February 13, 2012

Daily Digest for Monday, 2/13

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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.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Monday, 2/13" »

February 10, 2012

Daily Digest for Friday, 2/10

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It’s a light day at the Capitol: Neither the House nor the Senate are in session, and there are no scheduled committee meetings.


Three Stories To Think About Today

* The State of Black Florida 2012 conference wraps up with a unity rally, a voting rights workshop and a town hall meeting during the day. In the evening, the legislative black caucus hosts its annual gala at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee.

* First lady Michelle Obama will be in Orlando to talk about how families can implement healthy changes in their daily lives. She will also meet and have dinner with an Orlando-area family who have made changes to become healthier.

* The Revenue Estimating Conference meets at 9 a.m. to discuss the fiscal impact of several tax issues, including the communications services tax, unemployment compensation tax and online hotel websites.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

 * Florida homeowners will receive an estimated $8.4 billion in relief in a mortgage servicing settlement in the form of principal reductions, mortgage refinancings, loan modifications and cash payments for those who lost their homes.

* The Florida Senate gave final approval to the state's political maps for the next decade and sent them to the attorney general and Governor for review. Soon after, a coalition of voter groups announced its intent to file a lawsuit and and the Florida Democratic Party filed another lawsuit challenging the congressional map as unconstitutional.

* The state will help pay for a $45 million upgrade to the petroleum facilities at the Port of Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * "Well I don't know what you do to your stepchildren, and I hope they're not redheaded, but I'll tell you why we still treat them after 12 years. Because after 12 years, we're still waiting for them to be treated exactly the same as public schools." -Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando), in response to an earlier comment calling charter schools the "stepchild" of the public school system during floor debate Wednesday on HB5001 R2A10.

* "This budget looks at only one side of the equation, folks. It's a half-budget. It's halfway, half-witted and half-hearted. And one more half-word that I can't say on the floor of the House." -Rep. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) speaking Thursday on collecting tax revenues during floor debate on HB5001.

February 09, 2012

Daily Digest for Thursday, 2/9

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Groups are out of place all over the state today. The Florida Cabinet will meet at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa and members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will be in town today to lobby South Florida lawmakers on local business issues.


Five Stories To Think About Today

 * It’s Statewide Black Business Day. The State of Black Florida 2012 program continues Thursday with business owners in Tallahassee for a discussion of economic issues in the black community, featuring Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll at 9.a.m. Also, the Black Caucus will host a workshop on voter suppression and redistricting.

* The Senate is in session from 3:30 to 6 p.m., and is slated to vote on legislative redistricting maps. The vote is the final step before the congressional proposal goes to the Governor for approval and the maps go to the attorney general and then Florida Supreme Court. The House is in also in session today.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Thursday, 2/9" »

February 08, 2012

Daily Digest for Wednesday, 2/8

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Five Stories To Think About Today

 * Catholics Days continues at the Capitol, culminating with a Red Mass of the Holy Spirit program at 6 p.m. Note: It’s also Caribbean Heritage Day.

* The House and the Senate will spend about an hour hosting a reunion for former members during their floor sessions Wednesday.

* The House Economic Affairs Committee will hear several housing-related bills during its 8 a.m. meeting. Bills to cut property taxes for military widows and seniors are up for vote, along with HB 213, which would reform Florida’s troubled foreclosure system.

* The State of Black Florida 2012 conference kicks off Wednesday, with several events billed: At 6 p.m., Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree will give remarks on the topic “Does Race Still Matter in the Age of Obama?” and the Black Caucus will host a reception at 7:30 p.m. at the offices of the Pittman Law Group.

* The House will likely take up a bill that would allow for ads on public school buses during its floor session, which is scheduled to run from 10:45 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

 * A proposal to move the office that represents consumers before state power utility regulators got mixed reviews, as some say it will make the job more political and others suggest it will insulate it from politics.

