A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
HASHTAG OF THE DAY: #SineDie
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SCOTT: I LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE IN SIGNING BILL ALLOWING HIGHER CONTRIBUTION LIMITS via Jennifer Currington of the Orlando Sentinel
Scott told reporters this morning that he decided to sign a bill raising campaign contribution limits – after saying repeatedly that he didn’t like the idea – because he listened “to a lot of people.”
“Like everything, you listen to a lot of people and try to make the best decision I can for every citizen in the state, so I made that decision to sign that bill last night,” Scott said.
He signed the campaign-finance bill, a top priority for Speaker Weatherford, just after Weatherford’s House approved a sales-tax break for manufacturing companies, a top priority for Scott. The governor sidestepped a question about whether that was a deal he’d struck with the Legislature.
“I look at everything but I made the right decision for all Floridians,” he said.
SCOTT SCHMOOZES HOUSE FLOOR — SAYS PLENTY’S MORE POSSIBLE IN HOUSE’S FINAL HOURS via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post
On the second-to-last day of session, Scott went hand-to-hand with lawmakers, schmoozing his way across the House floor. The rare visit looked mostly genial — and likely included a few thank-yous to House members for approving a version of his manufacturers’ tax break late Wednesday.
Still, Scott said he was not abandoning hope that some version of a health care expansion was still possible in the session’s waning hours.
“As you know, there’s still time left in session,” Scott said earlier Thursday. “A lot of things happen the last week in session. We’ve got a little over a day left in session. So we’ll see what happens. As you know I’ve said making sure we take care of the uninsured and the legislature said no.”
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING BAN GOES TO GOVERNOR via David Royse of the News Service of Florida
Texting while driving will be illegal in Florida if Gov. Scott signs legislation sent to him by the Senate on Thursday after a years-long effort to join most other states in outlawing it.
Scott hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill.
Under the measure as passed, only drivers who are pulled over for something else, such as careless driving or speeding, and then are determined to have been texting while driving, could be cited. And in most cases, police and prosecutors won’t be able to seek the driver’s cell phone records to prove it. Under an amendment added to the bill this week by the House, records could only be sought if there were an injury or death in a crash.
That provision weakened the bill, but the measure’s Senate sponsor said the fight to get a texting ban has been long and so it was better to go along with that than not pass the bill – and she said the measure still could reduce the dangerous practice, particularly among kids.
“This bill is still a good bill, it still will allow parents today to say to their kids ‘Don’t text, it’s against the law,'” said Sen. Nancy Detert, who has pushed for the ban unsuccessfully for years.
TWEET, TWEET: @ItsWorkingFL: Burden is lifted for manufacturers in FL- sales tax on machinery & equipment will be eliminated. #BuildupFLManufacturing #ItsWorking
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On the three-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Attorney General filed a $5.48-billion lawsuit against oil company BP and oil services firm Halliburton to help the state recoup past and future lost revenue. “We were required to present them with an offer, and they insulted us by not even responding to that offer,” Bondi says. “We are fully prepared to try this case and make sure that BP and Halliburton are held accountable for the disaster they caused to our great state,” she tells Faraj-Johnson. In reviewing the Legislature’s work, Bondi praised lawmakers for helping to crack down on what she says is a growing problem: organized retail theft. “We now have enhanced penalties to target these guys and put them out of business, because this (theft) affects our taxpayers as well because it’s going to drive prices up.” Bondi addresses new efforts to fight against synthetic drug use, added protections for military veterans, and more on “Florida NewsMakers.”
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FLORIDA SUPREME COURT RULES THAT WARRANTS ARE NECESSARY FOR CELL PHONE SEARCH via contributor Karen Cyphers
Just out, a Florida Supreme Court decision that police may not confiscate and search an arrested person’s cell phone without a search warrant. The Court was divided Thursday, voting 5-2 to overturn the lower courts’ rulings. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Fred Lewis asserted that warrants are required before “the information, data and content of the cell phone could be accessed and searched.” Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented, warning that requiring such warrants has “the potential to work much mischief in Fourth Amendment law.” Interestingly, bills filed this Session by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Carlos Trujillo would have arrived at the same conclusion as the Court, had they been heard and passed.
STATE SHIFTS APPROACH ON LAND BUYS via Fort Myers News-Press.
Long heralded for spending billions to secure green space and create wildlife preserves and corridors, Florida is in the midst of an about-face on the conservation front, with some elected officials saying the state has too much public land and some should be sold to the private sector.
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‘CITIZENS LIGHT’ HEADED TO GOV
The governor is getting a slimmed-down version of a bill making changes to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which holds the line on rates for policyholders.
The Senate voted 32-1 on Thursday to send to Gov. Rick Scott a bill (SB 1770) designed to shed more than one-seventh of the policies to private insurers, retain existing rate caps, and internally improve the state-backed agency.
Scott hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill.
While urging his colleagues to support the House language, Sen. David Simmons said he’d preferred his more aggressive attempt that would have pushed more policies toward rates offered by private firms.
“It’s a good bill,” Simmons said. “I call it Citizens-light, it doesn’t go as far as the Senate has, but it’s something I think we can all join in and support.”
The measure creates an inspector general, prohibits coverage for new structures closest to the beach, requires that policy holders sign a statement that acknowledges an understanding of their liability risk, and establishes a clearinghouse with the intention of shifting more than 200,000 of the least risky policies into private hands.
Scott has backed the clearinghouse and inspector general to review inner workings of the agency. The governor has repeatedly voiced displeasure over salaries that Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway awarded a number of top executives last year and the degree of punishments handed out after a report by the governor’s office outlined travel spending habits of employees and board members.
Gilway came out in support of the bill on Thursday.
>>>AIF’s Feeney: We urge Governor Scott to sign this bill into law, and moving forward ask the Florida Legislature to consider implementing additional laws to reduce the risk associated with Citizens and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. In addition, we urge the management teams of Citizens and the Cat Fund, and the officials of our executive branch, to pursue every means possible to reduce our state’s hurricane tax risk and to prepare financially as well as physically for this year’s storm season.”
>>>Chamber’s Hart: The Florida Chamber applauds lawmakers for helping reduce taxpayers’ risk in the event of a catastrophic storm and for creating a roadmap to help return Citizens to being the insurer of last resort.
FHSAA OVERHAUL TO WAIT ‘TIL NEXT YEAR
A bill which would restructure the Florida High School Athletic Association is unlikely to advance this year, leaving a chance for the FHSAA to get up to muster before next session and avoid the fate HB 1279 would have levied. The bill would have increased state oversight of the organization and ultimately would have required a replacement organization to take over in its place. The bill also would have expanded opportunities for charter school and home school students, and would have given students the ability to transfer schools mid-year. The House approved the bill 89-26 but the Senate will not be taking it up.
SENATE APPROVES EVERGLADES DEAL via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
The Florida Senate put the legislative stamp of approval on the landmark settlement between Gov. Scott, the federal government and the sugar industry Thursday passed a bill to dedicate state money and establish criteria for restoring water quality to the Everglades.
The bill, HB 7065, which had earned the rare support of both environmentalists and sugar companies, will be accompanied by a $70 million investment in the clean-up efforts which are included in the proposed $74.5 billion budget. The Senate approved the measure 39-0 after the House approved it last month 114-0. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it.
The passage comes a day after the governor signed two legislative priority bills on campaign finance and ethics. The Senate had put on hold a vote on the Everglades bill as well as the confirmation of the governor’s top agency heads.
Scott entered into the settlement with the Obama administration last year and quietly considered it a priority to have the legislature ratify the language and create a framework for funding the restoration projects.
The measure also puts into statute a controversial lease deal approved between sugar and vegetable farmers and the Florida Cabinet in January. The Cabinet agreed to give the farmers the opportunity to extend leases on the Everglades land for another 20 years without demanding they raise their water quality clean-up standards. In exchange, sugar growers agreed to continue to pay a tax, known as the Agriculture Privilege tax, to pay for clean-up efforts through 2035.
TRAUMA DRAMA & BABY MAMAS
The Senate approved an amendment to HB 1159 that would permit new trauma centers in rural parts of the state, while nixing a provision that would have permitted Miami Children’s Hospital to operate a labor and delivery unit for women with high-risk pregnancies. Both measures triggered adamant support and opposition from interested parties. Only two areas of the state would be impacted by the trauma expansion, including areas of the panhandle. The Senate is set to vote on the measure Friday, and if approved, it would head back to the House for a final vote.
TWEET, TWEET: @MonicaLRodrigue: glad the senate adjourned because it was beginning to smell like a locker room after a tough work out in P.E. on the 4th floor #deoderant
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CANCER TREATMENT FAIRNESS ACT NEEDS FINAL PUSH TO RECONCILE via contributor Karen Cyphers
The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, which has worked its way successfully through both chambers, is nevertheless stalled in what may well be the Bermuda Triangle of the legislative process: where two mildly different version of the same bill fail to reconcile before Sine Die. While most members of the legislature believe they have passed this bill, in reality it is no closer to the Governor’s desk than it was two weeks ago. This important legislation, forwarded by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, would ensure that Floridians with cancer could access treatments administered through oral medications no differently than they do for intravenously-administered drugs. While distinct, differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill are not the type of issues that should be cause for such a stall.
The main difference regards the enactment date. The House language would put the law into effect on January 1, 2015. In contrast the Senate amendment goes into effect on July 1, 2013 but gives plans until January 1, 2014 before they have to implement the main oral treatment cost-sharing requirements of the bill. While this time difference may seem small to some, one year is a lifetime in the treatment of cancer. During the time between the House and Senate effective dates, roughly 250,000 more Floridians will be diagnosed with cancer. And during this time, a number of new drugs will be developed for oral delivery that will have no equivalent intravenous alternative. The Senate on Thursday refused to concur with the House language and requested the House to Recede. This back and forth is what’s making this bill vulnerable as we near the end of Session, but when you look at the number of lives the Senate version could positively affect – it’s the clear winner.
DOLPHINS EFFORT ON LIFE SUPPORT via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida
A long third down conversion is needed to keep the Dolphins drive alive. And there’s no way to stop the clock.
The House speaker made it clear Thursday that the Miami Dolphins have an “uphill” effort to get hotel bed tax dollars for stadium improvements.
The proposal, which was tacked on to a Senate bill (SB 1828) Thursday, would support the on-going referendum that increases the hotel bed tax in Miami-Dade County and would create a ranking system within the state Department of Economic Opportunity for future stadium sales tax rebate funding proposals.
The second provision is directed towards proposals being pitched by Daytona International Speedway, Jacksonville for EverBank Field, and Orange County, which is assisting plans to get a top level soccer franchise. The Dolphins, planning $350 million in renovations, would also have to enter the ranking program.
House Speaker Will Weatherford said the stadium effort isn’t a lock even after former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino tossed his support into the effort while visiting the House on Thursday.
“I’d say it’s an uphill battle for the Dolphins,” Weatherford said, without saying if he would bring the bill up for a vote on Friday.
NEGRON: HEALTH CARE EXPANSION CAN’T PASS
Despite valiant efforts at compromise, stalling tactics with bills read in full, and several alternatives for expanded health care coverage on the table, the “chasm between the competing visions is too wide to overcome,” according to Senator Joe Negron on the eve of sine die. Negron, whose proposal was the most comprehensive of those forwarded this legislative session, favored accepting federal dollars for expanded coverage — a plan also supported by Gov. Rick Scott; however House leaders were steadfast in their intent to reject federal funding and instead subsidize low-income Floridians in the purchase of private insurance. Speculation is high whether Gov. Scott will call a special session to taken on health care expansion — a move which would signal strong leadership on an issue of paramount importance to millions of Floridians. It would also counter a jab by prospective gubernatorial contender Charlie Crist, who on Facebook scolded that had he been governor, a compromise on health care expansion would have been reached. Provisions of federal health care reform require most people to have qualified health care coverage by 2014 or else face penalties, making the March 2014 legislative session too late for offering state solutions to low-income working families, and Floridian businesses.
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CAPITOL INSIDERS PREDICT SESSION WILL END AT 4;57 P.M.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS WON’T BOYCOTT BUDGET via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
Despite all the drama from the past couple of days, don’t expect a big clash on the state’s $74.5 billion budget on Friday.
Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston said Thursday the Democrats won’t be voting along any prescribed party line when the budget come up for a vote.
“There will be some who will voting for the budget, and they’ll have legitimate reasons to vote for it, which I think are legitimate reasons,” Thurston said Thursday.
Thurston said he will be among those Democrats voting against the proposed budget as a protest for the House’s refusal to expand Medicaid and a disputed vote Wednesday that gave a tax break for manufacturing equipment.
But he said other Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Alan Williams, had every right to endorse the budget with a “yay” vote because of issues that help state workers and teachers.
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MIKE HILL ENDORSED BY NFIB IN HD 2 SPECIAL ELECTION
“Mike is a proven leader in the small-business community, and the best candidate to lead Northwest Florida in the Legislature,” said Bill Herrle, NFIB/Florida Executive Director. “I firmly believe that nobody will fight harder than Mike for the rights of small-business owners and free enterprise.”
Hill has long been active in the small-business community in Florida, serving as a member of NFIB/Florida’s Leadership Council. In this role, a release states, Hill “has been the voice of small businesses across the state against burdensome regulations, government intrusion, and has worked to helped shine a light on issues that hinder business owners’ abilities to operate and grow their businesses.”
“I’m proud to receive an endorsement from small business, a community about which I am truly passionate, and look forward to working with NFIB to continue to improve Florida’s business climate and stop government’s intrusions on our rights,” Hill said.
HARRISON OFFICIALLY FILES FOR HD 63 REMATCH via William March of the Tampa Tribune
Former Tampa City Council and State House member Shawn Harrison has filed for a rematch against state Rep. Mark Danish for the seat representing House District 63.
Harrison, 48, a Republican, completed one term in the state House in 2012 but lost his bid for re-election, falling short by 728 votes out of more than 66,000.
Danish, 59, a Democrat, already filed to run for re-election.
The district covers much of New Tampa, the University of South Florida area, Carrollwood and Lutz.
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FUNDRAISER HONORING KEN PLANTE PLANNED FOR SESSION’S FINAL DAY
Florida’s capital city insiders will honor and assist Ken Plante on the final day of the 2013 legislative session with a special “Get Well” card posted for signatures on the Fourth Floor of the Capitol. Donations to help Plante’s continued medical treatments will also be accepted.
Plante, who served in the Florida Senate from 1967-1978, has been a professional lobbyist for much of the last half century. He helped conceive and found the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists. He was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells in the brain and leads to a progressive loss of muscular control. Typically, the outcome is not positive.
According to Ron Sachs, “Kenny is at home, but is using a ventilator to help him breathe, and his home health care is not covered by insurance. He also suffers as a result of the Medicare “doughnut hole” in which his prescription medicine costs are astronomical. So, Kenny Plante’s many friends around Florida have banded together to help cover some of these health care costs.”
The suggested donation is $250, but all contributions are appreciated and welcomed. Checks can be made payable to “Kenneth A. Plante Trust Fund.”
JONATHAN GRELLA LEAVING BUCS FOR D.C. via POLITICO Influence
The U.S. Travel Association is bringing on Jonathan Grella, head of communications for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Capitol Hill veteran. Grella has been hired by the trade group to lead all public affairs activities. Grella previously worked for Edelman, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the NRSC prior to departing for the National Football League in 2010.
U.S. Travel’s communications shop has recently seen the departure of Blain Rethmeier and Robert Bobo, while executive vice president and chief operating officer Geoff Freeman left last month to take over the reins of theAmerican Gaming Association.
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EMAIL THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT CAME FROM ANTHONY WEINER: “This could be huge” from Congressman Patrick Murphy.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Representative Ritch Workman and USF – St. Petersburg’s Tom Scherberger.