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Sixty Days for 10.15.19 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — our daily dispatch from the fourth floor.

The Last 24

Good Monday evening. Don’t be surprised that Senate President Bill Galvano, term-limited next year, wants to try one last time to run an omnibus gambling bill. It’s been one of the signature issues of his legislative career, which began in the House in 2002. “There is not a bill that is in the hopper at this point,” he said Monday. “That’s not to say that there will not be one. I do think it is a worthy exercise and I’ve shared my thoughts with” House Speaker José Oliva.

“There are things that we can do to increase and generate revenues on the pari-mutuel side of the equation that should be considered and looked into, including designated player games, hours of operation, mobility of permits and promotions.” Regulation and taxation of sports betting could also be included, he added, as could a new blackjack revenue-sharing deal with the Seminole Tribe.

Galvano also said he would float the possibility — “this is conceptually (speaking), I don’t want you to get the impression that these decisions have been made” — of the Legislature offering its own constitutional amendment to repeal or modify 2018’s Amendment 3. Passed by a whopping 71 percent of voters, that measure lets voters alone decide on future expansions of gambling. One thing’s for sure: Sixty Days thinks we live in interesting times. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Trump as maniac? Our own Joe Henderson says Gov. Ron DeSantis should condemn the “violent, disgusting” video depicting the President as a press-killing madman, not just “not condone” it.

Duh: “Of course he would condemn it,” DeSantis’ spokeswoman says of the Trump video.

Wilton’s ‘egg-cellent’ adventure: Egg farmer and state Sen. Wilton Simpson’s ascent to power takes another step with his Senate President designation ceremony.

This doesn’t look good: The chief administrator for the state’s mental health facilities quit just before a new report came out detailing alleged ethical violations involving vendors.

Anti-vax win: A bill that would strengthen vaccination requirements for Florida school children wasn’t immune to protest from anti-vaccination activists — protests killed it before it got a hearing.

CRC on the outs: Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission moved forward with another unanimous vote in committee. It’s got one stop left before the Senate floor, but the House companion is lagging behind.

More ‘college’ blues: With the 2020 presidential election looming, House members have filed dueling proposals about the Electoral College.

On the ground: Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez of South Florida spent Monday in the Panhandle getting a firsthand look at Hurricane Michael recovery.

They better be good wings: Former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith and his wife want to open a wing joint in Fort Lauderdale. But they also want $450,000 in help from the city.

Quote of the Day

“The governor has not seen the video and does not condone violence of any kind.” — Helen Aguirre Ferré, communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis when asked whether the Governor had seen a video shown during a pro-President Donald Trump event in South Florida that depicted the president attacking news organizations and political opponents with guns, knives and other weapons.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

It’s Committee Week again in Tallahassee. Of course, it is still the stage of governance where lawmakers explore major issues as much as try to shape. We spoke to Heather Fitzenhagen, chair of the House Business and Professions Subcommittee, on what she wants to tackle.

Florida Politics: You have a meeting scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 16, on Florida’s alcoholic beverage laws. Why was it important to explore that topic right now?

Fitzenhagen: I want all members of the committee to understand the basic structure of the alcoholic beverage business in the state of Florida. I know we will be looking into laws affecting that and tobacco. I know that will come up, especially in light of the vaping crisis we are having across the nation. I do know there are several bills that are more than likely going to be, if not already filed, that are modifying existing laws related to tobacco and related to alcohol. It’s better, if we are going to be tackling those down the road, to make sure we fully understand what the status quo is today.

FP: After seeing Tobacco 21 fall short last Session, will that be a priority in the House this year?

Fitzenhagen: I know it’s a desire and priority of some of our members; especially Rep. [Jackie] Toledo would like to see it. I’m not sure if it’s going to be more dramatic than last year, but it’s a subject I am sure will come up again this session.

FP: Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month made clear he wants to see an overhaul of occupational licenses. Can we expect a lot of activity on that front in your committee?

Fitzenhagen: I hope so because I agree with the Governor on the need for eliminating barriers to get into business. I will be standing back and waiting to see what direction the Governor wants to go with that. I participated in the “Deregathon” last year, and I know some things did not get done because they did not get out of the Senate last year.

Lobby Up

Lawmakers spent much of the 2019 Legislative Session crafting the implementing bill for Amendment 4, which allows convicted felons who have completed their sentences to regain the right to vote.

The law that ended up on the books has been in the courts since.

Opponents argue requiring felons to pay fines, fees and restitution equate to a poll tax. Proponents say that’s part of their sentence.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, one of the key groups behind the amendment, doesn’t have a problem with the current law, and is staying out of the court fight. But they’re not resting on their laurels.

Instead, they’re looking for other ways to help returning citizens.

FRRC wants more attention paid to workforce training, housing, education and other programs that can help Florida’s felons get their lives on an upward trajectory.

To help them get it done, the parent group of FRRC, Tides Advocacy, has hired Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig.

“The returning citizens’ community has worked long and hard to have their voices heard and returned to them. I’m proud to add my voice to theirs,” Corbella said.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

(All locations are in the Capitol, except as noted.)

Dana Young, the head of state tourism marketing agency VISIT FLORIDA, will speak before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. That’s at 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

State Sen. Lauren Book will present her bill to the Senate Health Policy Committee to create a prescription-drug repository program within the Florida Department of Health. That’s at 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell will speak before the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. That’s at 11 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee will hear pros and cons on various constitutional amendments to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Florida. That’s at 11 a.m., 17 House Office Building.

Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Orlando and House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Cutler Bay will hold a news conference on bills that would reduce the amount of time non-violent first-time offenders must serve before they are eligible for early release from 85 percent of their sentence to 65 percent. That’s at noon in the Capitol Courtyard.

A meeting of Senate Republicans will be held to formally designate Sen. Simpson of Trilby as Senate President for 2020-22. That’s at 2 p.m., Senate chamber.

The old Capitol will be lit pink to mark October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Members of the Susan G. Komen Florida Board of Directors and lawmakers will attend a brief ceremony beforehand. That’s at 6:45 p.m., on the steps facing Monroe Street.

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