Takeaways from Tallahassee — Looking sharp!

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
Donations broke the 3,000-mark at the ninth annual Suits for Session.

For the ninth year in a row, players in The Process have thinned out their closets to help job seekers and first-time professionals look and feel confident as they foray into the world of work.

Volunteer Florida collected and released the grand total this week: 3,023 items donated at the Capitol and other locations over two days in February.

Three organizations will benefit from the largesse: CareerSource Tampa Bay, FSU ProfessioNole Clothing Closet, and SailFuture.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of our state agencies, legislative leaders, and friends across the state who helped us collect so many incredible items of professional wear,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo. “With every item donated, we are providing confidence and support to jobseekers across our state.”

In the Battle of the Sexes, women outpaced the men in the clothing and accessories category, 1,903 to 1,106. (And we don’t want to hear any whining about how the ladies have more accessory opportunities with earrings, necklaces and brooches. Give up your ties, guys!) But when it came to suits, the gents, with 127 donated, nearly doubled the amount given by the women.

Volunteer Florida collected more than 3,000 pieces of professional attire this year.

The three recipient organizations will use the clothing for different, but important, purposes.

“We are very excited for Volunteer Florida for selecting our ProfessioNole Clothing Closet as a Suits for Session recipient again,” said Leslie Mille, Interim Director of the Florida State University Career Center. “The ProfessioNole Clothing Closet operates exclusively on a donation basis, providing students access to free business professional and elevated business casual clothing. The Suits for Session donation will impact hundreds of our students, helping to set them up for success as they participate in career fairs, interviews, conferences, internships, job searches and more!”

“The SailFuture Academy exists to bridge the gap between high school and the real world for some of our state’s most at-promise students,” said SailFuture CEO Michael Long. “Professional attire is necessary for our students’ 11th and 12th-grade work-study placements, and we couldn’t be more grateful for Volunteer Florida including us this year to stock our clothing closet.”

Statewide, the nonprofit CareerSource offers a full range of career planning services for professional and entry-level candidates, including career orientation, aid in job searches, career fairs, interviewing techniques and professional networking.

CareerSource is a boon for businesses with a wide range of professional services, including employee referral and recruitment, training and retraining, workshops and business seminars.

For more information and contacts for donating to recipient organizations directly, click here.

Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel, and observations from the week in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

—Take 5 —

Sine Die: Florida legislators ended their 60-day Session after passing a $117.4 billion budget and a tax package as well as measures that place restrictions on local regulations dealing with work conditions. “I am so proud and amazed by what we have accomplished together over the last two years. Speaker (Paul) Renner, you have been a joy to work with. I’ve always been able to count on your honesty and integrity,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said in her remarks.

Budget vetoes coming? The $117.5 billion state budget and tax package were hammered out and ready to vote on by early afternoon. Gov. Ron DeSantis hinted that the spending plan would be trimmed back. DeSantis said Friday afternoon that his office and the Legislature had discussed continuing to be fiscally responsible. There may have to be a little trimming that is done, but you know that’s all “just the way the cookie crumbles.”

Reboot: DeSantis vetoed the top priority of House Speaker Renner state legislators revamped a social media bill. Instead of containing a strict ban on those under 16 having social media accounts the redone version allows those 14 and 15 years old to have an account if they have parental permission. A tech group was still critical of the revamped version and urged DeSantis to veto it. Renner said that he anticipates the reworked bill will likely spur lawsuits against it.

Optometric strong: Senate President Passidomo’s effort to ban optometrists from calling themselves physicians fell short after the Florida House refused to give final passage to SB 1112. It’s the second time in as many years that Passidomo’s efforts fell short with the Governor vetoing similar legislation last year. Passidomo’s late father was an ophthalmologist. “In the eyeball wars, neither side blinked,” said Jacksonville attorney and health care lobbyist Christopher Nuland.

Give them the credit: Florida credit unions won big this Session by getting language included in HB 989 that allows them to accept deposits from local and state governments. The House tagged the language onto the bill by a razor-thin 49-44 vote, an unusually close margin to have in the Chamber these days. As astounding as it is a victory for the credit unions, it’s an equally stunning defeat for Florida banks. The Governor supports the credit unions’ ability to take deposits.

— No horseplay! —

DeSantis announced this week that law enforcement presence and assets across the state will increase throughout Spring Break season in an effort to ensure partying young adults don’t bring chaos and mayhem to the Sunshine State.

The Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement will deploy officers and tactical assets to popular Spring Break locales, such as Miami Beach, Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach.

