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DeSantis signs toll relief law for frequent Florida commuters

The governor also hinted at other tax relief plans to come in the upcoming legislative session.
Traffic streams over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in St. Petersburg.
Traffic streams over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in St. Petersburg. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2021) ]
Published Dec. 15, 2022|Updated Dec. 15, 2022

Florida drivers who spend a lot of time on toll roads could see cheaper commutes in 2023 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed toll relief legislation into law Thursday.

Motorists who pass through at least 35 toll stations per month will get a 50% credit on charges next year. The state set aside $500 million for the program, and local entities will be reimbursed to ensure they don’t lose revenue from the toll charges, according to a legislative analysis.

The program, which was approved by legislators during this week’s special session, is available for people with SunPass and other Florida transponder accounts. Drivers must drive a two-axle vehicle and have an account in good standing. Motorcycles are not included in the program.

The new statewide program does not supersede or cancel out any local discount programs.

Bill sponsor Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, said qualified commuters could save an average of $550 next year.

Related: Florida lawmakers consider 2023 toll discounts for frequent commuters

DeSantis during a bill signing in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday said that the rebate is not meant for tourists but for “our folks who are working every day.”

The toll relief package is the expansion of an earlier program proposed by DeSantis, called SunPass Savings, which was more narrowly focused on Florida’s Turnpike. The new program will cover all toll roads.

DeSantis and House Speaker Paul Renner said the toll relief package was a way of trying to make life more affordable for Floridians; both blamed the federal government for increased inflation.

They also hinted at other tax relief plans in the upcoming regular legislative session, with Renner saying they’re “just getting started.”

Florida’s special session this week mostly focused on the state’s property insurance crisis. DeSantis did not publicly sign the property insurance reform bill Wednesday morning. That bill, which is not expected to immediately lower property insurance rates for homeowners, limits the incentives to sue insurance companies by eliminating the requirement that insurers pay the attorneys’ fees of policyholders who win lawsuits.

When asked by a reporter, DeSantis said legislators’ proposed changes to insurance litigation are the “most important” part of the reform package.

“You will see more people be willing to write policies in Florida because of what we did,” he said.

At the end of the news conference, DeSantis was asked if he was willing to “take the lead” in restricting abortion in Florida to about 6 weeks in pregnancy — something commonly referred to as a “heartbeat bill.” Florida this past session enacted a 15-week abortion ban. DeSantis said during his 2018 campaign that he’d sign a “heartbeat” measure, but he has largely been quiet about what he would like to see regarding abortion in Florida’s next legislative sessions.

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“I’m willing to sign great life legislation, that’s what I’ve always said I would do,” DeSantis said Thursday.

Renner on Thursday reiterated his support for a “constitutional carry” bill in the next regular session — a term that generally refers to allowing people to carry guns without permits.

A spokesperson for Renner said earlier this year that the House leader wasn’t coming in with any preconceived notion of how the legislation should look, and said Renner’s goal was to balance the Second Amendment with the need for safety.

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