Sixty Days for 1.12.22 — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session

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Notes and highlights from today in Tallahassee.

Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:

The Last 24

Attorney General Ashley Moody announced a new initiative Wednesday to combat human trafficking in Florida. Known as the “100% Club,” the program aims to engage businesses in the fight against trafficking by encouraging them to train their staff on how to spot and report instances of human trafficking. The state will send 100% Club members cards that list the signs of human trafficking and include the number for Florida’s new human trafficking hotline which Moody said is the first of its kind. Here’s your nightly rundown.

The pen is ready. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’d be willing to sign a 15-week abortion ban bill, signaling support for a proposal introduced this week in the Legislature.

Back on the shelf. Once-expired rapid COVID-19 tests are on their way to testing sites but DeSantis said the state plans to hold back some for the state’s stockpile.

Rainy day fund. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to set aside $1 billion for the Governor’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, a 2021 priority that DeSantis was forced to veto.

City splitters. Senate Reapportionment Committee Chair Ray Rodrigues plans to file amendments to the Senate maps he chose to make as many cities whole as possible.

Fast and furious. Legislation that would allow police to mete out penalties and make arrests for stunt driving based on video evidence cleared its first Senate panel.

Mega preemption. A bill that would allow local businesses to sue for compensation if an ordinance causes business losses moved forward despite being bombarded by opposition.

Prevention pilot. Bills filed this week would establish a pilot program to help county and city veteran service organizations combat veteran suicide.

Sweet treat. Strawberry shortcake is one step closer to becoming the state’s designated dessert after it cleared its first House committee.

Double-tap. Rep. Spencer Roach is sponsoring legislation that would kill “zombie campaigns” and committee week fundraisers.

iFee. Rep. Jason Fisher filed a bill that aims to smash Apple and Google’s “Big Tech App Store Monopolies” by targeting the fees they charge application developers.

Get off my lawn. A new House bill would outlaw protests outside of a person’s home, with a second offense being a misdemeanor punishable with jail time.

Quote of the Day

“I think that will be something that we’ll be able to sign, and I think a lot of people would be happy with that.”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis, indicating he would sign a 15-week abortion ban bill.

Bill Day’s Latest

 

3 Questions

SB 190, which strengthens penalties for drug distribution outside abuse treatment centers and makes it easy for prosecutors to charge drug distributors with first-degree murder if their product causes their client to overdose, passed its first committee earlier this week.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, the bill’s sponsor, wants the changes to bolster the state’s law enforcement arm in the fight against the opioid epidemic. In 2020, officials recorded 1,273 methamphetamine overdose deaths in the state.

Brodeur spoke with Florida Politics about his bill and the fight against drug addiction in the state.

Q: One of the most impactful parts of the bill is the use of the “sufficient to cause death” standard. How does that change help prosecutors? What does it add to their tool belt?

Brodeur: When you move from proximate cause to substantial factor, it really helps prosecutors be able to point to the wrongdoing. It is likely that somebody who overdoses from drugs has other substances in their system. So if somebody has a fentanyl overdose, it’s not uncommon to find some cocaine and marijuana and alcohol also in their system at the time of the overdose. Because of that, medical examiners are having a very hard time, saying that the fentanyl itself definitely caused that death. That’s what is necessary in the proximate cause standard. In the substantial factor standard, it is necessary only that the amount of fentanyl by itself was substantial enough to cause death. And so this will lend itself for medical examiners to more easily be able to tell prosecutors that this was enough of an illicit substance that was sufficient enough to cause death.

Q: Some of those who voted against your bill in committee this week voiced concerns about it being a return to increasing the frequency of mandatory minimum sentencing and death row cases. What’s your response to that?

This isn’t changing the law for what is a capital felony. The legislature in 1972 declared that somebody who provides someone enough of a substance to kill themselves is guilty of a capital felony. That’s still the case. Because of how many new synthetics and more things are on the market, it’s becoming harder to prove. All I think we’re doing is clarifying the original intent of the 1972 legislature, which is that if somebody provides somebody else enough drugs to kill them, that they are, in fact, guilty of a crime. 

