Influence Archives - Page 3 of 370 - Florida Politics

Jason Fischer, Jeff Brandes introduce self-driving cars bill

Self-driving cars would be able to legally cruise Sunshine State highways under a bill filed by Jacksonville House Republican Jason Fischer.

His legislation (HB 353) would allow for the safe and legal operation of “autonomous vehicles.” The bill also calls for updating sections of Florida’s motor vehicle laws that “require or presume” there’s a human behind the wheel.

In a statement, Fischer stressed the safety that autonomous vehicles will bring to Florida.

“Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of people are killed in motor vehicle-related crashes, and more than 90 percent of those crashes are caused by human error,” he said. “Because autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce or even eliminate this error, I plan to do everything in my power to bring these life-saving technologies to the Sunshine State.”

The bill is being sponsored in the Senate by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, who has been a champion for AV technology.

“Transportation technology is poised to radically reshape our lives,” Brandes said. “Florida has been a leader in exploring this technology, and with this bill, we continue our commitment to providing Floridians the best options to increase safety, spur redevelopment in our cities and lower costs.”

The American Council of the Blind is supporting the bill.

“At the American Council of the Blind, the foundation of our work is our belief that it is the right of every blind person in this country to be included in society and it is the responsibility of government at all levels to provide the infrastructure of services and equipment that will allow us to fully participate in our communities,” said Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs with the American Council of the Blind.

The U.S. House of Representatives has begin moving legislation that could accelerate the rollout of self-driving technology.

The Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act, or “SELF DRIVE” Act, quickly cleared the House with unanimous support, and now moves to the Senate. If it passes there, it could become the first national law for self-driving cars in the United States.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has expressed concern about the SELF DRIVE Act, writing a letter to congressional leaders asking for clarification between the federal government and the states when it comes to regulating vehicle safety and operations standards.

More variances sought on nursing home generators

At least 21 more long-term care providers have filed requests for variances with the state Agency for Health Care Administration as they seek additional time to comply with Gov. Rick Scott‘s mandate that they add generators that can power air-conditioning systems.

The latest requests were published Monday in the Florida Administrative Register and are in addition to 33 requests for variances published last week. Scott’s administration issued emergency generator rules in September for nursing homes and assisted living facilities after eight residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died. Six more residents died later after being evacuated.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning at the nursing home, The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which did not have a backup generator for the cooling system.

Long-term care facilities are seeking the variances because a Nov. 15 compliance deadline is nearing, and facilities that aren’t in compliance face steep penalties, including possible license revocation.

Florida law allows variances, saying that the “strict application of uniformly applicable rule requirements can lead to unreasonable, unfair, and unintended results” and, as a result, agencies are authorized to grant variances and waivers to rules that cause a substantial hardship.

To clarify the process, the Scott administration last week issued another emergency rule that, in part, laid out information the Agency for Health Care Administration wants providers to include in the requests for variances. Meanwhile, three industry groups have challenged the rules in the state Division of Administrative Hearings.

A judge is expected to issue a decision within two weeks.

Americans for Prosperity urges Bill Nelson to support Republican budget bill

The conservative fiscal policy organization Americans for Prosperity-Florida Monday urged Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to vote yes on the U.S. Senate’s Republican budget bill.

AFP-FL stressed that the bill contains a set of parameters for a tax reform package that could pass the U.S. Senate by a simple majority vote. The budget blueprint outlined Sept. 29 by the Senate Budget Committee calls for $1.5 trillion worth of tax cuts over the next decade.

“A vote against the budget is a vote to obstruct tax reform,” AFP-FL State Director Chris Hudson stated in a news release. “Tax reform will unrig the economy by making the tax code fairer and simpler, and stopping the politicians and well-connected from gaming the code for their personal benefit. If Senator Nelson is serious about helping middle-class Floridians, he should vote ‘Yes’ on the Senate Budget Resolution.”

