TALLAHASSEE — Today, the first day of the session's third week, begins with a bang.
Guns: An NRA gun bill is up in the House Community & Military Affairs Committee. It would slap heavy fines on any local official who votes to regulate guns. The measure, designed in reaction to South Miami and Palm Beach County regulations, is designed to reinforce the law that reserves all Florida gun control to the NRA-friendly Legislature.
Campaign cash: In the Senate Ethics & Election Committee, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla wants to dramatically expand contribution limits from $500 to: $10,000 for gubernatorial candidates and committees that support or oppose them; $5,000 for other statewide candidates and committees that support or oppose them; $2,500 for legislative candidates and committees that support or oppose them; and $1,000 for county office candidates and committees that support or oppose them.
"Misleading" ballots: The committee also will hear a bill giving the Legislature a second chance at keeping measures on the ballot that courts declare "misleading." The bill also would prohibit paid-signature gatherers for initiatives from being paid on a per-signature basis and would ensure that they're not felons.
Abortion: The House Civil Justice Subcommittee plans to vote on restrictions to Florida's parental-notice law for minors seeking abortions. The bill says a court can grant a waiver of the notice requirement if the judge finds by "clear and convincing evidence" that notification isn't in the best interest of the minor. It says that "best interest" cannot include financial matters. So poverty can't be part of the court issue. Also, judges must weigh "whether there may be any undue influence by another on the minor's decision to have an abortion."
Medicaid: The Senate's Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee will release its budget, and it's going to be ugly for the people and businesses that depend on the $22 billion program. Chairman Joe Negron said he wants to cut more than $1 billion.
Other Senate budget committees will meet Monday as well to review their draft budgets. The budget — the only constitutionally required bill the Legislature must pass in the 60-day session — is coming into clearer focus now that state economists met Friday to give their final forecast for general-revenue tax collects.
As expected, the revenue collections will be lower than expected. However, not too much lower. Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander expected a $200 million hit. Economists forecast a $216 million shortfall for next budget year, but they said this year the state will take in a little more than originally anticipated. That makes the bottom-line reduction about $135 million.
Total estimated budget shortfall: $3.75 billion.