Capitol Preview: What to expect this week in Florida politics

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Another week of committee meetings in the House and Senate starts on Tuesday after the holiday weekend, with the Senate’s ethics bill making its debut. The ethics changes are a major priority for both chambers’ leaders, and there’s talk that the ethics bill could be among the first to pass in the Legislature this year.

Senate committees are also studying gaming and the federal health care law on Tuesday, and getting an update on oil spill claims.

Mid-week a committee discusses safety on college campuses, and there will be discussion of digital learning, a top priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Everglades restoration is also a theme this week, with a couple of different committees hearing updates on the progress to restore the system.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY: State government offices are closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.



GAMBLING INDUSTRY LAYS DOWN ITS CARDS: The Senate Gaming Committee on Tuesday will hear from representatives of the gambling industry and its impact on Florida’s economy. The panel will also take public testimony, so opponents of the industry may be heard from as well. Legislative leaders have said lawmakers aren’t likely this year to pass any major gaming legislation, but intend to study it for a year. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

OBAMACARE: The special Senate committee set up to look at the ramifications of the new health care law holds another meeting on Tuesday. The panel hears a presentation on “lessons from Massachusetts,” and information from the Office of Insurance Regulation. (Tuesday, 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

BP OIL SPILL CLAIMS: The Senate Agriculture Committee gets an update on the current status of BP oil spill claims from claims administrator Patrick Juneau. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

ETHICS BILL UP IN SENATE ETHICS AND ELECTIONS: A committee bill (SPB 7006) aimed at toughening ethics rules for lawmakers gets its first hearing before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. The measure is a priority for Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. The bill would make financial disclosures available online, give the Commission on Ethics more authority to collect fines, require state officers to abstain from voting if they’d benefit financially, and puts greater restrictions on going through the lawmaking- lobbying revolving door. The panel also plans to discuss what should go into a separate bill addressing elections – trying to figure out how to ease long lines seen on Election Day. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE COMMERCE AND TOURISM: Senate Commerce and Tourism takes up a bill (SB 122) that adds sales tax exemptions for certain add-on charges imposed by stadiums, halls or exhibition centers and arenas. It also hears a bill (SB 222) that makes changes to the appeals process and the eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation (now called re-employment compensation.) The measure also puts limits on assessments to employers related to paying back the federal government for money borrowed to prop up the state’s unemployment system. Another measure before the panel (SB 224) tries to integrate several economic development efforts. The committee also hears a presentation from Gray Swoope, president of Enterprise Florida, Inc., on the amount of economic development incentives, the recipients of incentives, and what the state receives in return. (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

LIP READY FOR MORE TALK: The Low Income Pool Council will discuss the so-called “LIP” program, which funnels about $1 billion a year to hospitals and other health providers that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.)



SCOTT, BENNETT AND ONLINE LEARNING IN SENATE ED: Members of the Senate Education Committee are set to welcome Gov. Rick Scott, introduce Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and hear a presentation on the State University System’s study of a potential online university. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

SEX TRAFFICKING, MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES DISCUSSED: The Senate Children and Families Committee hears from Attorney General Pam Bondi about state efforts to combat sex trafficking. Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins and Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters also address that issue. The panel also hears a presentation on the status of state mental health services. (Wednesday 8:30 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

EDUCATION APPROPS LOOKS AT HIGHER ED SAFETY: The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee moves from last week’s examination of safety and security at public schools to look at similar issues at colleges and universities. Lawmakers are also slated to begin their budget review of the State University System. (Wednesday, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

DOR LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: The Department of Revenue talks about issues it would like to see addressed by the Legislature in the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. (Wednesday, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CITIZENS PROPERTY DISCUSSION: The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee continues its discussion of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the results of last year’s personal injury protection law changes. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

CITIES AND COUNTIES PRIORITIES: The Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties discuss their legislative priorities in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The panel also hears a bill (SB 84) that sets out legislative findings and intent related to the construction or improvement of private facilities used primarily for a public purpose. The committee also discusses the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

HEALTH POLICY: Senate Health Policy gets an update on the implementation of statewide managed care in the Medicaid system from an AHCA official. The committee also hears about the prescription drug monitoring program at the Department of Health. The panel also takes up a bill (SB 56) defining the term “sudden unexpected infant death,” and revising provisions relating to training requirements for infant death for first responders, among other things. The panel also works on a committee bill (SPB 7004) dealing with an organ and tissue donation registry. (Wednesday, 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


Senate Transportation Appropriations: 11 a .m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Senate General Government Appropriations, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.
Senate HHS Appropriations, 1:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.
Senate Military Affairs, 4 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.


