Richard Corcoran – Page 4 – Florida Politics

A tearful, fed-up Larry Lee decides to leave House

Despite being able to run for a final two years in the House, Rep. Larry Lee Jr. announced Wednesday he is pulling the plug on politics.

“You get to this point in your life when you say, ‘why do I have to stand up and take all of these acts?’ Because when you continue to lay down, people will continue to step on you,” Lee, a Port St. Lucie Democrat, told Florida Politics.

Disheartened by the way things get done in the Legislature, Lee made the announcement to House Democrats during a caucus meeting. He said he is leaving to do work outside of the process, like helping the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors, he said.

“Change won’t come from the inside,” he told fellow Democrats earlier Wednesday.

Lee has served in the Legislature since 2012 and said he’s learned to work across the aisle. People in his district have encouraged him to run for re-election three times because they tell him both sides in the political spectrum listen to him.

But as Democrats and Republicans clash in the House over a contentious bill in response to the Douglas High tragedy, the former teacher and coach said he would encourage young activists to run as independents.

The measure up for a vote includes provisions to arm school staff, raises the legal age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21, and boosts funding for mental health services in schools.

It has a mix of bipartisan opposition with hardline Republicans opposing the gun restrictions and Democrats saying that it does not go far enough without an assault rifle ban. Democrats for the most part oppose arming school staff.

Lee said he met on Monday with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, to tell him about his decision to depart after this term.

In his office, Corcoran pulled out a Bible, read a verse to Lee and asked him to think about it for one more day.

But after a marathon discussion on the school safety bill (SB 7026) that Democrats failed to amend, Lee’s decision was made.

“It’s time to leave,” he said in tears. “My heart is very heavy.”

House passes Adam Putnam’s priority without contentious gun provision

The Florida House Tuesday passed a priority bill for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam without a toxic gun provision and without considering a contentious bill tied to puppy mills.

The language in the House plan was causing heartburn, but state Rep. Jake Raburn, who is sponsoring the House bill, decided to consider the Senate plan, which was much less contentious.

“We’re taking up the Senate bill in place of the House bill. That language has been removed,” Raburn said.

The House bill came under fire by the House Democrats during a caucus meeting Tuesday morning after members saw the House bill would be on special calendar. State Rep. Sean Shaw said the bill, which covers a wide-range of policy issues overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, was “insidious” because of the gun provision.

That language would have allowed the state to process gun licensing permits within 90 days even if there was an incomplete criminal background check.

Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor who has made gun rights the centerpiece of his campaign, asked for the language to be included in both the House and Senate bills early on in the 2018 Legislative Session. But the provision came under fire after the Parkland school mass shooting.

Earlier Tuesday, Corcoran’s office indicated they would put their language on the Senate bill, a move that ultimately did not happen.

A day after the massacre, the Senate stripped the language from its bill due to a “timing and sensitivity” issue. The upper chamber passed its version last week.

If the House did not take out the gun provision, it would have been extremely unlikely for the proposal to pass the Legislature this year.

Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel, the sponsor of the Senate bill, told Florida Politics she would not take up the bill with the gun provision.

In addition to the gun provision, a contentious amendment by state Rep. Halsey Beshears,which was opposed by animal rights advocates, was tossed Tuesday.

The Monticello Republican filed an amendment under the House bill Monday, which would have voided any local ordinances in the state that ban the sale of dogs from USDA-licensed breeders. This could have limited the local government’s ability to crack down on puppy mills and rally animal rights advocates against the bill.

Putnam’s priority bill easily passed the House and is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

After marathon floor session, House poised to approve school safety bill

After an hours-long floor session, in which a series of Democratic attempts to change a controversial school safety bill failed, the Republican-controlled House on Tuesday readied the proposal for a final vote.

Before that could happen, dozens of amendments sponsored by Democrats were killed.

One by Rep. Jared Moskowitz would have removed a ‘guardian program’ in the bill (SB 7026), which would allow school employees other than full-time classroom teachers to carry a gun on campus.

Originally, the bill would have created a ‘marshal program,’ which would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fend off active shooters.

Now, it’s called the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program,” in honor of the coach who died trying to protect students. Moskowitz and Feis both graduated in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High’s Class of 1999.

