Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
A controversial proposal to reduce Bright Futures funding for students seeking degrees that aren’t seen as leading to a career is being heavily reworked. Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican behind the proposal, filed a strike-all amendment that would remove that provision and replace it with a requirement that students get career readiness training and confirm they are aware of the job prospects for their chosen path. The revamp came after dozens of students lambasted the bill (SB 86) and Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated that he supported fully funding the popular college scholarship program. Here’s your nightly rundown.
‘Get There Faster.’ DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran spotlighted a proposal to spend $75 million of virus relief money on vocational education programs.
Let’s get to work. A House committee OK’d a bill (HB 1507) that would overhaul Florida’s Workforce Development System by boosting access to job placement services and creating job training program assessments.
Tourism taxes. A bill (HB 1429) offering local governments the power to use tourist development taxes to address sea-level rise floated through a House committee Monday despite steadfast opposition from the tourism industry.
Hi-speed access. A bill (HB 1239) aimed at getting broadband companies to expand in underserved areas got a thumb’s up in the House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Committee, but not without questions.
10/10 would recommend. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced the confirmation process for Department of Economic Opportunity director Dane Eagle.
— 1,974,051 FL residents (+2,780 since Sunday)
— 37,160 Non-FL residents (+82 since Sunday)
— 15,648 Travel related
— 773,201 Contact with a confirmed case
— 21,289 Both
— 1,163,913 Under investigation
— 83,503 in FL
— 33,408 in FL
— 7,534,223 Doses administered
— 4,955,264 Total people vaccinated
— 2,214,997 First dose
— 161,308 Completed one-dose series (+11,444 since Sunday)
— 2,578,959 Completed two-dose series (+15,575 since Sunday)
Quote of the Day
“This is simply disgraceful. While Gov. DeSantis has been giving his wealthy donors special access to the COVID vaccine, he’s also been discriminating against regular Floridians, against pregnant women, against people caring for sick loved ones, or for kids without day care. In all my time in public service, I can’t think of a worse action by a Florida Governor than denying unemployment benefits to a pregnant woman during this historic pandemic.” — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, responding to reports the state incorrectly flagged some unemployment claims for fraud.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: After the 55th day of a regular session and during any extended or special session, what is the House deadline for main floor amendments?
As always, click here to tweet your answer with cc: @MHDFirm. The first person with the correct answer will get a shoutout in 60 Days!
Last time, we asked: The U.S. Olympic Sailing Team trains in which South Florida bay?
Answer: Biscayne Bay.
Congrats to Jeremy Smith (@thejackal1106), the first person to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
Democratic Caucus Co-Leader Evan Jenne from Hollywood and Policy Rep. Fentrice Driskell from Tampa mulled the effects charges against former Sen. Frank Artiles could have on the Legislature and answer policy questions about the state’s behavioral health challenges and on police reform (Hint: it is not HB 1) Here are their responses:
Do you think the charges filed against Frank Artiles will change the debate over voter fraud in the Legislature?
Jenne: I think that definitely there will be some folks who might have some extra points that they make in debate when it comes to election fraud and election laws in general, but I don’t know how much of an impact it will have on the ultimate outcome of things. I’ve seen news story after news story come out over the years that you’d think would definitely change how we’re going to do things. But really, the only event that ever took place outside of this building that made a marked impact on policy was because 20,000 school children came up here and said they were tired of living in fear of being shot in school.
Do you think the legislation this Session dealing with behavioral health is adequate?
Jenne: No, the answer is no. They aren’t adequate. The pandemic has only exacerbated a lot of the pain that a lot of people are going through in this state. I have not seen anything that jumps off the pages, ‘Hey, this is it. This is the answer. Mental health in the state of Florida has been solved.’ I don’t think that will ever be the case. I think that’s something that people have to eternally chase in this building, just constantly getting better. But I do think that we have enough people here that are intelligent enough on both sides of the aisle, that we can get something done. But right now, in the Legislature, the main focus does not seem to be on individuals, but more so on making sure that corporate entities are taken care of.
Driskell: My holdout is always looking to see what’s going to happen with the budget, and with the federal dollars that we’re getting from the wonderful American Recovery Act. Perhaps there might be opportunities for us to push additional resources to community organizations and our community health care centers that help handle a lot of these needs. But to address the question, no, I don’t think the legislation that we’ve seen so far is adequate.
Democrats say HB 1 is not the answer to policing reform, but can you talk about the status of policing reform bills you do support?
