Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The regular legislative session convenes Tuesday, and shortly after lawmakers gavel in, Governor Rick Scott is expected to deliver the annual state of the state address. 

The guess is Scott will speak heavily about education, trumpeting his proposed increase in education spending and a hoped-for across the board pay raises for classroom teachers. 

Less likely is that the governor will talk much about a difference that’s already emerged between Scott and lawmakers – a call by the governor for lawmakers to dramatically increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid in an effort to boost health care coverage.

The Senate has made it pretty clear that it plans to pass top priority ethics legislation early – likely as the first bill, and likely this week. One ethics measure is already on the calendar, and expected to come up Tuesday, the only day the Senate actually holds a floor session this week. 


JOINT OBAMACARE MEETING: House and Senate select committees that have been studying the federal Affordable Care Act will hold a joint meeting to hear an economic analysis of the law and the potential expansion of Medicaid. (Monday, 8:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

FOLLOWED BY … MORE OBAMACARE: After holding a joint  meeting, House and Senate select committees will hold separate, back-to-back meetings to discuss how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act. That could include signaling whether they think the state should expand eligibility for Medicaid, a highly controversial idea that was backed last month by Gov. Rick Scott. (House meeting: 11 a.m., 17 House Office Building. Senate meeting: 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building.)


AGRICULTURE: The Senate Agriculture Committee takes up a measure (SB 752) that would allow tax credits for certain indoor agricultural operations, a measure that would let nutrition groups and contractors that run systems for accepting electronic state benefits cards to operate at farmers markets and other open air markets that sell fresh produce (SB 778). The panel also takes up legislation dealing with agricultural storage and shipping containers (SB 654), and disabled accessibility at self-service gas stations (SB 902). (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE COMMERCE AND TOURISM: Bills that exempt car-sharing services from rental car taxes (SB 140), and require more reporting by the state economic development agencies on various economic development programs (SB 572), part of a broad new look at economic development initiatives that has been a major focus of lawmakers this year. As part of that ongoing look, the committee will also hold a workshop on economic development incentives related to the entertainment industry, though no legislation on that issue is before the panel. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

WANT TO LOOK AT MY CELL PHONE? GET A WARRANT: Police would need a warrant to seize information off any portable electronic device, such as a cell phone, under a bill (SB 846) that’s before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The Senate’s staff analysis of the measure notes that the bill would create new law in the area of search and seizure, which has changed slowly despite rapid changes in personal communications technology. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ELECTIONS BILL WORKSHOP IN SENATE E&E: The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up a bill (SB 600) that makes some changes to the law dealing with absentee ballots and the length of ballot questions that voters would see. That proposed change comes in the wake of complaints about long voting lines this past Election Day. The measure, by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, doesn’t deal with early voting or otherwise with voting times. The committee also holds confirmation hearings on a number of appointees for various boards. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON GAMING: While little action is expected in the coming session on gambling, other than a potential moratorium on the Internet Cafes that have become the mainstay of many strip malls across Florida, staff of the House Select Committee on Gaming and representatives from the Seminole Tribe of Florida are scheduled on Monday to discuss the state’s compact that gives the tribe exclusive gaming rights.  (Monday, 4 p.m. 303 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


JOINT LEGISLATIVE AUDITING: The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee continues its discussion of a recent Auditor General’s audit of Okaloosa County’s oversight of local tourist development money and money from BP to reimburse the county for oil spill recovery. The panel also considers a request by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, for an audit of the Lauderdale Lakes Community Redevelopment Agency and the City of Lauderdale Lakes’ General Fund. (Monday, 10 a.m., 309 Capitol.)


APD WAITING LIST DISCUSSED: The state Agency for Persons with Disabilities will hold a meeting to discuss prioritization of people on a waiting list for home- and community-based services. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed reducing the waiting list in APD’s main program for providing services. (Monday, 10 a.m., 2450 Shumard Oak Boulevard, Building 1, Room 1820, Tallahassee.)


START OF REGULAR SESSION: The Legislature begins its regular session on Tuesday. 

JOINT SESSION, STATE OF THE STATE: The Legislature holds a joint session Tuesday morning, with a speech from Gov. Rick Scott on the state of the state, expected later in day. (Tuesday, 11 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be on the floor from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and will start with the top priority for Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. A major elections bill (SB 2) that bans public officials from taking other state jobs, and gives the Ethics Commission more power, among other things, is the first bill on the calendar. Tuesday is the only day this week the Senate is expected to be on the floor, so the chamber could waive its rules and take the measure up on third reading and pass it. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House opens its first floor session of the year Tuesday morning and will hear opening remarks from Speaker Will Weatherford. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House plans to return to the floor Tuesday afternoon to take up bills on the calendar. The House will be in session “until completion” Tuesday evening. (Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

OTHER HOUSE MEETINGS: (Agendas not published)

House Vet and Military Affairs, 1 p.m., 12 House Office Building. 
House Energy and Utilities, 1 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
House Trans, Econ Development Appropriations, 1 p.m., 102 House Office Building. 
House Criminal Justice, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building. 
House Education Appropriations, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building. 


TECO SEEKS SPECIAL CONTRACT: The Florida Public Service Commission will consider giving approval to a special power contract between Tampa Electric Co. and a large manufacturer considering a move to the utility’s service area. The name of the manufacturer has been kept confidential, but power costs are an important factor in its decision about where it will build a new facility. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)



ELECTRIC THEFT BILL KEEPS SPEEDING DOWN THE LINE: Shocking, but people apparently steal electricity. A bill (SB 338) that is moving with high voltage speed through the process would strengthen penalties for electric power theft and is before the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. The panel also gets an update on foreclosure activity in Florida, and reviews of proposed budget cuts by agencies, faith-based prison programs, and drug courts. (Wednesday, 8 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

EDUCATION BUDGET WORK SESSION: The Senate Education budget subcommittee holds a budget work session and gets an update on class size compliance by districts. (Wednesday, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

EYE WAR FLARES: The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to take up a controversial bill (SB 278) that would allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications. Optometrists, who now can only prescribe “topical” medicines such as drops and creams, have long sought the expanded powers but have faced heavy opposition from ophthalmologists. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

DOLPHIN STADIUM REHAB BILL IN FINANCE AND TAX: The Senate Finance and Tax Committee hears a measure (SB 306) that is aimed at helping the Miami Dolphins upgrade their stadium. Backers envision a local vote in Miami-Dade County on a hotel bed tax increase in parts of the county that would pay for the upgrades at Sun Life Stadium. The bill by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, authorizes the tax increase. It’s the only bill before the committee, though the panel will also hear presentations on Space Florida and the SpaceX program. The committee also will continue to review economic development tax incentives. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ALTERNATIVE WATER SUPPLIES: The General Government Appropriations Subcommittee in the Senate takes up a bill (SB 364) dealing with consumptive use permits for development of alternative water supplies. The panel also hears presentations on proposed budget reductions. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE EDUCATION: The Senate Education Committee takes up a proposed committee substitute for a bill (SB 878) that requires notice by state officials of major changes in federal law that may affect the state’s K-20 education accountability system, among other changes. The committee also takes up a bill dealing with background screening for people who work on school grounds (SB 318) and several other general education measures. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: Bills dealing with infant death (SB 56), inspection of child care facilities (SB 416), Medicaid eligibility (SB 794) and others are before the Senate Children and Families Committee on Wednesday. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING: The bill (SB 52) that would restrict texting while driving is before the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. At its last stop, the measure, by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, was amended to allow texting while a driver is stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. Florida is one of just a few states with no limits on texting while driving.  (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

TERMS OF COURT BEFORE SENATE JUDICIARY: A proposal before the Senate Judiciary Committee (SB 746) would allow, though not require, the state Supreme Court to establish terms for its justices, courts of appeal, and circuit courts. Currently appointments aren’t for a certain term, though there’s a mandatory retirement age of 70. A bill dealing with the application of foreign systems of law in disputes in the United States (SB 58) is another of several bills before the committee on Wednesday. The panel also has bills dealing with property fraud (SB 112), design professionals (SB286), wage garnishment (SB 592), controlled substances (SB 294), clerks of court (SB 556), annuities (SB 166), deeds and wills (SB 736), and powers of attorney. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

