Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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Lawmakers return to Tallahassee this week and get their first look at Gov. Rick Scott’s new proposed budget. They’ll hear from the governor’s staff and from agencies in a number of committees this week as they start to begin crafting their own spending plans. 

It’s also back to the discussion of ethics and elections reforms, with a new proposal to raise campaign contribution limits on individuals and also continued discussion of the elections problems seen in Florida on Election Day.

A new issue is the beginning of a new discussion of the communications services tax. A couple of committees this week will begin looking at that tax, which communications companies say is problematic because it is different in several different jurisdictions. There’s also a look at a bill to return the tax on prepaid calling services to the regular 6 percent sales tax in the wake of a move by the state to begin collecting the higher CST on that service. 

Also, both chambers look at bills prohibiting police from using drones, and a proposed death penalty abolition bill and a ban on texting while driving both get hearings.



JOINT LEGISLATIVE AUDITING: The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee on Monday hears presentations on an Auditor General’s audit of the Okaloosa Tourist Development Council and a response from county officials and the annual audit of the Department of Lottery. The panel also hears a presentation from Governor’s Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel on state and local government accountability. (Monday, 2 p.m. 309 Capitol.)

OBAMACARE COMMITTEES MEET JOINTLY: The Senate Select Committee on the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, chaired by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, holds a joint committee meeting with the House of Representatives Select Committee on PPACA, chaired by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, to discuss Florida’s options regarding health care exchanges. The state faces a choice on whether to remain in the default federal exchange, build a state exchange, or pursue a partnership exchange. Brian Webb of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners will testify and Florida Health Choices Chief Executive Officer Rose Naff and Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Executive Director Rich Robleto will outline current Florida insurance marketplaces. The committee will also take public testimony. (Monday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


SENATE GAMING TAKES TESTIMONY: The Senate Gaming Committee continues to hear from the public on the idea of expanding gambling in the state. No bills are before the committee, which is largely tasked with studying the issue this year for possible action in 2014. In addition to public testimony, the committee hears presentations Monday from industry representatives on the impact of gaming on the economy. (Monday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE E&E HEARS ABOUT ELECTIONS: Voting reform will take center stage again when the House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee meets to hear from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections before discussing what the panel might to do address the problems in the 2012 elections. (Monday, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


JOINT Administrative Procedures, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building.
HOUSE Select Committee on Claims Bills, 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building. 


RECIDIVISM DROP: The Department of Corrections announces a drop in recidivism rates, that the agency says is saving Florida taxpayers millions. A former inmate joins Corrections and law enforcement officials. (Monday, 10:30 a.m., Florida Department of Corrections, 501 S. Calhoun St., Tallahassee.)

CITIZENS BOARD TO TALK: The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board is scheduled to hold a one-hour teleconference. (Monday, 11 a.m., Call-in number: 888-942-8686; conference ID: 5743735657#)

PRESCRIPTION DRUG TASK FORCE MEETS: The Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns will release copies of its final report during a meeting convened by Attorney General Pam Bondi. (Monday, 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

SCHOOL KIDS GET COUNTED: The Education Estimating Conference will review enrollment numbers for schools in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. (Monday, 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.)



MORE EARLY VOTING: Tuesday brings the first committee hearing for several pieces of legislation affecting the voting process. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee hears a bill (SB 80) by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, that would add early voting days, expand possible early voting sites, and would once again allow voters who move to change their address and vote by regular ballot in their new precinct; a measure (SB 176) by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, that would add one day to early voting and would allow elections supervisors to extend early-voting hours; a bill (SB 234) by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, that would automatically register voters when they get a driver’s license; a proposal (SJR 254) by Clemens limiting the number of constitutional amendments the Legislature could send to voters for each election; and a bill (SB 388) by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, that would overhaul new rules on third-party voter registration groups, once again allow voters who move to change their address and vote by regular ballot in their new precinct, get rid of a provision allowing the full text of a constitutional amendment to appear on the ballot and add time to early voting. The committee does not expect to vote on the measures. The panel also hears from Secretary of State Ken Detzner on problems arising on Election Day last year. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE: SPORTS STADIUMS, AQUARIUMS, ECON DEVELOPMENT: The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee takes up a bill (SB 306) that would allow local option tourist development taxes to be used to pay the debt service on “professional sport franchise renovation facilities,” defined as stadiums seeking to upgrade that have been the home to a team for at least 20 years. The bill could help the Miami Dolphins get Sun Life Stadium renovated. The committee also considers legislation (SB 336) to let certain aquariums get local tourist development tax dollars and a bill (SB 406) by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, that would set up periodic reviews of all the state’s economic incentive efforts.  That bill creates a program in the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research to review incentives and their return on investment. Another bill (SB 316) before the committee would bolster the state’s ability to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases. (Tuesday, 9 a.m.,110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol).

