Sixty Days for 1.19.22 — 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

The Senate’s draft map dividing Florida into 28 congressional districts hit the chamber floor Wednesday, picking up an amendment from Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones that would place the entirety of Miami Gardens within the new CD 24. The debate on the draft map comes a few days after the Governor’s office took the unprecedented step of submitting its own map, which continues to receive criticism from Democratic lawmakers, with Sen. Bobby Powell becoming the latest to chastise the proposal over its potential impact on minority representation. Here’s your nightly rundown.

The heat is on. Democratic lawmakers swarmed Reps. Erin Grall and Jenna Persons-Mulicka with questions and debate on their bill (HB 5) to create a 15-week abortion ban.

Dollars and cents. The Florida Department of Education updated its budget request, putting it in lockstep with the Governor’s spending plan.

Let it grow. The Senate Agriculture Committee OK’d a bill (SB 1000) to adjust nutrient regulation based on the needs of individual farms.

Snooze button. A bill (SB 7014) that would extend COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers cleared the full Senate with a 22-13 vote.

See you Sunday. A bill (HB 215) that would keep church doors open during states of emergency cleared its first House committee.

Five-star service. A bill (SB 1222) that would allow patients to receive hospital inpatient services at home advanced through the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Cool it. The Senate Agriculture Committee on Agriculture cleared a bill (SB 732) requiring employers to take steps to prevent heat illnesses.

No sunshine. The Senate bill (SB 520) creating a public records exemption for university president applicants cleared its second committee, but it’s not fully aligned with its House companion.

Charter change. A House bill (HB 225) putting guardrails on how charter schools are renewed unanimously passed its second committee stop Wednesday.

Pinch hitters. Sen. Darryl Rouson is waylaid by COVID-19, but Republicans and Democrats alike voiced support for his bill (SB 282) to make it easier for former addicts to serve as addiction counselors.

Made in the USA. A bill (HB 619) that would require state and local governmental organizations in Florida to use American-made iron and steel products cleared its first hurdle in the House.

Biblical proportions. A bill (HB 6031) that would legalize the sale of wine in massive bottles, such as the Methuselah or Nebuchadnezzar, sailed through its second committee.

Bitcoin bros. A measure to change how the Sunshine State should regulate virtual currencies (HB 273) — and undo a prior court decision — is ready for the House floor

Butts in seats. A Senate panel heard a presentation on the challenges state agencies face in filling employee vacancies.

Quote of the Day

“The only time we’re concerned about children, especially Black babies, is when we have a discussion about abortion.”

— Rep. Michele Rayner, criticizing the proposed 15-week abortion ban.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

SB 148, legislation that would cement the state’s school critical race theory ban into law, passed its first committee Tuesday along party lines.

The bill allows teachers to facilitate discussions “in an age-appropriate manner” about topics like sexism, slavery, racial oppression and segregation but prohibits teachers from using classroom instruction to “indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” inconsistent with the legislation. The bill also prohibits employers from subjecting “any individual, as a condition of employment, membership, certification, licensing, credentialing or passing an examination, to training, instruction, or any other required activity” that is centered on several race-related concepts.

Sen. Manny Diaz, the bill’s sponsor, spoke with Florida Politics about CRT and his bill.

Q: Dialogue around this bill is that it’s an anti-critical race theory bill. What is your understanding of what CRT is, and how does your bill combat it?

Diaz: This bill is not limited to that. What this bill attempts to do is to put in statute the things that we should be teaching. And while our country, I believe, is the greatest country on the face of the Earth, we’ve had dark periods, and we’ve had blemishes and we’ve had horrors occur when it comes to slavery, racial oppression, segregation, discrimination, sexism, all of those things have occurred. But we are the only country in the history of the world to fight a war where hundreds of thousands of Americans died to end slavery. Throughout the history of the world, slavery also has existed in most continents. And I believe that what this helps us do is actually highlight these issues and put them at the forefront. My understanding, in my reading and research on what critical race theory is that it has been around for about 40 years, is used in taking the information that is being studied by the students, and putting a perspective where people can be inherently racist, or sexist, or those things just by the nature of their background. So, in other words, if you have a white student, what this theory says is that there is inherent racism in that person. We should be teaching our students that regardless of your race, color, creed, or religion, people should be judged by their character in their actions as an individual, not by groupthink. CRT is not a curriculum; it’s not a book, right? Even those books that have been published about it are not books used in the classroom. And so it’s very difficult to get past the noise of something like CRT because a lot of people are confused that it is a curriculum, it’s not. It is a way by which the information is passed on to the students. And what we need to be having in our classrooms is facilitation of discussion of open civil discourse over these issues, That there was a dark period. And that, you know, could be tough conversations, but they need to be had because if we don’t teach this, we’re bound to repeat history. And so accurate history and the discussion of these items is what this bill is about.

