Sixty Days for 9.17.19 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Red Tally 1
Sixty Days — our daily dispatch from the fourth floor.

The Last 24

Good Tuesday evening.

Call him ‘Chris Sprowls ascendant.’ The Pinellas County Republican was designated Tuesday by his caucus as the next House GOP Leader, virtually guaranteeing him the House Speakership for 2021 and 2022. (Assuming Florida doesn’t go blue by then.)

In his designation speech, he took time to differentiate “The Process” in Washington — “where every piece of minutiae is dissected, analyzed, and recycled by talking heads with the rabid fanaticism of grammarians arguing over the placement of a comma” — with Tallahassee, where “actions matter more than words.” (Not looking at you, Matt Gaetz!)

And Sprowls seemingly opened the door for more input from the Democratic minority: “I’m not here today to tell you what our agenda will be. That is something we’ll figure out together. But I am here today to say this — what we do together needs to matter.” Here’s the rest of your nightly rundown.

Urgent … emergency: Surgeon General and Health Department Secretary Scott Rivkees says officials will need to vaccinate 80 percent of the state’s high-risk population to get a handle on the hepatitis A outbreak.

Homegrown hemp: The Senate Agriculture Committee got an update from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on seed to sell hemp. Cultivation permits? Imminent.

Database down: An effort to revolutionize Florida’s criminal justice data has gone slower than expected.

CRC repeal redux: Jeff Brandes‘ plan to eliminate the Constitution Revision Commission, vexsome to many lawmakers, won approval from its first committee of reference. This is its second go in the Legislature.

Policy problems: Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee things weren’t as bright as they seemed. The culprits? Hurricanes, duh.

School safety bucks: Sen. Janet Cruz is imploring lawmakers to shovel unused school safety money back to districts — even if they’ve chosen not to allow trained faculty or staff to carry guns on campus.

Packing heat in the city (Commission): State Rep. Mel Ponder filed a bill to allow city/county commissioners, school board members, and others to carry a concealed weapon during public meetings.

Can you hear me now? Outside the Capitol, lawyers squared off in oral arguments in an appeal of a state radio contract. At issue: Hundreds of millions of dollars.

Quote of the Day

“The pyramid of power in the Florida House is as sharp as it’s ever been. That means one person dictates pretty much what happens — and that’s wrong. I believe (Chris Sprowls) will be the one that will flatten that pyramid down, allowing everyone to have input.” — Republican former lawmaker Mike Fasano, now the Tax Collector for Pasco County.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

The House Health and Human Services Committee advanced 22 bills in the 2019 Legislative session, half of which were ultimately passed. Chairman Ray Rodrigues said that means 11 bills remain that offer a hint at committee priorities this year. We spoke to the Estero Republican about scope of practice, the cost of health care and the always-heated debate around medical marijuana.

Florida Politics: What do you think will be the committee’s top priorities in advance of Session?

Rodrigues: You will see issues around scope of practice come back. One of the bills we did not get done would provide for independent practices for physician assistants and advanced registered nurse practitioners. Last year we got that done in the House but didn’t get it over the finish line in the Senate. I know it’s still a priority of the Speaker (José Oliva). I expect we will be looking at scope of practice on other areas as well.

Some research was done over the summer at MIT that suggests if we expand scope of practice for entry-level home health aides, it will significantly impact the cost of health care. Those aides are on the front lines and see health problems developing. They can alert nurses and CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) before something develops into a problem. We’ve got staff investigating how to formulate that into policy.

FP: This conversation typically draws the ire of physicians. How will you address the concerns raised by doctors opposed to expanding the scope of practice for other care workers?

Rodrigues: Part of this is getting information. But part of the objections, I understand, is that these folks who have not been trained to provide medical care should be supervised directly by a physician.

What we know is happening in practices is some physicians open multiple clinics, and they will put a physician assistant or a registered nurse practitioner in charge and never go to the clinic. If they only go pick up a fee, then the medical community has ceded the moral high ground. If they are allowing [others] to do a job independently and without direct supervision, that is not what was imagined in the statute as it was written.

So it’s just a matter of getting to the facts and making everybody aware of the facts. It will be a huge and difficult political battle … It’s been a fight in the Legislature … the entire time I have been here.

FP: Last year, the committee pushed for establishing THC caps on smokable medicinal marijuana. The issue didn’t go anywhere in the Senate but had been introduced late. Will that come up again?

Rodrigues: It is definitely still on the table. Whether the bill gets filed or not remains to be seen. My understanding is it’s being discussed in both chambers.

The science is clear. Voters approved medical cannabis. This is not recreational; this is cannabis for medical reasons. What science is out there is clear, that components definitely provide medical benefits in current areas. I don’t know if it’s the cure-all the CBD industry has marketed it to be, but for children with epilepsy, there are documented cases showing this is very helpful.

Also, there is science showing medical cannabis is advantageous for individuals dealing with pain. But the medical cannabis that helps pain is of the low-THC variety. With high THC, it actually makes pain worse, not better. Daily use of high THC can lead to psychotic behaviors. So this is never mentioned by the media but the country in the entire world that is the most progressive on cannabis is the Netherlands. Anyone can go to Amsterdam, and could for decades, and buy cannabis and consume it publicly.

