Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The second week of the Legislature brings more bills to the floor this week, including a measure on the Senate side that could prevent local governments from barring people from talking at public meetings. The House may vote this week to repeal a driver license change that made it harder for foreign drivers to drive in Florida. The worry: Canadians may not come. 


Budget allocations, the amounts of money earmarked for each part of the proposed budget, are likely to be finalized by Senate budget writers by the end of this week, a spokeswoman for the Senate said. Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron and other leaders planned to work over the weekend to try to reach a final figure on how much will be allocated to education, and how much to health care, and other parts of the proposed Senate budget. Once budget subcommittees know what they will have to work with, they can more easily begin crafting the details of the individual pieces of the proposed spending plan. House leaders haven’t said when they’ll produce budget allocations. 



SENATE PANEL DISCUSSES MEDICAID EXPANSION: The Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will discuss a potential expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the law better known as Obamacare. Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed the expansion, but House Speaker Will Weatherford and other House Republicans have opposed it. The Senate select committee, which has been studying the federal health law for weeks, has not taken a position on the expansion. (Monday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

GAS TAX HIKE AND FIREARM TRAINING RULE BEFORE SENATE COMMERCE AND TOURISM: Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has proposed a bill (SB 1040) for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that would add .125 cents to every gallon of gas to cover the cost of state inspections of motor fuel, while also proposing to suspend a firearm license from any individual that fails to properly file proof of recertification training. The Commerce and Tourism subcommittee will also hear a proposal by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, to create a 13-member Black Cultural Tourism Enhancement Commission within the Department of State to help market and train staff at the state’s black cultural sites, and a proposal (SM 78) by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, that is simply an opinion urging Congress to replace income taxes with a national retail sales tax. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CAMPAIGN FINANCE BILL UP IN SENATE E&E: One of the Legislature’s busiest committees so far moves to campaign finance with Senate Bill 1382, a measure by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, that would do away with “committees of continuous existence.” The Senate Ethics and Elections committee also takes up two measures by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate — one aimed at reducing the use of paper in state government (SB 1352) and another exempting voters’ email addresses from the state’s Sunshine laws (SB 1260) — and Senate Bill 544, by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, which would allow lawmakers to use public buildings without running afoul of the legislative gift ban. The panel will also consider a slate of confirmations. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE AGRICULTURE: The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday takes up legislation dealing with agritourism (SB 1106), and agricultural lands (SB 1190). Another bill before the committee (SB 674) would require animal shelters to keep records on how many animals they euthanize and require taxpayer-funded shelters to make those records available to the public. The committee will also hear a presentation on the impact of the 2010 BP oil spill from Mimi Drew, special advisor at the Department of Environmental Protection. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee takes up a bill dealing with distribution of pornographic material at schools (SB 86), abuse of juvenile offenders (SB 678) and a perennial dispute involving unions and “wage theft” (SB 1216), among several other bills. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE GEN GOV APPROPS: The Senate General Government Appropriations Committee takes up legislation dealing with the powers and duties of the Department of Environmental Protection (SB 326) by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and a bill (SB 372) dealing with the transport of alcoholic beverages by vendors. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


CLAIMS BILLS: The House Select Committee on Claims Bills workshops a proposed committee bill. Among the suggestions that have been made for changes in the claims bill system are a limit on payouts, a cap on lobbying fees, and various other changes meant to make the claims bills less arbitrary. (Monday 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PARI-MUTUELS BEFORE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON GAMING: The ongoing two-year review of gambling in Florida continues with the House Select Committee on Gaming getting an overview of the state’s vast array of pari-mutuel wagering, which runs from horse and greyhound race tracks to jai alai frontons, poker rooms, and slot facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.  The committee hears from industry and state regulatory officials. (Monday, 4 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


IN FAVOR OF DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BILL: Advocates for domestic partnerships will speak at a news conference ahead of the Tuesday Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meeting on why protections are needed. Janice Langbehn will speak about how she was denied access to her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, for over eight hours as Pond slipped into a coma and died at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. The sponsor of the domestic partnership bill (SB 196), Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, will also speak at the news conference along with other advocates for the bill. (Monday, 12:30 p.m., Fourth Floor Rotunda, Senate side, The Capitol.)