“Florida may be popular for spring break, but it is inhospitable to criminal activity,” DeSantis said. “Florida does not tolerate lawlessness and chaos. I am directing state law enforcement agencies to provide additional personnel and assets to local entities to ensure that they have the resources they need to keep the peace over spring break.”

Ma’am, you’re under arrest for having too much fun.

The announcement follows DeSantis’ direction earlier this year for FHP to make assistance available to areas in need during Spring Break.

“Florida has become a top U.S. destination. Americans continue to both relocate and visit here in record numbers. Under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis and his free state of Florida governance, the tourism demand has simply exploded. But Florida is a law-and-order state, as well,” said Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner.

“At the direction of Gov. DeSantis, our State Troopers will deploy both here in Miami Beach and statewide to assist local law enforcement in keeping our residents and visitors safe this Spring Break season.”

To date, 17 law enforcement agencies have requested a combined total of 140 state troopers in their jurisdictions. Florida Highway Patrol will also activate 24 Quick Response Troopers in Bay, Volusia, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to provide immediate response to incidents that may occur.

“We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful state with beaches that are second to none and thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida will stay beautiful,” said FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass.

“Dozens of FDLE members will be working during the Spring Break season to support our local agencies. From mobilizing our resources quickly to conducting investigations to providing analytical research, we won’t let Florida fall victim to the chaos that other states have seen.”

Enforcement mechanisms specific to Florida’s top Spring Break party spot, Miami Beach, will include:

—Curfews, security searches, bag checks and early beach closures.

—Uniformed officers patrolling in vehicles, on ATVs, by bicycle and on foot.

—Barricades, DUI checkpoints, and parking and lane closures.

— Ride along —

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez went on a ride-along as part of Operation Safe Highways, a multiagency strike force that works to catch criminals on state roadways.

Its mission emphasizes illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants.

The program combines the efforts of the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida National Guard and Sheriff’s offices for Escambia, Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties.

The strike force, formed at the direction of Gov. DeSantis, is a direct response to what he and his administration view as a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. It seeks to prevent crimes, including human trafficking as well as smuggling and possession of illegal drugs or weapons.

Jeanette Nuñez has a front-row seat on Operation Safe Highways. Image via X @LtGovNunez.

Before participating in the latest strike, Nuñez attended operational briefings, viewed a K-9 demonstration and witnessed the force’s operations.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared that Florida is a law-and-order state, and this multiagency strike force reaffirms our commitment to combat heinous crimes perpetrated by dangerous criminals entering our country because of the Biden Border Crisis,” Nuñez said. “Our administration will use the extent of its authority to fight back against the reckless border policies. This ride-along allowed me to witness firsthand the dedication, courage, and sacrifice of our law enforcement officers in keeping Floridians safe.”

The latest operation led to more than $260,000 in seized assets, 21 felony charges and 18 total arrests. The force also identified 16 undocumented individuals and filed 16 misdemeanor charges as a result of 137 traffic stops.

The asset seizures included 52.8 grams of cocaine, 1,393.5 grams of marijuana, five vehicles and two guns.

“The Operation Safe Highways initiative provides Floridians with the added assurance that through the combined efforts of law enforcement statewide, we are united in preventing criminal activity,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Kerner.

“The Florida Highway Patrol is committed to preventing our roads from being used for human smuggling, human trafficking, and the transportation of illicit drugs and weapons. We are dedicated to enforcing the law and protecting our citizens and visitors, and we will continue to arrest and deter dangerous criminals and their associated activities from entering our communities.”

— Smash-and-grab —

Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Retail Federation are both applauding the legislation that’s heading to the Governor’s desk which enhances penalties for “smash-and-grab” thefts that involve five or more people.

The Republican-sponsored bill (HB 549), similarly introduced as SB 824, targets the kind of theft that’s gotten wide play on social media platforms. It involves an organized group coming into a retail establishment with the intent to sow chaos, smash displays and make off with valuable goods.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Rep. Bob Rommel and Sen. Jay Trumbull in crafting meaningful legislation to combat retail crime in Florida, “ said Scott Shalley, FRF president and CEO. “Nationally, there is a rise in smash-and-grab thefts. By enhancing penalties for retail theft, this legislation protects the livelihood of Florida retailers and reinforces consumer safety with a secure store environment for team members and customers.”

First things first: Don’t steal stuff. But if you do, don’t do it in a group or during a riot.