“It never dawned on me that we would create a guardian program,” Moskowitz said. “… My mind is just blank on this subject. I am spent.”

But Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, said he had to privately talked to plenty of members on both sides of the aisle.

“If this was a secret ballot, this program would be out of the bill. I know that,” he said. “I have begged, I have pleaded … I have sold sh-t I never thought I would, just to get this provision out of the bill.”

Moskowitz said he didn’t want the chamber’s legacy to be that it “armed teachers.”

“These students want to know that they made a difference; they’re willing to accept stuff I know they don’t agree with,” he said. “I want to do something, but I want to do the right thing.” His amendment failed on a 71-42 vote.

By 4:45 p.m., at least 10 amendments had been voted down, out of over 40 that had been filed on the bill in the House, almost all by Democrats. Others were withdrawn during the day.

Lawmakers are struggling to pass a bill to address school safety and mental health after the Valentine’s Day shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of three adults and 14 teens.

A summary of the bill’s provisions as of Tuesday morning is here.

House begins deliberations on post-Parkland measure

The House spent three hours just on questions on a contentious $400 million school safety proposal passed by the Senate on Monday.

House members took up the bill (SB 7026) Tuesday, with Democrats peppering Speaker-designate José Oliva with questions, many of them duplicative.

“Asked and answered,” Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez said several times.

She was in the chair as Speaker Richard Corcoran was trying to finalize a state budget for 2018-19, due on the desks today to finish the Legislative Session on time by Friday.

Lawmakers are struggling to pass a bill to address school safety and mental health after the Valentine’s Day shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of three adults and 14 teens.

A summary of the bill’s provisions as of Tuesday morning is here.

Outside the chamber, a group of students and progressive activists held a “die-in,” lying on the floor of the rotunda to protest the bill and later chanting, “Our children are dying.”

(Photo: Jim Rosica)

“We believe that an increased presence of guns in K-12 schools is not the answer to gun violence,” said a press release from the group, which included Florida State and Florida A&M students.

Part of the legislation, called the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” had been scaled back.

It originally included a ‘marshal program,’ which would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fend off active shooters.

An amendment changed the name to the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program,” in honor of the coach who died trying to protect students. It now ensures “instructional personnel who are in the classroom cannot participate in the program.”

Democrats and other critics noted that school librarians, coaches and psychologists can still sign up for the program.

Liability was one area seized on by House Democrats, with several – including John Cortes of Kissimmee, a retired corrections officer – wondering who could be sued if a guardian shot the wrong person.

That “will be for insurance (companies’) actuaries to determine,” Oliva said.

Democratic Leader-designate Kionne McGhee of Miami questioned Oliva about “bump stocks,” which make semi-automatic rifles fire at the rate of an automatic. The bill outlaws their possession, Oliva said.

By 1:30 p.m., the House had just gotten to the first of over 40 active amendments filed on the bill, almost all by Democrats.

The day before, Sen. Tom Lee – a Thonotosassa Republican who had voted against the bill there – offered words of warning.

“I don’t know if they’re going to continue to work on this in the House,” he said. “I can’t imagine them bouncing this back and we have to go through this all over again … God help us if they send it back.”

Lawmakers reject money for clemency backlog

Despite a federal court ruling that Florida’s clemency process is unconstitutional, state lawmakers refused Sunday to provide funding to address a backlog of former felons seeking to have voting rights restored.

After House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo and Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley reached the agreement, members of the Legislature’s black caucus objected and said they would continue to press the issue with legislative leaders.

“I’m very concerned,” said Sen. Darryl Rouson citing the federal court ruling last month that found Florida’s process for restoring voting and other civil rights to ex-felons was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The clemency review process, which is administered by the Florida Commission on Offender Review, had a backlog of 10,377 cases as of Oct. 1. Applications, under state policy, cannot be filed until five to seven years after a felon has served his or her sentence, including completing terms of probation and restitution.

Once an application is filed, it can take years for it to be processed, with one application, as of last October, pending for more than nine years.

Rouson has been a major proponent of finding more money for the Commission on Offender Review to hire temporary workers who could help speed up background investigations and allow more applications for clemency to be processed.

“This money would help get hearings and decisions for people and unlock and unjam the backlog,” Rouson said.