OPEN PARTIES, FUNERAL PROTESTS; The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee takes up a bill (HB 5) to expand the prohibitions on open house parties to include any venue including vacant lots. The panel also takes up HB 15, which sets up a perimeter surrounding funeral observations within which protests are prohibited. (Wednesday, 8:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PLUGGING IN YOUR CHEVY VOLT “WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR THE GRID?: The House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee hears a presentation from the Public Service Commission on a study of the possible effects of the charging of electric vehicles on the electric grid and energy consumption. The study was required by state law. An evaluation of Florida’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act will also be discussed. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE EDUCATION APPROPS TAKES UP FUNDING METHODS: The House Education Appropriations Subcommittee hears about funding formulas and programs for early learning, the Florida College System and the State University System. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

BASE REALIGNMENT AND DEFENSE CUTS: The House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee talks about what the impact would be of defense cuts if a final deal isn’t eventually reached on fiscal cliff issues. The panel also hears an explanation of the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process and the legislative goals of the Florida Defense Support Task Force. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DIGITAL LEARNING: The House Education Committee’s Choice and Innovation Subcommittee hears presentations on digital learning. (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

DIAGNOSIS RELATED GROUPS: Are we paying for a pancreas transplant (Code 10), a toe amputation for a circulatory problem (Codes 255-257), or just a fever (Code 863) today? The Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee in the House on Wednesday hears a presentation from the Agency for Health Care Administration on Diagnosis-Related Groups, or DRGs, the idea of standardizing costs for various health care procedures for patients in Medicaid. AHCA was required by lawmakers to come up with a plan for using DRGs to determine medical care costs. (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

HOUSE ETHICS HEARS FROM PUBLIC ON IDEAS: The House Ethics and Elections Committee hears from members of the public on proposals for ethics and elections changes. Both the House and Senate are planning to consider broad changes in ethics requirements, including a statutory ban on lawmakers’ voting when it would profit the member, and elections changes aimed at avoiding some of the difficulties voters faced this past year. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM SUBCOMMITTEE: House Economic Development is expected to get a briefing from the Department of Economic Opportunity that includes a review of the settlement with oil company BP over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 12 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

PROPERTY INSURANCE: The House Insurance and Banking Committee hears presentations and discusses property insurance rate filings. (Wednesday, 3 p.m. 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

EDUCATING THE WORKFORCE: The House Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee will hear a presentation on workforce education. (Wednesday, 3 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

House Transportation Appropriations 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building.
House Government Operations Appropriations, 12:30 p.m., 17 House Office Building.
House Justice Appropriations, 3 p.m., 17 House Office Building.

CABINET CONSIDERS 30 YEAR EXTENSION OF SUGAR LEASES: The governor and Cabinet are being asked to extend leases to a pair of sugar growers for another 30 years under a pair of proposals before the panel. The proposals are being opposed by Florida Audubon Society, which told Cabinet aides last week that the state should not sign over control of the parcels to Florida Crystals and Duda & Sons. The South Florida Water Management District supports the lease extensions, saying the leases will enable the state to acquire critical acreage needed to improve water quality standards. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Cabinet Room, The Capitol.)

FLORIDA HOUSING CORP. ASKS FOR $525 MIL: The governor and Cabinet are slated to vote on a recommendation to seek $525 million in bonds for affordable housing projects around the state. The State Board of Administration is requesting the funds for the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Cabinet Room, The Capitol.)

FLORIDA CAT FUND REQUESTS $2 BIL. FOR 2013 SEASON: The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is requesting authorization to purchase $2 billion worth of hurricane coverage going into the 2013 hurricane season. Called “pre-event financing” the purchase provides the CAT fund with assurance it can pay claims quickly in the event of a storm. The financing comes in addition to the ability of the CAT fund to finance bonds after a storm hits. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Cabinet Room, The Capitol.)

