Session begins with a full slate of legislative issues

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Session has finally arrived; the 2014 legislative term begins today, running for 60 days through May 2. The deadline for filing bills is at noon Tuesday.

Among the issues lawmakers will consider on Tuesday: changes in school grading, adding a “warning shot”  immunity to Stand Your Ground self-defense laws, regulating the collection of biometric information, community based care, higher speed limits and assisted-living regulation.

Also on the agenda are changes in how environmental permits are issued, transportation funding, a proposed Central Florida rail project and managing bears.

Oh, and Gov. Rick Scott gives his State of the State address.

8 a.m.:

The Senate Education Committee meets in Room 412 of the Knott Building to take up a proposal (SPB 7060) making changes in the state’s school-accountability system, including in the way school grades are calculated.

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building to consider SB 448, filed by Sen. Greg Evers, which would grant immunity to people who display guns or fire warning shots in self-defense. They will also hear a proposal to ban schools from collecting biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building to consider a series of issues, including a review of the community-based care system that provides local adoption, foster care and case-management services for children.

8:30 a.m.:

The Florida Transportation Commission will hold a workshop on a variety of issues, including a transportation-funding proposal and an update on the “All Aboard Florida” rail project. The meeting is at the Florida Department of Transportation executive conference room, 605 Suwannee St., Tallahassee.

9 a.m.:

The Florida House officially opens the 2014 legislative session with a largely ceremonial event in the morning and then returning at 4 p.m. for another meeting, during which it will take up a proposal (HCR 8007) to create new residency requirements for state legislators after questions were raised about whether some lawmakers live in the districts they were elected to represent.

10 a.m.:

The Florida Senate follows by opening its 2014 session also with a largely ceremonial event in the morning, returning at 2 p.m. for more substantive meetings. In the later gathering, Senators expect to take up a series of bills (SB 522, SB 524, SB 526 and SB 528) that would toughen laws dealing with sexual predators and offenders.

11 a.m.:

Gov. Rick Scott gives his annual “State of the State” address to kick off the 2014 legislative session. Senators, House and Cabinet members join other dignitaries in the House chamber for the governor’s speech. Expected topics are tax cuts, jobs and tuition reforms for higher education.

1:30 p.m.:

The House Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee meets in Room 404 of the House Office Building to consider a proposal (HB 761), filed by Rep. Matt Caldwell allowing speed limits to be increased to as high as 75 mph on some highways. The proposal also authorizes the Department of Transportation to set higher speed limits after determining what is reasonable and safe. The Senate Community Affairs Committee will hear the Senate version of the bill (SB 392) on Wednesday.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets in Room 212 of the Knott Building to consider a bill (HB 573) that would revamp regulations for assisted-living facilities, as well as hear a proposal to improve the state ombudsman program.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee meets Tuesday in Room 102 of the House building for the first committee meeting over HB 703 relating to environmental regulation sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis. He expects to file a proposed committee substitute at the meeting. The bill faces environmental opposition.

2 p.m.:

The Office of Economic and Demographic Research Revenue Estimating Conference meets in Room 117 of the Knott Building to discuss transportation issues.

Elsewhere around Florida:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Longwood is holding the first of seven public meetings to discuss conservation and management of black bears in central Florida, and ways to involve the public when implementing a strategy. The meetings are from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. The first meeting is at Markham Woods Church, 505 Markham Woods Road in Longwood, followed by a Thursday gathering in Umatilla, at the Olde Mill Stream RV Resort, 1000 N. Central Ave. More information is available online.




Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.