Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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A House committee will vote on a bill this week that would end big fundraising Committees of Continuous Existence, and another bill that shows up in committee this week would repeal the law passed a couple years ago allowing local governments to use red light cameras.

But much of Tallahassee’s attention, alas, won’t be focused on serious policy being made in the Capitol this week. That’s because the political junkie’s trial of the decade starts Monday in Orlando as former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer goes on trial for an alleged plot to steal GOP money by steering it to his own company.

Greer says the party knew all along and is simply punishing him for his association with Charlie Crist – and promises to try to bring down others in the state party by squawking about what he knows. 

Here’s what else is going on, via the News Service of Florida: 



SELECT COMMITTEE ON PPACA: The Senate select committee looking at the new federal health care law and Florida’s obligations under it will take testimony and view presentations aimed at helping lawmakers decide whether to expand Medicaid eligibility, an optional part of the law sometimes called “Obamacare.” The committee also will look at the experiences of other states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility. Presenters in the committee will include the Florida Hospital Association, the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and Greg Mellowe of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy. The committee also will hear from Tarren Bragdon of the Foundation for Government Accountability and Commissioner Mary Mayhew of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. (Monday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


SEE ‘YA LATER, CCES: The House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee is expected to vote on a bill that would make major changes in the state’s campaign-finance system. The measure (HB 569) is a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and includes eliminating groups known as committees of continuous existence, or CCEs. Also, it would raise the limit on individual donations to campaigns from the current $500 to $10,000. (Monday, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)


JLAC: The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee on Monday hears a presentation about the Auditor General’s Operational Audit of the City of Hollywood and response from City Officials. The committee will also consider whether to take action against local governments or colleges or universities that haven’t responded to repeated audit findings. (Monday, 2 p.m., 309 Capitol.)


JIM GREER GOES ON TRIAL: The trial of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer begins in Orlando. Greer has been charged with fraud, money laundering and theft in relation to an alleged fundraising scheme in which he is accused of steering party money to his fundraising company while he was chairman. Greer has pleaded not guilty and says party leaders knew what he was doing and that a severance agreement should have protected him from any criminal liability. Greer has suggested that the trial could air the party’s dirty laundry. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Orange County Courthouse, 425 N. Orange Ave., Orlando)


PRINCIPALS SUMMIT: Education Commissioner Tony Bennett convenes the Commissioner’s Summit for Principals for school principals around the state. Dr. James Peterson, director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English at Lehigh University, gives the keynote address on “Cultural Competence in Educational Reform.” (Monday, 8:30 a.m., Epcot at the Living Seas, 1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista.)

CITIZENS DISCUSSES POLICY TAKEOUT: The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board will hold a teleconference that will include a discussion of  a plan by Weston Insurance Co. to take out policies from the state-backed insurer. (Monday, 9 a.m., Teleconference number: 1-888-942-8686, Participant Code: 5743735657#.)

FLORIDA’S TRANSPORTATION FUTURE: The Florida Chamber Foundation and the Florida Department of Transportation host a summit in Madison County on the future of transportation in the state with a pretty high profile cast of participants that should make it interesting. House Speaker Will Weatherford; U.S. Rep. John Mica, the former chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Congress; Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and officials from the Florida Chamber and Gulf Power will participate. (Monday, 9:30 a.m., Honey Lake Plantation Rd., Greenville.)



CRIMINAL AND CIVIL JUSTICE APPROPS: The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee continues to review base budgets and agency budget requests for the court system and public attorneys, the clerks of court, and various other judiciary related budget items. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE EDUCATION BUDGET: The Senate Education Appropriations Committee continues its base budget review and hearing from agencies on appropriations requests. The panel also gets an update on the implementation of last year’s HB 7135, which required certain metrics, goals and plans for state universities and colleges. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development takes up a measure (SB 406) by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, that attempts to place more oversight and accountability of Florida’s economic development efforts. The panel will also get briefed on the governor’s budget proposal at it relates to agencies under the governor’s authority. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMUNICATION SERVICES TAX: The Senate Finance and Tax Committee will be briefed on the governor’s proposed tax package, which include sales tax exemptions for equipment used in manufacturing and an expansion of corporate income tax exemptions.. The panel will also get an update from the Communications Services Tax working group, which issued a report Feb. 1 that calls for abolition of the communications services tax and replacing the revenue with a higher sales tax. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

WORKERS COMP, STORM RISK, BUDGET: The Senate General Government Approps Committee hears budget requests from the Department of Citrus, the Division of Administrative Hearings, and the Office of Financial Regulation. The committee also hears the Workers Compensation Annual Report from the Office of Insurance Regulation and a presentation on catastrophic storm risk management. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ADOPTION, COMMUNITY-BASED CARE DISCUSSED: The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will hear presentations about maintenance-adoption subsidies and community-based care agencies, which are local groups that play an important role in the state’s child-safety and foster-care systems. Also, the panel will hear a presentation about area agencies on aging. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)


PRIVATE WATER, SEWER SYSTEMS DISCUSSED: Florida Public Service Commission member Julie Brown will give a presentation to the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee about privately owned water and wastewater systems. Brown is the chairwoman of a committee created by the Legislature to address issues related to private utilities and their customers. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

HEALTH QUALITY DIGS INTO DENTAL, PHYSICAL THERAPY: The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider bills dealing with emergency medical services (HB 195), physical therapy (HB 413) and dentists (HB 463). (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building, the Capitol.)

