Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

The day that was in Florida politics — March 18

in Top Headlines by

Wow, talk about a gaggle. If you want a good understanding of what separates the House and Senate as the session approaches the mid-point check out this exchange between state Sen. Tom Lee and a gaggle of reporters including The AP, Palm Beach Post, Tribune and the Times/Herald Capitol Bureau.

It’s the best gaggle of the session so far.

Lee’s bottom line is that the Senate will fill the billion-dollar hole created by the end of the Low Income Pool at the beginning of the budget building process, not at the end. He talks like he’s willing to go to the mat on this.

”Budgets reflect priorities and it is our priority that we want to see this addressed,” said Lee. “We are not pleased that we find ourselves here. We wish we could have a resolution and we hope there is one.”

The Senate convened Wednesday its first session since opening day and took up a handful of bills. Senators approved state Sen. Jeff Brandes’ concealed weapons in an evacuation proposal. They sent a proposal moving the presidential primary to March 15 to the governor’s desk. The move creates a winner-takes-all primary. And senators also gave thumbs up to state Sen. Jack Latvala’s proposal to exempt taxpayers’ email addresses from the state’s open record law. More on that here.

Speaking of Latvala, he failed in an attempt to kill a proposal ending the separation of the liquor/distilled spirits department from the rest of a grocery store. He elicited laughs when he explained that his amendment would accomplish two things, one, fix a problem with the current law and, two, he told the sponsor, state Sen. Denise Grimsley, “get rid of your bill at the same time.”

Latvala’s amendment fell short but Grimsley accepted a second one from state Sen. Kellie Stargel, which dramatically scaled back the proposal — to just allowing a door adjoining the grocery store with its adjacent liquor department. There is more here.

A Senate panel approved a proposal Wednesday shielding an affordable housing fund from losing any money with the implementation of Amendment 1. The voter-approved initiative directs money from documentary stamp tax to water and land conservation. An amendment by state Sen. Alan Hays keeps housing whole after distributing money to conservation. There is more here.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says it has found a state employee who was silenced for talking about climate change. PEER has filed a complaint.    

The complaint says that on March 9, Barton Bibler, a Department of Environmental Protection employee, received a reprimand letter and was ordered not to return to work until he had a medical clearance of his fitness for duty.

Word is a diverse group of stakeholders, opponents and supporters of the Charlotte’s Web law are finalizing language for a glitch bill.

There are at least three things keeping the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014 in legal limbo; it creates more interest than opportunity by authorizing just five licenses to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal oil, it lacks a shield from federal banking regulations governing illegal activities -– marijuana possession is prohibited by the federal government -– and a shield from prosecution for laboratories willing to test the oil processed from the plant.

A source speaking not for attribution said the proposal might be ready by the first of the week.

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