On Monday the national Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group founded and heavily funded by David H. Koch and Charles Koch, sent a letter to Nelson and other senators urging them to vote yes on the Republican proposal.

AFP-FL also indicated it would begin airing an ad urging voters to urge Nelson to do so.

“We urge you to vote YES on the Senate Republican fiscal year 2018 budget resolution. Americans for Prosperity will include this vote in our congressional scorecard,” the letter opens.

“The Senate budget resolution includes many important reforms that would restore responsibility in our federal finances. It reins in federal non-defense discretionary spending by $632 billion, respects the overall discretionary spending caps established by the Budget Control Act, and includes many other provisions that would incite economic growth. Most notably, it provides a pathway for passing comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform,” the letter states. “The resolution includes reconciliation instructions that give the Senate Finance Committee the flexibility it needs to fix the broken tax code.

“Passing a budget resolution is the first step toward delivering a fairer, flatter, and simpler tax code that works better for everyday Americans,” the letter continues. “A vote against the budget resolution is effectively a vote against tax reform. A vote against the budget resolution is a vote for the status quo and the status quo is unacceptable. Conservatives in Washington should not miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”


Dept. of Financial Services

Personnel note: Elizabeth Boyd named state’s Deputy CFO

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday announced that the Department of Financial Services’ long-time legislative affairs director, Elizabeth Boyd, has been promoted to Deputy Chief Financial Officer.

In this new role, Elizabeth will oversee the Department’s legislative affairs, research and planning, cabinet and communications offices, as well as the Division of Consumer Services and the Division of Unclaimed Property, according to a press release. 

“For six years, Elizabeth has advanced the Department’s legislative priorities and secured great success on initiatives important to enhancing the lives of all Floridians,” Patronis said in a statement. “Her expansive knowledge on insurance, finance and regulatory matters, as well as a broad understanding of the legislative process, makes her well-suited to lead our Department in this capacity.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

Boyd joined the Department of Financial Services in September 2011 as Deputy Legislative Affairs Director. As deputy director, she aided in the development of the Department’s legislative agenda and advocated for the Department’s initiatives in front of the Florida Legislature and other stakeholders.

In this capacity, she assisted in the successful passing of legislation that included the creation of a homeowner claims bill of rights and the implementation of sweeping transparency reforms to Florida’s state contracting laws.

Her legislative accomplishments led to her promotion to Legislative Affairs Director in December 2014, where she’s since served as the Chief Financial Officer’s principal legislative advisor and lead lobbyist.

As director, Boyd has been instrumental in securing several legislative victories, including a ban on a medical billing practice known as “balance billing” in which health care providers bill patients for out-of-pockets costs not covered by health insurance and securing the end of a pervasive insurance business practice that derailed the proper payment of life insurance policies to beneficiaries.

Prior to joining the Department, Elizabeth held legislative roles with the Department of Management Services, within the Executive Office of Gov. Jeb Bush, and for the Florida Lottery. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State University.

The Department’s current Deputy Legislative Affairs Director, BG Murphy, has been promoted to Legislative Affairs Director.

Murphy joined the Department in February 2015, following his service as legislative assistant to Rep. Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican. In 2014, Murphy led the successful campaign of Rep. Brad Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican.

Murphy has also worked in management and corporate relations in the private sector. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida State University.

Both promotions became effective Monday, October 16.

To learn more about the Department of Financial Services, visit

Linda Stewart, Bruce Antone push for day care van alarms

State Sen. Linda Stewart and state Rep. Bruce Antone announced Monday they are pushing legislation that would require day care centers to install sensor alarms on their transport vans and other vehicles that would alert workers if a child was left inside.

Joined by other Democratic members of the Orange County Legislative Caucus, many of whom signed on as co-sponsors. Stewart and Antone expressed strong confidence that the legislation would pass, and would create a technological answer to horrible incidents including child deaths involving children left in vans.

In particular, Orlando still is emotionally reeling from the Aug. 7 tragedy in which 3-year-old Myles Hill died after being forgotten inside a day care transport van at Little Miracles Academy in Orlando.

