Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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With the House having passed its redistricting plans, the focus on that issue shifts to the Senate and is likely to move to the front of the agenda on that side of the Capitol. But the Senate is also trying to get going on its budget, with allocations for how much each section will have expected out this week.

Because the session is earlier in the year, there’s one more week of work than usual, because normally when the session is in March and April, the Senate takes off the week that includes Easter and Passover. Senate President Mike Haridopolos said that extra week is a perfect time to really start work on the budget.

“Next week, we will begin to see our budget subcommittees working on allocations,” Haridopolos said in a statement Saturday. “…In the coming weeks, I look forward to seeing our budget take shape and working closely with our colleagues in the House to work out any differences the two chambers may have.”

Haridopolos also said last week that he wants to begin to focus this week on reapportionment and with the House having passed its maps last week, it’s very likely the Senate will quickly take up the issue this week.

The Canadian and Colombian Ambassadors to the United States and Gov. Rick Scott will be among the featured speakers during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual International Days on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And there are several functions put on by the black caucus this week.

A round-up from the News Service of Florida.

MONDAY, FEB. 6, 2012


SENATE COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: The Community Affairs Committee takes up a long list of measures including one to exempt digital data from the Communications Services Tax. The bill, SB 1060, is expected to cost local governments $97.3 million a year in lost revenue, while the state would see its gross receipts collections drop by more than $60 million a year. The panel will also take a look at adding homestead property exemptions to surviving military spouses (SJR 1056) and another to provide a $25,000 exemption from tangible personal property (SJR 1064). Another measure would exempt local real estate brokers from local business taxes (SB 770). (Monday, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

RENEWABLE ENERGY PACKAGE: The Senate’s renewable energy package (SB 2094) begins its legislative trek in the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee as the panel gets first shot at the 32-page bill that among other things re-authorizes the state’s economic development incentives for renewable energy research and sets aside $10 million in tax credits. (Monday, 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Senate Education Pre-K -12 Committee takes up a massive charter school bill that allows state colleges that offer approved teacher preparation programs to operate one K-12 charter school. The bill, SB 1852, already has 14 amendments filed. Another measure would set up additional standards for Florida Virtual School, including allowing students to participate in extracurricular activities. (SB 1402) The panel also looks at allowing school districts to extend bond payout periods (SB 750) and another giving school boards longer period to organize themselves after fall elections (SB 620.) (Monday, 3 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING BILL: The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee takes up a measure, SB 716, backers say will streamline and standardize environmental permitting. The measure would restrict local governments’ ability to deny permit applications when state permits are pending. It would and allow solid waste facilities to extend their permits to 30 years in an effort to lower financing costs. The panel also takes up the chamber’s reclaimed water bill, SB 1086, and urban landscaping fertilizer rules (Monday, 3 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


DOH OVERHAUL PROPOSED: The House Health & Human Services Quality Subcommittee on Monday is expected to take up a sweeping measure that would overhaul the Florida Department of Health and create a more decentralized public-health system. The proposal (PCS for HB 1263) would shift responsibilities from the state to county health departments, which would receive state block grants and enter into contracts with DOH. “Counties shall be responsible for determining the most appropriate methods and manner of meeting local public health needs,” the bill says. It also says that centralized state services would be limited to “those public health functions that provide measurable improvements in efficiency, outcome or cost-effectiveness when delivered through a unified, statewide operation.” The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matt Hudson, a Naples Republican who has long called for narrowing the focus of the Department of Health. Hudson is an influential player on such issues because he is chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. The 152-page bill calls for the Department of Health to submit a plan to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders by July 1 that would detail how to move forward with such issues as transferring duties to counties and developing contracts. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PANEL PLUGS INTO RENEWABLE ENERGY: The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee will consider a wide-ranging bill (PCB ENUS 12-02) to try to boost renewable energy in the state. (Monday, 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

PENSION ALTERNATIVE IN SUS: The House Government Operations Subcommittee takes up a measure, HB 495, that would allow state universities to set up alternative retirement plans instead of using the Florida Retirement System. The panel will also take up HB 1409, which establishes statewide contracting standards and HB 1417, which would reduce the money in the Lawton Chiles Endowment earmarked for biomedical research while expanding the percentage of endowment funds that can be parked in alternative investments. (Monday, 3:30, 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


BIDEN AT FLORIDA STATE: Vice President Joe Biden will visit Florida State University in Tallahassee to discuss the importance of dealing with rising college costs, according to the White House. (Monday, 11 a.m., FSU Basketball training facility, 520 W. Madison St., Tallahassee.)

REPLY BRIEFS DUE IN HEALTH CARE SUIT: Florida and the other states, along with the NFIB must file response briefs in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. The government will reply by March 7. The arguments in the case will be in March.


OBAMA – Organizing for America-Florida, the president’s re-election campaign in the state, opens a Jacksonville office. Former Sen. Tony Hill attends. (Monday, 6 p.m., 608 N. Julia St., Jacksonville.)

