The annual session of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature crashed to a halt Tuesday as the House adjourned three days early because of a budget impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion.
Bills covering everything from tax cuts to gambling, medical marijuana and making changes in the state’s scandal-rocked prison system died as a result.
Below is a first draft of the list of Winners and Losers emerging from this so-called ‘early Sine Die.’
IF YOU HAVE A WINNER OR LOSER YOU BELIEVE SHOULD BE ADDED, EMAIL ME AT [email protected]
The two best suggestions as to who won or lost: in the Winners Column, Max Steele, press secretary for the Florida Democratic Party, for doing a better job for Senate Republicans than the Senate Majority Office at defending the push for Medicaid expansion; in the Losers Column, one lobbyist suggested their “waistline.”
Richard Corcoran – If you believe in your heart of hearts, as Corcoran does, that expanding Medicaid is wrong for Florida, then Session adjourning early is the ultimate victory. Before Tuesday, Corcoran already had a signature victory under his belt with his blocking of subsidies for sports stadiums. That video from this year’s Press Skits in which Corcoran is jokingly depicted as already measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office proved to be prescient.
Jose Oliva – Every session concluded is another step closer to Oliva becoming Speaker Designate and, after that, Speaker.
To-be-determined Democrats running for the Florida House – We don’t know their names yet, but, undoubtedly, there are a handful of Floridians who watched what happened Tuesday and said to themselves, “I can do better than that.” So they’ll file to run for office in House Districts 47, 49, 63, and other districts where Republicans will be vulnerable in a presidential election cycle. Democrats will have the strongest 1-2 punch at the top of the ticket in Lord knows how long. And now they have an issue to run on, too. “The Do-Nothing Legislature,” is how these Democrats will describe their GOP opponents, who, by the way, no longer have Frank Terraferma at the RPOF to mastermind their campaigns. 2016 could see House Democrats pick three, four, five, or maybe more, seats.
Associated Industries of Florida – From oil & gas to water to the health care debate – there was few issues that the AIF team was not involved in. And while the health care debate did not end its way (or anyone’s way, for that matter), being on the “right side of the issue,” gained AIF a public shout-out in a press conference by Andy Gardiner, who called it “The best business lobby in Florida.”
Disney, No Casinos – If your goal is to prevent any expansion of gambling in the Sunshine State, then you could not have asked for more than to see Dana Young’s bill wither in the Florida House, while the Senate did not even bother to debate the issue. Meanwhile, the compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida was not renewed, meaning there actually could be less gaming in Florida in six months after the compact expires. The Mouse hasn’t done this well since ‘Frozen’ hit box offices.
Americans for Prosperity – Perhaps in a fashion which turned off more people than it won over, AFP hammered lawmakers on several issues, all of which appear dead, including Medicaid expansion, incentives for the film industry, and subsidies for sports stadiums. Chris Hudson and Co. had a beefed up advocacy budget this year and it showed. Now, if they can only learn that you attract more bees with honey than vinegar.
Airbnb – Almost out of nowhere, the fast-growing vacation rental website was being lumped into restrictive legislation designed to impede Uber and other ridesharing services. But not all apps are the same — a fact seemingly lost on the Luddites in the Florida Legislature. So when Sen. David Simmons’ bill that would have required Uber and Lyft drivers to buy special insurance AND require insurance for properties listed on Airbnb died, the tech company breathed a sigh of relief.
Albert Balido – The dapper lobbyist had (at least) three clean wins, killing the ban on Kratom for Botanical Legal Defense; killing the ‘guns-in-schools’ bill for Every Town for Gun Safety, and passing civil citation legislation for Souther Poverty Law Center.
American Insurance Association, et al – Commercial insurance provisions that streamline regulations for insurance rate filing procedures was passed within the larger property & casualty insurance package, HB 165. Old Republic Title was another insurance industry winner with the revisions to the rehabilitation & liquidation process for title insurance underwriters passed in HB 927. A third insurance industry winner was Primerica Financial Services, which negotiated language with the Department of Financial Services and supported the passage of HB 1133 regulating insurance agents and agencies.
