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Sixty Days for 2.10.20 — 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

The House has been moving forward with a proposal that would allow compensation to college athletes for the use of their image or likeness, and now the Senate is doing the same, but with less enthusiasm. Though it cleared the Education Committee, several Senators expressed concerns that allowing players to profit would erode the integrity of college sports or damage ties between universities and athletic conferences. Despite the apprehension, the panel sent the bill to the Innovation, Industry, and Technology with a unanimous vote. Here’s your nightly rundown.

More term limits. A Senate panel greenlit a bill that would impose term limits on the Office of Public Counsel despite outcry from Democrats and environmentalists.

Testing funds. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee greenlit a bill that would direct $3.8 million toward creating a new standardized test for pre-K students.

E-Verify edits. An amendment to the Senate E-Verify bill that would carve out agricultural employers was filed ahead of the bill’s debut committee hearing.

Drones soar. A proposal to let law enforcement fly drones for surveying purposes cleared its penultimate committee Monday.

Water appointments. A Senate panel moved forward the confirmation process for Drew Bartlett and “Alligator” Ron Bergeron to serve on the SFWMD Governing Board.

Uber ads. The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology committee greenlit a bill that would allow ride-share companies to use digital advertising on top of vehicles.

School silence. Legislation that would require schools to offer nondenominational “moments of silence” advanced in the House.

Title tweak. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability advanced a bill that would tag the Secretary of State as the “Chief Arts and Culture Officer.”

More term limits. A Senate panel greenlit a bill that would impose term limits on the Office of Public Counsel despite outcry from Democrats and environmentalists.

Ready to sign. Gov. Ron DeSantis has received four bills from the Legislature.

Pot appeal. The 1st District Court of Appeals tossed a lawsuit filed by a Tampa orchid grower’s challenging the state’s decision to deny him a medical-marijuana license.

Quote of the Day

“It’ll teach people to put themselves above the teams that they are a part of. It will send all the wrong messages to those who don’t make it into professional sports ultimately. This is just one more step and a problem that continues to destroy the concept of college sports.” — Sen. David Simmons, opposing a plan that would allow college athletes to earn money from the use of their name, image or likeness.

Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: What Florida city has the highest average annual temperatures in the United States?

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

Last time, we asked: Florida man tattooed what on his face to combat his arachnophobia?

Answer: A spider (orlandosentinel.com).

Congrats to Bill Lewis (@4BillLewis), 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

3 Questions

The agenda for the ACLU of Florida has experienced ups and downs during this Session. Sentencing reform made headway while fights over voting rights restoration meet further resistance. We spoke to Michael Barfield, President of the ACLU of Florida, about the fight for individual rights.

Florida Politics: You list criminal justice reform as a top priority, and it seems to be finding traction. Does this feel like a successful Session thus far?

Barfield: Our signature project is gain time, and what’s been proposed is an important first step. But criminal justice reform resonates overwhelmingly with Floridians across party lines, and the Legislature can and should do more in advancing other bills mitigating harsh and onerous laws that have led to over-incarceration in the state of Florida. A legislative report showing data back to ‘50s shows a precipitous drop in violent crime from the ‘80s, but then on another line is incarceration, going in completely the opposite direction. That’s all someone needs to look at to realize there is a problem. Every year, the Legislature passes laws that lead to more punishment, double or triple what has been proposed in the past. It’s long since time to address the over-incarceration and the disparity along racial lines.

FP: We’ve seen proposals to reduce sentencing on crimes from drug possession to grand theft. Are you optimistic those will pass?

Barfield: That is very hopeful. Sentencing for lesser crimes and third-degree felonies is a big source of over-incarceration. Juvenile Justice is another area

Where there is a framework to achieve real justice reform. Hopefully, the Legislature will look at that and say we are off to a great start. Let’s do more. There is a lot they could amend and produce a much better result that would make Florida a much safer place and one which doesn’t send people to prison for extraordinary lengths of time for relatively minor offenses.

