Thursday marks the third day of the Florida legislative session. Here are five things to watch:
* The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee holds a hearing on a bill to restrict cities from relying on their police departments to issue ticket quotas to balance their budgets. The bill (SB 264), by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, is a reaction to ticket-writing policies by the North Florida cities of Hampton and Waldo....
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's planned purge of the leaders of three state agencies is hitting roadblocks as Cabinet members say he's moving too hastily and not giving the embattled directors a chance to defend themselves.
Scott's office floated new performance measures for all three officials Wednesday, in advance of a Cabinet meeting next week. But he ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from aides to Cabinet members, who wondered why the agencies themselves aren't being given more of a say in how they are evaluated....
Gov. Rick Scott faces new roadblocks in trying to fire heads of three Cabinet-level agencies at the start of his second term. At Wednesday's meeting of policy aides to Scott and Cabinet members, Scott's aide appeared to contradict the governor's own intentions on whether those agency heads should be present next Tuesday when new performance measures are discussed.
The push for new "metrics" follows the botched dismissal of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who lost his job with no review or public discussion of his performance, which has triggered a lawsuit alleging the Sunshine law was broken. Scott replaced Bailey on an interim basis with another FDLE veteran, Rick Swearingen, whose appointment was later ratified by the Cabinet. The surprise maneuver allowed Scott to have unilateral power to appoint a powerful agency head who also reports to the three independently-elected Cabinet members, Pam Bondi, Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam....
As Jeb Bush's original running mate, House speaker and Republican member of Congress, Tom Feeney was a conservative firebrand and constant critic of the federal government.
But times have changed.
As the public face of Associated Industries of Florida, a business lobby group, Feeney is pushing Medicaid expansion in Tallahassee, and on Wednesday he preached to the choir of the Senate Democratic Caucus on the issue. The double whammy of no Medicaid expansion and the loss of federal low income pool money could result in a potential $1.5 billion tax on businesses, he said. AIF has been pushing Medicaid expansion in Tallahassee for two-and-a-half years to no avail, he said....
Facing a pending lawsuit alleging violations of Florida's open meetings law, aides to Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members refused Wednesday to discuss how to make their work more transparent. The decision came at a meeting of nine Cabinet aides in advance of the next Cabinet meeting March 10.
Attorney General Pam Bondi's aide, Rob Johnson, cited "ongoing litigation" in postponing any talk among the aides of whether minutes of aides' meetings should be kept and training aides in compliance with the Sunshine Law, calling it "premature." The issue remains up for discussion by Scott and Cabinet members next week....
Today marks the second day of the 2015 legislative session. Here are five things to watch:
• The long-running legal battle over the 2012 redrawing of Florida's political boundaries shifts to the state Supreme Court, as the League of Women Voters will challenge the Legislature's redrawing of two of the state's congressional districts based on the so-called "fair districts" amendments adopted by voters. Republican legislative leaders are privately bracing for a defeat in the state's highest court....
03/03/15 State Roundup
The 2015 session of the Legislature began Tuesday with two starkly different visions of Florida, as Republicans and Democrats used the opening day to mark their political territory and set contrasting priorities for the next two months.
In his fifth State of the State address to the Legislature, Republican Gov. Rick Scott described a thriving land of opportunity with low unemployment, low taxes, low state debt and a shrinking state workforce, using the term "Florida exceptionalism" to describe the state's vast potential....
The 2015 session of the Legislature opened Tuesday in Tallahassee with an upbeat State of the State speech from Gov. Rick Scott, who described a Florida where "everything is possible."
Addressing all 160 lawmakers in the House chamber, Scott reiterated his goals of cutting taxes, spending more money for public schools and job training and freezing graduate school tuition in Florida universities....
TALLAHASSEE — Tuesday is the first day of the 2015 session of the Florida Legislature — the 117th regular session since statehood in 1845. Here are five things to watch:
• The House will convene at 9:30 a.m. and the Senate at 10. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, will each outline their top priorities for the session....
Gov. Rick Scott will deliver his fifth State of the State address to the Legislature on Tuesday.
It marks the beginning of the 2015 session, but it could be a lot more than just another speech by a politician.
For Scott, it's a golden opportunity to exceed others' expectations of him, and to prove that he meant what he said on Election Night.
"The campaign is over," Scott said in November. "It's time to put all the division behind us and come together. Forget the partisanship."...
Richard Gonzmart, the "triple threat" Tampa restaurateur (Goody Goody, Ulele and the venerable Columbia) will be a guest of Gov. Rick Scott at Tuesday's State of the State address in the Capitol, the governor's office confirmed Monday, and will be mentioned in the annual State of the State speech for his business success. (Any free samples of that famous Spanish Bean soup?)...
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, covered a wide range of topics in a pre-session Times/Herald interview in his Capitol office. Some highlights:
* Being speaker: As the replacement for the defeated Rep. Chris Dorworth, Crisafulli became speaker by accident, but he says it was the right way. "My path to this position was exactly what most of y'all in the press say is what's wrong with the process, that you're picked before you're proven. I got picked after I was proven. So it should be, in y'all's minds, the conventional way of coming to this position."...
Today is the calm before the storm: the day before the start of the 2015 legislative session. Here are five things to watch in Florida's Capitol:
- The date of Florida's 2016 presidential primary will be debated in the House Rules Committee as the panel considers a bill to set the date for March 15 to comply with national political party rules. The nation's biggest swing state could play a bigger role in 2016 with the expected candidacies of former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
- Stores in poor areas with few grocery stores could reap a "food desert" tax credit under a bill before the Senate Agriculture Committee. That's desert, not dessert. The bill (SB 610), by Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, could benefit chains such as CVS and Walgreens if they collect at least 20 percent of their gross receipts from sales of fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat products.
- The Department of Health will try again to set up a regulatory framework for nurseries to enter Florida's pot-for-profit industry under a 2014 law that allows limited medical marijuana use for patients with severe spasms or cancer. The first proposed rule was tossed out by a hearing officer and an attorney for the Legislature says the new rule is too vague.
- The day before the start of the session is the last day lawmakers can solicit and collect campaign contributions from lobbyists and their clients until the session ends. Dozens of them will have receptions, the Republican Party of Florida holds a fundraiser, and Senate Democrats host a "drink, drop and dash" reception at the Governor's Club. The "drop" refers to checks of up to $1,000 each.
- Associated Industries of Florida, a lobby group for business, holds its traditional pre-session reception for lawmakers from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at its headquarters north of the Capitol. Platinum-level sponsors include Duke Energy, Florida Blue, Florida Power & Light and U.S. Sugar, and invitations carry a note that because of Florida's gift ban, legislators have to pay their own way at $25 a ticket.
TALLAHASSEE — The 2015 session of the Florida Legislature begins Tuesday here with new leaders facing fresh challenges and competing demands for a projected $1 billion budget surplus.
Gov. Rick Scott ceremonially starts the session Tuesday when he delivers the annual State of the State speech to lawmakers. The 60-day session is scheduled to end May 1.
Republicans outnumber Democrats 26-14 in the Senate and 80-39 in the House, with one House seat in Tampa vacant....
Coming in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times: The most comprehensive package of news, commentary and opinion on the Florida legislative session that opens Tuesday. You can find it all in the Perspective section.
Front and center is a story about a newly emboldened Legislature that appears ready to challenge Gov. Rick Scott on a number of issues. The strongly-Republican Legislature is literally the "elephant in the room" -- a concept expertly captured by Times illustrator Steve Madden. ...