Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2019 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley says relaxing mandatory minimums is no longer a “third rail” issue, and his fellow senators appear to agree, as the chamber voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill allowing judges to deviate from mandatory minimums in some cases. Under the proposal, first-time drug possession convictions wouldn’t mandate more than a year in jail, with a handful of exceptions. Though companion legislation has languished without a committee hearing, House Speaker José Oliva said last week that his chamber is ready to discuss sentencing reform. Here’s your nightly rundown.
FCADV scandal. House Speaker Oliva watched the whole of Monday’s explosive House hearing on the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, calling it “one of the ugliest things I’ve seen in my time in the Legislature.”
Contract killed. The Senate unanimously passed the House’s bill severing the state’s contract with FCADV.
What rights? The Senate “parental rights” bill was postponed by the Rules Committee after Sen. Tom Lee questioned whether it brought anything new to the table.
Amendment crackdown. The Senate Rules Committee OK’d a proposal that would make it harder to get constitutional amendments on the ballot but postponed a second measure intended to do the same.
Alyssa’s Law. The House panic alarm bill was advanced by the Education Committee with a unanimous vote, but not unanimous praise.
Athlete pay. A bill allowing college athletes to earn money from the use of their name, image or likeness is headed to the full Senate.
Florida Poly pleas. Florida Polytechnic University doesn’t think it can convince the House to keep it independent, so it’s making the case to Senators and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Higher ed. The House’s higher education omnibus is ready for a vote from the full chamber after rolling through its final committee, with some major additions.
At EASE. Dozens of highly enthusiastic private scholarship students braved the rain to travel to Tallahassee and thank lawmakers for not rolling back non-needs-based grant funding.
No sunshine. A bill that would shield applications for state university president jobs from public record narrowly cleared its final Senate committee.
‘Test and Treat.’ A bill allowing pharmacists to diagnose and treat the flu and strep throat was expanded to include lice and ringworm in its final House committee.
E-cig rules. A House bill that would set new regulations on the sale of vaping products cleared its final committee, paving the way for a floor vote.
God and guns. A bill that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns to churches that share property with schools is ready for the House floor.
Drones zip along. A bill allowing the use of drones to mitigate wildfires and eradicate invasive plants and animals heads to the Senate after receiving the House’s unanimous approval.
Transplant protections. The House unanimously approved a bill that would prevent health care facilities, insurers and other entities from denying organ transplant services to patients based on developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Cardiac panel. The House voted 70-45 for a bill to nix the “Pediatric Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel,” which was created in 2019 has not yet held its first rules workshop.
Patient records. The House voted 106-8 to pass HB 1147, which standardizes the timeframe that health care providers and facilities must produce records
Term limits. A bill that would force Public Counsel J.R. Kelly out of office was delayed by the Senate Rules Committee.
Reboot rolls. The House passed a bill to create the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity and designate it as the lead agency on high-speed internet expansion.
Pregnant inmates. The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill, known as the “Tammy Jackson Act,” that would ensure pregnant prisoners receive proper medical care.
Half-staff. Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered U.S. and Florida flags at the Okaloosa County Courthouse be flown at half-staff in honor of former Rep. Jerry Melvin, who died last week.
Wrongful incarceration. A compensation package for Clifford Williams, a wrongly convicted ex-prisoner, is ready for a vote on the House floor.
Quote of the Day
“I sincerely hope, and we are going to do everything within our power — one, to fully expose the truth of what has happened here, and two, to the degree that we can — to be able to go after those dollars and those people, particularly Ms. [Tiffany] Carr, who’s now avoiding our reach in North Carolina, and find a way to bring her to have to face the consequences of what she’s done.” — José Oliva, regarding the House investigation into FCADV.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: St. Petersburg is home to the world’s largest club of what game that involves weighted disks?
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: 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.
Answer: The Manchineel tree. These trees are also found in the Caribbean, but they are hard to get rid of because if you burn them, the smoke can cause blindness.
Congrats to Jeremy Smith (@bcomingsuperman), 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
Freshman Rep. Ardian Zika plans to devote much of his legislative career to reducing the financial burdens of college. His college acceleration bill (HB 187) could help with that mission. We spoke with Zika about the legislation that awaits a final vote on the House floor.
Florida Politics: What is the top goal you want to achieve with this bill?
Zika: It reduces the cost of postsecondary education, and makes it cheaper by making it easier for students to graduate high school with an associate degree and a diploma. My biggest concern and the reason I brought it forward is the cost of higher education is very expensive, and the student loan debt has been over $1.5 trillion. It’s a small step in the right direction. It doesn’t eliminate the cost, but it helps. This is expanding dual enrollment and creating an early college program. You will still have dual enrollment classes, but you are more focused on taking classes that go toward getting an associate degree, and we are expanding into the junior year of high school. We want to encourage our secondary school students to take postsecondary classes. Philosophically, we at the state level have to look at reducing costs of postsecondary education to where it becomes inconsequential to students. That will help people achieve the American Dream and get a job post-college. We have to come together to create a path for students because student loan debt is destroying American families. We all win when there is a clearer path to financial independence.
FP: Will this create costs either for public school districts or for state colleges?
Zika: Not for school districts. There is a provision in there to get additional dollars if secondary students complete classes for dual enrollment that are required for an A.A. degree. There is no funding mechanism for the Florida College System, but my goal right now is to get it across the finish line as policy. Seven or eight months from now, we can see if there is a high demand, and then we can see if we need additional resources for the college system. And my school district, Pasco, supports this.
FP: Dual enrollment has been around for some time. How does this evolve the concept at the statewide level?
Zika: My bill ensures when secondary students take a class, those are transferable to a four-year university so that a student who takes some dual enrollment classes can go to Pasco-Hernando State College and finish an associate degree in their first year, and then transfer to a university. We are ensuring none of that credit is nontransferable. We will also make sure parents and schools communicate that those grades will be in your GPA. But at a macro level, we are just trying to make college cheaper. I will continue to advocate and be a champion for that. Maybe in seven years, I will be a single-policy member. But I have five kids. I want to do something I know will make a difference. Each of us wants to do what’s the best thing for our children, and I want to be able to say this is what I have done to give children a chance to succeed in life.
Millions of Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder, and it affects them all in different ways.
Autism Speaks is a leading advocacy group representing those diagnosed with the developmental disorder as well as their families. Its efforts span several fronts, from raising awareness and understanding, increasing early childhood screening, and supporting research.
The organization, founded in 2005, also works to advance public policy that could have a positive impact on the people it represents.
Autism Speaks recently hired the team at The Southern Group to help them further their mission in Florida. James McFaddin is taking point, with assistance from colleagues Rachel Cone, Paul Mitchell and Monte Stevens.
“A key part of Autism Speaks’ mission is advocacy, ranging from federal autism research funding to coverage of health care and other services for individuals on the spectrum to initiatives that keep our community safe,” said McFaddin, a partner at The Southern Group.
“There is increased activity here in Florida related to autism and developmental disabilities, and Autism Speaks is looking to be present and heard along with families, health care service providers, and coalition partners who are focused upon these important issues.”
The Next 24
Sen. Lauren Book is bringing Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Magdalen Bader to the Capitol to speak in support of Book’s Holocaust Education bill (SB 1628) when it goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee hearing begins at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building. The committee is expected to take up SB 1628 before noon.
DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and Deputy Secretary for Health Shamarial Roberson will hold a press conference on coronavirus at 10 a.m. in the Governor’s Large Conference Room at the Capitol.
Rep. Emily Slosberg joins advocates from the Florida Chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), for a news conference on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. The news conference begins 11 a.m., 22nd floor of The Capitol.
A coalition of black women and girls will march to the Capitol on for the 3rd annual Black Girls at the Capitol event. The march culminates in a press conference. The march begins at 10 a.m. at the People’s Advocacy Center to Capitol, 603 N MLK Blvd. The press conference begins at 11 a.m. in the 4th-floor Rotunda of The Capitol.
A service honoring former Rep. Jerry Melvin, who died Feb. 19 at age 90, will be held. It begins at 11 a.m. at Fort Walton Beach First United Methodist Church, 103 First St. SE.
The House will hold a floor session at 1:30 p.m. in the House chamber.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The House Commerce Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The House State Affairs Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
— Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meets at 10 a.m. 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 floor session adjourns.