Image: Legislative Update
 2015 Legislative Session Begins

Image: Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMAThis week marks the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session. The Florida Legislature has been hard at work in committee meetings during the past few weeks and your FICPA Governmental Affairs team has been there every step of the way, monitoring the legislation that will be considered this session. During the next 60 days we hope you'll read IMPACT Report, where we'll provide timely updates on the activities occurring in Tallahassee.

Advocating on behalf of the profession is a major part of the FICPA's mission, and my team and I are dedicated to fulfilling that mission. Please contact us for any reason during this session regarding issues the Legislature is discussing.

You may reach the team at govaffairs@ficpa.org or (850) 224-2727.

Sincerely,

Image: Deborah Curry Signature
Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMA
FICPA President/CEO

In Case You Missed It
Image: Former Senator and FICPA Consultant Passes Away Image: Gov. Scott Unveils KEEP FLORIDA WORKING Budget Image: Legislators File Financial Literacy Bill
Former Senator and FICPA Consultant Passes Away
After a three -year battle with ALS, former Sen. Ken Plante, a great friend of the CPA profession, passed away March 1. He was 75.

Plante served in the Florida Senate from 1967 to 1978, then owned a lobbying firm for several years. In 1999, newly elected Gov. Jeb Bush invited Plante to join his team as legislative affairs director for a year. Plante then returned to the private sector, where he maintained a select clientele list.

The FICPA was fortunate to have worked with him as a contract lobbyist/consultant for over 14 years. "Sen. Plante was always available when we needed his input and knowledge," said FICPA President/CEO Deborah Curry, CPA, CGMA. "The profession was fortunate to be the benefactor of that knowledge. We also are grateful for the friendship he shared with FICPA members and staff throughout the years."

"Ever since we were in kindergarten together, you always knew where you stood with Kenny," said Florida Board of Accountancy member and FICPA member Jim Lane, CPA, a lifelong friend of Plante's. "If he told you something, you could take it to bank. He will be missed by more than just his family."

As of publication date, plans for the service had not been finalized.

Gov. Scott Unveils "KEEP FLORIDA WORKING" Budget
Gov. Rick Scott recently revealed his 2015-2016 "KEEP FLORIDA WORKING" Budget. It includes over $673 million in tax cuts for Florida families and businesses and has the highest per-student funding for K-12 education in Florida's history. The budget totals $77 billion and keeps $5.2 billion in reserves.

The budget includes almost $200,000 in Clay Ford Scholarship funds for minority students in accounting programs at Florida colleges and universities. The scholarships were awarded through the CPA Education Minority Assistance Program, which was created in 1999 to encourage minorities to enter the CPA profession. The scholarships were awarded to 30 accounting students pursuing their fifth year in college to become licensed CPAs.

"Florida is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and we are pleased to reward these students for their hard work," Gov. Scott said. "These scholarships are helping to keep some of our brightest minds here in Florida, as these students work to attain their version of the American dream. We are so proud of their accomplishments and cannot wait to see what all they can achieve as they pursue their careers as licensed CPAs."

Last year, scholarships were awarded to 30 accounting students pursuing their fifth year in college to become licensed CPAs.

Legislators File Financial Literacy Bill
Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers again have filed legislation that would require high-school students to take a financial-literacy course. Senate Bill 92 and House Bill 29 would replace an elective course with a class that would cover topics such as investing, insurance and taxes. More than 40 legislators have signed on as supporters of the measure this year. The same proposal was considered during the 2014 Legislative Session, but failed to pass. This year's legislation has yet to be heard in committee, but both bills are expected to be considered as the session moves forward.

Sen. Hukill also has filed Senate Bill 206 that would provide financial literacy resources to individuals with developmental disabilities.

"Navigating the financial world can be difficult and overwhelming and this program will provide the necessary tools for individuals with developmental disabilities to make informed decisions for their futures," Sen. Hukill said. "It will also benefit employers by providing them with the resources and information to assist their employees."

SB206 was voted on favorably during two committee meetings leading up to Session and is expected to pass the Senate.
     
