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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill to sever parental rights of rapists ready for governor

A bill that will sever the parental rights of  a rapist if a child is conceived as a result of the attack, passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 115-0. The bill (SB 964), sponsored by Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott.
Current law allows for the court to terminate a parent's right if the termination is in the best interest of the child but does not include rape as grounds for termination of parental rights.

Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth, sponsor of the House companion bill, said that "it's important to bring our laws into conformity with the 21st century." But "the fact that we would allow a father, a rapist, to petition the court for parental rights, and that court would not have the authority to not grant the petition under our current statuatory law is deplorable quite frankly.

Kerner, an attorney, former Lake Worth police officer and special prosecutor, said he believes the bill can do more than modernize the law.


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Abortion-related bill headed to governor

For the first time in two years, an abortion-related bill has passed both legislative houses and it is headed to the governor, who has already indicated his praise of a bill that focuses on infants born alive after a failed abortion.

The Senate passed the House version (HB 1129), by a vote of 38-0 on Tuesday without any debate. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, passed that chamber by a vote of 119-0 on April 17. The Senate companion was sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

The bill has had rare bipartisan support. Even Planned Parenthood withdrew its opposition early on after a provision severing parental rights was removed.The measure requires health providers to give any infant born alive emergency medical care or face criminal penalties. The bill requires that cases of live births following an abortion attempt be reported.

A failed abortion could result in a live birth in a late-term abortion, which can only be performed if two physicians agree the mother's life is at risk, or if the mother was further into her pregnancy than thought.

Gov. Rick Scott said earlier this month that he looks "forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk."

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Mixed feelings over Senate vote to kill parent trigger

Quite a few press releases went out after the Florida Senate killed the parent trigger bill on Tuesday. Here's a sampling.

Bob McClure, president and CEO of the James Madison Institute: "Many Florida parents whose children are assigned to a chronically failing school have been seeking better options. Unfortunately, the state Senate’s failure to pass parent empowerment legislation has denied these parents a remedy that is already available in several other states. As a result, too many of Florida’s children will be left behind in situations that stifle their academic growth and limit their future opportunities. Clearly the state has missed an opportunity to do what is in the best interest of these children. We hope that the Florida legislature will reconsider and choose to empower parents with the additional options necessary to provide their kids a fighting chance for a better future." …

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Bill that replaces 'mental retardation' with 'intellectual disabilities' headed to Gov. Scott

Brittany Norman, a 25-year-old Tallahassee woman with down syndrome, had a message for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday: "Sign the bill." She was referring to SB 142, which replaces the words mental retardation with intellectual disability in state law. Norman was in the House gallery when the bill passed by a vote of 119-0 -- it already clinched a unanimous vote in the Senate so it's headed to the governor.

Norman said she hopes changing the word in state law will help change the names people call her. She wiped away tears as she recalled being called "retard" and "ugly." 

"It makes me sad," she said.

Norman was one of several people with disabilities who spoke in legislative committees to support the bill. Seeing such support made her feel "happy," Norman said.

Michele Poole, president of The Arc of Florida said federal health, education and labor policy statutes were changed in 2010 when Congress passed and President Obama signed Rosa’s Law. Thirty-nine other states have made similar changes to their state laws.

“We launched the 'End the R-word' in Florida campaign after so many people we serve asked for a change,” Poole said. …

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Filibuster flashback: How Speaker Rubio handled the marathon in 2008

April 17, 2008 -- 11:25 a.m.

"The sergeant will secure the chamber," declares House Speaker Marco Rubio. "I also order the sergeant to find each member of the House and bring them into the chamber. I think we'll make plans to be here quite awhile." Three minutes later, clerks begin reading an 86-page condo association measure.

Thus began a saga that would last until 2:17 a.m. the next day, Democrats forcing bills to be read word-for-word. As the hours passed, Rubio was, in turns, surly (12:40 p.m. he cuts off Internet and BlackBerry service) and overcome with laughter. There was tension and hilarity, and a mysterious pen napper.

Read the blog entry from 2008 here.

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Weatherford loses showdown with Senate, pension reform dead

Sen. Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, right, speaks about two firefighters he knew who made only $26,000 and perished in a fire. Latvala voted against prohibiting state employees from enrolling in the state's pension system, killing one of the main priorities of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Sen. Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, right, speaks about two firefighters he knew who made only $26,000 and perished in a fire. Latvala voted against prohibiting state employees from enrolling in the state's pension system, killing one of the main priorities of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

After months of calling pension reform a top priority in his inaugural year as Florida House speaker, Will Weatherford could do nothing Tuesday as his plan went down to defeat in the Senate.

A third of Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting 22-18 against an amendment that would have banned new state workers, teachers and county workers from joining the state’s $132 billion pension system, and steer them instead toward private, 401(k)-style investment plans, shifting the risk from taxpayers to workers.

