Capitol Buzz for Wednesday, 2/15
Five Stories To Think About Today
* The Senate, lagging behind the House, finally takes up a $70 billion budget on Wednesday. Soon the annual dance will begin when the two chambers try to match their recommendations before submitting them to Gov. Rick Scott.
* University of South Florida students will be arriving by the busload to protest the Senate’s recommendations to cut the school’s funding more than any other state university. Budget chairman Sen. JD Alexander stirred up serious controversy with the cut recommendations. They were revealed days after a bill was slipped into the budget to kick-start Alexander’s pet project to create the 12th university out of the USF Polytechnic branch campus in Lakeland.
* On the other side of the Capitol, the House is in session and scheduled to vote on a bill that, if approved, would allow pharmacists to give vaccinations for chicken pox and pneumonia and to use an epi-pen on people having an allergic reaction. Right now, pharmacists are only authorized to give flu vaccinations and this is a fight between pharmacists and doctors.
* Meanwhile, House appropriations will also discuss legislation that would allow for random drug testing of state workers. It has already passed one committee on a party-line vote.
* And the House Finance and Tax Committee will examine a wide-ranging energy bill, HB 7117, pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. They will also take up a bill that allows online travel companies to only pay taxes on the wholesale portion of a customer’s bill.
Three Issues You Missed Yesterday
* The Florida Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposal to privatize 27 state prisons and work camps after two days of tense debate. The proposal fell 21-19 with the Senate’s 12 Democrats joining nine Republicans to kill the bill.
* In an unsurprising vote, lawmakers who also work in the state university system chose not to impose a conflict of interest bill upon themselves. The bill would have forced lawmakers to choose either politics or teaching, but not both, as in the case of several legislators currently.
Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes
* Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales): After a massive defeat on prison privatization Tuesday and what appears to be an increasingly uphill battle for his push for USF Polytechnic's secession, will Alexander set USF students straight today--as he said he looked forward to doing in a post-session intervew Tuesday--and, if so, how will he convince them otherwise?