ENERGY ISSUES DISCUSSED: The Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida and Florida Chamber of Commerce hold a discussion of energy issues with lawmakers and members of the business community. Participants include Michael Zehr, Vice President of the national Consumer Energy Alliance and a former advisor to U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell; Leticia Adams, energy policy director for the Florida Chamber; Beth Richardson, Miami-based head of the Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Service team for the Consulate General of Canada; and David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. Topics will include energy development, natural gas, utilities and the Keystone XL Pipeline issue. (Monday, 1 p.m., 333 Capitol.)


SCOTT ALL ABOUT GIVING SCHOOLS MORE MONEY: Gov. Rick Scott, who wants the state’s teachers to get a big raise next year, is also handing out cash to schools. On Monday, he presents school recognition checks to schools in Broward County. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Piper High School, 8000 NW 44 St., Sunrise.)



SENATE IN SESSION – THE RIGHT TO DISCUSS: The full Senate takes up Senate Bill 50, by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, which would guarantee Floridians the right to speak before a public board before that board takes any action. The chamber will also take up several other bills, mostly routine measures revising the state code and dealing with trust funds. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION – OH, CANADA: The full House is scheduled Tuesday to take up a bill (HB 7059) to repeal a requirement that international visitors get special permits before they can legally drive in Florida. Lawmakers passed the requirement last year but are rushing to repeal it after confusion and bad publicity, particularly because of problems involving Canadians who converge on Florida during the winter. Last year’s measure called for foreign visitors to get what are known as international driving permits before leaving their home countries. Those permits would be in addition to regular driver’s licenses. The state Department of Highway and Safety Motor Vehicles last month said the Florida Highway Patrol would not enforce the permit requirement because of concerns it might violate an international treaty. A companion repeal bill (SB 1766) also began moving through the Senate this week. Among the other bills that the full House is scheduled to take up Tuesday include a measure (HB 15) aimed at preventing protests at funerals and a bill (HB 9) that would allow physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners to involuntarily put people in mental-health facilities under the state’s Baker Act. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democrats meet Tuesday morning before the floor session. (Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., 200 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: The Senate Children and Families Committee is expected to take up a strike-all amendment to a domestic partnership bill (SB 196) that was pulled from consideration in the committee last week by Chairwoman Eleanor Sobel, the bill’s sponsor, when it was clear it didn’t have the votes. The new version would spell out certain specific, limited rights that unmarried couples could have under a domestic partnership registry program similar to those in some local jurisdictions in Florida. Sobel, D-Hollywood, said she listened to concerns during last week’s hearing on the bill and believes the measure that will be presented on Tuesday will have a better chance to pass. The new bill would seek to give unmarried couples, straight or gay, the ability to visit each other in hospitals, to share rooms in certain places like assisted living facilities, and the ability to jointly own real estate, among other things. The panel also is slated to take up proposals dealing with the termination of parental rights (SB 964), sudden infant death (SB 56), the regulation of summer camps (SB 630) and care for the elderly (SB 748). (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE EDUCATION DISCUSSES SCHOOL SAFETY FUNDING: A measure (SB 514) that would allow counties to create independent special districts to impose taxes to pay for school safety and mental health services with voter approval is before the Senate Education Committee. Interest in school safety has been high since the Newtown School massacre in December in Connecticut, but how to pay for major increases in security has been one of the big questions. This bill seeks to tackle that. Bills dealing with bullying (SB 626), the Bright Futures scholarship program (SB 680), notification requirements in emergencies at schools (SB 284) and several others are before the panel, along with a list of appointees up for confirmation. Those include Sally Bradshaw as an appointee to the state Board of Education; Alan Levine on the State University System Board of Governors; and Chris Corr on the University of Florida Board of Trustees. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

DRONES IN SENATE JUDICIARY: A bill seeking to find a balance between intrusion by the government and public safety, banning the use by police of unmanned aerial drones in most non-emergency cases (SB 92), makes another committee stop, getting a hearing Tuesday in Senate Judiciary. The committee also will take up a bill (SB 164) that would give foster parents more decision-making power and give youths the option of staying in state care until age 21. The bill essentially says that foster parents should be able to make decisions about extra-curricular and social activities that foster children participate in without undue interference from state bureaucrats – putting into state law the right of foster children to normal childhood activities.  The committee also takes up a wide-ranging bill (SB 436) dealing with code requirements in certain buildings, including requirements for condo boards related to hurricane mitigation, among several other bills before the panel. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


CLASS SIZE: A bill that revises the method for calculating the penalty for failure to comply with the state’s constitutional class size requirements is before the House Education Appropriations Committee. The measure (HB 189) calls for performing the calculation at the school average instead of at the classroom level. The state would continue to determine the number of students assigned to any individual class that exceeds the class size maximum. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DEFENSE ECONOMIC IMPACT: With the federal sequestration ongoing, the House Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee hears Tuesday an update on the impact of defense spending on Florida’s economy. The panel also takes up a bill (PCB VMAS 13-02) seeking to prevent encroachment of development around military bases by setting out a program to buy up buffer lands around the installations. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hears bills related to sentencing for controlled substance violations (HB 159), mandatory reporting of child abuse (HB 757), and animal cruelty (HB 851) among other measures. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DIRECT SALES OF FLA-MADE LIQUORS IN HOUSE COMMITTEE: A throwback to prohibition is before the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee.  House Bill 347 by Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, would allow small Florida liquor distillers – those producing less than 75,000 gallons a year – to sell a bottle or more to visitors when touring the plant.  The ban has already been lifted for wineries and breweries, but not for the stronger stuff as some distributors and retailers have expressed concerns about unleashing the Kraken. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PASS A BREATHALIZER TO START THE CAR: The House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 479) intended to make life tougher for first time DUI offenders by requiring them to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.  A motorist would have to exhale into the device which checks their breath-alcohol level before allowing the motor to be started.  A similar proposal a year ago was approved 109-6 on the House floor but failed to get through the Senate committee process.  (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE AGRICULTURE: An agritourism bill (HB 927) and the Department of Agriculture’s agency bill (PCB ANRS 13-01) are before House Agriculture. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PAYING FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES: A bill (HB 1033) that creates a program to pay for classroom supplies, allowing for local contributions and public donations and requiring school districts to issue debit cards to teachers that they can use to buy school supplies is before House Choice and Innovation. The bill doesn’t set out an amount for the program, which would be determined in the budget. The program is something Gov. Rick Scott has proposed and is pushing. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE Health Quality: 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
HOUSE Energy and Utilities: 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
HOUSE Transportation Appropriations: 102 House Office Building.
HOUSE Govt. Operations Appropriations: 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
HOUSE Health Care Appropriations: 1 p.m., 212 Knott Building.


MEDICAID EXPANSION: A group that calls itself The Florida Remedy, led by the Florida Hospital Association, will urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid to extend health care coverage to 1.1 million working poor Floridians.  (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Front Steps, Old Capitol.)


PRESS SKITS: The 58th Sometimes Annual Capitol Press Corps Skits are Tuesday night. It’s the night when the media lampoons the Legislature and the governor, and the governor and Legislature may take a few shots back. It’s sometimes at least mildly funny, and there are adult beverages. More importantly, it pays for a scholarship fund for future journalists to make sure there continue to be people to put on the skits (and cover the legislative process.) Ticket info: (Tuesday, doors open at 7 pm, show at 8 p.m., or thereabouts, The Moon,  1105 E. Lafayette St., Tallahassee.)