Sen. Audrey Gibson also urged legislative leaders to support some additional funding for the clemency reviews, saying it would “help people get their lives back to normal and being productive citizens in their communities.”

The Senate began negotiations with the House by offering $750,000 in additional funding for the clemency reviews. It reduced the offer to $250,000 on Friday. But the House never budged from its position of no additional funding.

After agreeing with the House position, Bradley said the concerns raised by Rouson and Gibson will be taken “under advisement,” meaning it may ultimately be up to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to settle the issue.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued the ruling about the clemency process on Feb. 1, focusing on the arbitrariness of the system and saying it violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, however, has defended the system, and it remains unclear how Walker might order the process to change.

House and Senate leaders are negotiating numerous budget issues as they try to finalize a spending plan in time to end the Legislative Session Friday. The budget will take effect July 1.

In another Sunday agreement, lawmakers agreed to spend $14.4 million in 2018-2019 on treating prisoners with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that may be impacting as many as one out of every five state prisoners.

Previously, lawmakers agreed to spend another $21 million this year fighting the disease in the prison system. Treatment can cost as much as $37,000 for a 12-week regimen.

The infectious-disease funding is one of several costly prison initiatives, which are expected to total roughly $100 million in the new budget, where state officials are responding to court settlements over the treatment of prisoners for mental health, diseases and disabilities.

On Sunday, the House backed off its opposition to spending $7.5 million on Vivitrol, a treatment that helps people in community-based programs deal with opioid and alcohol addictions. The money is part of the state court-system budget.

In addition, lawmakers agreed to spend $250,000 in the state courts’ budget on developing a texting system that would provide court-appearance alerts and other court-related information to people with court cases.

House and Senate members also continued the process of eliminating budget projects, which they predicted would happen as lawmakers scramble to find $400 million for a school-safety package, following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland high school.

As a sign of the scope of the cuts, Trujillo and Bradley agreed to eliminate $400,000 for the renovation of the Gilchrist County jail, which is in Bradley’s sprawling North Florida district.

However, lawmakers agreed on spending $4.3 million on the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Research and Education, a forensic research and training facility in Pasco County. The project, which received more than $4 million last year as part of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement budget, is important to Corcoran, the House speaker, and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is in line to become Senate president after the 2020 elections.

Final budget items start getting ‘bumped’

Budget conference chairs are now ironing out funding differences between the House and Senate dealing with a wide-range of policy issues.

Chairs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Carlos Trujillo are figuring out funding for beach restoration, land acquisition and water projects. Currently, the state Legislature is split over nearly $172 million on appropriations for programs funded through Florida Forever.

In the higher education arena, most of the issues sent to budget chairs relate to member projects and implementing bill issues that amount to about $70 million. There are also other money differences revolving around PreK-12 bills that are tied to the budget.

In criminal justice, some issues that have yet to sail through deal with private prison operations and whether a reentry program at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office should get $200,000 in funding.

Bradley and Trujillo have until 10:30 a.m. Sunday to resolve the ‘bumped’ issues before they head to Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Ethics reform in peril

There is “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment in the Legislature, leaders say, but an ethics reform package that would create new rules and penalties for sexual harassment may not become law this year.

The Florida House unanimously passed the proposal this week, but Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley is blocking the bill in the Senate because he wants to discuss the issue in more detail.

Dennis Baxley is blocking new sexual harassment policies, calling for more discussion ‘in detail.’

“I think we need more time and contemplation of what to do with this issue because it is so sensitive,” Baxley said. “I don’t want to rush on something that serious.”

The proposals were filed with the Legislature right before the start of the 2018 legislative session after back-to-back sex scandals rocked the state Capitol — the most prominent ones in the Senate.

The bills filed in the Legislature had the early backing of Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who said the legislation passed in the House is “the strongest in the nation.”

If approved, HB 7007 would require Florida government agencies to set new policies preventing, prohibiting and punishing sexual harassment, which includes language that would keep the identities of accusers confidential to protect them from retaliation.

Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat leading the effort in the Senate, added language to her bill that incorporates any type of sexual contact — whether engaging in it or directing others to do it — into the state’s gift ban.

