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This week in the state legislature

florida-historic-capitolBy , SaintPetersBlog.com , Tallahassee (April 9,2013) – A look ahead at what the Florida State Legislature is working on this week:


RULES: The Senate Rules Committee has a monster agenda – hoping to fly through 29 bills during its three hour meeting. On the agenda are SB 1382, which trades a ban on “committees of continuous existence for a higher individual campaign contribution limit, and the Senate’s elections bill (SB 600), which would give county supervisors the ability to offer as many as 14 days of early voting and allow more early voting sites, a nod to complaints about the process last year. Also, a smooth, but subtle and slightly earthy bill (SB 658) that would allow distributors to make and sell “wine kegs” or large containers of wine continues to move with brut force through the process and will get a hearing by the committee. The committee also takes up a bill (SB 544) that creates a new exemption to the gift ban, and a measure (SB 904) that would create the Florida Accredited Courses and Tests (FACTs) Initiative to give students more choice about what courses they take in school, making it easier for them to use MOOCs or “massive open online courses,” for example. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

B&I: NO-FAULT REPEAL, GILWAY CONFIRMATION HEARING PART TWO: Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway, who was supported by the Ethics and Elections Committee on April 1, will have a second confirmation hearing, this time before the Banking and Insurance Committee.  Also before the panel is a committee proposal (SB 7152) to consider replacing the state’s decades-old Personal Injury Protection auto insurance system with bodily harm as the minimum coverage.  Lawmakers last year tried to tackle fraud in the no-fault system, but the changes ran up against a Tallahassee circuit court judge, who last month blocked, at least temporarily, part of the law.  The committee also will review a number of bills, from a proposal (SB 144) that gives insurers one year, down from 30 months, to file for a claim against a licensed psychologist for overpayment, to a requirement (SB1498) for insurers to pay for the stabilizing a structure for any confirmed sinkhole loss.  (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

COMMUNITY AFFAIRS: Senate Confirmation for Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Jesse Pannuccio comes before Senate Community Affairs. The committee also takes up the water pollution bill dealing with numeric nutrient criteria (SB 1808), a bill dealing with how premium taxes are used for police retirement systems in certain situations (SB 1246), and preferences in state contracting (SB 684) among other bills. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH POLICY: WORKERS COMP DRUGS UP FOR DEBATE: The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a bill (SB 662) that is part of a long-running fight about the costs of drugs dispensed by doctors to workers-compensation insurance patients. Business and insurance groups have lobbied in recent years to restrict the costs but have run into opposition. Also, the committee will take up a proposal (SB 1384) that could make it harder to seek punitive damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. (Tuesday, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.)

SECURITY ALARMS, UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS IN REGULATED INDUSTRIES: Proposals are before Senate Regulated Industries that would give a contractor 21 days to advise the local law enforcement that a low-voltage alarm system has been installed (SB 1442), and a wide ranging measure (SB 1442) that, among other things, would increase the amount municipalities and counties can impose on unlicensed contractors from $500 to $2,000. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ETHANOL FREE GAS: A proposal by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, (SB 320) to upend the 2008 law that all gasoline sold in Florida include ethanol goes before its final committee stop, Environmental Preservation and Conservation, before reaching the Senate floor. Backers say the bio-fuel causes problems in boats, lawn mowers and old cars. The effort last year died in committee.  The panel also has confirmation hearings for Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioners Ronald Bergeron of Weston, Adrien Rivard of Panama City Beach and Richard Corbett of Tampa, and Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board Commissioner Bryan Beswick of Arcadia.  (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

GOV OVERSIGHT: Total maximum daily loads, a water pollution measurement, are part of legislation (SB 1806) before Senate Governmental Oversight on Tuesday. The panel also takes up several public records exemption bills. (Tuesday, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


SENATE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: 12:30 p.m., 200 Senate Office Building.