HOUSE ED APPROPS: The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee hears presentations from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, public television stations and the University of Miami Launch Pad Program. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SUB: The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hears a bill dealing with standards for how juvenile justice workers treat children in their care (HB 353) and measures dealing with police officers who work for colleges (HB 399) and railroads (HB 489). Another measure before the committee (HB 407) would bring tougher penalties on previously convicted gang members if they’re caught trespassing in school zones. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH BUDGET PANEL HEARS FROM AGENCIES: The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will hear overviews of the budgets of the Department of Children and Families, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Also, the panel will receive information about substance-abuse and mental-health programs. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY: The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee holds a workshop on the state’s education accountability system. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee hears a presentation by Enterprise Florida on evaluation of economic development incentives. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building.)

HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND NAT RESOURCES: The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee takes up a bill dealing with consumptive use permits for alternative water supply development (HB 109) and hears a presentation on planning for the state’s future water supply. The panel also takes up the industry bills for the Department of Citrus (HB 137) and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (HB 333) as well as a bill (HB 203) expanding which government agencies are covered by the 2003 Agricultural Lands and Practices Act, which prohibits the adoption of regulations or laws that limit farm operation on certain lands if they’re already covered by other governments’ or agencies’ rules. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

WHAT DOES THE STATE OWN? IT KNOWS NOW: For a couple years state officials were pestered by former Sen. J.D. Alexander and others to report to lawmakers exactly what property holdings the state had. And repeatedly, they weren’t able to satisfy lawmakers with the answer. So in 2010 the Legislature required the development of a database to record and maintain the inventory of real estate “owned, leased, rented, or otherwise occupied” by any state government entity. The Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Management Services have been collaborating on the project and will give lawmakers an overview of the new system Tuesday in the House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The system already tracks facilities, and is scheduled this month to begin tracking all state lands. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DISTRACTED DRIVERS: The House Transportation and Highway Safety Committee discusses “driver distraction issues,” though the panel isn’t currently scheduled to take up any bills Tuesday. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


COURT DIALS UP ONLINE TRAVEL: The 1st District Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear arguments in a long-running dispute about the amounts of hotel-bed taxes paid by online-travel companies such as Expedia. Numerous counties allege that online-travel companies have not paid as much as they should, but a Leon County circuit judge sided with the industry. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.)

ODOM PLEA: Panhandle developer Jay Odom is expected to enter a plea in federal court on federal campaign finance violations. Odom is charged in connections with illegal contributions to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2007. (Tuesday, 11 a.m., U.S. District Court, One N. Palafox St., Pensacola.)

SFWMD EVALUATES LAND HOLDINGS: The South Florida Water Management District is in the process of evaluating every parcel of its nearly 1.5 million acres of land in 16 counties aimed at determining whether it still needs the land. The evaluation, which is going on in each of the five water management districts, is currently considering the 750,000 acres that the agency fully owns outright. SFWMD staff will conduct a public hearing on Tuesday in Osceola County to provide information on the assessment process. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., St. Cloud Field Station, 3800 Old Canoe Creek Rd., St. Cloud.)

GAETZ, WEATHERFORD SPEAK IN TALLAHASSEE: Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford speak in the Holy Comforter Episcopal School Lecture Series. They’ll give a legislative preview. The free lecture is open to the public. (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Holy Comforter Episcopal School, 2001 Fleischmann Rd., Tallahassee.)



GOV’S BUDGET PROPOSAL: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development continues discussions from Tuesday on budget proposals. Included in the discussion are transportation, military affairs, highway safety and emergency management (Wednesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

STATE COURTS: The Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice reviews budgets of state courts, public defenders, state attorneys and clerks of court. (Wednesday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMON CORE STANDARDS, RACE TO THE TOP: The Senate Education Budget Committee gets an update on the implementation of Common Core Standards, the new nationwide standard measurement system for schools, and on the Race to the Top grant program for schools. (Wednesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

WATER  MANAGEMENT WISH LISTS: The state’s five water management districts will come before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government to discuss their 2013-14 budget proposals. (Wednesday 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

DRGs, RUGs and SCHEDULE VIII-B: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will hear presentations on Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs), Resource Utilization Groups (RUGs) and state agency responses to budget cutting exercises. (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