As it is now, retail theft is classified as a third-degree felony, it must involve lifting property valued at $750 or more or committed five times within a 30-day period involving 10 or more items.

HB 549 creates aggregated theft thresholds, including petite theft of stolen property valued at less than $40, resulting in first-degree felony charges with enhanced penalties for prior convictions and grand theft of the second-degree for property stolen during a riot or state of emergency, according to FRF officials.

The bill also defines harsher charges for criminals utilizing social media to participate in retail theft and for “porch pirates” who steal packages from the doorsteps of Floridians.

“We fought hard to strengthen public safety laws, protect children and solve cold cases this legislative session. I want to thank Speaker Renner, President Passidomo, all of the bill sponsors and every member who voted in favor of these measures to strengthen public safety and help us build a Stronger, Safer Florida,” Moody said in a prepared statement.

— Picture this —

Senators unveiled the official portrait of outgoing Senate President Passidomo during a traditional ceremony bidding farewell to outgoing leaders.

In addition to the official portrait, which will commemorate her time as Senate President, Senators also gifted Passidomo with a safe school canine in honor of her work developing Florida’s statewide Safe School Canine Program.

The gift is largely symbolic. The dog, named Birdie, is a two-year-old yellow lab the Lee County Sheriff’s Office received last month and is currently under training. When Birdie completes her training, she will live with a Lee County Sheriff’s deputy and work alongside that deputy in Lee County Public Schools.

“With assistance from the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Senators purchased a safe school canine, making President Passidomo a Safe School Canine Partner,” said Senate Majority Leader Ben Albritton, who presented the gift to Passidomo alongside Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book.

Celebrity pup Birdie, pictured here with Florida’s Senate President.

The Florida Safe Schools Canine Program was established in the 2023 Legislative Session under Passidomo’s leadership. It designates a person, school or business as a Florida Safe Schools Canine Partner if they pay for or raise funds for a law enforcement agency to purchase, train or care for a firearm detection dog.

The cost to purchase and train a firearm safety canine runs from $8,000 to $15,000.

Passidomo wasn’t the only one to receive parting gifts this Session. The outgoing Senate President presented each Senator with a cookbook entitled “Capitol Cuisine, Favorite Flavors of the Florida Senate.” The cookbook includes a local or family recipe from each Senator as well as personal and family recipes from Passidomo. Passidomo loves cooking and includes tips and tricks along with her own recipes, which have a Floridian and Italian flare.

Passidomo’s husband, John Passidomo, was on hand for the ceremony, including the portrait unveiling. It will hang in the Senate Chamber for 100 years before being retired to the Historic Capitol and, eventually, the state archives.

Steven Davis of Leon Loard Commissioned Portraits created Passidomo’s portrait. He also completed portraits for former Senate Presidents Toni Jennings, Tom Lee, Ken Pruitt, Jeff Atwater, Don Gaetz, Andy Gardiner, Joe Negron, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. In her portrait, Passidomo is wearing a liberty eagle lapel pin given to her by Jennings, which the former Senate President wore in her own portrait.

Also during the portrait ceremony, the Senate retired the portrait of former Senate President John Stansel Taylor Sr., who presided over the 1925 Session and is credited for work incorporating the city of Largo and introducing bills encouraging growth in his native Pinellas County. He left the Senate in 1927 and died in 1936.

— Instagram of the week —

— The week in appointments —

Orange County Supervisor of Elections — DeSantis appointed Gilzean, now Administrator of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, to replace retired Orange County Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles. The appointment notably shifts the office from oversight by a Democrat to a Republican, in one of the handful of counties that Democrats carried in the 2022 gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections, where Republicans dominated statewide. Gilzean is not one of eight candidates already filed to succeed Cowles. That includes Democrats Karen Castor Dentel, Lawanna Renee Gelzer, Dan Helm, Wes Hodge, Ricardo Negron-Almodovar and Michael Scott, Republican Joseph Davis, and no-party candidate Cynthia Harris. Read more on Florida Politics.

— Double trouble —

Sen. Dennis Baxley — President Pro Tempore of the Senate — is now the first Floridian to have served in that position in both chambers.

The Senate on Wednesday honored Baxley for the unique superlative during his farewell address to the chamber.

“It is fitting that we mark Sen. Baxley’s retirement with a permanent commemoration of his historic legislative career,” said Passidomo. “Sen. Baxley has dedicated his entire life, both in elected office, and in his private work as a funeral director, to supporting and uplifting each person. This plaque will serve as a memorial to his service for decades to come.”

