Florida Senate Archives - Page 7 of 34 - Florida Politics

House to consider proposed committee bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida

The Florida House has fired back, filing a proposed committee bill this week completely eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs agency.

The proposed committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) would, among other things, abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two organizations which have drawn the ire of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The bill, which is expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting, comes as Gov. Rick Scott makes some of his strongest criticisms to date about the House’s position on incentives and Visit Florida.

“If you don’t support Enterprise Florida, if you don’t support Visit Florida, then you don’t care about jobs,” said Scott after Thursday’s Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting. “When somebody gets a job, who gets helped the most? The most disadvantaged in our state gets helped the most. So who ever doesn’t support Enterprise Florida, doesn’t support Visit Florida, doesn’t understand how business works and is not focused on how families in every part of the state get a job.”

Corcoran played a key role in blocking Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in 2016, and he’s poised to do the same in 2017. He remains staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And on Tuesday, Corcoran said there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position could be costing the state jobs in the long run. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended soon after.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” he said. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Scott said he is going to “work tirelessly” to get more jobs, and said he believes the Legislature will “fully fund” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. He would not say whether he would veto the bill if it makes it his desk.

Dorothy Hukill extends legislative absence as she fights cancer

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill will be absent from the upcoming committee week as she continues her battle against cervical cancer, a Senate spokeswoman said Thursday.

“We expect her to return within a few weeks,” Katie Betta told FloridaPolitics.com. “Until then, she will remain engaged in the legislative process by working remotely as she continues her treatment and recovery.”

The Port Orange Republican disclosed her condition last November in a letter to Senate President Joe Negron.

“I am fortunate that it (is) in the early stages and my medical team advises that my prognosis for full recovery is good,” wrote Hukill, the chamber’s Education Committee chair and vice chair of its Regulated Industries panel.

Hukill, an attorney, was first elected to the Senate in 2012 after having served in the House.

Another lawmaker, state Rep. Dan Raulerson, had been away from the Capitol recently as he was dealing with back issues, leading to speculation he was stepping down from office.

Untrue, the Plant City Republican said in December: “It’s third grade playground stuff, and you can quote me on that.” Raulerson couldn’t be immediately reached by phone Thursday.

medical marijuana

Jeff Brandes files medical marijuana implementing bill

Sen. Jeff Brandes wants a total overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana laws, filing legislation to repeal current law dealing with low-THC cannabis and replace it with a new regulatory system.

The St. Petersburg Republican filed the legislation (SB 614) Wednesday. A long-time critic of the current medical marijuana system, Brandes’ bill has the potential to open up the market beyond the seven dispensing organizations under law.

“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” said Brandes in a statement. “The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients. This legislation outright repeals Florida’s defective law.”

Under the proposal, vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers is not required. Instead, the bill creates four different function licenses — cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail — that a medical marijuana treatment center can obtain. The bill allows treatment centers to get any combination of licenses. That’s a departure from current law, which requires dispensing organizations, similar to a medical marijuana treatment center, to grow, process and sell their own product.

“Florida should focus on what is best for patients,” he said. “The state today artificially limits the number of marijuana providers, promoting regional monopolies and standing in the way of the physician-patient relationship. This legislation removes those barriers, and will provide expanded access to Floridians who could benefit from the use of these products.”

The cultivation license would allow a license holder to grow and harvest marijuana; while a processing license would allow the permit holder to convert marijuana into a medical marijuana product, like oils, creams and food products, for qualifying patients.

Medical marijuana treatment centers with a transportation license would be allowed to deliver products to other treatment centers. It also allows centers to deliver the product directly to qualified patients, which the proposal states may not be restricted by local jurisdictions.

The proposal restricts retail facilities to 1 license per 25,000 residents. It allows local governments to regulate zoning and safety standards, and allows local governments to prohibit stores from opening up in their community. More than 50 cities across the state already have a zoning moratorium in place banning or restricting dispensaries.

Beyond getting rid of vertical integration, Brandes’ bill opens the door for future growth by removing current requirements, like how long a company needs to be in business or how much of the product they can grow.

