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

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It? the final week of the legislative session ?hard to predict as always. Leaders on both ends of the Capitol say they expect to finish by Friday evening, which would mean having a budget worked out fully by Tuesday and on lawmakers?desks sometime Tuesday evening to begin the 72 hour waiting period before a vote.

Ideally, legislators and their staffs will read the budget during that time, but both chambers will also be on the floor all week, with a host of issues still outstanding as we head into the week. Among those are the proposed Medicaid overhaul, House Speaker Dean Cannon? desire to overhaul the Supreme Court, splitting it in two, a bill to give greyhound tracks the ability to stop racing greyhounds, proposals in each chamber to get tougher on illegal immigrants, and the effort to crack down on so-called ?ill mills.?

MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011

ON THE SENATE THIRD READING CALENDAR: The Senate will be on the floor Monday at 9 a.m. and likely every day this week. Right now, the calendar of bills on third reading is short. It includes the pill mill bill (SB 818) to crack down on pain clinics doling out meds, and the House? Supreme Court overhaul (HB 7111). That measure, a major priority for House Speaker Dean Cannon, would split the court into two divisions, one for civil cases, one for criminal, with five justices each. Also on the third reading calendar is HB 1329, which broadens the types of students who can get McKay Scholarships to go to private schools. Right now, only disabled students are eligible, and the bill would allow certain other students with diseases or other problems that may not be thought of as truly disabilities to get the vouchers. (Monday, Senate in session, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber.)

ALSO ON SENATE THIRD READING: Also on the third reading calendar in the Senate is HB 99, which deregulates certain types of commercial insurance. That measure isn? particularly controversial, it passed the House unanimously. The Senate also has available for a vote SB 396, which says that regulatory cost estimates don? apply to updates or changes to the Florida Building Code or Fire Prevention Code, and requires governments to adopt a ?ustainable building rating system or national model green building code?for new and renovated buildings. The last bill currently on third reading is SB 1754, which prohibits someone from being compelled to purchase health insurance.

MEDICAID OVERHAUL: The Senate is expected on Monday to consider a Medicaid-overhaul bill, although top senators said Saturday they are still trying to work out a deal with the House that would allow the effort to move forward. Republican leaders want to move almost all Medicaid beneficiaries into managed-care plans. The House has already approved a plan to overhaul the $20 billion health-care system, but the Senate has proposed a vastly different bill. Among the differences: The House wants to divide the state into eight regions in which managed-care plans would compete, while the Senate has proposed 19 regions. The number of regions is important because lawmakers want ?rovider-service networks?— local networks of hospitals and other types of providers — to be able to compete with HMOs in the managed-care system. Those networks would have difficulties operating if the regions are too large.

IMMIGRATION: The Senate is expected to take up its proposal aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, in part requiring workers who get jobs through the state? labor agency to be run through a federal immigration status check. The bill would also require officials to run applicants for state benefits through the federal system as well.

DRUG TESTING FOR TANF RECIPIENTS: The Senate could take up as early as Monday a bill (SB 556) on the special order calendar that would require drug testing for anyone wanting to get temporary assistance for needy families from the state. The bill has already passed in the House, gaining approval early this week on a 78-38 vote.

ALSON ON THE SENATE SPECIAL ORDER: Among the bills on the special order calendar this week in the Senate are a bill (SB 204) banning synthetic cannabinoids, bills related to the qualifications of expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases (SB 1590), property tax breaks for deployed military (SB 1502), replacing the current judicial nominating commissions (SB 2170), and child restraint seat requirements (SB 238).

OTHER CALENDARS: The Senate has a local bill calendar, though it? not clear when it will take that calendar up on the floor this week. There are 30 bills on the Senate? local bill calendar. (Monday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber.)

ALL BILLS IMMEDIATELY CERTIFIED: Any bills passed starting Monday are immediately certified to the other chamber.

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democrats hold their regular caucus meeting. (Monday, 8 a.m., 228 Senate Office Building.)

HOUSE IN SESSION ?THIRD READING: On third reading in the House is the proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 2) that would prohibit the government from compelling Florida residents from buying health insurance; a proposed constitutional amendment and a bill making changes to the homestead property tax caps (HB 1163, HJR 381); a bill (HB 493) changing the presumption in how much of a hotel room bill is taxable when the room is purchased through an online booking agency, a series of school choice bills, nursing home tort reform (HB 661) and several others. (11 a.m., House chamber.)


LAW ENFORCEMENT MEMORIAL DAY: Officials at the Capitol honor fallen police officers Monday. (Monday, 10 a.m., Capitol Courtyard.)

DEMOCRATS OPPOSE PROPOSED VOTING LAW CHANGES: A group of Democratic state lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Ron Saunders and Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, are joined by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson at a Capitol news conference to speak against the proposal to change elections laws, including shortening early voting. (10 a.m., Senate Democratic Office Conference Room, 228 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

?HOICES?NEWS CONFERENCE: Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda and advocates hold a news conference to discuss choices made by legislators this session and call for a change in priorities. (Monday, 10:45 a.m., Plaza Level Rotunda, The Capitol.)

SILVER ALERT: Attorney General Pam Bondi and members of the Legislature hold a news conference to urge lawmakers to pass SB 664 or HB 513, the Silver Alert bill. The measure would set up a system to broadcast alerts when an elder with dementia or Alzheimer? goes missing. (Monday, 11:30 a.m., Cabinet Room, Lower Level, The Capitol.)

TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011

BUDGETS TO DESKS: If the Legislature is going to finish by Friday night, the final agreed-on budget must be on lawmakers?desks by Tuesday night, to start the 72-hour waiting period before a vote can take place. Legislative leaders say they think they can finish ?n time?but haven? said what time Tuesday they anticipate a final budget printing.

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will still be able to take up bills on special order, and likely will on Tuesday as the final three days it will focus on bills on third reading and in messages. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to be in session every day this week. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., House chamber.)


TEACHER APPRECIATION RALLY: The Florida Education Association is promoting a teacher appreciation rally to show support for public education. Speakers include Democratic lawmakers and FEA President Andy Ford. (Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., The Moon, 1105 E. Lafayette St., Tallahassee.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is in session. If the budget was delivered on Tuesday, questions and floor amendments likely will be entertained Wednesday. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House also is likely to take up the budget on Wednesday. (Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., House chamber.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is in session. (Thursday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: Expect a long day in the House, the second-to-last day of session often is. (Thursday, 9:30 a.m., House chamber.)

SUPREME COURT OPINIONS: The Florida Supreme Court releases regular opinions. (Thursday, 11 a.m.)

FRIDAY, MAY 6, 2011
Final scheduled day of legislative session.

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is tentatively scheduled to work Friday, adjourning sine die at 6 p.m. (Friday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House has its calendar listed as going ?ntil completion?on Friday. (Friday, 9 a.m., House chamber.)

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.