Capitol preview: What to expect during the eighth week of the 2011 legislative session

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It? the penultimate week of the legislative session ?perhaps ?and so far there? nothing on the schedule to suggest formal budget talks. There is a whirlwind effort to get measures to the floor with a massive Senate Budget Committee agenda, and long sessions scheduled on the floor of both the House and the Senate this week, reports the News Service of Florida.

Also this week, a measure to cut the corporate income tax, as requested by Gov. Rick Scott, will emerge, showing up as an amendment on a bill in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee Monday morning and plans for a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday.

At the end of the week, President Obama is in South Florida to deliver the commencement address at Miami-Dade College.

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2011

SENATE BANKING AND INSURANCE COMMITTEE: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will take up SB 1922, which would make changes in the planned Florida Health Choices insurance program. The committee will also take up SB 1152, which makes changes to state law for limited liability companies following a Florida Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. Federal Trade Commission. (Monday, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

CORPORATE INCOME TAX: One of Gov. Rick Scott? top priorities comes before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, which takes up an amendment to cut Florida? corporate tax. The measure (SB 1236) is apparently on a fast track as it is scheduled for the Senate Budget Committee, its only other committee stop, on Tuesday. (Monday, 8:30 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

PIP TO SENATE JUDICIARY: The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up a pair of bills (SB 1930 and SB 1694) to change the state? personal injury protection laws in an insurance industry-backed effort to reduce costs of automobile insurance by reining in fraud and limiting attorneys fees. The bills are among more than 20 proposals awaiting the committee? consideration. Other measures include a proposal (SB 1334) doing away with minimum mandatory sentences for drug trafficking offenses and another (SB 2170) to require the attorney general, not the Florida Bar, to submit names for Judicial Nominating Commission appointments. Also on the panel? agenda is a bill (SB 1396) , which would help shield nursing homes from lawsuits. Also, it will consider SB 1448, which would place new restrictions on selling or leasing public hospitals, and SB 1770, which would revise the law dealing with parental notification for teen abortions. (Monday, 9:45 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

DOG TRACKS, ALTERNATIVE ENERGY – SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: The Senate Budget Committee has a long agenda as it races the clock to get bills to the floor. Among several bills available for the committee to hear is a measure (SB 1594) that would allow dog tracks to stop holding live dog races and still have card rooms, and a bill (SB 2078) giving utilities the ability to spend more on renewable energy that is ?rudent?and cost-effective. A coalition of business groups this week expressed opposition to the bill because they say it would allow utilities to charge customers almost $400 million more a year for electricity without regulatory approval. (Monday, 1:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)

UNEMPLOYED TO ADDRESS BUDGET COMMITTEE: Also in the Senate Budget Committee, unemployed workers plan to lobby for expansion of unemployment compensation as the Legislature considers reducing it. The House has passed legislation that would cut the availability of state unemployment compensation from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. The bill (SB 728) on the Senate side that is scheduled to be heard in the Budget Committee doesn? cut the number of weeks or the overall rate of unemployment compensation, and the committee could hear amendments aimed to expand access to unemployment even more. One amendment is aimed at modernizing the way unemployment compensation is calculated in an effort to bring in more workers, and draw down stimulus money. (Monday, 1:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)

EDUCATION BILLS IN BUDGET: A bill (SB 1656) that would expand McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities by broadening the definition of who is eligible, another (SB 1822) that allows students at failing schools to go to other public schools, and a measure (SB 1620) that would expand the state-funded virtual school program, by permitting private and home-schooled students to go to virtual schools, with the state paying for it are all on the Budget Committee? agenda. (Monday, 1:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)

HEALTH CARE BILLS IN BUDGET: The Budget Committee also has on its lengthy agenda SB 1590, a medical-malpractice bill that is a top priority of the Florida Medical Association. Also, it will consider SB 1676, which would provide sovereign immunity to University of Miami doctors who care for patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Bills the panel doesn? get to could come up on Tuesday. (Monday, 1:15 pm. 412 Knott Building.)

ALSO IN BUDGET: Other bills before Budget include a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 2084) to try to reduce the Supreme Court? ability to make substantive rules, and a bill (SB 1610) clarifying that the state could recalculate its base for setting the minimum wage to take into account deflation, the Senate? elections package (SB 2086). The list of bills awaiting the committee? approval is so long, that it has set out an expedited calendar similar to a consent calendar. Just that calendar has more than 30 bills on it that the panel will attempt to hear in the 4 hour and 15 minute meeting. The committee meets again on Tuesday so bills that don? get heard Monday will carry over. The full committee meeting agenda is at:
(Monday, 1:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)


BP RESEARCH FUNDS: Scientists and other representatives of the Gulf Research Initiative are scheduled to unroll efforts to spend $500 million in BP funds to pay for studies looking into the environmental and public health effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The funding was announced in September. The group will announce its initial request for proposals to receive money under the program, which comes in addition to $1 billion in BP money announced this week for restoration efforts in the five state Gulf region. (Monday, 9 a.m., National Press Club, Washington. D.C.)