“Senator Brandes’ implementing bill does an excellent job of establishing a comprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Florida. SB 614 respects both the language of the constitution and the mandate that voters delivered on this issue,” said Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care campaign, which backed the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. “The two most essential pieces of implementation are maintaining the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and expanding the marketplace to serve patient access. SB 614 does both in a well regulated, well thought out manner.”

Brandes is the second Senate Republican in recent weeks to file a bill focused on implementing Amendment 2, the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.Last month, Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill that would, among other things, allow for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

Under his proposal, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

The Department of Health also initiated the process of creating rules and regulations governing Amendment 2 in January. The department has until July to put rules in place to implement Amendment 2, which passed with overwhelming support in November.

Under preliminary rules, medical marijuana treatment centers — which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.

A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email last month that agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”

Brandes’ bill also:

— Adds paraplegia, quadriplegia, and terminal conditions to the list of debilitating medical conditions as adopted as part of Amendment 2;

— Establishes criteria for caregivers and requires the background screening of caregivers;

— Restricts patients and caregivers from cultivating their own marijuana, and requires patients obtain marijuana from registered medical marijuana treatment centers;

— Grandfathers in existing dispensing organizations; and

— Applies a sales tax to the sales of marijuana and medical marijuana products.

If Brandes’ proposal makes headway in the Senate, that sales tax issue could run into some trouble in the House. While a House bill hasn’t been filed yet, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who is expected to carry the bill, has said the House version won’t include a tax on medical marijuana products.

 

Oscar Braynon: gun legislation is about ‘reality not philosophy’

Florida Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon considers 2nd Amendment arguments to be about philosophy and he’d  much rather talk about running from house parties when shots break out or watching from behind a car while the man on the other side is shot dead.

“This is my reality,” Braynon told a room full of journalists gathered for the Associated Press’s annual Florida Legislative Planning Session in Tallahassee. “I don’t want to talk about philosophy.

“I represent people who live a life. They don’t live a philosophy,” continued the Miami Gardens Democrat. “They live a life where they have to provide for their children and keep their families safe. And that’s their reality.”

Braynon gave a prebuttle to remarks given later by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam talking to reporters, in which the Republican potential gubernatorial candidate spoke of protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Florida.

Braynon pushed for the Democrats’ agenda, which includes Senate Bill 142 requiring safe storage of firearms, Senate Bill 170 prohibiting guns in performing arts centers, or theaters and 254 prohibiting sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and opposing open-carry and campus-carry legislation pushed by Republicans.

“These are what we believe are common-sense gun legislation,” Braynon said.

“When I talk about guns, I’m not talking about hunting. I’m not talking about this movie thing that apparently some of my colleagues think about, like Die Hard 2,” he said. “I’m talking about real, legit things that happen. I’m talking about my neighborhood. This is my reality.”

He took issue with those who called Democrats’ bills affronts to the 2nd Amendment, saying he and Democrats can support the 2nd Amendment and call for “common sense” restrictions, just as many Republicans say they support the 15th Amendment that gave African Americans the right to vote yet opposing related measures like the Voting Rights Act.

Baynon also declared a hardline stand Tuesday against Republican budget plans to cut spending and taxes. He argued that property tax cuts might give low- to middle-class families relief of just $20 a month while they see reduced services from schools, hospitals and other services that far outstrip that.

And he argued Republicans have been doing it for the full decade he’s been in the Florida Legislature always promising the economic boosts from the strategy would help everyone, but he hasn’t seen it happen.

“It has not worked. The proof is in the pudding, because 10 years later here we are again,” he said.

“I would say doing the same thing expecting new results is insanity. I am going to call it now. We are taking a caucus position as the Senate Democrats against insanity,” Braynon said.

 

Land purchase south of Lake O remains top priority for Joe Negron

Securing funding to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee remains a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

But Negron could face a tough road ahead. Gov. Rick Scott did not include money for a proposed Everglades reservoir in his 2017-18 budget, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has dismissed the idea of bonding to pay for Negron’s project.

The Stuart Republican appears unfazed, saying it is his obligation to convince people the project is appropriate.

