(TALLAHASSEE, FLA) – Florida drivers will get substantial relief at the gas pump as part of a temporary gas-tax break of a quarter per gallon and 27 new laws kick into effect this weekend.
The gas tax reprieve, proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers, allows motorists to avoid paying the state’s 25.3-cents-a-gallon gas tax starting October 1st.
Governor DeSantis says Florida is flush with cash and has at least $17 billion surplus in the state budget, so he wanted to pass along the savings to Florida residents.
The gas tax helps pay for transportation projects, and lawmakers directed $200 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus money to make up for the lost tax revenue.
Gov. Ron DeSantis says the fuel tax break will help offset rising fuel prices and inflation and was part of a larger tax package (HB 7071) that the governor signed in May.
The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas hit a high of $4.89 on June 13 in Florida. Now prices are hovering around $3.39 a gallon, according to the AAA auto club.
“It’s gone down, which is great. But a lot of that is just because demand pulled back because it was so expensive,” DeSantis said during an Aug. 31 appearance in Live Oak.
DeSantis, who is running for re-election in November, initially asked lawmakers to provide a gas-tax break for six months.
“I wanted to do it over the summer, as well. The Legislature thought, I think wrongly, that that was mostly tourist (traffic),” DeSantis said during the Live Oak appearance. “There’s more tourists. But it’s still 90 percent that would go to Floridians. So, that’s why they wanted it once we get past Labor Day and into the fall. But the bottom line is, you know, we’re delivering a (tax) holiday for people.”
It’s unclear how Hurricane Ian will affect gas prices.
Other new laws that will go into effect this weekend are aimed at preventing protests outside people’s homes and cracking down on “street takeovers” where vehicles do stunts such as “wheelies” and “donuts.”
One measure (HB 1571) makes it illegal to picket or protest outside a person’s home “with the intent to harass or disturb that person in his or her dwelling.”
The law allows police to charge people with second-degree misdemeanors if they do not peaceably disperse after being warned about protesting.
The new law was proposed in response to gatherings outside the homes of Florida’s U.S. senators, a Brevard County School Board member, the Central Florida home of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and the North Port home of the parents of Brian Laundrie, who murdered his fiancée Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito.
By the time DeSantis signed the bill on May 16, supporters focused on protests outside the homes of U.S. Supreme Court justices after the leaked draft of an opinion that later overturned the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.
Measure (HB 399) expands a law barring drag racing by including stunt-driving events that block traffic on roads and in parking lots. In part, the law also includes definitions for such things as a “donut,” “drifting,” a “burnout,” and a “wheelie.”
Also, new law (HB 95) increases prison terms for trafficking in fentanyl and makes it a first degree felony for dealers when methamphetamines result in death. The bills were passed during the legislative session that ended in March.