Sixty Days for 1.26.22 — 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

Senate Democrats stormed out of the first confirmation hearing for Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo following a frustrating back-and-forth where the appointee refused to answer simple yes or no questions. Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book asked Ladapo five times whether he believes vaccines work. But the Harvard-educated physician declined to answer the question directly. He also refused to directly answer whether he regretted refusing to wear a mask when visiting the office of Sen. Tina Polsky, who has breast cancer. Meanwhile, Ladapo told reporters after the meeting that his goal was to answer the questions he was asked accurately. He also said he had no hard feelings for the Democrats who walked out of the committee. Here’s your nightly rundown.

But the smell. The “putrid” smell of marijuana is among the reasons Gov. Ron DeSantis may remain opposed to legalization in Florida.

Maps on the move. The Florida House Redistricting Committee voted to send a draft map (H 8013) of Florida’s 120 House districts to the chamber floor.

‘Stop W.O.K.E. Act.’ Florida Republicans’ effort (HB 7) to quell classroom or corporate training discussions they consider “woke” indoctrination emerged from its first House committee.

Hands off. A bill (HB 287) that would increase penalties for evidence tampering in capital felony cases sailed through its final House committee and is now ready for the chamber floor.

Open door policy. A bill (HB 215) deeming churches “essential service” — and allowing them to remain open during emergencies — advanced through another House committee on a party-line vote.

Double discount. Teachers, first responders, military members and others would all get another $50,000 property tax exemption under a proposal (SJR 1746) that drew unanimous support in a Senate committee.

Privacy, please. A bill (SB 170) that would shield the names of lottery winners for three months is now one committee hurdle away from a full vote in the Senate.

Eat your vegetables. The Senate Agriculture Committee OK’d a bill (SB 1832) Wednesday setting up a pilot program to reimburse farmers for donating produce to feed hungry Floridians.

Sea cow simoleons. Lawmakers have filed millions of dollars in appropriations requests directed toward helping manatees in this year’s Legislative Session. 

Whipped cream on top. A measure naming strawberry shortcake the state dessert (HB 567) is ready to be served on the House Floor. 

Quote of the Day

“I’ve never thought that somebody who was caught using it … we’re not going to use the prison system for that. But that’s different than kind of wanting it to be prevalent like you see in some of these other areas.”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis, on cannabis decriminalization and legalization.

Bill Day’s Latest

 

3 Questions

A series of bills that could impact how LGBTQ issues are covered in Florida public schools have advocacy groups concerned about its impact on LGBTQ children.

HB 1557 prohibits schools from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity that is not “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.” SB 1300 allows parents to object to educational materials used in classrooms, requires public hearings on complaints, and allows school decisions on material to be appealed all the way up to the state level. Several Floridians who spoke in favor of the bill in committee mentioned using it to target LGBTQ-related education materials.

Equality Florida, a political advocacy group that advocates for civil rights and protections for LGBTQ Florida residents, has vocally opposed both bills.

Florida Politics spoke with Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director, about the bills and his concerns about their potential impact.

Q: HB 1557 prohibits schools from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity that is not “age-appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.” Are there any precedents or examples that outline what that means? 

Maurer: HB 1557 is very ambiguous when it comes to the range of what they may be trying to ban when they say schools can’t have discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity. What I think we’re missing in the conversation is understanding that sexual orientation and gender identity are about who we are and who we love. And there’s no age at which that is inappropriate to talk about. You have LGBTQ youth in schools, and you have kids who have LGBTQ parents, and those families deserve to be acknowledged, just like anybody else. A bill that bans discussion of LGBTQ people sends a deeply prejudicial message to young folks and effectively puts folks back in the closet in the schoolroom.

Q: What effect will HB 1557 have on students in the classroom? Will it harm LGTBQ students?

Maurer: This bill jeopardizes the well-being of LGBTQ youth, and the children of LGBTQ parents. They should be able to be supported in that environment, and see examples of other kids or other families that look like theirs, and are accepted and supported. Just like any other young person or young family. We know that LGBTQ youth, concerningly, are four times as likely to seriously consider or commit suicide, because of issues like levels of discrimination that they face. And if we are telling our young folks from the earliest age that being LGBTQ or being related to somebody who is LGBTQ is something dangerous or inappropriate to talk about, that will have serious consequences for our young folks. 

Q: How does Equality Florida expect SB 1300 and HB 1557 will be used in tandem to influence LGBTQ education if both are passed?

Maurer: We’re seeing a multi-pronged attack on the LGBTQ community this session, particularly in education and health care. We’ve seen how Florida school board meetings have gotten national attention as political battlegrounds. And this feels like legislation that’s just designed to build Gov. DeSantis’ political campaign for a 2024 presidential run. We want legislation that’s focused on what matters most to everyday Floridians. And it’s worth saying, Equality Florida broadly supports parental involvement and inclusion. We have LGBTQ parents who are terrific advocates for their kids. And we know that not everybody is lucky enough to come from a supportive household. So we want to make sure that schools are places of safety and encouragement for all kids, including LGBTQ youth. Again, we want to recognize that there is no time where it’s inappropriate to acknowledge sexual orientation and gender identity. We respect that there are issues that have to be approached with care based on a child’s developmental stage. But we’re not seeing laws that are talking about teaching religion or politics or the meaning of life. The bill language and what we’re hearing in committee is all about the LGBTQ community, and why that’s being singled out.

Lobby Up

Electric vehicles aren’t powered by gas or diesel, but they still need juice.

EV owners can plug in at home, obviously, but just like drivers whose rides run on gas or diesel, the fuel light can flick on when they’re far from home. 

The gas station business is pretty simple. Station owners order fuel, trucks drop it off, and drivers fill their tanks.

For EVs, it’s more complicated. Drivers plug, charging stations deliver power, and stations get a utility bill. And that last part is where the wrinkle lies. The cost to station owners is unpredictable, and it can be ludicrously high.

That’s because of something known as a demand charge. The utility grid can only supply so much power, so utility companies raise rates on commercial accounts that pull a lot of power during peak hours. It’s the reason why some factories operate overnight shifts — by running during low-demand hours, they can save a lot of cash on their monthly bill.

As far as EVs are concerned, if a lot of drivers plug in during peak hours, the stations could be on the hook for hundreds of dollars per charge.

The lobbying situation here is just as complicated. Stakeholders include utilities, electric car companies, station owners, and gas station chains. 

The state’s largest utility company, Florida Power & Light, has lobbying contracts with several firms, including Ballard Partners, Dean Mead, Rubin Turnbull & Associates, The Southern Group, The Mayernick Group and Ron Book.

Meanwhile, RaceTrac Petroleum is working with the team at Lewis Longman & Walker, Marathon Petroleum Corporation is repped by Michael Corcoran and the team at Corcoran Partners, and the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association has TSG in its corner. To boot, Tesla has signed with Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl at Capitol Alliance Group.

The main battlefield will be legislation filed by Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. David Borrero (SB 920/HB 737) that would require the Public Service Commission to, among other things, adopt rules to ensure “fair and reasonable electricity pricing” that will “promote the widespread offering of electric vehicle charging.”

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

— The Senate Rules Committee will consider a bill (SB 360) that would broaden law enforcement’s ability to enhance charges against criminals who cross county lines to commit a burglary when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Finance & Tax Committee will take up a bill (SB 1194) that would require referendums that create new taxes to be placed on General Election ballots when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The House Government Operations Subcommittee will hear bills that would establish Nov. 7 as “Victims of Communism Day” (HB 395) and give minors a route to expunge most felony arrests from their record (HB 197) when it meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— A bill (SB 498) that would require health insurers to cover hearing aids for children will go before the Senate Appropriations Committee when it meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate will hold a floor session at 2:30 p.m. The agenda includes bills that would change state telehealth laws (SB 312) and establish strawberry shortcake as the state dessert (SB 1006).

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee meets at 8 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in Reed Hall.

— The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Reed Hall.

— The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The House Rules Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 4 p.m. in Morris Hall.

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

Staff Reports



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