Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Tuesday evening. Both chambers of the Legislature held separate hearings Tuesday as they try to produce language to allow smoking of medical marijuana. But minds and hearts are split over how to do it: Some in the Senate want a patient to get a second opinion before they can get smokable cannabis; others in the House want to allow it only in the form of filtered, pre-made cigarettes. Will they agree on a single piece of legislation to send to Gov. Ron DeSantis by his March 15 deadline? Sixty Days isn’t the betting type. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Smoking ban smolders: The clock is ticking to get rid of a ban on smoking medical pot, but the House would restrict its use to pre-rolled cigarettes.
RayRod keeps hope alive: Rep. Ray Rodrigues, who’s also been the House GOP leader, says he’s “very optimistic” of a medical marijuana bill being ready this Session.
#MeToo movement: A Health Department employee settled her sexual harassment complaint against the state, which her attorney called a “cautionary tale” for victims.
Credit karma: A slight reduction to the state’s general-fund reserves won’t affect Florida’s credit ratings.
The ‘blackface’ lawmaker: No Florida legislator has been more embroiled in controversy than Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who wore blackface as a school prank 14 years ago.
Quote of the Day
“My advice for Rep. Sabatini would be this: Now is the time for less talking and more self-reflection.” — Florida GOP chair Joe Gruters on fellow Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who says he’s been unfairly attacked on social media after a 14-year-old picture of him wearing blackface surfaced.
Bill Day’s Latest
Dana Young is now CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing arm, but before that, she was a lawmaker. The sixth-generation Floridian first served in the House 2010-16, rising to House Republican Leader. She ran for re-election last year to her Senate District 18 seat, where she served since 2016, but was narrowly defeated by then-House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. Young returned to her old stamping grounds this week to talk up her new position and the agency she leads — she appeared before the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee. (We edited and adapted her remarks for the “3Q” format.)
Q: How do you like the new gig?
Young: I think it’s probably the coolest job in state government. It’s been a pleasure to get to know more about what VISIT FLORIDA does. I’m here today to give you a little more information of what we do, and not just the glitzy marketing campaigns…
There are several case studies that show that marketing has transformed a product or business. There are also similar studies that show if you ignore marketing, you do so to your detriment. An example I like to use is Yeti coolers … The brothers that started Yeti marketed their very expensive, upscale item to the hunting and fishing community. But they never really marketed the business. Then, in 2011, they launched a massive marketing campaign. In a very short time, Yeti went from $29 million in 2011 to $500 million in 2015 … They marketed it as something you have to have. It became a cult favorite.
In Florida’s case, we are a little different. We have a well-known and respected brand and we know that we have to continue marketing Florida to keep us ahead of the competition. We not only compete with other states, but we compete with other countries … We’re moving the needle with the work that we’re doing.
Q: Is the agency getting results?
Young: We have had tremendous success. In the past seven years, we have had record tourism in the state of Florida … In 2017, we had 118.8 million visitors come to Florida. And we’re solidly on track for an eighth record year. In 2016, out-of-state visitors spent $111 billion in Florida. According to an in-depth analysis conducted by Amy Baker at EDR, VISIT FLORIDA generates $2.1 for every taxpayer dollar invested into our organization.
… In partnership with the Governor’s Office, we’re going to do something in Israel this year. Most of you haven’t seen our ads, however, which makes sense. It didn’t dawn on me until I was actually in this job that the only time I see VISIT FLORIDA is when I’m traveling. That’s because we are always working to attract out-of-state visitors, and we are doing so by using your tax dollars efficiently.
Q: The agency has taken hits in recent years over questionable spending, including by then-House Speaker Richard Corcoran. How will lawmakers know you’re back on the right track?
Young: Everything we do is done with full transparency. In fact, contracts, expenditures, salaries, and pretty much anything else the public would want to know is available with the click of a button on our website.
Legislation to permit beer advertisements in major theme parks gets its first hearing for the 2019 Legislative Session tomorrow, before the House Business and Professions Subcommittee.
