Preview of Florida’s Political Events for the week of January 23, 2011
By the News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE -- As if a full legislative schedule isn't enough, there are two Republican debates in Florida this week ahead of the Jan. 31 primary – and the president's State of the Union, and the Florida Press skits.
The Senate gets busy early, with Monday morning committee meetings, and the House returns on Tuesday. Both chambers are on the floor Tuesday, though neither has particularly controversial measures ready for floor action that day.
There are some highly controversial issues that will be up for discussion this week, including several abortion bills that reach a House committee on Tuesday, and a bill being heard in a Senate committee that would keep lawmakers from also working as a university professor or employee. The debate over prison privatization also continues this week, with a vote expected from the Senate Rules Committee.
With the House having released allocations late last week, it can get to work seriously on the budget proposal for the coming year. While the Senate is moving slower on its spending plan, subcommittees are starting to look at individual parts.
The House Redistricting Committee is set to formally vote on new maps for the House and Florida's congressional delegation on Friday, setting the stage for a floor debate the next week and negotiations with the Senate.
MONDAY, JAN. 23, 2012
PUTNAM TO DISCUSS ENERGY ISSUES: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will present his energy-policy ideas to the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. Putnam likely will address issues such as increasing renewable energy and encouraging diversification. (Monday, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)
AG GETS THE BUZZ ON BEEKEEPING, DEVELOPS FARM PHOTO BILL: Here's a bill that's creating a buzz: SB 1132, which is before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday, adds definitions for "honeybee," "apiculture" and "apiary" to the Florida Right to Farm Act, which tries to prevent local governments from restricting or regulating bona fide farming in certain areas. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, gives the state Department of Agriculture the exclusive authority to regulate, inspect, permit, and determine placement of managed honeybee colonies. The committee also hears a wide-ranging farming bill (SB 1184) that among other things prohibits the taking of photos on farm property without the farm owner's permission. That measure, by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, is aimed at animal rights groups that sometimes use photographs to document certain animal treatment practices in big agriculture operations. It also is a tactic some environmental activists have used. Another bill (SB 1496) restricts governments from putting a lot of regulations on "agritourism," when farmers open up their property to tourists who want to vacation on a working farm and learn about how it works. The bill says nothing about what happened if those tourists want to take pictures. (Monday, 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
SENATE COMMUNITY AFFAIRS MULLS LOCAL BIZ TAX REPEAL: The Senate Community Affairs Committee on Monday has a long agenda that includes a bill (SB 760) that repeals the law that allows local governments to enact business taxes. The bill is being closely watched – and strongly opposed – by cities, which say they need the continued ability to levy local taxes to pay for growth. Another bill that locals are watching is SB 862, which prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances dealing with wage theft. This measure is opposed by unions, who say such ordinances may be needed to help workers who aren't paid get their money. Several other bills before the committee include SB 794 which deals with government contracts and union work; SB 758 related to beach renourishment; SB 724 related to discharge of wastewater into the ocean. Also before the committee is a bill (SB 816) that seeks to make sure local professional sports franchises that benefit from public money are actually operating a homeless shelter – as they're supposed to under the law. (Monday, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
PRISON PRIVATIZATION: The Senate's bill that would require the Department of Corrections to privatize all the prisons in 18 counties in the Southern part of the state is up for actual debate and a vote in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday. The committee wrote the bill (SB 2038), which mirrors a proposal that passed as part of the budget last year but was thrown out by the courts over process, and it has already taken some testimony from opponents. But the actual merits of the bill will get their first debate by senators on the panel on Monday. The Teamsters, the union that represents corrections officers, plans to be at the committee in force. The panel also considers a bill (SB 2036) that would allow agencies to move to privatize certain functions without having to spell out the financial case for it until after they've awarded a contract. The Rules Committee is one of two Senate committees, along with the Budget Committee, that will hear the prison privatization bill this session. The committee has three hours and 45 minutes set out for the meeting on Monday. (Monday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
ETHICS AND ELECTIONS – PROFESSORS UNWELCOME: The Senate Rules Committee's Ethics and Elections Subcommittee on Monday hears a bill that bars members of the Legislature from working for public colleges or state universities. It's not clear who the bill (SB 1560) is aimed at, if it is aimed at anyone in particular, but would affect at least a couple current members of the Legislature, who would have to either quit their day job or not seek re-election. Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, is a professor at Valencia Community College, and isn't term limited. Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda D-Tallahassee, works at Tallahassee Community College. Possibly the best known examples of legislators working for colleges in recent years have been former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who took a job at Northwest Florida State College that led to a scandal over whether he put things in the school's budget when he was budget chairman, and outgoing Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is leaving the Legislature because of term limits anyway, who is an instructor at the University of Florida. (Monday, 5 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
CELEBRATE LITERACY: First Lady Ann Scott will kick off Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! in Sarasota. She will be joined by Department of the Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell, Office of Early Learning Executive Director Stuart Greenburg, and Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White to promote the importance of literacy and encourage students to participate in the Million Minute Marathon. (Monday, 10 a.m., Sarasota Middle School, 4826 Ashton Rd., Sarasota.)
