A list of 10 amendment proposals, dubbed “the terrible ten,” is making the rounds as the Constitution Revision Commission nears a May deadline to submit its final report.
The left-leaning advocacy group, League of Women Voters of Florida, has come up with its “worst of the worst” list compiled of what they say are proposed changes to the state constitution driven by a “clear agenda that mirrors the agenda of the Legislature” and not an independent body.
Thirty-seven proposals remain under consideration by the CRC. If they go on the November ballot, 60-percent voter approval would be needed for the constitution to be changed.
Pamela Goodman, the Florida LWV president, says the proposals in the list “restrict citizen rights rather than expand them” and considers them an attack on public education, home rule, privacy rights, immigration and tax reform.
“Some are outdated concepts brought back again after already being voted down by the public,” Goodman says, “I call them ‘zombie proposals.’”
Goodman sent the list in an effort to fundraise money to lobby and keep CRC members from putting those measures on the ballot. Here is their “terrible ten” list. (Note: Proposal 22 and Proposal 95 are no longer under consideration.)
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Gambling in the Senate — The Senate made some big moves Friday in the annual legislative dance that is the negotiation for an omnibus gambling bill. The biggest move: The chamber now includes a renewed 20-year deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years in return for exclusive rights to blackjack and slot machines outside of South Florida. That was in the House bill, but not the Senate’s first bill filed for this year. Moreover, the Senate would OK adding roulette and craps to the Seminoles’ offerings at its casinos in the state. The Senate bill will next be heard Monday. For all the changes read the full story here.
Omnibus education bill passes — A priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran that would create a voucher program for students who are bullied in school passed the Florida House Friday. The bill is attached to the chamber’s budget, which could bring problems for it as the Senate has said it will not be part of final budget negotiations and would have to go through the scrutiny of Senate committee hearings. The bill includes a requirement for teacher unions to disband if membership is not half of the people they represent, a provision critics describe as “union-busting.”
Budgets ready for final talks — The Florida House and Senate have both passed their spending plans of about $87 billion, marking the starting point of final budget negotiations. The difference between the budgets is about $100 million, something Senate President Joe Negron told reporters makes “life a lot easier.” But the chambers still have to find common ground on health, the environment and education. Negron said the budget negotiation process is more than a week ahead of schedule.
Corcoran on child marriage — While a strict ban on all child marriages has passed in the Senate, House Speaker Corcoran says he is in support of his chamber’s version of the bill that would allow “high school sweethearts” to marry if they are at least 16 years old and pregnant. The Associated Press reports that Corcoran is defending controversial exceptions in a bill that would let 16- and 17-year-olds marry if they are pregnant and the father of the baby isn’t more than two years older. Minors would need parental consent and paternity tests to have a marriage license issued.
State-funded pro-life clinics — A bill that would permanently set aside $4 million in taxpayer money for pro-life clinics to operate across the state has passed both chambers, and now it is up to Gov. Rick Scott to turn it into law. Scott has not yet said whether he will sign the legislation, but the bill would codify into the statute a state-funded program that has been in place since 2006. Democrats oppose the measure, arguing the state should not fund clinics that can contract with faith-based organizations.
Scott-backed deal will fast-track Monroe County cleanup
Gov. Scott announced a deal with this week that’ll fast-track marine debris cleanup in Monroe County with the state temporarily picking up the tab.
“Since Hurricane Irma impacted our state, communities across Florida have been working tirelessly to clean up and recover from this destructive storm. The Florida Keys undoubtedly experienced significant damage when the storm made landfall at Cudjoe Key,” Scott said.
“We’re doing everything we can to help Monroe County and the Florida Keys as they continue to recover from Irma and I am proud to direct DEP to enter this agreement and immediately get to work removing debris. In Florida, we know that our pristine environment is a big part of what drives our booming tourism industry and this is especially true for the Florida Keys.”
The agreement will see the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, with assistance from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, shell out $6 million and oversee cleanup efforts in Monroe.
