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

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It? a waiting week. With both chambers having passed budgets, the next step is conference committees, and it? difficult to tell when those might meet, though Senate President Mike Haridopolos said last week that it would likely be Thursday at the earliest, reports the News Service of Florida.

Other measures are also going to conference some time, possibly this week. Among those is the large pension bill, requiring government workers to contribute to their pensions ?with how much they? have to contribute depending on what is done in conference.


GIFT BAN EASE UP: A dramatic change to the gift ban, which currently bans any gift from lobbyists to lawmakers, would be made by a bill (SB 1322) before the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections on Monday. The measure would allow lawmakers to accept items up to $100 in value, with no need to report anything valued at less than $25. Lawmakers could take gifts over $100 with prior written permission from the Senate president or House speaker under the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. The panel also will hold confirmation hearings for Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Waters, Lottery Secretary Cynthia O?onnell, Management Services Secretary Jack Miles, and four members of the Public Service Commission, Eduardo Balbis, Ron Brise, Julie Brown and Art Graham. (Monday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

PROPERTY INSURANCE CALL: The Florida Association of Insurance Agents will discuss issues affecting private property insurance during a conference call with reporters. FAIA President Jeff Grady and others from the organization are on the call. (Monday, 10:30 a.m.,866-200-9760; 2221995#)

GULF COAST CLAIMS: A representative of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, Ken Feinberg? office, will be before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday as the one year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig approaches.The panel also goes back into the issue of illnesses suffered by muck farm workers around Lake Apopka, though the committee doesn? have any legislation on that issue. The only substantive bill before the panel deals permits for withdrawal of drinking water (SB 1514). (Monday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.)

SENATE COMM, ENERGY AND UTILITIES: The Senate Communications, Energy and Utilities Committee takes up proposed bills on energy economic zones (SB 1460), termination of utility service (SB 1572), and others. (Monday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.)

BUZZETT CONFIRMATION: The Senate Community Affairs Committee takes up the appointment of Billy Buzzett as Secretary of Community Affairs. The panel also considers a proposed constitutional amendment giving senior citizens an exemption from increases in property taxes (SJR 808). (Monday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)

HARIDOPOLOS, CANNON MEETING: It? not really a meeting, but Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon will be together Monday to tape a TV show, and since issues before the Legislature will be discussed the tapiung has to be open to the public. Monday, 1:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


REALTOR DAYS: It? the first of two days during which Realtors will be at the Capitol for Great American Realtor Days. On Tuesday, they?l get legislative briefings and meet with legislators. (Tuesday and Wednesday, Challenger Learning Center, 425 W. Jefferson St., Tallahassee.)

MEDMAL MORNING: The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee takes up the chamber? medical malpractice bill (HB 479). A top priority of the Florida Medical Association, the bill put restrictions on out-of-state expert witnesses in malpractice cases and shields hospitals from liability when errors are caused by contracted physicians.(Tuesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.)

WILL THAT DOG HUNT?: The House Finance and Tax Committee takes up a number of bills including a measure to allow greyhound racing tracks to operate other games of chance without actually having to race dogs. Animal rights groups are pushing to end an industry that many say has already gone to the dogs. But (HB 1145) faces a tough slog in the chamber where gambling is less liked than across the hallway in the Senate. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE REVENUE CAP PROPOSAL: The House Appropriations Committee takes up that chamber? proposed change to the state revenue cap (HJR 7221) that would limit revenue growth to inflation plus population growth. Another proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 381) that lowers the cap on non-homestead property and would prevent assessments on homestead property if the market value declines is also before the committee. The panel also takes up HB 1231, which deregulates traditional telecommunication services. (Tuesday 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
PIP BILLS, FOSTER CARE LIABILITY IN SENATE B&I: Senate Banking and Insurance has bills (SB 1930, SB 16941) related to personal injury protectioninsurance. The panel also takes up SB 1500, which limits liability for community providers of foster care services, and a medical malpractice bill (SB 1590) dealing with expert witness rules. (Tuesday, 9:15 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

A VINTAGE BILL: Among several bills before Senate Commerce and Tourism is the bill (SB 854) authorizing direct shipment of wine to Florida consumers, a fight that? been going on a few years. Another bill before the committee (SB 1610) allows for the minimum wage increase to be nullified if the cost of living goes down. (Tuesday, 9:15 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building.)

SCHOOL BUS ADS: The bill (SB 1124) by Sen. Bill Montford allowing ads on school busses is one of several measures before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday. (Tuesday, 9:15 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.)

B-I-N-G-O!: Bingo would be allowed in cardrooms under legislation (SB 522) that will be before Senate Regulated Industries on Tuesday. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.)

