Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
Gov. Ron DeSantis wants cruise ships back in the open water. During a news conference in Miami, the Governor announced the state is filing suit against the Biden administration and CDC to demand cruise ships “open immediately.” The lawsuit comes a year after the federal government issued a no-sail order that blocked cruise ships from carting around tourists, though the feds recently replaced the order with a plan that lays out a pathway for cruises to resume. Attorney General Ashley Moody, who filed the action on behalf of the state, was on hand for DeSantis’ announcement. “We are not going to sit back while an administrative agency decides to shut down an entire industry,” she said. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Money matters. The House passed its $97 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, setting the stage for lawmakers to negotiate the Legislature’s spending plan with the Senate.
Sweep or boost? The House has passed the Legislature’s revised infrastructure deal (SB 2512) to fund affordable housing at $200 million but also pump money into sea level rise and wastewater infrastructure projects.
There and back. The House approved a bill (SB 50) that would require online retailers to collect sales tax. But an amendment dedicating future revenues to commercial rent tax cut means a return trip to the Senate.
Mission accomplished. A multipart plan to deal with rising sea levels due to climate change passed the House, checking off a stated priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Edit and send. A bill (SB 894) to expand physician assistant scope of practice is on to its final committee after picking up several changes in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
— 2,065,122 FL residents (+7,763 since Wednesday)
— 39,564 Non-FL residents (+176 since Wednesday)
— 16,531 Travel related
— 815,170 Contact with a confirmed case
— 22,640 Both
— 1,210,781 Under investigation
— 86,499 in FL
— 34,562 in FL
— 10,470,325 Doses administered
— 6,786,461 Total people vaccinated
— 2,732,864 First dose
— 369,733 Completed one-dose series (+37,433 since Wednesday)
— 3,683,864 Completed two-dose series (+101,914 since Wednesday)
Quote of the Day
“If you say the cruise lines can’t sail, you’re basically an anti-vaxxer.” — Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: Florida man attacked by what woodland creature after taking a selfie with it.
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: Guests can witness a surgical procedure at this Disney park.
Answer: Animal Kingdom, which is dedicated to the natural environment and conservation and is home to more than 1,700 animals from 250 species.
Congrats to Larry Williams (@LarryWmsConsult) the first person to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
There are no flat characters in the Florida Legislature, and Sen. Dennis Baxley is no exception. Our discussion with the Ocala Republican ranged from amusing to touching — and delved into an incident earlier this week in committee when the Senator “confused his troops” by voting for an amendment he did not support.
Florida Politics: You accidentally voted for an amendment on your moment of silence bill that you told members not to support. It caused the bill to be temporarily postponed in the Rules Committee. What was going on there?
Baxley: The debacle over there? We had a little crisis moment. After I got through explaining why I was opposed to this amendment that was being brought. All of the sudden, I thought we were voting. So, I’m very loud because my mics open voting for the thing after I told everyone why we didn’t need it. And I’m like (mimes facepalm). I put the chairwoman in a bad place. And I really didn’t object to the amendment, I actually thought it was an improvement, but you have to deal with the mechanics of this thing too. I actually thought the language was an enhancement, but the House did not. If you want to get out of here, you’ve got to line up with both sides. That’s where a lot of bills die. Because your language doesn’t look like the language they carried.
When you have so much going on, it’s easy to get caught in one of these moments where you think you’re at this place in the process, and you’re at another place. It’s actually a technique that’s used by the minority party to try to confuse things. All this smoke and haze, and ‘maybe we better not do that right now.’ But mainly they were just disappointed, because I had surprised them and accepted that amendment, but then I couldn’t sell it to the House. So, we adapt. It was a good, very private moment of how our inside limitations get overwhelmed and the computer starts backing up.
Florida Politics: You’re carrying some contentious bills. For example, the Bright Futures bill places limits on certain state-funded scholarships. People are very passionate on both sides. When the viewpoints are so far apart on legislation, how do you consider the other side?
Baxley: We are gathering all this input, and sometimes we do pull back and look at some of this and say, what kind of changes could we make to get more people more comfortable? I’m always looking at the core mission. When I see the bill, I don’t even realize it’s controversial. It’s like, well, that makes great sense. Let’s do that. Then I start analyzing the dynamics, and I see somebody is not going to like this, because you’re scaring them that they’re not going to get their money. Now I’m telling them the truth. I want them to have a well-rounded education. I’m not trying to tell them what to major in, but a lot of those majors are headed nowhere for them as far as career paths. And so, how do you connect that? If nobody’s having that conversation, you wind up with 30% of the graduates that can’t get a job.
Florida Politics: But when you have all those students testifying against the bill in committee, are you happy to have them give feedback when it doesn’t align with the bill?
