Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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Now that the Senate has a budget and the Legislature has completed redistricting (unless it comes back), the remainder of the session looks to be focused on a few big remaining issues. The big one, of course, is the budget, and that should dominate much of the next month.

But this week another big issue will either get a boost, or die. The effort to privatize the state’s prisons is expected to come up for a vote this week in the Senate. They may not have enough votes to pass it. In the words of Senate President Mike Haridopolos last week, “we’ll see.”

A round-up from various sources, including the News Service of Florida.

MONDAY, FEB. 13, 2012


AG PANEL LOOKS AT RENEWABLE ENERGY: The Senate Agriculture Committee will consider several bills, including the Senate’s main energy package (SB 2094). The bill includes tax incentives and other proposals aimed at bolstering the renewable-energy industry. (Monday, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

RED LIGHT, GO. The Senate Community Affairs Committee takes up the red light issue as it looks to make several mostly non-controversial changes to the controversial law. The proposal, CS/SB 590 & 568) combines aspects of both bills by standardizing left turn violations, yellow light duration and other aspects dealing with the registered owner or driver of the vehicle.  The panel also takes up SB 2080, which allows local governments , firefighters and police to make pension changes by mutual agreement. (Monday, 10 a.m., 412 Knott  Building, the Capitol.)

OIL AND WATER: The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will take up a bill (SB 1158) that could lead to partnerships with companies that would explore and drill for oil or natural gas on state lands. The committee also will consider a wide-ranging bill (SB 1244) that deals with rates charged by private water companies. (Monday, 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

SENATE TAKES UP PRISON PRIVATIZATION: The Senate will take up or down votes on pending amendments, and try to get a bill on privatizing prisons in most of South of Florida ready for a floor vote. The privatization bill (SB 2038), a top priority of Senate leadership, was brought to the floor earlier this session, but pulled from consideration when it began to appear that leadership couldn’t get the measure passed. An amendment that remains pending would shelve the issue for a year in favor of a study. That amendment will be up for consideration on Monday – which would put the bill in place for a vote on Tuesday. Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said the vote count on the issue is “very close.” The proposal calls for private prison operators to save 7 percent by running prisons in 18 South Florida counties, about 30 facilities in all. Opponents have said that the plan won’t save that much money. (Monday, 1 p.m., Senate Chamber, the Capitol.)

OTHER ITEMS ON THE SENATE FLOOR CALENDAR: A number of other bills are on the calendar and could come up for consideration Monday, ranging from a bill that expands the list of places of where one could conceivably be a victim of video voyeurism to include one’s home (SB 436), a measure (SB 2026) re-creating the capital regional collateral trust fund, and a measure (SB 226) aimed at cracking down on people who abuse disabled parking permits. Also still on the calendar is a memorial (SM 1822) urging Congress to repeal the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. (Monday, 1 p.m., Senate Chamber, the Capitol.)


“LET US… INSPIRE:  The House Education Committee takes up a Senate proposal (SB 98) to allow students to give inspirational messages at school events. The controversial measure passed the Senate 31-8 earlier this month. The panel will also hear a proposal (HB 291) to require athletic officials to be trained in the detection and treatment of head injuries and another (HB 7085) that sets up statewide requirements for authorizing  voluntary pre-kindergarten programs.(Monday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE UNDER MICROSCOPE: The House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 385) that would add restrictions to medical-malpractice lawsuits. The bill would provide sovereign immunity to emergency-room doctors and make other legal changes sought by physicians. (Monday, 1:45 p.m., 404 House Office Building, the Capitol.)

CUTTING OUT THE JUNK FOOD: The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 1401) that would prevent people from using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds to buy snacks such as candy, ice cream, doughnuts and potato chips. (Monday, 1:45 p.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

LOCAL BILLS: The House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee takes up two local bills, one (HB 699) from Pinellas County and one (HB 1253) from Duval County. (Monday, 5 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


DEMOCRATS TO ‘TRUTH TEAM’ FOR OBAMA: State Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and several other Democratic officials hold a news conference to announce “truth teams” to fact check the Romney campaign and other Republican statements on the president. (Monday, 4:30 p.m., Florida Press Center, 336 E. College Ave., Tallahassee.)

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED: Republican legislative candidate Dane Eagle, (District 74), holds a Tallahassee meet and greet. (Monday, 7 p.m., Tennyson Condominiums, Unit 1009, 121 N. Monroe St., Tallahassee.)

