Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
The Legislature’s budget negotiators on Tuesday finalized their changes to the 2021-22 fiscal year budget, keeping lawmakers on track to approve the bill before the end of the Session. The budget will total more than $101.5 billion, bolstered by billions in federal aid Florida is expected to receive this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers set the budget bill on the desk at 12:06 p.m., meaning they could vote on it beginning that time Friday. Before the budget conference began, chief negotiators Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull anticipated the final budget would top $100 billion. But the federal aid is a one-time award. Last year’s budget, by comparison, totaled $93.2 billion before Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $1 billion of it to brace for the pandemic. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Emergency continues. DeSantis has signed an order extending the COVID-19 state of emergency.
No exemption. The Legislature might pass a public records exemption for university president candidates someday, but it won’t be in 2021.
Boatload of cash. The Florida House and Senate have agreed to send $250 million in federal funds to offset COVID-19 impacts to the state’s cruise and cargo ship industries.
Remember Pulse. Line-item appropriations in the 2021 budget bill include funding for Pulse survivor counseling and a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth.
Fire sprinkler. The Legislature earmarked $800,000 in the state budget to fund research into cancer rates among firefighters.
God bless. The Senate opened with a morning prayer, as usual, but it sparked pushback for blasting social programs and abortion.
— 2,175,844 FL residents (+5,189 since Monday)
— 41,524 Non-FL residents (+82 since Monday)
— 17,396 Travel related
— 866,502 Contact with a confirmed case
— 23,748 Both
— 1,268,198 Under investigation
— 89,808 in FL
— 35646 in FL
— 13,975,770 Doses administered
— 8,625,933 Total people vaccinated
— 2,741,216 First dose
— 534,880 Completed one-dose series (+2,091 since Monday)
— 5,349,837 Completed two-dose series (+84,139 since Monday)
Quote of the Day
“The comments I’ve heard is that it doesn’t go far enough, and I would agree — and I say that, as someone who probably has filed more police reform legislation than maybe anyone in this chamber. But I do recognize that we have to start somewhere, and I believe this is that moment, and I believe this is the vehicle to do it. I believe we can build upon that in years to come.” — Sen. Randolph Bracy, on the police reform package.
Your Metz Husband Daughton-sponsored question of the day is: What UNESCO World Heritage Site is in Florida?
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: Who was Florida’s first U.S. Senator?
Answer: David Levy Yulee.
Congrats to Kevin Besserer (@krbesserer), the first person to tweet the correct answer!
Bill Day’s Latest
A Senate bill (SB 54) would change auto insurance in the state by ending the requirement that Floridians purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and would instead require mandatory bodily injury (MBI) coverage. Tanveen Vohra is an insurance expert at Insurify, an insurance comparison platform. We asked Vohra to break down insurance policies and share the best options for consumers.
Florida Politics: What’s the difference between PIP insurance and MBI insurance?
Vohra: Personal Injury Protection protects you from having to pay out of pocket for your own medical bills or the medical bills of your passengers in a car accident, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Meanwhile, Bodily Injury coverage is a type of liability coverage, meaning that it protects you from paying out of pocket for the medical bills and potential funeral costs of the person or people you hurt in an accident, assuming you were at fault. The main difference between the two coverages is whose costs are being covered: PIP covers you and your passengers’ medical expenses, while Bodily Injury covers the medical expenses of the person or people you hurt in an accident, assuming you’re found at fault.
Florida Politics: How does the bill affect insurance policy rates?
Vohra: This is difficult to determine, since an independent study hasn’t been carried out by the state. For Florida drivers who already carry bodily injury coverage (which isn’t currently required by law, but may soon be), car insurance rates will go down as they can remove their PIP coverage. Those who don’t carry it, on the other hand, will be required to purchase more coverage ($25,000 and $50,000 in bodily injury vs. $10,000 in PIP), which may lead to an increase in their car insurance rates. According to a recent study from Insurify, Florida drivers pay the second-highest car insurance rates in the country and Florida has the highest number of uninsured drivers in the country. If the bill were to lead to higher car insurance rates, it could potentially lead to more uninsured drivers who are unable to afford the higher cost of car insurance.
Florida Politics: Opponents of the bill said MBI claims take longer to pay out because they have to wait on a fault determination. What’s the benefit of MBI insurance?
Vohra: Yes, bodily injury claims can sometimes take longer to pay out because of the process of fault determination. One great benefit of mandatory bodily injury coverage is that you’re no longer responsible for covering your medical expenses for an accident you didn’t cause, the person at fault is held financially accountable instead.
LGBTQ Floridians scored a win — or at least avoided a loss — when a bill banning transgender girls from participating in women’s sports died earlier this month.
Several organizations joined forces to fight against the bill, including Freedom for All Americans, which is working to build bipartisan support for full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide.
Freedom for All Americans recently hired Towson Fraser of Fraser Solutions to lobby on their behalf in the Capitol, but it also has other interests in the Sunshine State.
With the Legislative Session winding down, the organization is hoping to focus on lobbying the state’s congressional delegation, namely U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, to support the Equality Act.
The federal legislation would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation for public accommodations, housing, loan applications and education, among other things.
The bill would also protect against employment discrimination, though job protections are already the law of the land thanks to a Supreme Court ruling last year.
Fraser said the Freedom for All Americans wants to help build truly bipartisan support for the Equality Act and “make sure they have well over 60 Senators on board.”
The Next 24
The Senate Democratic caucus will meet at 9 a.m. in Room 228 of the Senate Office Building. The meeting will be streamed over Zoom.
The Senate will hold a floor Session at 10 a.m.
The House will hold a floor Session at 10:30 a.m.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building. It will meet again in Room 301 of the Senate Office Building after the floor Session ends.