Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The House and Senate both really are down to business now with most bills that are going to move moving, and several of them hitting their final committees this week or heading to the floor. 

The big legislation this week will be the budget, which comes to the Senate floor after having cleared the Appropriations Committee last week. The House plan is essentially in the same place. Both chambers have long floor sessions this week, and the House even has a rare Friday floor session scheduled with an indeterminate time frame. 

Also, if you’re looking to buy a house (not the House, but a house), maybe head to the Capitol this week. It’s Great America Realtor Days this week and the Capitol will be filled with Realtors on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll hold a “rally for homeownership” on Wednesday. 



SENATE AGRICULTURE KICKS THE TIRES ON USED TIRE BILL: The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday has just a couple of bills, one a measure (SB 1588) prohibiting the sale by tire retailers of “unsafe” used tires – worn to within 2/32nd of an inch tread depth. The other bill the panel could take up is a measure (SB 1684) that is a bit of a kitchen sink of environmental changes. The bill has some innocuous provisions, like a part that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to require or incentivize electronic submission of certain permitting forms, but also has several sections that environmentalists oppose. Provisions environmentalists don’t like include sections that deal with what happens when there are competing requests for consumptive use permits for water; the ability of local governments to regulate water wells; and allowing expedited permitting for interstate natural gas pipelines. (Monday, 1 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMERCE AND TOURISM: SPEEDWAY, STUB HUB, SPACE LAB: A proposal (SB 1349) to give the Daytona International Speedway $2 million a year in sales tax rebates to help pay for upgrades to the front stretch grandstands is up before Commerce and Tourism.  The proposal comes as an amendment was added to the Miami Dolphins sales tax rebate proposal (SB 306) that ranks professional arenas seeking taxpayers’ assistance. The committee also will hear the “Ticketholders’ Rights’” legislation (SB 394) to make it easier to resell tickets, either by an individual or an online distributor such as StubHub.  Proponents say the bill is needed because venues offering “paperless” tickets require the ticket holder to show proof of identification.  The measure has been opposed by performing arts and sports venues which contend the bill will make it easier for third-party vendors to purchase large numbers of tickets, both driving up sales prices and making it more difficult for the casual fan to attend.  Also, a measure (SB 1156) is up that would allow Florida Institute of Technology to receive $5 million a year from the Department of Economic Opportunity to run a space exploration research lab.  The lab would have to generate at least $20 million a year within 10 years. (Monday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DYE HARDER: They may still allow yellow dog and blue dog Democrats, but lawmakers are considering doing away with actual yellow or blue dogs. A bill (SB 650) before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday would ban the artificial coloring of certain animals and fowls. While the bill is mainly aimed at the sale of dyed baby ducklings, chicks and rabbits at Easter, there are concerns over the proposed ban from those in the “Creative Grooming” business. That’s the use of dye and “interesting” fur cuts for dogs in dog shows – and creative groomers say that if this ban on dyeing animals passes, they’ll be at a disadvantage. The ban was in place from 1967 until last year when it was repealed. Lawmakers with this bill are now considering restoring the ban. The measure also bans the sale of chickens, ducklings or other fowl under four weeks old and rabbits under two months old except for agricultural purposes. That part of the bill is aimed at ending the practice of selling Easter animals, which backers say are sometimes discarded as soon as Easter is over. (Monday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.) 

