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Sixty Days for 1.21.20 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Notes and highlights from today in Tallahassee.

Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session:

The Last 24

A priority bill of Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson unanimously cleared its first committee of reference, even as the legislation’s advocates and supporters conceded it’s a work in progress. The goal of Simpson’s bill is to bring “accountability” over the course of four years of implementation to the Department of Children and Families. With DCF moving toward a “prevention” model, the bill would create the Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement within the organization, shoring up foster care and adoption services. The bill also directs DCF Secretary Chad Poppell to appoint a Chief Quality Officer, who would monitor performance standards. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Restoration rules. The Governor and Cabinet adopted new rules that would allow violent felons to have their civil rights restored even if they owe fines, fees or restitution. The rule change only applies to violent felons, who are required to wait 7 years after they complete their prison term and post-release supervision before applying to have their rights restored.

Parkland parent appointed. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Ryan Petty, whose daughter was killed in the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas Highschool, to Florida’s State Board of Education.

Bond board shake-up. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee greenlit a bill that would give the Governor’s office more authority over the Florida Development Finance Corp.

Tax TP’d. A measure that would charge water bottling companies a 12.5-cent-per-gallon levy for pulling the water from the ground was postponed in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Medicaid cut moves. The Senate Health Policy Committee voted along party lines to advance a bill that would permanently eliminate retroactive eligibility for new patients.

Moffitt money approved. The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved a bill that would boost the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute’s share of net cigarette taxes.

E-cig taxes. The Senate Health Policy Committee approved a bill that would treat e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which allows the state to tax them and sets a minimum age of 21 to purchase.

Surprise billing fix. The House Health Market Reform Subcommittee greenlit a bill that would require hospitals to clearly explain the cost of nonemergency medical procedures when a patient is admitted.

No more sunshine. A Senate panel advanced an exemption to the state’s Sunshine Law that would shield from public disclosure identifying information about legislators, their families and staff.

Making it right. Bills that would recognize the victims of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots and set up a fund to compensate their descendants cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sports incentives. Members of the House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee voted in favor of a bill that would repeal an unused program created to provide funds for sports stadium construction and renovation projects.

Tenant’s rights. Sen. José Javier Rodríguez’s bill (SB 1362) to clarify the rights of tenants living in a property facing foreclosure passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Broadband reboot speeds along. A proposal to rewire broadband expansion responsibilities to the Department of Economic Opportunity unanimously passed its first committee Tuesday. 

Pet privileges. A bill that would prevent domestic abusers from having contact with pets passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with a unanimous vote.

Jordan’s Law moves. A bill aimed at improving outcomes for children in Florida’s child welfare system passed the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs — with changes.

Eight is Enough. The House push to set term limits for county school board members passed the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee over some objections.

Rally in Tally. Hundreds of students, parents and educators from around Florida rallied at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to increase Gardiner Scholarship funding this Session.

Legal reform push. Floridians for Lawsuit Reform launched a website to raise awareness of the need for lawsuit reform and demonstrate the impact of frivolous lawsuits on Florida families. The same day, a Senate panel approved a bill that would end the “fee multiplier” the group says incentivizes lawsuits.

Quote of the Day

“Today, rather than allowing peaceful discourse to take place, a group of young billionaires who are acting like kings, try to control what we say, what we hear what we see, and most importantly, what we believe. I’m talking about billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google.” — Laura Loomer, at a news conference introducing a bill blocking social media platforms from censoring political or religious speech.

Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is:

Who was the first Jewish Governor of Florida, and in what year was he elected?

As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MHDFirm. The first person with the correct answer will get a shoutout in tomorrow’s 60 Days!

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Lawsuit abuse and tort reform seem eternal issues in the halls on the Florida Capitol. But Floridians for Lawsuit Reform feel confident some change will happen this year and cheered a bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes clearing committee Tuesday. The same day, the group unveiled a new website and campaign. We spoke with organization spokesperson Amanda Bevis about its damages-limiting agenda.

Florida Politics: What specific reforms do Floridians for Lawsuit Reform hope to achieve this Session?

Bevis: Lawsuit abuse is a problem in Florida, and we are focused today on the legislation that Sen. Brandes proposed (SB 914). This bill focuses on the multiplier fee, the contingency risk multiplier used by attorneys to collect higher fees. Attorneys can in some cases collect 30 times what homeowners for policyholders can take home. When the litigation costs go that high, homeowners end up footing the bill.

Even Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady agreed in the 2017 decision a multiplier was added without justification, and he tasked the Legislature to take a further look at the issue. We know about 50,000 new lawsuits filed by attorneys over property issue disputes, and without proper reform, homeowners’ property insurance rates could climb tenfold over the next 10 years.

FP: So why does this year seem like the right moment to tackle the multiplier fee?

Bevis: Now is the time. We know that there are multiple homeowners insurance companies in Florida at this time at risk of being downgraded. That could make them financially insolvent. When we lose insurance companies, that’s limiting access for Florida homeowners to good insurance. That’s increasing cost to homeowners, and therefore increasing the cost of homeownership in Florida. If we don’t do something now, this problem will only snowball. But we’re hopeful the Legislature will act this session.

FP: We always hear from trial attorneys that their work holds companies accountable and protects consumers. How do you counter that argument, especially to lawyers in the Legislature?

Bevis: Look at how this fee multiplier has impacted the state in recent years. One example was a $40,000 dispute that returned attorney fees of $1.2 million. There was another $25,000 dispute that brought attorney’s fees of $125,000. That creates a clear incentive for these lawyers who advertise on TV to pursue and create cases like this. Reducing the fee multiplier taking away that excessive incentive and helps with the high and growing volume of litigation in Florida.

Lobby Up

The American Heart Association has just engaged new advocates for its mission of promoting healthier lives.

Well-known nationwide for their work supporting research and education around cardiovascular diseases and strokes, their advocacy efforts have spread to encompass a broader array of public health issues.

From passing legislation to increase access to healthy foods, or working to create a statewide heart attack registry database, training 911 dispatchers in CPR, and promoting access to water in schools, the organization has had no shortage of activity in Florida.

In the last several Sessions, the American Heart Association has had an interest in all things tobacco. They have operated as one of the lead organizations pursuing an increase in the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Leading into the 2020 Legislative Session, there have been numerous bills covering tobacco regulation. Even with changes in federal policies, the debate is far from over in Florida and legislation is still needed to not only codify the change at the state level, but to address a slew of other regulatory reforms.

To help advance their priorities, the American Heart Association has hired the team at Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies — Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart and Anita Berry.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The full Senate will consider a bill by Budget Chief Rob Bradley that would preempt local sunscreen bans during a floor session at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate Chamber.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels will be joined by fellow House members and others to bring attention to a bill (HB 6507) to compensate Clifford Williams for wrongful incarceration. The press conference begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol.

The Partnership for Florida Tourism will host “Florida Tourism Day” at the Capitol which includes a 9 a.m. event at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center and a 1 p.m. rally on the plaza level of the Capitol.

Rep. Tyler Sirois will hold a press conference on his bill (HB 389) to allow pharmacists to test for and treat strep throat and the flu. The event will include an on-site demonstration of a rapid flu test by an emergency medicine physician. It begins at 1 p.m. in front of the Florida House Chamber in the 4th floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

Floridians Unite for Health Care will hold a press conference highlighting its support of HB 607, which would allow to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and physician assistants to practice independently. It begins at 2 p.m. in front of the Florida House Chamber in the 4th floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

The full House will vote on a bill to repeal the Constitutional Revision Commission when it holds a floor session at 3:30 p.m. in the House Chamber.

Also, the following committees will meet:

— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Rules Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 12 of the House Office Building.

— The House Civil Justice Subcommittee at 8:30 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Local Administration Subcommittee at 8:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee at 8:30 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 306 of the House Office Building.

— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 12:30 p.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 12:30 p.m. in Reed Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Finance & Tax Committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

Full committee agendas, including bills to be considered, are available on the House and Senate websites.

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