The state money will be reimbursed by the county once they receive their disaster cleanup reimbursements paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The week in appointments
Gov. Scott announced the following appointment and reappointments:
— Florida Historical Commission
J. Michael Francis, 50, of St. Petersburg, is the chair of the department of history and politics at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
Francis will fill a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2018.
Judy Bense, 72, of Pensacola, is a professor and President Emeritus at the University of West Florida. She received her doctorate from Washington State University.
Bense succeeds Kathy Fleming and is appointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2019.
Lawson’s full court press for VISIT FLORIDA funding
VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing arm, is facing a major cut in the 2018-19 budget, but President and CEO Ken Lawson hasn’t given up the fight for a $100 million appropriation.
Lawson met with leaders and residents from Monroe County during Florida Keys Day at the Capitol this week to discuss the importance of fully funding VISIT FLORIDA, especially after disasters such as Hurricane Irma.
“The Florida Keys is one of our state’s most iconic destinations for visitors all across the world. Tourism impacts Monroe County like no other place in our state, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs,” Lawson said.
Lawson said VISIT FLORIDA’s help over the weeks following the storm, from public relations campaigns to Facebook live videos, “helped get the message out that the Keys were open for business and ready to welcome visitors back,” but without getting a full $100 million from the Legislature, the tourism marketing arm won’t be able to pitch in at that level anymore.
Monroe County Rep. Holly Raschein agreed.
“Tourism is our No. 1 industry in the Florida Keys and VISIT FLORIDA gives my constituents a marketing reach they may not be able to achieve on their own,” she said. “… It is my hope both chambers will come together and understand funding VISIT FLORIDA is an investment that is beneficial to our state.”
CRC’s Ft. Lauderdale stop draws in 700 people
The Constitution Revision Commission held kicked off its “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour this week with a stop at Nova Southeastern University’s Rick Case Arena in Ft. Lauderdale.
Approximately 700 Floridians showed up and 330 of them picked up the mic during the eight-hour meeting to let commissioners know their feelings on more than three dozen proposals the CRC are considering for the 2018 ballot.
The full public hearing was filmed and is available to stream through the Florida Channel’s CRC page. The next stop for commissioners is a Feb. 19 meeting at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne.
The full slate of CRC meetings, as well as appearance forms and a list of proposals under consideration, can be found FLCRC.gov.
Pritchett honored with humanitarian award
The Democratic Women’s Club of Florida awarded state Rep. Sharon Pritchett with the 2017 Humanitarian Award.
“I remain committed to being a voice that works to help improve quality of life issues on the road toward progress,” Pritchett said in a statement.
Pritchett was nominated by the Democratic Women’s Club of Miami Gardens, which is her district.
The organization said Pritchett’s “excellence in advocating on behalf of thousands of Floridians has set her apart as an effective leader.”
Flores celebrates FIU day at the Capitol
Florida International University had its day in the spotlight this week and the university’s delegation got to spend part of it with Republican Sen. Anitere Flores — an alumna whose district includes the University Park campus.
“[Thursday], I proudly welcomed leaders from my alma mater, Florida International University, to our state’s Capitol. Together, we celebrated FIU’s continuing excellence in higher education and the many success stories the university is testament to,” Flores said.
“We discussed the growth and progress of the campus’ expansion, the institution’s research agenda, as well as the advancing resources for the high-skilled graduates entering the workforce.
“As an FIU Alumna, I am honored to advocate in Tallahassee for such an exemplary higher education establishment and serve the university that opens countless doors for its students and faculty.”
House Democrats still keeping track
The House Democratic Caucus updated its “running count” of bills heard in committee or on the House floor to include the fifth week of the 2018 Legislative Session.
To the surprise of few, the caucus found Republican bills in the House are still getting substantially more attention that Democrat-sponsored one.
The breakdown on the “What’s the agenda?” site shows that during Week 5, nine Democrat-sponsored bills were heard, compared to 73 Republican-sponsored bills. Another eight bills heard in committee had both Republican and Democrat sponsors.
The “keep track” effort also recorded 9 Republican bills making the House floor during the week, while zero Democrat-sponsored bills made the grade.
Legislative Progressive Caucus spotlighted by national group
Ultra-liberal reform bills typically don’t get far in the state Legislature, but that doesn’t stop Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith from at least making some noise.
