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Capitol Report: Feb. 7, 2020

“Bringing Tallahassee to your doorstep”

Provided by: Capitol Alliance Group
106 E. College Ave, Suite 640 Tallahassee, FL 32301

CAPITOL NEWS

During week four, the Full Appropriations committees convened for marathon meetings where respective chairs outlined their budgets in detail and voted them up.  We anticipate the respective chambers will begin conferencing during the middle of week 6. House Appropriations has proposed a $91.4 billion budget, which is $381 million over last year but also a reduction in per capita spending. The House budget $650 million for teacher salary funding and an equal amount for the environment. Meanwhile, the $92.8 billion budget in the Senate includes provisions to raise minimum classroom salaries to $47,500 and allocated $500 million to teacher raises.

The House budget is about $1.5 billion less than the Senate and has also singled out the sole Democratic cabinet member, Commissioner Fried.

The Capitol Alliance Group remain focused and actively engaged on a wide variety of issues of importance to the League including voting rights, elections security and high priority legislation.  We are currently tracking over 75 bills for the LWVFL.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE

  • Parental Consent Bill Passes Full Senate; Full House To Take Up Next Week

After a robust debate on Thursday, SB 404 by Sen. Stargel, R-Land-O’Lakes was taken up by the Senate on third reading for a final vote where it was voted up along party lines.

The bill has been sent to the House where it will likely be taken up next week.

The LWVFL has worked tirelessly in opposition to the bill despite the conservative legislature’s momentous will to bring this bill home as an election-year victory.

  • The Future of Amendment 4 Grows Dim

Senator Brandes, R-St. Pete and Representative Grant, R-Tampa confirmed this week that they will not address concerns raised by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Hinkle but rather wait until the lawsuit gets appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That decision to not take action will essentially prevent thousands of felons from registering to vote in the 2020 election.  It is estimated that at least 80 percent of felons owe fines, fees or restitution handed down during their sentence.

Other states, unlike Florida, allow felons to vote while they pay off their financial obligations.

The LWVFL remains in staunch opposition to the legislature’s inaction.

  • Citizen Initiative Ballot Form Moving In Both Chambers

Rep. Grant’s HB 7037, making it harder toget citizen petitions on ballots, has been referenced to one remaining committee: Judiciary.

The bill’s companion in the Senate, SB 1794 by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast is up on Tuesday in its second of three stops: Judiciary.

The LWVFL continues to work and speak in opposition to the proposed bills.

  • Feud Over Office Of Energy

The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget-related bill, HB 5401 by Rep. Raschein, R-Key Largo that would move the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection, which is under the purview of Governor DeSantis.

Before the committee voted, Commissioner Fried held a presser stating the move is a political power grab. Additionally, Commissioner Fried critiqued the House budget plan that would block nearly $20 million until her department replaces gas-pump stickers that feature a picture of her face – a controversial issue since the initial rollout.

  • Church, Local Official Gun Bills Backed

This week, the House Education Committee approved HB 1437 by Rep. Williamson, R-Pace that would allow people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions that share properties with schools. The bill received bi-partisan support with only one No vote. The bill has one remaining stop.  There is no Senate companion. 

A separate bill, HB 183 by Rep. Ponder, R-Fort Walton Beach was approved by it’s final committee stop that would allow county commissioners, school board members and elected city officials to be armed at their public meetings.  The bill is now on second reading. The bill’s Senate companion has yet to be heard.

  • Senator Brandes Wants To Upend St. Pete’s Abolishment Of Dark Money

On Monday, Senator Brandes, R-St. Pete introduced a surprise amendment to SB 1372 that would preempt the City of St. Petersburg’s ordinance passed to abolish dark money and super PACs. A majority of elected officials in St. Pete voted for the ordinance. This is simply another assault on home-rule and St. Petersburg.

The CAG team has expressed our grave concerns with the Senator and are working hard against this language.  We are meeting with Chair Simmons, R-Longwood and Vice Chair Javier Rodrigues, D-Miami to suppress the hearing of the bill before their Judiciary Committee – the bill’s second stop of three.

  • $340 Million Gap Between House, Senate Affordable Housing Plans

The Senate Appropriations Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Subcommittee is proposing a $13.7 billion budget proposal for the six state agencies in its silo, far exceeding the spending plan put forward in the House.

The $340 million gap between the chambers is mainly due to affordable housing plans — the Senate wants a combined $387 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan and the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, also known as SAIL and SHIP. The House proposal sets aside just $122 million for those programs.

The LWVFL remains committed to the full funding of affordable housing and protection of the perpetual raiding of the Sadowski Trust Fund.

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