Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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It’s the final week of the regular session, though a return for redistricting is widely expected.

And on par for the course, lawmakers go into the final week without a finished budget deal racing against a Tuesday deadline for sending to lawmakers a spending plan in order to get out of town on Friday.

In addition to the budget, the governor’s top priority, a bill to cut fraud in the no-fault auto insurance system, remains on the to do list this week, while very few bills have passed both chambers and gone to the governor.

There remain several high profile claims bills, legislation related to insurance, drug testing, several must-pass agency bills, a high profile series of education bills, including one giving parents more power to turn their failing school into a charter school and one that would allow Florida State University and the University of Florida to raise tuition.

But most of the focus this week will be on the budget on Monday and Tuesday and then again on Thursday and Friday.

In the meantime, the usual flurry of discussion of just what is in the budget conforming bills and the budget proviso language will continue, as will the lookout for last minute large amendments that put into legislation more controversial provisions that can escape scrutiny in the hectic final days of the session.

For the political set there are two big days this week: Super Tuesday could make Mitt Romney the GOP presidential nominee, or throw the primary into chaos. Then by Friday, the state Supreme Court must rule on the redistricting plan lawmakers passed, possibly setting into motion a new period of drawing.

A round-up from the News Service of Florida.

MONDAY

FLORIDA ALLIANCE FOR RETIRED AMERICANS: Members of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans will hold a press conference with Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, to discuss proposed budget cuts that affect programs and services for senior citizens and call for more money for senior housing. (Monday, 9 a.m., Plaza Level Rotunda, The Capitol.)

PARENT POWER: Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston and other lawmakers and concerned parents discuss their opposition to SB 1718, the bill that allows parents, and charter school backers, more power in deciding what happens to failing schools. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., 301 Capitol.)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session nearly all day, all week. Starting today, all bills passed in one chamber, are immediately certified to the other. (Monday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION – THIRD READING AND SENATE BILLS ONLY: The House takes to the floor Monday afternoon and, unless it waives its rules, won’t be taking up any more bills on second reading. House rules state that after the 55th day of session, which was Sunday, no House bills on second reading may be taken up, leaving just those bills already moved to third reading, and bills coming over from the Senate. (Monday, 1 p.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE RULES AND CALENDAR: A more critical meeting than usual – with just a few days to go, whether a bill makes the calendar can mean life or death at this point. (Monday, 15 minutes after session adjourns, 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ALSO

MEDICAID LONG-TERM CARE DISCUSSED: The Long-term Care Managed Care Technical Advisory Workgroup will discuss issues related to moving seniors into managed-care plans as part of the state’s Medicaid overhaul. (Monday, 9 a.m., Call-in number: 1(800)407-7939, Conference ID #: 53784757.)

PUTNAM AT STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam delivers remarks at the Strawberry Festival breakfast in Plant City. (Monday.)

TUESDAY

BUDGET DEADLINE FOR ONTIME FINISH: With a 72-hour waiting period between production of a compromise budget bill and a final budget vote in each chamber, a budget must be on lawmakers’ desks by sometime Tuesday to get out of town by Friday.

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democrats hold their regular caucus meeting. (Tuesday, 8:45 a.m., 228 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session nearly all day, all week. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is in session “until completion.” (Tuesday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

ALSO

WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME INDUCTION: Dr. Ruth Alexander, Elizabeth “Budd” Bell and Vicki Bryant Burke will be inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame on Tuesday at the Capitol. Gov. Rick Scott will lead the ceremony. (Tuesday, 5 p.m., Capitol Courtyard.)

SUPER TUESDAY: Voters in ten states go to the polls Tuesday in the Republican primary with 419 delegates up for grabs in: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democrats hold a caucus meeting. (Wednesday, 8:45 a.m., 228 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session and likely in the intervening period between receiving the budget and taking a vote. Bills on second reading, and bills in messages are likely to be heard. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House will be in session Wednesday. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

ALSO

MOBILE HOME RATE HIKE ADDRESSED: The Office of Insurance Regulation will hold a public hearing about a proposal by State Farm Florida to increase property-insurance rates for mobile homes. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Room 116, Larson Building, 200 East Gaines Street, Tallahassee.)

GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY TASK FORCE PANEL: The Government Efficiency Task Force’s General Government Subcommittee holds an organizational meeting to discuss its goals and agenda. (Wednesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2012

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session, mostly taking up bills in messages from the House. Depending on when lawmakers end negotiations on the budget, there’s a possibility the budget could be considered on special order on Thursday ahead of a Friday vote. If lawmakers get finished negotiating earlier, a vote could even come before then. (Thursday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: Flyin’ and dyin’ – Bills are likely to be flying back and forth between the chambers on Thursday, the penultimate day of the regular session. And those that aren’t are dead. Under House rules, only bills returning from the Senate in messages conference reports and concurrent resolutions may be considered as of Thursday. That means any bill that hasn’t passed the House in some form by Wednesday at least once, is generally declared dead on Thursday morning. (Thursday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

ALSO

SUPREME COURT: The Florida Supreme Court issues opinions. (11 a.m.)

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2012

SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate will be in session Friday, with sine die expected sometime Friday evening. (Friday, 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION, FINAL DAY: The House also is in session, with sine die expected – hoped for – sometime Friday. (Friday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

REDISTRICTING DEADLINE: The State Supreme Court must rule by Friday on the maps lawmakers passed in a landmark case that could shape the political future of Florida for at least a decade. This year, beyond simply approving the maps as in other years the justices must consider how much to take into account the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments approved by the voters in a November 2010 referendum. Democrats and a coalition of voting-rights organizations argue that the court’s initial review should include a careful look at whether the maps follow the new standards which among other things call for districts to be compact and politically neutral. The Legislature says justices should leave that issue for another court and another day. Once the court rules, the Legislature may go back into the maps. (Friday.)

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.