Which record gets shattered first: Jerry Rice receiving yards or Dennis Baxley Pro Tempore terms?

Baxley served in the House from 2000 until 2007 and from 2010 to 2016. In 2006, under then-Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio — now Florida’s senior U.S. Senator — Baxley was elected to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore.

He was elected to serve a two-year term in the same position in the Senate under Passidomo in 2022.

The Senate installed a plaque in the Senate Chamber listing his dates of service and terms in leadership. Rubio even sent a video message from Washington to play during the ceremony.

Baxley currently serves Senate District 13 in Lake County and West Orange County.

— Invaluable experience —

Rep. Sam Garrison has been the chair of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee for the two years under House Speaker Renner, a position he coveted.

“He was very gracious in giving me that assignment. I learned a ton just on the nuts and bolts of the budget, but also you know, my role kind of preparing for down the road. To have that experience, which frankly most presiding officers don’t get in their career, it’s invaluable.” Garrison said, referring to 2026-2027 when he will be Speaker of the House.

“I owe Speaker Renner more for that decision, and not just giving me the role. He actually trusted me with real authority to work with Chair (Tom) Leek on that health care budget.”

Sam Garrison picked up some invaluable experience leading the House health care spending panel.

An attorney, Garrison had health care experience having served on several health care panels under former House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

But Chairing the House spending panel, he said, “has really been a gift for me. You know, I’m a lawyer, so I understand policy, I’m comfortable in committee and I understand how a bill becomes a law. … But I didn’t understand the budget.”

It didn’t take him long to understand the amount of money, and the lobbying around the HHS silo.

As the 2024 Session neared an end and House Appropriations Chair Leek and Senate Appropriations Chair Doug Broxson made offers and counteroffers to settle HHS spending, Garrison watched the meeting from afar.

When asked why he didn’t attend the weekend offers he only half-jokingly replied that he didn’t want to face a barrage of lobbyists following the meeting.

— Not-so-mighty wind —

This week, the House cleared a bill after Senate amendments that would remove certain climate policies from state law and ban near shore windmills.

The measure, backed by Renner, is meant to protect utilities in the state from climate policies on the federal level pushed by the Biden administration. Beyond Biden, it also seeks to prevent unintended consequences from climate goals House leadership dubs unrealistic.

It would also delete most references to climate change in state law.

If signed, the bill would ban offshore wind turbines within a mile of the state’s coast or in Intracoastal waterways and state waters. Renner argues that this would protect the state’s tourist-drawing beach views.

Psh … get out of here with that garbage. Stock image via Adobe.

But the bill has faced plenty of criticism, for rolling back environmental protection related to natural gas pipelines and for essentially erasing the term “climate change” from state policy. It’s reminiscent of a policy instituted under former Gov. Rick Scott banning state officials from using the term.

Critics also argue the ban on wind turbines is not necessary, as Florida isn’t a particularly hospitable place for them — it lacks the sustained winds present in other states — and doesn’t have any anyway.

Pushback also arose over concerns the turbine ban could apply to other turbines not covered by the bill, because it bans transmission cables in state waters.

Erin Baker, the faculty director at the Energy Transition Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told the Miami Herald the bill wouldn’t have immediate effects, but as technology advances “there may be a day when offshore wind makes sense in Florida.”

The bill cleared the House on party lines, 81-29, with Democrats opposed.

The approval came after the Senate amended the bill to allow utilities flexibility in measuring solar plant output to avoid review under Florida’s Power Plant Siting Act.

— Beyond college —

It’s not every day in the GOP-dominated legislature that a Democrat gets to celebrate a win. But Sen. Rosalind Osgood got to this week with the passage of her bill (SB 1688) mandating that school districts notify middle school students and their parents or guardians about available career and technical education opportunities.

The bill, which enjoyed a slate of bipartisan co-sponsors, passed unanimously.

“Educational opportunities are the key to unlocking endless possibilities, and legislation like this is the guiding light for students. By making information accessible and fostering an environment where every student can explore diverse career paths, we empower the leaders and innovators of tomorrow,” Osgood said.

Rosalind Osgood celebrated a unanimous victory for her education bill. Image via Colin Hackley.

“I would like to extend a huge thank you to Rep. (Lisa) Dunkley for her unwavering dedication and tireless efforts in championing this cause in the House. I would also like to thank my fellow legislators for their unanimous support on this very important bill.”

In addition to notifying students and families about career and technical education opportunities, the bill also obligates school districts to develop strategies for promoting and informing students about programs.

