The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. Another year brings another sales tax holiday debate. Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, has filed a bill to reauthorize a sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness. But this legislation would eliminate the sales tax on certain disaster supplies from May 29 through June 15 next year — a whopping 18 days.
What’s included? Flashlights and fuel tanks, battery packs and coolers, tarps and tie-downs are just some of the items. Hurricane season starts June 1. And Sixty Days is always game for a sale on “reusable ice.” Here’s your nightly rundown.
Talk of teacher pay: Not so fast, a House leader says, as that chamber begins considering Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desire to raise starting teacher salaries next year.
Gee, ya think? Dep’t of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell continues his push to move “from a crisis agency to a prevention-focused agency.”
Working on it: Two key Republican lawmakers said they’ll look at problems with enforcing the restoration of felon voting rights after criticism by a federal judge last week.
Lights, camera … money: Just don’t call it “incentives.” A new bill calls for the creation of a Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program.
They fought authority: The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence receives more than $51 million in government funding, but for the last 13 months, it has flouted state oversight.
Quote of the Day
“As someone very much involved with the suspension and removal process, it pains me that he is receiving death threats. I wholly disagree with his report and recommendations, but I absolutely condemn any threat or act of violence against him.” — Nick Primrose, Deputy General Counsel to Gov. Ron DeSantis, on Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette, who recommended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel be returned to office.
Groups like Right On Crime urged lawmakers in recent years to look beyond looking tough on crime and to measure costs — fiscal and social — of criminal justice in Florida. Chelsea Murphy, Florida state director for Right On Crime, has worked this year with Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Alex Andrade on new drug sentencing reforms and spoke to Florida Politics about the evolving dialogue in state government.
Florida Politics: After some success with sentencing reform in 2019, what are the top priorities for Right on Crime in the 2020 Session?
Murphy: My focus is mainly on Sen. Bradley’s and Rep. Andrade’s bills. Those are my babies. While I am supportive of all other great reforms, that’s where we will exhaust our resources this year. The house version is a safety valve and about raising thresholds. The Senate bill also includes other sections, like saying any sort of simple possession of less than 2 grams of controlled substances, except for Fentanyl, can’t get you imprisoned more than 12 months. It also touches on custodial interrogations. It also has clean hands language for those who are innocent and incarcerated, tweaking that provision for some type of relief.
FP: Conservatives have a history of promising to be tough on crime. How have groups like Right On Crime brought Republican lawmakers on board with criminal justice reform?
Murphy: We are for judicial discretion; we are not taking anything away from prosecutors. We are mimicking the federal First Step Act. Criminal justice doesn’t have to be a left or right issue. It’s a common-sense issue. Here, we are seeing fiscal savings. But while money is great, also on the policy side, you have an ever-revolving door of folks coming back into the system. Everybody wants to make sure we are not overcharging people. At the end of the day, money is a problem, but you have to have the policy to back it up. But I can tell you, we have had some pretty high-profile signatories, and all of them will tell you, they haven’t lost an election on these issues.
FP: Are you also helping lawmakers working on this to craft a political message explaining to constituents why they support less harsh sentencing and other reforms?
Murphy: A lot of it is reassuring that one of the most important is public safety, but this does not affect public safety. This helps taxpayers and gives a chance to keep families together. It has a big effect on the revolving door. It’s a no-brainer. Take a step back and realize (which) people are targeting this and the support behind it. Conservatives believe in the fundamentals of saving taxpayer money. Nothing we are proposing here would ever affect those types of values.
Florida is blessed with incredible ocean and coastal environments. Those environments play a major role in the state’s burgeoning tourism industry, of course.
But Florida’s economy is much more than tourism — healthy coasts are a requirement for fisheries, water quality, native wildlife and more. Nonprofit organization Ocean Conservancy has spent the last 30-plus years employing science-based solutions to keep the coasts clean and healthy.
But new threats emerge every day, including more frequent and more intense algal blooms, oil spills and plastic trash.
To have healthy ocean and coastal environments for generations, OC says the state must take action — in particular, OC is focused on improving Florida’s water quality over the next year. Those new threats require new solutions, and Ocean Conservancy wants a seat at the table when the state decides how to handle them.
To get their message out, the organization hired Amy Maguire of Shumaker Advisors Florida to lobby on their behalf in Tallahassee. “We look forward to working with state officials on Florida’s water quality and continue to support the Governor, DEP, House and Senate as they focus on these top priorities,” Maguire said.
The Next 24
Democratic state Sen. Janet Cruz will give a 2020 Legislative Session preview for the latest Café con Tampa. Admission is $12 per person, which includes a breakfast buffet. That’s at 8 a.m., Upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.
The Financial Impact Estimating Conference will hold what’s called a “Principals’ Workshop-Formal Conference” on the proposed constitutional amendment from the Sensible Florida organization to “regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol,” thus legalizing the adult use of cannabis. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building.
State Rep. Matt Willhite, a Royal Palm Beach Democrat, will kick off the 2019 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Palm Beach County, hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s at 9 a.m. Saturday, Meyer Amphitheatre, 104 Datura St., West Palm Beach.