Capitol Report 2016 SESSION WEEK 3
January 29, 2016
Filed by: Debbie Harrison Rumberger, LWVF Governmental Consultant
In an unexpected development, a bill that would allow holders of concealed weapon permits to openly carry handguns is likely dead this session with strong disagreement between the House and Senate over how far the proposal should go.
Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) said Thursday he will block an amendment to his bill that removes the allowance to openly carry weapons and replace it with language to only forgive accidental display of weapons in public. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) said he would block the proposal if the bill does not include that amendment.
Stay tuned for an action alert Monday morning on what you need to do to fight these bad bills.
Gun Safety: Open Carry Heads to the House Floor
The House Judiciary Committee approved the open-carry bill (HB 163) after rejecting an amendment with alternatives suggested by the Florida Sheriffs Association. The open carry measure drew concerns from several lawmakers over its potential impact to tourism. Law enforcement officials are split on the proposal — the Florida Police Chiefs Association and some county sheriffs support it, while the Florida Sheriffs Association is opposed. Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Lake Worth) said, “I don’t think we should jeopardize the image and safety of our state and law enforcement officers to appease a theory of constitutional law that is not accurate.” Kerner, a former police officer, attempted to include language proposed by the Florida Sheriffs Association that would define measures for law enforcement when a concealed-weapons license holder inadvertently displays a sidearm. But influential National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer dismissed concerns about the bill as “creative hyperbole.” Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Tallahassee Democrat, joined Republicans on the committee in a 12-4 vote in favor of the proposal. A Senate companion (SB 300) is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where amendments similar to Kerner’s are expected.
Rep. Dave Kerner shares words with LWVF members about the ongoing fight for sensible gun laws:
Ethics and Elections: Anti-Corruption Bills
After years of covering corruption and editorializing about it, the Gannett news sites in Florida are pushing for changes in state law to make it easier for prosecutors to go after the corrupt and greedy. The House voted unanimously to pass HB 7071 (Workman – Melborne) with no debate. Its Senate companion SB 552 (Gaetz – Bay County) is scheduled to be heard on Monday in the Criminal Justice Committee. The bills seek to cut what state prosecutors call a corruption tax. A statewide grand jury report found that public corruption costs Florida residents hundreds of millions of dollars annually. That money, prosecutors say, represents a hidden tax paid by residents. SB 582 implements two recommendations from the grand jury report to curb bid rigging and bribery. It defines government contractors as public servants for bid rigging and shifts the burden of proof for prosecutors from proving defendants had a corrupt intent to proving an official acted “knowingly and intentionally” when breaking the law. The legislation is being hailed as the most important ethics bill in a decade.
The Florida House on Tuesday set the stage for final votes on controversial bills regarding oil and gas drilling. The drilling bill (HB 191) sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) and Rep. Cary Pigman (R-Avon Park) drew the heaviest debate Tuesday, with lawmakers considering over 20 proposed amendments. The bill would set up a regulatory framework for oil and natural gas drilling — including the controversial technique known as “fracking.” House Democrats on Tuesday proposed numerous amendments aimed at the fracking issue, but Republicans repeatedly rejected the amendments. The House approved the bill Wednesday.
Meanwhile in the Senate, the Appropriations Committee on General Government moved the companion bill (SB 318) forward after some 40 speakers urged Senators to oppose the measure. The bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee, its final committee stop. Chair Tom Lee (R-Bradenton) has cautioned proponents of the measure to appear and address concerns raised by members of the public. The bill continues to preempt local fracking bans and fails to curtail the most common form of fracking – acidization.
Debbie Harrison Rumberger testifies on behalf of the LWVFL against fracking:
We are continuing to oppose the revised proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to approve and govern charter schools in lieu of school boards. HJR 759 was approved 9-3 in the House K12 Subcommittee, and is now in the House Appropriations Committee awaiting action. This is a very controversial measure which would de facto create a 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 be heard in committee yet. As for the charter institute, amendment sponsor Manny Diaz said he and staff were still “refining” the issue and may come back later in the session. The institute would be available to advise charter applicants on their applications to make them more ready for local sponsor (school board, mainly) approval. Controversial bills have been moving through the legislature at record pace, getting “tee’d up” for final votes in each chamber. With each new committee hearing, more members of the public are speaking out, yet they wonder if legislators are listening. Such a concern was raised by Senator Tom Lee (R – Bradenton) during a debate on SB 318 Oil and Gas Development (fracking) by Richter (R – Collier). Dozens of residents traveled from across Florida opposing fracking. And yet with no one willing to speak in support, the bill sailed through passage. Listen in, and realize how important your voice is on every issue!
Senator Lee calls on those silently pursuing changes in public policy: speak on the record. Please listen in: