Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

in Uncategorized by

Several high profile issues emerge for votes in the Senate, in particular, this week, though most of the focus likely will be on Appropriations Committees mid-week that will for the first time this year take up actual budget bills. The General Appropriations Act will be in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday morning and the House budget committee will take up its version Wednesday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, the Senate rolls out another proposal for extending health care coverage to more people, in a plan by Sen. Aaron Bean that will be in a committee on Tuesday. Senate committees also take up the bill that gives parents more say in what happens to a failing school, and the Senate versions of legislation ending Internet cafes, and making changes to the campaign finance system. The Senate’s elections bill, seeking to shorten ballot summaries, and allowing more early voting days, also is in committee. Some of those measures could make it to the floor following committee votes this week. 



SENATE E&E LOOKS AT SESSION LENGTH, GIFT BAN: A proposal to tweak the lobbyist gift ban (SB 1634) goes before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, but that’s not the only thing affecting how the Capitol works that the panel plans to taken up. Committee members will also hear a proposal (SB 1356) that would move the starting date of the 2014 legislative session to Jan. 22, meaning the 60-day gathering would have to be done by March 23. And they’re expected to consider a resolution (SM 970) calling for congressional term limits. (Monday, 12:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE AGRICULTURE: A proposal (SB 650) to overturn a year-old law that ended a near half-century ban on dyeing animals is before the committee from Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.  The current law, pushed by Sachs’ 2012 election opponent  former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, was approved in part so pet groomers could have a better chance to win pet shows and competitions.   The committee also will hear a measure (SB 948) to require the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop data regarding prospective agricultural water supply demands and (SB 1320) that would declare that the release of “community cats” – trapped as part of a program to sterilize and vaccinate strays – is not illegal. (Monday, 12:15 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, Capitol.)

JUVENILE SENTENCING FIX IN SEN CRIM JUSTICE: A bill aimed at putting Florida law in line with recent Supreme Court opinions on the sentencing of juveniles is before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The measure (SB 1350) by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, fixes Florida’s inconsistency with U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Graham v. Florida, which said juveniles can’t be sentenced to life with no possibility for release for non-homicide crimes, and Miller v. Alabama, which said that minimum mandatory sentencing laws can’t be used to give juveniles life in prison even in homicide cases. In that case, the court said, judges must consider defendants’ youth, rather than simply sentencing them because of a minimum mandatory – though the judge could determine the murder defendant could still get life. The bill provides that juveniles who commit non-homicide crimes could get no more than 50 years, answering the court in Graham. For juveniles who commit capital offenses, they could get life, but must consider the defendant’s age, maturity, intellectual capacity, and mental and emotional health, among other things. (Monday, 12:15 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

MORE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: One of a number of bills related to preventing gun violence by the mentally unstable is before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The bill (SB 1000) by Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, creates a process whereby a licensed psychiatrist or clinical psychologist can notify state officials when a patient has had a “preventative assessment” making them ineligible to buy a gun for the next 90 days. Another measure the panel will consider (SB 1216) generally pre-empts regulation of wage theft by employers to the state, rather than allowing local laws on the issue. The committee also considers legislation that would reduce the use of solitary confinement of youth in custody (SB 812) and a bill dealing with termination of parental rights (SB 964). The panel also considers a bill (SB 142) that would remove the term “mental retardation” from statutes and replace it with “intellectual disability.” (Monday, 12:15 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SCOTT’S MFG TAX BREAK AND JOBS DIRECTOR BEFORE COMMERCE COMMITTEE: One of Gov. Rick Scott’s two big priorities for the session, the elimination of sales taxes on the purchase of certain manufacturing machinery and equipment, is part of a bill (SB 518) before Senate Commerce and Tourism.  The bill also uncaps the tax refunds a business could receive through the qualified defense contractor and space flight business tax refund program.  The committee is also to hold confirmation hearings on Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and for Julius Davis of Tampa to the Enterprise Florida board of directors.  Other measures: (SB 582) would create a local manufacturing development program that would be a model for local governments designed to draw investments within the manufacturing industry; (SB 1012) makes the Economic Gardening Technical Assistance Pilot Program permanent by removing the word ‘pilot;’ (SB 1710) deletes tax on detective and burglar protection services; (SB 566) allows parents and guardians to open and freeze credit records for children with consumer reporting companies to prevent others from accessing the information; and (SB 1588) prohibiting the sale of “unsafe” used tires – worn to within 2/32nd of an inch tread depth – by tire retailers. (Monday, 12:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