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: NBC News says Monday night's debate in Tampa is on now that Mitt Romney has agreed to take part. NBC's Brian Williams will moderate and the Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith and National Journal's Beth Reinhard are on panel. (9 p.m., University of South Florida, Tampa. NBC televises.)
TUESDAY, JAN. 24, 2012
SENATE IN SESSION: The only scheduled floor session for the Senate this week is a three-hour turn on Tuesday morning. The Senate has available for a final vote SB 922 that provides a tax credit program for certain businesses that hire National Guard members, creates a separate court program for veterans suffering from mental illness, brain injury, drug abuse or other problems that result from their service, and would provide priority course registration for veterans at Florida colleges. Down the second reading calendar is a measure (SB 326) that would designate the schooner Western Union as the state's official flagship. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)
HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday morning. Pro forma adoption and repealer bills will be up as will a list of mostly non-controversial bills, several of them dealing with licensure. (Tuesday, 11 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)
ALSO IN THE LEGISLATURE
INNOVATION ED SUBCOMMITTEE: The House K-20 Innovation Subcommittee will hear proposed committee bills, including one that would allow virtual-school students to participate in extracurricular activities; as well as HB 291, a measure that would require new standards for dealing with concussions in youth sports, HB 347, which would require colleges to award credits to service members for some military training, and HB 689, establishing an "American Founders' Month." (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol)
EARLY LEARNING: The House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee holds a workshop on early learning programs, which have come under scrutiny following a recent Auditor General's report on the Office of Early Learning. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
HOUSE GOV OPS BUDGET: The House Government Operations Appropriations
Subcommittee takes up its proposed committee bills, including a couple related to the "One-Stop Business Registration Portal" and one related to the state Data Center system. The committee also does its main job – taking up the chairman's budget proposal for the coming year. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
HOUSE HEALTH CARE APPROPRIATIONS: The committee takes up the proposed health care budget for the coming year – always contentious, but maybe even more so this year because of the shortfall that comes as lawmakers have already pledged to add money to education. The panel also takes up its proposed committee bills, one on Medicaid, one on the Drug, Device and Cosmetic Trust Fund, and one on the Department of Children and Families. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES: Autonomous vehicle technology – yes, it is cars that drive themselves – is the subject of a bill (HB 1207) before the House Transportation Subcommittee Tuesday morning. (Tuesday, 8:15 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
HOUSE AG: The House Agriculture Committee takes up a proposed committee bill dealing with the ongoing dispute between Florida and the federal government over measuring the amount of pollution in Florida waters and the effort by the state to create its own rules on the matter. Legislation making it harder for landowners to be sued when they let people hunt, fish or bird watch on their land (HB 313), and a bill repealing the brucellosis vaccination program for cows (HB 4187) are among the other measures also on the committee's agenda. (Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
HHS LOCKS IN ON LIPOSUCTION: The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will take up several bills, including a proposal that would require registration of doctors' offices where liposuction is performed. The proposal (SB 544) comes after news reports about people dying or suffering injuries in South Florida because of problems with liposuction procedures. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)
THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW: The Senate Justice Appropriations will consider on Tuesday making the long arm of the law a little bit longer. The panel takes up a bill (SB 486) that expands the jurisdiction of Florida courts to actions that involve a party who isn't a resident of the state or a company not incorporated in the state in some contract cases. The panel also has a bill (SB 80) that would require operators of massage businesses to keep more work records of foreign employees, a measure aimed at reducing sex trafficking. The bill is similar to one that passed the Senate unanimously last year but failed to get through the House. The committee also discusses budget issues for several agencies. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
HEAD INJURY BILL: Sen. Anitere Flores' attempt to reduce school sports head injuries continues with a bill (SB 256) requiring parents and coaches get more information about the dangers and requiring athletes be pulled after suspected head injuries until they can be checked out. The committee also gets an update on class size reductions and the millages adopted by the school districts. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
TAX CREDIT SCHOLARSHIPS: A measure (SB 962) that would increase the amount of money available for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which lets businesses take a tax credit for paying private school tuition for kids, is before the Finance and Tax Subcommittee on Tuesday. The bill, by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, ups the cap on the scholarship fund to $250 million, and says that in future years if 90 percent or more of the fund is actually handed out in private school tuition, then the cap would increase by another 25 percent. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
GEN GOVT APPROPRIATIONS: The Senate General Government Appropriations Committee considers a bill (SB 560) requiring water management districts to apply certain criteria in determining effects of proposed uses of water, and allowing water districts to consider an adjoining district's water reserve and flow levels when considering a consumptive use permit without having to adopt them by rule. The committee also discusses budget issues for several agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Citrus, the Lottery, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of Insurance Regulation. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
ST. JOHNS RIVER FERRY: The possible closing of the St. Johns River Ferry, which is losing a critical subsidy from JaxPort, will be the subject of a meeting in Tallahassee called by Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach. Officials from the Department of Transportation, JaxPort, the Department of Economic Opportunity, the office of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, and other officials, will attend. The ferry, which has run since 1948, runs from Mayport Village to Fort George Island, and shorten the commute from parts of the northern reaches of the Jacksonville metro area, such as Amelia Island to Mayport and the Jacksonville beaches by 20 minutes. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 314 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
PRISON PRIVATIZATION IN HOUSE JUSTICE APPROPS: The House Justice Appropriations Committee late Friday released its proposal for privatizing prisons in 18 counties in the state and has the issue on its agenda for Tuesday. With a few differences, the plan largely mirrors a proposal in the Senate. The House measure, unlike the bill in the Senate would exempt the South Florida Reception Center in Miami-Dade County from the requirement. The House Bill would require the Department of Management Services to solicit bids from private companies to run the prisons, but makes the contract subject to Legislative Budget Commission approval. The House proposal also says that "each current employee of the Department of Corrections at the designated correctional facility and assigned correctional unit who is affected by the privatization must be given first preference for continued employment by the contractor selected as a result of a competitive solicitation." (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
HOUSE RULEMAKING: A bill (HB 177) that requires certain substance abuse programming for prisoners, adult education, and the House water management district bill (HB 157), a ban on certain restraints for female prisoners who are pregnant (HB 367), and a proposed exemption for the new DEP water nutrient rules from legislative ratification are all before the House Rulemaking Committee Tuesday. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)
ABORTION BILLS IN HOUSE HHS ACCESS SUBCOMMITTEE: The House HHS Access Subcommittee takes up HB 277, which would restrict third trimester abortions, including limiting them to only hospitals, require additional training, require a second physician to be present during abortions, and require clinics to be owned and operated only by doctors, a measure that was introduced last year but failed to pass. Another bill before the committee (HB 839) prohibits abortions if it is 20 weeks or more after fertilization. Yet another (HB 1327) would create the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act," which would require abortion providers to sign an affidavit stating that they're not terminating the pregnancy because of gender or race of the fetus and prohibiting the provider from performing the abortion if it is. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
HOUSE INSURANCE: The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee takes up legislation dealing with Citizens Property Insurance (HB 1127) and a proposed committee substitute for a catch-all insurance bill (HB 1101). (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol)
COLLEGE MONEY IN THE HOUSE: The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee considers two PCBs, and takes up the chair's recommendations for the budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol)
COLLEGE MONEY IN THE SENATE: The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations hears an update on a distance learning initiative and then begins discussions on the budgets for the state's college and universities. (Tuesday, 2:15 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol)
EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY BUDGETS: Budgets for several agencies and parts of agencies, including the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority and the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority are discussed Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Budget Committee. The overall Department of Transportation budget and the Highway Safety budget are also up for discussion. (Tuesday, 2:15 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
JOBS JOBS JOBS: The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee looks at several bills dealing with education and workforce needs, including SB 1314, which would require schools to develop a plan to meet workforce needs; SB 1366, requiring the Department of Economic Opportunity to commission an "economic security report" on the earnings potentials for students with certain degrees from the State University System and help secondary education students with certifications to find jobs; and SB 756,which would require middle-school courses in career and education planning include "Florida’s Career Clusters," and establishing requirements for career high school diplomas. The committee will also consider the appointments of Sally Bradshaw, Akshay Desai and Barbara Feingold to the State Board of Education. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol)
NUMERIC NUTRIENT CRITERIA: The ongoing debate over how much nitrogen and other nutrients can be released into freshwater in Florida also returns to the Senate on Tuesday, in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The committee will hear a presentation by the Department of Environmental Protection on its new rules on the issue. The committee will take up a bill ratifying rules adopted by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission last month. (Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
PSC DELVES INTO TELECOM, WATER ISSUES: The Public Service Commission will consider a series of issues, including an interconnection dispute between AT&T Florida and FLATEL, Inc., and a price index for costs incurred by water and wastewater utilities. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)
OCCUPY, OTHERS PROTEST GAIM CONFERENCE: Participants in the "Occupy Movement" and advocates for immigrants say they'll protest the GAIM USA conference of hedge fund managers. They want financial institutions to divest from for-profit, private prison companies. (Tuesday, 2 p.m., Boca Raton Resort and Club, 501 East Camino Real, Boca Raton.)
PRESS SKITS: The 57th Sometimes Annual Capitol Press Corps Skits are Tuesday in Tallahassee at The Moon. See the press corps lampoon the people they cover, and the governor's office and Legislature return the favor. There's more info at http://www.capitolskits.com/
(Tuesday, Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m., The Moon, 105 E. Lafayette St., Tallahassee.)
STATE OF THE UNION
STATE OF THE UNION: President Barack Obama is scheduled to give his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday night, with his re-election campaign looming. Obama is expected to touch on some of the same economic and income inequality issues he has put at the center of his bid for a second term. (Tuesday, 9 p.m., U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.)
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 25, 2012
EDUCATION BUDGET: With Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders eyeing a $1 billion or larger increase in school spending in the coming fiscal year, the Budget Subcommittee on Education PreK-12 Appropriations begins discussions about the spending blueprint for the Department of Education and the Office of Early Learning. The committee also hears about reading funding and virtual education. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol)
CRIMINAL AND CIVIL JUSTICE: Senate Criminal and Civil Justice discusses the budget for several agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Corrections, and the court system. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
SECOND THOUGHTS ON AMENDMENT 4: Last year the Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment for this coming November's ballot that would ask voters to reduce the annual assessment increase limit for certain non-homestead property from 10 to 5 percent and letting lawmakers prohibit values from going up for tax purposes when actual market value decreases, among other changes. But lawmakers can rescind a proposed amendment before it goes to voters, and that's what's being considered Wednesday by the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, when it takes up SJR 312. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
MORE COLLEGE MONEY TALK: The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations meets to take up SB 532, which would require colleges to award credits to service members for some military training, and to talk about the budget for the state's colleges and universities. (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol)
OTHER SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES WEDNESDAY: Other budget subcommittees consider agency budgets under their jurisdiction.
General Government: 8:30 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building.
HHS: 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Transportation: 10:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
BUDGET TALKS ABOUT PRISONS -- MAYBE: The full Senate Budget Committee is set to take up SB 2038, the prison privatization bill, if the committee has received it by then. Other bills include SB 186, which would make more people charged with misdemeanors eligible for pretrial intervention; and SB 226, which would change state laws related to disabled parking permits. (Wednesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol)
SENATE CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: The Senate Children and Families Committee may get legislation aimed at making assisted living facilities safer for residents (SB 2050), and a bill changing certain eligibility requirements for services and making other changes related to the Agency for Persons With Disabilities. (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
TRUCE IN THE DRUG WAR?: People who are in possession of illegal drugs, with intent to distribute them would have to be holding a larger quantity of drugs in a few cases under a bipartisan bill (SB 732) scheduled for a workshop – but no vote - Wednesday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
SENATE HEALTH REG: The Senate Health Regulation Committee takes up a proposed committee bill dealing with "health care consumer protection," (SB 7186), and bills dealing with screening for newborn heart problems (SB 1052), guidelines and policies for how school athletic teams can avoid heat stroke deaths (SB 606), and adult day care centers that deal with Alzheimer's patients (SB 694). (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)
HIGHER ED: Bills dealing with faith-based colleges (SB 828) and re-naming South Florida Community College as South Florida State College (SB 1218) are before the Senate Higher Ed Committee. (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
APPOINTING JUDGES: Gov. Rick Scott would have the power to push out members of the state's judicial nominating commissions appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist under a measure (SB 1570) sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland that's set for a hearing Wednesday in Senate Judiciary. The bill would specify that all JNC members directly appointed by the governor "shall serve at the pleasure of the governor." Scott directly appoints five members of the nine-seat JNCs, with the other four selections coming from a list of nominees provided by the board of the Florida Bar. (Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)
PROGRESS NUKE REPAIRS DISCUSSED: The Public Service Commission will hold a "status conference" about a massive project to repair a Progress Energy Florida nuclear-power plant at Crystal River. (Wednesday, 2 p.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)
THURSDAY, JAN. 26, 2012
SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES: Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, holds a press conference to discuss HB 1207 dealing with Autonomous Vehicle Technology and, in what is expected to be really cool, provide a demonstration of a self-driving vehicle. (Thursday, 4 p.m., Waller Park, West Portico of the Capitol.)
PRO BONO AWARDS: The Florida Bar will recognize 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients at a ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida. In 2010-11, Florida lawyers provided 1.6 million hours of pro bono services to those in need and $4.8 million to legal aid organizations, according to the Bar. President Scott G. Hawkins, of West Palm Beach, will present the 2012 awards. The awards recognize pro bono service in each of Florida's 20 judicial circuits and one Florida Bar member practicing outside the state of Florida. They are presented annually in conjunction with the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, which is given by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Florida. Awards recognizing pro bono contributions will also be presented for Distinguished Judicial Service, Law Firm Commendation, Voluntary Bar Association and Young Lawyer. (Thursday, 3:30 p.m.,. Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St., Tallahassee.)
ANOTHER REPUBLICAN DEBATE: Republican candidates again debate on Thursday evening in a debate in Jacksonville that will air on CNN. "The Presidential debate, just days before the January 31 primary, will present a great opportunity for our candidates to make their case to Florida's Republicans," said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. (Thursday, 6 p.m., Lazzara Theater, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.)
FRIDAY, JAN. 27, 2012
REDISTRICTING VOTE: The House Redistricting Committee is set to formally vote on new maps for the House and Florida's congressional delegation, setting the stage for a floor debate the next week and negotiations with the Senate. (Friday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol)