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House unanimously passes cut in car registration fees

A bill that would save the typical driver about $25 in auto re-registration fees unanimously passed the Florida House on Thursday and heads to Gov. Rick Scott, who has pushed for it as a middle-class tax cut.

The cuts will cost the state $309 million in lost revenue next year and nearly $400 million in subsequent years. Charlie Crist was governor in 2009 when he and lawmakers approved the hike, and eliminating it gives Scott a chance to contrast himself against Crist at the polls this year.

Faced with a surplus of $1.2 billion, lawmakers had no trouble mustering support for the measure.

"When you cut taxes by $400 million, what you're doing is leaving $400 million in the private sector and not sucking it up in government coffers," Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, told members earlier this week.

That triumphant tone rankled some Democrats, who noted the savings are minor for individuals but major for businesses like car rental companies. Still intact are much steeper increases for new registrations that were also hiked in 2009. But Democrats also voted yes on the rollback.

"Anyone who's down on it, (the Republicans) are going to say you're raising taxes," Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, warned before the vote. "So just be aware of that."

Panel approves drug

After vigorous questioning about the potential misuse of non-regulated marijuana, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to let a non-euphoric strain of pot be developed and sold legally in Florida.

The committee also sanctioned a $1 million one-time appropriation to pay for university-based research into the long-term effects of the substance on children with intractable epilepsy.

The bill opens the door to allowing growers in Colorado to license their technology to Florida growers and give people in possession of the cannabis immunity from prosecution if they can meet certain conditions.

Among the conditions: show that they have a medical condition and a doctor has prescribed the use of the marijuana strain, the strain can be shown to contain no more than 0.05 percent of the euphoric component known as THC but high in the therapeutic properties known as CBD.

Law enforcement would have the ability to take representative samples from growers six times a year.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, has won the support of the Florida Sheriff's Association. But it continues to face steep opposition from the Florida Medical Association.

Also backing the measure: Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who is the incoming House speaker. He quietly spoke to reluctant legislators to approve the research money and let future committees work out policy concerns.

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed.

House unanimously passes cut in car registration fees 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:50pm]
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