TRANS BUDGET: MOVE OVER IF GOING SLOW IN THE LEFT LANE: A wide ranging bill (HB 7215) going before Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee would: require a motorist traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic – when there are two or more lanes flowing in the same direction – to move into the far right when overtaken by a faster driver; create a special license plate for Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield that would not come with the additional administrative charge normally applied to specialty tags; authorize administrative driver license suspension hearings to be held over the phone; and require anyone who used a bad check to get a driver license, identification card, fuel-use decal or vehicle registration to settle the entire debt before being allowed to make another transaction with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle.  Another bill (HB 7127) that lumps together a number of issues sets aside $15 million for Space Florida spaceport projects; allows the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to enter into 99 year leases; and broadens the eligibility for intercity bus companies to compete for federal and state funding.  The committee also is to hear a proposal (HB 71) allowing for the conversion of low-speed vehicles to golf carts.  (Tuesday, 8 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE HHS: DRUG DATABASE, INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES TO BE HEARD: The House Health & Human Services Committee is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 831) that would increase requirements for doctors to consult a database before prescribing controlled substances. Sponsor Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, angrily tabled the measure Thursday after an amendment was approved that he thought weakened the bill. The committee also will consider a bill (HB 1119) that would eliminate the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from state laws. Advocates say those terms should be replaced by “intellectual disability” and “intellectually disabled.” (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, the Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION: A proposed committee bill overhauling the state system for early learning (before kindergarten) shows up in House Education Tuesday morning. Also before the committee is legislation dealing with school emergencies (HB 369), exceptional student education (HB 465), the powers and duties of district school boards (HB 657), and the bill seeking to make changes to governance of high school athletics and rules involving investigations of transfers and cheating (HB 1279). (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

TALLAHASSEE CIVIC CENTER BILL: The House Local and Federal Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning takes up legislation (HB 1285) that would transfer ownership of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center to Florida State University, and make its official name the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. It also directs the state beverage agency to issue a beverage license for the arena. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

REGULATORY AFFAIRS: It’s better late than never for implementation of a 2008 constitutional amendment dealing with hurricane hardening of houses. A bill that does that (HB 277) is one of several in House Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday. The voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting assessments from going up to take into account hurricane wind damage protections added to homes, or renewable energy source devices. The bill defines “changes or improvements made for the purpose of improving a property’s resistance to wind damage” and “renewable energy source device” and implements the amendment. Another bill in the committee (HB 433) seeks to increase accountability at the under-fire Citizens Property Corp. by creating an inspector general for the agency. Another of the many bills before the committee (HB 1067) clarifies the role of the Florida Boxing Commission, with language that includes making clear that the commission has exclusive jurisdiction over amateur mixed martial arts matches and spells our certain procedures for drug testing and promoting. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ECON AFFAIRS: One bill (HB 235) in House Economic Affairs on Tuesday allows the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue driver’s licenses to those immigrants with “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” status, the people who were brought to the U.S. as children and were granted the two-year special status that prevents them from being deported. Federal officials began accepting applications for the new status last month, and the measure allows Florida to accept proof of accepted application when those covered try to get a driver’s license. Another bill in the committee (HB 1005) lets counties create “yellow dot critical” information programs to help emergency medical responders know about medical information of accident victims. Also before the Economic Affairs Committee is the House version (HB 1019) of the bill that seeks to make the state’s loud music statute constitutionally acceptable. The old law was thrown out because it differentiated between different types of sounds. (See Boombox Bill, above). (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE JUDICIARY: Bills dealing with medical malpractice (HB 827), and shady massage establishments that are fronts for sex trafficking (HB 7005) are on the agenda in House Judiciary. Also before the panel are bills dealing with liability for certain design professionals like architects (HB 575), personal ID theft (HB 691), and the Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse, an existing interagency background check system (HB 1021). The committee also takes up HB 1077, which makes it illegal for someone to falsely state he or she represents a veterans’ charitable organization in certain circumstances. It also considers a bill (HB 1173) that establishes a five year statute of limitations on communications fraud, but increases the lowest possible sentence for the crime. (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE ETHICS LEGISLATION IN STATE AFFAIRS: The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday takes up one of its ethics bills (HB 7131), which bans certain officials from getting a cushy state or local job under certain conditions, prohibits the speaker of the House and president of the Senate from lobbying state agencies for two years after leaving office, requires ethics training of elected officials, requires public posting of financial disclosures, and makes other changes. (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


Education Appropriations: 8 a.m., 17 House Office Building.
Justice Appropriations, 8 a.m., 404 House Office Building.


EXPANDING HEALTH CARE COVERAGE: Florida Remedy, a coalition led by the Florida Hospital Association, will hold a press conference to discuss child coverage gaps and the importance of extending health insurance to more than one million low-income, working Floridians. A Naples teen with muscular dystrophy, a Jacksonville mother, and several hospital officials will participate. (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Old Capitol, Front Steps, The Capitol.)


PSC TAKES UP RENEWABLE ENERGY PLANS: The state Public Service Commission will consider proposed contracts that would involve Florida Power & Light purchasing power from renewable-energy plants in Okeechobee, Clay and Martin counties. Subsidiaries of U.S. EcoGen, LLC, would operate biomass-generating plants that would start operating in 2019. (Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.)

Read more about what else is planned in the legislature this week>>>