The House version of the bill (HB 261) would, among other things, allow beer makers to sponsor concerts, other events or attractions at parks. It’s been filed before and has failed. This year, a bevy of lobbyists have registered to lobby on the bill, House records show:
— Ron Book for Gold Coast Beverage Distributors.
— Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson for Restaurant Depot.
— Allison Carvajal of Ramba Consulting for Florida Independent Spirits Association.
— Mark Delegal of Holland & knight for Heineken and the Florida Brewers Guild, which represents the state’s craft brewers.
— Angela Dempsey, Fred Dickinson and Erik Kirk of PooleMcKinley for Comcast.
— Jose Luis Gonzalez for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
— Kelly W. Horton of Heffley & Associates for the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association.
The Senate version (SB 242) has not yet been heard in committee.
The Next 24
A qualifying period begins tomorrow at 8 a.m. for candidates in special elections in three House districts where lawmakers left to take positions heading state agencies under Gov. DeSantis. The special elections will be held in District 7, which was vacated by former Rep. Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican; District 38, vacated by former Rep. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican; and District 97, vacated by former Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat. Beshears is now Secretary of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Burgess is executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Moskowitz became the director of the Division of Emergency Management.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will take up numerous issues, including receiving a presentation from the Department of Environmental Protection about Everglades restoration. That’s at 8 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee will take up a bill that would carry out a constitutional amendment banning vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor workplaces. Voters approved the constitutional amendment during the November election. That’s at 8 a.m., 306 House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would authorize “Honor and Remember” flags to be flown at government buildings to honor fallen members of the U.S. armed forces. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will take up more than a dozen local budget projects proposed by lawmakers. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation about the state’s citrus industry. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee is slated to take up a bill that would transfer powers and duties of the Department of Elder Affairs related to hospices, assisted living facilities, adult family day care homes and adult day care centers to the Agency for Health Care Administration. That’s at 10:30 a.m., 306 House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would prevent auto-repair shops from offering gifts or other incentives to spur motorists to file insurance claims for windshield damage. That’s at 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Florida Department of Corrections about inmate health services and litigation. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss university operating budgets and fund balances. That’s at 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
Republican political operative Roger Stone, recently charged as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, is scheduled to speak to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., City Fish Market, 7940 Glades Road, Boca Raton.
Democratic state Reps. Joe Geller and Richard Stark, and Sen. Kevin Rader will announce they plan to file a bill to “close gaps in Florida’s hate crime laws.” That’s at 11:30 a.m., 4th-floor rotunda.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee and the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee are scheduled to take up bills that would prohibit the controversial oil- and gas-drilling process known as “fracking” in the state. House Agriculture & Natural Resources, 1:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building, the Capitol. Also, Senate Environment and Natural Resources, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider a proposal that would create a tax-credit program to try to boost workforce housing. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will take up a bill that would require local governments to hold sales-tax referendums during general elections. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will hold a workshop to discuss issues related to multiuse corridors. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a bill that would make changes in professional licensing to try to help people get jobs after leaving prison. The changes would apply to certified nursing assistants, barbers, cosmetologists and several types of contractors. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation from Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell at 1:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Department of Transportation about the SunPass Centralized Customer Service System. Implementation of the system last year caused major problems and a backlog of toll invoices. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Department of Children and Families about changes in federal funding requirements for child welfare. That’s at 4 p.m., 12 House Office Building.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would require ballot measures proposed by the state Constitution Revision Commission to contain only single subjects. Another proposal on the agenda would repeal the commission. That’s at 4 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee will consider changing the name of Florida Keys Community College to The College of the Florida Keys and change the name of North Florida Community College to North Florida College. That’s at 4 p.m., 306 House Office Building.
The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee will consider a proposal to expand a public-records exemption to prevent the release of photos, videos and audio recordings that show or record the killing of victims of “mass violence.” That’s at 4 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about “safe schools” funding. That’s at 4 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.