But the Netherlands put a cap of recreational cannabis, and said should not be more than 15 percent THC. The reason was their science showed high THC is harmful. If the nation with the most experience with cannabis does that, it would be arrogant for states and nations just now dealing with cannabis to assume in the absence of science that they are doing it better than those who have been through this and experienced it.

Lobby Up

A free-market research and educational institute is taking an interest in Florida politics.

On Monday, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy hired Charlie Dudley, Jorge Chamizo, Nichole Geary, and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners to help them advance their priorities during the 2020 Legislative Session.

The group, whose mission is to “challenge government overreach and advocate for free-market approaches to public policy that free people to realize their potential and their dreams,” advocates for slashing taxes and expanding school choice, among other things.

And the Michigan-based organization has often pitched Florida’s school choice reforms as a model for other states to follow.

Given that, the Mackinac Center is likely to find electeds who are amenable to their wants in Legislature, and another in the Governor’s Mansion.

After all, the 2019 Legislative Session saw lawmakers, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran make a successful push for the largest school choice expansion in more than a decade.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

In the Capitol:

Aides to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will meet to discuss issues in advance of a Sept. 24 Cabinet meeting. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and March for Our Lives will hold a news conference to “call out Attorney General Ashley Moody’s attempts to deny the voters from deciding [whether] Florida should ban certain assault weapons.” That’s at 9 a.m., Waller Park (in front of the Florida Heritage Fountain, which contains the dolphin sculpture.)

The House Health Quality Subcommittee will receive a briefing from Surgeon General Scott Rivkees about the hepatitis A outbreak in the state. That’s at 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Citrus and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That’s at 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee and the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about affordable and workforce housing. House subcommittee at 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building. Also, Senate subcommittee at 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Department of Military Affairs, the Department of State, the Department of Transportation and the Division of Emergency Management. That’s at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and Florida Chamber of Commerce will unveil the “2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States” during a news conference. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 4th-floor rotunda, Senate side. The news conference should also be on Facebook Live.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will receive a presentation by Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, about a report known as the Long Range Financial Outlook. The annual report details issues such as tax collections and projected spending and is aimed at helping lawmakers as they draw up a new state budget. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

Members of the Florida Competes coalition, along with SB 206 sponsor Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, and HB 161 sponsors Reps. Holly Raschein of Key Largo, Jackie Toledo of Tampa and Jennifer Webb of St. Petersburg will host a news conference to discuss “The Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” which would update the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to include LGBT+ protections in the workplace, public housing and accommodations. That’s at 11 a.m., 4th-floor rotunda, House side.

Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and fellow Democrat and state Rep. Anna Eskamani will host a news conference on the “climate crisis,” to include renewable energy goals and other legislation. That’s at 11:30 a.m., 4th-floor rotunda, House side.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Department of Environmental Protection about springs-restoration projects. That’s at 12:30 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee will receive an overview of a Hurricane Michael report by the Florida Building Commission and the University of Florida. That’s at 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of the Lottery, the Department of Management Services, the Department of Revenue and the Office of Insurance Regulation. That’s at 12:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health, the Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. That’s at 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will receive an update from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles about a new law that strengthened the state’s ban on texting while driving. The law, passed during the 2019 session, allows police to pull over motorists for texting while driving. In the past, texting while driving was considered a “secondary” offense, which meant police could only cite motorists if they stopped them for other reasons, such as speeding. That’s at 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about agricultural water policy and from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about invasive species. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation about the Department of Corrections. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

Democratic state Sens. Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens and Perry E. Thurston Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, and Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park will hold a news conference regarding relief efforts for the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian. All three identify as Bahamian-Americans. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 4th-floor rotunda.

The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee will receive an update about a new law that repealed the “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals. The controversial process required state approval before new hospitals could be built, and certain hospital programs could be added. That’s at 3 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will review performance, preeminence and emerging-preeminence funding in the state university system. That’s at 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will receive an update about the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides reinsurance. That’s at 3 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will receive presentations about budget requests and potential reductions for numerous agencies, including the Department of Corrections, the state courts system, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That’s at 3 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee will receive presentations by the Florida High School Athletics Association and the Florida School Boards Association about health concerns for student-athletes. That’s at 3 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee will receive a presentation from the Southern Regional Education Board about workforce-development issues in Florida. That’s at 3 p.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will receive a presentation about federal changes involving child welfare. That’s at 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.


The Florida International University Board of Trustees will meet after holding committee meetings. Committee meetings start at 8 a.m., with full board at 2 p.m., Florida International University, Modesto A. Maidique Campus, Earlene and Albert Dotson Pavilion, Miami.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Florida Department of Financial Services will hold one in a series of “Be Scam Smart” workshops to help seniors avoid financial scams. That’s at 11:30 a.m., St. Andrews Park Road Presbyterian Church, 500 North Park Road, Hollywood.

Florida TaxWatch (FTW) will present more than 150 state employees based throughout South Florida with TaxWatch Productivity Awards (TPA) during a ceremony. The awards are presented by Kyra Solutions, Inc. That’s at noon, Westin Fort Lauderdale, 400 Corporate Drive, Fort Lauderdale.

A fundraising event will be held for Republican Fiona McFarland, who is running in Sarasota County’s House District 72. Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, is not seeking another term in the district because she is running for Congress. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Caragiulos, 69 South Palm Ave., Sarasota.

Peter Schorsch

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.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

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