FP: At the same time, you remain locked in legal battles over the implantation of Amendment 4. How does the restoration of voter rights fit in with other reforms?

Barfield: The ACLU operates in a nonpartisan way, but I want to say it is presumptuous and wrong for the Legislature to engage in partisan myopia when it comes to the restoration of voting rights for returning citizens. Where is data that says they will all register as Democrats? It’s simply not true. That presumption is from where the Republican Party is looking at it. Democrats probably do the same thing. But that’s the way things are right now. I am encouraged by a couple of things. After the oral argument in the case pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, I’m optimistic Judge [Robert] Hinkle’s ruling will be upheld. We anticipate a decision on that in April. But I’m pleased also Judge [Lee] Haworth is doing work here locally (in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit) with an anonymous donor who is willing to pay up to $1,000 for folks who have fines and fees outstanding, and that gets their rights restored. All these efforts will have the effect of getting more people registered to vote. We don’t care what party they register with or if they register with any party at all. We just want them registered. I am encouraging folks finding ways around the Legislature’s onerous constraints on restoration for fines and fees, particularly for those who can’t afford to pay fines. We have all these laws that say if you are a convicted felon, you can’t do this, or you can’t do that. You can’t be a barber. So it’s difficult for people to get jobs. And yet we expect them to pay all these fines. That is not very smart when administering a justice program if you expect these people to be contributing to society. 

Lobby Up

Legislation that would ban “puppy mills” has returned for the 2020 Legislative Session.

There’s passionate debate on both sides of the bills, HB 1237 and SB 1698, which would override local regulations on pet stores and replace them with a statewide standard.

The proposals would mandate exercise time and proper climate for puppies as well as inspections by a licensed veterinarian three times a week to ensure puppies are happy and healthy, and the stores are up to snuff. But detractors say aboveboard pet breeders don’t send their dogs to retail.

Florida Pet Retailers are major backers of the legislation, and they’ve staffed up considerably over the past couple weeks.

On retainer for the retailers are Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart and Anita Berry of Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies; Jorge Chamizo, Charlie Dudley, Cory Guzzo and Melissa Ramba of Floridian Partners; James Daughton, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Andrew Palmer and Pierce Schuessler of Metz Husband & Daughton; Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Daniel Newman and Chris Schoonover of Capital City Consulting; Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick and Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group; and Katia Saint Fleur of KSF and Associates.

On the other side of the issue is the Animal Defense Coalition, and though their lobbying team doesn’t match Florida Pet Retailers in numbers, they’ve also inked with some high-powered advocates.

Repping them in the Capitol are Brian Ballard, Brady Benford, Chris Dorworth and Stephanie Grutman Zauder of Ballard Partners; and Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Amy Bisceglia, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner and Matthew Sacco of Rubin, Turnbull & Associates.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, The Arc of Florida, the Florida Public Transportation Association and the Florida Commission will hold a rally on the steps of the Old Capitol starting at 10:30 a.m.

Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Joseph Geller will hold a news conference on a bill that would repeal the death penalty. It begins at 11:30 a.m. in 333 Capitol Media Room.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will hold a conference call at noon to announce its updated Florida citrus forecast. The call-in number is 1-855-384-4184. The conference code is 6486013.

Rep. Adam Hattersley will hold a news conference highlighting bills that would amend the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act, requiring Florida to maintain safeguarding its endangered and threatened species regardless of rollbacks at the federal level. It begins at 1 p.m. in the 4th Floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Ways & Means Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.

— The Senate Agriculture Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will consider a bill that would preempt local regulation of vacation rentals when it meets at 10 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee hears a bill that would up penalties for bear poachers when it meets at 10 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Health Policy Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill that would up fines for polluters when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would exempt intermediate care facilities from the “Certificate of Need” process when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in Reed Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a bill that would make substantial changes to the state’s alimony laws when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a proposal that would repeal the no-fault auto insurance system and replace it with personal-injury protection when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 306 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a proposal mandating public and private employers to use the federal E-Verify system when it meets at 2 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Appropriations Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

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

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