Takeaways from Tallahassee – Epilogue

florida capitol - bright

No sooner than the hankies dropped Friday, Gov. Rick Scott‘s press office had fired out a release announcing the governor’s “Million, Billion Jobs Victory Tour.”

“I am proud to announce that by working with Florida Legislative leaders, we have cut taxes by more than $1 billion in just two years,” he said.

And there started the head-scratching. How did the governor come up with that number?

Asked amid the din of the post-Sine Die ceremony, Scott didn’t give a responsive answer.

The graphic in the news release claims an amorphous $164.4 million from this year and next year in “other tax cuts,” which isn’t defined or explained.

The answer: There’s a convoluted way to add it up, but the best explanation came from one wag in the press corps: “It’s budget jujitsu.”

(Scott counted money used to buy down local property taxes paid by homeowners, part of which goes to pay for education, a.k.a. the “required local effort.”)

Hey, it sounds cool. Though not as cool as “millions, billions and trillions.”

Scott then road-tripped Monday to Jacksonville, OrlandoTampa, Fort Myers and Miami extolling his “win-win” Session.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-FoersterJim RosicaRyan Ray, and Peter Schorsch. But first, the “Takeaway 5” – the top five stories from the week that was:

• • •

Drop that hanky — The 2016 Legislative Session is in the books. Lawmakers wrapped up their annual 60-day Legislative Session at 6:45 p.m. Friday when House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner banged their gavels and met in the rotunda for the ceremonial hanky drop. Lawmakers passed more than 260 bills, including ones to put restrictions on abortion clinics and to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana.

More money, fewer problems? — The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the fiscal 2016-17 budget on Friday. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the $82.3 billion spending plan; while the House voted 119-1 to approve it. Need some help with the math? That’s 159-1 — and just Rep. John Tobia was the lone dissenting vote. Lawmakers hoped to send a message to Gov. Rick Scott after he vetoed millions in 2015. Message sent. Will it be received?

Victory lap — Speaking of Gov. Rick Scott, the Naples Republican claimed victory at the end of the 2016 Legislative Session. Just as the Legislature adjourned Sine Die, Scott said that by working with legislative leaders the state has been able to cut taxes and grow the economy. But Scott didn’t get much of what he asked for this year. The $1 billion in tax cuts he wanted was slashed to $129 million. The $250 million Enterprise Florida fund wasn’t in the budget. And the Senate once again failed to confirm Surgeon General John Armstrong, leaving the state’s top doctor without a job. Still, Scott took a five-city victory lap Monday, so it must not be all bad news.

Bills are … dead —  The list of dead bills is long. Lawmakers filed 1,814 bills: That includes general hills, local bills and joint resolutions. They passed just 265 bills, not including resolutions just that one chamber passed. The push for ride-hailing legislation died, even as Republican lawmakers and ride-hailing firms tried to work out a deal in the final hours of the Legislative Session. Lawmakers killed a bill to require schools elementary school to have 20 minutes of recess each day. It’s hard to say who is to blame for the massive number of bills dying, but you’ve got to think that 21 hours — per Sen. Jeff Brandes’ calculation — of good-bye speeches in the Senate didn’t help matters.

Catch a candidate — If you didn’t see a presidential candidate or a major surrogate this past week, there’s a chance you just weren’t looking hard enough. Presidential hopefuls stumped throughout the state with all of them making stops in Miami. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders took the stage on Wednesday. Republicans Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz had their night on the debate state on Thursday. Rubio spent the week swinging through his home state. But with more than 940,000 ballots already cast in the March 15 winner-take-all primary, will it be enough for Rubio to pull off a win?

• • •

The 2018 Legislative Session could be starting early under a new proposal OK’d by lawmakers and heading to Gov. Rick Scott.

The proposal approved by the House and Senate this Session moves the start of the 2018 Session up to January.

In odd-number years, the state constitution requires the Legislature to begin on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. The constitution also allows the Legislature to set the dates in even-numbered years. Lawmakers did that in 2014, when they decided to start the 2016 Session in January.

Under the bill, the 2018 Session would convene on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Lawmakers in support, many of whom have children, have said they wanted to be able to go on spring break with their families. (Skeptics said those legislators really want more time to campaign in what are also election years.)

Opponents said January-February Sessions are too early for economic forecasts needed to properly shape the state budget, the one bill lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass. The state’s fiscal year starts July 1.