PARENT PETITION BILL DEBUTS IN SENATE ED: A bill allowing parents to petition in support of a turnaround option for failing schools (SB 862) gets its first hearing in the Senate when the Education Committee takes up the measure. The panel will also hear bills aimed at toughening standards for charter schools (SB 1282) and early learning programs (SB 1722). Another measure on the agenda (SB 1390) would allow school districts to create “innovation schools” that would act like charter schools but remain under district control. (Monday, 3:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY, AND PUBLIC UTILITIES: Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, is again proposing a bill (SB 320) to upend the 2008 law that all gasoline sold in Florida include ethanol, contending that the biofuel causes problems in boats, lawn mowers and old cars.  His effort last year died in committee.  The committee will also hear a proposal (SB 1070) to make prepaid communications devices subject to county E-911 fees.  (Monday, 3:15 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DOMESTIC PARTNERHIPS IN SENATE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: The Senate Children and Families Committee tries a third time to take a vote on Sen. Eleanor Sobel’s bill (SB 196) that would allow for a statewide domestic partnership registry that would grant certain rights to domestic partners. The bill has been stuck in the committee for weeks – it was delayed last week with a close vote expected and a key senator absent. The panel also takes up legislation expanding grandparents’ rights in situations such as when a parent has died, gone missing or is in a vegetative state. If the other parent denies access, grandparents could go to court to try to get approval to see their grandchildren under the bill (SB 384). Bills dealing with human trafficking (SB 552); residential sober houses for recovering addicts (SB 738); nutritional requirements of child care facilities (SB 1650); and a measure making eligibility presumptive for applicants for KidCare who are moving from another government program and whose families already have certain assistance (SB 548), among others. (Monday, 3:15 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE JUDICIARY: A bill aimed at strengthening enforcement of existing rules for Assisted Living Facilities is before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. The bill (SB 646) makes changes to fines imposed for licensure violations, clarifies existing enforcement rules, and would require an additional inspection for facilities with significant violations. Among the other bills before the committee are measures that would provide sovereign immunity for dentists and dental hygienists in certain settings (SB 1016); make changes to the rules for suing nursing homes (SB 1384); attempt by constitutional amendment to speed up the death penalty appeals process (SJR 1740); and strike references in the state’s growth management law to referenda on certain development orders (SB 528). (Monday, 3:15 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


FIREFIGHTER, POLICE PENSIONS: House Government Operations takes up a bill (HB 1399) dealing with firefighter and police pension plans and whether  all increases in premium taxes have to be devoted to new benefits for pension members, along with several public records exemption bills. (Monday, 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

FLORIDA’S WATER STANDARDS: The process of imposing Florida’s standards for local waterways is in a proposal (HB 7115) going before the House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee on Monday.  The intent is to have the state Department of Environmental Protection set the new standards by the end of the 2014.  The DEP reached a deal March 15 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that expanded the state’s authority to set nitrogen and phosphorus levels in most of the state’s coastal streams, estuaries and rivers, including the Intracoastal Waterway. (Monday, 4 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


House Agriculture (Water Project Presentations): 3 p.m., 102 House Office Building.
House Civil Justice, 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building. 


LEGISLATIVE AUDITING: The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee hears requests by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights for audits of the city of Hampton and the city of Starke and a request by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth for an audit of Delray Beach. (Monday, 10:30 a.m., 309 Capitol.)


MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, and Cathy Jordan, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, hold a media availability to discuss Edwards’ medical marijuana bill (HB 1139) and the future of the issue. (Monday, 2 p.m., 316 Capitol.)

WEATHERFORD, PRASAD ADDRESS BLACK CAUCUS: House Speaker Will Weatherford and Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will address the Florida Legislative Black Caucus on Monday evening. (Monday, 6 p.m., Florida Education Association Building, 213 S. Adams St., Tallahassee.)


