Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Wednesday evening. The biggest news of the day didn’t come out of the Legislature, though it was the buzz of the Capitol: Gov. Ron DeSantis named the first Cuban-American woman to the state’s highest court. The appointment — the first for three vacancies on the court — came on DeSantis’ second day in the job, cementing his conservative bona fides (as if they needed it) and setting the tone of his administration for the coming year. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Hail to the chief: DeSantis appointed Barbara Lagoa, chief judge of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, to be the newest justice on the Florida Supreme Court.
Reaction from near and far: One thing’s for sure: A lot of conservatives like baseball, calling Lagoa’s appointment a “home run.”
Marriage equality: Democratic lawmakers filed legislation to remove language from the state statute that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Praise the Lord and pass the legislation: Rep. Kim Daniels, a preacher and Jacksonville Democrat, wants to require the state’s public high schools to offer Bible study classes.
Poop problems: Septic tanks — not fertilizer — are one of the primary triggers for toxic algae blooms throughout the state, a Senate panel was told.
Of ‘loopholes’ and level playing fields: The Florida Commission on Ethics’ legislative wish list includes closing “loopholes” in conflict of interest rules and leveling the playing field on legal costs in ethics cases.
Oil money: Rep. Brad Drake sponsored a bill that would redirect settlement dollars from the BP oil spill into a new economic development fund in Northwest Florida.
Merry-go-round: A short take on who is in and who’s out among legislative staff.
Quote of the Day
“When he stood up (to leave during Ron DeSantis‘ inaugural ceremony) I was wondering if he (Rick Scott) was running back to the office to make nine or 10 more appointments.” — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who served as a co-chair on DeSantis’ transition team.
Bill Day’s Latest
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the sole Democrat in office statewide, recently discussed with Cannabis Wire her plans for expanding patient access to medical marijuana. While Fried’s policy positions on cannabis are known, less known is Fried’s own mother’s issues that illustrate gaps in medical marijuana policy and how the drug is deployed in Florida.
Q: Do you have a personal connection to this issue now?
NF: My mother was diagnosed with cancer a week before the elections, and she started to go through chemo. But for my intimate knowledge of how this program works she may not understand it. Her doctors … aren’t part of the registry and couldn’t recommend cannabis. And so for her she wouldn’t really understand that this is available to her. And so that has to change.
Q: Did cannabis help your mother?
NF: She got on the registry and went over to one of the dispensaries last week and she has some products, but she was given more of a CBD line as opposed to high THC for the days of chemo and afterward. And when I said to her, ‘Mom, you know you need to take the CBD every single day and you need to be taking the high THC when you’re going through the actual chemo treatments,’ her response was, ‘I spent just so much money, how am I going to afford the rest of this?’ So that’s scary to think about that so many of our patients even when they have access to any kind of affordable access, it’s not just having a dispensary down the street, it’s making sure, because health insurance doesn’t cover this, that they can financially afford to get this medicine that they need.
Q: What’s next for medical cannabis with the new administration coming in?
NF: I have not had any direct conversations with the governor, but I know that he has a lot of advisers around him who have made him understand the importance of properly implementing the amendment and what the lawsuits are doing for the expansion of the program. I’m hopeful that he’s been listening to the people on the campaign trail, listening to the message that I was talking about every single day and saying that this is what the people of the state of Florida are wanting. So I’m hopeful that he, in fact, starts to drop some of these lawsuits. And I also am hopeful that the legislature this year comes in and starts to fix some of these problems that we’ve been seeing.
Fried talks banking, vertical integration, and other issues in this interview with Cannabis Wire.
Criminal justice reform will be a focus in the 2019 Legislative Session, with everything from risk assessment tools to pretrial release programs expected to get some airtime.
Those policy changes would significantly impact the state’s bail industry, so the Florida Bail Agents Association has re-signed with Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group to convince lawmakers to stay the course on a system that works.
“We want to make sure good policy passes that benefits the taxpayer and the state,” Foster said.
Pretrial release programs cost taxpayers and have a few benefits, but when it comes to their primary goal — ensuring the accused shows up in court — they can’t compete with the bail system.
As Foster put it, those programs “have been proven unsuccessful in other states.”
New Jersey, which eliminated cash bail in 2014, bolsters Foster’s point. In the years since pretrial replaced the bail system, taxpayers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars while fewer people have shown up for their court date.
The Next 24
State candidates running in 2020, political committees and parties face a Thursday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Dec. 31.
The Florida Transportation Commission will continue to review applications for a new secretary of the Department of Transportation to replace Mike Dew, who left Dec. 3. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Florida Department of Transportation, Burns Building Auditorium, 605 Suwannee St., Tallahassee. Call-in number: 1-888-585-9008. Code: 312683122.
The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive overviews of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Department of Elder Affairs. That’s at 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Office of the State Courts Administrator about court-system filings and dispositions. That’s at 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Gaming Control Subcommittee will receive an overview. That’s at 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee will receive a presentation about the State Board of Education’s governance of the Florida College System. That’s at 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee will receive a presentation about rule-making and legislative oversight of agency rule-making. That’s at 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an overview of the base education budget. That’s at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.
The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to release its weekly opinions at 11 a.m.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will receive an overview of the roles and responsibilities of the Agency for Health Care Administration. That’s at 11 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an overview of the higher-education base budget. That’s at 11 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will receive overviews of the Office of Insurance Regulation, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and the Florida Department of Financial Services. That’s at 11 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive an overview of the justice-system base budget. That’s at 11 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will receive a presentation on school improvement. That’s at 11 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, The Capitol.
The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will receive a presentation from CareerSource Florida. That’s at 11 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.