Capitol Buzz for Thursday, 2/16
Five Stories To Think About Today
* The Parent Empowerment Act makes its final committee stop in the House Thursday. The bill would enable parents to demand sweeping changes at chronically low-performing schools. In some cases, parents could petition to have a charter-school operator take over.
* A bill that would change the standard for the amount of drugs someone must have to get a prison sentence makes its way to the Senate’s judiciary committee. It already passed handily in the criminal justice committee.
* A coalition of groups, including members of the Mortgage Justice group and the Occupy movement, will stage a march to the Capitol building to protest a House bill, HB 213, which attempts to speed up the judicial process of foreclosures. Florida has one of the longest of those processes in the nation.
* Now would be a good time to start practicing your “chomp.” Today is Gator Day at the Florida Capitol, with University of Florida President Bernie Machen and alumni visiting Tallahassee to talk up UF’s achievements – and it’s more than just football championships.
* Speaking of sports, tomorrow is the first hearing in the Senate’s commerce and tourism committee of a bill by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, whose district includes Daytona International Speedway, that would declare car racing the official state sport of Florida.
Three Issues You Missed Yesterday
* A proposal to authorize random drug tests for state employees came back to life, after a last-minute measure to rescue the dying bill before the casket closed on Wednesday. Interestingly enough, the motion to reconsider was made by Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, who originally voted against the bill.
* Wading into the sometimes controversial topic of child immunizations, the Senate’s Budget Committee inserted language into the state budget that requires students entering seventh grade be vaccinated against meningitis, in addition to other shots already on the books.
* Senators on Wednesday decided to remove from the state budget and a related bill a $25 million threat to USF. Legislators still plan to make USF sever its Polytechnic campus, but the university won't have a financial hammer being held over its head while they do it.
Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes
* Senate leadership and Gov. Rick Scott: After a hard loss earlier in the week, and a rebound Wednesday, what's in store for the Scott-backed tax plan that's moving to the Senate? In the bill is a corporate income tax exemption increase, cigarette tax funding change and other nuggets of gold--like cutting taxes on oil drilled in Florida--coming in pieces to the Senate floor.