THE BOOMBOX BILL: Last year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ban on booming loud music or speech from a car can’t be enforced because it carved out exceptions for vehicles blasting out sound for business or political purposes, while putting a restriction on other types of sounds, say like Justin Timberlake music. Such “content-based” restrictions are unconstitutional, the court found in the case of a man who had, indeed, been ticketed for loudly getting his Timberlake jam on.  The court noted, however, that the state does have an interest in keeping loud car radios from bothering people, and that generally, if there a reasonably objective way to do it, that would be fine. Enter Sen. Wilton Simpson’s bill (SB 634) that goes before the Criminal Justice Committee on Monday. The bill restores the previous law’s prohibition on amplifying sound from vehicle to a distance that is “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more” while leaving out any types of exceptions, presumably making the bill constitutional. The bill also avoids another possible problem with the old law – one not ruled on by the Supreme Court when it threw out the law but questioned by a lower court judge. That section of the old law had said that if the sound coming from the car was near a church, school or hospital, then instead of the 25 foot rule, the sound couldn’t be “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle.” The new proposal doesn’t bother to create separate standards for different places, simply outlawing loud sound that can be heard more than 25 feet away.  Turn down that radio! (Monday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

MORE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee also takes up legislation (SB 974) that eliminates criminal liability for a commercial sex act or illegal sexually explicit  performance if the person who would be charged is a victim of human trafficking. The committee also considers a bill (SB 876) that states that anyone who commits a crime causing bodily injury to or death of an unborn child commits a separate offense from any offenses committed against the mother of that child, whether the offender had knowledge of the pregnancy or not. The measure exempts any conduct related to abortion or medical treatment and says that a woman can’t be charged for the death of an unborn child under the law. The committee also takes up legislation  (SB 1350) by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, aimed at fixing Florida’s inconsistency with U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to sentencing of juveniles. One recent case said juveniles can’t be sentenced to life with no possibility for release for non-homicide crimes, and another said 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, and 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.  The panel also considers a measure (SB 1448) banning a couple of performance enhancing drugs, hCG and a particular type of human growth hormone, and a bill increasing the threshold for the amount of prescription painkillers Oxycodone and Hydrocodone one must have to be charged with trafficking from 4 grams to 14 grams. (Monday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOW LONG SHOULD CONGRESSMEN SERVE?: The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up a proposed memorial (SM 970) asking the U.S. Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution setting term limits for members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The fate of the bill was confused last week when it died on a last-minute vote in the committee, but a motion for reconsideration means the panel can take the measure up again. The committee is also scheduled to consider dozens of appointments from Gov. Rick Scott for everything from university boards of trustees to agency heads. Among those to be considered: Corrections Secretary Michael Crews, Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Jo Palmer and Elder Affairs Secretary Charles Corley. (Monday, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

NUCLEAR PAYBACK IN COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY, AND PUBLIC UTILITIES: The proposal (SB 1472) to require power companies to return money collected for nuclear plants they won’t build is before the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee Monday.   The committee also is to hold a confirmation hearing of Lisa Edgar’s reappointment to the Florida Public Service Commission.  Edgar was initially appointed to the board by former Gov. Jeb Bush. (Monday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING: The proposed ban on texting while driving (SB 52) and bills dealing with family or medical leave benefits for employees (SB 726), termination of parental rights (SB 964), victims of human trafficking (SB 1644), expert testimony (SB 1412) and a broad bill making changes in the process for foreclosures (SB 1666) are among several bills before Senate Judiciary. Also up in the committee is a bill tweaking the gift ban (SB 1634) by saying that in some circumstances lawmakers could accept a single alcoholic drink, and loosening restrictions related to certain events. (Monday, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: Senate Children and Families has a bill clarifying when foreign legal principles can and can’t be used in the United States (SB 58), and a measure (SB 616) requiring assisted living facility administrators to meet additional new training and education requirements approved by the Department of Elderly Affairs. Also, legislation that would prevent people getting government assistance from using their benefits card at strip clubs, liquor stores and gambling establishments (SB 1048). Another measure (SB 1210) would adjust requirements for figuring child support to take time sharing into account. (Monday, 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE AG: A bill (HB 1083) that would declare it in the public’s interest to have underground natural gas storage in Florida is among the bills before the House Agriculture Committee on Monday. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, would set up a regulatory structure that could be used if companies seek to inject natural gas into underground storage facilities. The natural gas would be piped in from out of state and held in the facilities until it is needed. While other states store gas in that way, Florida does not have such facilities. At least one company, Spectra Energy Transmission has expressed interest in underground storage. Storage facilities could be located in areas of southwest Florida and northwest Florida that have produced oil in the past. The panel also considers a bill  (HB 33) that would let landowners trade conservation easements for land from neighboring properties.  The committee also is expected to vote on legislation (HB 1393) aimed at reducing theft of plastic pallets and merchandise containers, which are being stolen more often because of rising plastic costs. The bill creates certain record keeping and identification requirements that must be used in sales of plastic bulk merchandise containers. Lastly, the panel takes up a broad environmental regulation bill (HB 999). Among its changes would be a provision aimed at increasing electronic filing of permit requests; a section to allow phosphate severance tax dollars to go to reclamation and restoration of former phosphate lands; and provisions dealing with competing water consumptive permits and regulation of water wells. (Monday, 3 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

