Sixty Days for 2.7.22 — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session

Red Tally 5
Notes and highlights from today in Tallahassee.

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

The Last 24

Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in on the proposed redraw of Florida’s 5th Congressional District last week. On Monday, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry joined the call. The trio wants to know whether CD 5, currently held by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, must be preserved as a minority access district. CD 5 now connects the Black population in Jacksonville with the Black population in Gadsden and Leon counties. A map submitted by the Governor’s office would substantially reduce the district’s minority population, and by extension, has stoked concerns that the new congressional maps won’t pass muster in the courts. In a legal brief filed Monday, Moody doesn’t take a side, but she does say that since DeSantis has the power to veto the map, the court has a responsibility to provide an opinion. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also filed a brief, saying it was important for North Florida residents to learn once and for all whether the district was constitutional. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Permission slip. DeSantis defended a bill (HB 1557) that would ban schools from teaching about “choosing your gender” during a stop in Miami.

Smell ya later. A proposed constitutional amendment (HB 663/HB 1399) to expand Florida’s recall law to include constitutional offices in every county cleared its second House panel.

Double discount. A proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1) that would grant an additional $50,000 property tax exemption to teachers, nurses, child welfare workers, police, firefighters and other first responders cleared its second House committee.

Open door policy. A provision requiring the Department of Management Services to consult with the Senate President, House Speaker, Governor and Cabinet before closing the Capitol was tucked into a House budget bill (HB 5301).

High crimes. A bill (SB 796) that would boost penalties for evidence tampering in certain felony cases advanced in the Senate.

Keyboard warriors. A bill (HB 1233) that would allow security officers to get certified online was OK’d by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

Beach butts. A bill (SB 224) that would allow cities and counties to ban smoking on public beaches cleared its second Senate committee.

Tickets, please. A bill (SB 1316) requiring ticket sellers to offer transferable tickets to concerts, festivals and sports games passed its first Senate committee.

Port Palatka? A bill (HB 907) that would explore adding Putnam County to the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council advanced through its second committee.

Jailhouse blues. The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee approved a bill (HB 425) to greenlight PTSD claims for corrections workers.

Waste, fraud and abuse. A new OPPAGA report suggests Florida’s top Medicaid officials aren’t doing enough to ferret out fraud and abuse in the $35 billion safety net program.

Early exit. Rep. Emily Slosberg-King announced she will not seek a fourth term in the House.

Be aware. A resolution (HR 8021) that would establish Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week in the first week of May was filed in the House.

Quote of the Day

“I am thankful I was able to secure a nice fee for every lobbyist in the City of Tallahassee. It’s very complicated; we are in the middle of a tug-of-war with some giants.”

— Sen. Ed Hooper, joking about his ticket resale bill (SB 1316) causing a wave of lobbying registrations.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Amid nationwide supply chain problems, the federal government has launched a pilot program allowing adults under the age of 21 to drive commercial trucks between state lines, which was previously barred under law. Florida currently houses about 15% of all commercial drivers.

Florida Trucking Association President and CEO Alix Miller believes media coverage has popularized misconceptions about the federal program, namely that this is the first time teenagers are getting behind the wheels of “big rigs.”

Florida Politics spoke with Miller about those misconceptions and how she believes the pilot program could help Florida.

Q: What are the misconceptions surrounding the new pilot program?

Miller: I think most of the headlines lead with clickbait. “Teenagers will be allowed to drive big trucks.” Currently, 18- to 20-year-olds can already get a commercial driver’s license and drive intrastate, so within state lines. But what they cannot do until they’re 21 years old is drive across state lines or haul interstate commerce. So, this program is a three-year-long pilot program with hundreds of extra hours of training, additional safety technologies, and monthly reporting to the federal government to track their safe driving performance. The things that they are reporting on for the activity are vehicle miles traveled, duty hours, off-duty time, crashes, violations, and safety-critical events. And one of the technology requirements are forward-facing video event capture systems. That can even track a hard-braking event or if a driver takes a turn a little too aggressively. And the carrier or trucking company can review that incident and rectify the training.

Q: How will the pilot program affect trucking in Florida?

Miller: Right now, this pilot program is limited to 3,000 drivers nationally. To give you a perspective. Florida currently has more than 517,000 commercial driver’s license drivers. So, this small group, being studied for an extended period of time, will eventually provide the data for the trucking industry as well as the federal government to better understand safe driving habits and age groups.

One of the biggest things for Florida, obviously, we use the lion’s share of drivers due to geography and consumption, but also, our ports are considered interstate commerce. So even if a truck is driving 5 miles from a port to a local distribution site, you have to be 21 years old. So that could have a huge impact on the availability of drivers. The second part is because so many trucking companies do interstate commerce, we lose the ability to recruit students who are looking for high skill, high wage careers out of high school. So, if they’re looking at vocational careers, and prefer not to go to a college or university, trucking is largely inaccessible to them. So, this would eventually allow the trucking industry to develop a new population of drivers.

Q: How will the program impact the supply chain difficulties occurring nationwide?

Miller: Well, the average age of truck drivers coming into the profession is 35. So, it would be a game-changer for us to bring in younger qualified safe drivers. And if you’re bringing in more into the vocational pipeline for this career, we will see fewer issues with the supply chain. You know, we’ll be as a state far better off when it comes to hurricane season. Or when there’s a shortage or an outage on any commodity we need. We simply need more drivers.

Lobby Up

2021 was a great year for the telehealth industry. It seems everyone has gotten used to health care anywhere, anytime. But what about animals? They need health care, too.

Rep. James Buchanan and Sen. Jason Brodeur are sponsoring bills (SB 448/HB 723) to help fur babies across the state get fast and reliable care via telemedicine. But the devil, as they say, is in the details.

Unlike humans, animals can’t tell the veterinarian what hurts.

That’s where the Florida Veterinary Medicine Association comes in. The statewide trade association represents the veterinary medical profession and aims to promote animal health and well-being while protecting public health.

It’s no stranger to the political world either. In the nearly 100 years since its founding, the organization has spearheaded several major initiatives — in the 1960s, for instance, it played a key role in establishing the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, which has since become one of the top-10 vet programs in the country.

Now, it’s hoping to share its expertise with the Legislature as it mulls over the veterinary telemedicine package. As written, it would allow the vet-pet relationship to kick off via a telemedicine visit (rather than an in-person one). Veterinarians would also be able to prescribe medications, though controlled substance prescriptions would be limited to patients that the vet has seen in person.

So far, the prognosis is good. The House bill has already cleared its committees and is poised for a floor vote. Brodeur’s version, meanwhile, will go before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Tuesday.

If the bill makes it to DeSantis’ desk, the team at Converge Government Affairs will deserve a share of the credit — earlier this year, FVMA signed a lobbying deal with Converge lobbyists Jonathan Kilman, Carlos Cruz, Paul Lowell and Brad Nail. Todd Lewis of Lewis Consulting also represents the Association.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

— The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 1571) that would prohibit protesters from picketing outside of residences when it meets at 8 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 1197) that would block public-employee unions from having dues deducted from members’ paychecks when it meets at 8 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— A bill (HB 1303) that would establish a spaceport authority to develop the aerospace industry in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties will go before the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee when it meets at 8 a.m. in Reed Hall.

— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will hear a bill (SB 1408), inspired by the murder of FSU professor Dan Markel, that would allow grandparents to petition for visitation rights in certain circumstances. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will decide whether to advance the confirmation process for Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Education Committee will hear a controversial committee bill (SPB 7044) that would require colleges and universities to seek accreditation from different accreditation bodies when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— A bill (HB 461) that would allow work experience to fulfill the volunteer hours requirement for Bright Futures scholarships will go before the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee when it meets at 10:30 a.m. in Room 404 House Office Building.

— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will take up legislation (HB 1453) that would modernize state law regarding the theft and release of sexually explicit material when it meets at 10:30 a.m. in Morris Hall.

— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will decide whether to advance the confirmation process for Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo when it meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee will consider a cybersecurity bill (SB 1670) that would block local governments from caving to ransomware demands when it meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— A bill (SB 1852) that seeks to curb human trafficking by blocking hotels from offering hourly rates will go before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee when it meets at 12:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The House Finance & Facilities Subcommittee will hear a bill (HB 1239) that would change staffing requirements at nursing homes when it meets at 1 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee will take up a bill (HB 721) that would allow bans of dangerous dogs by public housing authorities when it meets at 1 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Community Affairs Committee will take up a utility-backed bill (SB 1024) that would make a series of changes to the state’s “net metering” laws when it meets at 3 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

— A bill (HB 7) that would ban instruction that employs “critical race theory” will go before the House Education & Employment Committee when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in Morris Hall.

— The House Judiciary Committee will take up the near-annual effort (HB 1395) to alter alimony laws when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 404 House Office Building.

— The House State Affairs Committee will consider legislation (HB 717) to boost the agritourism industry when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee meets at 10:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

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

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

— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets at 3 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Transportation Committee meets at 3 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

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

Staff Reports


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