Baxley said he is concerned the bill would affect too many people in the state and that there is too little time to discuss the consequences.

“When you address all employees in the state, that is a lot of people you are affecting, and I wanted to be more cautious when dealing with that,” Baxley said.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Senate calls rare Saturday Session — In a rare move, the Senate will meet Saturday to consider school safety legislation. With the Session clock ticking down, Senate President Negron announced the weekend sitting Friday morning in a memo to fellow senators. The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to end Friday. A floor session is planned for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. to hear the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Budget conference kicks off The House and Senate formally kicked off final budget negotiations this week and on Friday all unresolved issues were bumped to Budget Chairs Rob Bradley and Carlos Trujillo. If they don’t resolve the issues in question before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, those items will go to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to decide. Still in question is how to fully fund the school safety initiatives. Other lingering issues include a $172 million difference over Florida Forever funding and $4 million over private prison operations.

Gaming bills brought back to life — With a week left in session, the House and the Senate heard their gambling proposals on Friday. A strike-all amendment has been OK’d on the Senate’s legislation (SB 840) which is ready for the floor. Later Friday and the House bill (HB 7067) was discussed and rolled to third reading. Senate President-designate Bill Galvano has said he hopes to get the bills into conference next week. The two chambers—as is usually the case in gambling—are still far apart on policy. That includes differences on one provision that authorizes slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties where voters previously OK’d them in local referendums. That was added to the Senate bill Friday; it’s not in the House’s bill.

Scott makes rare plea to Legislature — In a rare political move, Gov. Scott and the father of a 14-year-old Parkland shooting victim jointly addressed the House and Senate floors Thursday and asked legislators to set aside differences and ensure schools are safe sans armed teachers. “I want to make sure there is law enforcement in our schools,” Scott told reporters upon exiting the chambers. “I don’t believe in arming teachers.” While talking to each chamber, Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was gunned down on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told legislators he is in support of the governor’s proposal, which does not include arming teachers. Petty said he supports Scott’s proposal without the assault weapon ban because he wants action now.

Omnibus education bill gets bigger — The Florida Senate sent House Speaker Richard Corcoran back his priority education bill with a bunch more language added into it on Friday. The Senate included a provision that would make financial literacy courses a high school graduation requirement and increase the amount someone can give to the Hope Scholarship program meant to give vouchers to bullied students. Negotiations happened behind closed doors, according to the Times/Herald. HB 7055 will now go back to the Florida House for final approval before it can go to Gov. Scott.

Scott urged to veto crisis pregnancy center bill

More than a dozen organizations including Planned Parenthood signed on to a letter this week urging Gov. Scott to veto HB 41, which was passed by the Legislature in early February.

The bill, sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo, would require the Department of Health to work with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network to up the availability of pregnancy and wellness care by subcontracting out to centers that “solely promote and support childbirth.”

Jackie Toledo (l) is behind a crisis pregnancy bill that Planned Parenthood wants to be vetoed.

“This bill attempts to establish Pregnancy Support Services (also referred to as Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPC’s) as legitimate wellness centers and codify permanent taxpayer funding for what are in reality, fake women’s health centers,” the letter says.

“These anti-abortion, often faith-based centers are not required to be staffed by licensed, qualified medical personnel. Furthermore, CPCs have a documented history of imitating legitimate women’s health clinics, falsely posing as medical providers, and purposely leading women away from accessing the full range of reproductive health care services.”

The following organizations signed onto the letter: Broward County National Organization for Women, Broward Women’s Emergency Fund, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health, Florida NOW, League of Women Voters of Florida, National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Organize Florida, Pro-Choice Coalition of Broward County, Progress Florida and the Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

Cabinet considering $660K conservation plan for Spanish mission site

Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will decide next week whether to shell out $660,060 to conserve a Madison County site that is home to a 15th-century Spanish mission.

The plan would have the state purchase a conservation easement on the property, owned by R.N. and Charlene Koblegard, which allows the land to continue being used for certain activities, such as agriculture, but blocks new development.

The Koblegard project is part of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural & Family Lands Protection Program. According to the meeting agenda, the project’s approval would mark 42,276 acres preserved under the RFLPP.

