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.
“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.”
“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 Board — Dawn 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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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: