Lawmakers Propose Several Hurricane Relief Bills

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Proposals to help you weather hurricane season are going to dominate the coming legislative session in Tallahassee, and several lawmakers are already laying out their ideas.

House and Senate Democrats say their bills will help you protect your family and save money, but some of those ideas are already stirring up a storm of controversy.

A recent study shows people would be more likely to hurricane-proof their homes if they don’t have to pay higher taxes because of the improvements. Sen. Steve Geller says it’s only fair.

“If people do the right thing, if they buy the hurricane shutters, if they put in hurricane glass, if they do whatever else is necessary, we shouldn’t say we’re glad you did it, now we’re going to charge you more property taxes for it.”

Geller’s plan includes a bill to make sure your property taxes don’t go up if you make those improvements. Another bill would use extra sales tax revenue from all the hurricane-related spending to offset the Citizens Property Insurance Surcharge homeowners are facing. A third requires new gas stations or those being renovated to install generators.

House Minority Leader Chris Smith says we all saw what happened when the hurricanes wiped out power to gas stations.

“That affected every aspect of our lives. People could not go to work. They could not get their children to health care.”

But getting the proposals through the Republican-controlled legislature may not be so easy. Legislative leaders are on board with gas stations having generators, for example, but not necessarily the state requiring generators.

“I’m not sure the taxpayers, through a mandate of some sort, I don’t think we should require anyone, any business to go to that extent,” says Allan Bense.

House Speaker Allan Bense of Panama City says Republicans also don’t want to bail out Citizens Insurance Corporation with increased sales tax revenue. They’d rather do an overhaul. Expect a tough fight when the bills come up for debate this spring.