Moreover, Tallahassee hotel and restaurant operators have said the early Session has been a mixed bag for business.

In debate last Tuesday, state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Titusville Republican and avid hunter, gave a personal reason: “Turkey season starts next week (so) I am up on this.”

• • •

A ballot initiative that would let Florida voters decide on any future gambling expansions in the state has gathered enough signatures for review by the Florida Supreme Court.

“This is a big day in the effort to return control of gambling back to the people of Florida,” said John Sowinski, chairman of Voters In Charge, the group sponsoring the initiative. “We look forward to having the Supreme Court review our initiative and are confident that our amendment meets all requirements for Supreme Court approval.

“If the court returns a ruling in the Gretna case that does not make Florida voters the ultimate authority over gambling decisions, we are prepared to move forward to put the initiative on the 2018 ballot,” said Sowinski, who also heads up anti-gaming group No Casinos.

The proposed amendment would require any gambling expansion to go before voters on the ballot and, like all proposed amendments, get a 60 percent share of the vote for approval. The Voter Control of Gambling amendment has consistently polled about 70 percent among Florida voters.

Sowinski said over 100,000 voters have signed petitions to get the amendment on the 2018 ballot and, as of Monday, 69,336 of those signatures have been deemed valid. Amendments require just over 68,314 signatures for review and 683,149 signatures to make the ballot.

• • •

A bill that could lead to prepaid dental programs for children in Florida’s Medicaid managed-care system went to Gov. Rick Scott after it cleared the Senate early last week.

House Bill 819 would require the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government to conduct a study on children’s dental services and submit it to the Legislature by Dec. 1.

If lawmakers don’t take action on the report during the 2017 Legislative Session, the bill gives the Agency for Health Care Administration the go-ahead to develop a prepaid dental program for Florida children.

The bill was strongly opposed by the Florida Association of Health Plans, which petitioned Scott to veto the bill shortly after it cleared the Senate.

FAHP President Audrey Brown said the requirement to cover children’s dental services in the Medicaid managed care system has allowed Florida health plans to leverage provider networks into covering adult dental care. Those services, valued at $100 million over five years, could end if children’s dental care is carved out of the Medicaid managed care program.

“I know that it is truly our shared goal to do what is in the best interest of Medicaid children, and the health plans would like the opportunity to demonstrate that they are providing high-quality care and improving dental and overall health outcomes,” Brown wrote in a letter to Scott.

The bill, sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, cleared the House with a 100-15 vote on Feb. 24 and was approved by the Senate 35-2. The only senators voting against the measure were Republican Senate President Andy Gardiner and Tampa Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

• • •

State Rep. Lake Ray shared a rare display of emotion on the House floor last week as he gave his farewell speech. The Jacksonville Republican, who chaired the Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, is term-limited out this year.

Ray appeared to gather himself before speaking, at one point blowing a kiss to his wife Brenda in the gallery. He broke into tears, however, when talking about his son Lake IV, who had been deployed to Afghanistan.

“Of course, he was …,” Ray said, stopping suddenly while lowering his microphone.

“He was deployed and I got a call from him,” he went on, choking back tears.

“He said, ‘Dad, four have been killed in this unit.’ Break a father’s heart to have your son call and tell you that. Except for the grace of God, it was not my son. And those of you who knew, strengthened me.

“Most people think that we come here to the House to find our differences,” he said, gesturing to his colleagues. “But you walk from all the different parts of the state and support us. I thank you for doing that … we’re here to find common ground.”

• • •

Lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk last week that could limit mooring locations in a few South Florida waterways.

House Bill 1051 would ban overnight anchoring in part of Middle River in Broward County and Sunset Lake and a few narrow parts of Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County. The bill cleared the House with a 105-12 vote and the Senate sent it to the governor  with a 36-2 floor vote.

Dropping anchor would still be allowed if a vessel breaks down or under certain weather conditions, such as hurricane or tropical storm warnings.

The bill aims to solve problems South Florida property owners have with boat owners anchoring off their backyards for long stretches of time, though opponents argue it the rule would only further limit mooring spots in the region, which is already strapped for space.

Opponents also asked lawmakers wait on a pending Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission study on pilot mooring-field programs before making changes to the law. That study is due in July 2017.

Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Negron were the only Senators to vote against the bill, sponsored by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell.

• • •

Dying to know what it’s like to be a lawmaker for a day? Don’t worry, Coach P has you covered.