“We need to make sure that everyone in a commercial day care van is removed from the van,” Stewart said.

“Too many have died. And we have ways of making these vehicles safer,” she added.

Stewart, of Orlando, filed SB 486, co-sponsored by state Sens. Randolph Bracy of Oakland and Victor Torres of Orlando. Antone, of Orlando, filed HB 305, co-sponsored by Orlando state Reps. Kamia Brown, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Amy Mercado.

“We need to make sure that no child gets left behind,” Antone said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Both bills require that child care facilities and large family child care homes equip vans and other vehicles used to transport children with alarm systems that would prompt the drivers to inspect the vehicles for children. The bills also would require the Florida Department of Children and Families to maintain a list of approved alarm systems.

Both Stewart and Antone said they have discussed their bills with key committee chairs who indicated support, and both do not expect any opposition.

Stewart said the devices cost between $99 and $700, depending on the technology selected.

Mercado insisted that any day care centers that have trouble affording them undoubtedly will find parents offering to pitch in.

“As a mom, no amount of money is going to replace my child left in a car,” said Mercado, mother of six grown children. “As far as the parents are concerned, this is one extra layer of protection for their children. When they drop them off in the morning they want to make sure they get them back, safe and sound. The last thing any parent wants to is it was their child that was forgotten, it was their child that died in that seat because someone was too busy or too careless or distracted.”

Bipartisan effort again behind LGBTQ discrimination bill

Will 2018 finally be the year that a statewide ban against discrimination against the LGBTQ community in employment, housing and public accommodations becomes the law of the land in Florida?

Once again, the Competitive Workforce Act (HB 347) has been filed in the Florida House of Representatives, this time by St. Petersburg Democrat Ben Diamond and Orlando Republican Rene Plasencia. Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens is sponsoring it in the Senate.

Florida law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital or disability status, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

Momentum continues to build for the bill, first introduced during the 2009 Legislative Session. Fifty members of the Florida House signed on to the bill as cosponsors in the 2017 Legislative Session—the most ever.

The bill has strong support from many in the business community, led by Florida Competes, a coalition of nine Fortune 500 companies and over 450 small businesses from across the state.

“Florida businesses are strong supporters of this bill,” Diamond said in a statement. “Our businesses recognize that we must update our state’s civil rights laws so we can compete in recruiting top talent to our state.

“Most importantly, this bill affirms the basic human rights of our LGBT community. In Florida, it should be illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Referring to the fifty co-sponsors of the bill in 2017 (which he also sponsored in the House), Diamond says the bill is an important one: “It deserves a hearing in the Florida House, and a vote.”

While lawmakers have failed to ban such discrimination statewide, 11 counties have, and more than 30 cities have enacted laws prohibiting discrimination in employment for sexual orientation and gender identity in both the private and public sector.

A bill in Congress that would ban discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has failed to pass since being first introduced in 1994. It has now been reconfigured as The Equality Act, first introduced in 2015.

Danny Burgess announces veterans legislation

State Rep. Danny Burgess on Monday announced he filed a trio of veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues.

“I believe our most solemn responsibility as a state is to serve those who have served us,” said Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, in a statement. “Veterans are Florida’s VIPs, and these bills together constitute its own Veterans Improvement Package (VIP) that will drastically improve the lives of veterans all throughout Florida.

“I am eager to discuss these critical pieces of legislation and will work tirelessly to see them pass in the 2018 Session.”

Here’s the rest of the release, with summaries of the bills:

Alternative Treatment for Veterans Pilot Program (HB 303): Veterans throughout the U.S. face mental health and substance abuse issues. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide affect between 2 and 17 percent of veterans returning from combat. This is a state of emergency.

