Capitol Buzz for Friday, 3/9
Five Stories To Think About Today
* The Legislature is cruising toward sine die, but can't get there without passing a budget. After days of negotiations, Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, churned out a 122-page bill that's up for a vote in both chambers. The Florida Supreme Court could also release a ruling on the constitutionality of the Senate's redistricting maps.
* The Senate will take a final vote on SB 1718, known as "parent trigger." Prompting fierce debate in both chambers, the proposal would enable parents at low-performing schools to demand sweeping changes, including transforming the school into a charter school.
* The House is expected to take on the Senate version of the PIP reform bill, designed to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance system. Gov. Rick Scott has called PIP reform a top priority, but criticizes shortcomings in the Senate bill.
* Scott's proposal for $120 million in business tax cuts is up for a Senate vote. The plan passed the House by a wide margin.
* The Senate is expected to vote on an amended bill that would crack down on dangerous assisted living facilities and ramp up protections for residents. Racing against the clock, the bill is expected to bounce back to the House.
Three Issues You Missed Yesterday
* As lawmakers ended budget talks Thursday, a new idea suddenly surfaced: Giving tax breaks to insurers for paying insurance premium taxes faster. The revenue, estimated at up to $1.5 billion, would shore up an estimated $3 billion shortfall in the state's hurricane catastrophe fund, the source of money to pay homeowners if a major hurricane strikes Florida.
* After the House approved a bill last week that would allow universities to raise their tuitions beyond a 15 percent cap, the Senate followed suit today (SB 1752), with three top-ranking senators voting no, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, incoming President Don Gaetz and Andy Gardiner. Under the bill, universities would have to meet 11 of 14 benchmarks before they're able to ask for additional hikes from the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Only the University of Florida and Florida State University meet those currently.
* A proposal to award $10.75 million to a Sunrise man who was permanently injured by a speeding cop 14 years ago is on a fast-track to the governor’s desk after a new agreement to eliminate all fees associated with the claim. The bill passed the House on Thursday by a wide margin and now heads back to the Senate, where it is expected to be passed on the final day of Session.
Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes
* This quote of the day is actually a day old, but well worth the wait:
"I think Jay-Z said it best, and I'mma quote for you: 'I know my rights, so you're gonna need a warrant for that,' and he even went further to say, 'Aren't you sharp as a tack, you a lawyer or somethin'?' You know, so, members, when you're looking at this, support this. If you support Jay-Z, support this amendment. Thank you." -Rep. Alan Williams, discussing CS/HB 701, a bill and subsequent amendments to change the Florida Evidence Code.
"You know, and I must respectfully disagree with a correction, Rep. Williams: In that song, it was the officer who said 'Aren't you sharp as a tack or somethin' / You should try for a lawyer or somethin', so I got you on that. It's an unspoken rule of Chair Aubuchon that if you're going to invoke Jay-Z, you must get the lyrics correct. I'm not sure Jay-Z would support this amendment. Rep. Sands, in debate." -Speaker Dean Cannon, correcting the Representative on his lyrics to the Jay-Z song, "99 Problems".
Note that neither Representative was entirely right about the lyrics. According to a lyrics website and a listening of the song, the referenced lines are: "And I know my rights, so you gon' need a warrant for that / 'Aren't you sharp as a tack! You some type of lawyer or somethin', somebody important or somethin'?'"