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Preview of Florida’s political events for Week of February 27, 2012

By the News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, February 26, 2012…..With regular committee meetings coming to an end both chambers will have lots of floor time this week. But there also may be budget conference committees. 

The conference process to work out a compromise budget now that the House and Senate have both passed spending plans could begin early in the week, House Speaker Dean Cannon said Friday. 

"Obviously, there are both some policy choices in the budget and some numeric differences that will have to be ironed out, but I don't see any insurmountable obstacles toward coming together with conference allocations and getting the budget done," said Cannon, R-Winter Park.

There are a number of high profile outstanding issues both in the budget and out that remain up in the air. Chief among them may be legislation that would speed up independence for the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus and a bill to reform the personal injury protection auto insurance system, or PIP. 



SENATE IN SESSION: Bills up for consideration on the Senate floor could include a measure (SB 268) allowing corporate sponsorship of greenways and trails, a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 408) raising the retirement age for judges and the controversial bill (SB 578) that would allow surplus lines insurers to remove policies from Citizens Property Insurance. Also on the calendar is a bill (SB 244) that says slower drivers need to move over to the right on the highway. (Monday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

ETHICS AND ELECTIONS: The Senate E&E Subcommittee has several non-controversial confirmation votes, many of them to college boards of trustees. A few for major posts include Ken Detzner's nomination as secretary of state and Melissa Meeker's as head of the South Florida Water Management District. (Monday, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

CLAIMS BILLS HIT SENATE RULES: The Senate Rules Committee is expected to consider 15 claims bills, including a high-profile proposal (SB 44) stemming from the 2008 murder of Tallahassee police informant Rachel Hoffman. Other bills that could draw discussion include a proposal to force Lee Memorial Health System to pay for the care of a boy born with cerebral palsy and a proposal to force the Sumter County School Board to compensate a motorcyclist who suffered severe leg injuries in an accident with a school bus. (Monday, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

FORECLOSURES: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee takes up a measure to speed up the foreclosure process (SB 1890). The Senate version closely mirrors the House effort, HB 213, which is on the House special order calendar. (Monday, 4:45 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


HOUSE IN SESSION: The House has few committee meetings this week – only a couple on Monday, before planning to be in either budget conference committee meetings (yet to be set) or floor sessions most of the week. Monday, there remains one bill on third reading left over from last week, a measure (HB 565) dealing with family law and alimony. Then it's on to special order, which is about 12 pages right now. Among the bills on the calendar are a measure (HB 19) to allow ads on school buses, a bill (HB 431) allowing expanded non-school uses of school properties and a number of local bills. The Casey Anthony bill (HB 37), which makes it a felony for someone whose child is missing to lie to police, is also on the calendar. (Monday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)

DOH OVERHAUL MOVES TO HOUSE HHS: The House Health & Human Services Committee will consider a bill (HB 1263) that would make wide-ranging changes in the state Department of Health. Sponsor Matt Hudson, R-Naples, has eliminated perhaps the most-controversial part of the bill --- a shift of public health responsibilities from the state to counties. But the bill includes other closely watched issues, such as proposed changes in the Children's Medical Services program and the potential closure of the A.G. Holley state tuberculosis hospital in Palm Beach County. The committee also will consider a series of other bills, including changes (PCB HHSC 12-05) in programs for people with developmental disabilities. The panel also considers HB 385, which establishes a new burden of proof for claimants in medical malpractice cases and allows defendants in med mal cases to interview the claimant's doctors without the claimant's lawyer there. (Monday, 2 p.m., 404 House Office Building, the Capitol.) 

HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS, STEM: The  House Education Committee takes a handful of  buzzer-beating bills as it meets for the last scheduled meeting. Among the measures to make the cut is HB 1403, which expands the ability of private school students to participate in middle school and high school athletics at local public schools. The panel also takes up a measure to repeal physical education requirements of middle schoolers (HB 4057) and HB 7059, dealing with accelerated advancement and STEM courses in public schools and another (PCB EDC 12-03) that sets up STEM standards for public schools and the Florida College system. (Monday, 2 p.m., 103 House Office Building, The Capitol.)  

SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY, STATE SPORT TAKES FINAL LAP?: The House Rules and Calendar Committee takes up a school accountability measure introduced just last week that would expand the ability of students to leave a poor performing school. (HB 7127) . A final lap attempt to designate automobile racing as the state's official sport (HB 745) also makes a pit stop at the committee (Monday, 4:15 p.m.,  404 House Office Building, The Capitol.) 


SURPLUS LINES TAKE-OVER OPPO: Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey and former Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw hold a conference call to discuss their opposition to SB 578, a bill that would let surplus lines companies to take over Citizens Property policies. The bill is on the Senate calendar for possible floor consideration. (Monday, 8:15 a.m., Email for call-in info.)

FHSAA RULES LEGISLATION CRITICIZED: The Florida High School Athletic Association and the organization Florida Parents for Fair Play will hold a telephone conference call to discuss pending state legislation that they say would make it easier for high schools to recruit players for sports teams. The bills are SB 1704 and HB 1403. (Monday, 10:30 a.m., Call in: 1-800-791-2345; TeleConference Code: 24287.)  


PSC WADES INTO GULF RATE REQUEST: The Florida Public Service Commission will consider a base-rate increase for Gulf Power Co. The PSC staff recommended this month that Gulf should receive a $62.3 million increase --- which is less than the Panhandle utility wants, but more than lawyers for consumers and business groups say the company deserves. The meeting will be a crucial step in the months-long rate case. (Monday, 9:30 a.m. Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

BOE WORKSHOP: The State Board of Education will hold a workshop on Monday where school choice and charter schools will be discussed. TaxWatch will present research on charter school funding and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents will make a presentation on school choice options offered in various Florida districts. The full agenda is at and the meeting will also be webcast. (Monday, 2 p.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, the Capitol. The webcast can be found by going to



SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate is on the floor Tuesday morning, and is likely to vote on the bills that it brings up Monday on special order. As of now, there's no third reading calendar. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

CAYLEE'S LAW: The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Appropriations takes up a measure ripped from the headlines, SB 858, which was prompted by the highly publicized death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony, whose mother, Casey was acquitted in her murder but found guilty of lying to police.  The bill makes it a felony for those whose children are missing to lie to police. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

U.S. LAW PREVAILS: The Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Appropriations takes up more than a dozen measures including one (SB 1360) requiring that disputes in which foreign laws are in question must be dealt with by U.S. law if the foreign system of justice is more restrictive.  The panel will also address  SB 964, SB 1816, which dealt with bolstering protections for children and vulnerable adults. The committee will hear a provision (SB 1322) to pre-empt local dog ordinances that are stricter than the state's. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

EDUCATION PRE-K-12: The Senate budget subcommittee that deals with primary and secondary education takes up a bill (SB 1718) that seeks to give parents more say in how bad schools get better. The measure allows parents to submit a "turnaround plan" for consideration by the district as officials try to improve failing schools. The committee also takes up legislation dealing with the joint use of school facilities such as gyms or playgrounds (SB 808), creating an accelerated STEM curriculum in schools (SB 1368), requiring a uniform ID badge for contractors working on school grounds statewide to show they've been backgrounded and putting in place some standards juvenile justice system educational programs (SB 1610), among other bills. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

PECO SAVE IN SENATE F&T: The Senate Finance & Tax Committee takes up a House bill (HB 5703) that would shift nearly $50 million in communication services tax collections from the general revenue fund into the state trust fund used for public school construction. The allotment will allow the chamber to make debt payments on the Public Education Capital Outlay fund and provide the funds needed to sell bonds for new and continuing projects. Also before the panel is a House-passed bill that sought to include economic development proposals sought by Gov. Rick Scott. The measure (HB 7087) passed the House earlier this month. A number of other tax exemption proposals are before the committee. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