Rep. Rene Plasencia posted a time-lapsed video to his Facebook page last week that showed what a typical day in the Florida House might look like. The Orlando Republican, who is wearing a camera, records the sights as he zips through the Capitol.

There are meetings, plenty of time in elevators, and lots of walking. The major takeaway? Let’s hope legislators own comfortable shoes.

“I wanted to show everyone back home what a day in the the life of a legislator looks like,” he said in his Facebook post. “Take a look.

• • •

Andy Gardiner sees his "official" portrait for the first time on Monday, March 7, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Florida Senate.
Andy Gardiner sees his “official” portrait for the first time on March 7, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Florida Senate.

Senate President Andy Gardiner will always have his anger translator nearby. The Florida Senate made sure of it.

The Florida Senate paid tribute to Gardiner, the 47-year-old Orlando Republican and outgoing Senate President, during his traditional portrait unveiling Monday. But Gardiner’s portrait — or at least the one that was first unveiled — was anything but traditional.

After more than an hour of tributes, the Senate unveiled a portrait of Gardiner and his anger interpreter, otherwise known as Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat, over his shoulder. Gardiner and his wife burst out laughing, while children stared at the photo with their mouths agape.

Some backstory: Braynon appeared as Gardiner’s anger translator in a video during the 2016 Press Skits. The routine brought down the house.

“The whole thought process behind why we created angry Andy was because he is genuinely a nice guy,” said Braynon during Monday’s tribute. “It’s hard for him to say no to people, it’s hard for him to tell people when he’s upset.

“It’s rare in this process that you find someone that is a genuine, nice and great kind of guy. I’m going to really miss you. I’m going to miss the relationship we had. And if any time you have anyone who’s not treating you right, let your angry interpreter know and I’ll come and let them know.”

The Senate later unveiled the official portrait of Gardiner — minus his anger translator.

Of course, the bit was inspired by Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” sketches in which Jordan Peele‘s President Obama and Keegan-Michael Key‘s Luther, Obama’s anger translator, helps him “get his real message across.”

(Here’s one [warning: strong language] and here’s another, with guest star “Hillary Clinton.”)

• • •

Protect yourself, Florida.

The Sunshine State celebrated National Consumer Protection Week from March 6 through March 12. The week-long event teaches consumers how to protect themselves from scams.

In 2015, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received more than 38,000 consumer complaints and recovered more than $3 million on behalf of Floridians.

“Floridians are all too often the targets of fraud and scams,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “An informed consumer is the best defense against fraud and deception, and consumers can access various resources and tips at FreshFromFlorida.com to help defend themselves.”

Officials from different state agencies, including Attorney General Pam Bondi and Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Brown, offered tips on how to protect against scams.

Brown pledged with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank to continue fighting hunger and fostering Lifeline Assistance for consumers needing food and phone service.

Bondi said Floridians can stave off scams by learning their rights when dealing with debt collectors, using trusted repairmen and making sure their contractor is licensed.

“My consumer protection investigators work tirelessly to stop fraud, and protect consumers from deceptive and unfair trade practices. Floridians can help in our fight to stop fraud by reporting suspicious business and marketing practices and knowing what to look for to better protect themselves from scams,” she said.

• • •

Courtesy of the Florida Senate.
Courtesy of the Florida Senate.

Senate President Designate Joe Negron got a taste of what life is like on the rostrum last Tuesday morning.

Moments after confirming dozens of the governor’s appointees, Senate President Andy Gardiner told the Senate they were going to give someone else a chance. But it wasn’t Surgeon General John Armstrong, whose confirmation didn’t make it out of the Senate’s Ethics and Elections committee.

Instead Gardiner handed over the gavel to Negron, who is set to take over the presidency in 2017, as long as Republicans keep the majority.

“It’s great seeing you up there,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat.

The Stuart Republican then presided over the chamber as the Senate worked through its Special Order calendar.

• • •

The Legislature this past Tuesday passed a measure (SB 1602) to increase the safety of in-home elevators. The House unanimously passed the Senate’s bill, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott.

The legislation creates the “Maxwell Erik ‘Max’ Grablin Act.” Grablin was the 12-year-old Bradenton boy killed in a home elevator shaft last year when he went looking for a pet hamster.

The bill “establishes clearing requirements for elevators installed in private residences and requires all such elevators to be equipped with a sensor device that prevents the elevators from operating if an obstruction is detected,” according to a news release.

