Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
The House is expected to approve legislation (HB 1557) on Tuesday that would ban classroom “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Ahead of debate on the proposal, which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, sponsor Rep. Joe Harding withdrew his controversial amendment introduced last week that would have required schools to inform a parent of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity within six weeks of finding out. While Democrats celebrated the death of that amendment, their efforts to block the overall bill fell short. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Major defeat. Rules Chair and future Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said she was not able to convince her fellow Republicans sponsoring the 15-week abortion ban to add an exemption for rape and incest victims.
Anti-WOKE. A Republican effort (HB 7) to prohibit certain lessons and training related to race, color, sex or national origin is primed for a Wednesday vote in the House.
Tax cut. A grab-bag of tax cuts (HB 7071) passed through the House Appropriations Committee and will now head to the floor for a full vote.
Connection lost. A Senate panel pulled $500M in funding from a pair of bills (SB 1800/SB 1802) aimed at rural broadband expansion.
Funding cut. The House budget plan could send more than $127 million in new funding to community-based care agencies, but providers in South Florida counties could see their funding cut.
Time for change. A bill (HB 1143) that would bring the first major reforms to Florida’s Baker Act law in 50 years cleared its penultimate committee in the House.
Tamper proof. Legislation (HB 287) that would ramp up penalties for evidence tampering in certain felony cases is ready for a floor vote in the House.
Clock is ticking. Florida’s policies for handling domestic violence cases could come under scrutiny through a bill (SB 1598) now moving through the Legislature, but time is not on the measure’s side.
Strong opposition. The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar laid out its opposition to a bill (HB 1395) ending permanent alimony ahead of a floor vote in the House.
‘Hello, how are you?’ Unlike the Senate version, the House telehealth bill (HB 17) wouldn’t allow audio-only telehealth.
Quote of the Day
“You are not alone. You are loved. While today may be a dark day here in the state of Florida, I promise that there will be brighter days ahead and remember that love always conquers hate.”
— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Bill Day’s Latest
The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee advanced a bill (HB 741) on Monday that would make substantial changes to the way solar panel owners sell excess power to utilities. A similar bill (SB 1024) is awaiting its final committee stop in the Senate. Julio Fuentes of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce spoke with Florida Politics about the net metering bill the changes it would bring.
Q: What is net metering?
A: Net metering reimburses people who put solar panels on their homes and businesses for the excess power they generate. Net metering allows those who can afford solar to sell excess power to their utility — at the same retail rate the utility charges for electricity. While that brings down the cost of their investment, it relieves them of the burden of paying their fair share of the cost for utility infrastructure, which means higher costs for the rest of us.
Q: How does net metering affect small businesses?
A: As president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I and my organization support and protect the interests of more than 600,000 Hispanic-owned small businesses, fully a quarter of all small business owners in Florida. This subsidy (which effectively taxes all citizens to support the affluent) harms small businesses, the people they employ and the customers they serve.
Many small business owners have struggled to survive through the pandemic. Now, they’re dealing with hiring challenges and surging inflation. Apparently, small businesses have to accept rising power bills as well to preserve a regressive subsidy that was created more than a decade ago to promote solar energy that at the time was much more expensive.
Q: How can homeowners afford to invest in solar without the subsidy
A: Net metering was created to spur an emerging industry with a high cost-of-entry. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost for residential solar systems has fallen more than 60% over the last decade. So why is this massive subsidy still required? Why must those who can’t afford solar panels continue to offset the costs of those who can? Why must small business owners struggling in a pandemic-challenged economy be saddled with higher costs?
Q: Any final words?
A: We all want more solar power. We all want a cleaner energy future for our children. And Florida has made great strides in recent years as homeowners invest in solar panels and as utilities build large-scale solar farms. But the time has come for fair, common-sense changes to net metering rules that protect the vast majority of Florida’s residents and small businesses.
Greenberg Traurig earned an estimated $8 million last year, according to compensation reports filed with the state.
The team of Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Elizabeth Dudek, Samantha Ferrin, Fred Karlinsky and Timothy Stanfield represented more than 140 clients in all, reaping an estimated $4.8 million in legislative lobbying fees and another $3.2 million in executive branch pay.
The firm’s legislative lobbying tally was anchored by a trio of $180,000 clients. Those cornerstone contracts were with Baptist Health South Florida, Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company and Humana Medical Plan.
A dozen other legislative clients broke the six-figure mark, including the Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, both of which paid $140,000.
Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company also provided a major boost to Greenberg Traurig’s executive branch reports, with payments totaling $150,000. Other $100,000-plus contracts on that side of the fence included Banzai Capital Partners, Health Network One, Freedom Square of Seminole, Guy Carpenter & Company and Narragansett Bay Insurance Company.
The reports were also peppered with national names such as AT&T and Ford Motor Company. They paid $80,000 and $60,000, respectively. If GT Law’s reports trended toward the top end, the firm could have earned as much as $10.6 million.
The Next 24
The Senate Rules Committee will take up a bill (SB 804) that would change staffing rules regarding direct care hours at nursing homes when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
The Senate will hold a floor session at 3 p.m. Bills on the agenda include a proposal (SB 224) that would allow local governments to ban smoking on beaches and in public parks.
The House Commerce Committee will consider a bill (HB 91) that would allow digital license plates in the state when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
The House Health & Human Services Committee will consider a Medicaid managed care bill (HB 7047) when it meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The House Education & Employment Committee meets at 1 p.m. in Morris Hall.
— The House Judiciary Committee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House State Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
Full committee agendas, including bills to be considered, are available on the House and Senate websites.
February 24, 2022 at 1:15 am
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