Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The budget could go to conference this week, depending on when leaders work out allocations. Starting mid-week, both chambers have kept some time free in case conference committees on the budget are noticed.

The session is flying toward its end, but there remain several major pieces of legislation still in committee. A number of those will be heard this week. 

On the floors, a texting while driving ban could come up in the Senate, which is also expected to pass an overhaul of the property insurance laws. 

MONDAY

SENATE

COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY, AND PUBLIC UTILITIES: The Senate Communications Committee is set to look at just one bill, a proposal (SB 958) that declares the storage of natural gas underground to be in the public interest.  The measure exempts natural gas stored in Florida from the severance tax on oil production while placing some restoration requirements on operators of a natural gas storage facility that affect a water supply.  (Monday, 1 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

BAKER ACT: A bill (SB 110) that would allow physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners to “Baker Act” people, which is to initiate an involuntary commitment of an individual for psychiatric evaluation, is before the Senate Children and Families Committee. Also on the panel’s agenda, among other bills is a measure (SB 108) that would require the adoption of rules to include specified requirements for daily activities at a child care facility. (Monday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE JUDICIARY: A bill that would impose stricter standard for expert witnesses in lawsuits (SB 1412) is among the legislation before Senate Judiciary Monday. Supporters say the bill is needed to prevent “junk science” from getting into the record during a civil trial. The standard being sought is already used in federal courts and a number of other states. The bill is opposed by prosecuting attorneys. The committee also considers a bill (SB 1482) that could allow new nursing home beds in certain communities, despite a  longstanding limit on new nursing homes. The issue centers on The Villages retirement town in central Florida, which wants to add nursing-home care but has been stymied by a more than decade-old moratorium on state approval of new nursing-home beds. Also before the Judiciary Committee is a broad bill (SB 1666) making a number of changes in the process for foreclosures, including shortening the time frame for filing a case. Also before Judiciary is the “thumping bass bill,” (SB 634), which re-enacts a noise limiting statute related to car radios. The Florida Supreme Court threw out the state’s old ban on booming loud music, because it wasn’t uniform, allowing exceptions for political or commercial noise. The bill restores a 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. Another bill before the panel (SB 1000) 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 bill before the committee (SB 1636) provides that an infant that is born alive after an attempted abortion is entitled to the same rights and privileges as a child born in the course of a natural birth. Another bill in the committee makes it harder to take over possession of property through “adverse possession” (SB1166). The committee also could take up a bill tweaking the gift ban (SB 1634) by saying that in some circumstances lawmakers could accept a single non-alcoholic drink, and loosening restrictions related to certain events.  Bills seeking to reduce school bullying (SB 626), open parties where minors are served (SB 874) and computer or cell phone harassment (SB 946), and allowing civil penalties for the use of deceptive and unfair trade practices against military personnel (SB 716), are also on the committee’s calendar. (Monday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.) 

COMMERCE AND TOURISM: Among the bills the Senate Commerce Committee will look at is a proposal (SB 550) that could impose bad check repayment costs now available through civil action upon debit card orders and electronic fund transfers that are refused for insufficient funds.  Another proposal (SB 814) requires securities dealers and investment advisers in Florida to file a notice to the Office of Financial Regulation and pay a $100 fee for each branch office in use.  Also, the panel will consider a proposal (SB 262) that would allow insurers to electronically transmit policies involving workers’ compensation, employers’ liability, commercial automobile liability, commercial residential and non-residential property, and farm owners insurance. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CONFIRMATION HEARINGS IN ETHICS AND ELECTIONS: The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has lined up confirmation hearings for 91 gubernatorial appointments ranging from the secretary of state and members of the Board of Governors of the State University System to regional planning councils and water management districts. Highlights include appearances by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Pannuccio and Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: A needle exchange pilot program in South Florida would be created by one bill (SB 808) in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which has several other mostly non-controversial proposals. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE 

PPACA: The House Select Committee on the Affordable Care Act continues its review of its affect on Florida. (Monday, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

RULES TO SET SPECIAL ORDER: The House Rules and Calendar Committee meets Monday evening to set the special order calendar for the week. (Monday, 5:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ALSO

PROPERTY INSURANCE PRESS CONFERENCE: With a number of bills directed at revamping Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund advancing through the Legislature, a group of consumer advocates – Policyholders of Florida, Florida Association for Insurance Reform, and the Good Foundation Florida – will hold a press conference to address legislation they claim would hurt consumers and the real estate market. (Monday, 10:30 a.m., first floor, The Capitol.)

VILLAGES NURSING HOME: Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and officials from the nursing home industry, AARP and others hold a news conference to talk about their opposition to SB 1482 and HB 1159, which would create an exception to allow nursing homes to be built in special deed-restricted communities, such as the Villages, bypassing the current Certificate of Need moratorium on new nursing home beds. (Monday, 11:30 a.m., Fourth Floor Rotunda, The Capitol.)