Driskell: The Florida Legislative Black Caucus put forth, with the support of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses, our police reform package with all of these policy proposals that would support just and fair policing, and many of these proposals have bipartisan support — at least in concept. We also have support from the law enforcement community on a number of these bills. Yet we’ve not seen the bills move at the speed we would like to see them move. So, we remain in constant communication with leadership, the Majority Office, and we continue to push for these bills to be heard. We continue to advocate in the community to make sure that the people’s voices are heard, and that leadership knows every day Floridians want these pieces of legislation. They want this legislation that would promote healthier relationships between the law enforcement community and the community at large, especially communities of color and within the Black community. So, I’ve not lost hope yet. But we must continue to push.
The Legislative Session simply wouldn’t be complete without whispers of gaming legislation. This year is no different.
In addition to a murmurs of a new Seminole Compact and behind-closed-doors meeting between the Governor and top execs at Florida parimutuels, lawmakers are considering bills (SB 392/HB 1317) to legalize sports betting.
The prospect has drawn gaming interests from around the country looking to enter or expand their operations in a lucrative market.
Among them is Penn National Gaming, which the has nation’s largest and most diversified regional gaming footprint, including 41 properties across 19 states.
The Pennsylvania-based company has rapidly expanded over the past decade, acquiring the Tropicana hotel and casino in Las Vegas and a handful of properties in the Midwest and along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Mississippi. In Florida, Penn National operates the Sanford-Orlando Kennel Club.
Penn’s wholly owned interactive division, Penn Interactive, operates retail sports betting across the Company’s portfolio, as well online social casino, bingo, and iCasino products.
Last year, Penn National entered into a strategic partnership with Barstool Sports, a leading digital sports, entertainment and media platform that delivers original content across blogs, podcasts, radio, video and social media.
The platform draws in more than 50 million unique visitors every month, reaching an estimated 36% of men and 30% of women in the Millennial and Zoomer generations across the United States.
Under the strategic partnership, Barstool is exclusively promoting Penn’s land-based and online casinos and sports betting products, including the Barstool Sportsbook mobile app, to its national audience.
The app is live in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Penn National plans to offer Barstool Sportsbook where it is legal to do so across the United States, including Florida if lawmakers move on the sports betting bills.
The company isn’t sitting on the sidelines this Session — it recently signed a lobbying agreement with Donavan Brown and Alan Suskey of Suskey Consulting to help advocate for legislation that would bring sports betting to the Sunshine State.
The Next 24
In lieu of a traditional in-person event at the Capitol, Keep Florida Beautiful will host virtual events through its 40 local affiliates to mark “Keep Florida Beautiful Day.” The events will focus on engaging Floridians and educating them on the KFB’s statewide impact. A list of local affiliates is available on KFB’s website.
The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a bill (SB 138) that would create a grant program to help local governments install electric vehicle charging stations, as well as other measures intended to encourage the use of EVs. The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 1559) to eliminate permanent alimony, among other changes to the state’s alimony laws. The committee meets at 9:15 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
The House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 1031) that changes several laws related to charter schools when it meets at 9:15 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
A bill (HB 305) that would revamp the state’s property insurance laws will go before the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill (SB 86) that would direct Bright Futures funding toward students in preferred degree programs when it meets at 10:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Rep. Colleen Burton and other lawmakers will hold a news conference to make “an important announcement regarding maternal health care” at 11:45 a.m. outside the House building at the Capitol.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will hear a bill (SB 1132) that would allow personal care attendants to count toward minimum staffing requirements at nursing homes. The committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will take up a bill (SB 1826) to change statutes related to human trafficking offenses and clarify that communications between victims and victims’ advocates are privileged. The committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Education Committee will consider a bill (SB 582) that would create a “Parents Bill of Rights” when it meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
The House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 849) that would students missing school for mental health reasons to receive excused absences. The committee meets at 12:45 p.m. in Reed Hall In the House Office Building.
The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 919) to preempt local ordinances limiting the types of fuel utilities can use. The committee meets at 12:45 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee will consider a proposal (HB 631) that would expand scope-of-practice for optometrists. The committee meets at 12:45 p.m. in Room 306 of the House Office Building.
Sen. Randolph Bracy and Equal Ground will hold a news conference on an initiative to distribute vaccines in underserved communities within Orange County. It begins at 3 p.m and will be held over Zoom.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee will consider legislation (SB 1892) to establish an emergency response fund within the Governor’s Office. The committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will hear a bill (SB 284) that would preempt local regulations on home design elements, such as exterior color or the placement of garages or windows. The committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will hear a bill (HB 689) that would make it a crime to knowingly and maliciously disclose the location of domestic violence centers. The committee meets at 4 p.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee will hear legislation (HB 539) that would expand the definition of renewable energy to include “renewable natural gas.” The committee meets at 4 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.