SENATE ETHICS AND ELECTIONS: The Senate Rules Committee? Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections meets Tuesday morning and will consider recommendations for confirmation for Agency for Health Care Secretary Liz Dudek; Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Ken Lawson; Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins; Community Affairs Secretary Billy Buzzett; Corrections Secretary Ed Buss; Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard; and Surgeon General Harry Frank Farmer along with various appointees to boards and commissions. The panel also considers SB 778 related to district school board members and a bill (SB 1564) that would allow certain proposed constitutional amendment votes to be held in January if that? when Florida holds its presidential primary. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building.)

HOUSE REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE: The House Redistricting Committee holds its second meeting in as many weeks as lawmakers begin preparing for the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political boundaries. Last week’s meeting was largely organizational; the committee has not yet put out an agenda for this week’s get-together. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building)

SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE: The Senate Budget Committee picks up Tuesday morning where it leaves off Monday evening. (Tuesday, 9:45 a.m., 412 Knott Building.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House begins several days in session with a lengthy special order calendar that contains several abortion bills, including: a Constitutional amendment barring the use of public dollars for abortions (HJR 1179); a bill banning abortion coverage from policies that will be sold through the health-insurance exchanges created by the federal health care law (HB 97); a bill strengthening a 2005 law requiring a parent to be notified if a minor is getting an abortion (HB 1247); a revival of a bill, vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, that would require all women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion (HB 1127); and a bill that would ban abortions after fetuses reach viability and require that new abortion clinics be owned and operated by physicians (HB 1397). Also on tap: A measure allowing dog tracks to continue to operate poker rooms with no requirement they have live dog racing (HB 1145); a bill limiting when doctors can ask questions of patients about guns (HB 155); a bill providing penalties for local officials who make more stringent gun laws than the state (HB 45); a Constitutional amendment repealing the “Blaine Amendment” that bars state money from going directly to religious organizations (HJR 1471); and a bill requiring welfare recipients to clear a drug test before collecting benefit checks (HB 353). Measures taken up on special order Tuesday will likely be voted on either Tuesday or Wednesday. (Tuesday, 11 a.m., House chamber.)

SENATE RULES: The Rules Committee will take up bills received from Budget to get them ready for the floor, along with a number of relief bills. Among the bills slated to stop at Rules on the way to the floor on Tuesday are the greyhound racing bill (SB 1594), the PIP bill (SB 1930), a bill (SB 1714) that seeks to begin depopulating Citizens Property Insurance, and several others.


PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION: The PSC takes up a request for submission of bid proposals to provide relay service for the deaf (Docket 110013), and a motion by PSC Phosphate for reconsideration of a risk sharing mechanism in a nuclear cost recovery case. Another issue (Docket 100358) involves rates based on time of use for commercial customers. It? an investigation into the design of those rates by Florida Power & Light. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Public Service Commission Building, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES: Lauren Book? walk to draw attention to sexual abuse and the rights of victims ends Tuesday at the Old Capitol. She? walked 1,000 miles through the state to raise awareness. First Lady Ann Scott, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, and others will join Book for the last mile of her walk up Apalachee Parkway to the Capitol. (Tuesday, Capitol arrival: 12 p.m., Old Capitol.)


MORE REDISTRICTING: The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee holds its second meeting in as many weeks as lawmakers begin preparing for the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political boundaries. The panel hasn’t set an agenda, but will eventually be charged with including two extra seats in the state’s delegation to Washington. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building.)

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democratic Caucus will meet Wednesday morning. (9 a.m., 228 Senate Office Building.)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is in session from late morning until late afternoon. Among the bills on the second reading calendar is SB 234 that allows people with gun permits to carry their guns openly, instead of in a concealed fashion, and a measure (SB 238) requiring booster seats for children aged 4 to 7 in cars. The bill (SB 432) laying out where the line is for doctors in asking questions about funs is on the calendar. Another measure that the Senate may vote on this week is the Ashley Nicole Valdes Act (SB 514) requiring defendants arrested for leaving the scene of a crash involving death be held in custody until bail is set in many cases. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.)

DRUG TESTING FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS: Also on the Senate calendar this week will be a proposal (SB 556) that would require drug tests on people who apply for benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.)


EVEN MORE REDISTRICTING: The House redistricting subcommitttee charged with redrawing the House’s lines holds its second meeting in as many weeks as lawmakers begin preparing for the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political boundaries. There’s no agenda yet, but the panel will, like the others, have to grapple with the Fair Districts Amendments as they craft new lines. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is in session from late morning until late afternoon. (Thursday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011

YET MORE REDISTRICTING: The House redistricting subcommittee charged with redrawing the Senate’s lines holds its second meeting in as many weeks as lawmakers begin preparing for the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state’s political boundaries. Still no agenda, but the committee will eventually have to follow the Fair Districts Amendments in drawing their version of Senate maps. (Friday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is in session from late morning until late afternoon. (Friday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber.)

OBAMA AT MIAMI-DADE COLLEGE GRADUATION: President Obama is the commencement speaker at the nation? largest college, Miami-Dade College, on Friday. More than 3.000 graduates ?just the spring graduates at the North campus – will hear the president? address. (Friday, 7 p.m., James L. Knight International Center, 400 SE Second Ave.Miami.) The ceremony will stream live online at

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.