The 772-acre site is situated on the south of Interstate 10 on the southern edge of Sampala Lake. The Spanish mission, San Pedro y San Pablo de Protohiriba, is one five missions established by the Spanish in the 1600s.

The week in appointments

Florida Real Estate Appraisal BoardDawn Warren is a property manager for Altamonte Heights Condos and Lake Tyler Condos and will succeed Tamara McKee.

He will serve a term ending Oct. 31, 2020, and is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Toni Appell of Marathon, is a retired paraprofessional for the Monroe County School District, is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

David Ritz, of Key Largo, is the president of Ocean Reef Community Association and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

Robert Dean, of Key West, is the owner of Dean Lopez Funeral Home and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.

All three appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

DOH doles out $16 million to research smoking-related diseases

The Florida Department of Health announced this week that it is handing out $16.2 million to fund 20 research projects focused on developing treatments and cures for cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

The money was awarded through the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program. DOH said the selections were made based on “rigorous peer review” and the application process included 224 researchers seeking funding.

Florida Department of Health is coughing up $16.2 million for smoking-related disease research.

“Florida is at the forefront of cancer research and innovation, and I am proud to announce the recipients of more than $16.2 million for cancer research grants,” Gov. Scott said. “These 20 new projects will assist Florida’s world-class researchers in discovering more about how to prevent and treat these terrible diseases. Cancer impacts so many lives, and I am proud of the work of our incredible research institutes as we fight to find a cure.”

The University of Miami topped the list with $5.5 million in grants for seven projects plus another $57,000 for a joint project with the Miami Veterans Affairs. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute followed with $4.5 million for five projects. UF will receive $3 million for three projects; UCF, USF and the Mayo Clinic will each get a single project funded at $815,000; and FAU will receive $708,000 for one project.

FWC law enforcement division reaccredited

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said this week that its Division of Law Enforcement was reaccredited.

“The FWC Division of Law Enforcement continues to maintain the highest standards of credibility, effectiveness and professionalism,” FWC director Eric Sutton said. “Our staff worked diligently to uphold these important standards each and every day. Reaccreditation by the Commission validates the hard work they do, and provides a strong vote of confidence in their ability to protect the public and conserve Florida’s natural resources.”

The division has held accreditation through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation since 2009 and has now gone through the reaccreditation process four times.

Florida Wildlife Commission director Eric Sutton.

Accredited law enforcement agencies must consistently meet or exceed 240 prescribed standards over a three-year period to maintain their status.

“Accreditation is a voluntary but important process intended to hold an agency to a higher level of accountability by an external source,” said Col. Curtis Brown, who heads up the division. “We are very pleased with the CFA’s determination that reaccreditation of the Division was earned.”

Florida Lottery celebrates 30 years

It’s been 30 years since the Florida Lottery began and it’s celebrating the milestone with a heap of new scratch-off games.

At the $30 level is “FLORIDA 100X THE CASH,” which features eight top prizes of $15 million. The Florida Lottery said 100X was only the second $30 game it’s put out.

Florida Lottery marks three decades of cash prizes.

The $5 game, “MONEY MACHINE,” features 16 top prizes of $250,000 and over $58 million in total cash prizes; the $2 game, “$30,000 LUCKY WIN,” has a total prize pool of $32 million; and for a buck, players can pick up “TRIPLE PAYOUT” which features 84 $3,000 prizes and a total prize pool of $12 million.

The lotto said the new games would start hitting retailers by the end of the week.

Voters approved the constitutional amendment creating the lottery in November 1986 by a 2-to-1 margin. The Florida Lottery started operating a little over a year later in January 1988.

Reinsurance surcharge repeal advances in Senate

Legislation to repeal a reinsurance surcharge on consumers is advancing in the Florida Senate. St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes’ SB 1454 has cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee and is headed for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

“This is a welcomed development for Florida’s insurance consumers,” said Jay Neal, President and CEO of FAIR, The Florida Association for Insurance Reform. “This bill would offer a significant 8 percent to 10 percent rate reduction for homeowner’s insurance consumers.”

The surtax was designed to replenish the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund following bad storm seasons in 2004 and 2005, but the account now has enough money to cover similar losses twice over.

