Sixty Days for 3.1.22 — 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 2022 Legislative Session:

The Last 24

It’s Day 50 of the Legislative Session, which means another raft of bills is dead. After today, Senate rules block committees other than the Rules Committee from meeting unless they are ordered to by the Senate President. A second Senate rule bars any bill that hasn’t cleared at least one committee in the chamber from being brought up for a floor vote — the only workaround is a unanimous vote. While it’s conceivable that Senate President Wilton Simpson could order a committee to meet again, it’s more likely that any bill that hasn’t advanced in the Senate is dead for the year. Here’s your nightly rundown.

Pop-up crackdown. The House took up a bill (HB 1435) that would empower local sheriffs and leaders to more effectively respond to large, unpermitted gatherings.

Incognito mode. The House could soon vote on a bill (HB 9) strengthening consumer data privacy in Florida despite the business community’s fears the bill could cripple it financially.

Jobs funding. After initially offering $25 million of general revenue for the Job Growth Grant Fund, the House now proposes to meet the Senate’s proposal: zero.

Elections police. House and Senate budget negotiators offered to spend $1.16 million for an office of election crimes and security, staffed with 15 employees.

See you Sunday. The House will soon vote on a bill (SB 254) that would ensure church doors are among the last to close during a state of emergency.

Fight for $15. House health care budget writers are offering to pay state employees and those who contract for the state at least $15 an hour.

Pasco snub. The House is holding out against a plan to hand Moffitt Cancer Center and Pasco County $106 million to connect an upcoming 775-acre research campus to the surrounding roadways.

Backpedal. A bill (HB 7049) that would undo last year’s deal on publishing public notices online and in print is teed up for a vote in the House.

Justice funding. The House and Senate remain at odds over private prison operations and state attorney and public defender pay after the latest House budget offer.

Rape is rape. A bill (SB 868) that would charge sexual battery against an intoxicated person as rape cleared the Senate floor with a unanimous vote.

Moment of silence. A proposal (HB 499) that would mandate the national anthem be played at sporting events appears to have died in the House.

Staffing up. Lawmakers have agreed to add an additional employee to the Office of Broadband, addressing staffing shortages that have plagued the revamped office.

Tase me, bro. The House and Senate agreed to provide the Florida Highway Patrol with $1.5 million to replace their aging arsenal of TASERs.

Pinellas pursuit. The House is pushing the Senate to include a nearly $5 million appropriation for a police pursuit training facility for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

Safety cash. The House and Senate seem to have reached an agreement in the first round of TED negotiations to give a $500,000 appropriation for Ruth Eckerd Hall improvements.

New plates. The Senate approved legislation (SB 364) adding to Florida’s selection of specialty tags, along with new rules to govern their administration.

Big claim. It took Senators less than a minute to approve a $3.2 million payment (SB 70) to a Monticello woman who suffered life-altering injuries in a highway crash with a state employee.

Bigger claim. The Senate OK’d a bill (SB 80) sending a $7.5 million payment to the mother of three boys injured in a crash with a state trooper.

Quote of the Day

“It’s critical. We have some facilities that look like the Green Mile when you walk into them.”

— Sen. Keith Perry, on the need for prisons funding.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Florida is facing a statewide teacher shortage that is expected to get worse. The Florida Board of Education reported recently that there are currently about 4,500 teacher vacancies, with that number expected to double by the end of the academic year.

The Florida Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state, has publicly opposed HB 1203, claiming it will push more teachers out of schools by furthering regulations on teacher pay.

Florida Politics spoke with FEA President Andrew Spar about the state’s teacher shortage and HB 1203.

Q: Why is there currently a teacher shortage in Florida?

Spar: Right now in Florida, the State Board of Education, at its last meeting, said they anticipate over 9,000 teacher vacancies in the state of Florida at the end of this school year. And that’s on top of what we already have with over 5,200 vacancies among our support staff, in our schools as well. So it’s a pretty major issue. In our school districts right now, with them having a really hard time of keeping teachers and staff in our schools and recruiting other people to come work there. We think the main drivers of this teacher and staff shortage have to do with pay, and have to do with the tone of leaders across this state at all levels. The tone really impacts the respect that people have or implies the lack of respect that people have for our teachers and staff, who are really doing an amazing job during this pandemic to educate every child and make sure that they’re getting the education they deserve, regardless of race, background, or ability.