Q: One of the things I noticed in your bill was several repetitions of protecting a “hard work ethic” and “meritocracy” and making sure those concepts aren’t considered racist. Why did you include this in the bill? Are there any examples that come to your mind of “hard work ethic” being tied to racism in Florida schools?

Diaz: That is the bedrock of America. The fact that regardless of your ethnic background, the color of your skin, America’s aspirational goal is to be the land of opportunity, and that in this country, you can make what you want of yourself, your career, your life, regardless of whether you grew up poor, or you grew up African American or you’re Hispanic immigrants, you have to have the ability for hard work to take you to where you want to go. And that is our aspirational goal. And that’s what we can continue to work toward. So it is important to mention that because here in Florida, we value that. And again, we should talk about the individual, their character, their deeds, their work ethic, and not their background.

Q: Could concepts like systemic racism be discussed in Florida classrooms under your bill, as long as it is not taught as the only viewpoint and opposing viewpoints are given equal time to be discussed?

Diaz: I think when you talk about the topic of racism, every student, depending on their life experiences and their family’s life experience, is going to have a different perspective. And the perspective of each one of those students should be brought to the classroom. But the teacher’s perspective, while the teacher can use their perspective as their example and as part of the conversation to facilitate this conversation among students, that teacher’s viewpoint or perspective should not be imposed on the student. The students should be given the facts, the actual history that occurred and be able to have an open discussion from their perspectives, and have civil discourse to arrive at their own conclusions. We need to be producing students that can critically think without having a view, point of view, or perspective imposed on them. The best teachers can spend an entire year in a classroom teaching a course, and the students should not ever know their political persuasion or anything else because they are there to ignite that discussion and have students learn from each other as well.

Lobby Up

As the old saying goes, dogs are man’s best friend. At K9s for Warriors, that’s gospel.

Founded in 2011, the Jacksonville-based nonprofit trains and provides service dogs to military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or military sexual trauma.

The concept has proved effective in helping those veterans cope with their disabilities or traumas — a 2021 study produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that veterans with PTSD who were paired with service dogs showed less suicidal ideation and more symptom improvement than those without a service dog.

K9s for Warriors has proved effective, too. Since it launched, the organization has provided service dogs to more than 600 veterans. Demand, however, far outstrips their training capacity. The nonprofit is booked through 2025 and has enough applications in the review stage that a new applicant wouldn’t have a chance at being paired with a pup until 2028.

K9s for Warriors is hoping the Legislature can help it increase its output. The ask: $12.5 million. That money — matched dollar for dollar by donors — would fund the creation of a new training center. Once complete, the organization says it could pair another 200 to 250 veterans with a service dog each year.

“The Campus for K9 Operations will fundamentally change both the volume and demographic of the veteran population we’re able to pair with a service dog,” CEO Rory Diamond said. “This facility will also reduce the time our future Warriors have to wait between being accepted into the program and receiving their service dog, which can be life-altering to veterans experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, including suicidal ideations.”

Capital City Consulting is taking point on the mission, with lobbyist Chris Schoonover handling point. In addition to the training center funds, he and the CCC team will be asking lawmakers for another $750,000 for wraparound services, support and training for warriors who have already been paired and to fund housing, meals, equipment, veterinary care, and 120 hours of on-site training to 12 new warriors.

Breakthrough Insights

 

The Next 24

The Senate Rules Committee will consider a bill (SB 280) that would allow businesses to challenge local ordinances ahead of their implementation when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee hears a bill (SB 620) that would open the door for businesses to sue local governments for losses caused by local ordinances when it meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Education and Employment Committee meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Judiciary Committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Finance and Facilities Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Government Operations Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Reed Hall.

— The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate will hold a floor session at 2:30 p.m.

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

Staff Reports



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