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Florida lawmakers pass tax relief bill
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Unanimous votes by Florida’s House and Senate leaves the fate of $395 million in tax relief in the hands of Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill passed March 18 by the Senate and March 20 by the House reduces certain annual vehicle registration fees, totaling $395 million in savings. Starting Sept. 1, fees to register a motor vehicle will drop to the amount paid prior to 2009.

Registration costs will go down by $25.05 for heavy weight vehicles, $21.55 for middleweight vehicles and $18.55 for lightweight vehicles.

The legislature increased vehicle registration fees to help balance the budget in 2009, when state general revenue collections declined more than 22 percent since their high in 2005-2006, officials said. Now, they’re reversing that action.

Gov. Scott praised the Senate for passing the bill. He released a statement March 18 that talked about how critical the bill was to his $500 million “It’s Your Money” campaign.

“This tax cut will let families keep nearly $400 million of their hard-earned money in their own pockets,” Scott said.

Pinellas County Tax Collector Diane Nelson took a proactive stand to help local residents save money. On March 12, well before the legislature voted on the measure, Nelson removed the two-year renewal option from motor vehicle renewal notices.

“If this bill passes, I want to give Pinellas County residents the opportunity to take advantage of the savings it will offer,” Nelson said in a press release. “I would be disheartened if someone missed out on the opportunity to save money because they were not informed of the pending legislation and potential savings.”

In 2013, 9 percent of Pinellas County residents took advantage of the biennial registration. A conservative estimate of $12.50 in annual savings per registration shows that Pinellas County residents would save approximately $500,000 by holding off on biennial renewals until the new rates are established, Nelson said.

However, residents can still renew their registrations for two years if they prefer. They need to write “two year renewal” on their registration renewal return card and double the amount to be paid. There is no cost advantage with two-year registration renewals, they are offered as a matter of convenience, Nelson said.

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House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced in January details of a five-point “Work Plan 2014,” which prioritized tax relief. A reduction on annual vehicle registration fees was one of the five. The House and Senate have already passed two others, legislation to protect Florida’s children from sexual predators as well as the Florida GI Bill.

The GI Bill increases education and employment opportunities for the state’s veterans, including an increase in funding for Educational Dollars for Duty. It also allows out-of-state veterans to receive in-state tuition rates through the C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program.

The bill provides $300,000 to Visit Florida to spend to encourage veterans to make Florida their home. It also enhances hiring preferences for veterans and spouses of veterans who died in combat for government jobs and allows private employers to do the same.

Four separate bills were passed to increase protections against sexual offenders. The two remaining points are Economic Opportunity through Education and Improve Government Accountability and Efficiency.

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