* It has become routine to see a politician turning to Facebook or Twitter to connect with voters without a media filter. Gov. Rick Scott--well, his staff--asked Facebook users for one word to describe the Florida legislature. He got more than 150 in the first hour.

* New signs of discord emerged Tuesday in what began as a routine review of the $8-billion-plus budget proposal in the Senate Tourism & Economic Development Subcommittee. The anger and frustration is generally aimed at leadership, but yesterday's particular target happened to be Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Wellington) who chairs the 15-member panel, probably because senators are being forced to play catch-up on their budget.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * Mike Long, Florida Student Association chairman and the only student member of the Board of Governors. Rep. Matt Gaetz's bill would change the latter position to be appointed by a governor, rather than filling it with the de facto FSA chair, which doesn't sit well with some students. That argument, that Gaetz's alma mater, FSU, isn't a member of FSA and shouldn't have to pay to be, is only part of the problem. Either way, the bill advanced through the House Education committee.

February 07, 2012

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 2/7

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Several budget subcommittees in the Senate are meeting today to hash out the state’s budget.


Five Stories To Think About Today

 * It’s Florida State University Day at the Capitol. Lawmakers, students and alumni will show their Seminole pride at several FSU Day events.

* Dr. Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, will be in Tallahassee to talk to the House Education Committee. He will join the presidents of Broward College, Daytona State College, Indian River State College, St. Johns River State College and St. Petersburg College.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Tuesday, 2/7" »

February 06, 2012

Daily Digest for Monday, 2/6

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Five Stories To Think About Today 

* Vice President Joe Biden will visit Florida State University to talk about college affordability at 11 a.m.

* A controversial charter school bill comes before the Senate Education Committee at 3 p.m. If the bill passes, school districts would have to share their construction and maintenance dollars with charter schools, which currently don't have the power to levy property taxes for capital projects. School districts and the teachers' unions arefighting the proposal.

* A bill offering a major restructuring of the Department of Health gets its first hearing in the House’s Subcommittee on Health & Human Services Quality at 2:15 p.m. The bill reduces the number of divisions within the agency, and moves the Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program to the Department of Education.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Monday, 2/6" »

February 03, 2012

Daily Digest for Friday, 2/3

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Four Stories To Think About Today

* The proposal to bring three resort casinos to South Florida gets its first – and possibly only – House hearing in the Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee. The House is more conservative than the Senate, where the measure has passed one committee but still faces sharp criticism.

* The House's Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee will discuss a proposal that awards college credit in exchange for military experience and another on the so-called "Parent Empowerment Act" that would allow parents to direct reforms at failing schools.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Friday, 2/3" »

February 02, 2012

Daily Digest for Thursday, 2/2

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Five Stories To Think About Today

* The House will take up reapportionment again today, setting up a likely vote on Friday. Although 10 hours have been blocked off the schedule for debate on the floor, representatives probably won't need all that time to discuss the House, Senate and Congressional maps.

* The issue of taxing goods that Floridians purchase via the Internet is coming up in the Senate. Two committees are scheduled to vote for the first time on different proposals that would require out-of-state, online-only retailers to collect and remit sales taxes.

* The Senate's plan to reform the state's no-fault auto insurance program is also scheduled for its first committee vote. So far, the House's much different approach to reforming personal injury protection, or PIP, is getting all the attention so expect a packed house at the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting.

* Many of the Senate's budget subcommittees will meet again today as they continue shaping their funding priorities. These panels still await budget allocation numbers from Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who has promised them by the end of the week.

*Florida College System presidents representing the state's 28 community colleges will jointly appear before the House Education Committee. The same committee has already met with the State University System presidents to discuss higher education programming, funding and how to maximize resources.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* Sen. Mike Fasano was removed as chairman of budget committee for opposing the leadership's prison plan.

State Sen. Jim Norman's chief of staff was accused of not filing tax returns for five years.

House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera got blasted with phone calls yesterday by people asking for a caucus on medical marijuana.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, and Ron Saunders (D-Key West), House Minority Leader. Will they put aside their differences to finish up redistricting during today's 10-hour session?

February 01, 2012

Daily Digest for Wednesday, 2/1

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Five Stories To Think About Today

 * A Buddhist prayer in a kindergarten class, a Jewish invocation at a high school graduation and everything in between would be allowable if the Senate approves a proposal to allow student-led inspirational messages at pubilc schools. The matter is expected to be voted on today, but even if the Senate approves the legislation it has yet to be heard in the House.

* The Senate will also continue its discussion on prison privatization. Though leaders are in favor of the proposal, support among the rank-and-file is shaky and divided. Today, members will discuss an amendment filed by Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) that would effectively kill the proposal.

* On the House side, the Appropriations Committee will discuss a $69.2 billion budget proposal in anticipation of a full House vote next week.

* The Senate is moving slower and hasn't proposed any appropriations numbers yet. However, its Budget Committee and all but one appropriations subcommittee are scheduled to take up various parts of the budget today.

* Hungry yet? The infamous Miami-Dade County Paella Fest comes to the Capitol courtyard at lunchtime. Gov. Rick Scott and members of his Cabinet have been invited to serve some of the 3,000 guests expected to dine on the super-sized dish.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

 * Voters in the rural counties of Gadsden and Washington became the first in the state to agree to install slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward.

* Senate President Mike Haridopolos stopped debate on a contentious prison privatization bill Tuesday and acknowledged he's not sure it can pass.

* A House education subcommittee debated a bill that would impose new regulations on the Florida High School Athletic Association and allow more children in private schools to participate in sports at public schools.

* Bonus: You may or may not have heard last night that Mitt Romney claimed Florida


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* "Sen. Siplin: Sen. Braynon and I, as proud Seminoles, we wanted to know does this bill allow Tebowing in public schools?" -Sen. Chris Smith, joking with Sen. Gary Siplin during debate on the Senate floor on Siplin's bill about prayer in schools, CS/SB 98. Siplin responded with "Absolutely."

January 31, 2012

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 1/31

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There is a full day of committee meetings at the Capitol, but the big news is what will be happening around the state.


Five Stories To Think About Today

* It’s the GOP's presidential primary day. The latest polls show Mitt Romney pulling ahead of Newt Gingrich with nearly 600,000 voting early or absentee, but it ain’t over until polls close at 7 p.m.

* In Gadsden and Washington counties, voters will also decide whether to allow slot machines at racing facilities. Other counties have scheduled similar referendums for later this year, so the results -- and ensuing court battles -- will be closely watched.

* A controversial proposal to privatize 30 prison facilities will be discussed on the Senate floor this afternoon, setting up a likely vote on Wednesday. Opponents will be out in full force and have scheduled a press conference outside Senate chambers right before the session begins.

* The full Senate also is expected to discuss a measure that would allow prayer and other types of inspiration messages during public school events.

* On the House side, two abortion bills get another hearing: one that bans procedures after 20 weeks and another that prohibits a provider from performing a procedure based on a child's sex or race.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* Gov. Rick Scott ordered an investigation into the weekend's fatal I-75 crashes near Gainesville.

* More and more voters want the decision of whether to allow Vegas-style casinos in state left up to them, according to a new poll.

* Both Republicans and Democrats alike said they were opposed to banning soda, cakes, and candy bars under the food stamp program, and that government should not be telling people what types of food they can eat.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* "It's my understanding that teenagers use fake IDs for things other than voting, as I seem to remember. Not that I ever used them, but I've read a lot of books. And as I was looking at your driver's license, Senator, when you were flashing it, I was going to ask you why it was that Steve Bousquet's picture was on it. But then when you said that it had to do with points on your license and infractions and violations, then I understood, so my question was answered." -Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) at the Senate Rules Committee meeting Monday, joking about an amendment to CS/SB 159 that narrowly failed 6-6.