Senate celebrates Military Appreciation and National Guard Day

The Florida Senate considered a string of bills helping active duty military, veterans and their families this week in honor of Military Appreciation and National Guard Day at the Capitol.

“My Senate colleagues and I are committed to enacting policies that keep Florida the No. 1 state for active duty members of our armed forces, veterans and their families,” said Senate President Negron. “The legislation we discussed today sends a clear message that Florida is truly the Welcome Home State.”

Audrey Gibson is honoring the Florida National Guard for their service during last year’s hurricane season.

Among the bills heard by the chamber were SB 100, which waves driver’s license fees for veterans; SB 460, which allows Florida colleges to waive fees for students who are active duty military and using military tuition assistance; SB 440, which would establish the Florida Veterans Care Program, an alternative to Veterans Affairs; and SB 330, which would rename a portion of State Road 10 in Walton County as the “Lieutenant Ewart T. Sconiers Highway.”

Also on the docket was a resolution by Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson to honor the Florida National Guard for their service during the 2017 hurricane season.

“When Floridians are facing some of the most challenging times, the Florida National Guard is at its best springing into action at a moment’s notice to help Floridians in need,” she said. “We are so grateful for their courageous service to our state during the recent hurricane season.”

Coastal management bill clears Senate

A bill aimed at helping preserve and maintain Florida coasts cleared the Senate this week with a unanimous vote.

SB 174, by Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, revises the criteria used to help the Florida Department of Environmental Protection prioritize coastal restoration projects based on need and importance.

Dorothy Hukill is pushing coastal preservation. 

“This is a bill for all Floridians, and the millions of visitors to our state annually, to preserve and maintain our state’s most unique, natural assets — our beaches,” Hukill said. “Coastal management is beneficial for conservation, recreation and tourism.

“I would like to thank my Senate colleagues and all of the support we’ve received from around the state. This legislation will ensure that our beautiful state and its unique natural resources are properly maintained and protected.”

SB 174 now moves to the House where a similar bill, HB 7063, is also prepped for a floor vote.

Loomis named FTC member of the year

The Florida Technology Council this week presented ISF CEO Cyndy Loomis with its “2018 FTC Member of the Year” award.

“I’m honored to receive the FTC Member of the Year Award, and I’m proud to advance FTC’s mission to champion the priorities of the technology industry in the State of Florida to our state government leaders,” Loomis said.

Florida Technology Council Member of the Year Cyndy Loomis.

In addition to running the Jacksonville-based software company, Loomis has served as the FTC board chair since 2016.

The award was presented by James Taylor, the executive director of the tech company trade association, at the FTC Legislative Reception in Tallahassee.

FTC said Loomis was “recognized specifically for her outstanding service in driving the effectiveness, reach, and membership growth of the Council.” A half-dozen others were presented with awards at the event.

Applications open for AmeriCorps funding

Volunteer Florida this week announced the 2018-19 criteria for getting proposals funded through AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps funding is granted to address critical community needs including education, disaster services, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.

Sample activities include tutoring and mentoring youth, response to local disasters, restoring natural habitats and job training/placement. AmeriCorps members also mobilize community volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.

Funding requests can be sent in through April 5. Those who have a proposal but don’t know the ins and outs of the application process can log in to the “AmeriCorps Budget 101 Webinar” March 15. Technical assistance conference calls are also available for new and continuing applicants.

To register for a call or the webinar, fill out the RSVP form online. More information on the formula funding rules is available through the Volunteer Florida website.

Detzner announces March of Museums round two

Secretary of State Ken Detzner kicked off the new month by announcing the second annual “March of Museums,” a celebration of the variety and versatility of Florida’s museums.

“As Florida’s Chief Cultural Officer, I am proud of the success of last year’s ‘March of Museums’ and I am excited to expand this initiative statewide Detzner said. “From art to animals, from sports to science, and from history to horticulture, Florida has an incredible array of museums that encourage exploration and learning.”

Secretary of State Ken Detzner kicks off the ‘March of Museums.’

The Department of State encouraged Floridians — and visitors — to use “March of Museums” as an opportunity to spend some time at a Florida museum, whether nearby or off the beaten path.

To help facilitate, the department is hosting a website that lists museums by region and highlights the mission and collections of the institutions, as well the events each is holding this month.

