipartisanship on these concerns may allow lawmakers to make progress in 2023.
“Both sides of the aisle are now able to admit that there’s climate change and there’s sea-level rise,” he says. “And if we want to keep and preserve this place, we’ve got to spend some money and some effort.”
The committee aims to conserve wildlands, upgrade public infrastructure, improve planning and address needs for resilient but affordable housing.
Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson of St. Johns chairs a newly created Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee that aims to improve water quality and water supplies that are falling short as the population grows.
- LAND PROTECTION
Senate President Passidomo and House Speaker Renner pledged in January to bring more wildlands under state protection in the Florida Wildlife Corridor this year amid development pressure. Gov. Ron DeSantis, while avoiding talk about climate change, pledged continued support for environmental protection.
- NATIONAL CULTURE WARS
Legislation expanding restrictions on abortion, reducing regulations on carrying guns and changes for the state’s public universities will dominate headlines as speculation about DeSantis announcing his presidential ambitions abounds.
The Legislature last year:
- Provided $750 million in additional disaster relief for communities impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
- Gave property tax relief to owners of destroyed homes.
- Provided housing assistance for the displaced and money for rebuilding water infrastructure and beaches.
- Sent $350 million to local governments to help them pay their local match to unlock up to $7 billion in federal reconstruction money.