“I’m going to use the time I’m here to say enough is enough. We’ve been talking about southern storage for 20 years,” he said during the annual legislative planning session hosted by the Associated Press in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “It’s not a new idea. It’s not a radical idea. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.”

In August, Negron announced he would push for funding to add 120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee during the 2017 legislative session. The estimated the cost of adding the reservoirs on 60,000 acres of land would cost about $2.4 billion.

At the time, Negron proposed bonding using $100 million a year from Amendment 1 dollars over 20 years to finance the project. And last week, the Senate took the first step in making good on that proposal.

Sen. Rob Bradley on Thursday filed legislation that gives the South Florida Water Management District until Dec. 18 to buy farm land for a water-storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The funding for the purchase would come from bonding $100 million of Amendment 1 dollars.

During a news conference later that day, Corcoran said he did not support a plan to finance the project. When asked about bonding, the Land O’Lakes Republican said the “House is not prepared to bond at all.”

Funding for the project was notably missing from Scott’s nearly $83.5 billion budget.

The proposed $60 million for the “Indian River Lagoon Caloosahatchee Cleanup Initiative,” which is meant to be a long-term solution for improving water in the area. The initiative would include $40 million in new funding for a 50-50 state matching grant program to help residents impacted by algae blooms move to sewer systems and $20 million in new funding for muck dredging and other capital projects to improve water quality and reduce sources of pollution.

His budget also includes $225 million for Everglades restoration projects; $20 million for the C-51 reservoir, which will provide more than 24 billion gallons of water storage and a water supply source for South Florida; and $4 million for targeted land acquisition.

“We’re doing projects to make the system better,” said Negron. “I appreciate the governor’s incredible track record on environmental issues.”

Travis Hutson telecom bill would preempt right of way regulation

Newly filed legislation could affect how much power local governments have to regulate the right of way when it comes to telecommunications equipment.

Sen. Travis Hutson, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee, filed the “Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act” (SB 596) on Monday. The bill, among other things, would prohibit the Department of Transportation and certain local governments from prohibiting, regulating or charging for placing small wireless facilities in rights of way.

Under Hutson’s bill, local governments can’t require applicants to perform services unrelated to the approval that’s being sought, like reserving fiber or pole space for the governmental agency. It also can’t ask the applicant to “provide more information to obtain a permit than is required of electric service providers and other communications service providers that are not wire les providers.”

The bill also prohibits agencies from limiting “the placement of small wireless facilities by minimum separation distances or a maximum height limitation.” However, agencies can limit the height of a small wireless facility to no more than 10 feet above the tallest existing utility pole.

An application is automatically approved within 60 days of receipt, unless an agency approves or denies it.

The proposal has the backing of telecommunications giant AT&T.

Jeff Brandes files bill to standardize visitation plans

Sen. Jeff Brandes has filed a bill aimed at providing standardized visitation plans for unmarried parents.

The St. Petersburg Republican filed legislation (SB 590) Monday, which would create a standard visitation schedule for unmarried parents. If adopted, the proposal would encourage contact between non-custodial parents and their children.

“Spending time with our children is the most valuable gift parents can give,” he said in a statement. “The state currently requires child support be paid but is silent on time. This bill seeks to offer parents an optional time sharing plan, used in many other states, that puts the focus on parents spending time with their children.”

The time plan, according to Brandes’ office, would be provided as an option when parents meet with the Department of Revenue to set up child support. It would allow the parents to bypass the court system.

Under the proposed plan, children would be with the non-custodial parents every other weekend; one evening per week; Thanksgiving break and spring break in even numbered years; winter break in odd years; and for two weeks during the summer.

Parents could accept the plan as laid out, deviate and agree upon a different plan, or go through further mediation. It provides several exceptions, including when a family member lives more than 100 miles away or when there are concerns of familial or domestic violence.

Keith Perry files bill to create 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday

Sen. Keith Perry has filed a bill calling for a 10-day back-to-school tax holiday in August.

Under the proposed legislation (SB 490), certain school supplies would be tax exempt from Aug. 4 through 14.

“As I talk to folks across north central Florida, I hear the same thing over and over – people are working hard to do right by their children,” he said in a statement Thursday. “Any steps we can take legislatively to lessen the burden on Florida’s families is a step in the right direction.”