• • •

Florida’s supervisors of elections could be getting a bump in pay under new legislation passed by the Florida Legislature.

The Florida House of Representatives passed a Senate measure (Senate Bill 514) on a close vote of 58-54, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott for review.

Opponents railed against the bill; GOP state Rep. Matt Gaetz said the bill was “politicians feeding politicians.” But proponents said elections supervisors have the toughest job in county government and deserve the raise.

House sponsor Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican, said supervisors in 33 of 67 counties make less than $100,000 a year.

The proposal changes the calculation used to determine how much a county’s election chief is paid. It increases the base salary and the group rate used to determine a supervisor’s salary.

The change puts the group rate used to calculate a supervisor of elections’ salary in line with the group rate used to calculate other county constitutional officers’ salaries.

The base salary would be in line with that used for elected clerks and comptrollers, property appraisers and tax collectors.

According to a staff analysis, the bill would lead to $1.2 million in salary increases statewide. That evens out to an average increase of $18,540 per county.

• • •

Photo courtesy of Governor’s Office

Could Gov. Rick Scott’s latest announcement be a sign of what’s to come?

The Naples Republican was in Orlando last week to announce that WrestleMania 33 will be held in Orlando in April 2017. According to the governor’s office, WrestleMania generated more than $100 million in economic boosts for cities that hosted the event.

Scott’s announcement came as state lawmakers released their proposed fiscal 2016-16 budget. Missing from the $82.3 billion spending plan are several of Scott’s priorities, including a push to include $250 million to lure new companies to Florida.

• • •

The Legislature approved a plan to increase retirement benefits for the families of first responders killed in the line of duty. The measure sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring passed the House unanimously  and now headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill increases the monthly retirement benefits for families of police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders covered by the Florida Retirement System from 50 percent of their salary at the time of their death to 100 percent. Lawmakers OK’d the change after the two-year anniversary of the death of Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan “Scott” Pine, whose family was unable to receive benefits beyond those accrued during his three years of service.

“I am so grateful to Speaker Steve Crisafulli and our colleagues in the Florida House for passing this important legislation,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said in a statement. “When people like Officer Scott Pine give their lives in the service of our state, the least we can do is make sure we help provide for the families they leave behind.”

The new survivor benefits established by the bill are available to members in a state-designated Special Risk Class killed in the line of duty on or after July 1, 2013.

• • •

Remember that back-up plan we mentioned?

The Senate is scheduled to begin a nearly $5 million renovation project soon. The decision means senators will be displaced if lawmakers call a Special Session — say, to override vetoes — later this year.

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald on Monday reported that the Senate would move to Florida’s Old Capitol. The House would remain in its chambers during any special Sessions.

“When I’ve talked to members, they think that’s pretty cool,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, when asked about contingency plans. “We’ve indicated to save space for us for a while.”

• • •

Since 2016 was named a year of apportionment in which all 40 Senators will have to run for re-election, and as always many will term out, there were a lot of good-byes during the 2016 Session.

Few were as graceful and stylized as that of Sen. Charlie Dean of Inverness, who rode into the sunset on a horse outside the old Capitol Friday morning.

Photo via Matt Dixon.
Photo via Daniel Ducassi.

Dean wore his trusty cowboy hat in the Senate chamber before Friday evening’s Sine Die.

• • •

An especially emotional good-bye came as a surprise to the member who was bid farewell. That was when Sen. Jack Latvala unexpectedly took a moment during debate on the budget to praise Sen. John Legg, who is almost certain to make his exit this year after being drawn into the same district as Sen. Wilton Simpson ahead of 2016 elections.

Latvala recalled a moment in the early 2000s when he recruited a candidate to run against Legg, who was backed by Pasco stalwart Mike Fasano. Latvala spent four times as much as Legg and Fasano in order to stop the Trinity Republican from joining the Florida House, but ultimately Legg vanquished his challenger.

“John whipped our butts,” said Latvala, who shed a tear for his erstwhile opponent, who has since named a son after Latvala.

Moved by the gesture, Legg himself got choked up as he thanked Latvala.

Saying the maps “just didn’t work out” for him, Legg sounded resigned as he bemoaned a coarser political discourse that has taken hold in 2016, apparently in reference to the rise of Donald Trump.

“It’s time to go home,” concluded Legg.

• • •

People with autism will have an additional layer of protection under a bill headed to the governor’s office.

