Sixty Days for 2.25.20 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

Red Tally 5
Notes and highlights from today in Tallahassee.

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

The Last 24

More school vouchers could be on the way. A plan approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee could more than double the number of students who may get a Family Empowerment Scholarship. The bill, sponsored by Education Committee Chair Manny Diaz, would expand FES eligibility to some students who received a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship in the prior year and who attended a public school before that. The max number of FES students would also increase by 1% of the state’s total public school enrollment. Combined, the changes could up the number of FES scholarships from 18,000 to 46,000. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Alarms advance. A bill that would set up a mandatory panic alert system in Florida’s public schools is moving to its final committee stop after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education gave it the OK.

PreK parity. The Senate reworked its early education reform package to bring it in line with the House version before voting it through the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

E-cig investigation. Attorney General Ashley Moody joined a multistate effort to investigate e-cigarette company JUUL’s marketing practices and the degree to which it targets young users.

No limit soldiers. Sen. Jeff Brandes, Florida’s leading Republican advocate for legal cannabis, is teaming up with military veterans to denounce a proposed 10% THC cap.

Sentencing reform. A bill that would allow some inmates who were put behind bars before their 25th birthday to have their sentences reviewed, and possibly reduced, cleared its second Senate panel.

Florida Forever. A Senate panel backed a bill that would provide $100 million a year in Florida Forever funding, substantially more than the House has set aside. The difference is expected to be the source of debate as lawmakers hammer out the 2020-21 budget.

Alimony fix flatlined. Sen. Kelli Stargel says her alimony reform bill, which hasn’t been heard in committee, is likely dead for the year.

Cemetery search. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development approved a bill to help the state find forgotten African American cemeteries.

Quote of the Day

“I know that it’s supposed to save money, and help the big universities that we would be merged with get brought up in the national rankings for good schooling, but why don’t you just have them adopt some of our practices rather than forcing us under their systemically problematic hierarchies.” — Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland survivor and New College student, on the university merger plan.

Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: The Everglades are home to this tree, which is known as “the world’s most dangerous tree” with poisonous sap that can poison, burn, and even blind you.

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: This small town is known for being the Fern Capital of the World.

Answer: Pierson.

Congrats to Sharon Maylean Spratt (@TwinMagnolia), 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

At a time when criminal justice reform enjoys bipartisan support in the Legislature, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association wants to make sure young offenders don’t get stuck in the system before they can start their adult life. Executive Director Christian Minor says legislation ready for a floor vote, HB 615, could help with that mission by letting more young offenders have their record easily expunged.

Florida Politics: What social problem do you think this legislation can solve?

Minor: In the state of Florida, a kid arrested for a misdemeanor can be referred by a State Attorney or law enforcement to a post-arrest diversionary program, then apply to have a record expunged free of charge. But say we have a child who commits a felony offense, and this could be a kid who takes an iPhone, which is just over the property theft threshold, unfortunately. Their record can be expunged at 21 or if it’s been five years since the close of their case. What we see is a 14-year-old kid who gets referred to a program, completes it, and based on that timeline, is not able to apply for expungement until age 19. In Sen. Gayle Harrell’s district, she cited people having trouble getting into the military; they need to go through a special waiver process and even then can still be denied. It affects people’s ability to get student housing, in addition to having this on their record when they are entering the workforce. Imagine how frustrating it must be for a young child whose brain is still developing well into their early 20s. They took an iPhone, completed a diversionary program, then when the kid completes it and has paid a debt to society, this is still going hang on the record for five years or until age 21. This bill, as it currently sits, is just going to change that timeline, so they don’t have this black cloud hanging over them.

The Legislature continues to look at sentencing reform, including theft thresholds. How does that effort connect to this?

Minor: Last year, a number of groups supported raising the property theft threshold to $1,500, and after lots of horse-trading back and forth, saw lawmakers settle at a number of $750. Obviously, we would have liked to see that higher, but consider $750 a great first step. In Texas, they raised it to $2,500 and have seen crime go down. But you can have a child who takes another kid’s backpack and hides his or her backpack, and it turns out there is a cellphone in there. There’s no malice of intent, but the kid then is charged with felony property theft. That’s a serious concern. And for many kids, once they enter the justice system and are set in that pipeline, they never leave it. At the age of 18, they can’t get a job and can’t get into college. In many cases, they don’t understand that once they complete a diversion program for a felony and think all is said and done, it’s not necessarily the case. Rep. [James] Grant reiterated that there is a big appetite for the issue of expungement. HB 615 and SB 700 are a first step that deals with kids first. I’m eager to see the impact this has; 21,773 kids will be eligible to complete a post-arrest diversionary program to have offenses be expunged off their records.

FP: How do you make sure this program is made available to individuals equitably and that certain populations aren’t allowed this opportunity more often?

Minor: It’s difficult in the state of Florida, but we want to at least trust law enforcement and state attorneys to do what’s in the best interest of our kids. Now, even with the usage of juvenile civil citations, in one district, you see someone get a citation, and another kid is arrested for the same offense one circuit over. We have to have parity in how we make decisions, but discretion has to remain in the hands of prosecutors and law enforcement. It’s important for us as an association to make sure we have the support of law enforcement. As this has moved through the committee process, we have stressed we just want to make sure all kids have access to the same opportunity to expunge their records, but more importantly, to participate in diversionary programs.

Lobby Up

Sen. Stargel says her alimony reform bill is dead for the year, but the House bill is still alive and kicking — the House Judiciary Committee is expected to take it up when it meets Wednesday morning.

Florida Family Fairness is still in the fight, too.

The group launched to the forefront of the pro-reform effort last year, supplanting the much-maligned Florida Family Law Reform PAC, which dragged down the debate by associating with divisive personalities and making a string of tone-deaf social media posts.

That’s not the case for Florida Family Fairness, whose leader, Tampa Attorney Marc Johnson, said on Day One that the days of “name-calling, personal attacks, and questionable behavior” were over.

The fresh start helped the advocacy group expand its lobbying team substantially. Their early contracts included deals with two of the biggest firms in the business — Brian Ballard, Christina Brodeur and Chris Dorworth of Ballard Partners, and David Browning, Kate DeLoach, Nelson Diaz of The Southern Group. Ryan Smith of McNicholas & Associates and Derek Whitis of Whitis Consulting were retained later last year.

And with Florida Family Fairness’ goal possibly sidelined for the year, they’ve brought another lobbyist into the fold. On Monday, the group signed a deal with Keaton Alexander of Silver Palm Consulting, whom Florida Politics named a “30 under 30” rising star in Florida politics in 2015.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

Sen. Aaron Bean, Rep. Amber Mariano and Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff will join students from Florida’s nonprofit, independent colleges and universities for a rally to protect funding for the Effective Access to Student Education program (EASE). It begins at 12:30 p.m. on the historic steps of the Old Capitol.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Rep. Bobby Payne, Rep. Toby Overdorf and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein will hold a news conference highlighting the work done on environmental issues this Legislative Session with SB 712/HB 1363. It begins at 1 p.m. in the 4th-floor Rotunda of the Capitol.

The House will hold a floor session at 1:30 p.m. in the House chamber.

The Senate will consider several bills during a floor session, including a claims bill that would pay $2.15 million to a Jacksonville man who spent 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate chamber.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Education Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Reed Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Health & Human Services Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.

— The House Judiciary Committee meets at 8 a.m. Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Rules Committee will take up bills that would erect barriers to getting proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

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

Staff Reports


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704