Sixty Days — A prime-time read of what’s going down for Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session.
The Last 24
Gov. Rick Scott is asking state transportation officials to figure out how to better get traffic out of areas under hurricane evacuation orders.
Sen. Jeff Brandes called on his fellow lawmakers to do a ‘deep dive’ into the juvenile justice system.
Trying to figure out which students left or arrived because of hurricanes may put state officials in a bind as they estimate how many students will be in Florida’s public schools.
VISIT FLORIDA said it would redouble its tourism marketing efforts to show visitors around the world that Florida is open for business after Irma.
The House’s ethics panel voted to subpoena a television production house for details on exactly how it spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a fishing show and a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.
A priority bill to require more fiscal transparency by local governments is on the move in the House.
Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer, was taken off his chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Joe Negron said there was “nothing nefarious” about his removal.
The House decided to put Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Daisy Baez on trial this Dec. 4 for a charge she doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent.
Quote of the Day
“I apologize if my comments yesterday did not properly convey the deep respect I have for elder members of our communities and the concern I share regarding the preventable tragedy that occurred in Hollywood.” —Funeral home director and GOP Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, a day after remarking on the South Florida nursing home deaths that “…eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die. OK? We don’t need to attribute all those to the storm.”
Bill Day’s Latest
Larry Metz, the Yalaha Republican who chairs the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, is following up on House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s mandate to ‘keep ‘em honest.’ His committee OK’d subpoenas to get information from a vendor who got millions of tax dollars to produce TV shows promoting the state. One featured celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Corcoran wants the producer to stand and deliver on exactly how the money was spent. Metz talked to reporters after a Thursday hearing; the questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity:
Q: VISIT FLORIDA is funded by taxpayers. Why wouldn’t all the information you could possibly seek be available as public records?
Metz: We’re seeking information from a vendor of VISIT FLORIDA, which was completely cooperative with our request for information. It’s the vendor we’re looking to get information from. We’re simply going the formal route. If we were in court on a civil case, you’d ask for the documents first. Then you start taking depositions of witnesses. Then you fill in the gaps with questions of witnesses. We’ll see what the documents show.
Q: What if the vendor refuses to produce documents because they’re protected trade secrets?
Metz: I think that’s too speculative. We’ll have to wait and see. If it comes back that way, we’ll address that at that time. The first step is to see what’s going on. Then we can hold those accountable for past wrongs or at least make things better going forward. The committee has the charge to get answers. We need to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, and in accordance with the intent of the Legislature.
Q: Why is the committee pursuing this particular vendor?
Metz: We had information to act on and that’s what we’re doing. In an ideal world, you’d be able to do oversight on every single dollar every single day, but that’s not the world we live in. We have to pick our battles. And there are millions of dollars at issue here. I know people think 10 or 20 million dollars is a rounding error in a budget that’s $83 billion. But from my perspective, I look at every dollar as being important. If we’re not sure what value was returned to the taxpayer, we have an obligation to pursue that.
Several new principals with techy sounding names have started picking up lobbyists ahead of session, including WebCE.com signing with the team at Meenan and TmaxSoft pulling in Alan Suskey earlier this week.
WebCE.com has been in business for 20 years and provides online continuing education courses for several professions, including accounts and financial planners, and it’s not unheard of for lawmakers to slap more stringent continuing education requirements on some professions.
This year, however, a couple lawmakers have toyed with going in the other direction and relaxing requirements, especially for lower-income licensed professionals.
TmaxSoft is a South Korean enterprise software company that believes, according to their mantra, that “there is always a better way.”
Given the long list of web and software bungles in Florida’s recent history, even at the hands of big multinationals like Deloitte, there are more than a few lawmakers who have probably looked at state technology bills and their rollouts and thought pretty much anybody could have done a better job.
Given the company’s diverse business – from web servers to banking frameworks – they are likely eying at least a couple state contracts.
The Next 24
Republican Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach is slated to speak about the upcoming legislative session during a meeting of the Florida Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. That’s at 9 a.m., The Ritz-Carlton, 4750 Amelia Island Parkway, Fernandina Beach.
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join firefighters from across Florida to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The yearly “Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service” will be 9:30 a.m., Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Road, Ocala.
Also Friday, independent bodies, Cabinet departments, and executive-branch agencies under Gov. Scott will review their Legislative Budget Requests in the Capitol.
— Agency for Health Care Administration, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Department of Children and Families, Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, in 110 Senate Office Building.
— Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, in 401 Senate Office Building.
— Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, State University System Board of Governors, in 401 Senate Office Building.
— Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Citrus, Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Public Service Commission, in 110 Senate Office Building.
— Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Department of Financial Services, Office of Financial Regulation, Office of Insurance Regulation, Department of Lottery, Department of Management Services, Division of Administrative Hearings, Agency for State Technology, Department of Military Affairs, Department of Revenue, Commission on Human Relations, Public Employees Relations Commission, in 110 Senate Office Building.
— Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Legal Affairs, Justice Administrative Commission, Florida Commission on Offender Review, in 401 Senate Office Building.