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The week ahead in the Florida Legislature

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This week in Florida Politics we shall seek clarity. By week’s end we will know about the House and Senate’s competing budget proposals, how Rob Bradley intends to solve the Charlotte’s Web mystery and whether service in the Confederate Army is Hall of Fame material.

The highlight of a busy week comes Wednesday when both the Senate Appropriations and the House Appropriations committees will work on their respective budget proposals.

The House’s opening bid is $76.2 billion and the Senate’s opening response was to up the ante to $80.4 billion. The big difference is the Senate would us federal dollars to set up a health exchange to expand Medicaid and bridge a billion dollar hole created by the end of a federal reimbursement program for hospitals to care for the uninsured. The House has expressed no interest in the plan.

The week begins with talks of tax breaks. The Senate Commerce Committee Monday will take up a machinery tax break, the Higher Education Committee will consider a sales-tax exemption for textbooks and the Finance Committee will discuss a small business sales-tax holiday for the day after Thanksgiving.

Also Monday, Sen. Greg Evers, who knows how to pack a committee room, will present SB 180 to his Criminal Justice Committee. The proposal would allow designated employees and volunteers to carry guns at public schools.

Tuesday Sen. Rob Bradley and the Regulated Industries Committee will introduce SPB 7066 a measure to implement last year’s Charlotte’s Web law authorizing low-THC medicinal cannabis.

 Stakeholders and the Department of Health have been unable to agree to a regulatory structure enabling the cultivation of marijuana and dispensing of medicinal oil. Two proposed sets of rules have drawn lawsuits.

“This is a grower’s rule; it’s about applicants who happen to be nurseries,” said Louis Rotundo of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association when discussing the latest challenge when it was filed two weeks ago.

There are about 20 eligible nurseries with the financial backing that could qualify for one of the five licenses available to pioneer Florida’s medicinal marijuana industry. That means there are 15 potential challengers to any rule DOH proposes.

“If the law is inoperative then it is their responsibility to identify the unusable parts of the law and get it back to the Legislature and say this doesn’t work,” said Rotundo.

Bradley opens the discussion about why the law seems “inoperative” Tuesday when he introduces SPB 7066 – text scheduled to be available by 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet are expected to consider recommendations for the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The item has triggered discussion of whether Confederate veterans are eligible.

A House committee Tuesday will consider limits on red-light cameras and right-turn-on-red citations. A Senate committee takes up the wide-ranging springs protection bill, SB 918. And ending the prohibition on liquor on grocers’ shelves goes before a House committee; a Senate committee last week ripped the heart out of a similar proposal.

And CFO Jeff Atwater and The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes will be the featured guests at the James Madison Institute’s 2015 Annual Dinner.

Wednesday is the day of the budget meetings and a Florida Limousine Association and Florida Taxicab Association news conference seeking regulations of “transportation network companies,” i.e., Uber and Lyft.

Thursday the Seminole Tribe will be at the Capitol, or at least lobbyists representing the Tribe’s interests, for a House Regulatory Affairs Committee meeting. It is holding a workshop to discuss gambling issues including allowing the tribe to offer games such as blackjack.

And Friday the Civil War continues when the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Council will discuss possible criteria changes for candidates to be granted Hall of Fame status. The question that has been hanging over the Capitol is whether fighting under the Florida flag during the war between states qualifies one as a U.S. veteran. Current criteria holds a nominee must be a veteran as “defined by Florida statutes” – which is silent on the Civil War — and had received an honorable discharge from the United States.

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