Do Florida’s Corporate Tax Giveaways Come at the Expense of Funding Affordable Housing? | Opportunity For All Floridians

Do Florida’s Corporate Tax Giveaways Come at the Expense of Funding Affordable Housing?

The Florida Legislature just finished holding a three-day special session that was called to address Florida’s property insurance crisis. The property insurance crisis — which affects homeowners and renters alike — is just one part of a spiraling housing affordability crisis in Florida. The most recent legislative session continued to prioritize corporate tax giveaways over much needed efforts to fund affordable housing in Florida.

The $624 million in tax giveaways to Florida’s largest corporations was money that instead could have gone to programs that help Floridians who need an affordable and safe home. In fact, the Legislature even slashed money they had previously allocated to affordable housing efforts.

In this most recent legislative session, the Florida Legislature, which is made up of state representatives and senators from all 67 Florida counties, blocked the efforts of lawmakers who proposed legislation that would reduce the costs of rent and protect Floridians against predatory landlords who take advantage of renters.

Why is this? Why do incredibly important efforts to ease the housing affordability crisis and protect Floridians from predatory consumer practices fail? It’s not because these ideas are unpopular. Far from it. It has to do with who has power in Tallahassee.

Power Plays

Remember, for a bill to become law in Florida, it must go through the Florida Legislature, which is made up of two bodies, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, and from there, it must be signed by the Governor. Each chamber in the Legislature has a leader: the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.

One of the most important moments for a bill – in fact, a moment that will often foretell the ultimate fate of the bill – is when the Speaker or the Senate President decides which committees to assign which bills. In a short, 60-day session, speed is vital. The ability to move a bill quickly is imperative to its ultimate passage, because it must pass through all of its assigned committees, get a vote on the floor of each chamber, and then be transmitted to the governor for signature.

The next most powerful gatekeeper for a bill’s chances are the chairs of the committees they are assigned to. The chair of a committee controls the calendar, and he or she can decide which bills are read and voted on in each meeting. And they are under no obligation to hear a bill at all. Many bills “die in committee” because a chair decides they don’t want to hear it.

This power dynamic — the power of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President and the Committee Chairs — is the reason why even the most basic housing cost relief bills never saw the light of day.

Millions for Tax Giveaways While Housing Affordability Bills Go Unheard

Several lawmakers proposed bills that were intended to address the burgeoning housing affordability crisis. But they were never given a hearing.  

Among these unheard bills was HB 6017/ SB 580. If passed, this law would have removed a decades-old law which stops local governments from passing rent control ordinances, a tool local cities and governments could have used to put the brakes on sky-rocketing rent increases.

Another example is HB 511/ SB 648 (D). This law, if passed, would have protected those evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic from being penalized by credit agencies for their losing their homes during a pandemic through no fault of their own.

Another example, HB 1131/ SB 1312 (R) would have given evicted Floridians the opportunity to expunge their records. Potential renters with evictions on their records are often not able to rent a home because of this record.

In addition to these policies that the Florida Legislature refused to pass, they actively made life worse for renters by cutting $100 million from the William E. Sadowski Affordable Housing Fund. This fund was established in 1992 by the Florida Legislature to create affordable housing partnerships at the local and county level. This money will now go to a new home buying program that “exists in name only.” The Florida Realtors lobbied for this reallocation of money. The Florida Realtors PAC has given more than $1.7 million to Republican leaders.

Property insurance proves to be soaring in addition to rising rents. Not only did the Florida Legislature fail to address the property insurance crisis during their regular session, they attempted to pass a bill that would have made insurance even more expensive for about 1 million Floridians.

Floridians deserve to live without fear of skyrocketing rents, insurance, or sudden evictions. Some of the Florida Legislature’s $624 million in corporate giveaways could have been used to support lowering our housing costs.

Housing Affordability bills That Never Saw the Light of Day during the 2022 Session​

BillWhat Would It Have Done About Housing Affordability?Status
HB 6017 by Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) / SB 580 by Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee)It would have repealed a decades-old law that blocks cities and counties from passing local long-term rent-affordability laws.Died in committee
HB 1335 by Rep. Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) / SB 1776 by Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee)It would protect pregnant women and families from rapid evictions.Died in committee
HB 1587 by Rep. Travaris McCurdy (D-Orlando) / SB 1620 by Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens)It would have required landlords to give tenants notice further in advance before raising the rent.Died in committee
HB 511 by Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) / SB 648 by Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa)It would have prohibited credit agencies from penalizing tenants who were evicted during the COVID19 pandemic – a period when so many low-income renters living paycheck-to-paycheck lost their jobs through no fault of their own.Died in committee
HB 819 by Rep. Michael Grieco (D-Miami Beach) / SB 1134 by Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Miami)It would have required landlords to maintain working air-conditioning in their rental units.Died in Committee
HB 1131 by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami) / SB 1312 by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami)It would have allowed evicted Floridians an opportunity to expunge their records.Died in Committee
HB 933 by Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Windermere) / SB 1934 by Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens)It would have required landlords to disclose to tenants the presence of toxic mold in their unitsDied in Committee

In the midst of a statewide #HousingCrisis, the FL Legislature swept $100M out of a nationally respected affordable housing rental assistance program for low-income families into a home-buying program that exists in name only.