TUESDAY, FEB. 7, 2012
It’s Florida State University Day at the Capitol


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is on the floor Tuesday morning at 10:30. A bill that says that the responsibility for medical care costs for people injured while being arrested is the responsibility of the prisoner (SB 452) is on the calendar. Other bills available include a measure (SB 278) immunizing from arrest people who call for help for someone having a drug overdose. It’s needed, backers say, because sometimes the only person around when someone has an overdose is someone else who is also using drugs and is afraid to call for help. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Senate chamber, The Capitol.)

CAMERAS EVERYWHERE – AT RED LIGHT INTERSECTIONS AND ON SCHOOL BUSES: A bill that would let school districts put cameras on school buses with the hope of getting pictures of drivers who don’t observe the school bus stop signs when children are boarding is before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday. The measure (SB 250) is sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. The committee also hears a combined version of two bills (SB 590, SB 568) dealing with red lights – including a tweak to the law dealing with red light cameras. The legislation would require twice-a-year testing of the controversial cameras, and spells out that the burden of proving the guilt of someone caught by a red light camera remains on the government – and making clear that alleged red light runners have the right to challenge their tickets in court. Another measure, SB 1184, would prohibit local governments from assessing storm water fees on agricultural operations. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CHECK CASHING REFORMS: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee takes up a measure aimed at cleaning up abuses in the check cashing in workers compensation claims. The bill (SB 1586) is the Senate version of a proposal already moving in the House. The panel also takes up a proposal (SB 1476) to expand protections to purchases or annuities by requiring more disclosure to younger investors. (Tuesday 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SLOT MACHINES AND DIGNIFIED DEATH; The Senate Regulated Industries Committee takes up a proposal (SB 986) to give Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering division the authority to adopt rules regarding slot machines including all components, hardware, and software. The panel also takes up a measure to prevent protest activities within a specified distance from a funeral service, burial, or memorial service for military personnel or emergency response workers (SB 632). (Tuesday 1:30 p.m. 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

HERE’S A TIP: The Commerce and Tourism Committee takes up a proposed committee bill, SPB 7208, to allow employers to pay tipped employees hourly salaries in lieu of tips if they pay at least 130 percent of minimum wage. Another measure, SB 946, would establish a statewide gulf trail for economic development purposes. (Tuesday 1:30 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

SOME SUBMERGED TREASURE IS THE STATE’S: The Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee takes up a packed agenda that includes a measure (SB 868) to expand the area off limits to treasure hunters to include state sovereign submerged land and land owned by political subdivisions. The committee also takes up a Department of Children and Family Services reorganization bill, SB 2048, and a number of open records bills. (Tuesday 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

MILITARY AFFAIRS: The Senate Military Affairs Committee takes up a bill (SB 1684) related to the hurricane loss mitigation program. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

Also meeting Tuesday:

BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEES: Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Senate committees will have budget allocations this week, so they can begin putting actual numbers on each of the parts of the spending plan.

SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIMINAL AND CIVIL JUSTICE (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE ON EDUCATION PRE-K-12 (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
SENATE BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION (Tuesday 9:15 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


LOCAL BILLS: The House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee has a long list of mostly local bills. The panel also considers the bill (HB 997) that would abolish Miami-Dade County’s dangerous dog ordinance, which specifically bans pit bulls. When lawmakers passed a statewide law, they said local governments couldn’t put in their own dog bans – but they grandfathered in Miami-Dade’s existing ban on the dogs. This bill would end the county’s ability to have its own ban. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

GOV OPS: The House Government Operations Committee considers proposed committee bills, including a measure related to economic development agencies, and one related to the commercialization of public research. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION ON COLLEGES: The House Education Committee hears from more college presidents on possible higher education reforms and takes up a handful of bills, including a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 931) that would allow the governor to appoint the student representative to the Board of Governors, instead of automatically giving that selection an organization that doesn’t include Florida State University. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol)

HOUSE HHS HAS VACCINE BILL: A bill (HB 509) that seeks to allow pharmacists to subscribe certain medicines instead of a patient having to see a doctor goes before the House HHS Committee. The committee also takes up legislation related to prescription drug abuse (HB 227), and one related to the sale of public hospitals to private entities (HB 711). (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FINANCE AND TAX: House Finance & Tax considers a proposed constitutional amendment related to the homestead tax exemption (HJR 169), and a bill (HB 465) that would give school districts more flexibility on the length of and payment plans for bonds, among other measures. (Tuesday, 3:45 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


FLORIDA CHAMBER INTERNATIONAL DAYS: Speakers at the Florida Chamber’s International Days include Gov. Rick Scott; Gary Doer, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States; and US. Dept. of Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez. (Tuesday and Wednesday, FSU University Center, 555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.)


WATERHOUSE DEATH ARGUMENT: Oral arguments are Tuesday in the appeal of the death warrant for Robert Brian Waterhouse. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)


FWC REGULAR MEETING: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds its regular meeting this week in Havana, Fla. just outside Tallahassee. Agenda:
(Tuesday-Thursday, Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, 215 Academy Dr., Havana.)