VIVA FLORIDA 500: Secretary of State Ken Detzner opens the celebration of VIVA Florida 500, marking the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Europeans on Florida shores. Juan Ponce de Leon became the first tourist to land on a Florida beach around April 2, 1513, following about 12,000 years of the state being home onlyt o native Americans. Florida celebrates the Spanish arrival throughout the rest of the year, starting Monday. (Monday, 10 a.m., 22nd Floor, The Capitol.)



INTERNET CAFE BAN AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE IN SENATE RULES: The Senate Rules Committee takes up several bills, including the Senate version (SB 1030) of the Internet cafe ban that has already passed the House. The measure outlaws certain types of machines widely used in the cafes, and comes in the wake of a statewide investigation into the activities of the facilities, which law enforcement says simply are gambling parlors. The Senate’s campaign finance overhaul bill is also before the committee. The measure (SB 1382) would allow $3,000 individual contributions for statewide candidates while keeping the contribution limit at $500 for local and legislative candidates, while abolishing certain fundraising committees known as Committees of Continuous Existence. The bill also removes the “3-pack” exemption that allows political committees to run advertisements jointly endorsing three or more candidates outside the scope of the contribution limits. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democratic Caucus holds its regular meeting Tuesday. (11:30 a.m., 200 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

OUT-OF-STATE DISABLED VETS WELCOME: Disabled military veterans would no longer have to have been a Florida resident prior to joining the service to be eligible for a discount on property taxes under a committee bill (SPB 7032) before the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee on Tuesday. (Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

AN ACTUARY’S DREAM, CITIZENS’ CLEARINGHOUSE, CAT FUND AND PIP: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will hear proposals to reduce the size of the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (SB 1262), set up a clearinghouse for private firms to cherry pick the least risky policies from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. (SB 1622) and, if time permits, a workshop on personal injury protection auto insurance.   Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled the law that Gov. Rick Scott signed last May illegally prevents accident patients from using PIP claims to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists.  The packed agenda also includes a proposal (SB 924) that would prohibit health insurers to dictate dental fees.  (Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ELECTIONS BILL IN SENATE COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: The Senate’s elections reform bill (SB 600) that allows for more early voting days and limits the number of words for certain ballot summaries is before the Senate Community Affairs Committee. Among several other bills in Community Affairs on Tuesday is a measure making animal shelters keep euthanasia records (SB 674); one aiming to prevent “massage” from being used by human traffickers for prostitution (SB 500); and the Senate version (SB 768) of legislation that lays out how Everglades restoration will go forward. (Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

FLORIDA CHOICE PLUS: Sen. Aaron Bean’s proposal (SPB 7144) for extending health care coverage to more people without expanding Medicaid is before the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday. Everyone must get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and the Legislature is wrestling with how to do that without simply putting people into the Medicaid program. (Tuesday, 12:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

REG INDUSTRIES; DISTILLERS AND STRIP CLUBS: Electronic Benefits (EBT) cards for those on government assistance could not be accepted at strip clubs, casinos, Internet cafes or liquor stores under a proposal (SB 1048) by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, that goes before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday. A similar effort last year, which also included bans on foods that could be purchased with the cards, was approved in the House but failed to reach the Senate floor. Meanwhile, the measure (SB 642) to allow small, craft distillers to sell up to two bottles of liquor directly to customers, circumventing the state’s manufacturer-to-distributor-to-retail tiered sales chain, is also on tap in the committee. The two bottle limit is a compromise with distributors that has allowed the House version of the bill (HB 347) to advance.  Also before the committee: companies in the mostly unregulated parasailing industry would be required to have insurance coverage and undergo regular inspections, as well as follow weather and geographic guidelines, under a proposal (SB 64) that has been attempted several times since two people were killed in separate incidents while parasailing off Pompano Beach in 2007.  Another bill before the committee (SB 378) would lower from $6,000 to $3,000 the minimum amount of insured value of a mobile home that Citizens Property Insurance Corporation would have to cover. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


Senate Environmental Preservation, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building. 
Senate Governmental Oversight, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building. 


