ATLANTA -- The Florida Legislature is planning a special session in November to discuss how to address the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew, state officials said yesterday.
The special session is expected to run from Nov. 18 through Nov. 20, according to Kathy Putnam, spokeswoman for the House of Representatives' speaker-designate Bolley L. Johnson, D-Milton. Lawmakers are already set to meet Nov. 17 for an organizational meeting.
Ms. Putnam said it is unclear what action lawmakers might take in November to pay for hurricane-related expenses.
Last week, Gov. Lawton Chiles told legislators in a letter that Florida must provide at least $150 million in matching funds to obtain its full share of an $11.1 billion disaster aid package recently passed by Congress. Gov. Chiles also said the state would likely face other expenses from the hurricane.
"We will be looking at a range of things that could be done statutorily to speed up rebuilding," said Ms. Putnam. "But given the fact that on Nov. 3 everybody [in the Legislature] is up for re-election, the issue of taxes may be deferred until February, when a new Legislature comes in for [the 1993] regular session."
Ms. Putnam said lawmakers would almost certainly review current laws governing building codes and the licensing of contractors.
Following the devastation of Hurricane Andrew on Aug. 24, which caused an estimated $7 billion in private property damage in Florida, home owners and state officials have criticized the state's building codes as either too lax or not properly enforced. Current licensing guidelines for building professionals have also come under attack.
Donald Pride, Gov. Chiles' director of communications, said yesterday that the specifics of the special session still need to be worked out.
"I think a session will take place in November," said Mr. Pride. "But its agenda is still in question, including whether the revenue increases will be called for at that time. This will be worked out in the next several weeks."
He said that when lawmakers consider implementing taxes designed to cover hurricane expenses, Gov. Chiles will likely revive his call for revamping Florida's sales tax to repeal exemptions on many items.
Lawmakers rejected his call for such reform earlier this year, which would have raised about $800 million in new revenues.
Mr. Pride said the state, if necessary, could use its capital reserves to provide matching funds to obtain its full share of disaster relief aid authorized by Congress on Sept. 18.
He said the reserve fund, which contained about $212 million before the hurricane, has already been tapped for $29 million to pay for the National Guard's role in the hurricane relief efforts and $10 million for loans to businesses.
If the reserve fund is used, it must be replenished before the beginning of the next fiscal year on June 1, 1993, according to state law.