ARMSTRONG AT SURGICAL FORUM: State Surgeon General John Armstrong will take part in a surgical-care forum that will focus on quality-improvement efforts that help reduce costs and improve patient results. The American College of Surgeons Surgical Health Care Quality Forum also will include representatives of groups such as the Florida Medical Association and Florida Hospital Association. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., Rollins College, Crummer Hall, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park.)

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AT ISSUE: The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a meeting to discuss ways to improve behavioral-health services to Medicaid beneficiaries who are in managed-care plans. (Wednesday, 12 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.)


TRANSPARENCY FLORIDA: The Senate Governmental Oversight Committee holds a workshop on the Transparency Florida Act, which created a method for putting financial information related to state government on the Internet so it is easily accessible by the public. (Thursday, 10:30 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

FUNERAL PICKET BILL IN REG INDUSTRIES: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto’s bill (SB 118) to prohibit protests within a certain distance of a funeral is in Senate Regulated Industries on Thursday. The panel also considers a condominium bill (SB 120). (Thursday, 10:30 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.)

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS: The full Senate budget committee meets Thursday and takes pro forma action on a number of trust fund bills, but also hears a presentation on state contracting, and another on debt write-offs. The panel also receives a new report on debt affordability. (Thursday, 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.)


STATE PENSIONS UP FOR ANOTHER LOOK?: About a week after the Florida Supreme Court upheld a controversial law requiring state employees to help fund their own retirement plans, the House Government Operations Subcommittee is set to take up legislation further changing the Florida Retirement System. No draft of the bill is available yet, but among the changes that were proposed but failed to make the 2011 law was a requirement for new employees to enter a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan as opposed to the current defined-benefit plan. (Thursday, 8 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.)

PROGRESS ON TEACHER EVALUATION LAW: The House K-12 Education Subcommittee hears a presentation on the progress that’s being made implementing a state law that tied teacher pay and evaluations more closely to student performance. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

MENTAL HEALTH: The House Healthy Families Subcommittee discusses the mental health system and issues it faces. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

FORECLOSURE RESPONSE DISCUSSES IN HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE: The House Civil Justice Committee holds a workshop and discussion of foreclosures in Florida. The panel also takes up two bills, HB 55, dealing with the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices law and HB 77, which deals with landlord-tenant agreements. (Thursday, 9 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

REGULATION REFORM: The House Rulemaking Committee hears a presentation on regulatory reform initiatives of the last couple of years from the governor’s office’s Patricia Nelson. (Thursday, 10 a.m., 306 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

A LOOK AT ONLINE EDUCATION: The House Education Committee hears a report from The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm, on expanding online higher education in Florida. (Thursday, 11:30 a.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

EVERGLADES: The House State Affairs Committee and House Agriculture Committee meet jointly to hear presentations on the Everglades. No legislation is before the committees. (Thursday, 2 p.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: House Econ Affairs hears presentations from Enterprise Florida on certain economic development indicators, as well as receiving the Florida Target Industry Competitiveness Report. (Thursday, 4 p.m., 102 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

SUPREME COURT OPINIONS: The Florida Supreme Court releases opinions. (Thursday, 11 a.m.) 

HOUSE OBAMACARE COMMITTEE: The House Committee on the federal affordable care act continues its discussion on the ramifications of the law on the state and its budget. (Friday, 10:30 a.m., 17 House Office Building, The Capitol.)

SELECT COMMITTEE ON CLAIMS BILLS: The House’s Claims Bills committee discusses sovereign immunity. (Friday, 10:30 a.m., 404 House Office Building, The Capitol.)


DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN ELECTION: The Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee holds its organizational meeting to elect a new chair. The race between Allison Tant and Alan Clendinen has been a spirited one. Party officers, committeemen and committeewomen and national committee members cast votes, as do Democrats in the congressional delegation and leaders in the state House and Senate. (Saturday, Jan. 26, Lake Mary Marriott, Orlando.)

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.