SENATE AGRICULTURE: The Senate Agriculture Committee hears an update on what’s going on in the Citrus Industry. The panel also hears a presentation on the school nutrition program, now run by the Department of Agriculture. The panel also hears SB 298, a mostly technical and glitch bill, though it also has a section that transfers certain rules from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Citrus. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee takes up a bill (SB 288) that puts the costs of prosecution and costs of representation among those fees, costs, and penalties to be withheld from a cash bond posted on behalf of a defendant. The bill also tries to clarify the collection of cost payments in certain traffic cases and assessment of costs of prosecution in juvenile delinquency proceedings. The panel also takes up what is becoming an annual drug control bill. The measure (SB 294) adds certain synthetic properties to the controlled substances list, an effort to catch up with the drug cookers, who keep coming up with new compounds that aren’t yet illegal. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democratic Caucus meets . (Tuesday 11:30 a.m., 200, Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE ETHICS TRAINING:  The Senate will hold a training session on ethics policies for members. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: As part of an effort to make assisted living facilities safer, the Senate Children and Families Committee takes up a committee bill (SPB 7010) that, among other things, would require certain people to report elder abuse in ALFs and require the Agency for Health Care Administration to propose a rating system for the facilities for consumers. The committee also will take up a bill (SB 164) that would give foster parents more decision-making power and give youths the option of staying in state care until age 21. The bill essentially says that foster parents should be able to make decisions about extra-curricular and social activities that foster children participate in without undue interference from state bureaucrats – putting into state law the right of foster children to normal childhood activities. The committee also hears presentations on mental health and substance abuse and efforts to combat sex trafficking. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.) 

MEDMAL ISSUES: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from stakeholders in what is expected to be an upcoming battle over medical malpractice insurance and negligence. The panel will hear testimony on a litany of med-mal issues from negligence and ex parte communications  to arbitration and access to legal counsel following the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Hasan v. Garvar. (Tuesday, 3 p.m. 110 Senate Office Building.)

PREPAID CELL PHONE TAXES: Apparently, prepaid cell phones aren’t just for Baltimore drug dealers trying to avoid wire taps anymore. A whole lot of people are using “prepaid calling arrangements,” from kids whose parents don’t want to run up unexpectedly astronomical bills, to low-income people who don’t want a contract with a cell phone company. In fact, prepaid wireless accounts have been growing in recent years and most mobile carriers are marketing them heavily. A bill up Tuesday in the Senate Communications Committee deals with the tax on prepaid calling arrangements. The tax on purchases of prepaid calling cards used to be 6 percent, just like the normal sales tax. But last year, the Department of Revenue looked at the issue again – nowadays prepaid calling arrangements often involve not cards, but phones themselves, and people can use the prepaid arrangements to text, video chat and so on. That, the DOR says, is essentially a communications service – and as such should be subject to a higher communications services tax, which is much higher. And the department wants to apply the new policy retroactively. The bill (SB 290) by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, seeks to reverse that, and make it clear that prepaid calling services should be taxed at 6 percent. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CONFIRMATIONS IN SENATE EDUCATION: Board of Governors appointee Matt Carter and several university trustees appointees are before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday for confirmation votes. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


PAST AND FUTURE: The House Economic Affairs Committee discusses the past, hearing about the expected economic impacts of the coming celebration of the 500th anniversary of Florida’s European discovery, and then talks about the future with reports on job growth. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE JUDICIARY: House Judiciary takes up bills related to open parties (HB 5), landlords and tenants (HB 77) and another (HB 15) banning protests that have the intent to disrupt funerals. Current law bans protests that actually do disturb funerals but the measure before the committee would prohibit even trying to disturb the ceremony. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET IN HOUSE APPROPS: The House Appropriations Committee hears from a presentation from Gov. Rick Scott’s staff on the governor’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Scott is pitching a $74.2 billion budget that increases education spending by $1.2 billion and would allow all manufacturers to claim the sales-tax exemption on equipment. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

CST DISCUSSED IN HOUSE F&T: The House Finance and Tax Committee takes public comment on the communications services tax. There is a push from some businesses that pay the CST to replace it with increased sales tax because they say it’s burdensome, varying greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The panel won’t take up any bills. It also hears from businesses on local business taxes and discusses business filing fees and taxation of remote commerce. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


SCOFLA: BREATH TESTS: The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Carlos A. Alejandro Ulloa v. CMI, Inc., a case involving whether a company can be subpoenaed for records related to breath test equipment. Ulloa and others were seeking info on the equipment, but CMI argued it couldn’t be forced to produce them because it was an out-of-state non-party witness. The Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned a circuit court ruling and asked the Supreme Court to weigh in because of differing rulings from different appeals court districts. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)



GOVERNOR’S BUDGET UP IN SENATE APPROPS: The Senate Appropriations Committee hears from Jerry McDaniel, budget director for Gov. Rick Scott, on Scott’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Scott is pitching a $74.2 billion budget that increases education spending by $1.2 billion and would allow all manufacturers to claim the sales-tax exemption on equipment. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

PIP AND CITIZENS IN B&I: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will get updates on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and recent changes made to the state’s no-fault automobile insurance laws. The panel will take up one item for a vote, SB 166, a bill dealing with reporting requirements for insurance companies offering annuities. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DRONES: A bill making it illegal for police to use remotely controlled drone aircraft for many purposes makes its second committee stop when the Senate Community Affairs Committee takes up SB 92 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Drones are currently in use by about a half dozen Florida law enforcement agencies. The bill would prohibit their use unless a warrant was issued or in special cases such as hostage situations.  The committee also takes up the Senate Ethics bill (SB 2) that prohibits most state government employees from serving in elected positions. ( Wednesday 10:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.)

