Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Monday evening. The News Service of Florida got our attention with this lede: “Hookers who’ve been convicted of prostitution three times, cyberstalkers and inmates who expose themselves to prison workers wouldn’t be eligible to have their voting rights automatically restored, under a House proposal aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment approved in November.” Voters approved Amendment 4 in November, promising to automatically restore voting rights to ex-cons who paid their debt to society. What’s now stymying supporters are legislative efforts to “implement” the measure, defining exactly which crimes are excluded and when someone’s debt is paid. Sixty Days always pleads innocent. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Amendment 4 headaches: State and local elections officials, as well as clerks of court and prosecutors, are relying on the Legislature to provide guidance.
Speaking of amendments …: Bills to restrict or even eliminate the panel that proposes changes to the state’s governing document move along in the Legislature.
Budget panel likes drug plans: The House Appropriations Committee voted up on a move to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
Ashley Moody gives thumbs-up to immigration enforcement: The Attorney General’s spokeswoman, in reference to a Senate measure, said, “City officials must obey the laws that they swore to uphold.”
Colleges worry about building dollars: As lawmakers consider new financial scrutiny on higher education, college leaders fear a lack of resources and flexibility.
Protecting the tipsters: Sen. Joe Gruters looks to protect identities of Crime Stoppers tipsters.
“The will of the voters”: As expected, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the repeal of the ban on smoking medical marijuana, his first law as Florida Governor.
Quote of the Day
“I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis, after signing the bill repealing the state ban on smokable medical marijuana.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is:
Which Florida county is the only metropolitan area in the U.S. encompassing two national parks?
As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MHDFirm. The first person with the correct answer will get a shout-out in tomorrow’s 60 Days!
Yesterday, we asked: Pensacola, known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation,” is home to what elite group of pilots?
Answer: “The Blue Angels, which has called Pensacola home since 1955.”
Congrats to Marco Paredes (@MP0L0), first to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
Florida Democrats highlighted proposals Monday aimed at helping Venezuelans affected by the Nicolás Maduro regime. Among the legislation is a bipartisan “memorial” asking the federal government to extend temporary protected status (TPS) to Venezuelans, allowing them to legally live and work in the U.S.
Here’s where things get interesting. Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who’s sponsoring the memorial alongside Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores, charged that other Republican lawmakers are hypocritical for backing legislation (SB 168) — which takes aim at so-called sanctuary cities — while also saying they stand in solidarity with Venezuela. Smith elaborated more to reporters. (As usual, responses were edited for clarity and brevity.)
Q: You’re saying that SB 168 conflicts with the idea of supporting Venezuelans in crisis?
Smith: There’s a lot of hypocrisy happening right now when it comes to the issue of Venezuela. The reality is that Republicans have to decide: Do they want to stand with Venezuelans, particularly those who are seeking asylum in the United States, or do they want to deport them? Right now, they say they are standing with Venezuelans but they are pushing legislation — particularly with SB 168 — that actually will escalate deportations of Venezuelans in the state of Florida. SB 168 will absolutely escalate the deportation of Venezuelans who are seeking asylum right here in the state of Florida. You can’t have it both ways. Republicans need to decide whether they stand with Venezuelans or if they want to deport them.
Q: But if Venezuelans are granted TPS, then they wouldn’t be affected by SB 168, right?
Smith: That’s correct. That’s why we’re advocating for TPS. That’s why I have put forward bipartisan legislation with Sen. Anitere Flores to call on Congress, urge the President, urge DHS, to grant TPS so that those Venezuelans will rest assured knowing that when they arrive in the United States, they will not be deported back to Venezuela. That they will have asylum here in the United States while the political turmoil continues in their home country. That’s why we’re advocating for that …
Q: Top Florida Republicans in Congress — like Rick Scott and Marco Rubio — have called for extending TPS to Venezuelans. Do you think that means state Republicans want to do the same?
Smith: It should. We have a bipartisan coalition behind TPS right here in the Florida Legislature, which is why we brought this forward not as a partisan issue, but as something that we can work together on so that we can actually do more than just stand with Venezuelans. We can protect those who have already come to the United States.
