Five Stories To Think About Today
* For the first time, the House Civil Justice Committee will consider a slate of more than a dozen claims bills, which could allow people harmed by the state to collect damages. Those include priorities of Senate President Mike Haridopolos — the cases of Eric Brody, who was paralyzed after being hit by a Broward County sheriff’s cruiser, and William Dillon, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years and exonerated by DNA.
* A trial for inmates and volunteers from a Hillsborough Correctional Institution suing the state to block a proposed closure of the Riverview prison will continue Friday morning. Both the House and Senate already have agreed to spare one prison slated for closure, Jefferson Correctional Institution in Monticello.
* Gov. Rick Scott will spend the day in southwest Florida, touring businesses, meeting with Boy Scouts, and ending the work week in his hometown of Naples.
* Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll will speak at Florida A&M University’s Black History Month convocation.
* With the regular session two-thirds of the way complete, budget panels in both the House and Senate are busy working on a side-by-side comparison in the two chambers’ budgets to evaluate major differences. Serious budget negotiations could start as early as late next week.
Three Issues You Missed Yesterday
* Gov. Rick Scott signed three bills into law Thursday, including one that paves the way for Florida to reject federal water pollution rules and set individual standards for each water body. The EPA, however, has the final say.
* About a week after the University of Florida suspended one of its fraternities after what it called a serious physical hazing incident, the university's police department has opened up another investigation into fraternity hazing that may have happened two years ago.
* As legislators defend against a lawsuit accusing them of unconstitutionally drawing redistricting maps for Republican advantage, a House committee on Thursday passed a bill protecting lawmakers and their staff from being forced to testify and turn over documents. Proponents said the timing of the bill had nothing to do with redistricting, but instead was a long-overdue attempt to clarify the law amid recent attempts to subpoena legislators.
Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes
* "So all I'm trying to do with this bill is allow us to get back the investment that we have made--$7,000 times 12 per student in the State of Florida--to make sure we get back the investment so they can become tax payers and tax burdens." -Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando), introducing SB 106 in its first committee stop of four Thursday. The bill would have allowed in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools (or the GED equivalent) along with other requirements, but failed 4-3.