Many effective treatments that help our combat veterans are not covered or currently utilized by the VA. This groundbreaking legislation will enable the state to partner with universities and non-profit organizations who currently provide alternative treatments to serve more of our combat veterans and help them truly overcome and conquer Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Services for Veterans and Their Families (HB 179): This bill establishes a statewide 211 program, staffed 24 hours, to give veterans a hotline if they are in crisis. This legislation will ensure that combat veterans and their families are promptly connected to behavioral health care referral and care coordination services in their time of need, no matter what time of day.

They were there for us in our darkest hour, and I believe it is our solemn duty to be there for them in theirs.

Temporary Employment or Appointment of Officers (HB 333): This legislation addresses the issue of excessive licensing or training requirements for returning service members.

This legislation says that upon proper documentation, former special forces operators are exempt from completing the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission approved basic recruit training program. They are the best of the best at what they do and Florida should recognize that.

Richard Corcoran says ‘enough is enough’ in new video

Call it the House of Representatives’ Greatest Hits – so far.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran took to YouTube Monday to highlight his chamber’s work in last week’s first legislative committee week.

An enthusiastic Corcoran, sporting a blue blazer-no tie look, sat in front of a bookcase stuffed with Florida Statute books, a miniature Liberty Bell, and an “It CAN Be Done” sign.

“We hit the ground running,” he said, jabbing his finger in the air. He’s also considering a 2018 run for governor, to be decided after the Legislative Session that runs Jan. 8-March 9. Corcoran is term-limited in the House next year.

The Land O’Lakes Republican’s highlights, mostly populist favorites, included:

— The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee‘s approving subpoenas to Tallahassee-based MAT Media and its owner, Pat RobertsVISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, signed a contract with the company to produce a fishing show and a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

“We had a contractor who took $14 million of taxpayer money and he refuses to let us know what he did with it,” Corcoran said. “If he misspent one single penny … we’re going to hold him to account.”

— The Government Accountability Committee‘s clearing of a bill to shut down any possibility of public money for privately-owned stadiums.

That’s “corporate welfare, so the billionaire owners can have you pay for their stadiums,” Corcoran said. “We’ll have that bill ready for the floor in January.”

— The Commerce Committee‘s approval of a occupational deregulation bill so “everybody can get their qualifications, pay minimal fees, and get out there in the workforce … We say, ‘enough is enough.’ ”

Other bills he mentioned include killing red-light cameras “just so some people can make money,” and his priority ‘Hope Scholarships’ measure.

“Principled conservatives … talk less, and we get more done,” he added.


Lawmakers eye student financial literacy requirement

Florida lawmakers will again consider a proposal that would require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation.

The Senate Education Committee this week unanimously passed a financial literacy bill (SB 88) spearheaded by committee Chair Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican.

Republican state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, filed a House version (HB 323) on Friday.

The measures, which are filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, would require students entering ninth grade during the 2018-2019 school year to earn one-half credit in financial literacy and money management.

The course would delve into issues such as types of bank accounts, managing debt and basic principles of insurance policies.

The Senate passed a financial-literacy bill during the 2017 session, but the measure died in the House.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Farmers could get Irma-related tax breaks

Farmers could receive tax breaks on equipment damaged by Hurricane Irma and on fuel, under a proposal by Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican who is running for Agriculture Commissioner next year.

With the agriculture industry facing $2.5 billion in projected losses from Irma, Caldwell rolled out the proposal this week to offer cuts in Florida’s tangible personal property tax and the motor-fuel tax. Instead of putting the tax breaks in a bill, Caldwell’s proposal more likely will be directed at any tax-cut package the House develops or as part of recommendations from the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness.

According to a release from Caldwell’s office, a rebate would be offered on the tangible personal property tax for time equipment couldn’t be used or was damaged by the storm.

The tangible personal property tax is levied on equipment such as tractors and tools. The proposal would also extend a rebate on the motor-fuel tax.

Farmers can currently receive a rebate on fuel taxes for off-road and farm use. The proposal would extend the rebate to on-road use related to storm recovery, according to Caldwell’s office.

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