Beer lovers – Yes, the growler bill passed, but it also came with some balanced compromises that saw local craft brewers being given added latitude to sell their own products without destroying the three-tier system which really does keep a wide variety of both foreign and domestic beer flowing. Congrats to all sides of this one for showing others how to come together and bridge vast differences without bloddying up the Capitol.
Bill Montford – Let’s face it, not too many Democrats have all that much to pin on their lapels. But this north Florida senator not only was a key voice in the sweeping education overhaul (re: testing and accountability) but he appears on the verge of passing a comprehensive and well-regarded Ag re-write as well.
Christine Sexton and Carol Gentry – Imagine if Sexton and Gentry had not attended Associated Industries of Florida’s Health Care Affordability Summit. Because that’s where Eliot Fishman, the director of the Medicaid division of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told policymakers that there was “no way” that Florida’s “Low Income Pool” program will continue when it expires in June. Fishman’s comments set off the firestorm that would eventually engulf the 2015 Session. But they would likely have gone unnoticed had Sexton and Gentry — two reporters for online publications — not been there. And lawmakers would have continued to deny the reality that was/is facing the state. They had been for the last year. Sure, the status of the LIP money would eventually have been learned, but Sexton and Gentry scored the scoop of the Session reporting about it when they did.
Compassionate Care Hospice – A month ago, this Lakeland-based Hospice was almost permanently put out of business by a bureaucratic snafu that would have made Franz Kafka laugh. Last week, however, the Legislature passed HB 441, giving CCH an expedited process to reapply for its license. The process can begin once Gov. Scott signs the bill into law.
Drug Free America – With medical marijuana seemingly more out of reach today than before the start of session, DFA can claim victory after it lobbied-up this year to block increased THC levels, etc. Eight pot bills were filed this session and only Rob Bradley’s “glitch bill” to fix the Charlotte’s Web legislation that passed last year was heard. Question now is, will DFA be able to again block John Morgan from a win at the ballot box.
Ebay, Stubhub and other ticket resellers – A bill promoted by Ticketmaster that would have made it a misdemeanor for resellers to use automated computer programs, called bots, to bypass any part of the ticket-buying process, or to buy more tickets than the maximum amount allowable to one buyer for a show was defeated by a coalition of resellers. Rep. Blaise Ingoglia got his legislation as far as second reading before the full House, but it now appears to be stillborn, while the Senate companion was bottled-up in Appropriations. Lobbyists on the winning side of this issue include Capital City Consulting, Metz Husband & Daughton, and Smith, Bryan & Meyers.
Eleanor Sobel, FL ALFA – After three years, Sobel was finally able to cobble together a pretty decent ALF reform bill. It wasn’t as strong nor as sweeping as she had originally envisioned, but Sobel is nothing if not doggedly persistent. Gotta put her in the Winners Column for this one. Also deserving credit here is the Florida Chapter of the Assisted Living Federation of America, the Florida Assisted Living Association (repped by Greenberg Traurig’s Hayden Dempsey), Southern Strategy Group’s James McFaddin and Bascom Communication’s Lyndsey Cruley.
Florida Justice Association/trial attorneys – Who would have guessed on primary night 2014 that the Florida Justice Association would have enjoyed such a strong 2015 Session? It played successful defense when it came to the all-important issue of Big Tobacco liability, as well as pro-insurance legislation that would restrict access to the courts for folks looking to claim damages from insurers.
Homeowners – Those affected by the ever present specter of Florida’s sinkholes managed to catch some legislative relief before the House abruptly adjourned Sine Die. Sen. Wilton Simpson’s SB 1216 makes it easier for local communities to form a CRA, or Community Redevelopment Agency, which could draw down state dollars for groups of homeowners unable to financially cope with losses of value stemming from sinkholes or other natural catastrophes that can destroy property. The Simpson-sponsored CRA bill will help keep more residents in their homes, a boon to individual and neighborhood property values.
Homeowner Association Managers – The HOA managers went up against giants with huge checks – the Florida Realtors and title companies – but still managed to defeat the cost-shifting estoppel certificates bill. There were many estoppel puns along the way, and it looked bleak, but they pulled it off. A nice win for lobbyist Mark Anderson.