The House voted 115-1 to approve a measure (SB 936) that makes sure a person with autism or a related disorder has access to a parent, guardian or professional, like mental health counselor or clinical social worker, when being questioned by a law enforcement officer. The proposal — sponsored by Boca Raton Republican Rep. Bill Hager and Parkland Democrat Sen. Jeremy Ring — had the backing of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Sheriff’s Association.

“People with autism or autism spectrum disorders may not understand that they have rights,” Hager said. “Being interviewed by police can be a frightening experience and having a parent or family member, who is familiar to them, even though they are not minors, will help them to process what is occurring. I was proud to carry this bill with Sen. Ring.”

In a statement, Ring said the legislation would “ensure those that autism or autism spectrum disorders are able to fairly express themselves.” The Senate voted 32-2 to approve the bill on March 4.

The bill — known as the Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act — now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

• • •

A memorial dedicated to victims of the Holocaust will be built on the grounds of the Florida Capitol complex under legislation passed this Session. The bill (SB 716) must first be approved by Gov. Rick Scott. Legislators set aside $100,000 in the state budget to pay for the memorial.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, said the memorial is needed because the number of survivors of the Holocaust is dwindling. He said people need to be reminded of the millions of people who died in Europe during World War II at the hands of the Nazis.

• • •

Between the farewells of departing lawmakers this week, the Florida House said good-bye to a long time staff member.

It was the last Session for Clerk of the House Bob Ward. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told members that Ward informed him “months ago he would be moving on to other ventures.”

“I know I speak for the entire chamber: You have done incredible service to this House and for this state,” said the Merritt Island Republican.

Ward joined the House staff in 1995 as a legislative analyst. He worked in the House several years before taking a hiatus from the Legislature to work in local government, before serving as the education policy coordinator for the governor’s office.

In 2004, Speaker Allan Bense selected Ward to be his chief of staff. Speaker Marco Rubio kept him on staff in the Speaker’s Office, and in 2007, Rubio selected Ward to be his chief of staff. Ward became the Clerk for the House in 2008.

“There’s no more perfect person to fill this role than Bob Ward,” said Rep. Matt Hudson, the House speaker pro tempore, Wednesday. “As he departs, the Legislature loses more institutional knowledge than we hope to replace. This chamber loses the steady guiding hand that keeps the process running.”

Crisafulli said a picture of Ward will be displayed outside House chambers “as a way for us to remember, with honor, our clerk.”

• • •

The Florida House paid tribute to Stacey Smelser Webb during its floor Session Wednesday afternoon.

“She truly touched more lives than we will ever comprehend,” said Democrat Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee. “Stacey was passionate about education, music and the arts, and also cooking; and she also loved a great glass of wine.”

Webb, a well-liked and respected lobbyist with Southern Strategy Group, died in November after complications from heart surgery. She was 46.

Webb led the lobbying firm’s education practice, representing the Association of Florida Colleges, Broward College Foundation and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, just to name a few.

She has roots in the Legislature. Williams said she started her career in the Florida House as a legislative staffer on the education committee and worked as an analyst for the House Majority Office. She also was the Assistant Chancellor for Community Colleges and Workforce Education at the Florida Department of Education.

Her friends and family — including husband John and son Walker — were in the House gallery as Williams paid tribute to Webb. They wore red in her honor; she always wore a red suit on the first day of Session.

Friends and family have set up the Stacey Webb Arts Foundation to provide arts and music scholarships to children in partnership with her church, Good Samaritan United Methodist Church.

“Help honor Stacey by spreading love and joy to kids through music,” said Williams, before addressing Webb’s son.

“Your mom was a part of the foundation of this chamber and a foundation of this community,” he said.

• • •

Making a threat against a law enforcement officer could soon be a criminal offense.

The Florida House and Senate unanimously passed a measure (SB 436) that makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to threaten a law enforcement, state attorney or assistant state attorney, firefighter, judges and elected officials, as well as their family members. Any subsequent offenses would be a third-degree felony.

“It was an honor to sponsor this legislation. I was truly shocked to find out that it was not already illegal to threaten the life of our law enforcement officers and other public servants and I am grateful to all of my colleagues for their unanimous support. I look forward to Governor Scott signing this bill into law,” said Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Senate sponsor.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, the House sponsor, said the state needs to lead the way in “protecting our protectors.”

“As we see a change in society from one of trust and respect for law enforcement, firefighters, and others, to one of a world that targets them, we must ensure that Florida leads the way in protecting our protectors and ensures the rule of law matters,” he said.