RULES AND CALENDAR:  The House Rules and Calendar Committee meets Monday to set the special order calendar for the House’s floor session on Thursday. (Monday, 5:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)



RULES: The Senate Rules Committee has a monster agenda – hoping to fly through 29 bills during its three hour meeting. On the agenda are SB 1382, which trades a ban on “committees of continuous existence for a higher individual campaign contribution limit, and the Senate’s elections bill (SB 600), which would give county supervisors the ability to offer as many as 14 days of early voting and allow more early voting sites, a nod to complaints about the process last year. Also, a smooth, but subtle and slightly earthy bill (SB 658) that would allow distributors to make and sell “wine kegs” or large containers of wine continues to move with brut force through the process and will get a hearing by the committee. The committee also takes up a bill (SB 544) that creates a new exemption to the gift ban, and a measure (SB 904) that would create the Florida Accredited Courses and Tests (FACTs) Initiative to give students more choice about what courses they take in school, making it easier for them to use MOOCs or “massive open online courses,” for example. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

B&I: NO-FAULT REPEAL, GILWAY CONFIRMATION HEARING PART TWO: Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway, who was supported by the Ethics and Elections Committee on April 1, will have a second confirmation hearing, this time before the Banking and Insurance Committee.  Also before the panel is a committee proposal (SB 7152) to consider replacing the state’s decades-old Personal Injury Protection auto insurance system with bodily harm as the minimum coverage.  Lawmakers last year tried to tackle fraud in the no-fault system, but the changes ran up against a Tallahassee circuit court judge, who last month blocked, at least temporarily, part of the law.  The committee also will review a number of bills, from a proposal (SB 144) that gives insurers one year, down from 30 months, to file for a claim against a licensed psychologist for overpayment, to a requirement (SB1498) for insurers to pay for the stabilizing a structure for any confirmed sinkhole loss.  (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: Senate Confirmation for Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Jesse Pannuccio comes before Senate Community Affairs. The committee also takes up the water pollution bill dealing with numeric nutrient criteria (SB 1808), a bill dealing with how premium taxes are used for police retirement systems in certain situations (SB 1246), and preferences in state contracting (SB 684) among other bills. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH POLICY: WORKERS COMP DRUGS UP FOR DEBATE: The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a bill (SB 662) that is part of a long-running fight about the costs of drugs dispensed by doctors to workers-compensation insurance patients. Business and insurance groups have lobbied in recent years to restrict the costs but have run into opposition. Also, the committee will take up a proposal (SB 1384) that could make it harder to seek punitive damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

SECURITY ALARMS, UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS IN REGULATED INDUSTRIES: Proposals are before Senate Regulated Industries that would give a contractor 21 days to advise the local law enforcement that a low-voltage alarm system has been installed (SB 1442), and a wide ranging measure (SB 1442) that, among other things, would increase the amount municipalities and counties can impose on unlicensed contractors from $500 to $2,000. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ETHANOL FREE GAS: A proposal by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, (SB 320) to upend the 2008 law that all gasoline sold in Florida include ethanol goes before its final committee stop, Environmental Preservation and Conservation, before reaching the Senate floor. Backers say the bio-fuel causes problems in boats, lawn mowers and old cars. The effort last year died in committee.  The panel also has confirmation hearings for Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners Ronald Bergeron of Weston, Adrien Rivard of Panama City Beach and Richard Corbett of Tampa, and Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board Commissioner Bryan Beswick of Arcadia.  (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