Houston Astros & Washington Nationals – With the Senate’s passage of a local bill by Rep. Lori Berman by a margin of 40-0, a stadium deal that would bring the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros to West Palm Beach is another step closer to breaking ground in time for 2017 Spring Training. Supporters hope to open the facility by January of that year. Today’s final approval to send the bill to the governor’s office caps off a complex multi-jurisdictional process shepherded by Brian Ballard in the Legislature. It included an intra-local agreement between the City of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County to swap land in downtown West Palm – now ceded to the city – in exchange for the land near the Grassy Waters Preserve. County funding for the project could be finalized as soon as September.
Jeff Clemens – This Lake Worth Democrat sponsored one of the last bills to clear both chambers of the Legislature, as his bill to create an online voter registration portal passed by lopsided margins in both the House and Senate. The legislation allows applicants to submit their voter registration applications online, with the waste comparing the information with driver’s license records. The senator also told supporters that “I can die happy now,” after an exchange he had with Bryan Koon, the state’s Division of Emergency Management Director in late March went national via The Daily Show. That’s when Clemens asked Koon if it was true that states needed to have “climate change plans” to qualify for federal funds. In the wake of the governor’s reported banning of the term in state government, however, Clemens said he used ‘climate change,’ but suggested that maybe as a state “we use the term ‘atmospheric reemployment.’ That might be something that the governor could get behind,” as fellow Senators like Jack Latvala and the crowd erupted in laughter.
LGBT community – Although it’s no longer enforced, the ban on gay adoption would be abolished under a bill sent to Gov. Scott. Meanwhile, a separate “conscience” law that would have allowed faith-based organizations handling adoptions to refuse to let gays adopt died. And Rep. Frank Artiles insulting legislation targeting transgender Floridians was quietly shown the door.
Local claims bills – Floridians injured as a result of the negilignce of a local government finally won some reprieve this session, as the Legislature approved 14 local claims bills to approve compensation from the local government above the sovereign immunity caps.
Local governments – Bill addressing relocation of Utilities – dead. Bill addressing septic tank language – dead. CST tax cut – dead. Like Bear Bryant said, defense wins championships.
Mears Transportation Group and other taxicab companies – With an ever-growing team of advocates, and a solid following amongst members of the Legislature, ridesharing companies failed for the second straight year to get some state level preemptions over local regulations. The status quo is a solid victory for Mears and the taxi cab companies.
Publix, ABC Liquor — However you want to describe the bill repealing the state’s 80-year-old requirement that retailers sell hard liquor in a separate store away from groceries and other goods — “Whiskey & Wheaties” was the most common euphemism — it did not make it through the Legislature’s express lane. So it’s at least another year before the supermarket giants and the stand-alone liquor stores have to compete with Walmart and Target for your booze money. Nicely done, Floridian Partners’ Teye Reeves, Dave Ramba, Allison Carvajal, and Scott Dick.
Recording industry – Despite a strong last-minute push by Google and its lobbyist Justin Sayfie (who shut down his own site for a day in protest), the recording industry in Florida won a huge victory in its efforts to stop piracy of music online.
Red light cameras – Legislation to prohibit or modify RLCs was once again stopped by Capital City Consulting, Corcoran & Johnston, The Mayernick Group, Southern Strategy Group, Yolanda Jackson, and Louis Betz.
Ron Book – Has there been a session in the past decade where Ron Book wasn’t a winner? With his taxi cab clients winning, the OMG FHSAA remake and the estoppel bills all defeated for now, the hardest working guy in #TheProcess can put this Session in his rearview mirror as one more belt notch.
Opponents to standardized tests – Critics of standardized tests have been beating their heads against the walls for over a decade, going back to when put in place by former Governor Jeb Bush. But the sentiment against such tests reached a fever pitch even before the legislative session commenced, as Gov. Scott issued an executive order suspending tests for 11th graders back in February. In April, the Legislature sent a measure to the governor that would limit the amount of testing that can be done in public schools, including a firm cap of 45 hours of state-authorized testing per year. And then there was the debacle with the rollout of new, computer-based Florida Standards Assessments, which replace the FCAT exams. Technical problems marred the tests throughout the state.