Baxley: Yeah, it’s informative. Because otherwise, you’re going to be blind to how everybody else is responding. And then you need to change up your message and sometimes your content to make it more workable. I’m very flexible about details. I’m about the big idea. If you’ve got a better way to get there, I’m ready to talk about it. I don’t have a personal authorship.
Even my opponents will tell you he’s really a nice guy. I love them. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t hate them. They’re not my enemies. They’re my opponents. And they think differently because they come from a different perspective of some way their path came to this mix. I understand that. And plus, sometimes I might be wrong, you know, and I accept that.
Florida Politics: You have a bill that’s very personal to you that creates a Rare Disease Advisory Council (SB 727). Can you talk about that bill and what it means to you?
Baxley: I am very big on protecting family. It’s the core institution that really helps build lives. My wife Jeanette and I decided after having three boys that we have a big enough house that we can take some more. So, we did some foster care. Then they call me one day and say, ‘we have a little boy and he needs to be with those Baxley boys. Can he come meet them?’ He was eight months old. He was just getting out of the hospital, and the only thing different was he sees with his ears, not his eyes.
I can’t talk about this without getting emotional. He was a shaken baby. I know most of those kids die because I’ve been in funeral service 50 years. I bury these kids. And underlying this, what we discovered is that he had a 50% chance of having Huntington’s disease. It’s a DNA-inherited disease, and it deteriorates the nervous system. They called me back when he was almost three, and we were trying to permanently adopt him. His parents got out of prison and had another pregnancy. A judge called me and said, ‘She’s going to have a baby any day, a little girl. That home is too dangerous.’ I said, well, we got four boys, it’s about time we have a little girl around here. Of course, Jeanette was never happier than the day she brought that little six-pound baby home and could not take her eyes off of her.
Well, Renee has Huntington’s.
It is one of these rare diseases that nobody knows what to do for. So, there’s a lot of communication to understand how other people are managing. They kind of go into an Alzheimer’s-state, and then they usually die by the time they’re in their 40s. My daughter is 31. My wife is still very involved. Her whole life is that and her grandkids.
That’s how I got involved with that. And then NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) told me about this legislation they’re trying to set up. They’ve got about 30 states lined up. The legislation puts about 20 people on the board, and they all have some connection to that world. They meet every so often under the Department of Health. Then they put out information to that population that they see as patients and contacts. I thought this is awesome because nobody knows who to talk to. There’s nobody else in their circle that knows this disease and how to manage it. So, this really struck a nerve with me, and I’m a sucker for little kids. I mean, they didn’t do anything.
Florida Politics: The bill passed in the Senate, and it’s moving in the House. Do you think it’s going to be signed into law?
I hope so. I don’t have as strong a horse in the House, because they’re not living it. You know, I’m living it. So, I’m bearing down. Matter of fact, if the bill doesn’t pass, I’m going to ask them if they can just do it anyway. There’s a lot of things you can do that aren’t prohibited in statute. There’s nothing that doesn’t cross that barrier loving children and family. That’s universal.
There’s a lot of disrupters in the transportation industry. From electric vehicles to autonomous delivery carts, taking a drive down the street could look quite a bit different a decade or two down the road.
Despite all the technological advancements under the hood, license plates are still microchip-less metal rectangles bolted to the trunk.
That could change if lawmakers greenlight SB 862, which would set up a pilot program to test-drive digital license plates — first on state-owned vehicles, then on regular old cars. Arizona took the plunge a couple of years ago, and so far, so good.
Depending on one’s view, digital license plates are either leading edge or retrofuturism in the making a la digital picture frames.
One of the leading digital plate companies is Reviver Auto. Their plates run on the same network as cellphones, allowing them to provide a range of situationally useful features. The tag can display “STOLEN” in all caps or morph into a vanity plate backing the driver’s favorite sports team — an enviable function for bandwagoners.
Another benefit: No more waiting in line at the DMV for one of those yellow stickers, a perennial contender for the world’s worst birthday present.
The company recently signed a lobbying deal with Jorge Chamizo and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners, and it appears their goal is still in reach.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development signed off on the bill today, and it now heads to its final committee. The House companion, HB 695, is ready for a floor vote.
The Next 24
The Senate Appropriations Committee will hear a controversial bill (HB 1) backed by DeSantis that would enhance penalties for certain crimes committed during a riot. The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee will discuss insulin costs when it meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 157) that would require Florida high school students to receive 1 hour of CPR and AED training. It will also consider a measure (HB 985) to require school districts to set up digital learning plans. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Reed Hall in the House Office Building.
The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a bill (HB 183) to increase the effectiveness of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. The committee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Morris Hall in the House Office Building.
The House Public Integrity & Elections Committee will take up a bill (HB 1207) that would shield the personal information of lawmakers and their families from public records requests.
Also, the following committees will meet.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building. The meeting beings 15 minutes after the Senate Appropriations Committee adjourns.