Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. The end of the first of three back-to-back committee weeks has come to an end. It was a day of hits from both sides: The contentious issue of state regulation of abortion raised its head, while Democrats pressed for greater gun restrictions. Sixty Days plays straight down the middle. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Right to strife: A controversial abortion measure known as a “fetal heartbeat bill” was filed in the Senate, mirroring a bill submitted last month in the House.
More ‘red flags’: Democrats pushed bills to expand ‘red flag’ gun law, which applies to those showing warning signs of potential violence.
Health help: A legislative fix may come about for issues in Florida’s long-term health insurance market.
Hammer time: Marion Hammer, Florida’s top gun-rights lobbyist, says don’t move — at least for now — the state’s concealed-weapons licensing program out from under Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
One-way money: Legislation targeting one-way attorney fees appears to have momentum.
Targeting CONs: The House is taking aim (again) at certificate-of-need laws, but many new hospitals are breezing through the existing regulatory process.
Quote of the Day
“I know I don’t look like last commissioners. I have different shoes on than last commissioners. But I promise you, you have a friend. You have an ally.” — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, speaking at The Florida State Fair in Tampa.
Bill Day’s Latest
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which seeks to extend state civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Floridians, is back again this year. But Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters has filed a less-ambitious version of the bill that might get more traction. While Gruters’ legislation would extend workforce rights to the LGBTQ+ community, some advocates are coming out against the measure because they say it doesn’t go far enough. Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an openly gay lawmaker, recently told us why he’s against Gruters’ bill — which has also drawn fire from the rightward fringe of the Republican Party. (Smith’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Florida Politics: How would you contrast Gruters’ bill with the Competitive Workforce Act?
Smith: It basically says that LGBTQ Floridians are only worth one-third of the protections available to everyone else in the Florida Civil Rights Act. As an LGBTQ Floridian, that is not acceptable. I’m not one-third of a person. LGBTQ Floridians deserve 100 percent of the civil rights protections currently available under the Florida Civil Rights Act. I oppose the bill because I think it’s an insult to the community [Gruters] is trying to represent.
I think Sen. Gruters is well-intentioned and he is coming from a good place in trying to get a half loaf, trying to get some sort of incremental progress. But the reality is that the reason that legislation was filed is to capitulate to right-wing lies about transgender Floridians being bathroom predators who are a danger to women and children. That’s why public accommodations was jettisoned from the bill.
FP: Do you not see this as some genuine, pragmatic attempt to get LGBTQ+ rights on the table?
Smith: No, because we have the votes to pass the [Competitive Workforce Act] on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate. Over 40 percent of the members of the Legislature last year co-sponsored the bill. Those are the numbers. What does that tell you about support on the floor on an up-or-down vote for the bill on the floor? It’s not just in theory; we’ve whipped the votes. The process gets in the way, because what’s the first obstacle? Getting a committee hearing. And who normally signs off on a committee hearing? Look at the top.
FP: Will the Competitive Workforce Act get a hearing?
Smith: We’re asking for a hearing. That’s what we want. We just want a conversation. I mean, blocking a bill that has this much support can’t continue. This is a democracy. There’s a reason why the [bill] has so much support — because people want it. Because the business community wants it. Because as the state continues to scratch its head and look for ways to recruit businesses to our state without spending taxpayer money, without offering millions of dollars in corporate incentives. Hmm, what is the lowest-hanging fruit — legislatively — that we can take action to bring businesses to our state? Well, it might be to treat LGBTQ workers fairly and equally under the law in every category of the Florida Civil Rights Act.
The sharing economy is big. There’s no lack of options for ride-sharing, home-sharing or even bike-sharing.
Add car-sharing to the list.
The concept is more akin to Airbnb — think the “whole home” option — than it is Uber. Those in search of some wheels can browse a list of privately-owned cars and pick the one that suits their needs.
Thanks to a nifty Apple TV-sized box installed in the rentals, the owner doesn’t need to be there to hand off the keys. And they can make anywhere from $5 to $30 an hour while their car is in use.
Some Floridians may already be acquainted with one the biggest names in the game: Getaround. The Silicon Valley biz opened an office in Coral Gables six months ago and their live map shows a cluster of dots in Miami-Dade. But the next available rental north of Miami Beach is in Washington, DC.
To help pepper some more dots throughout the state, Getaround has retained Brian Ballard and Brad Burleson of Ballard Partners. The major roadblock, policy-wise, stems from a Florida law that requires anyone renting a car to check the renter’s driver’s license and make them sign a document to be sure it matches the scrawl printed on the card.
Bills sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (SB 660) and Rep. Jason Fischer (HB 431) would ditch the signature requirement to allow companies such as Getaround to verify licenses remotely and keep them on file, sparing users the hassle.
The Next 24
The Florida Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m., Florida Department of Transportation, 605 Suwannee St., Tallahassee.
The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference, which typically involves analyzing the potential costs of legislation. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.
The Triumph Gulf Coast board, which oversees how BP oil-spill money aids Panhandle communities, will hold a special meeting to consider setting aside some of the money for Hurricane Michael relief. That’s at 9:30 a.m. Central time, Bay County Government Center, County Commission chamber, 840 West 11th St., Panama City.