Five Stories To Think About Today
* Today the Legislature returns for the sixth week of the session. Now that they've passed the midway point, expect the pace of lawmaking to quicken. Subcommittees in both chambers are no longer meeting, and the Senate is readying its budget to match the House's or begin negotiations with the House.
* This afternoon the Senate will again take up prison privatization, SB 2038. The issue is a priority of Senate leadership, but there are a number of Republicans who are opposed, lead by Sens. Mike Fasano and Paula Dockery. The vote appears too close to call, with the Senate sharply divided.
* Also on the Senate calendar Monday are several items related to veterans issues. That includes a bill to create a Combat Infantry Badge license plate and a bill urging Congress to support efforts to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
* The House education committee is taking up the school prayer bill that passed last week in the Senate. The bill, introduced by Sen. Gary Siplin, changed significantly in the Senate -- from allowing schoolchildren to deliver "prayers and benedictions" at noncompulsory assemblies at secondary schools to giving them freedom to deliver "inspirational messages" at any assembly of any school level.
* Finally, ready yourself for the roar of hundreds of motorcycle engines. Today ABATE, or American Bikers Against Totalitarian Enactments, will hold its annual rally in the Capitol courtyard. Each year ABATE lobbies to get $250,000 in the budget for motorcycle safety awareness.
Three Issues You Missed Over The Weekend
* A corrections officer and a Quincy man were charged with several counts of fraud Friday, after a joint IRS/FDLE investigation found the two were working together to get inmates' names and social security numbers to file fraudlent federal income tax returns without their knowledge.
* Nearly every state has signed off on a $25 billion deal with the nation’s largest mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses that occurred after the housing bubble burst. Florida's share is second, at $8.4 billion, only behind California. And as part of the deal, five major banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial — will have three years to reduce loans for nearly 1 million households.
* The Legislature has advanced proposals for several billion dollars in new unfunded tax cuts that, if passed, will come out of the coffers of cities and counties across the state instead of the state budget.
Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes