Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. Like a raging bull, Gov. Ron DeSantis (should we start calling him “Rampagin’ Ron?”) keeps stealing headlines from lawmakers during what turned out to be an underwhelming January committee week. The new Gov. stole the show: Ask for $2.5 billion for water resource protection? Check. Ask for the resignations of the entire South Florida Water Management District board? Did that. Have we mentioned this is only Day Three of his first term? Here’s your nightly rundown.
Promise kept: DeSantis followed up on his campaign promise to prioritize the environment by ordering efforts against blue-green algae in rivers and red tide off the coast.
Get out: DeSantis later in the day asked the entire South Florida Water Management District board to resign, saying change is needed.
Shortlist set: DeSantis (him again!) will consider three former or current employees of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to be the next head of the state agency.
Red alert: Cyndi Stevenson, the new chair of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee says lawmakers may finally have the crisis they need to pass an ‘assignment of benefits’ reform bill.
Eight is enough: A House Republican filed a proposal that would ask voters to place eight-year term limits on county school-board members across the state.
Never gonna do it without the fez on: Enterprise Florida is headed to Casablanca this spring to promote the Sunshine State to Moroccan businesses and investors.
Justice delayed: Don’t expect any Groveland 4 pardons when the new slate of statewide officials meet as Florida’s Clemency Board tomorrow.
Sprucing up the joint: The House chamber is in the midst of an unexpected (at least to us) renovation. Thank goodness we didn’t get asked to help move the furniture.
Quote of the Day
“It usually takes time for a new governor to get settled in. I’d say he’s doing a pretty doggone good job.” — Democratic state Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, after Gov. Ron DeSantis called for $2.5 billion in spending over four years on environmental protection.
Bill Day’s Latest
It might be a slow Session for the House Gaming Control Subcommittee. The panel, chaired by Deltona Republican David Santiago, held a brief meeting Thursday after which Santiago confirmed that no gaming bills have yet been filed for 2019. Voters in November passed a “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment to limit gambling expansion in the state. It “ensure(s) Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says. Indeed, Santiago told Florida Politics, one of the main things his panel may consider this year is: What’s an “expansion?”
FP: Realistically, what do you think the Legislature can accomplish this year on gambling?
DS: That’s the question: What can we do within the new constitutional parameters? We’ve gotten guidance from the public, that they don’t want to see gaming expanded, at least not without voter approval. They don’t want the Legislature to expand it on its own.
FP: Rep. Randy Fine, your vice-chair, seems to think you may take up sports betting. Is that the case?
DS: I don’t know yet. Obviously, people are responding to the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s decision (that said states can authorize sports betting). Many states have already implemented it. The industry is certainly looking to see what Florida does. But again, there are many questions about it as it relates to the amendment. Is that an “expansion?” I don’t know. There are a lot of gray areas.
FP: I have to ask: Did you ask for this chairmanship or was it “given” to you?
DS: (Laughing) I asked for this job. Look, I love complex issues. After the amendment passed, I wanted to get into this, figure out if we could still find solutions. I’ve watched what happened in Florida in the gambling world in the last six years. It’s been somewhat of a mess, right? So I’m hoping we can bring some resolution or clarity to what Florida really wants to look like when it comes to gaming going forward.
After their longtime lobbyist retired, the Florida Public Defender Association turned to The Legis Group and Suskey Consulting to handle their needs in the 2019 Legislative Session.
FPDA represents public defenders in all Florida judicial circuits. Those attorneys often have monstrous caseloads, so the association is seeking more state dollars to handle the work.
“Our main object is to increase their due process funding. They got a pay increase a couple [of] years ago, this is more about caseload,” Alan Suskey said.
Suskey is working alongside Patrick Bell and Doug Holder at Legis to make sure that happens.
Different circuits have different needs, Suskey continued. As Florida’s population has grown, public defenders in many metro areas have seen their individual workloads spike.
In rural areas, however, judicial circuits have had a hard time enticing attorneys to work as public defenders in the first place.
“It’s really about the circuits. Some may need more case dollars; some may need more salary dollars,” he said.
The Next 24
The Council of Presidents of the Florida College System will meet at 8:30 a.m., Association of Florida Colleges, 1725 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.
Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — will meet for the first time to discuss and vote on agency head hires for the Departments of Revenue and Veterans’ Affairs, then will meet as the Board of Executive Clemency to discuss the ‘Groveland 4’ case. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, lower level, The Capitol.
The Republican Party of Florida will host the 2019 Annual Meeting and Chairman’s Election Friday and Saturday. That begins with the Chairman’s Caucus at 6 p.m. Friday, Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive, Orlando.
The Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2019 Economic Outlook & Jobs Summit will take place Monday. Expected speakers include Jamal Sowell, the new President and CEO of Enterprise Florida, and Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. That’s at 10 a.m., GuideWell Innovation Center at Lake Nona Medical City, 6555 Sanger Road, Orlando.