Q: You said during committee that your bill isn’t enough to stop the opioid epidemic in Florida, and other lenses need to be included. What other solutions need to be brought to the table to bring it to an end?

The first thing I think is necessary is education. We need to make sure people know that most of the people that get hooked on opioids do so because they have received it as a prescription, either them or their grandmother or somebody else. And a lot of these addictions start because of improper handling of what used to be a legal substance for whoever it was prescribed for. I think the next possible thing that would be helpful would be treatment. And so as we have both medication-assisted therapy and abstinence therapy, people are able to find places where they can get treated. I think prevention is a big part of that, which is making sure people don’t get hooked on it in the first place. And that comes when we have thoughtful standards for prescribing medications. And I think recovery is a big piece of that. The way part of the bill is the way we treat sober homes and substance abuse recovery centers. So really, it’s a multifactorial, I think there’s probably four or five, six parts that would lend itself to helping the opioid epidemic. 

Lobby Up

Palm Beach County Court Clerk Joe Abruzzo believes the public should be able to see the grand jury records relating to the Jeffrey Epstein case, but Florida law won’t allow it.

The records date back 15 years when prosecutors and Epstein struck a deal allowing him to avoid federal charges and plead guilty to one count of soliciting prostitution at the state level. The deal was granted despite several girls telling prosecutors that they had felt forced into sexual relationships with Epstein.

Abruzzo’s call for the change comes shortly after a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge denied The Palm Beach Post’s request for the records, citing the inflexibility of the statute shielding grand jury records from the public.

“Based upon the constraints of the existing law, I will work with members of our Palm Beach County legislative delegation to ask the Legislature to amend the statute based on a right to justice — that if a person is deceased and the files in question have already been released, which are the facts of the Epstein case, that they would then become public record,” said Abruzzo, who served in the state House and Senate before his election as Palm Beach County Court Clerk.

“I will leave no stone unturned to do whatever I can to shed full light and public disclosure on the Epstein case,” he vowed.

Last week he brought in backup to help secure the change. New lobbying registrations show that the team at Ballard Partners — including Brian Ballard, Mathew Forest and Adrian Lukis — have signed on to represent Abruzzo’s office in both the Legislature and the executive branch.

We are proud to assist Sen. Abruzzo with this incredibly important matter,” Ballard said.

As of Wednesday, no bills have been filed that would amend the relevant statute (905.27), though Abruzzo said on Jan. 4 that “talks to find an amendment sponsor are already underway.”

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

— The Senate Finance & Tax Committee will consider a bill (SB 228) that would facilitate assessment financing for resiliency upgrades when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 235) that would curb the use of physical restraint techniques on K-12 students when meets at 9 a.m. in Reed Hall.

— A bill (HB 17) that would relax rules preventing telehealth providers from prescribing controlled substances will go before the House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Rules Committee will take up a bill (SB 254) that would require any future emergency lockdown or shutdown orders to apply equally across businesses and religious institutions. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— A bill (SB 1006) that would establish strawberry shortcake as the state’s designated dessert will go before the Senate Agriculture Committee when it meets at 11 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Redistricting Committee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Reapportionment Committee will consider proposed Senate and congressional maps. Committee Chair Ray Rodrigues chose S 8040 as the base congressional map and S 8046 as the base Senate map. The committee meets at 1:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee will hear a bill (HB 569) that would make city and county governments liable for damages if a local ordinance results in a loss of business income. The committee meets at 2 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 395) that would establish Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day” when it meets at 2 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Education & Employment Committee will hear presentations on literacy and civic initiatives passed in the 2021 Legislative Session, including the “Portraits in Patriotism” curriculum. The committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— A bill (HB 6037) that would broaden law enforcement’s ability to enhance charges against criminals who cross county lines to commit a burglary will go before the House Judiciary Committee when it meets at 4:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee will consider legislation (HB 159) that would temporarily shield the names of lottery winners from the public record when it meets at 4:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets at 11 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Health Policy Committee meets at 11 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 2 p.m. in Reed Hall.

— The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets at 2 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building. The meeting begins 15 minutes after the Reapportionment Committee meeting adjourns.

Full committee agendas, including bills to be considered, are available on the House and Senate websites.

Staff Reports


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