RIGHT TO SPEAK: A bill (SB 50) that would guarantee that members of the public have a right to speak at public meetings of certain bodies is before the Senate Rules Committee. The effort arose after members of the public complained they went to testify before local government commissions and boards and were denied the right to speak. A review determined that there’s no law that says people have a right to speak before government bodies, only that they must be able to attend. (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE MEETINGS WEDNESDAY (Agendas not published)

House Civil Justice, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building. 
House Ag and Nat Resources Approps, 10 a.m., 102 House Office Building. 
House Gov Ops, 10 a.m., 212 Knott Building. 
House K-12 Subcommittee, 10 a.m., 17 House Office Building. 
House Ethics and Elections, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building. 
House Insurance and Banking, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building. 
House Higher Ed, 1:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building. 
House Justice Appropriations, 1:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building. 
House Economic Development and Tourism, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building. 


MEDICAL BILLING ISSUE BEFORE SUPREME COURT: The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments in GEICO General Insurance Co. v. Virtual Imaging Services, Inc., a case over the validity of a fee schedule in the state law related to Personal Injury Protection automobile insurance. The case involves a woman who underwent two MRIs after an auto accident. Virtual Imaging, which did the MRIs, billed Geico under the victim’s PIP insurance policy. Geico paid Virtual a lesser amount based on a fee schedule referenced in state law. Virtual sued, arguing Geico could not use the particular fee schedule because it was not specifically cited in the customer’s policy. The trial court ruled in Virtual Imaging’s favor. The Third District Court of Appeal upheld that decision and also certified the issue as one of great public importance for the Supreme Court to decide. (Wednesday, About 9:50 p.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)

FLORIDA CHAMBER 2013 CAPITOL DAYS: Members of the Florida Cabinet, along with state education and economic leaders are scheduled to make appearances and be panelists during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s two-day Capitol Days event.  The business advocacy outfit’s event is focused on job creation.  Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is the lunch headliner on Wednesday.  Thursday’s lunch is to jointly feature Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who have both vocally criticized the governor’s new stance on the expansion of Medicaid in Florida.  Gov. Rick Scott will later host a reception for the attendees at the Governor’s Mansion.  (Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Hotel Duval, 415 N. Monroe St, Tallahassee.  Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Hotel Duval, 415 N. Monroe St. Tallahassee.)

PROPERTY TAXES TALLIED: The state Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss estimates of ad-valorem taxes, which are an important factor in paying for public schools. (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.)



Meeting Thursday in the Senate (no agendas posted yet):

Banking and Insurance, 8 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Community Affairs, 8 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.Health Policy, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
Military Affairs, 8 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
Environmental Preservation, 10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Gov Oversight, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
Reg Industries, 10:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
Transportation, 10:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
Appropriations, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

Meeting Thursday in the House 

State Affairs, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
Judiciary, 10 a.m., 404 House Office Building. 
Economic Affairs, 10 a.m., 102 House Office Building. 
Health Care Appropriations, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
Ag and Nat Resources, 1 p.m., 102 House Office Building.
Biz and Professional Reg, 1 p.m., 12 House Office Building. 
Choice and Innovation, 1 p.m., 306 House Office Building.
Gov Ops Appropriations, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
Trans Highway Safety Approps, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
Education Committee, 4 p.m., 102 House Office Building.
HHS Committee, 4 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
Local and Federal Affairs, 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
Regulatory Affairs, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.


CABINET MEETING: Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet hold their regular meeting on Thursday.

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

OBAMACARE COSTS PROJECTED: The state Social Services Estimating Conference will meet to discuss projected Medicaid costs under the federal Affordable Care Act. A possible expansion of Medicaid is a highly controversial issue, and future costs are a key part of the debate. (Thursday, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES PRESSER: The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, The ARC of Florida and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities will hold a press conference to urge lawmakers to support Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal that would remove people from a waiting list for home- and community-based services. (Thursday, 2:30 p.m., second floor rotunda, the Capitol.)



House Rules, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
Appropriations, 10 a..m., 212 Knott Building. 
Finance and Tax, 10 a.m., 17 House Office Building.

DLP CASE TO ETHICS COMMISSION: The Florida Commission on Ethics is expected to take up a series of issues, including a complaint that Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, did not fully report financial information on 2009 and 2010 disclosure forms. (Friday, 8:30 a.m., Department of Transportation auditorium, 605 Suwannee St., Tallahassee.)

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.