Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
Only one more vote stands between a proposal that would ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks of pregnancy and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. The bill (HB 5) is among the most restrictive proposals in the nation and arguably one of the most divisive endeavors of the 2022 Legislative Session. Dominated by Republican lawmakers, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the bill Monday on a party-line vote after a lengthy exchange of questions and debate. It now awaits the Senate’s full consideration, where passage is almost inevitable. However futile, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book — who was absent with COVID-19 — has vowed to fight the proposal. Rank-and-file Democrats made good on that promise Monday by re-proposing a handful of amendments their House colleagues previously tried and failed to pass. Here’s your nightly rundown.
To review, or not to review? Attorney General Ashley Moody and Senate President Wilton Simpson have taken opposing positions on whether the failed North Florida casino initiative should still be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
Spill it. An amendment to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1557) would seemingly require schools to inform parents within six weeks about changes to a child’s “mental, emotional, or physical health.”
Crackdown. A bill (HB 1511) that would stiffen penalties on retail theft crime rings is on its way to the House floor.
Papers, please. The DCCC is seeking public records on more than a dozen Republican leaders involved in Florida’s redistricting process.
‘Pretty sh*tty.’ At the start of a week in which senators will consider a series of hot-button issues, Senate Democratic Leader Book says the 2022 Session is one of the worst she’s seen yet.
Costlier claim. Legislation (SB 80) authorizing a $7.5 million payment to a mother whose three children suffered life-altering injuries in a crash with a state trooper cleared its final Senate committee.
Quote of the Day
“We’ve got 18 more days to go, so basically, we’re in hell week until Sine Die.”
— Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, on the final stretch of the 2022 Legislative Session.
Bill Day’s Latest
HB 169, which creates a statewide parole-eligible program to help prepare inmates for release, has one more committee stop before it makes it to the House floor. The legislation also requires inmates’ institutional achievements and disciplinary reports to be considered in parole decisions.
Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart, one of the bill’s sponsors, believes there is a path for the bill to make it through before the end of committee meetings.
Florida Politics spoke with Hart about her legislation and why she is optimistic about it.
Q: Why is requiring the consideration of an inmate’s institutional achievements, disciplinary report, and all indications of risk to the public in parole decisions important?
Hart: That’s critically important because we need to know if an inmate has prepared himself to return to the general community. And the only way you would know that is to be able to look at their disciplinary reports, and all of their achievements and goals, the things that will set them apart. What did they achieve and how did they grow? That’s critically important. In preparation for this legislation, I have gone into about 50 correctional facilities. I’ve worked with both people that are currently in the system and people who have been released from the system. Making sure people’s efforts to better themselves behind bars is vital in parole decisions and should be required to be considered.
Q: How would the program for parole-eligible inmates help rehabilitate them?
Hart: Currently, they have several classes that they (inmates) can take at various facilities, and they can get certifications in various subject matters. The program for parole-eligible inmates would help connect them with those classes and certifications. Getting those achievements helps them to become a better person. There’s just so many things that they have to endure in order to get to that point where they are eligible for consideration for parole. So, all of the classes and training that they take is critically important to them bettering themselves. And that’s how they get there in order to be qualified to be eligible for release. The program would help them get parole and thrive when they are out.
Q: Your bill has one more committee stop. How likely do you believe it is for your bill to pass, and what, if any, roadblocks do you see in its way?
Hart: I don’t see any roadblocks other than Rep. Erin Grall (chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the bill’s final stop) agendaing the bill. She told me that she would definitely get it agended. She didn’t see any issues with it. So, I’m looking forward to her agendaing this bill by Thursday. And then the Senate will pick it up. I’m pretty excited about it. If I could just get it to her, she agendas it, then it goes to the House floor. The Senate has assured me they will find a vehicle to get it passed.
Capital City Consulting earned $17.1 million in lobbying pay last year, the third-highest total among all firms in the state.
Led by co-founders Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace, the team of lobbyists at the firm represented more than 200 clients for all or part of last year and collected an estimated $9 million lobbying the Florida Legislature and another $8.1 million lobbying the executive branch. At the top end, the firm could have earned $23.9 million.
The No. 1 client on CCC’s legislative report was the Florida Institute of Technology. Also known as Florida Tech or FIT, the Melbourne-based research university paid the firm $187,000 across the firm’s four quarterly reports.
It was followed by CVS at $170,000 and Florida Power & Light Company at $163,000.
Iarossi, INFLUENCE Magazine’s pick for 2021’s “Lobbyist of the Year,” is one of the top gaming lobbyists in the state. During the negotiations for the new Gaming Compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, dozens of gaming interests snapped up lobbyists — and many already had CCC on retainer well before the Compact began to solidify.
Other clients in Capital City Consulting’s gaming portfolio: Melbourne Greyhound Park, The Lotter and Ocala Gainesville Poker and Jai Alai.
The firm also represents Las Vegas Sands. The casino giant was the primary backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have brought full-fledged casino gaming to North Florida. It paid CCC $60,000 last year.
The Next 24
— The Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a bill (SB 1598) that would establish a state domestic violence task force when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Appropriations Committee will consider a bill (HB 7071) that would set sales tax “holidays” for emergency preparedness and school supplies as well as “Freedom Week” when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will consider a pair of bills (SB 1800/SB 1802) related to rural broadband expansion when it meets at 10 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— Sens. Shevrin Jones and Jason Pizzo as well as Rep. Kevin Chambliss will hold a news conference in support of crime victims’ rights at 11:30 a.m. on the 4th Floor of the Capitol.
— Sens. Jones, Bobby Powell and Annette Taddeo will hold a news conference alongside U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist focused on the “State of Black Florida.” It begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Senate Portico.
— The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee will consider legislation (SB 1940) to combat sea level rise when it meets at 2 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.