Instagram of the Week

Volunteer Florida, Uber collect 3,540 items for #SuitsForSession

Volunteer Florida and Uber said the third annual #SuitsForSession at the Capitol collected 3,540 donations of professional attire for job-seekers statewide. Also, Uber drivers picked up items across Leon County for free this past Tuesday.

Here are the highlights:

— Number of suits collected: 373 (237 women’s, 136 men’s).

— Number of women’s items collected: 2,270.

— Number of men’s items collected: 743.

— Other items (shoes, belts, etc.) collected: 527.

— Number of bags of clothing donated through the Uber app: 27.

— Number of participating organizations that collected clothing: 26.

Volunteer Florida CEO Vivian Myrtetus said in a statement, “The people of Tallahassee matched these donations by bringing and sending in their own business apparel. Uber has been a tremendous partner to Volunteer Florida and we are so thankful for their participation in another successful year of #SuitsForSession.”

Added Senate Republican Leader Wilton Simpson, “It was great participating in another #SuitsForSession clothing drive. My staff and I are always proud to support this service project that helps job seekers throughout our state.”

Donated items will be delivered to Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America (statewide locations), and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program in Tallahassee throughout the coming days.

Capitol halls lined with Florida student art

The lower level of the Florida Capitol got a bit of a makeover this week as it began hosting the second annual Art in the Capitol Competition.

The competition, hosted jointly by the Department of Management Services and Department of Education, is aimed at encouraging middle school students to try their hand at art. The only rules are the art has to be 2D and original.

Then-Florida DMS Secretary Chad Poppell views the 2017 Art in the Capitol Competition artwork with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

“As the custodian of the Capitol complex, DMS is proud to host this event and share these inspiring works with Capitol visitors,” said DMS Secretary Erin Rock. “These are our future leaders, and that is what makes it such a joy to be able to get a glimpse at the soul and spirit of these kids through their art.”

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart added that the competition wonderful way to recognize Florida students’ creativity.

Making it to the walls this year were 35 middle schoolers, each of whom was paired up with a lawmaker to sponsor the artwork. The artwork is viewable online via the Art in the Capital webpage.

Tallahassee airport aces FAA inspection

Tallahassee International Airport said it landed a perfect score during its annual Federal Aviation Administration airport certification and safety inspection.

“The Airport is extremely proud of this accomplishment and remains committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and security for our patrons, visitors and tenants,” said David Pollard, interim director of aviation at TLH.

Tallahassee International is aces with the FAA.

All airports that offer commercial service go through the test yearly. The multiday inspection covers everything from airport safety to firefighting to the markings on the tarmac.

TLH said acing the FAA inspection is icing on the cake after a string of victories over the past month, including the maiden flight of between TLH and Reagan Washington Airport in D.C. and the successful opening of a Transportation Security Administration pre-check enrollment center.

Now for Capitol Directions:

Adam Putnam committee raises $431K in February

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised another $431,000 last month for his political committee, Florida Grown, according to records on the committee’s website.

The new numbers show Florida Grown at nearly $20 million in total fundraising since it was formed in early 2015.

Putnam is running for the GOP nomination for Governor. He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to enter the race after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Florida Grown had about $14 million on hand at the end of January. The new haul was balanced out by about $124,000 in spending. The committee had about $14.3 million in the bank at the end of February.

The largest contribution last month was a $97,000 check from beer distributor August A. Busch, followed by $75,000 from a political committee affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida.

Putnam’s committee also brought in a half-dozen checks for $25,000. Contributors at that level included Wallace Burt, Barbara Carlton, Mel Sembler, Two Rivers Ranch, Phillips and Jordan Inc., and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC.

Expenditures last month included $24,748 to Silloh Consulting, $20,800 to Forward Strategies, and $11,166 to Dogwood Communications.

Official campaign finance reports for candidates and committees are due to the Florida Division of Elections by March 12.

At the end of January, Putnam’s campaign account had total fundraising of $4.1 million with nearly $2.8 million on hand.

Reanimated: Senate gambling bill, with changes, back in play

A strike-all amendment planned for the Senate’s 2018 gambling bill will add an authorization for slot machines in counties where voters OK’d them in local referendums, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said Thursday.

