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With the holidays and 2019 now in our review mirror, Legislators reconvened in Tallahassee on Monday for a burst of fundraisers before the sixty-day Session kicked-off. During Session, Legislators are prohibited from raising money for their campaign and political committee coffers. The first week of session still moved rather quickly with the House and Senate chambers sparing no time on fast tracking their respective legislative priorities.
With the kick-off of the legislative session, comes the Governor’s traditional State of the State speech, followed by the Speaker of the House and Senate President, all outlining their legislative priorities and visions.
The Capitol Alliance Group team remains committed to League of Women Voters Florida’s agenda and issues. The CAG continues to meet with members of the House and Senate to further discuss issues and bills of importance to the League at large and facilitate meetings on behalf of the League. Week 1 of Session culminated with a Friday afternoon meeting with Secretary of State Lee surrounding elections security.
Of the 3402 bills filed to date, less than 10 percent will pass.
The Sixty-Day 2020 Legislative Session Convened on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Adjourns on Friday, March 13, 2020
NEWS AND KEY LEGISLATIVE ISSUES TO WATCH
Here are 10 big issues to watch during the session:
ABORTION: The Republican-dominated Legislature is considering a controversial proposal that would require parental consent before minors could get abortions. Florida law already requires parents to be notified if their daughters plan to have abortions, but a consent requirement would be more far-reaching. The full House could vote early in the session to approve the proposal, which also is moving forward in Senate committees.
BUDGET: DeSantis has proposed a $91.4 billion budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, touting plans to set minimum teacher salaries at $47,500 a year and to continue addressing environmental issues. DeSantis’ proposal is a starting point for the House and Senate, which will make changes as they negotiate a final version. Lawmakers also will consider potential election-year tax cuts, with DeSantis proposing sales-tax “holidays” for back-to-school shoppers and for hurricane preparations.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch has warned that the “status quo is unsustainable” in the state prison system, which faces problems with staffing, health-care costs and crumbling facilities. DeSantis, in part, wants to give pay bumps to many correctional officers to try to help retain them. Lawmakers also are expected during the session to consider a series of proposals that would revamp sentencing laws.
EDUCATION: DeSantis has dubbed 2020 the “year of the teacher,” as he pushes a $602 million plan to set minimum teacher salaries at $47,500 and seeks to put in a place a new $300 million bonus program for teachers and principals. But legislative leaders have expressed concerns about the costs of proposals and what Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has described as “practical” issues. Those issues include the longstanding practice of teacher salaries being set at the local level rather than at the direction of the Legislature.
ENVIRONMENT: Since taking office last year, DeSantis has focused on trying to address water-quality issues, including toxic algae booms and red tide in Southeast Florida and Southwest Florida. He wants to continue moving ahead with plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Everglades restoration and other water-related projects. But lawmakers also will face pressure on issues such as climate change and boosting spending on the Florida Forever conservation program.
HEALTH CARE: So long as Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, leads the House, revamping the health-care industry will remain a priority. The House this year will continue pushing to allow advanced practice registered nurses to provide care independently of physicians, though the Senate has opposed such proposals in the past. The chambers are looking at making changes related to pharmacy benefit managers, which serve as a sort of middlemen between drug manufacturers and pharmacies. The pharmacy-benefit manager proposals come as lawmakers seek to curb prescription drug prices.
IMMIGRATION: DeSantis has made a priority for this year’s session of requiring businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to prevent undocumented immigrants from getting jobs. Lawmakers during the 2019 session passed another DeSantis priority of banning so-called sanctuary cities. But Galvano has balked at the E-Verify proposal, which also could face major pushback from the state’s agriculture, tourism and construction industries.
INSURANCE: With the growing popularity of genetic testing, lawmakers will consider a proposal that would block insurance companies from using genetic information in making decisions on life-insurance and long-term care policies. Supporters of the proposal point to privacy concerns, but insurers fought the issue during the 2019 session. The insurance industry, meanwhile, is lobbying for a proposal that would prevent auto-glass shops from offering incentives for motorists to make windshield-repair claims.
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: The Legislature will closely examine how the state provides Medicaid services to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and whether an existing program, dubbed the “iBudget,” should be scrapped. The iBudget program is designed, in part, to help people live as independently as possible in their homes or in their communities. But the costs of care annually exceed the amounts of money lawmakers set aside. Also, 21,800 people with disabilities are on a waiting list for services.
VISIT FLORIDA: The future of Visit Florida could be determined during the session, as Oliva continues pushing to eliminate the tourism-marketing agency. Oliva argues the state does not need Visit Florida to draw tourists, but DeSantis and the Senate have backed the agency. Lawmakers during the 2019 session cut Visit Florida’s funding from $76 million to $50 million, leading to layoffs. DeSantis has proposed maintaining the agency’s funding at $50 million in 2020-2021.
Florida Senate Keeps Focus on Guns
The Florida Senate kicked off the state’s 2020 legislative session Tuesday by recognizing those killed and injured during last month’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. A day earlier, a Senate committee advanced bills expanding gun background checks and condemning white nationalism, proposals sparked by previous tragedies. No lawmaker is more responsible for elevating and changing the conversation surrounding gun violence in Florida in recent years than President Galvano, and he continues to make it a priority in his last legislative session before term limits force him out. The Senate President is forging ahead on the gun issue despite resistance from the governor and Republican leaders in the Florida House.
Effort To Make It Harder To Get Citizen Initiatives On The Ballot Clears First Committee
The House Judiciary Committee took the first step Thursday in making it harder for Floridians to propose constitutional amendments through citizen initiation. Rep. Grant, R- Tampa, who chairs the committee, delivered a fiery defense of his proposed committee bill (PCB).
The bill includes several provisions including raising the threshold of voter petitions to trigger language review, transparency measures requiring disclosure of out-of-state participation and shortening the amount of time groups have to gather petitions.
The bill would also require groups pushing for a ballot initiative to pay for the signature verification process with local supervisors of elections offices. For the 2020 ballot, groups must gather and have verified a total of 766,200 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot. That number is updated each year based on voter turnout in the previous election.
Grant’s bill would not increase the total number of petition signatures needed to make the ballot, but it would increase the threshold for triggering judicial review from 10% of the petitions gathered to 50%. Grant’s argument is that change would save taxpayer dollars by only burdening the courts with judicial review if a ballot initiative was well on its way to the needed signatures for the ballot.
Support for Grant’s bill fell along party lines with Republicans supporting and Democrats dissenting.The bill’s next stop has yet to be determined.A similar bill in the Senate, SB 778 has yet to be heard in committee.
Due to time constraints and the surprise filing, the League and CAG quickly mobilized. Trish Neely eloquently testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the LWVFL.
Parent Consent Bill Now Moving In Senate
SB 404 by Sen. Stargel, R- Land O’ Lakes was voted up along party lines on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The seeks to require women under the age of 18 to have the consent of a parent or legal guardian before ending a pregnancy. The bill next moves to the Senate Rules Committee, its last stop before the Senate floor.
The League waived in opposition to the bill.
The bill’s companion in the House, HB 265 by Rep. Grall, R-Vero Beach, is now on second reading.
High Performing Charter School Bill Advances In Senate
Longtime Charter school advocate and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, advanced SB 536 seeking toestablish the High-Performing Charter School Council, appointed by the Commissioner of Education, to review charter school applications submitted by high-performing charter schools and by high-performing charter school systems and recommend approval or denial to the State Board of Education. The bill received unanimous support, garnering the support of the committee’s three democrats. The CAG waived in opposition to the bill.