• • •

A years-long squabble over juvenile detention costs is almost resolved.

The Florida House unanimously approved a measure (SB 1322) intended to end the fight over juvenile detention costs. The Senate had also unanimously approved the measure.

The proposal requires counties that aren’t considered fiscally constrained and usually more affluent to pay $42.5 million for all detention costs in fiscal 2016-17. The state would then pay the remaining costs. In the years that follow, the state splits the costs 50-50.

The Florida Association of Counties supported the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala. Barbara Sharief, Broward County’s vice mayor and president of the Florida Association of Counties, said resolving the dispute has been a “priority of FAC for more than seven years.”

• • •

A pair of bills to streamline and reform public-private partnerships – a key economic development strategy of GOP leadership – were given final approval in the Legislature this week.

SB 124 gives entities seeking to enter into a “P3” agreement with the state more flexibility, and cuts existing red tape when it comes to unsolicited agreements, or agreements that originate with the private sector. It also authorizes the Department of Management Services to retain past offers and agreements to use to analyze future proposals.

The bill, as well as a more controversial bill to exempt such agreements from public records before they are finalized, easily passed the House and now move on to the governor’s desk.

• • •

The last day of Session is known for people of The Process breaking out their fanciest dudes, but few outdid Floridian Partners lobbyist Gary Guzzo, who pulled off these Dia de los Muertos-themed slippers. Perhaps a callback to the old Tallahassee adage “bills are dying?”


• • •

It may not be the sexiest issue of 2016 Session, but for Florida’s massive real estate and construction industries this year’s overhaul of the state building construction codes is a certified BFD.

Rep. Dane Eagle – who has shepherded reforms in the same vein before – got his HB 535 approved by the Senate, sending the bill go Gov. Rick Scott for enactment into law.

The omnibus bill requires local governments to provide electronic submission options for building permit applications; creates task force to study electrical safety in swimming pools; revises provisions regarding Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund; revises provisions regarding authority of building officials to issue building permits; and changes provisions regarding appeal boards, among other changes.

The bill was supported by industry groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors.

• • •

Rep. Charles McBurney was in a reflective mood after the Florida Senate passed HB 493, Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System.

“It is the last bill I sponsored as a member of the Florida House to pass the Legislature,” McBurney posted to Facebook.

“Mental illness is pervasive throughout our society. Hardly any family has not been touched by it in some way. Our prisons and jails are, by far, the largest provider of mental health services. This makes absolutely no sense on many levels. It is my hope and prayer that this legislation, though it won’t cure all, will be a big step to reversing this trend, beginning to relieve the criminal justice system as the #1 mental health provider and afford alternative treatment to those who really need it,” McBurney wrote.

• • •

What do you get the outgoing Speaker who has everything? A custom long range rifle, of course.

That’s what the Florida House presented outgoing Speaker Steve Crisafulli with Thursday. Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, leaves office because of term limits.

The custom rifle includes a custom coin commemorating Crisafulli’s speakership. The long range rifle can shoot up to 1,000 yards. Or as Melbourne Republican Rep. Ritch Workman said, it’s a “zombie killer at a half a mile.”

“That’s impressive,” Crisafulli said. “And girls, that’s for your boyfriends. At a 1,000 yards, I should be able to catch them down the driveway.”

Crisafulli, who has served in the House since 2008, told members the gift was “very kind of you,” before giving a shout-out to National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer.

“Marion, we didn’t get any gun bills, but I got a gun going out the door,” he joked.

• • •

One of the last acts of the 2016 Legislative Session was deeply personal for outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner.

As the Legislative Session started to wind down, Gardiner the Senate added language to the balance-billing measure that would require health insurance companies to cover applied behavior analysis services, and speech, occupational and physical therapy to people with Down syndrome.

Gardiner’s son, Andrew, has Down syndrome, and the Orlando Republican has made helping people with unique abilities a top priority during his time as Senate President.

The Florida House agreed to the amendment.

“I am so grateful to my colleagues in the Florida House and Senate for passing this critical legislation that will mean to much to families across our state who have a family member with Down Syndrome,” said Gardiner in a statement.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

One comment

  • Dave

    March 15, 2016 at 10:40 am

    What aout HB535, which includes letting Apartment Handymen do the work of Licensed Electrical and AC Contractors. Could be harmful to tenants, if they cause a fire. All to line the pockets of apartment owners!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn