Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. The Senate took the first step toward repealing the ban in state law on smoking medical marijuana, passing a bill and immediately certifying it to the House. The Legislature is under a deadline of March 15 to get a measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, which should put an end to a court fight over the ban. Now it’s on the House to approve the bill and kick it down to Plaza level — or change it and send it back to senators. The clock is ticking for lawmakers, but Sixty Days has … well, 57 days left. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Get that whole flower ready: Lawmakers are on the verge of sending a bill to DeSantis to allow cannabis smoking as a form of medication.
Storm recovery up next: Northwest Florida lawmakers are promoting a $315 million proposal to help communities still recovering from Hurricane Michael.
Scoot on by …: A bill that would regulate e-scooters like bicycles cleared a House panel.
Too hot, too cold: Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond wants Florida to start assessing and preparing for impacts of climate change.
No simoleons for stadiums? The House has started moving a plan to reduce the potential of tax dollars being used to build sports facilities.
Quote of the Day
“We’re not done here. We’re not even close to done … We need to be mighty careful what we do here.” — state Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, in debate on a medical marijuana bill.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is:
There are over 1.4 million interstate miles in Florida. What is the shortest interstate in the state?
As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MHDFirm. The first person with the correct answer will get a shout-out in Monday’s 60 Days!
Yesterday, we asked: Who was the first CFO of the state of Florida?
Answer: “Tom Gallagher, who was elected to the then-new position in 2002.”
Congrats to Staz Guntek II (@SguntekFL), first to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
Cabinet officials, legislative leaders and former officeholders discussed the fiscal interests of Floridians last night at the State of the Taxpayer Dinner. The annual event is hosted by Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit government research institute and watchdog. We caught up with TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic Calabro ahead of the event to talk about the spending plan lawmakers must craft during this year’s Session, ‘budget turkeys’ and more. Responses were edited for clarity and brevity.
FP: What are some foreseeable budget constraints?
Calabro: Lawmakers each want a big piece of the budget. They’re going to have a lot of member project requests. TaxWatch is going to have to do its annual budgetary review and accountability process. It’s a very Governor-friendly report. But we want to have few or no turkeys at all. To make sure that happens, we’re going to have to go through the processes to know what requests are competing against and to make sure that any appropriation is accountable, serves a statewide public interest, is valuable and gets the taxpayer results.
FP: What makes an appropriation a ‘turkey?’
Calabro: When it goes outside the very process that either the law or the Legislature has established for itself. So, if it’s taken in a vacuum, or can’t be held accountable — you appropriate $1 million to an organization and whether they do or don’t perform, you still have to pay them — that’s where it happens. Turkeys also describe an appropriation that jumps in line ahead of everything else that’s waited properly for a long time.
FP: Is TaxWatch focused on any legislation this year?
Calabro: We’re working on point-of-care testing, to make sure pharmacies can provide tests for strep and for flu across the state of Florida. We want to reduce costs and improve outcomes in health care. TaxWatch has been a big proponent in years past of getting advanced nurse practitioners, expanded scope of practice. TaxWatch also has been a leader in getting telehealth passed, now we have to make sure we get the proper reimbursement rates. We’re looking at other innovative ways to provide health care but we’re also going to be looking at charters and the true cost of education, answer questions like, “How are we going to fund our schools with this burgeoning student population between 2019 and 2030?”
According to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum, the Sunshine State — specifically Volusia County — is the shark attack capital of the world.
But Florida is also the capital of shark slaughter, serving as a fertile ground for shark finning and as a worldwide hub for the black-market trade of shark fins, which claim a high price due to demand for shark fin soup in China.
Finning is a gruesome practice where a shark’s fin is clipped off and the rest of the animal is dumped back into the water and left for dead. Some endangered ray species are even spliced in half and sold as ersatz shark fins.
Advocacy group Shark Allies estimates finning kills 70-100 million sharks worldwide every year and has led some shark species to the brink of extinction.
To spread the word, Shark Allies has launched #NoFinFL and #StopTheFinTrade Twitter campaigns. But to get its message heard in Tallahassee, it’s retained several lobbyists, including Lori Killinger of Lewis Longman & Walker, Albert Balido, Frank Bernardino, Edgar Fernandez and Stephen Uchino of Anfield Consulting as well as Jonathan Kilman, Carlos Cruz and Lauren DePriest of Converge Government Affairs of Florida.
The hope is lawmakers will advance a bipartisan proposal put forward by Republican Sen. Joe Gruters (SB 352) and Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs (HB 99) to put in place a finning ban with teeth — the bills would make buying or selling fins a misdemeanor and levy fines starting at $4,500 per fin for a first offense.
The Next 24
The Florida Commission on Ethics will meet at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a floor session at 10 a.m.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is scheduled to release an updated forecast for Florida’s citrus-growing season at noon.
The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference, which typically involves analyzing the potential costs of legislation, at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building.