1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida Legislature passes tax bill requiring future referendum funds to be shared with charters

“A teacher in a charter school as well as a student in a charter school is the same thing as a teacher or a student in a traditional public school,” said the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah.
The Florida Senate. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
The Florida Senate. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published May 4, 2019
Updated May 4, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Late Friday night, the Legislature passed their tax package bill — with modified language that required school districts to share voter-approved referendum funds with charter schools, but only for future ballot measures.

The language stems from a fight in Miami-Dade, whose voters recently passed a ballot referendum to hike their local property taxes in the name of giving public school teachers raises and increasing school security. District officials have said they would not be sharing the bulk of those funds with charter schools, which are publicly funded schools managed by private entities.

After several iterations of the bill that would’ve required all extra property tax money generated from past referendums to be shared with charters, then a version that would’ve only applied to Miami-Dade retroactively, the final bill only requires districts to share the money for referendums passed after July 1. Charter schools must use the additional funds for the same purpose as district schools.

“A teacher in a charter school as well as a student in a charter school is the same thing as a teacher or a student in a traditional public school,” said the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah.

But in a last-minute act of defiance, Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, stood on the Senate floor, nearing 11 p.m., and said he didn’t support the House’s version as it relates to charter schools and encouraged other Republicans to join him in voting “no.”

“I have supported every charter school program ... but let’s be honest, blatantly honest: the charter school industry would have us believe what Sen. (Rob) Bradley has parroted tonight, that charter school are public schools," Lee said. "Well, charter schools are certainly run by public school districts, but they are contract schools ... and (let’s) stand against them just one time.”

It passed the Senate, and no Republicans joined Lee’s down-vote.

The bill also includes a last-minute tax cut to wholesale telecommunications companies by exempting them from a per-mile tax on telephone or fiber lines they lay on public lands. That’s estimated to cost local governments $400,000 statewide, Avila said, touting the For cities like Miami and Tampa, that will mean roughly $25,000 lost annually, according to a 2018 Revenue Estimating Conference report.

At least one company that would benefit from this change, Crown Castle, was registered to lobby on the bill in the House. It had never been heard as part of the tax package until it was amended onto the bill after 9 p.m. Friday. It had been pulled from another bill, Senate Bill 1000, which had been heard in both chambers. House Speaker José Oliva said it was intended to give companies a break so that they would pass it along to consumers.

“This is a dark-of-the-night sneak attack on a 20-year-old law,” said Amber Hughes, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities. “They wouldn’t have to do it tonight if it would stand up to the scrutiny of the light of day.”

The bill, House Bill 7123, includes about $121 million in other breaks, including a major reduction to business’ lease tax, a major priority of lawmakers of both parties. It also has sales-tax-free days for hurricane preparedness and back-to-school shopping and refunds for hauling debris from Hurricane Michael.


  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  4. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  5. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  7. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  9. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
  10. <Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
    For the first time since he was nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the job of Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees appeared before senators to answer questions that have been percolating for nine...