Sixty Days for 3.12.20 — A prime-time look at the 2020 Legislative Session

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

The Last 24

Senators bid farewell Thursday to a man they think of as a statesman and a leader … and a friend. Outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano’s kept his remarks brief, recognizing family, staff, and fellow Senators, with tributes to virtually everyone who has helped him, becoming audibly emotional at more than one moment. Fellow Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, praised the longtime lawmaker for his fairness, restraint and civility. But while his farewell, and the accompanying reveal of his Senate President portrait, was held today, there’s still work to be done in the 2020 Legislative Session. Namely, fine-tuning the tax package and passing a budget. Here’s your nightly rundown.

DNA privacy. Lawmakers approved a bill preventing insurance companies from using or soliciting Floridians’ genetic information, a top priority of House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls.

With teeth. A bill that would increase fines and penalties for violating environmental laws has cleared the Legislature. It is one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ priorities this Session.

Dereg differences. The House occupational license deregulation bill is positioned for a floor vote in the Senate, but it’s been amended to line it up with the upper chamber’s version.

Voucher transparency. Despite a vocal push from Sen. Tom Lee, amendments requiring more oversight for private schools that accept vouchers failed to make it into a school choice package.

FCADV. The House took steps to hold former Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence CEO Tiffany Carr in contempt for no-showing a Public Integrity & Ethics Committee meeting. 

Pre-K peril. Legislation making sweeping changes to the state’s pre-Kindergarten education system appears to be on life support in the waning days of Session.

‘Zachary Martin Act.’ A bill that would require schools to take more precautions to prevent athlete heat strokes is headed to the Governor.

Guardianship. Legislation revamping the state’s guardianship program passed the House with a unanimous vote and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Pregnant inmates. A bill banning solitary confinement for pregnant inmates passed the Senate with a unanimous vote, sending it back to the House for a final OK.

Poaching penalties. A proposal that would increase the severity of criminal charges associated with bear poaching cleared the Legislature and is ready for DeSantis’ signature.

Bigger bench. The Legislature approved a plan that would add 10 judges across Florida’s county and circuit courts.

Wire rules. The Senate greenlit a bill that would remove obsolete laws governing telegraph companies from state statutes. It now heads to DeSantis.

Veto, please. The League of Women Voters of Florida is urging DeSantis to veto a bill that would make it more difficult for some citizen initiatives to reach the ballot.

Tiger tags. A bill that would overhaul the state’s specialty license plate process and add new tags for Auburn University and other out-of-state schools cleared the Senate. An amendment kicks it back to the House.

Quote of the Day

“The lobby corps matters. The press corps matters.” — Senate President Bill Galvano, in his farewell to the Senate.

Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: After the 55th day of Regular Session, what bills cannot be taken up and considered by the House?

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

Last time, we asked: What Spanish sport known as “the fastest game in the world” is played and bet on at the Miami Casino?

Answer: Jai-Alai.

Congrats to Larry Williams Consulting (@LarryWmsConsult) 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 past two years have seen serious movement on water quality and the environment as far as Audubon Florida is concerned. Julie Wraithmell, the group’s executive director, discussed how this session is shaping up — and what needs to happen next year.

Florida Politics: After a focus on water quality projects last Session, how did this compare in terms of achievement for the environment?

Wraithmell: It’s not done yet so we are waiting for the photo finish. But we are all gratified by proposed funding for the Everglades and water quality in the Appropriations process, as well as land conservation through Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust, and Rural and Family Lands. So on the appropriations side, it’s been very encouraging. But we’re also seeing steady progress on the regulatory front. Last year, there was a push to meet Florida’s water challenges on the funding side, but less on fixing the regulatory shortcomings that find us in the pickle we are in.

FP: Along those lines, there was a celebration in the Legislature this year with the Clean Waterways Act. How significant will that be in addressing problems?

Wraithmell: SB 712 is a step in the right direction. It addresses many needed improvements including requiring DEP approval of septic tanks as source of nutrients, and ensuring Basin Management Action Plans include wastewater and septic plans everywhere, not just in springsheds. Both are sources of nutrient pollution statewide and we can’t just ignore them. The bill also required DEP to update stormwater rules and reevaluate a self-certification program that may not be as protective as it was intended to be. The bill mandates long-overdue backup power for pumping stations for wastewater systems, and requires utilities to have maintenance plans, to address the shameful wastewater spills we’ve seen with increasing frequency in the last few years. This may all sound common sense, but these improvements have not been standard practice to-date. It also directs DEP to take a hard look at the impact of the bottled water industry on the health of our springs. Some folks are still frustrated. Everyone feels the urgency of water problems and wants to see as much progress made as possible, but this is a solid step forward. Why would we say no, we don’t want a solid step because it doesn’t solve everything in one fell swoop? Our water problems are the culmination of many years and many causes, and it’s going to take some effort and time to fix them.

FP: So what needs to happen in the next Legislative Session to continue tackling the problems?

Wraithmell: Well between now and then, SB 712 anticipates a lot of rule-making, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. We need to follow up on items with DEP rulemakomg to ensure the Legislature’s intent to provide strong protections for wetlands really materializes. We also will need additional improvements next session to the regulatory structure after vetting recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. That group has really been giving hard scrutiny to our water challenges, and they are coming up with strong recommendations that warrant action.

Lobby Up

There are only a few hours left in the final round of TallyMadness.

Florida Politics’ annual voting competition started with 64 competitors, and at midnight either Corinne Mixon or Justin Thames will be named the “best” lobbyist in the state.

Each finalist dispatched some tough competition to earn a spot in the final head-to-head.

Mixon narrowly defeated Katie Flury in the first round, moving on to defeat Teye Reeves, Sara Clements and Jasmyne Henderson. The Final Four saw her shut down Nick Matthews, who had two-thirds of the vote in each of his matches up to that point.

Outside of the tournament, the Rutledge Ecenia lobbyist represents dozens of clients, many of them focused on education. The Florida Association of School Administrators, Savvas Learning Company and the school boards of Escambia, Leon, Manatee and Osceola counties are all on her list.

Thames’ client sheet is shorter — he’s the in-house advocate for the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants — but he’s proved he can hang with the big-firms on the court.

He’s earned no less than 60% of the vote through five rounds of play. His march included wins over Andy Gonzalez, Megan Fay, Josh Aubuchon, Alli Liby-Schnoonover and BillieAnn Gay.

Voting is open through 11:59 p.m. Cast a ballot now — TallyMadness may be the closest we’ll get to March Madness this year.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze the financial impact of legislation filed in the 2020 Legislative Session when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.

The Senate will hold a floor session at 10 a.m.

The House will hold a floor session at 10:30 a.m.

Happening March 21 — Sen. Bobby Powell and Rep. Matt Willhite will join Farm Share in hosting a food giveaway in West Palm Beach. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon at Florida Career College, 6058 Okeechobee Blvd.

Staff Reports


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