TUESDAY

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate holds a floor session on Tuesday. Bills on the calendar include the property insurance overhaul bill (SB 1770) up for a final vote. The measure is aimed at raising premiums for Citizens Property Insurance, and lowering the degree to which state taxpayers are on the hook for the company’s shortfalls. The first bill on the special order calendar – which means it could come up for amendments and questions but not for a final vote – is the bill to ban texting while driving (SB 52). (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

ALSO IN THE SENATE 

CITIZENS PRESIDENT, CAT FUND SIZE REVIEWS CONTINUE IN BANKING AND INSURANCE: Senate B&I will conclude its confirmation hearing of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway.  Also the committee may continue its debate over a proposal (SB 1262) to reduce the size of the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.  The intent is to reduce the amount of bonding and emergency assessments that could be charged to Florida residents if insurers face a shortfall after a major storm. Opponents say the plan will likely increase costs for homeowners. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: NUKE FUNDING, SCHOOL SAFETY, AND TIMBER: The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider the proposal (SB 1472) that would allow power companies to continue imposing pre-construction costs for nuclear projects as allowed under a 2006 law, but in stages based upon licensing and certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (SB 1028) would require the Division of Resource Management of the DEP to set up an online hydraulic fracturing chemical registry for owners and operators of wells, service companies, and suppliers.  The registry would require information to be posted about the chemicals that are intended to be used in any hydraulic fracturing project.  The School Safety Act (SB 514) would allow voters to approve an increase to property taxes for the creation of a special district that would determine a school district’s security and mental health referral needs.   Another bill (SB 1128) would extend the 2002 Health Flex Program, which is designed to provide affordable, alternative health care coverage for low-income individuals.  The program otherwise would sunset on July 1, 2013.  Finally, Florida timber would get priority in a proposal (SB 1080) to require state agencies, when constructing public bridges, buildings and other structures, to use Florida grown lumber and other forest products – as long as the cost is in line with other available woods.  The bill also clarifies that a state agency constructing new buildings or renovating existing buildings is required to select a sustainable building rating system or national model green building code, and the selection is to be made for each building or renovation.  (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

GOVERNMENTAL OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY: In the Senate Governmental Oversight Committee a number of public record exemptions bills are up: (SB 984) exempts “proprietary business information” that includes the name of the applicant and leasing or operational plans related to an application for underground natural gas storage; (SB 1680) allows portions of closed meetings of the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee, and any local child abuse death review committees within the Department of Health, to be unrecorded and off the record; (SB 1318) would keep from the public complaints of misconduct filed against government employees until the investigation is completed or the employee has been notified the case will proceed. The committee will also consider a proposal (SB 250) to establish a Florida Law Enforcement Officers’ Hall of Fame that would be set up in the Plaza Level of The Capitol.  (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE

NUKE PLANTS AND AFFORDABLE CARE IN REGULATORY AFFAIRS: The House effort (HB 7167) aimed at diminishing the 2006 law that has allowed power companies to charge customers in advance for nuclear power plants is up for its first committee vote on a crowded agenda in Regulatory Affairs Tuesday. The committee will also look at a measure (HB 7155) that amends the Florida Insurance Code to avoid direct conflicts with federal Affordable Care Act, while dissolving the Florida Comprehensive Health Association – the state’s high risk pool. Other bills on the agenda include Ticketholders’ Rights (HB 163), Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (HB 211), burglar alarm systems (HB 973), Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (HB 1069), the state Catastrophe Fund (HB 1107), the public modeling program used for hurricane loss projections (HB 1247), and allowing alcoholic beverage licenses to be issued to hotels in Madison County with at least 25 guest rooms (HB 1421).  (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION: The House Education Committee on Tuesday hears legislation (HB 283) related to fine art courses; public school infrastructure (HB 559); K-12 instructional materials (HB 1031); and a bill (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, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE HHS: The House Health & Human Services Committee has a long list of proposed bills, including a measure (HB 301) that would require health insurance policies that cover cancer treatment medications to cover oral medications, not just IV drugs. The panel also takes up a measure (HB 317) that allows jail inmates to continue receiving certain psychotherapeutic medication and requires some additional training for mental health experts. It also sets out certain time frames for mental competency hearings and commitment hearings and makes other changes related to situations where the mentally ill are in the criminal justice system. Others include a bill (HB 125) dealing with a program of “All-inclusive Care for the Elderly,” or PACE; and skilled nursing facilities (HB 1159). (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS: The House State Affairs Committee is expected to again take up one of the ethics bills getting attention in the Legislature (HB 7131), this one – with a number of amendments on the table – would ban certain officials from getting a cushy state or local job under certain conditions, prohibit the speaker of the House and president of the Senate from lobbying state agencies for two years after leaving office, require ethics training of elected officials along with requiring public posting of financial disclosures.  The agenda also includes: publicly funded pensions (HB 599), underground natural gas storage (HB 1083), expansion of existing protections of marked and branded containers for the transport and storage of agricultural products (HB 1393), establishing water quality standards known as ‘total maximum daily loads’  (HB 7113), and total maximum daily loads for impaired water bodies  (HB 7159). Another bill (HB 7159) proposes to clarify a number of property tax issues: allowing property appraisers to electronically mail notices of proposed property taxes and certain other applications; clarifies that local governments may provide property tax exemptions to people 65 years or older; eliminates the provision that a senior disabled veteran had to have lived in Florida when joining the service to claim certain property tax exemptions; expands an educational institution exemption to places where the school and land are owned by separate legal entities which are owned by the same person; and removes Martin County’s need to send school taxes to St. Lucie County due to a 2012 law that shifted a subdivision from St. Lucie into Martin. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