PLANNED PARENTHOOD RALLY AGAINST ABORTION BILLS: In reaction to 18 abortion-related bills in the Legislature, Planned Parenthood of Florida and several Democratic lawmakers are holding a rally and press conference. Sen. Nan Rich and Rep. Evan Jenne have introduced legislation that proclaims April 12 ?irth Control Matters Day.?Planned Parenthood is organizing the news conference and effort to lobby lawmakers on Tuesday. The press conference will also touch on the budget fight in Congress that involves a proposal to deny PAP tests, breast exams and birth control, Planned Parenthood said. (Tuesday, 12 p.m., Senate Portico, Outside the Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE JUDICIARY: The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday has a long agenda that includes some controversial legislation, including a couple of tort reform bills. One, HB 391, changes rules for expert testimony, while another (HB 2101) involves the “crashworthiness doctrine,” allowing jurors to consider the fault of the driver when determining damages in a lawsuit against a vehicle manufacturer for a car defect. The panel also hears a bill (HB 927) dealing with adverse posession, in which people take over tax payments on derelict property and then take possession of the property; another dealing with treatment-based drug court programs (HB 81), a bill (HB 821) aimed at reducing false convictions by requiring law enforcement agencies to administer “blind” lineups by an independent administer who is not involved in the case, and a measure (HB 1247) making changes to the state? parental notice of abortion law. The committee also hears a bill (HB 1193) that would prohibit Florida residents from being compelled to buy health insurance. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building.)

SENATE JUDICIARY: The Senate Judiciary Committee also has a very long agenda on Tuesday, including a bill outlawing synthetic marijuana (SB 204), a bill spelling out what doctors can ask patients about guns (SB 432), a bill dealing with the terms of members of the Judicial Nominating Commissions (SB 2170), a measure (SJR 1218) that would ask voters to change the constitution to allow state money to go to religious organizations and several others. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.)

DEATH PHOTOS: The House State Affairs Committee takes up a pair of measures (HB 409 and HB 411) to limit access to video and audio recordings showing sexual assaults or murder. The committee also takes up a measure (HB 1245) to transfer the Division of Emergency Management to the govenor? office (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CRIM JUSTICE: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee has a very long agenda for a five hour meeting on Tuesday as lawmakers work to get measures heard before the end of committee meetings. Among the measures before the panel is SB 812, which calls for intrastate Internet poker to be provided to the public by cardroom operators through a state Internet poker network operated by licensed Internet poker hub operators. Also on the agenda are a bill relating to the expunging of criminal history records (SB 1402), and a bill (SB 1504) that puts a time limit of 30 months on initiative petition signatures. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.)

SENATE HEALTH REG: The Senate Health Regulation Committee has the bill (SB 1754) that prohibits the government from compelling people to buy health insurance, nursing home lawsuit limits (HB 1396), and a bill (SB 1748) restricting abortions in the third trimester, or after viability.The panel also considers the confirmations of AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek and State Surgeon General Frank Farmer. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)

COMMUNITY DCF CONTRACTORS: The salaries of the people who run the community-based contractors that run much of the foster care and child welfare system will be the topic of discussion for the Senate Children and Families Committee on Tuesday. Also before the panel is the confirmation of David Wilkins as secretary of the Department of Children and Families. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building.)


GIFT BAN ON PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS: A bill (SB 1696) that contains a gift ban on public school board members and relatives will be heard in the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. The wide-ranging bill also establishes career academies for middle schools and requires school districts post their budgets and proposed budgets online. (Wednesday, 9:15 a.m., 412 Knott, The Capitol)

ADVANCED PLACEMENT CREDITS BILL CONSIDERED IN COMMITTEE: A bill that would make it more difficult for high school students to obtain Advanced Placement credits will be heard in the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The measure (SB 1732) would require students to receive a 4 out of 5 on the AP test instead of a 3 out of 5 on the exam to obtain college credit. Some universities support the idea, while the College Board, which administers the AP test, opposes it. (Wednesday, 11:00 a.m., 412 Knott, The Capitol)

DUES, DOCS AND DRUGS: The Senate Budget Committee meets to consider a lengthy list of bills, several of them contentious. Among them: A bill prohibiting the state from deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks (SB 830); a controversial measure dealing with illegal immigration (SB 2040); a proposal requiring welfare recipients to receive drug testing (SB 556) if received; a bill changing rules on local government pensions for police officers and firefighers (1128); and — if received — a measure limiting when doctors can ask patients about whether they own a firearm (SB 432). (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott)


CONFERENCE COMMITTEES?: The Senate and House have blocked out time on Thursday for conference committees to get to work at ironing out differences between the two budgets, but so far, no actual meetings have been noticed.

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.