Q: The FEA has opposed HB 1203 because it does more to regulate teacher pay. How will the legislation impact that?

Spar: Florida has one of the most, if not the most complicated systems of paying teachers in the nation. Not just complicated for paying teachers, complicated for paying anyone. And this bill will add to the more than 20 rules and laws that are in place right now regarding teacher pay. And what it essentially would do is it would make it harder to pay experienced teachers who work in our schools today. We all know that we want our kids to have teachers who care for them and who do everything possible to make sure they get that education they need and deserve. And it’s not possible if we continue to keep the pay of experienced teachers down. In fact, we know that in the state of Florida right now, there are lots of teachers out there who have 15, 20, 25, or more years of experience, who are making less money today than they would have with that same experience 10 or 15 years ago.

Q: What do you think the legislature should do to combat the teacher shortage?

Spar: I think they need to invest in public schools. And that’s why we’re actually very excited about the budget numbers that came out of the House and Senate and the budget numbers they’re working on right now during the conference process, to make sure that we have the largest investment we’ve ever seen in public education and the largest increase we’ve ever seen in funding for public schools. So that is a huge step in the right direction. What we would love to see them do more of is increase the flexibility needed so that local school districts can work with their teachers and staff to make sure that we have a fair and equitable way of paying all people who work in our public schools, a fair pay.

These have been challenging times. These last few years have been difficult for everyone who works in our public schools and everyone in our society, including our kids. We have to recognize that and realize that as we hopefully come out of this pandemic soon, or deal with it as an endemic, that we are doing everything possible to empower our teachers and staff and administrators in our schools, to work together with parents in ensuring that every child gets everything they need to be successful, and to have that world-class education our Constitution requires.

Lobby Up

The House made its first offer on the transportation, tourism and economic development budget silo Tuesday, widening the gap between it and the Senate from $150 million to $306 million.

The bulk of the TED budget covers the Department of Transportation, accounting for $12.35 billion of the House’s $16.04 billion offer. It also includes the Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Department of Military Affairs and Department of State, under which dozens of organizations are seeking appropriations.

Among the differences is a $750,000 request to help the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg digitize, index and preserve artifacts in its collection. The Senate is on board with the proposal, but the House has not set aside any funds. The museum — one of only three accredited Holocaust museums in the U.S. — relies on Michael Corcoran, Jaqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Will Rodriguez and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners to get the cash in the final budget.

The House offer also includes $1 million for Florida Ready to Work, doubling the Senate offer of $500,000. The program, run by WIN Learning, provides “soft skills” training to unemployed Floridians statewide. The organization had requested $2 million and plans to spend half on training, $800,000 on assessments and credentialing and $200,000 on project management. WIN Learning is represented by Richard Reeves of RLR Consulting.

Brevard Zoo, meanwhile, is hoping to secure $950,000 in the DEO budget to continue work on a “world-class aquarium on a second campus of Port Canaveral.” The House has offered to fully fund the request, but the item remains unfunded in the Senate. Port Canaveral is repped by Dean Cannon, Chris Carmody, Christopher Dawson, Katie Flury and Robert Stuart of GrayRobinson. The Brevard Zoo is repped by Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Megan Fay, Scott Ross and Christopher Schoonover of Capital City Consulting.

The GrayRobinson team is also working with Lake County on a $152,600 request to help renovate the Lincoln Park Community & Vocational Center. The funding, also listed under the DEO budget, was included in the Senate’s initial budget but remains absent in the House’s first offer.

Finally, Miami-Dade County has tapped Ron Book, Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette to help land $2.6 million for the Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506 Museum & Library, which plans to use the money for “major renovations,” including a new fire suppression system and upgrades to its HVAC, lighting and security systems. As it stands, the Senate has offered to chip in $250,000 while the House leaves it unfunded.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

— The Senate will hold a floor Session at 10 a.m.

— The House will hold a floor Session at 10 a.m.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building. The meeting will begin 15 minutes after the floor Session adjourns.

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

Staff Reports


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