Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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Highlights in committees this week include discussion of pensions, local efforts to require minimum wage for contractors, subsidies for central Florida pro soccer teams, expert witness rules, the communications services tax and the House bill to abolish fundraising organs called committees of continuous existence. 



SENATE GAMING COMMITTEE: The special Senate committee created to study gambling for a year hears presentations from casino-resort operators. The idea of mega-resorts built around gambling was the centerpiece of gaming debate last year, but legislative leaders have said this year, they’ll take the year off from new gaming laws and have the committee study the issue. The panel also plans to take public testimony. (Monday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

PPACA: The Senate Select Committee set up to examine Florida’s choices and obligations under the new federal health care law looks at the law’s impact on state group health insurance. The director of state group health insurance, Barbara Crozier, and legislative economic analyst Amy Baker present. The committee also hears from the Office of Insurance Regulation. (2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE: The House Gov Ops Appropriations Sub takes a tour of the Southwood Shared Resource Center as part of its discussion over consolidating state data services: Vans will depart from the House Office Building parking garage at 8 a.m. (Monday, 8:15 a.m., Southwood Shared Resource Center, 2585 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee.)

PPACA: The House Select Committee on PPACA also meets Monday afternoon and will hear presentations on Medicaid expansion in other states and from Florida hospitals on their concerns. The Department of Health and the Florida Center for Nursing will make presentations. (Monday, 1 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


JOINT ADMIN PROCEDURES COMMITTEE: The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee on Monday hears a presentation from the Office of Insurance Regulation on oversight responsibilities for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and other issues related to the state-backed insurer. (Monday, 2 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


JOINT Select Committee on Collective Bargaining, 11 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
JOINT Legislative Auditing Committee, 2 p.m., 309 Capitol.
HOUSE Select Committee on Claims Bills, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
JOINT Public Counsel Oversight: 5 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building. 


APD WAIT LIST DISCUSSED: The Agency for Persons with Disabilities will hold a workshop to discuss prioritization for people on a waiting list to receive services through the home and community-based services waiver program. Gov. Rick Scott is recommending $36 million to cut the waiting list for the first time in eight years, and if the Legislature approves, APD wants to be ready to enroll potentially hundreds of new people on July 1, when the funding would become available. Monday, 10 a.m., Building 4, 1317 Winewood Boulevard, Tallahassee).

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION: The State Board of Education meets Monday in Orlando and up first on its agenda is a review of Gov. Rick Scott’s education budget. The governor has proposed a $1.2 billion increase in K-12 spending, including a nearly half billion dollars for higher teacher salaries. The board also gets an update on the move to the national Common Core Standards, a new assessment system being put in place in Florida and elsewhere. The board will have to take action on approving a list of critical teacher shortage areas, and a number of new regulations and rule amendments. The full agenda, with the specific rules being amended, is here. (Monday, 10:30 a.m., Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, 8511 Commodity Circle, Suite 100, Orlando.)



ETHICS AND ELECTIONS TO VISIT SUPERVISORS OPS CENTER: The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee wants to know what went wrong on Election Day and how some elections processes might go smoother. So Chairman Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, thought maybe members ought to go see how an elections operations center actually works. The committee will take a field trip on Tuesday to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Voting Operations Center. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 2990-1 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee.)

SENATE AGRICULTURE: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam speaks to Senate Ag, which also has presentations from Farm Share and the Florida Association of Farm Banks. The panel also takes up a bill (SB 522) that exempts local governments and school districts that manufacture biodiesel for their own use from certain regulatory requirements. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE COULD HELP MLS KICK OFF IN CENTRAL FLA: An effort to get a Major League Soccer franchise in central Florida could get help from a bill (SB 358) that would allow such franchises to get state subsidies given to other sports teams. The measure, by Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, is before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Tuesday. Another bill before the panel (SB 236) is aimed at helping the defense and space industry, by lifting caps on tax refunds for those types of businesses. Another bill (SB 292) which would provide plaintiffs to provide demand letters to car dealers before suing them under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is also up in the committee, as is a committee bill (SPB 7016) that revises several requirements for various annual reports by the Department of Economic Opportunity and its sub-agencies. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Senate Criminal Justice Committee hears the bill (SB 118) aimed at trying to prohibit picketing or protesting at funerals, and a measure (SB 338) that toughens penalties for stealing electricity. The panel also takes up a public records bill aimed at protecting the names of families of law enforcement officers (SB 376) and a bill cracking down on businesses that falsely claim to be veterans’ services organizations (SB 390.) (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: A domestic partnership bill will get its first hearing this year, as the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs takes up SB 164.  Sponsored by the panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the bill would allow two people who wish to become domestic partners to file a declaration with the clerk of the circuit court. The committee also will hear SPB 7012, which would give children in state custody the option of continuing in foster care until age 21 instead of the current 18. A bill (SB 56) by the committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, would establish new investigative procedures for medical examiners who perform autopsies on the victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) to help prevent future such deaths.   And SB 402 by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, would provide for voluntary donations to aid the homeless via the motor vehicle registration and driver license application forms.  (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.) 

