The House gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that creates a narrow exception to the notorious 2006 lobbyist gift ban. The bill (SB 984) by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, clarifies the law that a legislator using a public facility for a public purpose such as a town hall meeting is not a violation of the lobbyist gift ban. A number of legislators also have rent-free office space from cities or counties that lobby the Legislature....
05/02/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — As the 2015 legislative session stumbled to a close Friday, Gov. Rick Scott's agenda lay in shambles, another victim of the Capitol's worst political breakdown in decades.
Fellow Republicans who control the Legislature failed to pass a budget, so Scott's call for more money for schools remains unfulfilled. He did not get $673 million in tax cuts he wanted, a freeze on graduate school tuition, repeal of the sales tax on college textbooks or a permanent end to the sales tax on manufacturing equipment....
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and a bitterly divided Legislature darted in four different directions Thursday as Scott called for budget talks, senators suggested a special session in June, the House did not favor either idea and Democrats sued the House.
As Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, proposed a three-week session starting June 1 to craft a state budget, Senate Democrats marched to the Florida Supreme Court with an emergency petition that asks justices to rule on whether the House violated the state Constitution by adjourning Tuesday afternoon. Senators say it's unconstitutional for one chamber to shut down for more than 72 hours without the other's consent....
Gov. Rick Scott has not been visible this week as the legislative session collapsed amid round after round of insults and threats of a lawsuit between his fellow Republicans. Scott's Thursday schedule showed "no scheduled events" and Scott's press office did not respond to two requests to identify where he is.
But Scott's office issued this news release in which Scott said he will begin working immediately with the Senate and House on a budget that will continue "critical programs." Scott's statement does say that any conversation on changes to health care policy should involve "thoughtful debate" -- which is what the Florida Senate has been seeking from the House for weeks....
04/29/15 State Roundup
As the 2015 legislative session melted down on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott moved forward with his proposed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.
Scott suggested the idea earlier this month, when he said he would readily call a special session to resolve outstanding budget issues.
"A thoughtful analysis of how taxpayer money supports Florida hospitals, insurance and health care providers will guide us in a special session and aid in the development of the (Fiscal Year) 2016-17 budget," he said in a statement. "This analysis will also help us prepare for the loss of (Low Income Pool) funding if the federal government decides to decline our amendment request before October."...
04/29/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature's chaotic session hit a new dysfunctional low Wednesday as an irate Senate demanded that House leaders bring lawmakers back to work or risk violating the state Constitution.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who had sent members home a day earlier, showed no signs of backing down. With increased vitriol on both sides, it appeared less likely than ever the House and Senate could come together for critical budget talks. ...
The Senate Wednesday passed and sent to Gov. Rick Scott a bill that seeks to reform the Public Service Commission that regulates Florida's biggest utilities. The 40-0 vote followed an impassioned speech by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who accused the House of bowing to lobbying pressure from Florida Power & Light, the state's largest utility. ...
The Florida Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring the state to create an online voter registration application by October 2017. The vote was 37-3. Senators agreed with a House amendment that requires the online portal to comply with state cybersecurity provisions and that it be tested before it's implemented.
Gov. Rick Scott can sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, spent much of the session trying to kill the legislation, saying he did not have a plan for its implementation and that it's a "high risk" undertaking. Detzner's persistent opposition played a role in the Senate's decision not to confirm his appointment as a state agency head....
With lots of time on their hands and few bills to consider on the final day, members of the Florida Senate took nearly an hour Wednesday to honor their long-time sergeant at arms, Don Severance, who's retiring after nearly four decades.
The sergeant at arms oversees Senate security and helps members with logistical, family and health issues. It may not be in the job description, but "Sarge" also knows the personal preferences of every senator, from what kind of bourbon they like to their favorite vacation spots. More than once, a sergeant has extricated a senator from a troublesome or potentially compromising situation. ...
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has spoken frequently this session about his commitment to a members-first style of leadership. But rank and file House members say Crisafulli didn't forewarn them that he was about to shut down the House on Tuesday. As a result, they realize they look like lemmings in a top-down driven House, and they're turning on him.
"We were given no notice ahead of time. No indication it was coming. We figured maybe it was the next day, or the following day," said Rep. Ray Pilon, a blindsided Sarasota Republican who saw a few of his bills fall victim to the shutdown. "I was very surprised and very disappointed that it was handled that way."...
The sudden shutdown of the Florida House that derailed the 2015 session Tuesday makes it even more difficult for the Legislature's presiding officers to agree on the framework for a special session. The ugliness between House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner won't easily subside, and Gov. Rick Scott has already said he would consider calling a special session if the Legislature's leaders can't pull it off....
04/28/15 State Roundup
Florida's Legislature collapsed into chaos Tuesday as the House unilaterally ended the annual session with more than three days left, leaving dozens of major bills dead and escalating tensions between the House and Senate over their health care stalemate.
The state Senate responded by remaining in session for two more hours and announcing plans to return Wednesday, an attempt to send the message that they are willing to work through the impasse that has bitterly divided Republicans, and frayed emotions....
04/28/15 Blog04/28/15 Blog
...04/28/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House on Tuesday overwhelmingly endorsed a new system of online voter registration, but added a new wrinkle.
Over the opposition of county election supervisors, Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, added a provision that bounced the bill back to the Senate for another floor vote. Although the House abruptly ended its regular session Tuesday, the Senate will still be considering measures Wednesday....04/27/15 State Roundup
The Florida Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a bill that requires the state to create an online voter registration application by 2017.
The 34 to 3 vote sends the bill to the House, where passage is also expected, despite strong opposition from Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
To underscore bipartisan support for online voter registration, the Senate's Republican leadership left a Democratic senator as the bill's sponsor. The bill (SB 228) is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. Three Republican senators voted no....