More time sought for transferring tax exemptions

(NSF) —Voters would be asked in November to give people more time to transfer homestead exemptions to new homes under a proposal approved Tuesday by the House Ways & Means Committee. The proposal (HJR 369 and HB 371), which is backed by property appraisers, would extend from two calendar years to three calendar years the time for Floridians to transfer their Save Our Homes benefit, which caps increases on taxable assessments on homesteaded property at 3% a year.

Sponsor Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach, said the so-called “portability” of Save Our Homes was approved to give property owners up to two years to complete the transfer paperwork, but the law sets the timeline based on the calendar year.

“This could be as little as one year and one day,” Roth said.

The state Revenue Estimating Conference has estimated the proposed change would trim local property taxes by $1.8 million next fiscal year. If approved by 60% of voters in November, the law would take effect Jan. 1. The proposal must be approved by the House State Affairs Committee before it could go to the House floor.

The Senate version (SJR 146 and SB 148) has cleared the Community Affairs Committee and will be considered Thursday by the Finance and Tax Committee.

House continues probe of research institutions

(NSF) — A House investigative committee late Monday delved further into the issue of Chinese meddling at Florida research institutions, following a recent case at Moffitt Cancer Center. The Tampa cancer center, which receives state funding, went through a shake-up after the center’s chief executive officer, a senior member of the center and four researchers resigned over alleged violations of conflict-of-interest rules related to work in China.

“This was a predatory act by the People’s Republic of China that had a long planning horizon where that country used its military and its cyber infrastructure to prey on us,” David de La Parte, executive vice president and in-house general counsel at Moffitt, told the House Select Committee on the Integrity of Research Institutions.

He said the center conducted a review of grants and publications and found no evidence that intellectual property had been stolen or that research of patient care had been compromised. But “out of an abundance of caution,” he told the committee, the center returned roughly $1.1 million to the state.

The money was tied to the salaries, compensation and benefits of Howard McLeod, a senior member in Moffitt’s Department of Cancer Epidemiology, and Dr. Yijing He, a scientist who worked with McLeod. Both of them resigned.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who will be the next House speaker, will continue to investigate potentially improper activities involving Florida’s research universities. Sprowls said the committee is awaiting information from private colleges and universities.