“One of the reasons they work for government is not for the salary,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. “They haven’t had raises in six or seven years. It’s for the pension and if we want to continue to have the quality of employees that we have, we need to continue to offer that pension.”

 

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Rubio slight favorite among Republicans for 2016; Bush close behind

Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite among Democrats in the 2016 presidential race while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio leads -- slightly -- the Republican field, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll.

The national poll of registered voters found that 63 percent of self-identified Democrats and those who lean Democratic support Clinton. Joe Biden came second with 12 percent, followed by Andrew Cuomo with 3 percent.

"As for the current crop of frequently mentioned Republican possibilities, Republicans split their loyalties about evenly among Florida Senator Mario Rubio (18%), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (16%), and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (14%). Another nine percent endorse former US Senator Rick Santorum, and a fifth each prefer someone else (21%) or are unsure (21%)"

The most poll was conducted by telephone from April 22 through April 28, 2013 using a randomly selected sample of 863 registered voters nationwide. It has a MOE of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

More here.

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Crist: Governor should force Legislature to keep working on Medicaid expansion

Add former and potential future Gov. Charlie Crist among the people behind the Senate's Medicaid expansion alternative. He posted a rant on his Facebook page today criticizing House Republicans for failing to embrace Sen. Joe Negron's proposal, which would qualify for $51 billion federal dollars to insure 1 million Floridians.

If he were governor, Crist writes, he would force the Legislature to keep working until they got it done. Ball's in your court, Gov. Rick Scott.

From Crist's Facebook page:

It is really disappointing to watch the Legislature, particularly the Florida House of Representatives put ideology over the health care needs of working uninsured Floridians. The plan the Florida Senate has designed will build on one of the best public private health care partnerships in America, KidCare, and would provide more than 1 million working uninsured Floridians access to real private health insurance.

I know one thing, if this debate had happened during my term as Governor, the Legislature and I would have spent all summer in Tallahassee until we had done the right thing by the people that we all serve.

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No Siri, but House reads bills in full as Dems retailiate

 Rep. Ben Albritton, R- Wauchula, front,  listens to the full reading of a bill, Tuesday on the floor of the Florida House. In a act of retaliation against the stalemate on health insurance reform, the House Democrats demanded that the Republican-controlled chamber read every bill in its entirety for the remaining days of session.

Rep. Ben Albritton, R- Wauchula, front, listens to the full reading of a bill, Tuesday on the floor of the Florida House. In a act of retaliation against the stalemate on health insurance reform, the House Democrats demanded that the Republican-controlled chamber read every bill in its entirety for the remaining days of session.

Where is Siri? In a act of retaliation against the stalemate on health insurance reform, the House Democrats demanded that the Republican-controlled chamber read every bill in its entirety for the remaining days of session.

House Democratic Chairman Perry Thurston and Rep. Mia Jones met with the Gov. Rick Scott this morning and warned him that they were prepared to use the parlimentary manueuver -- Florida's equivalent of a filibuster -- to draw attention to the health insurance issues. Scott has endorsed a Senate plan to draw down $5 billion in federal money to expand health insurance to the uninsured poor in Florida but House Republicans have refused that plan and have proposed an alternative that accepts no federal Medicaid money.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he was angered by the reaction of House leaders, particularly Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, for calling the move "jihadist." Democrats met in the back of the chamber to discuss the move, calling it "the nuclear option." After debate on a bill relating to nuclear cost recovery, Democrats declared "the nuke is a go." It was 2:35 p.m. …

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Gov. Scott: 'Ridiculous' legislature dragging its feet on tax cut

Florida Governor Rick Scott talks to the media  in his office at the Capitol.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Florida Governor Rick Scott talks to the media in his office at the Capitol.

Gov. Rick Scott fired back at legislative leaders Tuesday for not embracing his call to eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, one of his two priorities in the 2013 session.

With frustration evident in his voice, Scott said he believed he had agreement with legislative leaders to repeal the tax for a three-year period. Neither the Senate president nor the House speaker would confirm that Monday night.

"I don't know what they're saying now. They'll have to explain that," Scott said. "It would be ridiculous not to cut taxes in a year when we have a budget surplus."

Scott went on to say: "They have to explain what they meant. I know that we had an agreement, a three-year agreement."

An analysis says repeal of the tax would result in a loss of about $140 million in sales tax revenue to the state, cities and counties. The budget before lawmakers is $74.5 billion, and is about $4 billion higher than current spending.

Scott didn't stop there: He directly criticized the Legislature for writing a budget that includes a 3 percent tuition increase on in-state students. To Scott, raising tuition is the same as raising taxes, which he also called "ridiculous." …

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Citizens bill--minus rate hikes--clears House in 111-6 vote

 

 

After stripping a controversial property insurance reform bill of any hint of rate increases, the Florida House voted 111-6 on more modest changes that won’t hit pocketbooks as hard as a bill passed by the Senate. 

Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, said the House had worked with Gov. Rick Scott to come up with a proposal that would not increase rates at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Holder said the House proposal had four main goals: 

“Reducing the size and exposure of Citizens, thereby reducing risk to the state; Limiting rate and assessment shock; Increased accountability at Citizens; and needed changes for all property insurers and their consumers,” he said. 

The Senate hoped to reduce the size and exposure of Citizens as well, but sought to do so by increasing rates for new policyholders, including increases of up to 100 percent in some areas. It also included controversial proposals allowing Citizens to loan out millions of dollars to private insurers and making the company’s director an appointee of Scott.  …

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House passes last-minute texting amendment that threatens bill

A late amendment that supporters of a texting while driving ban fear could kill the legislation passed Tuesday morning.

The amendment proposed by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, would allow cell phone records to be used as evidence only in the case of a crash resulting in death or personal injury. Oliva said the purpose of the amendment is to “protect civil liberties” not derail the bill.

But Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, said it was “deceptive and dishonest” to tack on an amendment at the last minute.

Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, said “We see amendments every day and no one is accusing anyone else of being scheming or being dishonest.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice and Reps. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota,

Detert, R-Venice, who has been trying to get a bill passed for four years, stood at the back of the House chamber during the texting amendment discussion and left immediately after the vote.

Detert said she came over after hearing about the amendment while sitting at her desk and she was "suspicious" of the bill's timing," noting that the bill has been awaiting action in the House for weeks. …

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Senate approves 'NegronCare' but not unanimously

Sen. Jeff Brandes was the lone spoiler in the Senate's attempt to maintain a unified front on the Medicaid expansion debate.

The St. Petersburg Republican was the sole "no" vote on HB 7169, which the Senate approved 38-1. This amended bill contains the Senate's plan, an alternative to expansion that qualifies for $51 billion federal dollars to insure 1 million people.

The measure now heads back to the House but likely won't be taken up again since that chamber already rejected the Senate plan last week.

Brandes said he voted against the plan because it relies heavily on federal dollars. He doesn’t believe the government can afford it now, and he doesn’t believe it will make good on its promises over the long term.

"Our federal government has run a huge deficit and this is just going to continue to add to that deficit, and I truly don't believe they're going to continue the federal match," Brandes said after the vote.

The Senate's plan, originally contained in SB 1816, had received unanimous votes in its two previous committee stops. But that is partially because Brandes doesn't sit on either of them.

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Senate kills parent trigger bill

Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel, R- Lakeland is greeted by Sen Nancy Detert, R- Venice, after Stargel's "parent trigger" bill was defeated in the Senate Tuesday. Detert voted against the bill.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel, R- Lakeland is greeted by Sen Nancy Detert, R- Venice, after Stargel's "parent trigger" bill was defeated in the Senate Tuesday. Detert voted against the bill.

The Florida Senate killed the controversial parent trigger bill Tuesday.

The bill died almost exactly as it did last year: in a 20-20 vote in the final week of the session.

"The second time is just as sweet," said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford, who helped lead the opposition against the bill. "I'm happy that the Legislature stepped up and did what's right for the state of Florida."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, would have let parents demand sweeping changes at failing public schools, including having the school transformed into a charter school.It had been watered down by an amendment from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that would have allowed school boards to reject parent petitions.

Most observers thought the Simmons amendement would have given Stargel the votes she needed to pass the bill out of the upper chamber. But a handul of Republicans joined the Democratic opposition Tuesday, including: Sens. Nancy Detert, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia, Jack Latvala, Greg Evers and Charlie Dean.

Detert pointed out that parents across the state had opposed the legislation. …

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Trade emerging -- pension vote in exchange for clean medmal bill

It's that time in the Florida Legislature when surprises emerge from every corner as votes become commodities and policy debates take a back seat to raw gamesmanship with the clock ticking toward Friday's end of session.

So it is that we saw action this morning on House Speaker Will Weatherford's priority -- his bill to end the state's defined benefit system for new employees so that the state can shift the risk from taxpayers to workers. Senate leaders agreed to allow a version of his plan come up for a vote in the Senate, with no guarantee of passage. The board vote is being sought by the Florida Chamber and other proponents of the plan,which could potentially use it against Republicans in a primary. 

In return for the favor, the House is expected to take up a bill to limit medical malpractice for doctors that is the priority of Senate President Don Gaetz's. Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, James Grant, R-Tampa, told the Herald/Times they have agreed to withdraw their amendments. The amendments were opposed by the bill's sponsors, including Gaetz' son Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar. …

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