People who hate drones – A legislative crackdown on drones flew out of the House Tuesday with a unanimous vote. SB 766 would prohibit drones – unmanned mini-robots equipped with cameras — from taking pictures on private property without consent. The measure already cleared the Senate, and now is on its way to Gov. Scott.
Privacy advocates concerned about LEO body cameras – In the wake of controversial police shootings in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, Rep. Shevrin Jones filed a bill to require law enforcement agencies to adopt policies allowing for the wearing of body-worn cameras for all officers, in response to a national debate that had arisen about the issue. Then Sen. Chris Smith, a former Senate Democratic leader with deep ties to police and labor communities, got involved in the effort, getting stakeholders like Florida Sheriffs’ Association and civil liberties group on board. What has resulted is a legislative balance between civilian authority, governmental transparency and personal privacy protections for our police and citizens alike. It has enjoyed large majorities of support in both chambers.
Sheriffs’ Offices’ bank accounts – SB 1534 was amended in its final stop to remove language that would have eliminated the ability for a Sheriff to retain forfeited property for agency use. The bill as originally drafted would have prevented local law enforcement agencies from purchasing critical incident equipment updates, such as body cameras, meth lab clean up kits, K-9 Narcotics units, weapon replacements, and other expensive equipment such as voice-detection polygraphs and vehicles. The amendment retains current law so law enforcement can still use seized assets for these purposes, rather than relying on tax dollars. SB 1534 was not heard by the full Senate and HB 1125 never received a hearing. This was another win for, among others, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri as well as Capital City Consulting, which reps the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.
Sober homes – Many residential neighborhood dwellers, particularly in Palm Beach County, can rest a little easier knowing that HB 21 by Rep. Bill Hager and Sen. Jeff Clemens were narrowly able to make it to the Governor’s office before legislative havoc became the main order of the day on Tuesday. The bill to require background checks and certifications for an industry that was heretofor mostly arranged in an informal way will ensure Floridians can know for sure whether they will have (sometimes large) groups of recovering addicts in the neighborhood and evaluate whether or not they would like to invest their time and treasure there.
Dan Webster, John Thrasher, Tom Feeney, Johnnie Byrd, Allan Bense, Marco Rubio, Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon – These past House Speakers each have their own warts and blemishes but at least they passed a budget on time. Making the trains run on time ain’t as easy as it looks.
Will Weatherford – He would never do it, but if he tweeted out, “Bet you all miss me right now,” that tweet would likely be favorited a thousand times over.
Kris Money, Trey McCarley, etc. – Strike up the band boys, because it’s time to raise some dollar$. Ace fundraisers like Money and McCarley can start raising money again for their legislative clients now that session is over AND (!) they have the promise/threat of a special session dedicated just to the budget to serve as both a carrot and a stick to potential donors.
Steve Crisafulli – No, Crisafulli’s not a loser. Because shutting down session — his idea, not Corcoran’s, those close to him repeatedly insist — is not a defeat. It’s the ultimate f–k you to a Senate that, from the House’s perspective, looked down its nose too often when it looked across the corridor of the fourth floor of the Capitol. Crisafulli could go into the L-column for not getting what he wanted on water policy or, surprisingly, school uniforms, but he still has budget bullets left in his chamber. The question is, does Crisafulli have a John Boehner problem, meaning does he lead his caucus or does his caucus lead him? Either way, there was a pretty load cheer out of House Republicans when Crisafulli gaveled them out of session.
Andy Gardiner – Gardiner said before the session that he was hoping the legislature could come up with a plan that “everybody can be happy with” when it came to providing funding for Amendment One, Sponsors were hoping for at least $155 million in funding this year and Governor Scott proposed $100. But the Senate could only come up with $15 million (the House was even cheaper at $8 million). Among his successes include getting the Senate to stay on track to approve a bill that would restore an adoption-subsides program and repeal the 38-year-old law that banned gays from adopting. And he matched the backbone of Crisafulli and Corcoran when they wanted to negotiate in the waning days of the session on health care. After the House suggested using $600 million in state tax revenue to fill part of the Low Income Pool gap for hospitals. But Gardiner rejected that on the grounds that no additional uninsured people would be covered and it would forfeit billions of dollars in federal funds available to Florida. And by refusing to engage in any too direct criticism of the House after Tuesday’s stunning drop the mic moment by Crisafulli, he appeared to be taking higher ground in the fierce battle that has roiled the state GOP.
