Capitol preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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The week for Gov. Rick Scott may be dominated by study of the budget, which he has promised to comb through finely ?and in fact has already started filling up his calendar with budget briefings. The governor is even working this Sunday to decide whether he should veto heavily or not.

Meanwhile the pleas continue to come in from interest groups asking for vetoes or for the governor to sign the legislation they like and that will likely continue this week.

Also this week, official Florida starts to look toward the hurricane season. It doesn? start officially until June 1, but the governor? annual Hurricane Conference is this week in Fort Lauderdale.

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2011

SCOTT CONTINUES TO REVIEW LINE ITEMS: Gov. Rick Scott has promised that he and his staff are going through the budget line by line ?even on a Sunday. Scott has blocked out 9 a.m. ?3 p.m. on Sunday to go through spending lines and be briefed by staff.

BREITBART ON POLITICAL CONNECTIONS: Political Connections on Bay News 9 in the Tampa Bay area will have conservative author and commentator Andrew Breitbart as a guest. (Sunday, 11 a.m., Bay News 9)

MONDAY, MAY 16, 2011

FLORIDA INNOCENCE COMMISSION The Florida Innocence Commission, which is trying to figure out how the state can put an end to wrongful convictions, particularly in death penalty cases, resumes its meetings next week in Orlando. The commission, which was created by the Florida Supreme Court and Chief Justice Charles Canady to look at the problem, will meet Monday morning, and one of the topics will be the admissibility of eyewitness testimony, which several experts say causes major problems in wrongful convictions cases. A bill that would have set out new guidelines for police to follow in witness lineups died in the House last week, ending the chances of changing the law on the subject, likely until next year at least. The Commission will also discuss false confessions and model jury instructions. Also on the agenda for the commission is an update on its budget from Executive Director Les Garringer. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Rosen Plaza Hotel, Salon 9 Conference Room, 9700 International Dr., Orlando.)

FRAUD IN THE CROSSHAIRS: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi will lead a meeting of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Strike Force. The group will hear presentations from Medicaid director Roberta Bradford and Department of Health Deputy Secretary Kim Berfield about legislation that passed this year. Others expected to take part in the meeting include Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. (Monday, 1 p.m., 301 Capitol, Tallahassee.)

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2011

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETS: In advance of Education Commissioner Eric Smith? planned resignation, the State Board of Education meets to discuss options for his possible replacement as well as get updates on the progress of implementation of the Race to the Top plan. The board also gets a briefing on approved legislation that impacts schools. The State Board of Education was thrown into turmoil earlier this year when Smith and Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair both announced resignations. The St. Petersburg Times reported last week that no successor to Smith has stepped up so far. Smith will leave in early June. (Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., St. Petersburg College EpiCenter, 13805 58 Street North, Largo.)

CABINET TO APPROVE FLORIDA FOREVER 5-YEAR PLAN: The governor and Cabinet are being asked to approve the new Florida Forever priority list, a largely ceremonial function this year since lawmakers largely ignored the environmental buying program. Strapped for cash in recent years, lawmakers have been reluctant to spend a lot of money on new lands, choosing instead to look for cheaper ways to protect sensitive lands through easements and other agreements. Florida has protected over 667,000 acres of land with $2.8 billion in Florida Forever funds through December 31, 2010. The Cabinet is also being asked to approve $361 million in turnpike and public education construction bonds. (Tuesday 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, The Capitol.)

COURT HEARS TOBACCO FIGHT: The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in an Alachua County case that led to a $15.25 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. A jury in 2010 sided with Amanda Jean Hall, who filed the lawsuit after her husband died of lung cancer. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, Tallahassee.)

PSC HEARS TERRITORIAL DISPUTE: Florida’s Public Service Commission will conduct a hearing beginning Tuesday, May 17, to consider a Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative, Inc. petition to resolve a territorial dispute with Gulf Power Company in Okaloosa County. If needed, it will continue on Wednesday. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)


BOARD OF GOVERNORS BRIEFED ON LEGISLATIVE SESSION: The State University System Board of Governors will meet and mostly discuss how the legislative session impacted the university system. Lawmakers passed a number of bills that impact universities, such as one (SB 2150) that limits how much state funds can be used toward university administrator and president salaries. The new limit is $200,000, though universities can supplement salaries with foundations or other sources of revenue. Other bills the university system will be briefed on include a proposal (SB 2150) that allows state universities to require all students to attend summer terms and authorize a pilot at the University of Florida to admit students for summer and spring terms. The board will also examine its budget for next year, which cuts state university system funding by 4 percent. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Call-in meeting. The dial-in number is888-808-6959, and the conference code is 8502450.)

Florida Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon holds a media availability on the start the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., Fort Lauderdale Broward Convention Center, Room 216, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.)

SCOTT SPEAKS AT HURRICANE CONFERENCE: Gov. Rick Scott will speak Wednesday at the Governor? Hurricane Conference. (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., Fort Lauderdale Broward Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.)

THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2011

OIR PROBES LIFE INSURERS: The Office of Insurance Regulation has subpoenaed Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and Nationwide Life Insurance Co. to appear at a hearing related to claims-settlement practices. Florida is part of a national task force investigating such practices, and OIR is also looking at other companies. (Thursday, 9:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, Tallahassee.)

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

FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2011

HEALTH CHOICES RAMPING UP: The Florida Health Choices board of directors will meet in Miami, as the long-discussed insurance marketplace prepares to launch this year. Lawmakers in 2008 approved creating Florida Health Choices to try to give small businesses more options in buying health coverage. (Friday, 11 a.m., Hilton Miami Airport, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive, Miami.)


GOVERNOR? HURRICANE CONFERENCE: The annual conference of emergency management officials, government officials and forecasters ahead of the hurricane season is this week in Fort Lauderdale. Among the speakers are Dr. William Gray, the hurricane forecaster from Colorado State University; Hurricane Center Director Bill Read and several forecasters; State Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon, and Gov. Rick Scott. (Monday through Friday, Fort Lauderdale Broward Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale;

FLORIDA GREEN ENERGY AND CLIMATE CONFERENCE/EXPO: Several politicos will attend this green energy summit in Palm Beach County this week. Among the speakers are U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, and Rep. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington.(Tuesday and Wednesday, Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. West Palm Beach.)

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.