Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s top elected Democrat, again lashed out against what she calls a Republican “power grab.” Ahead of a House Appropriations Committee meeting, Fried slammed a proposed committee bill that would move the Office of Energy from her department. She also sounds alarms over a provision in the House budget that would withhold funding from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services until all gas pump stickers with Fried’s face are replaced. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Budget advances. After a lengthy discussion, including a power outage and an informal recess, The House Appropriations Committee approved its proposed $91.4 billion budget.
Teacher pay. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a budget amendment that would increase raises for teachers in districts with a starting salary over $47,500 and set aside funds for veteran teacher raises.
Best and Brightest repeal moves. A repeal of the controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus program cleared its final committee, queuing it for a full vote on the Senate floor.
VISIT FLORIDA. The House again said funding tourism marketing was a non-starter, but the Senate budget panel voted to reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA.
Resiliency ready. With an OK from its last committee, a bill to create Statewide Office of Resiliency in the Governor’s office and create a Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force is heading to the Senate floor.
Gain time. Advocates rallied in support of legislation that would allow inmates to shave more time off their sentences for good behavior.
Poaching penalties. The full House approved a measure that would increase criminal penalties for bear poaching with a unanimous vote.
Quote of the Day
“We must also make sure that every school — whether they are public, private or parochial — prioritizes student safety and has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination. Ripping scholarship funding out from underneath thousands of economically vulnerable students whose only chance at a safe environment and solid education is not the answer. While we come together to create policies to ensure these conditions, I urge companies not to end their support for students in the short term.” — Rep. Shevrin Jones, on the recent loss of corporate support for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: What movie franchise inspired the themed area in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios that opened in 2019?
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: What former Florida Governor openly wore a revolver during his inauguration?
Answer: Sidney J. Catts.
Congrats to Marco Paredes (@MP0L0), 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
Legislation to dispose of the Constitutional Revision Commission seems to be moving steadily in Tallahassee. The House cleared a measure, and the Senate will soon put the issue on the ballot. So, what does Carlos Beruff, last chair of the CRC, think of the move? Well, we asked.
How do you feel about the Legislature responding the CRC’s work by pushing to repeal its existence?
Beruff: I’m a very simple person. I say if they get to end the CRC by a 60-percent majority of all Floridians, which is what it would take, then, by all means, end it. But I don’t think that’s going to work, so I don’t lose a lot of sleep.
Why do you think the disdain for the Commission exists in Tallahassee?
Beruff: I think one of two things we did, they didn’t like much. The one that gives them the most indigestion is the ethics reform. And hey, it is what it is. Public service is a calling, and if you’re going to go be a public servant, that’s what you should do. But if you get into the arena so in the future when you get to the end of that public service, you take that and turn it into a career, that’s not what I think people thought of when the term ‘public service’ was coined. Back in the day, understand, people used to volunteer to be on county commissions and school boards. They volunteered to legislate. Then along the line, we started paying everybody. Then a lobbyist said the only way to get it done id to have contacts. All of a sudden, it’s not the purity of public service. At 62 years old, I want to remain a purist, but I understand that’s a huge challenge, and the tide is stacked against me.
The LeRoy Collins Institute just released a survey showing most Floridians consider the CRC a good idea. Why do you see a disconnect between that and the thoughts of lawmakers?
Beruff: When people in positions of influence and power feel like they are being usurped, they just want to fight for their corner. I don’t blame them for fighting. I won’t spend more than one five-minute phone call with fighting back. I believe, in my dumb way, they should put it on the ballot. If Floridians vote to get rid of the CRC, God bless them. But I went around the state twice and heard from thousands of people, and I know it’s a valid process. Is it perfect? Hell no, but show me something perfect, and I’ll listen. But the CRC gives voice to people to try and make a difference without attorneys or lobbyists. They just show up. We can’t get all their ideas on the ballot, or it would be 50 pages long. But we had a 100-percent success rate with what we did put on the ballot, and that’s with 60% or more of people’s support.
On Tuesday, more than 100 advocates from the Alzheimer’s Association crowded the walkway to the Historic Capitol, which was lit up purple in solidarity with those afflicted with the degenerative disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association, which provides education and support for patients and raises funds for research, seeks action on several fronts.
And they have allies in Gov. Ron DeSantis, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and several lawmakers who have made combating Alzheimer’s disease a priority, including Reps. Scott Plakon and Matt Willhite and Sens. Audrey Gibson, Debbie Mayfield and Annette Taddeo.
Today, Alzheimer’s Association advocates made the rounds at the Capitol to urge other lawmakers to support Alzheimer’s initiatives.
Though they aren’t sticking around through the end of the 2020 Legislative Session, they do have a team in place to make sure their priorities are top-of-mind through March 13.
The association has a quartet of in-house lobbyists helping along the legislative effort: Jennifer Braisted, Michelle Branham, Jon Conley and Evan Holler.
The Next 24
Sen. Joe Gruters and workforce development leaders will hold a news conference on the importance of establishing cross-industry partnerships and creating a talent pipeline to improve local communities. It begins at 9:30 a.m. on the 4th Floor of the Capitol, outside the Senate chamber.
Advocacy group Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All will hold a rally urging lawmakers to pass a statewide fracking ban, a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and develop infrastructure plans that consider climate change. It begins at 10 a.m. in the Capitol courtyard.
The Senate will hold a floor session at 10 a.m.
The House will hold a floor session at 4 p.m.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The House Commerce Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House State Affairs Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
— The House Education Committee meets at noon in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The House Health & Human Services Committee meets at noon in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
— The House Judiciary Committee meets at noon in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House Rules Committee will meet in Room 404 of the House Office Building, 15 minutes after the House floor session ends.