The Capitol Press Corps is holding it’s sometimes annual “Press Skits” at The Moon Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Expect the variety show to feature plenty of lighthearted roasting. Reporters will ape plenty of lawmakers — hopefully, ones who don’t take themselves too seriously — and they’ll be on the receiving end of some barbs as well, courtesy of the people they cover in the rotunda.
When it’s time to get back to work Wednesday those journalists will resume impartial coverage of the goings on in the 2019 Legislative Session, but the groups representing the press corps do have some legislative priorities of their own — if a bill has “public records” in the title, for instance, you can bet The Florida Press Association has an opinion.
The Florida Press Association represents every daily paper in the state as well as most weekly publications. The association’s top brass — president Dean Ridings and general counsel Sam Morley — hunker down in the Capitol for Session, and they get some backup from Kimberly Case of Holland & Knight.
While it’s not explicitly a ‘press’ group, the First Amendment Foundation is often on the same side of the argument as the Florida Press Association. The foundation’s main goals are making sure Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” laws remain intact — in fact, they print and distribute an annual manual on Florida’s public records requirements and exemptions.
The foundation’s president, Barbara Petersen, takes care of their lobbying needs in Tallahassee.
The Next 24
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will take up a bill to carry out a constitutional amendment that requires automatic restoration of voting rights for most felons who have fulfilled their sentences. Voters approved the constitutional amendment in November. That’s at 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would require parental consent before minors could have abortions. The proposal would be stronger than a current requirement that parents be notified before minors have abortions. That’s at 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill stemming from a legal battle over a decision by the public Halifax Hospital Medical Center to build a hospital in Deltona. That’s at 8 a.m., 12 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would take steps that could help bolster the use of autonomous vehicles in Florida. That’s at 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The State Board of Education will meet and take up issues such as a rule dealing with teacher-certification exams at 9 a.m., lower level, Cabinet meeting room.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill that would transfer law-enforcement responsibilities from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection. That’s at 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would reduce the state’s communications-services tax and restrict the ability of local governments to collect fees from communications providers that use public roads or rights of way. That’s at 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will review budget issues related to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Citrus, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Financial Services, the Department of Lottery, the Department of Management Services, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Revenue at 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that would make more people eligible to be sentenced as youthful offenders. That’s at 10 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would expand the use of school vouchers, including creating a new voucher program known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship program. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will consider a bill that would remove or revamp regulations on numerous types of professions. That’s at 11:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would require cities and counties to address the issue of non-hazardous contamination of recyclable materials. The local governments would have to address the issue in contracts with recycling collectors and processing facilities. That’s at noon, 12 House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that would make permanent the elimination of a 90-day retroactive eligibility period for people applying for Medicaid. That’s at noon, 404 House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will take up a proposal to change school-choice programs. That would include changes to the Schools of Hope program, which is designed to lead to charter schools serving students who have been in low-performing traditional public schools. That’s at noon, 306 House Office Building.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will consider a bill creating new specialty license plates for Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. That’s at noon, Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would lead to eliminating the Agency for State Technology and transferring its responsibilities to the Department of Management Services. That’s at 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund Advisory Council will discuss issues related to the premium formula at 1:30 p.m., Hermitage Centre, 1801 Hermitage Blvd., Tallahassee. Call-in number: 1-888-585-9008. Code: 973664296.
The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that calls for three major toll-road projects, a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will take up a proposal that would give the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs the authority to contract for “alternative” treatment options — such as acupuncture, music therapy and yoga therapy — for veterans with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 306 House Office Building.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill to make a series of changes in funding for building projects in the higher-education system. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.
The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will take up a bill that would overhaul the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.” That’s at 3:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would lower from 19 to 18 the minimum age for correctional officers to address prison staffing shortages. That’s at 3:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will take up a bill that would require school health classes to include information about child abuse and human trafficking. That’s at 3:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to take up numerous bills, including a proposal that would change requirements related to “high-performing” charter schools. That’s at 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Laurel Lee and Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter. That’s at 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.
The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will consider a proposal to place limits on the terms of the state public counsel, who represents consumers in utility issues, limiting that person to a maximum of 12 consecutive years. That’s at 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will take up a bill to prevent local governments from regulating employment issues such as job responsibilities and hours of work, “pre-empting” such regulatory authority and giving it to the state. That’s at 4 p.m., 12 House Office Building.