Image: Gov. Scott Advocates CST Tax Cuts Image: Public May Gain Access to Government Contracts Image: Legislation Addresses Business Identity Theft
Gov. Scott Advocates CST Tax Cuts
On the heels of his 2014 tax cut agenda, Gov. Rick Scott pushes for additional cuts to cell phone and T.V. (CST) taxes. Scott, who pledged to cut over $1 billion in taxes during the next two years, wants to reduce the tax by 3.6 percent. According to the Governor's Office, the proposal would save the average family about $40 per year and would reduce revenue to state and local governments by $470 million, or about one-third of what the tax currently generates.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill has proposed Senate Bill 110, which seeks to cut tax rates on communication services and direct-to-home satellite services by 2 percent each. The bill also changes the distribution of the tax revenue to soften the impact of the change on local governments' revenue.

"These taxes are paid every month and, when combined with federal taxes, are an extreme burden on Florida's families and businesses," Hukill said.

According to a report from Florida TaxWatch, Florida has one of the highest CST rates in the nation. The Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee recently passed SB 110 and the Senate Finance and Tax Committee will hear it next.

Public May Gain Access to Government Contracts
Florida's public-records laws are among the most transparent in the country. In an effort to have a more "open government" process, the state has sought to provide the public with access to government information, including information about state agencies' contracts with independent contractors. These contracts include those made with individuals and business entities that act on a public agency's behalf. In several instances, this includes the work CPA firms are contracted to do on behalf of the state.

Sen. Wilton Simpson and Rep. Halsey Beshears are ushering legislation through the 2015 Session that will clarify the steps individuals must take to obtain public records regarding state contracts. Senate Bill 224 and House Bill 163 require that state contracts include contact information for the agency's "custodian of public records;" allow the public to request records directly from an agency; and provide a process for those who file lawsuits against contractors or agencies that fail to comply with public-records requests. The measures may alleviate current situations in which lawsuits have been filed against contractors specifically to abuse public-records laws.

The FICPA is monitoring both initiatives and tracking their progress as they move through the committee process.

Legislation Addresses Business Identity Theft
Florida is at the top of the list for incidences of personal identity theft in the U.S., and businesses also are at risk. Now state lawmakers are considering legislation that would give Florida businesses broader protection against fraud and business-identity theft. The legislation (SB390/ HB157) is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Garrett Richter and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo. It provides victims with a process to obtain the documents needed to repair identity theft-related damage and expands criminal offenses to include the unlawful use of a business identity's personal-identification information.

In addition to the increased protections provided to businesses, the legislation authorizes the courts to order restitution for victims' out-of-pocket expenses, including attorneys' and CPAs' fees. The provision to include CPAs' fees was included at the FICPA's request.

The FICPA will continue to support the efforts of Sen. Richter and Rep. Passidomo to combat identity theft in Florida.

CPA Wins Special Primary Election

Image: CPA Wins Special Primary ElectionOn Jan. 27, St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson, CPA won the Special Primary Election for Florida House of Representatives District 17. The seat had been held by Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart. Renuart ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Travis Hutson for the Senate District 6 seat vacated by Sen. John Thrasher, who was appointed president of Florida State University.

Stevenson, a Republican from St. Johns, credited her success to the involvement of the FICPA and the support of the Florida CPA/PAC.

Also on the ballot was a special election for House District 24 seat vacated by Rep. Travis Hutson. In the race to replace him, Paul Renner won the primary.

The General Election for HD 17, HD 24 and SD 6 is April 17. Stevenson will face Write-in Candidate Mary Anne Boczek and No Party Affiliation Candidate Judy Stevens. Renner will face Adam Morley in HD 24 and Hutson will face David Cox in SD 6.

Stand With the PAC in 2015

Image: Stronger Together: Your Florida CPA/PAC Fresh from the 2014 elections – where 97 percent of Florida CPA/PAC-supported candidates were elected – the PAC must rebuild its resources to prepare for the 2016 elections. The success of the PAC's future political activities hinges on your participation

Please join the cause and make sure CPAs count in 2015 and beyond. Make your yearly contribution today!

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