EARLY VOTING, BALLOT LANGUAGE IN E&E: The House Ethics and Elections Subcommittee takes up a proposed committee bill dealing with the fallout from the snafus in the November elections. The measure (PCB EES 13-01) would provide up to 14 days of early voting in each county, loosen rules on where early voting could take place, and would limit the first proposed ballot summary of any amendment proposed by the Legislature to 75 words. (Wednesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE INSURANCE AND BANKING SUBCOMMITTEE: The House Insurance and Banking Committee considers a measure to increase how much lenders can charge in interest on certain consumer finance loans. The bill (HB 425) would raise from $2,000 to $3,000 the limit on principal  to which interest rates of 30 percent can be charged. The panel will also take up HB 435 related to medical malpractice insurance. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FOCUSING, RENAMING COLLEGES: The House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee takes up a measure (HB 209) renaming Lake-Sumter Community College to Lake-Sumter State College. The subcommittee also gets an update on the implementation of last year’s HB 7135, which required certain metrics, goals and plans for state universities and colleges. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE: The House Education Committee holds a workshop on early learning. Funding and governance for early learning programs are shaping up as major issues this year, with a key change — better collaboration by the once-sparring stakeholders of the billion-dollar industry. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE: The panel will hear a presentation from the state’s five water management districts on their upcoming budget proposals. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

TAX INCENTIVES AND SPACE; The House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee takes up measures removing a cap on defense contractor and space industry tax refunds (HB 4013) and expanding eligibility for Spaceport funding to include local airports in Brevard County (HB 135) as well as enterprise zones in Delray Beach and Lake Worth. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PRISON HEALTHCARE PRIVATIZATION: The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee gets an update on the status of efforts by the Department of Corrections to privatize health services in prisons, an effort that is moving forward in the southern part of the state. DOC has signed a $48 million contract for turning over the health services in the southern tier of Florida to Wexford Health Services, and expects to save about $12 million a year through the contract. An initiative to turn over health-care services in other parts of the state to Corizon, Inc., is tangled up in court after a Leon County judge struck down a decision by the Legislative Budget Commission to authorize that transfer. The state has appealed that decision. The committee also hears a presentation on efforts to make improvements at the Department of Juvenile Justice and a status report on how many beds are in use in DJJ facilities. The panel also looks at the governor’s budget recommendations. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

LOCAL PENSIONS REVIEWED: The House Government Operations Subcommittee hears a presentation by the LeRoy Collins Institute on the challenges to local pension funds. The panel will also take testimony from local officials and other stakeholders in the debate over local pension fund changes. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.) 

HOUSE K-12 SUBCOMMITTEE: The House K-12 Subcommittee considers a bill (HB 53) requiring school districts to come up with a schedule for district tests in subjects that the state does not have an assessment for, and to post that schedule on the district’s website. The panel is also scheduled to hold a workshop on high school graduation requirements. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE HEALTHY FAMILIES: The House Healthy Families Subcommittee takes up a bill (HB 215) that says 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 – basically putting into state law the right of foster children to normal childhood activities. The panel also takes up a measure (HB 317) that allows jail inmates to continue receiving certain psychotherapeutic medication and requires some additional training for mental health experts. It also sets out certain time frames for mental competency hearings and commitment hearings and makes other changes related to situations where the mentally ill are in the criminal justice system. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


FISH AND WILDLIFE CONSERVATION: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando to discuss Florida’s saltwater fishery, including final rules for game fish and sport fish designations, new gray triggerfish standards and amendments that update or clean up other rules; falconry amendments; freshwater fishing and hunting matters, including two new wildlife management areas and more flexible hunting permits, among other things. Among the most noteworthy items are the proposed addition of the two new wildlife management areas in southwest Florida. The complete agenda – with links to background reports, details on consent agenda items and additional information about the meeting – is available at (Wednesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m., SeaWorld Park, 7007 SeaWorld Dr., Orlando.)



GREEN LIGHT FOR RED LIGHT BILL: The House Economic Affairs Committee takes up a red light camera bill (HB 4011) that removes local government authorization to use the traffic infraction detectors. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PENSION TALK IN HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE: The House State Affairs Subcommittee hears presentations on state and local pensions, but doesn’t have any bills before it. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FINANCE AND TAX SUBCOMMITTEE: House F&T will hear presentations by the governor’s staff on tax-related recommendations on county reimbursements to the state on certain Medicaid costs. (Thursday, 1:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


SFWMD BOARD MEETING: The South Florida Water Management District governing board holds its monthly meeting. (Thursday, 9 a.m., Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Langford Board Room, 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.) The agenda is at

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

CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CORP: The board of governors meets via teleconference to take action on pre-event financing for the upcoming hurricane season. Plans calls for refinancing some higher interest debate and seeking additional reinsurance to cover immediate losses in the event of a storm. (Thursday, 2.p.m., teleconference number 888-942-8686 Conference ID: 5743735657#)


MEDICAID CASELOADS PROJECTED: The Social Services Estimating Conference is scheduled to discuss issues such as Medicaid caseloads and expenditures in the KidCare program, which provides subsidized health insurance for children. (Friday, 9 a.m., 301 Capitol, the Capitol.)

APPEAL HEARD IN NURSING HOME RECORDS CASE: The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a Florida case about the release of medical records to spouses of dead nursing-home residents. A federal judge in 2011 sided with a group of nursing homes that said a federal health-privacy law trumps a state law that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration used to require nursing home to release the records. The case centers on spouses who are not the legally-designated “personal representatives” of estates. (Friday, 9 a.m., Elbert P. Tuttle United States Court of Appeals Building, 56 Forsyth St. NW, Atlanta.)

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.