SENATE EDUCATION: District school boards would have to hold at least one regular meeting each quarter after school hours or during the evening, under one of the bills (SB 134) that’s before the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. The committee also has a bill (SB 86) related to distribution of pornography to minors on school grounds and another (SB 352) renaming Lake-Sumter Community College as Lake-Sumter State College. The panel also has confirmation hearings for several university trustees, and state Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand and State University System Board of Governors appointee Thomas Kuntz, among others. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE JUDICIARY DISCUSSES TORT EXPERT WITNESS RULES, MED MAL: The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a discussion and takes testimony on a couple tort reform issues, though it won’t take any votes on legislation dealing with that issue. The panel is set to discuss the standards under which Florida admits scientific expert witness testimony in civil cases, and whether damages for medical expenses in negligence actions should be based on what providers have been paid, or what they are expecting to be paid. The committee also discusses bad faith actions involving insurers. Bills changing interest distribution on certain deposits in eminent domain proceedings (SB 322); making changes to technical laws related to estates (SB 492); changing laws on resolving disputes through arbitration (SB 530); and authorizing judges and others to access driver license images for work (SB 628) are also on the agenda. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE ETHICS BILL IN RULES: An ethics bill (SB 2) that would prohibit public officials from taking other jobs with government and giving the Ethics Commission additional powers is before the Senate Rules Committee. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


ENERGY & UTILITIES  The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee takes up a proposal to boost the tax rate on some prepaid calling card cell phone plans (HB 435) as part of a move to modernize tax rules surrounding communication services. The panel will also take up a measure (HB 4001) to allow gasoline to be sold without ethanol in it. Critics say the additive is particularly injurious to marine motors and so-called “two-stroke” engines. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH QUALITY: The House Health Quality Subcommittee takes up bills dealing with reporting requirements and restrictions on the dispensing of biosimilar medications (HB 365) and limiting massage parlor hours (HB 7005) in certain cases. The panel will also get an update on the impact of changes made last year in the Department of Health under a massive reorganization bill. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee takes up measure to bolster penalties for distributing pornography on school  property (HB 113) and the payment of certain court costs by defendants (HB 311.)  The panel will also take up a pair of proposed committee bills to tighten reporting requirements for sexual predators (PCB CRJS 13-02)  and expanding requirements for pre-trial detention for repeat offenders (PCB CRJS 13-03.) (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SUB: The House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hear presentations on Florida’s ports before hearing from the Department of State on the agency’s efforts on cultural affairs, historic preservation, museums and library grants. (Tuesday 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

VETERAN & MILITARY AFFAIRS; The Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommitteetakes up measure to expand property tax exemptions to leased military property (HB 531) and extends voting registration deadlines for returning military and merchant marine voters (PCB VMAS 13-01.) (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

SELECT GAMING: The House Select Committee on Gaming will hear from the Legislature’s chief economist, Amy Baker, on the economic impacts of gambling in the state of Florida. The panel, which is not expected to take any action on gaming this session, will  also hear from officials from the Department of the Lottery and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM: The House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee  takes up a measure (HB 563)  to require the Department of Economic Opportunity to post more detailed information on incentive programs and another placing restrictions on local governments on development permits located within flood zones (PCB EDTS 13-02). (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol)

HEALTH INNOVATION: The House Health Innovation Subcommittee holds a workshop on adult assisted living facilities regulations. Panelists include representatives of the Agency for Health Care Regulation, the Florida Assisted Facility Workgroup and industry representatives. (Tuesday 3 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HIGHER ED WORKSHOP: The House Higher Education Committee holds a workshop on higher education issues. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE INSURANCE AND BANKING: The House Insurance and Banking Committee has bills dealing with notifications about policies on the Internet (HB 223) and workers compensation (HB 553), among other bills, on its agenda. (Tuesday, 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


CIVIL RIGHTS: Sen. Geraldine Thompson and Rep. Lori Berman, both Democrats talk about proposed legislation to add pregnant women to the list of people protected by state anti-discrimination law. Federal law already bars such discrimination. (Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Fourth Floor Rotunda, Senate side, The Capitol.) 

