Florida House Republicans rammed through a 96-page tax bill with no debate Wednesday night and a potentially illegal tax-break for manufacturers which did not get the two-thirds majority required constitutionally change local government tax rates.
After locking down the chamber, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told reporters after the 68-48 vote that his lawyers had reviewed the bill and it did not require a two-thirds vote.
But House Minority Leader Perry Thurson, D-Plantation, a lawyer, said that was plainly wrong, and a lawsuit challenging the tax-change would be coming “immediately.”
“The legal implication is that it requires a two-thirds vote on at least on bill in the package. We don’t know everything that as in there. They did not get two-thirds vote,” Thurston said. “Unfortunately, it looks like that is something that has to be challenged, and we’re sure it will be challenged with all due speed.”
The section of the constitution relevant states that “Except upon approval of each house of the legislature by two-thirds of the membership, the legislature may not enact, amend, or repeal any general law if the anticipated effect of doing so would be to reduce the authority that municipalities or counties have to raise revenues in the aggregate.”
The manufacturing tax cut reduces revenues to both the state and local governments.
But Weatherford said his lawyers felt they did not need the super-majority, which would have required some Democrats to go along with it.
“We looked into that very closely. We do not believe it needs a two-thirds vote,” Weatherford said, although his office declined to release any legal opinion.
“I disagree with [Thurston]. I think the bill is extremely constitutional,” he said. “We do not believe [that section of the constitution] applies. I can’t give you all the specifics. We talked with our attorneys. We had an entire team that looked at it and studied it. We do not believe it required a two-thirds vote.”
After the brief media interview, Weatherford’s office declined to provide any more specifics about the legality of the bill.