January 30, 2012

Daily Digest for Monday, 1/30

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Four Stories To Think About Today

 * Expect colorful artwork and the pitter patter of tiny shoes around the Capitol; it's the start of Children's Week hosted by the United Way of Florida.

* Speaking of kids, the Senate's Education Pre-K-12 Committee will discuss legislation that revises zero-tolerance policies so non-series crimes don't result in a student's arrest and another measure that creates a new governing body for private school athletics.

* U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland will hold a press conference on the steps of the Old Capitol to unveil legislation he will file in Washington that addresses the battle between the federal government and the state over water quality standards.

* Although presidential candidates have been praising Attorney General Pam Bondi's efforts to fight foreclosure fraud, a group of community and clergy leaders plan to deliver a statement to her office accusing her of going too soft on big banks who contributed to the crisis.


Three Issues You Missed Over The Weekend

The Florida House Redistricting Committee approved new maps for state House and Senate and Congressional districts Friday, but not without some fireworks.

* Gov. Rick Scott suspended Boynton Beach mayor Jose Rodriguez after Rodriguez was accused of corruption.

* Helped by $10m from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich says gambling is a "worry."


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * Tom Brokaw: to see if he'll push NBC to remove a Mitt Romney-backed ad using footage of him without permission.

January 27, 2012

Daily Digest for Friday, 1/27

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Fresh off the Thursday night presidential debate, lawmakers are slowing down on Day 18 of the session. Here's what we will watch in the House and elsewhere with the Senate out.


Three Stories To Think About Today

* Redistricting: The House Redistricting Committee will take up bills that draw new district maps for the Legislature and Congress.

* Prisons: Several lawmakers are set to tour Hillsborough Correctional Institute, an all-women's facility that faces closure by the state.

* Voting: A U.S. Senate panel has a hearing in Tampa on Florida's new election law, which Democrats say will suppress turnout.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* Gov. Rick Scott's key jobs adviser, Doug Darling, is resigning.

* Students from across the state took to the Capitol to protest tuition hikes and other issues.

* Rep. David Rivera introduced a military-only version of the DREAM Act, called ARMS.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* 38 House members who would be fighting each other for seats if the redistricting maps are passed tomorrow. Some of the districts' cities possibly up for grabs include Jacksonville, Lakeland, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Miami and Miami Beach, Hialeah, Hollywood and Sarasota.

January 26, 2012

Daily Digest for Thursday, 1/26

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With an eye toward Thursday night's presidential debate, here's what we're watching on Day 17 of the legislative session.

Five Stories To Think About Today

 * Santorum: Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is scheduled to attend the Florida Leadership Prayer Breakfast, where Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon are expected.

* Senators are slated to take up a bill limiting use of phones and texting while driving.

* A Senate panel also looks at a bill to reduce hurricane assessments on homeowners' policies.

* Students and higher education advocates will "Rally in Tally" on tuition and other issues.

* Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has a news conference to demonstrate self-driving cars and promote his bill allowing their testing.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* Animal rights activists who take secret pictures or videos to expose cruelty on farms will still legally be able to do so after lawmakers slashed “Ag-Gag” proposals in the House and Senate this week.

* In Miami, Mitt Romney slams Newt Gingrich on Spanish-language radio: 'I don't think Reagan would have agreed with Gingrich'

* With state House members hoping to move up to the state Senate and Senate Republicans hoping to retain a solid majority, there are many conflicting agendas emerging behind the Senate redistricting map.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * "Since you're presenting--you're presenting here, what if I started asking you questions about your sex life? About-" -Rep. Mack Bernard

"OK, I think, I think we're gonna go to Rep. Soto. Rep. Soto, you're recognized." -Chairman Eric Eisnaugle

"That's a real life line, chairman, that's a real life line right there. Chairman, I've been married 18 years and I'm asking, 'What sex life?'" -Mark Delegal

--An awkwardly funny exchange Wednesday during public debate at the House Civil Justice Subcommittee's hearing on PIP reform legislation.

January 25, 2012

Daily Digest for Wednesday, 1/25

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Five Stories To Think About Today

* School spending: House members go to work on the K-12 budget with Gov. Rick Scott, seeking $1 billion more for next year.

* Prisons: Senators on the Budget Committee are scheduled to take a bill calling for prisons to be privatized.

* PIP: Gov. Rick Scott and CFO Jeff Atwater are scheduled to push for changes to the insurance law on personal injury protection.

* Judges: Senators discuss giving Rick Scott more power to decide who serves on commissions nominating judges for appointment.

* Amendment: Senate members are due to discuss whether to rescind a ballot measure for later this year to reduce limits on non-homestead property.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* A packed room watched Tuesday as a House panel passed three antiabortion measures.

* From Solyndra to cash for clunkers to Obama's slogans, Romney pre-buts SOTU.

* House budget proposal rejects Scott's plan to slash health spending.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* Pollsters: As the state GOP primary draws near, and with the debates in state this week, keep an eye out for more and more polls to show the every nuance of ratings in Florida.