TERMS FOR JUSTICES AND JUDGES IN SENATE BUDGET SUB: A proposal before the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee (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. The panel also takes up a bill that is becoming an annual exercise for lawmakers – the effort to keep up with crafty drug chemists. The bill (SB 294) codifies the listing in the controlled substance law several new synthetic cannabinoids, cathinones and other substances that chemists have come up with. Every year lawmakers add new chemical compounds to the drug statutes and chemists then go out and find ways to rearrange the molecules to find a new substance that isn’t illegal. The bill makes these substances illegal. The committee also considers confirmation for the appointment of Mike Crews as corrections secretary. It isn’t expected to be particularly controversial. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

EDUCATION BUDGET AND CAPE: The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education in the Senate holds a budget workshop this week as lawmakers start to craft the spending plan for the coming fiscal year. The panel will also get the necessary briefing on the revenue estimates, so it will have a sense of how much will be available to spend, and how many students are expected to be in public schools next year. The panel also takes up legislation dealing with background screening for non-teachers who work on school grounds (SB 318). The committee also may take up a wide-ranging curriculum bill known as CAPE or the Career and Professional Education Act (SB 1076), that would change requirements for the criteria for certain college degree and graduate degree programs, allowing certain degree programs to be designated as high demand. The bill also would change the high school graduation requirements to include financial literacy, among other changes. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

ECON DEVELOPMENT OVERSIGHT: The Legislature this year has taken a keen interest in oversight of economic development programs, and is considering a number of bills that seek to force the state to take into account their impact. One of those (SB 406) by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, which sets up a heightened review of projects receiving state incentives and establishing a set of standard criteria used to evaluate success, is before the Senate Transportation and Economic Development budget subcommittee on Wednesday. The panel also discusses the budgets of several state agencies, including the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Division of Emergency Management. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

TAX ADMINISTRATION, INCENTIVES: The Senate Finance and Tax Committee continues a review of economic development tax incentives and also begins work on proposed draft legislation relating to tax administration. The panel also has bills related to rental properties (SB 342) and property tax exemptions (SB 354). (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE MEETINGS WEDNESDAY (Agendas not published)

House Ethics and Elections, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building. 
House Economic Development and Tourism, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building. 
House Health Innovation, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building. 
House Higher Ed, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building.
House Insurance and Banking, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building. 
House Justice Appropriations, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building. 
House Civil Justice, 12 p.m., 404 House Office Building. 
House K-12 Subcommittee, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building. 
House Ag and Nat Resources Approps, 2 p.m., 102 House Office Building. 
House Gov Ops, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building. 
House Healthy Families, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building. 
House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal, 2 p.m., 306 House Office Building. 


CLERKS AND COMPTROLLERS DAY: The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers  hold their annual Capitol Day on Wednesday. The clerks this year are pushing for a statutory change to have their budgets come from a recurring, predictable source, rather than being subject to change each year. Clerks in the past have had to dramatically cut hours and staffing as money has run out before the end of the fiscal year. (Wednesday, The Capitol.)

COUNT BACKWARD FROM 10: NURSE ANETHETISTS LOBBY AT THE CAPITOL: The Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, representing 3,500 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists will be hosting their CRNA Lobby Day in Tallahassee on Wednesday to advocate for the continued professional growth of CRNAs. They will be visiting lawmakers throughout the Capitol. (Wednesday, The Capitol.)

CHILD BOOSTER SEAT NEWSER: Reps. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, and Holly Raschein, R-Key West, and Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, are joined by advocates in calling for passage of legislation (HB 3, SB 66) that would require children up to age 7 be in a booster seat in a car. Florida is one of two states that doesn’t have such a requirement. (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., Front Steps, The Old Capitol.)


JAMES MADISON INSTITUTE IS 25: James Madison would be 262 on March 16, and the James Madison Institute is 25. The conservative think tank is holding a gala to celebrate Wednesday evening in Tallahassee, with speakers that will include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Speaker Will Weatherford, and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. Tickets are $100 for JMI members and $125 for anyone else. (Wednesday, 6 p.m., University Center Club, Florida State University, Tallahassee.)



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, 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Gov Oversight, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
Reg Industries, 11 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
Transportation, 11 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
Appropriations, 2:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

Meeting Thursday in the House 

Economic Affairs, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building. 
Judiciary, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building. 
State Affairs, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
HHS Committee, 1:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
Local and Federal Affairs, 1:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
Regulatory Affairs, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
Education Committee, 1:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building.
Appropriations, 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
Finance & Tax, 4 p.m., 17 House Office Building.


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


HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON PPACA: The House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act meets Friday to continue its discussion of implementation of the law in Florida. (Friday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

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.