SPEEDWAY, BREVARD SPACEPORT BEFORE ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Another crowded budget in the House.  The committee picks up the proposal (HB 1049) to make the Daytona International Speedway eligible for a sales tax rebate of $2 million a year for 30 years.   A measure directed at the Department of Economic Opportunity (HB 7007) would consolidate the reports of the state’s various economic incentive programs; makes the governor a sitting but non-voting member of the Visit Florida Board of Directors; and imposes a penalty on individuals who fraudulently acquired reemployment benefits.  A proposal that has already cleared three committees (HB 135) would designating the Space Coast Regional Airport, the Space Coast Industrial Park and the Spaceport Commerce Park as spaceport territory in Brevard County, which allow businesses in those centers to receive a tax exemption on machinery and equipment purchases.  A transportation bill (HB 7127) lumps together a number of issues, including: $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.  There are proposals for new specialty license plates for Freemasonry (HB 487) and Caribbean-center charities under the banner “Sun, Sea, and Smiles” (HB 427).  And a proposal (HB 71) would allow street-legal, “low-speed vehicles” to be reclassified as golf carts, a move to reduce registration and insurance costs. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

GUNS IN SCHOOLS BILL IN HOUSE JUDICARY: A bill that would allow for designated employees to carry guns at Florida schools is on a long list of measures to be heard by House Judiciary this week. Under the bill (HB 1097), sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, school principals would be allowed to designate someone who could carry a firearm at his or her school as long as that individual goes through statewide firearms training and the same training required for armed guards. A controversial bill dealing with “wage theft,” (HB 1125) is also before the committee. The measure pre-empts the prosecution of wage theft to the state, which opponents say is an effort to circumvent some local efforts a passing laws seen as favorable to workers instead of employers. Another controversial bill before the committee (HB 7083) is aimed at speeding up the death penalty appeals process. Bills related to sentencing of drug defendants (HB 159); retail sale of smoking devices, such as pipes and bongs (HB 49); computer or cell phone harassment (HB 787); and sentencing of juveniles (HB 7137) are among the other bills before the panel. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

WEDNESDAY

SENATE 

EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS: Senate Ed Appropriations on Wednesday has bills on school counselors (SB 154), disability awareness (SB 226) and the state’s early learning system. (SB 1722). (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

LICENSE PLATE BILLS: Florida Salutes Veterans and wildflowers would be on license plates under one bill (SB 632) and freemasonry would be honored on another plate created by a bill (SB 274) before the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. Another bill in the committee (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, and another (SB 1352) is aimed at reducing the use of paper in state government. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

JUVENILE JUSTICE: In an effort to prevent abuse of juveniles in the justice system, a bill (SB 672) before the Criminal and Civil Justice Committee in the Senate would establishing a new crime of malicious infliction of cruel or inhuman treatment on a juvenile offender by a DJJ employee and make it a first degree misdemeanor. If the abuse causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, the employee commits a second degree felony under the bill, which is the only measure before the committee. (Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SALES TAX HOLIDAY BILL IN FINANCE AND TAX: A Senate bill that would create an August back-to-school sales tax holiday is before Senate Finance and Tax. The measure (SB 916)   would cover clothes, wallets and bags, handbags and backpacks, shoes and some other items up to $75, and school supplies up to $15. A similar bill has already passed the House. (Wednesday, 11 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DO YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO CLEAN THAT POOL?: One bill (SB 156) before the Senate General Government budget subcommittee (SB 156) would create a new mandatory licensing requirement for residential pool cleaning in Florida. Other bills before the committee deal with money services businesses (SB 410), and rehabilitation of petroleum contamination sites (SB 1416) among others. (Wednesday, 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH CHOICE PLUS: The plan by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, to expand health care coverage through a subsidy program (SB 1844) is before HHS Appropriations Wednesday. (Wednesday, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

RULES: The Senate Rules Committee has a long list of bills to check off on before they can be added to a floor calendar. A number of the bills on its agenda Wednesday are public records exemptions, and non-controversial bills. (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE 

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House won’t set its special order calendar until Monday evening, but it plans a floor session Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. until completion of its agenda. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.) 

THURSDAY

SENATE

Senate committees meeting Thursday (agendas not yet noticed):

Appropriations, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

HOUSE 

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House plans a floor session Thursday, and is expected to pass measures that it takes up on second reading on Wednesday. (Thursday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

ALSO 

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

FRIDAY

CONFERENCE COMMITTEES: The Senate and House have set aside time on several days including all day Friday morning for possible budget conference committee meetings. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.