Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The week in the Legislature is mostly reserved for budget conferencing and floor sessions, as both chambers try to move as much legislation through the process in this penultimate week of the regular session.

Conference committees will continue meeting, but some of the highest-profile issues, from a difference over teacher pay raises to how to structure a major change in Medicaid reimbursements, appear unlikely to be resolved before a Tuesday deadline, after which legislative leaders take over the negotiations.

The Cabinet meets this week, and there’s qualifying for the House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Clay Ford.



SENATE ED: FHSAA, SALES TAX CASH FOR SCHOOL BUSES:  The Senate version (SB 1164) of an effort by Lakeland area lawmakers to impose more oversight from Tallahassee on the Florida High School Athletic Association gets its first committee review. Besides expanding the number of appointments to the FHSAA board from Legislators, the bill would place restrictions on investigations into potential recruiting violations. The proposal at this point doesn’t go as far as the House measure (HB 1279) – expected to hit the House floor this week – which requires Legislators to replace the FHSAA as the governing nonprofit for public schools athletics by July 1, 2017.  Another bill also up for its first committee appearance (SB 1052) would allow county school districts to shift sales tax money voters have approved for school construction towards the purchase of new school buses.  The House version (HB 1081) is also awaiting a vote on the floor.  A third bill revises the responsibilities of coordinators with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Education and requires the agencies to issue an annual report on the costs, effectiveness and performance of students in the DJJ program.  (Monday, 12:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

RULES: The Senate Rules Committee gives a final look before the floor to several measures. Among the bills is one making it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns (SB 1000); another that has been a bit controversial is a bill (SB 1318) that would create a public records exemption for records involved with complaints against agency employees. Also before the panel are bills dealing with bullying in schools (SB 626); records related to natural gas storage facility permits; and a measure (SB 1412) that changes the standard for admission of expert witness testimony in court cases. (Monday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE DISTRICT 2 QUALIFYING STARTS: Candidate will start filing in a special election to replace state Rep. Clay Ford, a Gulf Breeze Republican who died last month. The qualifying period will start at 8 a.m. Monday and last until noon Tuesday. The special primary election will be held May 14, while the general election is scheduled for June 11.

LONG-TERM CARE PANEL MEETS: The Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care will hold a conference call to review applications for “Gold Seal Award” designations for nursing homes. (Monday, 2 p.m.. Call-in number: 888-670-3525. Conference code: 8050334011.)



PACKED APPROPRIATIONS AGENDA INCLUDING HEALTH CARE EXPANSION:   There are, so far, potentially 46 bills on tap for Senate Appropriations, with the committee slated to meet for nine hours.  The Senate approach (SB 1844) to expanding health care for low-income Floridians by using the Florida Healthy Kids Corp., is before the committee. Another measure (SB 980) aims to take away one of the biggest criticisms of the teacher merit pay system, that some teachers are evaluated based the scores of kids they don’t teach. The bill would change that.  Other bills on the agenda include: school counselors (SB 154); a new mandatory licensing requirement for residential pool cleaning in Florida (SB 156); a new tag for Freemasonry (SB 274); and money services businesses (SB 410). Another bill (SB 500),  in an attempt to curb human trafficking restricts massage establishments from operating between midnight and 5 a.m., and also would bar employees from living in the businesses; Other bills seek to limit the cost of drugs for workers-compensation patients (SB 662); create guidelines for drugs known as “biologics,” (SB 732); let parents to petition their school boards on possible turnaround plans for failing schools (SB 862); create a three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday (SB 916); exempt 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 (SB 958); enact a 2008 constitutional amendment that would reward homeowners for renewable-energy upgrades (SB 1064); require pain-management doctors to check a state database before prescribing controlled substances to new patients (SB 1192); change how premium taxes are used for police retirement systems in certain situations (SB 1246); attempt to fix Florida’s inconsistency with U.S. Supreme Court rulings related to sentencing of juveniles (SB 1350); create “innovation schools” that would act like charter schools but remain under district control (SB 1390); allow new nursing homes to be built in certain communities – such as the Villages — despite a moratorium on new beds (SB 1482); require the technological capacity of schools and school districts be tested for adequacy before common core standardized tests are given (SB 1630); grant rights to infants born alive during attempted abortions and require health professionals to treat them as they would an infants born in a natural birth (SB 1636); and a proposal to move the state’s early learning programs to the Department of Education and tighten accountability (SB 1722). (9 a.m., Tuesday, April 23, 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House on Tuesday has a floor session planned – the first of four for the week. The special order calendar currently includes the bill making changes to the early learning system (HB 7165); the underground natural gas storage bill (HB 1083), a bill requiring notice of fracturing chemicals being used if they ever are (HB 743), and a bill (HB 235) that would require that people who are covered by the program allowing immigrants who were brought to the country as children to be able to apply for a driver’s license. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


Budget differences between the House and Senate that remain unresolved by conference committees are bumped up Tuesday evening to the budget chairs, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. (Tuesday, 5 p.m.)


CABINET TO DISCUSS CAT FUND: Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will consider a series of issues, including proposed 2013-14 rates for the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides reinsurance to property insurers. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol.)


SENATE IN SESSION; TRY AGAIN ON CITIZENS: A bill (SB 1770) that is aimed at reducing the number of people covered by state-backed Citizens Property Insurance, in part by allowing its rates to go up by a degree some say could dramatic, is still waiting for a vote in the Senate. It has been on the calendar since last week, but didn’t come up for a vote during last week’s sessions, with the sponsor saying he is trying to drum up more support. Some in coastal areas fear how much rates might go up, and whether they’ll be blamed. But currently if Citizens doesn’t have enough in reserves and premium collected to pay claims – and there’s a debate over whether it would – everyone else in the state with an insurance policy would be assessed, or as some say taxed, to pay for the shortfall, a thought not very pleasing to many lawmakers, particularly inland ones. The bill has been put on the third reading calendar, meaning it is ready for a vote, if supporters can muster the support. Other bills ready for a final Senate include a bill (SB 142) that removes the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from statutes, and substitutes “intellectual disability or “intellectual disability.” The repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard Act (SB 320), which has already passed the House, removing a requirement for selling fuel blended with ethanol, is available for a vote. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House will be back on the floor Wednesday for a five-hour floor session, with the agenda to be determined early in the week. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)



SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate has a floor session scheduled for Thursday. The special order calendar hasn’t been set. (Thursday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House will be back on the floor Thursday for a five-hour floor session, with the agenda to be determined early in the week. (Thursday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


PSC WEIGHS ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS: The state Public Service Commission will consider proposals by Tampa Electric Co. and Progress Energy Florida to pass along costs to customers for environmental projects. Tampa Electric’s request stems from federal air-pollution standards, while the Progress request relates to complying with groundwater requirements at its Crystal River complex. (Thursday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

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



SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is scheduled to meet in session Friday. (Friday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House will be back on the floor Friday for a five-hour floor session, with the agenda to be determined early in the week. (Friday, 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


ETHICS COMMISSION MEETS: The Florida Commission on Ethics will consider a series of state and local issues, including an advisory opinion about a senator working as a consultant for a private-equity and venture-capital firm. (Friday, 8:30 a.m, Florida Parole Commission, 4070 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.