It’s Polk County Day at the Capitol


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session Wednesday morning. In addition to taking up measures on third reading, the Senate will spend about an hour holding a reunion for former members. But Senate President Mike Haridopolos also said last week that reapportionment will be a priority for the Senate going forward, and that he hopes the Senate will be able to take it up this week. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Senate chamber, The Capitol.)

CONFIRMATIONS IN E&E: The Senate Ethics and Elections has several non-controversial board appointments to confirm. (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

BUDGET SUBCOMMITTEES: Senate Budget subcommittees continue to meet Wednesday to discuss sections of the Senate budget.


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is in session Wednesday, and has set out a little over eight hours of floor time. One of the first bills on the calendar is a measure (HB 19) that would let district school boards sell advertising space on school buses. Another bill on the calendar (HB 31) bans protests within a certain proximity to funerals, and another (HB 125) seeks to immunize from prosecution those who report drug overdoses. (Wednesday, 10:45 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

Also meeting, but with agendas not yet released:

House Economic Affairs (8 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol)
House Judiciary (8 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol)


BLACK CAUCUS SPEAKER SERIES: Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree gives remarks at a black caucus lecture series event. “Does Race Still Matter in the Age of Obama,” is the topic for Ogletree, who is probably best known for representing Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. (Wednesday, 6 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

BLACK CAUCUS RECEPTION: The Pittman Law Group hosts a reception with the Conference of Black State Legislators and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Pittman Law Group, Wilhelmina Square, 1028 E. Park Ave., Tallahassee.)

THURSDAY, FEB. 9, 2012


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is in session Thursday.


GOIN’ TO THE FAIR:  The governor and Cabinet take their show on the road this week as they host the monthly Cabinet meeting at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Along with recognitions honoring the annual agrarian/gastronomical  event and the Future Farmers of America, the panel take up a handful of minor issues dealing with the State Board of Administration investment policy revisions and state lands issues including the renewal of a limestone mining permit in Miami-Dade County and the repeal of several Department of Environmental Protection rules as requested by Gov. Rick Scott last year. (Thursday, 9 a.m., Florida State Fair Grounds, Bob Thomas Horse Pavilion, 4800 US Highway 301 N., Tampa.)

STATEWIDE BLACK BUSINESS DAY: Black business owners participate in “Black Business Day at the Capitol. More info at (Thursday.)

PUMP UP THE VOLUME, IT MIGHT BE FREE SPEECH: A guy who wanted to pump up his jam and got a ticket for having a car stereo that was too loud happened to be a lawyer. He and another plaintiff challenged the state’s loud car stereo law. That 1990 law says noise produced within a vehicle that is “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle” is prohibited, and subject to a noncriminal traffic infraction punishable as a nonmoving violation. Two Florida appeals courts over the years have upheld the law. But the Second District Court of Appeal in this case, Catalano and Schermerhorn v. Florida, said the standard for determining when someone’s radio is too loud is too vague and invites arbitrary enforcement. But there’s an added twist in this case. The law has an exemption if the vehicle producing the noise is blasting sound that is of a business or political nature. That means that if you are blasting Rush Limbaugh from your car stereo, you can’t be cited. But if you’re blasting Justin Timberlake – as Mr. Catalano was – you are breaking the law. If it’s somewhere in between, say a rap song with a political message, well, it’s not clear. The plaintiffs say that the double standard makes the whole law a violation of the right to free speech, because it’s “content-based,” which the courts have said isn’t constitutional. The case out of Pinellas County gets its hearing before the state Supreme Court on Thursday – it’s the second case on the docket and probably will start around 10 a.m. (Thursday, 10 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)

MAJOR MED MAL CASE GOES TO HIGH COURT: The Florida Supreme Court will hold oral arguments in a closely watched case that challenges limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The case stems from the death of Michelle McCall, who died after giving birth in 2006 at a Fort Walton Beach hospital. Her family is challenging damage caps that lawmakers approved in 2003 as part of an overhaul of medical-malpractice laws. (Thursday, 10:40 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)

STATE OF BLACK FLORIDA WORKSHOP ON VOTER SUPPRESSION: A workshop will be held on voter suppression as part of the State of Black Florida workshop series put on by the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators. (Thursday, 1:30 p.m., 309 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

BLACK FLORIDA: TRENDS IN EDUCATION SPENDING: The black caucus forum series continues with a discussion of trends in education funding. (Thursday, 3:15 p.m., 309 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DRIVING FLORIDA’S FUTURE IN ENERGY: The black caucus forum series also includes an energy discussion. (Thursday, 3:15 p.m., 229 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

BLACK CAUCUS RECEPTION: The Parks & Crump law firm hosts a reception with the legislative black caucus and special guest Virgil Hawkins. (Thursday, 6 p.m., 240 N. Magnolia Dr., Tallahassee.)

FRIDAY, FEB. 10, 2012

BLACK CAUCUS GALA: The annual gala of the legislative black caucus is Friday evening. (Friday, 8 p.m., Leon County Civic Center, 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.