GOV OVERSIGHT: Total maximum daily loads, a water pollution measurement, are part of legislation (SB 1806) before Senate Governmental Oversight on Tuesday. The panel also takes up several public records exemption bills. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: 12:30 p.m., 200 Senate Office Building.


TRANS BUDGET: MOVE OVER IF GOING SLOW IN THE LEFT LANE: A wide ranging bill (HB 7215) going before Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee would: require a motorist traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic – when there are two or more lanes flowing in the same direction – to move into the far right when overtaken by a faster driver; create a special license plate for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield that would not come with the additional administrative charge normally applied to specialty tags; authorize administrative driver license suspension hearings to be held over the phone; and require anyone who used a bad check to get a driver license, identification card, fuel-use decal or vehicle registration to settle the entire debt before being allowed to make another transaction with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle.  Another bill (HB 7127) that lumps together a number of issues sets aside $15 million for Space Florida spaceport projects; allows the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to enter into 99 year leases; and broadens the eligibility for intercity bus companies to compete for federal and state funding.  The committee also is to hear a proposal (HB 71) allowing for the conversion of low-speed vehicles to golf carts.  (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE HHS: DRUG DATABASE, INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES TO BE HEARD: The House Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 831) that would increase requirements for doctors to consult a database before prescribing controlled substances. Sponsor Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, angrily tabled the measure Thursday after an amendment was approved that he thought weakened the bill. The committee also will consider a bill (HB 1119) that would eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from state laws. Advocates say those terms should be replaced by “intellectual disability” and “intellectually disabled.” (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, the Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION: A proposed committee bill overhauling the state system for early learning (before kindergarten) shows up in House Education Tuesday morning. Also before the committee is legislation dealing with school emergencies (HB 369), exceptional student education (HB 465), the powers and duties of district school boards (HB 657), and the bill seeking to make changes to governance of high school athletics and rules involving investigations of transfers and cheating (HB 1279). (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

TALLAHASSEE CIVIC CENTER BILL: The House Local and Federal Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning takes up legislation (HB 1285) that would transfer ownership of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center to Florida State University, and make its official name the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. It also directs the state beverage agency to issue a beverage license for the arena. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

REGULATORY AFFAIRS: It’s better late than never for implementation of a 2008 constitutional amendment dealing with hurricane hardening of houses. A bill that does that (HB 277) is one of several in House Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday. The voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting assessments from going up to take into account hurricane wind damage protections added to homes, or renewable energy source devices. The bill defines “changes or improvements made for the purpose of improving a property’s resistance to wind damage” and “renewable energy source device” and implements the amendment. Another bill in the committee (HB 433) seeks to increase accountability at the under-fire Citizens Property Corp. by creating an inspector general for the agency. Another of the many bills before the committee (HB 1067) clarifies the role of the Florida Boxing Commission, with language that includes making clear that the commission has exclusive jurisdiction over amateur mixed martial arts matches and spells our certain procedures for drug testing and promoting. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ECON AFFAIRS: One bill (HB 235) in House Economic Affairs on Tuesday allows the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to those immigrants with “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” status, the people who were brought to the U.S. as children and were granted the two-year special status that prevents them from being deported. Federal officials began accepting applications for the new status last month, and the measure allows Florida to accept proof of accepted application when those covered try to get a driver’s license. Another bill in the committee (HB 1005) lets counties create “yellow dot critical” information programs to help emergency medical responders know about medical information of accident victims. Also before the Economic Affairs Committee is the House version (HB 1019) of the bill that seeks to make the state’s loud music statute constitutionally acceptable. The old law was thrown out because it differentiated between different types of sounds. (See Boombox Bill, above). (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE JUDICIARY: Bills dealing with medical malpractice (HB 827), and shady massage establishments that are fronts for sex trafficking (HB 7005) are on the agenda in House Judiciary. Also before the panel are bills dealing with liability for certain design professionals like architects (HB 575), personal ID theft (HB 691), and the Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse, an existing interagency background check system (HB 1021). The committee also takes up HB 1077, which makes it illegal for someone to falsely state he or she represents a veterans’ charitable organization in certain circumstances. It also considers a bill (HB 1173) that establishes a five year statute of limitations on communications fraud, but increases the lowest possible sentence for the crime. (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE ETHICS LEGISLATION IN STATE AFFAIRS: The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday takes up one of its ethics bills (HB 7131), which bans certain officials from getting a cushy state or local job under certain conditions, prohibits the speaker of the House and president of the Senate from lobbying state agencies for two years after leaving office, requires ethics training of elected officials, requires public posting of financial disclosures, and makes other changes. (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


