The first Friday of the 2014 legislative session will be very quiet at the Capitol as Fridays usually are in early March. Here are five things to watch:
- Gov. Rick Scott visits Miami for a morning event to promote money in his budget for PACE Centers for Girls, an education and counseling program.
- The Commission on Ethics meets in Tallahassee and will take action on several pending cases and advisory legal opinions.
- An Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) committee will discuss ways to increase the use of electronic medical records in Florida.
- State economists meet to fine-tune the projected property tax collections this year from all 67 counties.
- Candidates for statewide office and the Legislature will likely be compiling contribution and expenditure reports that are due Monday, March 10.
TALLAHASSEE — At the urging of state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate will take up voting law changes that include preventing counties from using satellite locations where voters can drop off absentee ballots.
The proposal is aimed at Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, but it antagonized two other supervisors who say dropoff sites save money and are convenient for voters....
TALLAHASSEE — In a long-anticipated decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that Tampa immigrant Jose Godinez-Samperio cannot practice law because he's not a citizen, and called on the Legislature to correct what it called an "injustice."
"The Florida Legislature is in the unique position to act on this integral policy question and remedy the inequities that the unfortunate decision of this Court will bring to bear," justices wrote....
In a long-anticipated decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Tampa immigrant and FSU law school graduate Jose Godinez-Samperio cannot be admitted to the Florida Bar.
But the court called on the Florida Legislature to intervene quickly to correct what it called an "injustice." When a similar set of circumstances occurred in California, that state's Legislature changed the law to allow non-citizens to become members of the Bar....
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has drafted a bill dealing with online voter registration, absentee ballots and other election issues. Tucked into the 38-page bill is language that would limit the use of absentee ballot dropoff sites by several county election supervisors, most notably Pinellas County's Deborah Clark.
Clark clashed with Secretary of State Ken Detzner in December after he issued a surprise directive saying that the use of remote dropoff locations for absentee ballots was not authorized by law. Clark served notice she would ignore Detzner's order and is using three tax collector offices and two branch county libraries for ballot dropoffs in the current special election in the 13th congressional district....
Today marks the third day of the 2014 legislative session. Here are five things to watch:
- The so-called Pop-Tart bill gets an airing in the House. The bill (HB 7029) by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a stalwart supporter of gun owners' rights, protects children from being punished for having food shaped like a gun, as a child in Maryland did by eating a gun-shaped Pop-Tart.
- Legislation to protect sharks from having fins removed for sale in Florida waters will be considered by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The bill (SB 540) exempts restaurants until July 1. New York, California and several other states passed similar laws.
- On public records, a Senate panel will take up SB 7064, which clarifies that a request for records does not have to be made in writing, and the cost of producing the records must be no more than the hourly pay of the lowest paid employee capable of doing the work. The First Amendment Foundation calls the bill "a step in the right direction."
- Cities and counties would have to give preference to Florida-based companies in awarding many state-funded contracts as the state already does, under a bill (SB 616) by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. The bill comes before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.
- Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will meet for the first time in weeks. Their agenda includes issuing $267 million in bonds to make improvements on Florida's Turnpike system and selling two parcels of state-owned land in Palm Beach and Seminole counties.
The Florida House advanced a bill Wednesday to deal with the state's flood insurance crisis by encouraging more private insurers to write policies. HB 879 won by unanimous vote at its first stop, the House Banking & Insurance Subcommittee.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, represents part of Pinellas County, which has more federally subsidized flood insurance policies than any other Florida county. ...
The state House advanced a bill Wednesday to deal with Florida's flood insurance crisis by encouraging more private insurers to write policies. The bill (HB 879) won a unanimous vote at its first stop at the House Banking & Insurance Subcommittee on the day after Congress, reacting to an outcry from homeowners, agreed to undo major provisions of a 2012 law that would impose large rate increases....
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday will announce $194 million in improvements to Tampa International Airport, with the money earmarked for a new rental car center, transit stop and people mover to accommodate future growth at one of America's busiest airports.
The project, called the Tampa Gateway Center, will feature a 1.3 mile long automated people mover linking the airport's economy parking garage and rental car center to the main terminal. The airport is investing another $749 million in the project, Scott's office said....
On Day 2 of the Legislature's annual session today, abortions, guns and nursing homes will enter the political debate. Here are five things to watch:
- Abortions would be banned in Florida with rare exceptions if a doctor "reasonably determines" that a fetus can survive outside the womb. The bill (SB 918), by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, will be debated by the Senate Health Policy Committee, where six of nine members are from South Florida and Tampa Bay.
- People would be allowed to carry concealed weapons during a "state of emergency" even if they don't have permits to carry them under a bill (HB 209) sponsored by Rep. Heather Dawes Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, to be heard in the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee. Sheriffs are mobilizing to oppose the bill, calling it overly broad.
- Nursing home employees would be shielded from exposure to lawsuits under a bill (HB 569) to be debated by the House Health Innovation Subcommittee. The bill's sponsor is Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Under the bill, owners and licensees could still be sued for harm or negligence, but passive investors would be immune from lawsuits if they had no role in health care decisions.
- Lobbyists who influence special taxing districts that oversee water, hospitals and children's services would be required to register and disclose their fees. The bill (SB 846), sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Community Affairs Committee.
- Senators on a budget subcommittee that oversees education will receive a status report on Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, largely the brainchild of former Sen. JD Alexander, a Winter Haven Republican who for four years controlled the budget-writing process in the Senate.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott used his election-year State of the State speech Tuesday to draw a sharp contrast between his own "courage" in bolstering Florida's economy and the "terrible mess" left behind by his predecessor and probable fall opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Setting the stage for a grueling fight in the most important governor's race of 2014, Scott took direct aim at Crist's record in a 30-minute speech dominated by short, punchy, declarative sentences and emotional references to his own hard-scrabble childhood, including "Christmas without any presents." ...
Florida Gov. Rick Scott delivered an election-year State of the State address to the Legislature on Tuesday in which he contrasted his own “courage” in handling Florida’s improving economy with the “terrible mess” left behind by his predecessor and likely opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Setting the stage for a grueling re-election campaign that will be the most closely-watched governor’s race in the country, Scott took direct aim at Crist’s record in a speech dominated by short, punchy, declarative sentences and emotional references to his own hard-scrabble childhood, including “Christmas without any presents.”...
The annual 60-day session of the Florida Legislature opens today in the state Capitol in Tallahassee. Here are five things to watch:
- Gov. Rick Scott will give the annual State of the State address to the Legislature at 11 a.m. in which he will emphasize priorities of creating jobs, paying down state debt and holding the line on tuition.
- Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford will address their chambers before Scott delivers his speech, and both chambers will hold afternoon floor sessions. The Senate will pass a bill aimed at keeping sexually violent predators in prison for longer periods.
- A controversial piece of legislation dealing with environmental permitting returns to the Capitol. The bill (HB 703) by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, is still being reworked as it awaits its first hearing before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.
- A proposal to raise the maximum speed limit from 70 mph to 75 mph on certain rural interstate highways, subject to approval by state highway experts, will get its first airing. The House version (HB 761) by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, will be considered by the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee.
- The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, will consider legislation (PCB 7060) to revamp the school accountability system in Florida public schools.
03/03/14 State Roundup
Joyce Hamilton Henry of Tampa will soon go halfway around the world, and her goal is to shame Florida in the eyes of the human rights community.
Her point is Florida's policy of permanently revoking civil rights of felons is a basic violation of human rights.
She will go to Geneva, Switzerland later this week and make a presentation on the issue to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a periodic forum for discussion of national and international human rights issues. She will ask the advisory U.N. panel to direct the U.S. government to publicly support automatic restoration of civil rights for felons upon their release from prison, and force the U.S. government to investigate how the issue affects minorities....
TALLAHASSEE — The race for campaign cash shifted into high gear Monday as dozens of state legislators sought contributions from lobbyists before today's start of the legislative session when such fundraising is banned for two months.
Under legislative rules, senators and House members cannot solicit or accept money for their campaigns during session because the proximity of votes being cast and money changing hands would look unseemly. The result is that lawmakers increasingly use the rest of their time in Tallahassee to raise money, especially during weeks of hearings when they are often casting significant committee votes on matters affecting those lobbyists....