Sens. Clay Yarborough, Travis Hutson, Corey Simon, Book, Ileana Garcia and Tracie Davis are co-sponsors of Osgood’s bill. Christine Hunschofsky, Felicia Robinson, Patricia Williams, and Marie Paule Woodson signed on to the companion bill sponsored by Dunkley (HB 553).

— Dementia training —

A bill that would establish online training on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for Florida law enforcement and correctional officers will head to the Governor’s desk after being approved unanimously in the Senate this week.

If signed, the bill would require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create the online training program and stipulate that it be developed in collaboration with the Department of Elder Affairs.

This officer looks really happy to be where he’s at and that makes us smile. Stock image via Adobe.

The training would include material aimed at helping officers better understand and interact with individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, and to recognize potential signs of abuse in patients with such cognitive ailments.

The bill also allows the completion of the established training to count toward law enforcement officers and correctional officers’ continuing education requirements.

If signed, the bill would take effect Oct. 1.

The Senate passed the House version of the bill (HB 801), sponsored by Rep. James Buchanan and a bevy of bipartisan co-sponsors. The Senate bill (SB 208) came from Sen. Danny Burgess.

— Dental wins —

The Florida Senate has unanimously approved a bill meant to protect patients and clarify clinical guidelines for dental care services.

The Senate approved on final passage the House version of a bill (HB 855) from Rep. Lawrence McClure that would improve telehealth dental care by strengthening clinical guardrails already in place at dental and orthodontic offices across the state.

Sen. Jim Boyd filed the companion legislation.

“Increasing access to affordable and convenient health care is a top priority, but we must ensure the services are held to a high standard whether they are offered in person or virtually,” Boyd said. “The recent increase in direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatments has led to gaps in oversight of care. Consumers risk irreversible dental harm or injury without direct patient access to a doctor or orthodontist. This legislation holds companies accountable, establishing clinical safeguards through the Board of Dentistry to ensure patients receive reliable and effective dental care.”

OK, now say ‘teledental health’ three times fast. Stock image via Adobe.

Specifically, the bill requires dentists and dental practices to display licenses in each office location where patients are seen and to designate a dentist of record for patients utilizing dental telehealth care.

The dentist of record would be submitted to the Florida Board of Dentistry for each patient, ensuring quality care by holding that dentist responsible for care even if it is rendered by a different dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant.

Consumers also now have increased access to orthodontic care by mail. The bill would require telehealth services for orthodontic appliance companies or the inclusion of disclaimers in advertising recommending an in-person examination before undergoing treatment. The recommendation is meant to reduce the risk of injury from receiving orthodontic appliances without proper fittings or care.

The bill would also increase patient transparency by requiring dentists to share their name, telephone number, emergency contact information, and, upon request, licensure information.

—Sickle cell registry —

Reps. Kelly Skidmore and Fentrice Driskell are celebrating the passage of a bill that would expand the state’s sickle cell registry and establish a treatment and research grant program to better study the disease that affects the African American community.

The bill (HB 7085) would create the Sickle Cell Disease Research and Treatment Grant Program within the Florida Department of Health and would expand the state’s existing sickle cell registry to allow adults with sickle cell disease to opt in to the registry.

The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity within the Department of Health would facilitate grant awards to community-based sickle cell disease treatment and research centers to establish Centers of Excellence for the disease’s treatment.

Those centers would develop a health care workforce trained to address the unique needs of those battling sickle cell disease. It provides $10 million in recurring funds for the grant program, which is included in the budget approved by the House and Senate, which, like the bill, is awaiting approval from Gov. DeSantis.

Kelly Skidmore and Fentrice Driskell got their SCD registry bill across the finish line. Image via Colin Hackley.

According to a 2023 report from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, about 7,000 new cases of sickle cell disease are reported in Florida each year. Additionally, more than 7,300 people with the disease are enrolled in Florida Medicaid on average per year.

“This is a disease that causes chronic pain and requires specialized treatment. By passing and funding this legislation, Florida is acknowledging the critical urgency to provide as many research and treatment options as possible,” said Skidmore, the bill’s prime sponsor. “This landmark legislation and investment in researching, understanding, and treating this disease is an important step toward bolstering the research that will improve the quality of life for people living with this disease in the near future.”

Added Driskell, the bill’s co-sponsor: “Today, we are one step closer to expanding care to the largest population of sickle cell patients nationwide. Enacting this legislation will launch Florida as a world leader in the fight against sickle cell and create what we understand to be the nation’s first sickle cell disease Centers of Excellence. The State of Florida is transforming the care available to patients, giving them hope for a better life with less pain. It has been a pleasure to work with Speaker Renner and Rep. Skidmore to build off the work we started last year. Now, let’s get it across the finish line!”