BAXLEY, ALTMAN PRESSER ON SMART JUSTICE: The Florida Smart Justice Alliance, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala and Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, hold a press conference to discuss legislation to revise the way Florida handles non-violent felons who are near the end of their prison sentences. Baxley, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Altman will sponsor the legislation. (Tuesday, 11:45 a.m., Fourth Floor Rotunda, House side, The Capitol.)


PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION: The Public Service Commission on Tuesday takes up a proposed change in administrative rules dealing with regulatory assessment fees based on gross operating revenues and an item involving a small water and wastewater system in Polk County. The commission also considers an issue dealing with a water utility in Alachua County. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)



CONFLICT COUNSELS: The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice budget committee hears a presentation from the Office of State Court Administrator on a study of the compensation of private court-appointed conflict counsel in criminal cases, and an update on trust fund deficits in the Clerks of Court Trust Fund. The panel also hears presentations on drug courts, and an update on the financial outlook for the Department of Corrections. The committee also hears the latest estimate on criminal justice needs and proposals for budget cuts by various agencies. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE: MORE ECONOMIC INCENTIVE REVIEW: The Senate Finance and Tax Committee on Wednesday joins the parade of committees looking into economic development tax incentives, which have come under more scrutiny this year as the state has pushed hard to offer them in an effort to boost jobs. No legislation is before the committee. (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SETTING THE SENATE CALENDAR: The Special Order Calendar Group meets Wednesday to set the special order calendar. (Wednesday, 4:45 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)


AG & NATURAL RESOURCES: The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee takes up measures to extend sales tax exemption for fuel used by shrimping boats (HB 423) and HB 375, which would relax inspection frequency requirements for onsite sewage disposal systems. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE TRANSPORTATION, HIGHWAY SAFETY: The House Transportation and Highway Safety Committee workshops draft proposed committee bills on the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles and on Transportation. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

BLENDED CLASSES AND CLASS SIZES: The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee takes up three education bills, including two proposed committee bills — one (PCB CIS 13-02) that would revise the state accountability system for some schools and another (PCB CIS 13-03) that would encourage “blended” classes that incorporate online and in-person learning. The panel will also consider a committee substitute for HB 189 that would likely lower the financial penalties some school districts face for violating the constitutional limit on class sizes. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE BIZ AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION: The House Business and Professional Regulation Committee takes up a bill (HB 493) that would let consumers get security freezes on their record, and put additional requirements on consumer reporting agencies aimed at better protecting people from fraud and identity theft. The panel also considers a proposed committee bill for the Department of Agriculture and a committee bill dealing with timeshares. It also holds a workshop on homeowners’ association issues. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE: The House Civil Justice Committee takes up a measure (HB 9) dealing with the Baker Act, and bills dealing with wage garnishment (HB 405) and damages for medical or health care services (HB 587). The committee also considers a committee bill that says that members appointed by the governor to a judicial nominating commission serve at the pleasure of the governor, and so can be removed. Members selected from list provided by the Florida Bar would still have to serve out their term, unless removed for cause. The measure also updates the terms for members serving on the commissions. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

AG & NATURAL RESOURCES APPROPS: The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee gets an overview of what the state owns from the Department of Management Services, which has completed an inventory of the state’s holdings. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HIGH SCHOOL GRAD REQUIREMENTS DISCUSSED IN HOUSE K-12: No legislation is on the agenda, but the House K-12 Subcommittee will hear presentations from superintendents and others on high school graduation requirements. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

GOVERNMENT OPS: The House Government Operations Subcommittee takes up HB 599, which attempts to shield the state from liability if a local pension funds finds itself short. The bill would insulate the state from local defined benefits plans from state bailouts. The issue of local pensions has captured the attention of lawmakers after a number of local governments find themselves with underfunded pension plans. (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

NO MINIMUM WAGE FOR LOCAL GOVT CONTRACTORS: In 2003, lawmakers prohibited local governments from establishing local minimum wages. That law didn’t, however, limit the authority of a local government to set a minimum wage for its own employees, employees of its contractors, or employers to which it provides direct tax abatements or subsidies. A bill (HB 655) before the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee would generally ban local governments from providing benefits not required by the state or federal government and specifically prohibits them from requiring a minimum wage for the employees of its contractors and employers receiving tax abatements or subsidies. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE Health Care Appropriations, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building. 
SENATE Education Appropriations: 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building. 
SENATE Transportation Appropriations, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
HOUSE Healthy Families, 11:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
HOUSE Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal, 11:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
SENATE General Government Appropriations, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
SENATE Health and Human Services Appropriations, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.


FLORIDA CITRUS COMMISSION: The Citrus Commission holds its regular meeting Wednesday. 
The meeting agenda can be found here:
(Wednesday, Department of Citrus, 605 E. Main St., Bartow.)

DOT LOGISTICS FORUM: The Florida Department of Transportation’s first ever statewide Intermodal Logistics Center Forum is Wednesday and Thursday at Port Everglades, creating a chance to talk about freight and logistics. Multiple private developers are planning or building ILCs in Florida, and state officials hope they will boost economic development. (Wednesday, 12 p.m. Cruise Terminal 18, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale.)



SENATE BANKING AND INSURANCE: PIP AND CITIZENS: The Senate B&I Committee discusses and takes testimony on recent changes to the personal injury protection insurance system and the effort to reduce the size of Citizens Property Insurance. No legislation is before the committee on either issue, however. The panel will hear a bill (SB 558) on letters of credit issued by federal home loan banks. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

PREPAID CALLING ARRANGEMENTS IN SENATE COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: The Senate Community Affairs Committee takes up a bill (SB 290) that seeks to clarify how much tax should be due on prepaid calling arrangements. They used to be taxed at the regular 6 percent sales tax rate, but a recent decision by state officials now has the arrangements classified as a communications service, subject to a much higher communications services tax. The panel also takes up bills dealing with the New Markets Development Program (SB 98); Consumptive Use Permits (SB 364); Part-time state government employment (SB 482) and several others. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH FLEX PLANS: The Senate Healthy Policy Committee takes up a proposed committee bill (SPB 7014) dealing with health flex plans, and measures on optometry (SB 278), emergency medical services (SB 520) and physician assistants (SB 398), as well as a public records bill shielding information about Department of Health personnel (SB 60). (Thursday, 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE: LOCAL PENSIONS: The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee considers a committee substitute for a bill (SB 458) giving cities more flexibility in how they use insurance premium taxes to pay for police and firefighters benefits. The panel is also set to weigh a bill (SB 534) that attempts to shield the state of liability if a local pension fund finds itself short. (Thursday, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

OUTDOOR SMOKING BILL IN SENATE REG INDUSTRIES: The Senate Regulated Industries Committee takes up a bill (SB 258) that would allow cities and counties to enact smoking bans on outdoor property owned by the city or county such as a park. The panel also takes up SB 372 dealing with rules for alcoholic beverage distributors and vendors, and a wide-ranging bill (SB 436) dealing with code requirements in certain buildings, including requirements for condo boards related to hurricane mitigation. (Thursday, 11 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE TRANSPORTATION: A bill (SB 432) that would expand a tax exemption on helicopter repair and maintenance charges and a measure (SB 560) dealing with natural gas motor fuel are before the Senate Transportation Committee. (Thursday, 11:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE: RIGHT TO SPEAK BILL: The Senate Appropriations Committee takes up (SB 50) that attempts to guarantee the public a right to speak at most government meetings. The committee is also scheduled to consider SB 328, which makes changes to an accountancy scholarship program for minorities, and SB 138, which would renew the state’s participation in the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. (Thursday, 3 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


ELECTIONS BILLS IN APPROPS COMMITTEE: The House Appropriations Committee considers a pair of elections bills, one (HB 569) that would abolish committees of continuous existence but also raise the cap on individual campaign contributions from $500 to $10,000, and one (HB 7013) aimed at expanding early voting days and limiting the length of ballots. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

FINANCE AND TAX WORKSHOPS: The House Finance and Tax Committee holds workshops on possible reform of the Communications Services Tax; local business taxes; and professional sports facilities tax incentives. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE JUDICIARY: The House Judiciary Committee takes up Rep. Larry Metz’ bill (HB 351) clarifying what legal system must be used in certain disputes, a measure dealing with juvenile justice (HB 4019) and another (HB 55) dealing with the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. (Thursday, 12 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

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.