Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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While much of the high profile legislation awaiting a decision by Gov. Rick Scott has cleared the decks, two big ones are out there and will come in for action this week.

Scott has until Saturday, April 21, to sign both the budget and the bill freeing the Lakeland campus of the University of South Florida to more quickly become the Florida Polytechnic University.

The other big news of the week is also expected to come late in the week. The Florida Supreme Court on Friday will for the second time review Senate redistricting maps to determine if they comply with the state constitution. The Senate sent its map earlier to the court, which rejected several of the districts and sent it back. The Senate, in an extraordinary session, took a second shot at it, and this is the result. If the court doesn’t like what it sees this time, it will draw a new plan.


TAX DAY: With April 15 falling on a Sunday, filers have until Monday to tell the IRS how much money they made.

COLLEGE, VEHICLE FEES ANALYZED: The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference to analyze a series of bills that were approved during the 2012 legislative session. The conference, in part, is expected to look at parts of HB 5201 that would lead to changes in college capital-improvement fees and in surcharges that university students pay for excess credit hours. Also, the conference likely will consider part of SB 1998 that calls for a $200 million budget shift of vehicle-title fees. (Monday, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

DCF ECONOMIC SELF-SUFFICIENCY PROGRAM ASSET VERIFICATION: The Department of Children and Families will rank replies to an invitation to negotiate for an asset verification system for the economic self-sufficiency program. The invitation was #01F12GC2. (Monday, 9 a.m., Department of Children and Families, 1317 Winewood Blvd., Bldg. 3, Tallahassee.)

INNOCENCE COMMISSION: The Florida Innocence Commission meets Monday in Orlando. The panel will hear a report of its “Informants and Jailhouse Snitches Subcommittee,” and from Professor Scott Fingerhut before discussing that issue. The panel also discusses commission recommendations on scientific evidence. The commission is chaired by Orlando-area Judge Belvin Perry. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando.)

LONG TERM CARE PANEL LOOKS FOR GOLD: The Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care will hold a conference call to review nursing-home applications for Gold Seal Award designation. (Monday, 2 p.m. Conference Call: 1-888-808-6959, Conference Code:8509210813#)

LEGISLATIVE RECAP FOR ORLANDO DEMS: Reps. Darren Soto, Scott Randolph and Geraldine Thompson, Orlando area Democrats, will give a legislative session recap at the Monday evening general meeting of the Orange County Democratic Party. (Monday, 6:30 p.m., IBEW Local 606, 820 Virginia Dr., Orlando.)

APRIL 17, 2012

MARTINEZ AT HOUSING FORUM: Former U.S. Senator and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez gives the opening remarks at a public housing forum in Winter Park on Tuesday sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission and the Jack Kemp Foundation. The topic of the forum is pressures on Florida’s housing market and the state’s response. A panel discussion includes Dr. Cynthia Kroll and Dr. Ashok Bardhan of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Sean Snaith, of the University of Central Florida. Martinez also gives closing remarks. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., Rollins College, Bush Auditorium, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park.)

IMPROVING ENERGY EFFICIENCY: The Environment Florida Research and Policy Center releases a new report on benefits from increased energy efficiency in individual households. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Leon County Extension Service, 615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee.)

FIFTH DCA ORAL ARGUMENTS: A three judge panel of the Fifth District Court of Appeal hears oral arguments in Marvin Cohen v. Walt Disney World. Cohen, who is in his 80s, claimed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was inherently unsafe and caused him to have a stroke three weeks after he rode it in 1998. A jury sided with Walt Disney World, and this is Cohen’s appeal. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Fifth DCA, 300 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach.)

FIFTH DCA ORAL ON ORLANDO RED LIGHT CAMERAS: Before the Legislature voted to standardize red light cameras – and by extension make them clearly legal – Orlando was one of several cities that had them already and was issuing tickets. But Circuit Judge Frederick Lauten ruled in 2010 that the city didn’t have the power back then to ticket drivers based on photos, because the power was reserved for the state. While a judge declined to certify red light runners in Orlando as a class, the city continues to fight over the issue with the individual driver who filed the suit –Kissimmee attorney, and photographed red light runner, Michael Udowychenko. An appeal in the case will be argued before the Fifth District Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The case is City of Orlando and Lasercraft, Inc., vs. Michael Udowychenko. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Fifth DCA, 300 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach.)

US JUDICIARY TO HOLD HEARING ON PROFILING: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights holds a hearing on racial profiling as the issue gets renewed attention in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. None of the witnesses is from Florida, but the Martin case is expected to be discussed. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington.)

AMERICAN PETROLEUM INST CEO SPEAKS: Jack N. Gerard, President & CEO of the American Petroleum Institute speaks to the Economic Club of Florida on Tuesday in Tallahassee. The topic is “A Real Energy Policy for the U.S.” Gerard is expected to address offshore drilling, the rising price of gasoline and the Obama Administration’s policies on energy development. API represents the oil and natural gas industry. (Tuesday, 12:10 p.m., Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, A2-A3, 505 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee.)


OVERTURNING CITIZENS UNITED: Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida is one of several hosts of a summit on “Overturning Citizens United,” the Supreme Court case that opened up the political fundraising landscape to corporate and union contributions. According to the announcement, “the Members will be joined by local government officials, activists from across the country, and advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, People for the American Way, the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Communication Workers of America, Move To Amend, American Sustainable Business Council, and Free Speech for People.” (Wednesday, 11 a.m., Capitol Visitors Center, HVC 215, Washington, D.C.)


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

FSU, INTEGRATED 50 YEARS AGO: Florida State University marks the 50th anniversary of its racial integration, beginning with a 1,500 person human chain and a reception. The reception Thursday evening is at the Integration Statue, just south of Oglesby Union, depicting three of the first African-American students at the university: Maxwell Courtney, who would become the first black student to graduate in 1965,. Fred Flowers, the first African-American athlete at the school and Doby Flowers, who would be elected the first black homecoming queen in 1970. The first black students set foot on campus in 1962. More at
(Thursday, 5:30 p.m., Florida State University, Tallahassee.)


FINAL ARGUMENTS OF PEDIATRIC CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan will hear closing arguments in a class-action lawsuit that challenges whether Florida’s Medicaid program adequately provides medical and dental services to children. The case has been ongoing since 2005, with testimony over the past two years, and Jordan is expected to rule by June 30.  (Friday, 9:00 a.m., Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse, 400 N. Miami Avenue, Miami.)

SENATE REDISTRICTING BEFORE JUSTICES AGAIN: The Florida Supreme Court for the second time will review Senate redistricting maps to determine if they comply with the state constitution. The Senate sent its map earlier to the court, which rejected several of the districts and sent it back. The Senate, in an extraordinary session, took a second shot at it, and this is the result. Arguing for the Senate will be former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero. If the court doesn’t like what it sees this time, it will draw a new plan. (Friday, 10 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)

TWO YEARS SINCE BP OIL SPILL: The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill happened April 20, 2010.


DAY OF RECKONING FOR BUDGET ITEMS, POLYTECH: Gov. Rick Scott faces an April 21 deadline for signing the roughly $70 billion state budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year and issuing vetoes. While numerous groups and programs worry that their spending items will get vetoed, Scott likely will tout a public-school funding increase as he signs the budget. At the same time, Scott will have to make decisions on dozens of other bills, including a controversial measure (SB 1994) aimed at creating Florida Polytechnic University in Polk County. Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, has made the new university a priority. Though Saturday is the deadline, Scott could take action on the bills earlier in the week.

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.