The Senate bill (SB 840) is now slated for consideration before the Appropriations Committee Friday. Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, is the Senate’s lead negotiator on gambling for the Legislative Session.

“We’ll also have some contraction of (gambling) licenses,” he said. “And then some limitation on the number of slots, contracting from what is already authorized, so that there’s a balance. We’re still talking about a number, but it will be a contraction.”

Speaker Richard Corcoran has previously said this year that any legislation the House agrees to must be “an absolute contraction” of gambling in the state—though he hasn’t specifically defined that term.

A “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment is on the November ballot, requiring a statewide OK for any new or added gaming in the state. If it gets 60 percent approval, the Legislature will be indefinitely shut out from influencing gambling.

The latest proposal also would satisfy Senate President Joe Negron, who favors granting slots to pari-mutuels in “referendum” counties,” saying the Legislature should respect the will of the people.

Those extra slots weren’t in the previous versions of the Senate bill and are not in the House measure (HB 7067).

“I have always been clear those referendums that took place were not done pursuant to state law; in fact, they were done in spite of state law,” Galvano said. “Nonetheless, he (Negron) has been a proponent of that, so we are putting that issue in play.”

The Seminole Tribe also may be softening its position on games that it feels threaten its exclusivity to offer certain games in the state, he added.

“They continue to have an interest in getting something together,” Galvano said. “Their last offer was really not very impressive.”

A draft agreement that the Tribe reportedly shared with legislators suggests it would be willing to back down on its opposition to the state expressly allowing fantasy sports play and continued play of designated-player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack offered in pari-mutuel cardrooms.

The Seminoles’ current deal with the state allows it to reduce or cut off payments to the state, expected to reach over $300 million next year, if other games are played that it believes impinges on any of its exclusive gambling rights.

The House will next consider its bill on the floor Friday. Galvano said he hopes the two chambers can get into conference over gaming legislation no later than next Wednesday. The Session ends next Friday.

“Chair (José) Oliva and I continue to have conversations,” Galvano said. “We are, in concept, together on the idea that we need to solidify our relationship with the Tribe.” Oliva, the Speaker-designate and a Miami Lakes Republican, is the House gaming negotiator.

Both chambers now are behind a renewed 20-year deal with the Tribe for $3 billion in revenue over seven years in return for exclusive rights to blackjack, and to slot machines outside South Florida.

Galvano said future money from the Seminoles could be used to “backfill” recurring costs for public school safety and campus ‘hardening’ being considered in the wake of the deadly school shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Senate also exempts thoroughbred horse tracks and jai alai frontons from decoupling, which allows a pari-mutuel to stop live racing but keep offering other gambling, such as slots. The bill still allows for greyhound-racing decoupling, however.

House backs tougher texting-while-driving ban

The Florida House approved a measure Thursday that would allow law-enforcement officers to pull over motorists for texting while driving, despite concerns the bill could increase instances of racial profiling.

The House voted 112-2 to support the proposal (HB 33), which would make texting while driving a “primary” traffic offense, allowing officers to pull over motorists for texting.

It currently is a “secondary” offense, which means police can only write tickets for texting while driving when they stop motorists for other reasons, such as speeding.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has made a priority of the change, but a Senate version (SB 90) of the bill is stalled.

Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican who is the primary sponsor of the House bill, said that “despite all the other important issues that we are dealing with, we came together and worked together in a bipartisan fashion to save lives.”

Co-sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat whose twin sister, Dori, died in a car accident 22 years ago, said the change is needed. Currently, when police officers see someone texting while driving, she said they have to “wait for that 16-year-old driver to hit somebody, or run a red light, or kill somebody.”

To try to address concerns about racial profiling by police, the House and Senate versions require law-enforcement officers to record the race and ethnicity of each person pulled over for texting while driving.

Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, said he initially opposed the bill, but the data collection requirement eased his concerns.

“I represent a district where a lot of people look like me, and I do not want another reason to pull someone over that looks like me,” Shaw, who is black, said. “But the process works in this particular bill. There was a data collection component placed into the bill where we will be able to collect data and see whether there is a racial component to this and act accordingly.”

Both proposals would allow motorists to make phone calls on electronic devices. Also, the devices could be used for such things as getting directions.

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