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Sixty Days for 10.16.19 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — our daily dispatch from the fourth floor.

The Last 24

Good Wednesday evening. It was kind of a big deal: First Lady Casey DeSantis said Florida will have its first-ever Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator. And Darcy Abbott, a social worker with 30 years of experience, has dealt specifically with mental health issues after disasters. It’s also personal: In 1972, her own family survived Hurricane Agnes, which caused flooding up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

“We needed to create a solution never conceived of before,” said state Emergency Management director Jared Moskowitz. “The First Lady recognized this, and we are proud to have (created) a position that is the first of its kind in the nation.”

Sixty Days gives kudos to a smart move by state government. Here’s your nightly rundown.

More judges named: Ron DeSantis announced the appointments of conservative Tallahassee lawyers Rachel Nordby and Adam Tanenbaum to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Tapping an insider: The Governor hired GrayRobinson lawyer George Levesque — a former Senate general counsel — in the Scott Israel case going before senators next week.

AG targets vapes: Attorney General Ashley Moody sent subpoenas to 20 e-cigarette companies accused of marketing to minors in the wake of a dozen vaping-related lung-injury cases in the past week.

Park it here: Lawmakers want to ensure that police, deputies and others can park their patrol cars outside their homes without interference from homeowner associations.

Light ‘em up? A House panel was told it’s not a matter of if, but when, cannabis is legalized for adults in Florida.

Save the reefs: House members received a dire update on coral reef disease spreading across Florida’s Southeast coastline and into the Keys.

Interchange to nowhere: An I-95 interchange in Palm Bay has been traffic ready for months, but the city hasn’t built the connecting road. Rep. Randy Fine isn’t happy.

Quote of the Day

“Well Justice Lagoa … to paraphrase Jerry Maguire, ‘you had me at this-is-not-Cuba.’” — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, speaking to Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Lagoa and fellow Justice Robert Luck are now under consideration for federal appellate judgeships. Lagoa’s parents fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1966; Cruz is the son of a Cuban immigrant.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

The words ‘Florida tourism’ may first conjure images of beaches and theme parks, but the American Sportfishing Association is reminding that such activities bring an $11.5 billion economic impact to Florida each year, creating 128,000 jobs. The state issues 4 million fishing licenses a year (never mind exempt seniors and teens). Kellie Ralston, the Association’s Southeast Fisheries Policy Director has followed the algae debate. We spoke to her about the impact of blooms on the industry and what should happen now.

Florida Politics: How big of an impact have algal blooms in recent years had on the fishing industry in Florida?

Ralston: A lot of times we see some dramatic local effects. Trips are canceled, either because of real or perceived impacts from algal bloom conditions. Some will call and ask about conditions, or others see what’s on news and make a determination not to show up. That affects not only charter operators but hotels, bait and tackle shops, retailers, and ultimately those losses are passed on to our industry with reduced orders. Another thing it can actually hurt in the long run is license sales in Florida. We are concerned about that because those license fees go to conservation efforts in the state of Florida, along with a portion of our industry sales through excise taxes, which in turn go back to the state to support conservation efforts.

FP: How closely has the fishing industry followed the task force meetings? How do you feel about the recommendations coming out?

Ralston: We have monitored what comes out of the meetings. I talk frequently with the chair on how things are going. I think it has gone well. Of course, we have broad concerns about water quality, and there’s no one thing to point finger at. I don’t want to call these final recommendations because the force has said they will come out with more. But for an initial attempt to get a comprehensive feel on research, I think it’s good that they are going to address nutrient loading in localized basins. And we are on a good track with addresses waste issues in Florida. It’s not popular and pretty to talk all about it, but people have waste and that needs to be addressed. Those things need to be dealt with immediately. Not to dismiss agriculture and stormwater retention, but septic and sewer, along with wastewater facilities, are things we haven’t paid enough attention to in the past.

FP: What’s the most important thing for lawmakers to act on when they back into Session as far as the fishing industry is concerned?

Ralston: Talking with lawmakers, water quality has been on their mind for multiple years. Having this roadmap and blueprint, if you will, from a scientific task force panel, one that is comprehensive and doesn’t point specific fingers but takes a holistic approach to water quality, I do think there is going to be strong support for this. We’re off to an initial start. I’m sure we will see some tweaks as we move forward. But I think, long term, water quality is going to continue to be an important issue in the state. We have had some spring spending, which is great, because the freshwater component gets lost in the shuffle. But looking at some less high profile areas is going to be necessary for our clean water supply long-term.

Lobby Up

Homebuilders have their hands full catering to the swathes of people who move to Florida every year.

One company, Tampa-based Homes By WestBay, builds more than 400 homes per year, running the gamut of sub-$250,000 domiciles via their “Casa Fresca” brand, to larger and higher-priced homes.

Homes By WestBay recently signed a lobbying deal with RSA Consulting, which represents many of the Tampa area’s biggest businesses in the Legislature.

According to RSA lobbyist Edward Briggs, Homes By WestBay hasn’t taken a position on any bills that have been introduced for the 2020 Legislative Session, but has retained the firm to keep it in the loop about any proposed changes to building codes, impact fees or other things that could affect the way they do business.

“They’re mostly just monitoring what’s going on this Session,” Briggs said.

But if a bill that would impact them or other homebuilders pops up, Briggs added the company’s goal is to be “the voice of reason and an issue leader” in Tallahassee.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will receive an update on the Department of Children and Families initiatives by DCF Secretary Chad Poppell. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee will hold a workshop on insurer bad faith issues. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on classroom teacher compensation. That’s at 9:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building.

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will hear presentations related to the City of Opa-locka, including the Auditor General’s review of the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

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