Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Monday evening. The CBD products on the shelves of supermarkets, specialty shops and even gas stations in Florida would finally be legal under legislation moving in the Legislature. Wait, what? you say. Don’t ask us; ask Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Her spokesman has said she considers the sale of CBD products illegal in Florida “until state hemp legislation is passed.” Sixty Days wouldn’t know, but of course it still considers bourbon a ‘soup of the day.’ Here’s your nightly rundown.
It ain’t marijuana: A Senate panel approved a bill to create a “state hemp program” under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Close call: A bill implementing the recently-passed constitutional amendment on felon voting rights escaped a Senate committee by just one vote.
Northern exposure: A contentious bill allowing imports of less expensive Canadian pharmaceuticals cleared its first Senate committee.
Holding pattern: Money for a new plane for Gov. Ron DeSantis is still up in the air.
Cut the comm’s tax: Floridians could collectively save $128 million from just this one tax cut.
“We were blindsided”: Will lawmakers again fail to deliver tax exemption for first responders?
Quote of the Day
“Back in my day, it was only two H’s.” — Sen. George Gainer, speaking to a group of 4-H Club students in a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is:
This Florida county is surrounded by rivers and is not contiguous to another Florida county.
As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MHDFirm. The first person with the correct answer will get a shout-out in tomorrow’s 60 Days!
On Thursday, we asked: When was Florida’s high-rise “New Capitol” completed?
Answer: “The building was completed in 1977, with a formal dedication ceremony on March 31, 1978.”
Congrats to William E. Lewis, Jr. (@4BillLewis), first to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a hot topic this Legislative Session. Here to offer a primer on the issue is Fred Karlinsky, an insurance-law guru at Greenberg Traurig who currently represents a swath of clients, including trade associations and companies. (As usual, responses were edited for clarity and brevity.)
Florida Politics: Can you give us a 30,000-foot view of what people have described as ‘AOB abuse’?
Karlinsky: AOB really is the biggest problem we have in the property-insurance base in the state of Florida. We’ve had two years of catastrophic storms in Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael. But even those pale in comparison to the man-made disaster that we call AOB. AOB has caused rates to go up and a lot of dissension in the political process because you have a number of folks who have mischaracterized this as an insurance issue when it really is a consumer issue. It’s a consumer issue because consumers are paying for a few people who are in my opinion tantamount to committing fraud.
FP: Can you describe the divide on this issue?
Karlinsky: On one side you have the insurers who are using data and using real-life examples saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, these claims should only cost this, but here’s what’s happening in the claims-adjudication process …”
On the other hand, you have folks saying that insurance companies can do better. The fact of the matter is that insurance companies have done well, and have done really well during the last two hurricane seasons and have done really well by consumers. But you still have a small group of unscrupulous actors who are going out there and trying to get into peoples’ homes before the insurance companies can come in, creating a cottage industry where claims are significantly inflated to the point where it is affecting the viability of the homeowner’s insurance market in the state of Florida.
FP: Does AOB reform look different this year?
Karlinsky: We’ve seen more progress on this issue in the last three weeks than we’ve seen probably in the last seven years. I think House and Senate leadership are very serious about understanding this issue as a consumer issue. I know that CFO Jimmy Patronis and Gov. Ron DeSantis have explicitly said that this is something that needs to get fixed. And the Insurance Commissioner and the Office of Insurance Regulation have as well. So, the thought leaders and policy leaders in the state are all involved. I’m proud of the work that the industry has done on behalf of consumers, trying to educate folks that this is a concern that they should be cognizant of and trying to coalesce around finding common sense solutions to this man-made catastrophe.
The criminal justice budget has been hit with some major cuts over the past few years. Among the casualties: electronic monitoring.
In the 2017-18 budget, lawmakers set aside $8.4 million for electronic monitoring within the Department of Corrections’ community supervision program. In the 2018-19 budget, that appropriation dropped by $1 million. That cut was handed down despite studies that show ankle bracelets and other monitoring devices reduce recidivism while costing a sixth as much as housing offenders in prison.
Attenti Electronic Monitoring is one of the more advanced vendors on the market. It’s hardware and software options allow law enforcement to track offenders with nothing more than a laptop, and it’s also produced an app so on-the-go probation officers can get status updates on their smartphones.