— Class dismissed —

Bills to give public schoolteachers a 37% starting pay bump got locked out of class this year.

Dubbed the “Save Our Teachers Act,” the proposals (SB 136, HB 13) aimed to increase the base salaries of full-time classroom teachers, including preschool teachers, to $65,000 a year.

The bills by Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman and West Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Tae Edmonds were among the first filed for the Legislative Session this year. They were referred to Committees in October. And they never budged.

Lori Berman and Tae Edmonds say the proposal will be back next year. Stock image via Adobe.

The base salary today, last increased in 2020, is $47,500. Florida ranks 16th in the nation for average teacher starting salaries and 48th among all states for average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association (NEA).

Berman told Florida Politics on Friday that she and Edmonds plan to refile their legislation, which will help to train, retain and attract the best primary education professionals.

“Florida’s teachers are consistently among the bottom half in the nation in salary. As a result, we lose out on talented candidates and we face continual teacher shortages,” she said. “Florida students deserve top-notch teachers, and our teachers deserve to be properly compensated for the life-changing work they do.”

— Cash-out —

Florida lawmakers again shortchanged bills that would bar most brick-and-mortar businesses from refusing paper and coin payments.

Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones and Navarre Republican Rep. Joel Rudman carried the legislation (SB 106, HB 35), which sought to curb a growing trend of no-cash businesses in and outside the state.

The proposal was a priority for Jones, who told Florida Politics that older and less well-to-do Sunshine State residents are being left behind in an increasingly digital world.

Cash isn’t king, after all. Stock image via Adobe.

Lower-income Americans are four times likelier than their higher-income neighbors to make all or almost all of their purchases in cash, according to the Pew Research Center, which found Black consumers were far more reliant on cash than White and Hispanic shoppers.

“At a time when many businesses have transitioned to electronic-only means of payment, we must not forget about those individuals and families who do not have access to those forms of payment,” he said. Everyone, regardless of their financial status or background, should have the ability to participate fully in the economy.”

— Flowers and Daggers —

Bidding farewell to the House, Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams had bouquets to throw to both Republicans and Democrats — Renner and Speaker-Designate Daniel Perez to name a few — but she threw a few daggers, too.

“For the back row, for some of us, it has been a nightmare,” Williams said. “ … The state of Florida was built on the backs of people who look like me.”

The Pompano Beach Representative is the ranking member of two education committees that passed legislation that is arguably going to siphon off more public funding from public schools. Democrats were not even entirely united in opposing universal school choice and changes to distributing funding for capital school expenses will mean hundreds of millions more in public dollars will be going to charter schools annually.

Patricia Williams left her filter at home, not that we’re complaining. Image via Colin Hackley.

These schools are probably not the kind that will benefit the 50 foster children Williams has brought into her home or any of the parents who are working three or four jobs to put food on the table.

The Representative left the assembly with something to chew on.

She recalled coming out of Popeye’s and running into an unnamed occupant of the “front row,” who said, after exchanging the usual pleasantries, “I bet you didn’t know a lot of times white men like chicken!”

She reported her reply and drew exclamations from the background, “Yes, I did because you had my grandmother … cooking for you and your daddy.”

And things got serious too.

She urged those who will continue in the House to become good listeners, especially if they have never been hungry, homeless, or in need of help.

“Some of these things I have personally lived through,” she said. “ … I have been in that life. That’s the district that I serve. And because I have had the opportunity to occupy this space, I hope and I pray that I have done enough to let people know that you still have hope with some of the things that go on in this chamber.”

— Money for nothing —

The Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) is speaking out against inclusion in the proposed state budget of $557,882 to track the use of health care services by immigrants in Florida who are still navigating the immigration system.

The group is calling the allocation an intimidation tactic that deters immigrants from seeking health care.

“Instead of addressing the critical health care needs of our communities, more than a half-million dollars is being used to target a vulnerable population, perpetuate the rhetoric of fear, scarcity in our resources, and confusion among those seeking medical care,” the group wrote in an opposition letter.

“It begs the question, what else could we be using half a million dollars for?”

What could we be using a half mil for … Does that even buy a house anymore?

The funds, if approved in the final budget and if they survive the Governor’s veto pen, would be used to collect data from hospitals and nursing homes including the immigration status of people receiving emergency medical services.

The funding would pay for four positions within the state Agency for Health Care Administration to build a system for the immigration reporting requirements within a sweeping law passed last year in SB 1718, which increased penalties for those helping migrants enter in the state or providing them employment, among other provisions.

“In the face of pressing health care challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent measles outbreak, which is not being taken seriously, the Florida Immigrant Coalition strongly denounces the misuse of taxpayer dollars toward tracking the immigration status of patients,” the group wrote. “This substantial sum could instead be directed toward initiatives that address the root causes of health care inequities and ensure that all residents of Florida have access to the lifesaving care they need.”

— Sayonara HIV —

Lawmakers this week unanimously approved legislation that would expand access to HIV treatments and care.

The bill (HB 159) expands access through Florida’s network of 6,000 retail pharmacies. The Florida Retail Federation celebrated the bill’s passage.

“Our qualified retail pharmacists play a crucial role in addressing illnesses, actively promoting health and wellness and providing essential tools for prevention. HB 159 allows certified Florida pharmacists to better serve our communities and save lives while combating the HIV epidemic,” FRF President and CEO Shalley said.

Pharmacists will do their part to curb the HIV epidemic.

Specifically, the bill allows qualified pharmacists to “screen for HIV exposure and order and dispense HIV infection prevention drugs,” as long as it is a coordinated effort “between the pharmacist and a supervising physician.”

The bill also calls for the development of a “statewide drug therapy protocol for pharmacists to test or screen for HIV exposure and order and dispense HIV infection prevention drugs.”

The decision must consider physician referrals, lab testing, appropriate referrals, counseling, and patient follow-up care.

If signed into law, the new expansion would take effect July 1.

— Zap, zap —

The Florida Municipal Electric Association is praising the passage of a bill that would provide criminal penalties for inflicting intentional damage to critical infrastructure.

The bill (HB 275) includes electrical power generation, transmission or distribution facilities or a substation, switching station or electrical control center. It also applies to chemical or rubber manufacturing or storage facilities; mining facilities; natural gas or compressed gas pipelines; liquid natural gas or propane gas terminals or storage facilities with a capacity of 4,000 gallons or more; any portion of an aboveground oil or gas pipeline; wireless communications facilities; water intake structures; and deep-water ports or railroad switching yards.

The bill would hold any person who “intentionally harmed critical infrastructure” liable for damages “in an amount equal to three times the actual damage.” It would constitute a felony of the second degree.

Don’t. Even. Think. About. It.

Florida Municipal Electric Association Executive Director Amy Zubaly said the legislation was needed because “physical and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure assets” are on the rise nationwide.

“In Florida, there have been no specific criminal penalties in law for these types of intentional physical and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure; however, the Florida Legislature has taken strong action to bolster critical infrastructure security and enable swift and more severe legal actions against criminals,” Zubaly said.

She added: “This is a much-needed step toward protecting Floridians by ensuring that our electric grid, drinking supply, and means of moving residents and visitors throughout the state are not interrupted by intentional acts of destruction.”

— Home on the range —

Lawmakers unanimously cleared a bill that would, among other provisions, provide safe housing for farmworkers.

The measure (SB 1082) would streamline the process for agricultural landowners to construct the housing, a move meant to help the state’s agriculture industry find workers to fill essential jobs.

The bill, which now heads to the Governor for his signature, would reduce construction requirements on agricultural lands. This would allow owners to construct safe, accessible, and affordable housing more quickly to support and grow the state’s agriculture workforce.

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) supported the bill, which was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jay Collins and in the House by Rep. Kaylee Tuck.

Pictured here is FNGLA’s favorite Representative.

“In both urban and rural areas in Florida, the agricultural industry is struggling to fill jobs. Limited access to housing means that even if workers are available, they may not have a place to live,” FNGLA CEO Tal Coley said. “We are grateful to Sen. Collins, Rep. Tuck and Commissioner of Agriculture Simpson for prioritizing legislation that is essential for Florida growers to meet the demand of an increasing population and continue to supply the fresh, wholesome agricultural products that benefit American families.”

Florida’s agriculture industry is responsible for more than 300 commodities in the state and for more than 2 million jobs.

If signed, the law would take effect July 1.

— Capitol Directions —

Term limits — Down arrow — We wish this wasn’t Lauren Book’s last Session, but as Jason Pizzo said, statewide office is surely in her future …

Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — If “seems suspect” isn’t the most dryly funny dis a person in a black robe can throw out, we don’t know what is.

Wilton Simpson — Up arrow — Anyone know a good place to buy a golden shovel and novelty size ribbon-cutting scissors?

Glen Gilzean — Crossways arrow — His talent for failing upward is why they still call it the “theory of gravity.”

Nikki Fried — Up arrow — She got her spring cleaning done early.

Jared Moskowitz — Up arrow — If a Democrat is gonna win back the Governor’s Mansion in ‘26, maybe it’s the one who worked for a Republican?

AHCA — Down arrow — Since when did nothingburgers cost $577K?

DOT — Up arrow — The graphics in the mock-up make the Money for Nothing video look like a Pixar feature, but we’ll look past it if they deliver more lanes on I-4.

Paul Renner — Up arrow — He got his social media ban without forcing the Emperor to admit he has no clothes.

Doug Broxson, Tom Leek — Up arrow — The budget was on the desk on time … again! What else do we need to say?

Lauren Book — Up arrow — She calls the Proclaimers’ bet and raises them another 500 miles.

Dennis Baxley — Up arrow — They didn’t bother leaving any wall space for a future double Pro Tem plaque, and they probably won’t regret it.

Jenn Bradley, Dan Daley — Up arrow — They carried the first substantial workers’ comp reform in years across the finish line and … hold on, let us double-check … it’s actually good?!?!

Jay Collins, Chuck Brannan — Crossways arrow — Look, we all wish Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey could share a scene together again, but it’s not a problem legislation can fix.

Darryl Rouson — Up arrow — He’s proved perseverance pays many times, his Dozier bill is just the latest example.

Tracie Davis — Crossway arrow — We’ve probably trotted this one out before, but “unanimous” obfuscates the fact that there aren’t enough Senate Dems to fill out a basketball roster.

Adam Anderson — Up arrow — Helping children with rare diseases is a virtuous lane to stake, and he’s locked it down.

Peggy Gossett-Seidman, Lindsay Cross — Up arrow — There’s at least one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on: Water is important.

Sam Killebrew — Up arrow — Our four-legged friends could ask for a more purrfect champion.

Chip LaMarca — Up arrow — By royal decree, a 15L bottle of wine, heretofore known as a Nebuchadnezzar, shall henceforth bear the name LaMarca.

Josie Tomkow — Up arrow — A lot of lawmakers talk big about school choice, but actions speak louder than words.

Linda Stewart, Rachel Plakon — Up arrow — Reporting takes a lot of courage. Now, Florida women will have all the time they need to make that call.

Allison Tant, Traci Koster — Up arrow — After four years, all they need is DeSantis to put pen to paper.

Dana Trabulsky — Up arrow — Maybe these lenders will finally learn to PACE themselves … eh? We’ll see ourselves out.

Tina Descovich — Down arrow — It says something when voting to roll back child labor laws is less radioactive than confirming her to a Commission seat.

Mormons — Up arrow — Where’s the nearest Sodalicious? They’ve got some partying to do.

NewsGuard — Up arrow — Look at our rating if you want to see why we’re ride or die for the, dare we say, best media rating outlet in the biz.

Drivers — Up arrow — SunPass will have the best cashback program in the state for another year.

EVs — Down arrow — Quit it with the HCF shtick. We’re not joking around.

K-9 for Warriors — Up arrow — Man’s best friend scored a full scholarship at an elite institution.

Space Florida — Up arrow — Ad Astra is Latin for Add Extra, at least among budget writers.

City of Crystal River — Up arrow — With another round of one-upmanship, City Hall would be up for a Versailles-level makeover.

FIU $$$ — Up arrow — One guess which university landed the biggest PECO project.

Slater Bayliss — Up arrow — It may have taken four years, but that’s just the PACE it takes to shepherd good legislation.

Capital City Consulting — Up arrow — We don’t need a crystal ball to know the firm’s political fundraising operation is about to pop off.

FSU College of Nursing — Up arrow — Sorry, Canes and Gators, Noles nursing is No. 1. And it’s not even close.

TCC — Crossways arrow — It’s finally a State College, just don’t look up “TSC” on Urban Dictionary.

Gene Deckerhoff — Up arrow — If “ALSTOTT UP THE GUT” isn’t part of the induction video, we’ll riot.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 9, 2024 at 9:19 am

    Are marijuana seizures being stockpiled for sale next year? If not, why not? If one feels they must, then use Fentanyl test strips to make sure the weed is legit. Then next year, sell it back to the people it was confiscated from this year.

Comments are closed.


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