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Sixty Days for 9.16.19 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — our daily dispatch from the fourth floor.

The Last 24

Good Monday evening, and welcome back to “60 Days.”

The Senate’s ‘mass violence’ hearing was a little, um, awkward, according to the live-tweeting from Miami Herald scribe Mary Ellen Klas. For instance, Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, asked FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen “if he thinks banning assault weapons will curb mass shootings.” Swearingen answered, “I just want to go back to the facts and the statistics. If you focus your efforts on limiting a single type of weapon, we’re already behind the curve.” Later, Sen. Annette Taddeo, a South Florida Democrat, asked “law enforcement, researchers and mental health experts: ‘If we cap magazine capacity to protect wildlife, why can’t we cap it to protect human life?’ Crickets. No one wants to answer.” Here’s your nightly rundown.

Send lawyers, guns and money: Lawmakers returning to Tallahassee will confront mounting expectations that they do something about the wave of gun violence.

Money’s too tight to mention: At least that’s what British pop group Simply Red once sang. But for House Appropriations Committee members, it was all they could talk about Monday.

Global warming gets attention: Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez introduced four bills aimed at addressing — and curbing — climate change.

Got your new Justice right here: To fill one of two sudden openings on the state Supreme Court, Ron DeSantis just has to look at his appointed Secretary of State (and former judge) Laurel Lee.

But then again: Lee later Monday said she had had no conversations with anyone in the Governor’s Office about becoming a justice. She also didn’t say she didn’t want the job.

Where’s Jared? A committee hearing on Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts was scratched after state Emergency Management director Jared Moskowitz was unable to appear.

Cancer has a foe in Kevin Rader: The Democratic state Senator filed legislation requiring public high school students to be taught breast cancer and prostate cancer awareness.

On the front lines: DeSantis has decided to bring Army and state government veteran David Clark to the Capitol from DMS. He’ll replace James Blair as a Deputy Chief of Staff.

Quote of the Day

“It might be time to just go through different policy areas and figure out what you want to do. Things are a little bit slower, a little bit weaker.” — Amy Baker, the Legislature’s chief economic forecaster, speaking to the House Appropriations Committee.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

With VISIT FLORIDA on borrowed time and the tax environment in constant scrutiny, Sen. Joe Gruters — chair of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee — starts Committee Week braced for conversations to move a number of ways. “We’re just starting to see bills trickling in,” he said. We spoke to the Sarasota Republican about the challenges of the known knowns that lie ahead.

Florida Politics: Speaker José Oliva last year made clear last year he only wanted to budget VISIT FLORIDA for this year. How will the Senate tackle that moving forward?

Gruters: Being from Sarasota, tourism plays such a critical role, as it (does) for Florida overall. Whatever we can continue to do to push for overall success of that leg of the economy, including trying to help VISIT FLORIDA and their efforts this year, will be important. Everybody comes from different points of view on this issue, and the Speaker has some very valid points, but the partnerships with VISIT FLORIDA is able to create with local partners. We just need to do a better job of explaining to the Speaker and the Governor why it does matter, and prove that money is well spent.

FP: Visit Sarasota President Virginia Haley chairs VISIT FLORIDA this year. Will that connection help you make sure your view on continuing the agency prevails?

Gruters: She is a superstar, and I’ve been able to see her work for a long time and to see her successes. I do talk to Virginia quite a bit, and think she’s a perfect person to help lead the effort to educate and inform. I’ve seen it firsthand in Sarasota with what they have been able to do. [Partnerships] pay dividends beyond when those partnerships are over.

FP: You’ve also filed an e-fairness bill again. How can you convince colleagues the online sales taxes don’t threaten Florida’s low-tax environment?

Gruters: Out of 45 states that have sales tax, 43 out of the 45 have passed e-fairness legislation. Only two states, Missouri and Florida, are holdouts. At the end of the day, this tax is already owed. It’s out of fairness for local Florida retailers that we pass this. It doesn’t take a genius to look at our local malls and local shops to see they are getting creamed.

All we are trying to do is take a tax that is owed, make it more of a convenience and make it remitted at the time of sale, rather than have (people) download this form from the Department of Revenue and send it in to pay their taxes. People pay fines all the time for getting audited and not remitting sales tax for items they purchased. We need to do whatever we can to help our Florida retailers survive.

Lobby Up

Heading into the 2020 Session, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee has added a quartet of new clients: the Florida Assisted Living Association, the Holley-Navarre Water System, the Pensacola Shipyard Marina and Boatyard and the City of Defuniak.

The latter three are seeking some funding in the 2020-21 state budget. However, the Florida Assisted Living Association is looking for something a little bit different, says Liberty Partners President Jennifer Green.

In past sessions, FALA has pushed for increases in reimbursement rates from managed care organizations, minimizing regulations and streamlining the licensure process.

This go-’round, the trade association — which represents more than 650 assisted living facilities — hasn’t outlined their specific goals for 2020, nor have they announced a stance on any particular bill.

Instead, they’ve signed with the lobbying firm to help boost their name recognition in the Legislature. The idea: When they decide what they’re looking for, a higher profile in the Capitol will get them a seat at the table.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

In the Capitol:

The Senate Agriculture Committee will receive an update from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about hemp issues, after lawmakers this year approved a measure aimed at developing a hemp industry in the state. The committee also will hear presentations about hemp pilot projects at Florida A&M University and the University of Florida. That’s at 9 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Health Policy Committee will receive updates on a series of issues, including a hepatitis A outbreak in the state. The Department of Health will provide a briefing on the outbreak, which has led to at least 2,460 reported cases of the disease this year. Hepatitis A is contagious and can cause liver damage. That’s at 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House Health & Human Services Committee will receive a briefing on the health-insurance market from state Deputy Insurance Commissioner Craig Wright at 10:30 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Judiciary Committee will receive an update about the implementation of a criminal justice database and a uniform arrest affidavit. That’s at 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Education Committee will receive an overview of early learning and an update about the implementation of recent legislation. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider an effort to do away with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a powerful panel that sparked controversy last year by linking unrelated issues in proposed constitutional amendments. That’s at 11 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will have an appearance by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier at 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will host a panel discussion about suicide prevention and mental health. That’s at 11 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The House Republican Conference will meet to formally designate GOP state Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor as the next House speaker. Sprowls will begin a two-year term as speaker after the November 2020 elections. That’s at 2 p.m., House Chamber.

Elsewhere:

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases, including an appeal by Death Row inmate Randall Deviney, who was convicted in the 2008 murder of a neighbor in Duval County. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.

The Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees will meet and consider issues such as 2020-2021 legislative budget request at 9 a.m., Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, 3500 Ocean Dr., Vero Beach.

The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a battle over a major state law-enforcement radio contract. Harris Corp. is challenging a decision last year by the Florida Department of Management Services to award the contract, which is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to Motorola. The department in October adopted a recommended order issued by Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper and dismissed a protest filed by Harris Corp. That prompted Harris Corp. (now called L3Harris) to take the case to the appeals court. That’s at 2 p.m., 1st District Court Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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