Bill takes aim
at double-dippers on state payroll
State employees who retire would have to wait 12 months before going back to work for the state under a bill approved by the Florida House Wednesday.
The curb on "double-dipping" state employees also prevents such returning workers from accruing a second state pension. And it requires supervisors to notify the governor, the House speaker and Senate president to justify hiring a retiree, said the sponsor Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill.
In an 89-23 vote, Schenck succeeded in attaching the provision to a retirement bill (SB 2848) that passed the House 114-3. The bill authorizes, but doesn't fund, a study to look into "different retirement options for returning employees," according to the bill.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where a similar measure was killed in committee.
Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, vowed on Wednesday to strip the amendment aimed at curbing double-dipping or to make sure the bill is not heard before the Legislature adjourns Friday.
"If I don't have enough votes to do it, I won't take up the bill," Lawson said.
Senate sends energy bill on to governor
With a 39-1 vote, the Florida Senate sent to Gov. Charlie Crist an omnibus energy bill he has made one of his top legislative priorities.
But to do so, the Senate accepted a last-minute House amendment pushed by automakers that prevents the state's environmental agency from setting strong auto emissions standards at the same levels as California.
Such a new standard would have to pass legislative approval under the bill (HB 7135). Crist signed off on the change.
The bill creates a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, which must come back for legislative approval. And it includes utility-friendly language, such as making it easier for utilities to run transmission lines through state lands. It also enshrines the promotion of nuclear power as part of the state's strategy to pursue low-carbon power.
At the behest of Publix and other businesses, the bill also would prohibit local governments from banning plastic shopping bags, as San Francisco has done.
Florida Forever, well, for another 10 years
Florida Forever, the state's land-buying program for conservation, will be extended another 10 years under a bill (SB 542) the House unanimously sent to the governor Wednesday.
Crist is expected to sign the plan extending the program to 2020, with $5.3-billion in bonding authority over that 10-year period. In this year's budget, the Florida Forever program has $300-million to spend on land acquisition. The Senate unanimously approved the plan last week.
The bill includes new twists, including money to buy conservation easements on agricultural land and more money to purchase and conserve working waterfronts, like historic fishing docks.
Commuter rail plan may be at end of line
A $650-million plan for an Orlando commuter rail appeared to be in jeopardy Wednesday after it was stripped from a major transportation bill (SB 1978).
Sponsoring Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, said opposition to the plan to provide private railroad company CSX immunity from liability when it runs freight trains on the commuter track threatened to sink the rest of the plan.
The House has approved the plan, but a growing number of senators oppose the liability language, which CSX demanded if it's to sell the rail line for the project.
"I think the liability issue's dead," said Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, a top advocate.
Times staff writers Jennifer Liberto and David DeCamp contributed to this report.