HEALTH CARE APPROPS: Bills dealing with all-inclusive care for the elderly (HB 125), the state nursing home ombudsman program (HB 1015), and Medicaid eligibility (HB 1323) are among those that could get votes Tuesday in the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE GOVT OPS: Among the bills in House Government Operations is a measure dealing with the ability of craft distillers to sell directly to customers (HB 347), and a number of mostly technical insurance bills. (Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PPACA: The House Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act continues its look at ramifications of the federal health care law, and takes up proposed health insurance legislation related to it. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

CASINOS IN THE HOUSE: The House Select Committee on Gaming isn’t expected to make any major decisions on the future of gambling in Florida until a comprehensive study is completed later this year – outside of the swift move already taken against Internet and adult arcades.  But casino gaming and destination resorts are the scheduled topic for the committee. No votes are expected. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to be in session Tuesday afternoon. It could bring up a wide-ranging charter school bill (HB 7009), and the bill that provides for a system to get debit cards for teachers for school supplies (HB 1033), among other measures. The House doesn’t currently have any bills on its Third Reading Calendar ready for a final vote. (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


CABINET GOES TO NATION’S OLDEST CITY: Man the fort. Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet are converging on St. Augustine. The agenda on the Cabinet road trip is relatively light, but it includes a proposal to lease submerged land off Broward County for a company to install fiber-optic cable. The project is part of a broader system that links the continental United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Flagler College, Ponce de Leon Hall, St. Augustine).

VILLAMIL DISCUSSES ECONOMY: Economist Tony Villamil discusses the national and Florida economies at a lunch presentation sponsored by Capital City Bank and SachsMedia Group. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Hotel Duval, Opal Room, 415 N. Monroe St., Tallahassee.)



BUDGET BILL UP IN APPROPRIATIONS: The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday takes up the General Appropriations Act (SPB 7040), the implementing bill for the budget (SPB 7042) and a string of conforming bills. The committee also could take up a broad property insurance bill (SB 1770) and a proposed committee bill dealing with the proceeds of the National Mortgage Settlement (SPB 7146). (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knot Building, The Capitol.)


BUDGET BILL: The House Appropriations Committee has scheduled a 7-hour meeting Wednesday afternoon to go through its proposed General Appropriations Act. The meeting hasn’t been officially notice, but the House has blocked out the period for an Appropriations Committee meeting. (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


SCHOOL CHOICE DAY: The Florida Alliance for Choices in Education and the Florida Coalition for Public School Options host School Choice Day at the Capitol. Backers of parental school choice will lobby, and Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the group. (Scott speech: Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., Waller Park, west side of the Capitol.) 



SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is scheduled for a floor session Thursday afternoon. It could give a final vote to a bill setting out what optometrists are allowed to do (SB 278), a measure (SB 284) saying that if public schools get notification of a threat, private schools would also be included; a bill requiring that health plans treat oral and IV cancer medications the same (SB 422); and a controversial measure eliminating permanent alimony (SB 718). The Senate also could take up its bill (SB 1030) banning Internet cafes, if the measure clears the Senate Rules Committee earlier in the week. The Senate could on Thursday put the measure in place for a final vote at its next meeting, or waive its rules and take a vote on the proposal, which has already passed the House. The Senate also could take up a limit on how unmanned drones can be used by police (SB 92), though that also would need to wait for a final vote unless the Senate waives its rules. (Thursday, 2 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)


Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations: 8 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building. 
Senate Education, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building. 
Senate Transportation Appropriations, 8 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Senate Finance and Tax, 10:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
Senate General Govt. Appropriations, 10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Senate HHS, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building. 


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is on the floor Thursday afternoon, and could take votes on the measures it brings up earlier in the week. (Thursday, 1:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


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


BOARD OF MEDICINE MEETS IN SOUTH FLORIDA: The Florida Board of Medicine will meet, after holding a series of committee meetings on Thursday. (Friday, 8 a.m., Doubletree by Hilton Deerfield Beach/Boca Raton, 100 Fairway Drive, Deerfield Beach.)

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.