But with the piggy bank drying up, its solutions are in fewer hands. Attenti has hired the team at Smith Bryan & Myers — Matt Bryan, Daniel David, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff and Teye Reeves — in the hopes of reversing the trend.
While bail reform could expand diversion programs and provide a major boost for Attenti and other electronic monitoring companies, Hartley says they’re laser-focused on one goal: Undoing that cut.
The Next 24
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 851) that would take steps to try to curb human trafficking. The bill includes requiring public-lodging managers and employees to be trained on how to recognize and report human trafficking to law enforcement. That’s at 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 171) that could lead to needle-exchange programs in various areas of the state. The proposal would expand a Miami-Dade County pilot program aimed at helping prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases by intravenous drug users. That’s at 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 847) that would prevent local governments from regulating employment issues such as job responsibilities and hours of work. The bill would “pre-empt” such regulatory authority, giving it to the state. That’s at 8 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a battle about the constitutionality of a 2015 state law that would require women to wait 24 hours before having abortions. The state took the case to the appeals court after a Leon County circuit judge blocked the law. That’s at 9 a.m., 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will take up bills (HB 7029, SB 7064) aimed at prohibiting the controversial oil- and gas-drilling technique known as “fracking.” House subcommittee at 8:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building; Senate committee at 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 905) that would make changes to the Florida Department of Transportation, including establishing new qualifications for the secretary of transportation. That’s at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Danny Burgess, a former House member who was appointed the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
Critics of legislation (SB 168, HB 527) seeking to ban so-called sanctuary cities will march to the Capitol and hold a news conference. The bills are aimed at forcing local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. March starts at 10 a.m. at Florida People’s Advocacy Center, 603 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Tallahassee. News conference at 11 a.m., Capitol plaza-level Rotunda.
Rep. Toby Overdorf, a Palm City Republican, will host a news conference to discuss a bill (HB 219) about victims of human trafficking. Several co-sponsors of the bill also are expected to take part in the news conference. That’s at 11:30 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 333) that would create a hemp program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and provide a regulatory framework for the hemp industry. That’s at noon, 12 House Office Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 603) that would prevent cities and counties from regulating how restaurants and other establishments distribute plastic straws to customers. That’s at noon, 212 Knott Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 27) that would remove or revamp regulations on numerous types of professions. That’s at noon, Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 821) that would give advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants the ability to work independently of doctors. That’s at noon, 404 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 107) that would make texting while driving a “primary” offense. The bill would allow police to pull over motorists for texting while driving. Currently, it is a “secondary” offense, meaning drivers can only be cited for texting behind the wheel if they are stopped for other reasons. That’s at noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, will hold a news conference on his bill (SB 476) on “enhanced booster seat measures” to increase safety “for Florida’s most vulnerable passengers.” That’s at 12:30 p.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
The Senate Education Committee will consider a proposal (SB 520) to help provide additional money to Northwest Florida school districts that lost enrollment because students were displaced by Hurricane Michael. The bill would apply to Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will take up a bill (SB 196) that would place limits on the terms of the state public counsel, who represents consumers in utility issues. The public counsel would be appointed to four-year terms, with a maximum of 12 consecutive years. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 897) that would revamp staffing requirements for nursing homes. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal (HB 839) to make a series of changes in the higher-education system. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 879) that would seek to block life-insurance companies from using genetic-test results in deciding whether to cancel, limit or deny coverage to customers. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee is slated to take up a bill (HB 589) to revamp laws related to retail theft. Supporters, in part, want to raise legal thresholds for charges. That’s at 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 73) that would require high-school students to earn a half credit in financial literacy. The bill is named after the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who championed the financial-literacy idea. That’s at 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1000) to reduce the state’s communications-services tax and restrict the ability of local governments to collect fees from communications providers that use public roads or rights of way. That’s at 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will take up a bill (SB 1502) to shift environmental law-enforcement responsibilities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection. That’s at 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Simone Marstiller, Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter and Secretary of State Laurel Lee. That’s at 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will take up a school-safety bill that includes allowing trained classroom teachers to carry guns as school “guardians.” The bill is a follow-up to a safety law the Legislature passed last year after the mass shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. That’s at 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will consider a proposal to spur investments in businesses in rural communities. That’s at 4 p.m., 12 House Office Building.