Smith, the founding chair of the newly minted state House Legislative Progressive Caucus, appeared this week in a social media video explaining the caucus’ role in #FightingForFamilies, an initiative put forth by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a progressive resource and strategy network.
View the video by clicking the image below:
“Our agenda is squarely focused on helping working families,” Smith said in the video. He said the caucus has thrown its support behind bills that would universalize health care and increase the minimum wage.
Smith also said the caucus is fighting against bills he described as “anti-working families.” He gave the example of HB 25, which seeks to decertify teachers unions if dues-paying membership falls below 50 percent. He said it was a “union-busting” bill.
At the conclusion of the video, Smith said, “We are fighting for you every single day, working families.” The bit aired on the SiX Facebook page and was included in a news release sent to media around the country. According to its website, SiX seeks to “equip state legislators with the tools needed to shape effective policy” and bridge them with “the progressive movement’s unmatched grassroots organizing power.”
Instagram of the week
It’s opening day of the Florida State Fair! Today is Heroes’ Day! We honor our military, veterans and first responders with FREE admission all day for them and up to three family members with valid ID at the gate. Come out and enjoy the Fair! #love #flstatefair #me #cute #follow #followme #photooftheday #happy #florida4h #like #picoftheday #fun #smile #2018 #fairfun #fairfood #florida #floridalife #floridaliving #miami #tampa #tampabay #Strawberryfestival #saltlife #fsu #circus #circuslife #circusparty #circusinspiration #fairfun #fairrides
Florida Communities come to Tallahassee to oppose offshore drilling
Dueling meetings to discuss the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management five-year plan to open federal waters to offshore drilling were held in Tallahassee this week.
BOEM’s meeting was part of the 60-day public comment period on the Trump administration’s plan to rev up oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. the seafloor claimed by the U.S. that doesn’t fall under state jurisdiction, while Environment Florida held what it called the “People’s Hearing on the Federal Offshore Drilling Plan.”
Environment Florida didn’t mince words on the BOEM meeting.
“Not only is it far from the coastal communities it will affect but it does not provide any opportunity for the public to provide meaningful input on the plan in a public setting,” the group said in an email.
The group then pitched their meeting, “which seeks to give voice to Floridians who vehemently oppose this dangerous drilling plan” and promised “public testimony to a brick wall, a 15-foot blow up whale, signs, posters and more” with a speaker list including
Speakers included Escambia Commissioner Grover Robinson, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, FSU Oceanography professor Ian MacDonald, Tampa Tile president Jerry Difabrizio and Captain Adam Morley of Genung’s Fish Camp and Marina.
FSU gets record number of applications for 2018 class
Florida State University said it received more than 48,000 applications from prospective 2018 freshmen before it made its first round of decisions at the end of January, 7,000 more than last year’s record high.
“The tremendous interest in Florida State University reflects our growing national prominence,” FSU President John Thrasher said. “Word is out that FSU offers the education of a top research institution in a warm, welcoming and diverse academic environment.”
The university said it’s not just getting more applications, but better ones as well – FSU said the middle 50 percent of students accepted so far this year had a grade-point average in the range of 4.1 – 4.5 with a 1290 – 1400 total SAT score and 28-32 ACT composite score.
FSU pointed to its 10-spot jump to No. 33 in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” rankings over the past couple of years as one reason interest in the school has spiked.
New radio segment to focus on aging-related trends
Want to hear more about the challenges of aging? WFSU-FM has you covered.
Starting Feb. 6, a weekly “Aging Today” segment will be played on 88.9, WFSU-FM, highlighting critical aging-related trends, issues and policies, with an emphasis on social science research.
The one-minute segments are sponsored by the Florida State University’s Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy and the Claude Pepper Center, along with support from the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at FSU.
“We’re hoping this initiative will spark more discussion not only about the challenges but also the possibilities of an aging society,” said Anne Barrett, director of the Pepper Institute.
The segments are scheduled to air on Tuesdays at 3:04 p.m. Recordings will be archived at wfsu.org/agingtoday.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions: