Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
The lines are set — at least for state legislative districts. The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday cleared new House and Senate maps for the 2022 elections. The automatic review of cartography crafted and approved by the Florida Legislature closes a once-a-decade redistricting process for the state’s 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts. For the first time since that automatic review went into effect in 1968, no petitions were challenged against the maps. That prompted justices to cancel oral arguments and base decisions on filings from the House and Senate. A partisan performance analysis by MCI Maps shows the Senate map includes 23 districts where a plurality or majority voted for Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and 17 where voters picked Democrat Joe Biden. For the House, the split is 71-49. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Under the microscope. Budget proviso put forward by the House would have the state take a closer look at Medicaid-managed care plans care for patients with sickle cell disease.
Infrastructure week. The Panhandle is cashing in on its strong representation as House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to an additional $28.1 million in infrastructure funding.
Cancer cash. Sylvester Cancer Center’s fight against firefighter cancer is likely to get a $2 million boost from the state.
STEM the tide. The Senate has met the House in its offer to allocate $1.5 million for the Pinellas County Science Center to repair storm damage and become ADA compliant.
Never forget. After holding its ground in allocating $750,000 to the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Senate was able to close a deal with the House in the lower chamber’s second budget offer.
PBMs. The Senate unanimously passed a House measure (HB 357) that would impose more regulations on pharmacy benefit managers, sending it to the Governor.
Clean bill of health. The Governor announced that First Lady Casey DeSantis is now “cancer-free.”
Sour or sweet. The House is prepared for a vote on one of the most bitterly contested bills (HB 567) this Session — legislation that would designate strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whip cream as the state dessert.
Quote of the Day
“This gives us more fortitude and more fight to continue to do the work that we’re here to do to protect kids like this and all over the state of Florida.”
— Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, on student protests of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Bill Day’s Latest
SB 524/HB 7061, elections legislation that establishes an election crimes investigations unit, bans ranked-choice voting, changes vote-by-mail forms and more, could be taken up by both legislative chambers by the end of the week.
The Equal Ground Action Fund, an advocacy organization working to “build Black political power in the state” opposes the legislation, arguing that the election crimes investigations unit could be misused and that the election legislation as a whole would disproportionately impact Black Floridians.
Florida Politics spoke with EGAF Political Director Genesis Robinson about his group’s opposition to the bill.
Q: Why does your organization oppose SB 524/HB 7061?
Robinson: As the Political Director of Equal Ground Action Fund, a Black-led voting rights organization working to increase civic engagement and build political power for people of color in Florida, I am particularly attuned to and aware of the harmful nuances our conservative politicians are including in legislation to intentionally disproportionately impact Black Floridians. Equal Ground recognizes the deep history of racist and suppressive tactics used to disenfranchise Black voters from participating in the electoral process. Whether it was a literacy test, accurately counting the amount of jellybeans in a jar or the use of law enforcement at polling places as a means for intimidation, the history of voter suppression against people of color runs deep and continues today.
Perhaps we have moved beyond the blatantly explicit voter suppression of our past, but the proposed changes in SB 524/HB 7061 – from creating an election investigation unit to removing registered voters if they do not vote within a specified time – will have true detrimental effects on people of color. Protecting voting rights is at the core of who we are as an organization at Equal Ground, so we will always oppose any effort to deny people access to the ballot box. We believe and know that the right to vote is the cornerstone to our democracy, and it must be protected at all costs.
Q: You have mentioned previously how you are concerned about the election investigation unit that the legislation would add. Why does that have you concerned?
Robinson: First, we have to acknowledge that the election investigation unit is a ridiculous solution to a problem that does not exist. We already have safeguards in place to investigate and prosecute those who violate our election laws, and in a state that prides itself on fiscal responsibility, this new elections police force is a waste of tax dollars.
Just two years ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis himself declared the 2020 election as one of the most successful and secure elections. Yet, since then, Republican leadership and the Governor have continually worked to change election administration. Our political atmosphere has become so polarized and divisive, and Equal Ground has genuine concerns that this new agency will be weaponized to attack political enemies and divert attention and resources from the real work of making voting more accessible to those who desire to participate in the democratic process.
Q: Nationally, Republicans have been making a concerted effort to pass election-related bills like this one. Why do you think it is a trend nationally?
Robinson: It’s clear to me that Republican leadership has recognized they have to unjustly change the rules to win. It’s extremely concerning that instead of focusing on policies that can improve the quality of life for constituents, Republican state legislators are working tirelessly to enshrine policies that prevent specific communities from accessing the ballot box. We saw the 2020 election process end with an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The rhetoric started by former President Trump has been echoed by Republicans nationwide. Now, we are seeing the very real impact of the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
In 2021, 33 states introduced over 200 individual bills to undermine the administration of elections. Fourteen states successfully enacted this type of legislation. Republicans saw success in Georgia when Brian Kemp stacked the deck against Stacey Abrams, and now they want to replicate that strategy nationwide. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are seeing this play out across the country right now as a direct response to the Republican Party enabling extremism and encouraging people to illegally undermine our voting process. Our democracy is at stake and we, as voters and Americans who believe in our democracy, must be unified in condemning these attempts.
The Florida Lottery has been breaking records in recent years, with ticket sales routinely exceeding state economists’ estimates.
In January, the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research forecast overall ticket sales would hit $8.95 billion in the Fiscal Year 2021-22, up from their prior estimate of $8.41 billion.
Since it launched in 1988, the Florida Lottery has pumped more than $41 billion into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which is used to pay for educational programs such as Bright Futures college scholarships.
Currently, a little over a quarter of ticket sale revenues go into the EETF, and about 65% is paid out as prizes to winners. The Florida Lottery also takes a small cut — 1% — for operating expenses. But what about the rest?
That goes to retailers. Stores that sell a winning ticket receive bonuses of up to $100,000 if they sell a winning ticket, which is lower than most states — the record $1.5 billion Powerball draw a few years ago netted a Florida Publix location $100,000 while the Los Angeles 7-11 that sold one of the other winning tickets received $1 million.
But retailers’ real payday is in the 5% commission they receive for each ticket sold, whether it’s for a draw game or a scratch-off. That commission rate might get bumped to 5.75% if the House gets its way.
One of the big winners would be Publix, which received a whopping $85 million in ticket sale commissions during the Fiscal Year 2019-20.
Lobbyists can’t be paid commissions, so a thank you will have to suffice for Matt Bryan, Teye Carmichael and Jeff Hartley of Smith Bryan & Myers, who represent the Florida-grown grocery store chain alongside in-house advocate Thomas Culligan.
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 begins 15 minutes after the floor session adjourns.
— House Rules Committee will meet in Room 404 of the House Office Building. The meeting begins 15 minutes after the floor session adjourns.