January 24, 2012

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 1/24

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The House and Senate are both at work on Day 15 of the Legislature in session, and Florida had its first Primary debate last night.


Five Stories To Think About Today

 * Abortion: A House panel is scheduled to take up bills restricting abortions in the third trimester, always a hot ideological topic.

* The Parent Empowerment Act, a.k.a. Florida's parent trigger law, has its first of two hearings by Senators and House members. The bill would allow parents at low-performing public schools to petition the school district for sweeping reforms, or even have the school converted into a charter.

* Prison Privatization: House Justice Appropriations Committee members take on their version of bills calling for prisons to be run by for-profit companies.

* School sports head injuries: Senators will consider a bill requiring more information be given to parents about risks of head injuries and mandating athletes be removed from play until they can be examined.

* Press Skits: Here's a shameless plug for the annual show by the press corps skewering the people we cover -- and vice versa (www.capitolskits.com). It's 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Moon in Tallahassee, and serves as a scholarship fundraiser.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

 * Mitt Romney got mean Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times/National Journal/NBC debate, lashing out at Newt Gingrich.

* Several state and private employees converged on the Senate Rules Committee to protest against two bills aimed at privatizing South Florida prisons. The bills passed.

* Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, announced his plans to run for Congress in a new congressional seat that has opened up in redistricting maps.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * "You have two victims. You've got corporations wanting to make money off two victims. That's like selling bandaids at a prizefight, or stretchers at a plane crash. It's not right." -Tim Marsett, former Florida Department of Corrections employee, during public debate Monday afternoon on prison privatization bills SB 2038 and SB 2036.

January 23, 2012

Daily Digest for Monday, 1/23

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Senators will be hard at work, but House panels have no scheduled meetings for today, the 14th day of the Legislative Session in Florida.


Five Stories To Think About Today

* School Rankings: Gov. Rick Scott is scheduled to release rankings of Florida's 67 school districts based on test scores.

* Privatization: The Senate's Rules Committee takes up bills ordering the state prison system to hire a for-profit company to run prisons, and doing away with reviews to justify privatization. Those reviews would not be required until after a contractor is hired. The bills have stirred controversy because of new layers of secrecy they'd add.

* Public Meetings: Senators in the Rules Comittee will also debate a bill requiring local governments to give people a "reasonable opportunity" to speak during meetings. The measure came after courts ruled that refusing to allow public comment is not violating the Sunshine Law.

* Lawmakers and college payrolls: An ethics bill banning lawmakers from working for colleges and universities is slated to be heard in the Senate's Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections.

* Primary election: A bill moving the date of the primary election from Aug. 14 to Aug. 21 will be debated. Some elections supervisors, including Hillsborough County's, don't like the change.


Three Issues You Missed Over The Weekend

* According to an obscure Florida law, state-funded stadiums should be sheltering the homeless on off-nights. Bills have been filed to now enforce this law.

* Citizens Insurance reversed its stance on valuing homes using just one piece of computer software. CEO Richard Wallace mentioned three other methods Friday that the insurer will be using in the future.

* Newt Gingrich swept South Carolina on Saturday night. All eyes are turned to Florida now as the seemingly "final straw" win for Romney has turned into a dogfight in the Sunshine State.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. After the GOP primary upset in S.C., neither says he will endorse a candidate until Florida's primary has been decided. So keep an eye out to see what happens with them as our vote draws near.

January 20, 2012

Daily Digest for Friday, 1/20

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After a whirlwind of a week, members of the Florida Senate return home to their districts on Friday while the House gets to work on the nitty gritty of mapmaking. But aside from that, there's not a whole lot going on in Tallahassee today.


Two Stories To Think About Today

* Redistricting -- The House Redistricting Committee schedules a marathon 7-hour meeting to workshop its three proposals for redrawing state House seats and its three proposals for congressional seats.

* Medicaid -- The Long-term Care Managed Care Technical Advisory Workgroup conducts a hearing on moving elder care into managed-care plans as part of the state's Medicaid reform. 


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* A Senate panel backed Internet cafes in an 8-1 vote, dealing a blow to Sen. Thrasher's gambling argument.

* A bill to stop credit checks as a part of the employment process for those not in the finance industry passed the Commerce and Tourism Committee on Thursday morning.

* Rep. Fresen divulged a set of amendments about the House version of a controversial gambling bill, although the amendments themselves differ quite a bit from the ones passed last week in the Senate version of the bill.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* "And I have enough respect for our citizens to not think that they become lobotomized zombies the minute they walk into an Internet Cafe." -Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla on the regulation of internet cafes (CS/SB 380) at the Senate Regulated Industries Committee meeting Thursday.

January 19, 2012

Daily Digest for Thursday, 1/19

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It was a busy and tense day for announcements Wednesday, but Florida lawmakers have an even more jam-packed day Thursday with more than 20 committee meetings scheduled as Gov. Rick Scott meets with retailers and tourism officials.


Five Stories To Think About Today

* Tourists -- President Obama travels to Walt Disney World in Orlando and will announce an agreement to allow visa waivers for visitors from Brazil to Florida.

* Insurance -- The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee takes up a number of bills dealing with workers compensation and Citizen's Property Insurance.

* Nature -- The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee hears a bill that will allow companies to buy the naming rights to the state's greenways and trails.

* Gambling -- The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will decide on the fate of two conflicting bills -- one would ban so-called internet cafes that operate slot machine look-alikes, the other would regulate them.

* ALFs -- The Senate Children and Families Committee takes up a bill to increase regulation on assisted living facilities.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

 * Senate President Mike Haridopolos endorsed frontrunner Mitt Romney for the Republican Presidential Primary on Wednesday, citing negative attacks against the candidate.

* Ash Williams was unanimously reaffirmed as state pension chief at a Cabinet meeting. Williams also spoke to the press about his ordeal with Sen. Mike Fasano afterward.

* Another position upheld: Ken Detzner was named Kurt Browning's successor as Secretary of State in a press conference by Gov. Rick Scott.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

 * "[...] The State of Florida got two free helicopters because Georgia didn't get this process right. So we got these black-and-red-painted Hueys that are now going to be orange and blue flying over." -Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, while responding to the Law Enforcement Consolidation Taskforce presentation Wednesday morning at the Cabinet meeting.

January 18, 2012

Daily Digest for Wednesday, 1/18

Daily Digest for 1/18

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Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have their first meeting of the New Year Wednesday as the House plans a busy day of meetings. Meanwhile, the Senate gets a rare mid-week break after lawmakers in that chamber finished up their redistricting debate a day early.


Five Stories To Think About Today

* Ash Williams -- The head of the State Board of Administration comes before the Governor and Cabinet for his annual review as the head of the state's investment portfolio.

* Universities -- The House Education Committee holds two meetings Wednesday to hear from six university presidents about proposals to revamp higher education and bring more emphasis to science and technology degrees.

* Public Hospitals -- A bill before the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee would open the door to the sale of public hospitals to private companies.

* Prisons -- The Senate Rules Committee holds the only Senate meeting scheduled for the day and will take up the controversial plan to privatize 18 Florida prisons in South Florida. A previous attempt was thrown out by a circuit court judge last year and this time legislators are attempting to resurrect the idea.

* Water -- The House Select Committee on Water Policy continues the debate on the future of water in Florida as it takes up a broad proposal to allow for developers to access alternative water supplies.


Three Issues You Missed Yesterday

* The Senate wins a bi-partisan vote for its redistricting map despite criticism. The maps passed 34-6 Tuesday afternoon, one day ahead of schedule.

* An all-star panel discussed Everglades restoration. Among the group were Gov. Rick Scott, NBC's Chuck Todd, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, artist Guy Harvey, former golf pro Jack Nicklaus, and former Sen. Bob Graham, who spoke earlier in the day about the Everglades.

* Barney Bishop, the former president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida is one of five partners of a newly formed lobbying firm called Adams St. Advocates.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* "And this is not what we need to be remembered for: as the largest dog racing state in the country." -Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach), at a press conference Tuesday about a pair of bills to end dog racing mandates in Florida.

January 17, 2012

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 1/17


Daily digest for 1/17

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Welcome back from the three-day weekend, everyone. Here's your first Daily Digest from the second week of Session.

Five Stories To Think About Today

* Redistricting -- The Senate will take up its proposed redistricting maps for the state Senate and Congress in the first of three days of scheduled floor debates. No amendments have been filed and lawmakers are expected to vote the measures out and send them to the House on Wednesday.

* Water Supply -- The Florida Everglades Foundation hosts its first Water Supply Summit, featuring panel discussions with Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Everglades Foundation Chairman Paul Tudor Jones. Addressing the legislature's Everglades Caucus as part of the two-day long summit will be former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

* Internet Cafes -- The House Business and Consumer Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on a bill aimed at closing the so-called Internet Cafes, which rely on a loophole in the state's sweepstakes law to operate internet-based slot machines.

* Insurance -- The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee will take up a series of bills related to the state's property insurance market, including proposals to limit the exposure of Citizens Property Insurance.

* Nursing Homes -- The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a bill that sponsors say reduces duplicative nursing home regulations but opponents say weakens the state's oversight of nursing homes.


Three Issues You Missed Friday

* Bad news for school construction. Because of a decrease in revenue, it looks like there won't be any new money for school maintenance or construction for the next few years.

* Eight days before Florida polls open, 107,779 Florida Republicans have already cast ballots. And this number is of Friday--as of 1:11 p.m. Monday, according to the same source, 121,027 ballots have been cast. For comparison, there were 122,000 ballots cast in the Iowa Caucus.

* And back to education: a bill to allow school bus advertising is making its rounds in House committees. The next vote for the Senate version is scheduled for Thursday. Video.


Who To Watch Today/Quotable Quotes

* The Everglades Caucus. From having former Senator Bob Graham speak in the morning to a major discussion of Florida water supply in the afternoon, it's shaping up to be a busy day for the coalition.