FUNERALS, TUITION: The Senate Military Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee takes up measures to prohibit protests within certain distances and times of funeral services of military personnel and emergency responders (SB 118) and creating residency status for armed services personnel residing in the state (SB 260). (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)  

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING BAN: A ban on texting while driving (SB 52) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, is before the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday. The bill calls for the offense to be a “secondary offense,” meaning officers could only ticket people for texting while driving if they’ve stopped them for some other traffic violation.  Reading some safety or navigational items would be exempt, as would using a hands-free voice-recognition device. The panel also hears a presentation by DOT staff on the status of passenger rail in the state and another on the use of lane restrictions to speed up traffic on highways. The committee also takes up a bill (SB 140) exempting car sharing services from the rental car tax. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CONSUMPTIVE USE PERMITS: The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee takes up bills dealing with water management districts and consumptive  use permits for alternative water sources. SB 364 would allow an applicant to receive a 20-year permit if there is a reasonable expectation that permit requirements will be met during that time. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

LOCAL PENSIONS, PUBLIC MEETINGS: The annual battle over police and firefighter pensions travels to the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. The panel takes up SB 458, by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, giving local governments more flexibility in using insurance premium taxes for paying pensions costs. Another measure, SB 4, requires local governments to give citizens the opportunity to speak on local issues. The panel also takes up SB 4, which strengthens public records exemptions for preliminary investigations by the Ethics Commission and other state agencies. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.) 


SENATE Health Policy, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building. 
SENATE Regulated Industries, 3 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.


KILL (CCEs) BILL: The House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee takes up a bill (HB 569) that would prevent committees of continuous existence, or CCEs, from accepting contributions after Aug. 1 and would revoke their certification on Sept. 30 while raising contributions limits from $500 to $10,000. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has made getting rid of CCEs one of his main goals on ethics reform. (Wednesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

TUITION BASED ON WHERE YOU LIVE: The House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee hears from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services before discussing residency for tuition purposes. Multiple bills have been filed this year to make children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools eligible for in-state college tuition in Florida. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

CHARTER SCHOOL BILL: The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee takes up a proposed committee bill (PCB CIS 13-01) dealing with charter schools. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FDUPTA: The House Biz and Professional Regulation Sub hears a bill (HB 55) that requires people to provide a demand letter to motor vehicle dealers before suing them under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE Health Innovation Subcommittee, 8 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
HOUSE Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, 8:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
HOUSE Economic Development, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
HOUSE Gov Operations Appropriations, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
HOUSE Health Care Appropriations, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
HOUSE Transportation and Highway Safety, 3 p.m., 306 House Office Building.



SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES: The various Senate Appropriations Subcommittees meet to hear agency agendas and get updates on Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget:Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office BuildingAppropriations Subcommittee on Education; 9 a.m., 412 Knott BuildingAppropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Tourism and Econ. Dev. 9 a.m. 110 Senate Office BuildingAppropriations Subcommittee on General Government. 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services 2 p.m. 412 Knott Building


CIVIL JUSTICE: The House Civil Justice Committee hears Rep. Larry Metz’ bill (HB 351) clarifying what legal system must be used in certain disputes , and bills dealing with foreclosures (HB 87) and eminent domain (HB 179), among others. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

GETTING A DIPLOMA: The House K-12 Subcommittee holds a workshop on high school graduation requirements. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FLA RETIREMENT SYSTEM: The House Government Operations Subcommittee takes up its proposed committee bill making changes to the state retirement system (PBC 13-01). (Thursday, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE AG: The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hears a presentation on the governor’s proposed budget and another on school food and nutrition programs. (Thursday, 10 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION: A bill by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda that would abolish the death penalty in Florida (HB 4005) gets a hearing in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Also on the agenda are bills dealing with theft of electricity (HB 191) and the House version of the bill barring police from using drones in many cases (HB 119). (Thursday, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE HEALTH QUALITY: The House Health Quality Subcommittee hears a presentation on the roles of county health departments and considers bills dealing with the Baker Act (HB 9), optometry (HB 239) and the disposition of human remains (HB 171). (Thursday, 2 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE Rulemaking, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building. 
HOUSE Healthy Families, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
HOUSE Ed Appropriations, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
HOUSE Trans Appropriations, 2 p.m., 102 House Office Building.


CABINET GOES TO THE FAIR: The governor and Cabinet travel to Hillsborough County to hold the Cabinet meeting at the Florida State Fairgrounds to kick off the 2013 Florida State Fair. The panel will get an economic recovery update on the Tampa Bay region from Chris Hart, president of Workforce Florida and a real estate update from John Sebree and John Tucillo from Florida Realtors. The panel will also get brief updates from the Office of Insurance Regulation, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (Thursday, 9 a.m. Entertainment Hall, Florida State Fairgrounds. Tampa.)

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

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.