Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
A day after Senate Democrats complained that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ nominee for Surgeon General would not answer their questions, Senate President Wilton Simpson promised Joseph Ladapo would be considered by the full Senate. Simpson was critical of Ladapo after the Surgeon General refused to wear a mask during a meeting with Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky, who has breast cancer. He said he made clear after the incident that the Senate will not allow people to be disrespectful to Senators. Still, the Trilby Republican told reporters that there are no “Washington-style politics in Tallahassee” and “the folks that the Governor has put in these places we will take a vote on.” Here’s your nightly rundown.
Civil war? A map advanced by the House Redistricting Committee could pit as many as 17 incumbents against each other.
HODL. Despite the recent dip in cryptocurrency prices and their overall volatility, DeSantis still supports a pilot program to allow Florida businesses to pay state fees in crypto.
We’re No. 1. Florida once again led the nation in the number of residents who signed up for individual health insurance coverage during the 2022 open enrollment period.
Quote of the Day
“These positions are some of the most powerful unelected positions in the state that control billions of dollars in public funds. This law is a recipe for corruption, where Florida students are left paying the ultimate price.”
— United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard, on a bill providing a public records exemption for university president applicants.
Bill Day’s Latest
HB 105, which would allow cities and counties to ban smoking at public parks and beaches, passed its first committee this week. Its Senate version, SB 224, passed its first committee in November. This is the fourth year legislators have tried to pass the legislation.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and several local government and environmental organizations have backed the legislation.
Florida Politics spoke with Susan Harbin, the senior government relations director for the ACS Cancer Action Network of Florida, about the legislation and whether she thinks the fourth time’s a charm.
Q: What dangers does smoking in parks and on beaches pose to children?
Harbin: Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poisons as smokers. There’s no safe level of secondhand smoke. For adults, it’s a problem. But for children, it’s a huge problem. Even if you’ve never smoked, secondhand smoke can still cause heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke. And non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work, increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20% to 30%. Even just brief secondhand smoke exposure can damage cells in ways that can set the cancer process in motion. At the end of the day, we fundamentally believe that everybody should have the right to breathe clean and smoke-free air. We applaud the legislators moving forward with this bill, because it certainly is something that can lead to improving the health of Floridians, and especially our youngest Floridians, who may be out at the parks, out on the beaches, on playgrounds, and cannot control the actions of adults around them.
Q: Do you expect cities and counties to enact restrictions if the legislation passes?
Harbin: This bill is something that’s been around for several years. And every time it comes up, you hear from the statewide associations that represent local governments. But you also hear support from dozens of individual counties and cities, local commissioners coming up to support it. And so while I’m speaking from the public health standpoint of the American Cancer Society, I think it’s safe to say that, considering how much support this has gotten from individual, local governments, as well as the statewide associations, that it’s something that they are ready to pass. And in fact, I know that there were at least a handful of ordinances on the book that were challenged in court and had to be repealed due to this statewide preemption. So we know that the interest is there. And I would expect that if this bill does pass, and hopefully it does pass this year, that we’ll see some local governments move forward with creating smoke-free parks and beaches. And that’s a win for everybody
Q: This is the fourth time a bill like this is being considered. Does your organization feel it will pass this time around?
Harbin: I want to say that I am cautiously optimistic. Again, we have seen this bill proposed year after year, it always gets a lot of support and committees, it gets a lot of co-sponsors, it gets a very diverse group of stakeholders supporting it, not only from local government and public health but you also see support from the environmental community. Due to the you know, the litter impact of cigarettes on beaches in parks. So, you know, we’re hopeful. I feel like we have probably a better shot than we have had. Ever. We’re in week three of session, and we’ve already seen movement in the House and Senate. However, we also recognize that it only takes, you know, a handful of legislators who may have a criticism or don’t fully support the bill to slow it down. And we anticipate there may be some efforts to kind of limit the impact of the bill or maybe create some exemptions, which we would advise against. We think the broadest possible bill is best and giving unfettered power back to the local government to limit smoking is what we need to do. I’m cautiously optimistic, and very happy that we see movement in both chambers already.
Unless you’re driving a clunker on its last legs, chances are the next car you buy will know how to drive itself.
The tech for self-driving cars is already baked into some models you see on the road today. Teslas, for instance, have an Autopilot feature. The only thing separating them from being truly autonomous are regulations. Currently, drivers must touch the steering wheel every few minutes to let the car know they’re ready to take over if need be.
That’s arguably a good thing since autonomous vehicle technology hasn’t matured to the point it can read the road as well as a person — it will be a while before hardware and software can account for the unpredictability of other drivers or, one day, the various intricacies of other manufacturers’ AV implementations.
A Virginia-based startup company, CAVNUE, thinks it can accelerate the process and it has the credentials to back that up. CEO Tyler Duvall is a former Acting Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chief Safety Officer Nicole Nason is the former Administrator of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Chief Technology Officer Jaime Waydo led systems engineering at Waymo.
In essence, the company ties everything together by helping AVs of all kinds communicate with each other and, in a way, with the roads they’re on. CAVNUE’s tech is live on the route between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, but the company thinks Florida would better test their mettle.
They aren’t looking for a massive check — they’d be fine footing the upfront costs to install the initial infrastructure and recoup it later, possibly via tolls. They’d also be happy to go toe-to-toe with other AV companies in an open procurement. They just want to get the ball rolling, and they’ve hired GrayRobinson to get it done.
The Next 24
The Revenue Estimating Conference will analyze the fiscal impact of proposed legislation when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.