Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
During a rally at the Capitol, religious leaders from across the state accused Democratic lawmakers of using students as pawns in a political game. Their ire follows an exodus of corporate support for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program following an investigation that found some schools accepting the scholarship funds had policies discriminating against gay or transgender students. Reps. Anna V. Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith have been calling out corporations donating to the program. Still, the African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice said the pressure campaign is hurting mostly low-income black and brown children. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Testing standards. The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee moved forward a bill that would nix the state’s 9th-grade language arts and 10th-grade geometry tests and require school districts to administer the SAT or ACT to 11th graders.
PIP repeal. A measure to repeal Florida’s PIP no-fault vehicle insurance with bodily injury coverage faced a slew of opposition but ultimately cleared the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.
Managed care. The House budget bill includes a requirement that all “essential” health care providers contract with all Medicaid managed care plans offered in their area to qualify for Medicaid supplemental payments.
Licensing laws. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously signed off on legislation to cut licensing requirements for numerous professions, including auctioneers, barbers and geologists.
Inspection rules. A bill that would allow the Agency for Health Care Administration to inspect nursing homes and hospitals with “excellent regulatory history“ less frequently was OK’d by the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee.
Baby boxes. A House committee approved a bill that would authorize hospitals and fire stations to install and use “baby boxes,” the equivalent of bank after-hours deposit portals for unwanted newborns.
Cam ban. A bill that would ban red-light cameras got the green light from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.
Mental health days. A bill that would permit school districts to allow students to get an excused absence for mental health reasons was approved by the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
CareerSource shift. The House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee advanced a bill that would move the state’s workforce development board under the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Lake O solutions. A bipartisan group of lawmakers representing South and Southwest Florida formed the Lake Okeechobee Working Group to outline best practices to reduce excess water in the lake.
Acreage acquired. The Governor and Cabinet agreed to spend $21.74 million acquiring 5,717 acres of land in Sarasota and Columbia counties.
Sea-level studies. A bill that would require local governments to conduct sea-level impact projection studies before breaking ground on state-funded construction projects passed its first House committee.
Hurricane costs. The Florida Public Service Commission approved a rate increase for Duke Energy Florida to recover $171.3 million in costs stemming from Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Nestor.
Quote of the Day
“Withdrawing financial support is punishing our children. Why would anyone want to purposely hurt lower-income children? These politicians are recklessly harming our innocent and vulnerable. Instead of attacking our children, they should be reaching across the aisle searching for win-win solutions.” — Robert Ward of the African American Ministers Alliance for Parental Choice, commenting on the drop in corporate support for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: What former Florida Governor openly wore a revolver during his inauguration?
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!
Last time, we asked: When was Florida’s first televised gubernatorial debate?
Congrats to Kevin Besserer (@krbesserer), who was the first to tweet the correct answer!
Thanks to everyone for participating — remember, the more you play, the better your chances of winning!
Bill Day’s Latest
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals obviously cares about keeping pets from harm. But a top priority for the group this Session could also impact the safety of domestic abuse victims. We spoke to Jennifer Hobgood, Senior Director of Legislation for the Southeast region of ASPCA, about the group’s focus.
Florida Politics: Why is this bill (SB 1082) such a priority for the ASPCA this Session?
Hobgood: The ASPCA has been around 150 years, and the main mission is preventing cruelty to animals. Well, there is a documented link from domestic violence to pets in the family. Nowhere is the connection more clear than with animal abuse and violence toward humans. This issue has been around the community for years. In 2012, Sen. [Mike] Fasano filed a bill with similar provisions. We examine a state’s animal cruelty laws and see gaps in protections, and this is a clear place where we need greater protection, and it is also a benefit to people. We often hear victims in a home will be afraid to escape domestic abuse because of what will happen to their pets. When you look at the research, around 60% of people who fled abuse left pets in the abusive situation. What we want to do is close the loophole. In one section of Florida statute, it says killing or injuring a pet is cause to prove a need for a restraining order. But under another section, there is no mention of pets in a home. It mentions child custody, child support, but since pets under Florida law are technically property, there is confusion about whether it can be included in a restraining order.
FP: Can you lay out the process you envision in court should this bill become law?
Hobgood: A petitioner asks a court for protections on the forms they fill out, and hopefully, this leads to more questions included about pets on forms. But having this in black and white in the statutes, we hope more judges will ask if pets are in the household. It just gives a better picture of family dynamics. Then the court is able to include on the restraining order that an individual cannot have contact with animals. This doesn’t transfer ownership but allows protection, and enforcement because any defiance of this is a defiance of a court order. Across the United States, more than 30 states allow pets to be included in orders of protection. But because Florida does not, we’re concerned animals are not being protected, and survivors of domestic violence are not as protected as they could be.
FP: How confident are you the bill can be approved on time this Session?
Hobgood: I’m confident that we can. The reception at the Capitol has been strong. Sen. [Ben] Albritton’s bill was approved after he put it on his Agriculture Committee agenda. It has also been heard in its first committee in the House, the Criminal Justice Committee. So it has one committee left in the House with Judiciary, and in the Senate, we have two stops left. A Mason-Dixon poll shows Floridians’ support clarifying the law to ensure family pets may be included in domestic violence temporary restraining orders. The bill has no opposition, and it has strong support from law enforcement. We have a strong advocate in Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. We know there are a lot of bills out there, but we feel confident.
Lobbyist Mike Haridopolos earned at least $100,000 lobbying the Legislature and another $100,000 lobbying the Governor and Cabinet last quarter, new compensation reports show.
The former Senate President’s fourth quarter numbers match his filings for the first three quarters, making for at least $800,000 in earnings last year.
Compensation reports list pay from each client in ranges covering $10,000 increments. Using the middle number of each range, Haridopolos collected an estimated $1.02 million in fees last year.
If each client paid top dollar, Haridopolos could have earned as much as $1.52 million in 2019.
Larkin Health Systems was Haridopolos’ most lucrative contract for the year, netting him $170,000 in fees — $90,000 for legislative lobbying and $80,000 for executive branch lobbying.
South Central Florida Express took the No. 2 spot with $120,000 in payments, followed by Handex Consulting & Remediation at $90,000.
Haridopolos also represented several interests based in Brevard, his home county. Among them were the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Brevard Family Partnership, the City of Melbourne and Melbourne Tillman Water Control.
Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms face a Feb. 14 to submit compensation reports covering the fourth quarter.
The Next 24
Keep Florida Beautiful staff and board members will spread the word on cleanup events and volunteer hours logged by the organization last year. They will be stationed on the plaza level of the Capitol from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform is holding a rally featuring talks from crime survivors and the parents of Florida inmates. The event begins at 9 a.m. on the steps of the Old Capitol.
The House is expected to vote on a bill that would strengthen penalties for killing bears when it convenes for a floor session at 9 a.m.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will be joined by lawmakers and community groups for a media availability to discuss a proposed committee bill that would remove the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as well as House budget language that would withhold DACS funding until gas pump stickers are replaced. The availability begins at 9:30 a.m. outside of Room 412 in the Knott Building.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Rules Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— House Appropriations Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the chamber’s $92.83 billion spending plan when it meets at 1 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.