The proposal would include clothing, backpack and sneakers that cost $100 or less; pens, pencils, notebooks, markers, calculators, and lunchboxes that cost $15 or less; and laptops or desktop computers that cost $1,000 or less.

Perry’s decision to file the legislation coincided with Gov. Rick Scott’s announcement that he is proposed $618 million in tax cuts. The governor made his announcement in Jacksonville on Wednesday morning, kicking off a multi-city swing to promote his proposal.

Scott’s proposal includes a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday, which he estimates would save Floridians $72 million.

In 2016, the annual back-to-school sales tax holiday ran from Aug. 5 through Aug. 7. It was scaled back from the previous year, when lawmakers approved a 10-day holiday.

“For Florida’s hardworking families, every dollar counts at back-to-school time,” said Perry. “I am proud to sponsor this common sense plan to put money back in the pockets of parents across the state.”

 

medical marijuana

Drug Free America urges caution as lawmakers discuss Amendment 2 implementation

Drug Free America is urging Florida lawmakers to “proceed with caution” as they begin crafting legislation to implement the state’s newest medical marijuana law.

“While we were opposed to Amendment 2 for a number of specific reasons, we recognize Florida voters have spoken,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of Drug Free America, in a statement. “We also recognize lawmakers will soon convene and consider implementing language … that will dictate policy for generations to come. We strongly urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.

On Thursday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed Senate Bill 406, the Amendment 2 implementing bill. The bill comes just days after the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules, as outlined under the ballot language.

The bill, among other things, allows for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a statement last week. “Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly.”

Under Bradley’s bill, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

“As we’ve seen in states like Colorado and California, measures intended to open the door just a little, results in the door opening far too wide,” said Fay. “Because marijuana – and this is not a surprise to anyone – is subject to abuse, has a robust black market, and is the drug of choice for too many of our nation’s youth, the ‘market’ will rapidly and dramatically take advantage of every loophole that can be exploited.”

Fay said growers have indicated they will have “far more capacity than is needed for the foreseeable future,” and warned that further expansion could “create an undue burden on already overwhelmed officials for effectively regulating this industry.

“For these reason, we ask lawmakers to proceed with caution, recognize that the for-profit marijuana industry will exploit loopholes, and to please keep treating marijuana as a dangerous drug that requires strict safeguards and controls,” said Fay.

Bradley’s bill, which was co-introduced by Sen. Dana Young, hasn’t received its committee assignments yet. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t be talking about medical marijuana this week.

The House Health Quality subcommittee is scheduled to hear from several experts — including officials with the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association — during its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday. While a companion to Bradley’s bill hasn’t been filed, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues is expected to carry the House implementing bill.

Alimony reform bill filed for 2017

Update: State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, on Friday filed the Senate companion to the House bill, which she says is identical save for  “a few punctuation differences.”


State Rep. Colleen Burton will try again to overhaul the state’s alimony law, filing a bill on Wednesday.

The Lakeland Republican still aims to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed, after last year’s measure was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

“I believe it is the right thing to do,” Burton said in a phone interview. “It costs families a lot of money to go through a process that has no starting point. This gives judges a starting point, the same in Miami as in Pensacola, and gives predictability to former spouses who are trying to determine alimony.

“I have nothing personal invested in this,” she added. “This is just worth trying again.”

The latest bill (HB 283), however, does not contain child custody provisions that garnered Scott’s disfavor in 2016.

He disapproved of that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said.

Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed a previous attempt to modify alimony law because, he said, “it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

He added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

On one side, former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them.

Their exes shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

But Burton’s 26-page bill, among other things, contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

A message for Burton seeking comment was left at her Lakeland district office.

But her Senate counterpart last year, Republican Kelli Stargel also of Lakeland, said in a text message she will not file a companion measure.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to take this on again next year,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in April. “Then again, a lot can happen between now and the next legislative session. But we need to discuss the merits of a bill and not get into heated rhetoric.”

The legislation eventually caused “a hollering battle” between about 100 advocates and opponents of the bill outside Scott’s office days before the veto.

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