Sixty Days for 1.18.22 — 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

There were a lot of empty chairs in committee meetings Tuesday, and COVID-19 is the likely culprit. Sens. Darryl Rouson, Jason Brodeur, Ileana Garcia and George Gainer were excused from showing up to committees. Senate spokesperson Katherine Betta said Gainer’s absence was not COVID-19 related but did not comment on why the other senators were absent, though Rouson later confirmed he tested positive. The House did not respond at press time to whether any members had requested an excused absence; however, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith posted on social media that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Toss it. House Democrats thrashed a draft congressional map proposed Sunday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying it “shouldn’t even be considered under any circumstances.”

Lighten up. Sen. Travis Hutson has filed an amendment to a controversial preemption bill (SB 280) that could soften the blow to home rule.

Play ball! The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced a bill (SB 1298) that would require sports teams to cue up the national anthem before each home game.

Unwoke. A bill (SB 148) banning any training or instruction that causes an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin” passed its first committee.

Cash for cops. A sweeping bill (HB 3) offering a slew of incentives to boost police recruitment passed the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee.

No sunshine. A bill (HB 701) providing a public records exemption for state university or college president applicants cleared its first committee but didn’t make it through unscathed.

Just add water. A bill (HJR 1127) to prevent citizen initiatives from ‘diluting‘ the state constitution cleared the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee.

Maybe later. A bill (SB 1658) that would allow the Governor to appoint the DEP Secretary without the Cabinet’s OK was temporarily postponed in the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee.

Long-term problem. House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne pinned the blame for the current state of affordable housing on DeSantis and lawmakers who are no longer in office.

Quote of the Day

“Imagine a man sitting in a sexual harassment training, and he doesn’t like the way it’s portrayed. And then, two days later, he is terminated for something. He’s going to sue under this law.”

— Sen. Tina Polsky, on a bill prohibiting instruction and training containing so-called critical race theory.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

HB 1359, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Roach, aims to change how campaigns raise money for Tallahassee races.

The bill would bar fundraising during committee weeks, shorten the life of “zombie campaigns,” and raise the amount a single person can give to state legislative races to $3,000.

Roach spoke with Florida Politics about his bill and his goals in his fight for Florida campaign finance reform.

Q: What practices during committee weeks is this bill aiming to stop? What impact is it looking to have?

Roach: During committee weeks, there were more fundraising events on Adams Street than bill hearings in the Legislature. That says everything you need to know about what the priorities are. I am not opposed to fundraising — what I am objecting to is that taxpayers are subsiding these fundraising trips to Tallahassee under the pretense that we are working on legislation. It’s an enormous expense to cover the travel, per diem, and staff costs to bring 180 legislators to Tallahassee for six weeks every year. If the taxpayers are paying for us to be there, we should be transacting public business, not fundraising. This bill will ensure that committee weeks would serve their intended purpose, which is to go up here and work on legislation, rather than simply being a series of fundraisers that tend to eclipse, dominate or take over the legislative process.

Q: What is a zombie campaign? Are there any specific examples that are particularly egregious that stick out to you?

Roach: So, a zombie campaign is when a legislator is raising money, in some cases, millions and millions of dollars, into what’s called a political committee. So, it’s not a campaign account. Those, I think, are very insidious, dark money instruments. These political committees are being used long after a member is in office to try to influence the process, or to try to subsidize someone’s lifestyle or act as seed money for a lobbying career. But you know, it’s not uncommon for members to use that money to purchase vehicles. There was one former member of the chamber that was actually considering buying a private plane with their PC funds. I think that’s a perversion of what voters and taxpayers intended. This bill would require these sorts of zombie PCs to spend at least $5,000 in every 24-month cycle. And if they don’t do that, they’re going to be automatically dissolved, and they’re going to have to disperse all the money that they have in there. My purpose in filing the bill is to help educate voters on what I perceive to be a very unethical process in politics. To be honest with you, we don’t have a Senate companion. I don’t think that the bill will get heard.

Q: Your bill also raises the donation cap for legislative races to $3,000. Why increase the donation to $3,000 as a part of the bill?

Roach: I think we need parity with the executive branch and cabinet officers. They’re already at $3,000. So, my choice was to either raise the campaign cap for legislators or try to lower their donation from $3,000 to $1,000. I can tell you that we would get no support from the statewide officers if we attempted to lower the dollar threshold on their end, rather than increase it on our end. But the other reason that I’m trying to do that is because if a donor is faced with the choice of donating money, and they can put it in the campaign or a PC, I would rather than put it in the campaign because it’s much more transparent where the money goes, and there are many more rules governing what can happen to those funds. My goal is to disincentivize donors from donating to a PC and incentivize them to donate to a campaign. Under a $1,000 limit, a candidate will say to a donor, “Oh, well, I need you to give me $3,000. But you can only give $1,000 to the campaign, so give that other $2,000 to my PC this way.” With a higher cap, less money would go toward PC’s and more money would go toward campaign accounts.

Lobby Up

A bill (HB 103) sponsored by Howey-in-the-Hills Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini would allow open carry for legal gun owners to practice open and concealed carry by removing laws that require a concealed-weapons permit in Florida.

Sabatini’s bill has received committee assignments but has not been scheduled for a hearing in its first stop, the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee. There is also no Senate companion bill.

Still, the measure has received a tacit endorsement from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in December said he would be willing to sign a so-called “constitutional carry” bill into law if passed by the Legislature.

While favored by gun rights advocates, the concept has been met with middling support — and in some cases outright opposition — within the law enforcement community. Such is the case with Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who has publicly opposed past attempts to make Florida an open-carry state.

Mina bluntly stated his view in 2017: “I’m opposed to any open carry in the City of Orlando.”

It appears he hasn’t shifted since, as new lobbying registrations show his office has signed a contract with the team at GrayRobinson, including Chris Carmody, Robert Stuart, Christopher Dawson and Katie Flury.

Lobbyist disclosures filed in the House show the team will focus on HB 103.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

— A bill (SB 732) that would require certain employers to prevent heat illnesses among workers will go before the Senate Agriculture Committee when it meets at 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will take up a bill (SB 520) to exempt state university and state college president applications from public records when it meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a proposal (SB 498) requiring health insurers to cover hearing aids for children when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee will consider a proposal (HB 215) that would allow churches to remain open during states of emergency when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 404 House Office Building.

— A bill (HB 6031) that would remove the cap on wine bottle sizes will go before the House Commerce Committee when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 212 Knott Building.

— The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a bill (SB 544) aimed at making medications to counteract opioid overdoses more available when it meets at 10:30 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— A bill (HB 5) banning abortions after 15 weeks will go before the House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee when it meets at 1 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation on the state’s flooding and sea-level rise resilience plan when it meets at 1 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee will be briefed on the implementation of early learning initiatives funded by the federal CRRSA act when it meets at 1 p.m. in Reed Hall.

— Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Sam Garrison will join representatives from K9s for Warriors for a news conference at 2:45 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

— The Senate will hold a floor session at 3 p.m., where it is expected to consider proposed maps (SB 102/SJR 100) for congressional and state Senate districts.

Also, the following committees will meet:

— The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Reed Hall.

— The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

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

Staff Reports


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