Florida Chamber of Commerce – On one hand, the Chamber had a confusing, some would say untenable, position on health care and Medicaid expansion. On the other hand, it was not out front on the issue, like other interest groups and organizations were, so the Chamber’s not going to get much blame, either. Also, the Chamber saw its perennial foes on the other side of the gambling debate lose again. But the sight of Mark Wilson in an ad campaign that touted the benefits of the Seminole compact was, um, odd.
Florida Medical Association – The docs began the Session at odds with many in the House on priority legislation. On one hand, several of the FMA’s priority bills never got to second base, then again, neither did anything harmful. Expanded scope, script-writing authority and a few other issues also met their demise. Still, the FMA may have to get used to life without Don Gaetz as a presiding officer.
Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission – The local agency (the only one of its kind throughout the state) has been in the crosshairs of a few Tampa Bay area legislators over the past few years. who would like to see them eliminated. A proposal in the 2014 Legislature to do just that went by the wayside, but a proposal floating this year would have altered the composition of the board, giving more power to Tallahassee and less to the local communities was strongly opposed by the PTC. That bill is history. The PTC has also been battling ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft since the two companies began operating in the Tampa Bay area a year ago. But a proposal by Fort Walton Republican House member Matt Gaetz would ban local governments from regulating companies like Uber and Lyft. It also would allow them to use insurers that aren’t regulated by the state. His bill would also stop counties like Hillsborough from collecting transportation impact fees if their local governments dared to regulate Uber and Lyft. It wasn’t all good for the PTC, however. In their frustration to try to regulate Uber and Lyft, they were told to sit back and wait for regulations from Tallahassee to clear things up for them. With no new law(s) in place, the status quo continues in Hillsborough County, meaning Uber and Lyft drivers will continue to provide transportation outside of any control by the local agency.
Hospitals – It’s probably too early to put them in either the W or L category, so we’ll make arguments for both. The hospitals are Winners because the Senate has in its budget a Medicaid expansion plan and the continuation of the Low Income Pool program. Additionally, the hospitals beat back proposals by the House (HB 999) that would have ambulatory surgical centers and recovery care centers directly competing with hospitals. Also, CS/HB 7115, a bill that would have limited taxing districts ability to raise funds if would have limited a hospital’s ability to levy or receive. The legislation eventually would have lowered that claims denial rate to 7 percent. Here is the argument to put hospitals in the losing category: The House eliminated the Low Income Pool program from statutes and shows no interest in keeping the program intact. The LIP program has supplemented hospital payments since its inception and eliminating it is a $1.5 billion loss for hospitals. Gov. Scott is suing the federal government over the future of the LIP, which cannot help negotiations and the House is steadfast in its opposition to expand Medicaid. Meanwhile Rep. Corcoran has taken his “war” with the hospitals to Twitter posting messages like, Hospitals: “show me the money” Hospitals on poor people: “let them eat Medicaid”
Marion Hammer – Rarely does the National Rifle Association suffer a high-profile loss, but it did so when one of its priory bills (SB 176) which would have allowed people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on the campuses of Florida colleges and universities, was shot down by Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who kept his committee from considering it. Still, Hammer and the NRA did bill see SB 290, allowing people to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses for 48 hours during mandatory emergency evacuations, sent to the governor.
Nurses – They can’t claim a legislative victory, but nurses have to be pleased because it’s clear that they have the support of some powerful lawmakers — Sen. Denise Grimsley, Reps. Corcoran and Oliva — that their scope of practice should be expanded. The nurses had SB 532 and HB 281 in the queue to be considered when the House abruptly brought session to an end. Never before has the idea of expanding the scope to allow advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances made it that far in the process.