TUESDAY, FEB.14, 2012


SENATE IN SESSION – PRIVATE PRISON VOTE?: We’ll know probably by Tuesday if Senate leadership has the votes to pass a bill requiring a large swath of state prisons be privatized. There’s a possibility that if a couple of key weakening amendments are defeated on Monday, the Senate could go ahead and take a vote on the whole measure, but if it doesn’t a vote may also wait until Tuesday. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

QUIET AIRBOATS: The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee takes up a measure to allow air boaters whose craft are quieter than average to travel on all state waters. The bill (SB 958) is expected to draw opposition from some environmentalists. The panel will also take up SB 648, which would repeal the Florida Climate Protection act, a Crist era effort to allow the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt cap-and-trade rules dealing with greenhouse emissions. Public hearings will also be held on the water management district executive director appointments. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE EDUCATION: A bill (SB 250) 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 Education Committee on Tuesday. Also before the panel is a bill (SB 1368) that would require school districts to create fast-track options for students who want to graduate early, require more testing in Algebra, reward schools where students take more math and science classes and where students graduate in less than 8 semesters. Another bill in the committee (SB 1610) requiring a uniform ID badge for contractors working on school grounds statewide to show they’ve been backgrounded. The panel also will workshop, but not vote, on a bill (SB 756) providing for a new career-track high school diploma. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The Senate Rules Committee takes up a measure (SB 1560) that would prevent future lawmakers from working for, or contracting with, a state university or State College System institution while in office or for two years after leaving office. The restriction would apply to lawmakers elected after July 1. The bill also allows public officers to place their assets in a blind trust. The panel also takes a vote on a Senate memorial asking Congress to enact term-limits. (Tuesday, 4 p.m. 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


JUSTICE APPROPRIATIONS: The House Budget is done, but the appropriations subs still have lines of legislation to tackle because of fiscal impacts expected from the bills. House Justice Approps has legislation (HB 367) related to the way pregnant women may be restrained in prison, a bill (HB 497) dealing with expunction of juvenile records, a measure (HB 1187) related to the sentencing of child abusers, and several other bills.(Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HIGHER ED APPROPRIATIONS: The House higher ed budget sub takes up a bill giving college credit for military training (HB 347). (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS: The House budget sub that deals with K-12 education has a long list of bills, including a measure (HB 903) that would toughen standards on charter schools, including requiring the sponsor of a charter school to terminate its charter if the school receives an “F” grade in two of three years and order the education commissioner to review “high-performing” charter schools’ eligibility for the designation. Another bill would extend the cap on how much the state can give out in corporate income tax credits to companies that provide scholarships for private school students (HB 859). (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

TRANSPORTATION APPROPRIATIONS: Measures related to details of the red light camera law (HB 343), a catch-all transportation agency bill (HB 1399) and the omnibus highway safety bill (HB 1223) are on the agenda for the transportation budget sub in the House. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

AGRICULTURE: The House takes up a wide-ranging agriculture bill (HB 1021) though the most controversial part of it, a ban on farm photography, has been stripped. Other measures before the panel involve sovereign submerged lands (HB 13) and wildlife conservation (HB 1117). (Tuesday, 1:15 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The sales tax holiday for 2012 (HB 737) is at the top of the calendar when the House reconvenes on Tuesday. Most of the calendar is non-controversial, though there is a measure that allows insurers to keep excess profits on workers compensation policies that currently are barred. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

PSC WADES INTO AQUA RATES: The Florida Public Service Commission is expected to consider a proposal by Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc., to increase water and wastewater rates. The company has customers in parts of 17 counties, stretching from Lee County in Southwest Florida to Washington County in the Panhandle. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15, 2012


BUDGET COMMITTEE TAKES UP BUDGET BILLS: The $70.7 billion Senate budget that was released late Friday is before the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, along with a string of conforming bills. The Appropriations Act (SPB 7050) is about $1.5 billion larger than the $69.2 billion spending plan that the House approved Thursday. It also contains about 540 more positions than the House blueprint. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House has blocked out from 12:30 p.m. “until completion,” to get through its calendar, though the calendar hasn’t yet been set. (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION DISORDERS: Florida State hosts a mental health and addiction disorders science summit. (Wednesday, 1 p.m., Turnbull Center, 555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.)

CITRUS COMMISSION: The Florida Citrus Commission holds a public meeting by phone to address the allocation of uncommitted funds to domestic orange juice marketing programs. (Wednesday, 2 p.m.; 1-888-808-6959. When prompted, enter code 4992373#. )

THURSDAY, FEB. 16, 2012

HOUSE IN SESSION: It’s the time of year when both chambers begin to spend lots of time on the floor. The House will be in session Thursday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursday, 3 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


2012 SUNSHINE STATE SCHOLARS EVENT: State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan and representatives from at least four of the 11 institutions in the system will honor hundreds of Florida’s top high school STEM students at an annual event designed to showcase their accomplishments and lobby them to stay in Florida. The annual event treats the top academic talent like blue-chip athletes by recognizing them and recruiting them to pursue their postsecondary education and STEM-related career in Florida. The event is sponsored by the Florida Education Foundation. The State University System of Florida says it is the third-highest producer of four-year STEM degrees of any public university system in the United States. (Thursday, Brogan speaks at 6:30 p.m., Doubletree Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Studios, 5780 Major Blvd., Orlando.)

FRIDAY, FEB. 17, 2012

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS: The House Appropriations Committee has blocked out time on Friday for a possible meeting, though currently it hasn’t been officially noticed. The House, of course, has already passed its budget, and is looking to the Senate, ahead of expected conference committees. But there remain measures with fiscal impacts still in the committee process. (Friday, 12 p.m., 212 Knott Building, 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.