Floridians deserve to live without fear of skyrocketing rents, insurance, or sudden evictions. Some of the FL Legislature's $624M in corporate giveaways could have been used to support lowering our housing costs.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Adapted from the Florida House of Representatives

House Bill Drafted

The Representative (also called a member) contacts House Bill Drafting Services and requests a bill to be drafted. The member may provide very detailed instructions or just the general idea. A staff member, called a “bill drafter,” will work with the member and his or her staff until the member is satisfied and a final draft is approved. Once approved, the idea receives a bill number (odd numbers only in the House) and is called a bill for the first time.

1st Reading is by Publication in the House Journal

In accordance with Article III of the Florida Constitution, all bills must be read three times before being voted on. The 1st Reading is by publication of the bill number, its sponsor, and a short one paragraph description of the bill, called a title, in the House Journal. The Speaker will also refer the bill to one or more committees or subcommittees in the House. Committees and subcommittees are groups of members appointed to review specific areas of government such as education, criminal justice, and agriculture, to name a few.

House Committee or Subcommittee Meeting

Once a bill is referred to a committee or subcommittee, it is reviewed for inclusion on an agenda. The Chair of the committee or subcommittee will decide which bills should be heard. In 2019, of the 2,506 bills filed, 1,520 “died” in a committee or subcommittee, never being heard. Once a bill has been heard and voted favorably by all of its committees or subcommittees, it is placed on a House Calendar signifying that it is available for 2nd Reading. 

2nd Reading on the Floor by consideration of the Special Order Calendar

Once a bill is on the House Calendar, that does not mean that the bill will be heard on the floor. The House has a special committee called the Rules & Calendar Committee that will determine when and if a bill will be sent to the floor for 2nd Reading. These bills are placed on a recommended Special Order Calendar. Each Special Order Calendar is voted on prior to the House considering those bills on a specific legislative day. Once a bill has been introduced and read on the Special Order Calendar, it is explained, questions are answered about the bill, and amendments are considered. This constitutes a bill’s 2nd Reading. 

3rd Reading on the House Floor by consideration of the Third Reading Calendar

After a bill has been read a second time on the Special Order Calendar, it is taken up on 3rd Reading, generally, on a subsequent legislative day. This is the final reading of the bill prior to being voted on. Once a bill’s title has been read a third time, it is explained again, questions are again permitted, and amendments may be offered; at this point, amendments may only be considered by a 2/3 vote. The final action is for debate on the bill prior to the sponsor making a closing statement. The bill is then voted on by the members of the House. Any bill not receiving a favorable vote “dies” on the floor.

Senate Consideration

Once the bill is passed by the House, it is sent to the Senate with a “message.” The Senate’s process varies slightly from the House’s process. The Senate may vote to pass the bill without amendments and return the bill to the House, refer the bill to a committee for consideration, or defeat the bill on the Senate floor. The Senate may decide to further amend the bill and pass it. If this happens, the bill is returned to the House.

Return to the House

If the House has received a House bill having been passed by the Senate without amendments, it puts the bill in its final form called an “enrolled” version. The enrolled version of the bill is then sent to the Governor for consideration. If the Senate has further amended the House bill, it is returned to the House for consideration of the Senate amendments. This “back and forth” consideration of the bill is an attempt to perfect the bill’s language by working out the differences, but generally ends after several exchanges by each side. At any time, either the Senate or the House may decide to abandon the effort of reaching a compromise and the bill dies. If the issue is important enough, however, the House and Senate may agree to appoint a conference committee comprised of Representatives and Senators to work out the details of the bill.

Consideration by the Governor

Generally, if the Legislature is in session and has sent the Governor a bill, he/she has seven days to consider the bill while the Legislature remains in session. If the bill is received after the Legislature has adjourned “sine die” (the 60-day session has ended), the Governor has 15 days to consider the bill. The Governor may take one of three actions: sign the bill into law, allow the bill to become law without his/her signature, or veto the bill. If the Governor vetoes the bill, the Legislature may override his/her veto by a 2/3 vote of the Legislature during the next Session.