People who like to get drunk or high from weird sh*t – An issue that got a surprising level of burn this Session was the effort, via a pair of bills, to ban the sale of powdered alcohol, or “palcohol” in industry lingo. Those are now awash in legislative inertia — having bitten the dust as HB 1247 by Rep. Bryan Avila lies stuck on the House Special Order Calendar. Efforts to put kratom — derived from the leaf of a tree that grows in Southeast Asia and can produce opium-like effects — was derailed.
Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation – There were some little victories for members of the Tampa Bay area delegation, but the abrupt end to the regular legislative session denied some of the major bills that were proposed. — Jeff Brandes – Nobody in the entire Legislature had a more ambitious agenda this year than the St. Petersburg state Senator, fresh off a big victory last November. Medical marijuana, Uber, and a reform of civil forfeiture laws all bit the dust. However, his “right-to-try” legislation that would allow dying patients the opportunity to access experimental medical treatments that have passed a Phase One Clinical Trial but haven’t been approved by the FDA is going to the Governor’s desk. — Jack Latvala was carrying the 64-ounce growler bill that also was passed by both houses of the Legislature. It does add on more provisions to appease Big Beer (and quietly has annoyed some craft brewers) that weren’t part of the original bill, but everyone’s happy about that. He also got his public-records exemption bill that would prevent the release of taxpayers’ email addresses obtained by county tax collector for sending tax notices passed (much to the dismay of the First Amendment Foundation). But many others died, of course. Up in the air is his PSC reform bill. — Tampa House Republican Dana Young’s big job this session was to try to get a gambling pact passed, but after much hype, it was declared dead pretty quickly, though she gamely adjusted it during the session. Ultimately a gambling pact with the Seminole Tribe proved illusive.
Uber – Some would like to see Uber in the Losers column because pro-Uber legislation did not pass, but the way things were going, with increased background checks and insurance requirements, the ride-sharing company may be better off that nothing passed. As long as Andy Gardiner is Senate President and has his thumb on the scale for Mears Transportation Group, Uber and Lyft will not get a fair deal. It may be better to wait for Joe Negron to take the wheel. (Oops, did I really write that last part?)
4,238,739 Florida citizens – With Sine Die, Florida has no comprehensive water policy law and a boatload of money headed to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund on July 1.
Rick Scott – The only time this guy is not a loser, it would seem, is when he is on the ballot. What a disastrous session for Governor Irrelevant, who saw his lame tax cut package die. In between ribbon cuttings at Wawa and the Orlando Eye, Scott made the situation in the Capitol worse with poorly-timed lawsuits and veto threats. Meanwhile, a host of his agency heads went unconfirmed by the Senate as retribution.
Department of Health Secretary John Armstrong and AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek — Armstrong wasn’t able to sidestep questions about Medicaid expansion and the Low Income Pool. Dudek was able to answer similar questions by saying tht the Governor’s Office supported the Senate’s LIP plan to keep the money intact but Armstrong avoided answering the questions. The Senate Health Policy Committee deferred action on his appointment. The committee had previously confirmed Dudek and she even was approved by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee after being grilled for more than one hour. Ultimately, though, they both appear to be losers because the Senate is unlikely to confirm either one of them.
Advocates for medical marijuana – Medical marijuana advocates lost at the polls narrowly in November of 2014, but have always been buoyed by the fact that a solid majority of Floridians showed strong support, getting over 57 percent of the vote. Earlier this year they reacted with excitement when Sen. Jeff Brandes announced a medical marijuana proposal. “We applaud the courage of Sen. Brandes introducing this important legislation (SB 528) and look forward to fighting side by side with him to bring comprehensive and compassionate medical marijuana policy to Florida,” said Ben Pollara with United for Care, the advocacy group that pushed to get the proposal passed at the polls in 2014. But they were less impressed when its House companion was introduced by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube – specifically finding fault with the fact that it excluded a number of qualifying symptoms and diseases, and also that it prohibited smoking the herb. But not even halfway thru the session, Brandes was admitting that his bill was going nowhere, slowly. “We are in legislative purgatory,” he said in late March. “It’s difficult to see how my bill moves forward at this point.” It never did. Hours after Steve Crisafulli informed his members that it was time to go home, Pollara was writing supporters, telling them that “Tallahassee has failed us again.” The campaign to get the measure on the 2016 ballot has now officially begun.
Big Tobacco – A proposal to limit punitive damages in tobacco cases never evensaw the light of day on the first committee this session. This despite the largest team of paid advocates in the Capitol.
Bike trails and school uniforms: The former is the pet project of Gardiner, while the latter is a priority for Crisafulli. When Session ends the way this one did, it goes without saying that the presiding officers’ projects get killed off like hostages in a bank robbery gone wrong.
Daytona International Speedway, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando City Soccer Club – After a seemingly impressive victory last session, the Tea Party forces in the House deflated the probability that the four qualified sports teams ever receive a dollar of state funding to finance stadium improvements and construction.
Delta Airlines and other major airlines – After a long, hard slog of a fight between major “legacy” airlines like United Airways and Delta and smaller carriers like Southwest and JetBlue, compromise language that seemed to make each side only slightly disappointed took flight in state Sen. Anitere Flores’ SB 722. That bill, however, got delayed in the tarmac of Senate Appropriations.
Dennis Baxley – The Ocala Republican ended up irking everyone earlier this legislative session on the issue of gay adoption. When Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson added an amendment that would repeal the language in Florida law that maintained the ban on same-sex adoptions, Baxley spoke movingly in support of the legislation, acknowledging it was an incredibly hard vote. It was so hard that he ended up reversing himself 48 hours later, after he received a scolding from his fellow social conservatives.But that reversal didn’t help him back home. A week later, the Marion County Republican Executive Committee approved a resolution criticizing him (and two other Marion County House members) who initially at least approved the measure. Baxley has indicated he intends to run for the state Senate District 5 seat next year, where he could very well be running against Inverness Representative Jimmie Smith, who no doubt may very well use Baxley’s initial vote against him.
Florida’s kids – For the second year in a row, a bill that would enhance health and safety requirements for providers of School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten programs will fail to cross the finish line. The Senate bill, SB 7006, was unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 21st, and is awaiting full Senate action. The House companion, HB 7017, championed by House Education Chair Marlene O’Toole, was passed unanimously by the full House on April 24st, and sent to the Senate and referred to committee. The House bill includes three reportedly agreed-to amendments related to safety and continuity of care under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in periods of termination of provider contracts, and deleted the funding from the bill. It now looks likely to be dead. Passing a health and safety bill has been a prerequisite before the House would take up any proposals to increase quality standards among Florida’s early learning providers. It’s failure could again delay that progress.
Frank Artiles – Artiles became nationally known during this past legislative session, and not the way that he surely intended to. The Miami Republican House member proposed HB 583, “The Single-Sex Public Facilities” bill, or as it was better known as, “the bathroom bill.” It would have made it illegal for any trans citizen to use a single-sex restroom that does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. It would also open the owner of any establishment where a trans person uses the restroom to lawsuits from other patrons. At the same time he was introducing that legislation, he was also vigorously denying that he punched a college student at Clyde and Costello’s not far from the Capitol. The former Marine suggested that if he had actually pounded on a student, he’d know it. “If I had hit somebody, they’d be in the hospital,” he boasted.
Gambling interests – The Charlie Brown of Florida politics. Each year, the Legislature, playing Lucy, promises not to pull the ball back if Charlie tries to kick it. And each year, the gambling interests pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions, only to see their bills roll snake eyes. At what point does Genting, Las Vegas Sands, and the other casinos get up from the table, at least for an election cycle?
Immigrants, legal and illegal – Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia’s legislation that would extend low-cost KidCare health insurance to roughly 25,000 of legal immigrants was stalled due to the feud over Medicaid expansion and LIP funding. Currently there’s a five -year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrants to qualify for such coverage. Though it passed two committees in the Senate, it never got a hearing in the House. Nor did Garcia’s more controversial bill that would grant driver’s licenses to qualify Florida residents regardless of their immigration status.(Considering how Garcia’s trip to DC with Sen. Garrett Richter to speak to health care officials pissed off Rick Scott royally, perhaps Garcia might be considered a loser as well?)
Mark Pafford – So where was the Democratic caucus in the House? Where was the Dan Gelber slowdown? Where was the Pelosi walk out? Other than occasionally raising a few hands, where was the outrage? A Democratic insider told me that the caucus didn’t even agree on a basic set of rules for taking a caucus position until way late in the session? Oh sure, we got a few emails and press releases, but at what point did the House Democrats matter even a little bit?
Miami-Dade health care officials – Nowhere are HIV transmissions rates higher in Florida than in Miami-Dade County. But needle exchange programs are prohibited under Florida law. But a proposal sponsored in the Senate by Miami Gardens Democrat Oscar Braynon would have enabled the state Dept. of Health to launch such a pilot program in Miami-Dade. It would also have provided drug treatment referrals, HIV testing and counseling services – and wouldn’t have cost state taxpayers a dime, as it would be funded by grants and private donors.
Norman Braman – Bazillionaire Norman Braman led the charge for a bill to tilt the scales in favor of his auto dealerships against out of state manufacturers, but was unsuccessful with the early end to the Session by the House. Winning on this issue was JM Family Enterprises (repped by Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan ), the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (repped by Travis Blanton and Jon Johnson) and individual manufacturers (Rich Heffley, Fred Dickinson).
Police dogs – We could go on for much longer about the wake of legislative destruction the House’s abrupt adjournment has wrought, but here is one example of a slam-dunk proposal that’s now dead. Sen. Joe Abruzzo sponsored a bill — which passed 40-0 and would have almost surely have passed the House in similar fashion — to allocate $300,000 to enhance the welfare of retired police dogs. Unfortunately, that bill has been put to sleep.
Prison reform legislation – Among the biggest disappointments coming out of the aborted 2015 Florida legislative session is the fact that the there apparently won’t be any bill reforming the state’s troubled corrections system. Last year, the state recorded at least 346 deaths inside the prison system, an all-time high for the state. Hundreds of those deaths from last year and beyond are now under investigation by the Department of Justice because of the role that law enforcement officers played in them. There were also complaints from inspectors who say they faced retaliation for exposing cover-ups and complaints from guards about a culture of intimidation against whistleblowers. That prompted legislation from Republican Senator Greg Evers from Baker. Among the provisions of the bill would require correctional officers to receive specialized training when it came to the use of force. It would prevent guards who had been written up twice for incidents involving inappropriate use of force from working with mentally ill prisoners or those on psychotropic drugs. It would also allow staff members to make anonymous and confidential reports to the Department of Corrections’ inspector general if they witness abuse or neglect of inmates but fear retribution.Miami Republican Carlos Trujillo later introduced his version in the House. It was similar to the House’s, but added a pilot program with body cameras that would take place at one facility, and also create a Joint Select Committee to oversee issues in the Corrections Dept., to be chosen by the Speaker of the House and Senate President.
Seminole Tribe of Florida – With the portion of the Seminole Gaming Pact that allows the to exclusive offer card games like blackjack set to expire later this summer, the Seminole Tribe desperately wanted lawmakers to renew the pact this year. The tribe says those card games provide 20,000 jobs, and they hired Tampa-based media consultant Adam Goodman to help produce a series of upbeat, positive ads selling featuring establishment figures like Florida Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Wilson and Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Carol Dover to sell that point. Senate Regulated Industry Committee Chairman Rob Bradley said last week that discussions with the Tribe and the Senate were still underway, though he expressed doubts that such a resolution could occur before the session ended.
Walmart – The retail giant’s second attempt to repeal the state’s 80-year-old requirement that separates hard liquor from other goods died a fiery death in the final House Committee hearing on a 6-10 vote.
Water policy advocates – Sen. Charlie Dean‘s massive water legislation package — SB 618 — is down the drain, despite this being a session expected to be a landmark year for water policy. Speaker Crisafulli made Amendment 1 implementation a signature issue, while his agricultural bona fides were supposed to make him the man for the season. With a bang of his gavel, however, state policy on large swaths of water issues will remain in limbo until next year.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.