Education Appropriations: 8 a.m., 17 House Office Building. 
Justice Appropriations, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.


EXPANDING HEALTH CARE COVERAGE: Florida Remedy, a coalition led by the Florida Hospital Association, will hold a press conference to discuss child coverage gaps and the importance of extending health insurance to more than one million low-income, working Floridians. A Naples teen with muscular dystrophy, a Jacksonville mother, and several hospital officials will participate. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Old Capitol, Front Steps, The Capitol.)


PSC TAKES UP RENEWABLE ENERGY PLANS: The state Public Service Commission will consider proposed contracts that would involve Florida Power & Light purchasing power from renewable-energy plants in Okeechobee, Clay and Martin counties. Subsidiaries of U.S. EcoGen, LLC, would operate biomass-generating plants that would start operating in 2019. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate has blocked out 10 a..m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday for a floor session that will include third reading and expected passage of several bills it readied last week. Among those are the “drone bill,” (SB 92), which limits when police can use aerial unmanned drones. But the main item for Wednesday will be the budget (SB 1500) and the various implementing an conforming bills, which are on the special order calendar and available for explanation and questions, which are likely to be lengthy. (Wednesday 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)


REALTORS RALLY FOR HOMEOWNERSHIP: The public highlight of two days of Realtors at the Capitol will be the Wednesday afternoon rally for home ownership. (Wednesday 1 p.m., Capitol Courtyard.)

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS GALA: The League of Women Voters of Florida holds its annual Old Capitol Gala on Wednesday evening, with keynote speaker Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder also speaks and freshman legislators are being honored. (Wednesday, 6 p.m., Old Capitol, The Capitol.)



SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate holds a floor session on Thursday and may have its proposed budget bill (SB 1500) on third reading. (Thursday, 2 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)


Senate committees meeting Thursday (agendas not yet noticed):

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


HOUSE IN SESSION: Fasten seatbelts, here we go. It’s getting to the time of year where the chambers are on the floor more, and more likely to go through long marathon sessions to try to move legislation, much of which has cleared the committee process by now. The House is in session Thursday at 10:30 a.m., “until completion.” The texting while driving ban (HB 13), the drone limiting bill (HB 119), and the alimony bill (HB 231) are among dozens of bills on second reading that may come up this week. (Thursday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


FAITH AND FREEDOM PRAYER BREAKFAST: Evangelical political leader Ralph Reed will address a legislative prayer breakfast sponsored by the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed is founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and CEO of Century Strategies, a public relations firm in Atlanta. Reed previously served as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition. Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Bill Bunkley also will speak. (Thursday, 7:30 a.m., Doubletree Hotel, Adams and Park, Tallahassee.)

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


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House has set out another long session, from 10:30 a.m. “until completion” for Friday, though it’s likely members may want to get out of town, so it may not go too late. (Friday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, 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.