Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Wednesday evening. Rep. Randy Fine, the Palm Bay Republican who chairs the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, declared war on the University of Central Florida. The school misused more than $38 million in state funds by constructing a new academic building. The money, however, was intended for operating expenses, including salaries. Fine said he’s now working on a plan to “shut down” the 68,000 student university. Sixty Days thanks its lucky stars it went to college long ago. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Goodbye Knights? Fine suggested the lack of oversight at UCF was so stunning that the school deserves to be shuttered.
“Completely overwhelmed”: The SunPass debacle, in which some customers were overbilled while others weren’t billed at all, is being scrutinized yet again.
Brandes’ bold gambit: Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill seeking to limit when local governments can ask voters to raise taxes is moving forward in the Senate.
Noah Valenstein’s vow: The state’s top environmental regulator says the Department of Environmental Protection needs to “do more, now.”
Getting the ‘vapors’: The bill implementing a ban on indoor vaping passed its first committee vote — and no, it didn’t address oil drilling.
Helping hands: A debate over how much autonomy to give the state’s nurse practitioners re-emerges in the House.
Prisons under microscope: Department of Corrections staff briefed a House panel, saying aging inmates and mental health needs are driving up its health care costs.
Opening hearts and wallets: Lawmakers gave their preliminary OK to more than $15 million in economic development projects.
Small beer? A bill that would allow beer companies to sponsor events and concerts in Florida theme parks barely escaped its first House panel.
Quote of the Day
“I’m not trying to slip daylight past a rooster.” — Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican, who filed a ‘fracking’ bill that critics say has an “enormous loophole.”
Bill Day’s Latest
State Rep. Shevrin Jones earlier today had a seat at the table — literally — with members of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ senior staff. Jones, a West Park Democrat, discussed with DeSantis’ advisers his proposal to study gun violence in minority communities throughout the state through a commission like the one spawned after the Parkland shooting.
FP: What did you take away from the meeting?
Jones: The Governor understands that the minority community has gone ignored (over) the issue of gun violence. They would like to be a help and an ear. They are sincerely committed to working with us to bring resources to help.
FP: Were you surprised the Governor’s team took the meeting? Does it signal bipartisanship?
Jones: I was surprised, but also very thankful that they took the meeting. It does signal that the Governor’s office is willing to look past party when it comes to issues that affect people, no matter their political affiliation. And, when you look at the violence in communities, a hurting family can care less about the politics.
FP: The Parkland one-year mark is Thursday. You’re trying to highlight gun violence in general. Can you describe how your proposed panel will differ from the one formed after Parkland?
Jones: I believe the [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission] was necessary and it served and still serves its purpose. But there is another community that is missing from the table on the conversation of gun violence, and that’s the minority community.
We are not only sympathetic to the 17 angels who lost their lives, but we all stand in solidarity. Our ask is that we look at the bigger picture, and make sure that we don’t separate Parkland from Liberty City. We both want to stop the blood from shedding on our streets — that’s where we are unified.
Ballard Partners will represent a trio of major sports associations as lawmakers consider killing the state’s Sports Development Fund, a pot of money that helps pro sports franchises pay for upgrades and new stadium construction.
Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and the PGA Tour each signed on with Brian Ballard and Co. Monday, joining the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Lightning on the firm’s roster of professional sports clients.
The PGA Tour and MLB worked with other firms last year, while the NBA appears to be a newcomer to the Sunshine State — lobbying registration records show it hasn’t retained a Florida lobbyist since at least 2005.
The Sports Development Fund may distribute up to $13 million in tax dollars to the state’s professional sports teams and allows the PGA to pulldown state dollars for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
However, the fund doesn’t get fully funded every year.
Critics blast the fund as “corporate welfare” and have pointed to research showing the incentives only have a return of about 30 cents on the dollar, while those in support say it’s a tool to retain Florida’s pro teams and land major events, such as the Super Bowl.
Each of the associations represented by Ballard has a stake in Florida that benefit from the fund, but a bill (SB 414) by Thonotosassa Sen. Tom Lee would eliminate it altogether. The bill cleared its first committee stop with a unanimous vote Monday.
The Next 24
The Revenue Estimating Conference will take up issues related to tobacco taxes at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
The House Judiciary Committee and the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will hold a joint meeting about Amendment 4, a ballot measure that passed in November to restore the voting rights of felons who have fulfilled their sentences. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation about the budget priorities of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That’s at 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to release its weekly opinions at 11 a.m. (Releases in recent weeks, however, have been canceled or delayed because of the addition of three new justices to the court.)
A qualifying period ends for candidates in special elections in three House districts — 7, 38 and 97 — vacated by lawmakers who took positions heading state agencies. That’s at noon.
Lobbyists face a deadline for filing reports detailing compensation for the period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. That’s at midnight.