Capitol Report 2016 Session Week 2
January 22, 2016
Filed by: Debbie Harrison Rumberger, LWVF Governmental Consultant
Resounding news from our Capitol came this week regarding redistricting when Republican leaders decided not to appeal a Leon County judge’s ruling. Please click here to read the LWVF announcement and backup information.
Education: House Seeks to Overide School Districts on Charters
HJR 759 is a proposed constitutional amendment to the State Constitution to require the State Board of Education to establish a statewide system for approval of charter schools. If approved by the Legislature, the amendment will appear on the 2016 ballot for approval/disapproval by voters. HJR 759 was approved 9-3 in House K-12 Subcommittee and is now in the House Appropriations Committee awaiting action.
This is a very controversial measure which would create a de facto 68th school system for charter schools only. It will require a 3/5 vote of the Legislature to be placed on the November ballot and, if placed on the ballot, would require a 60%-plus-one vote by the electorate for approval. The Senate companion, SB 976, has not been heard in committee.
Representative Geller (D – Dania Beach) debates on the bill.
Click here to read a press release LWVF released earlier this week about the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.
Ethics & Accountability: Government Accountability / Anti-Corruption Bills Move
A Senate committee on Tuesday gave the green light to a major ethics and public corruption bill. The Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, which appeared to have killed the measure a week ago, reconsidered its vote, amended the bill to conform to the House measure, and approved SB 582 with a unanimous vote. Legislation seeking to end what a 2010 grand jury called a “corruption tax” on Florida citizens amounting to millions a year in extra taxes, government fees, and even highway tolls to make up for the waste, fraud, and misconduct by public officials. The grand jury — sought by former Gov. Charlie Crist after a rash of public corruption cases — recommended several legal remedies, but few have been enacted. Many legislators favor the bill’s provisions redefining corruption in criminal law to make it easier to prosecute. Florida law currently requires prosecutors to prove that a public official, or those who offer them bribes or rig bids, acted corruptly or with corrupt intent – a very high hurdle. The proposed legislation would make it easier to obtain a conviction by requiring only proof that defendants acted “knowingly and intentionally.”
Voter Registration: Online Voter Registration “On Track” For October 2017
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee received a presentation from Secretary of State Ken Detzner and other officials about progress his office is making on the implementation of Florida’s Online Voter Registration system.
Environment: Fracking on Fast Track to Approval
On Wednesday, the House State Affairs Committee voted to approve HB 191, sending the bill that would create a regulatory framework to allow fracking in Florida to the House floor. In response to overwhelming opposition to the bill, sponsor Representative Rodriguez (R) amended his bill to provide “notification” to municipalities (cities, not counties) of the application prior to DEP issuing a permit. The move resulted in support from the cities, while the counties, where fracking would take place, are not included. The bill continues to include a state preemption of fracking bans and limits changes in local land use and zoning regulations. Any such existing ordinance or regulation is void. A county or municipality may, however, enforce an existing zoning ordinance adopted before January 1, 2015, if the ordinance is otherwise valid. The Senate companion, SB 318 by Richter (R-Naples), will be heard in its second of three committee stops next week.
Gun Safety: Campus Carry Appears Dead for 2016
Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed on Thursday that SB 68 — the controversial bill to allow guns on college campuses — will not get a hearing, even though it is moving swiftly through the Florida House. National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer promises the bill will be back next session.