PUBLIC HOSPITAL SALES DEBATED: The Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee has a huge agenda that includes a bill (SB 1568) that would place new requirements on the sales or leases of public hospitals. House and Senate sponsors and industry groups have been trying to reach agreement on a compromise, as lawmakers look to create more oversight of deals that shift control of public hospitals to private firms. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

SENATE HHS TAKES UP ALFS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, MENTAL HEALTH: The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to consider a wide-ranging bill (SB 2074) that would increase regulation of assisted-living facilities. Lawmakers have been looking at the industry after a series of Miami Herald reports about dangerous conditions at some ALFs and a lack of state oversight. The subcommittee also is expected to discuss a ranking system for mental-health and substance-abuse programs, a controversial issue as the Senate looks to cut funding for those programs. Also, the panel could take up a heavily lobbied issue (SB 668) that deals with how much physicians should be able to charge for dispensing drugs to workers-compensation insurance patients. (Tuesday, 10:45 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.)

SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE:  The committee takes up nine issues including the chamber's renewable energy package (SB 2094) and the a pair of bills wanted by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (SB 1122 and SB 1866.) Bills allowing the state to invest more heavily in alternative investments (SB 880) and revising definitions of civil employment (SB 2084) are also up for consideration. (Tuesday, 3:45 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol. )

Senate Higher Ed Appropriations: 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.
Senate Transportation Appropriations: 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.


HOUSE TO TAKE UP TRAUMA CENTER CHANGES: The House is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 1419) that would overhaul the process of approving hospital trauma centers, including eliminating a cap on the number of the emergency facilities in the state. The bill, which also includes a controversial provision about contracting between hospitals and HMOs, comes amid a hospital-industry battle about new trauma centers in Clay, Pasco and Manatee counties. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., House chambers, the Capitol.)

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS: The full House Appropriations Committee could meet Tuesday morning, and time is blocked out on the calendar, but a meeting is yet to be noticed and the panel has no agenda at the moment. (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


STATE BOE CONTINUES MEETING: The State Board of Education continues its meeting Tuesday morning at the Turlington Building. There are several substantive items on the agenda, including approval of the board's list of critical teacher shortage areas, charter school appeals,, approval of a number of rules and updates from the Florida College System. The agenda is at: (Tuesday, 7:30 a.m., Room 1703 Turlington Bldg., 325 W. Gaines St., Tallahassee.)

COURT TO CONSIDER KRISEMAN DEPOSITION: The 1st District Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear arguments about whether state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, and a legislative aide should be required to give depositions in a contentious tax lawsuit between the online travel company Expedia and Broward County. The House has fought the depositions, claiming legislative immunity. But a Leon County circuit judge ruled last year that Expedia attorneys could ask limited questions. Kriseman has been an outspoken critic of the online-travel industry's position in the tax issue and distributed potentially damaging internal Expedia documents to other lawmakers last year. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate has a morning session on Wednesday followed by a mid-day break, and an afternoon session. Calendars will be set early in the week. (Wednesday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: The Senate Democratic Caucus holds its regular mid-week meeting. (Wednesday, 12 p.m., 228 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to hold a floor session from 10 a.m. "until completion." (Wednesday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate has a morning session followed by a mid-day break, and an afternoon session. Calendars will be set early in the week. (Thursday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to hold a floor session from 10 a.m. "until completion." (Thursday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)


SUPREME COURT: The Florida Supreme Court issues opinions. (11 a.m.)


SENATE IN SESSION: The Senate, at least as of now, has a Friday morning session followed by a mid-day break, and an afternoon session. Calendars will be set early in the week. (Friday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.)

HOUSE IN SESSION: The House is scheduled to hold a floor session from 10 a.m. "until completion." (Friday, 10 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.)