Posts Tagged ‘Florida House’

Richard Corcoran gets nod for dedication to term limits from U.S. Term Limits

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been honored for his commitment to term limits.
U.S. Term Limits announced this week that it has presented Corcoran with the Champion of Term Limits Award. The Land O’Lakes Republican was honored for his commitment to term limits and citizen government.
“By supporting term limits, Speaker Corcoran has given a voice to Floridians who feel let down by corruption and careerism in government,” said Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. “People are tired of business as usual and term limits is the only way to change the status quo. We applaud Corcoran for his important work to get this done.”
Corcoran has pushed to impose term limits on Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges, which the organization supports. The organization also applauded Corcoran for his support of legislative term limits, which have been in place since 1992.
“Term limits have served as an effective check against unrestrained power in the Legislature,” said Blumel. “It will have a similar impact in bringing more discipline to our judicial system.”
The national organization is based out of Melbourne, Florida. The group aims to fight for term limits at all levels of government.
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Rick Scott signs death penalty fix into law

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Monday requiring a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.
Lawmakers passed the bill out of the House and Senate last week, rushing the measure through the process in hopes of fixing the state’s death penalty law. The House voted 112-3 to approve the measure Friday, one day after the Senate voted unanimously to approve it.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. The ruling was based on a case where a judge issued a death sentence after a 7-5 jury recommendation.
In 2016, the Legislature overhauled the state law to let the death penalty be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote. But in October, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions.
The change goes into effect immediately.
_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.
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Florida’s unemployment rate ticks up to 5% in January

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up in January, reaching 5 percent for the first time in a year.
The January unemployment rate marks a slight uptick from December, when state officials reported an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. The statewide rate is higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.
Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott lauded private sector employers Monday for creating more than 50,000 jobs in January.
The governor made the monthly jobs announcement at Herc Rentals in Bonita Springs, and used his appearance to once again take aim at lawmakers who voted to support a bill (HB 7005) to eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.
“It makes no sense to me,” said Scott. “The House took a vote last week, and they said we don’t need Enterprise Florida anymore. That’s going to absolutely kill jobs. That’s going to kill opportunities.”
On Friday, the Florida House voted 87-28 to approve the measure, with more than half the House Democrats voting for the proposal. All of the House members who represent Lee and Collier counties voted in favor of the bill.
Scott was quick to point out that several of those members who voted for the bill attended a 2013 event announcing rental car giant Hertz would be relocating its offices to Lee County. Scott said that bringing Hertz, and later Herc Rentals, to Southwest Florida likely wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Enterprise Florida.
“We’re on a roll, this state is booming. Why would we mess this up,” said Scott. “I’m going to be out there fighting for jobs every day.”
Scott is scheduled to hold a roundtable with business and economic development leaders in Tallahassee later today, where he’ll talk about Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The event is expected to be similar to

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Report: Senate could consider changing way nursing homes are paid

Friday, March 10th, 2017

A change how the state’s nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid is still being mulled in the Senate.
According to POLITICO Florida, Senate President Joe Negron said his chamber is still changing the system from a cost-based system to a prospective payment plan. Negron said the issue is still being discussed by senators, and he expects it’s “going to be considered in the Senate.”
The House Health Care Appropriations Committee Chairman Jason Brodeur said last month he wouldn’t move forward with recommendations in a report, saying they wouldn’t pursue it this session.
Under the plan, the state would pay nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated based on four components, of which patient care would account for the largest portion, 80 percent, of total reimbursement.
LeadingAge Florida, which represents about 400 senior communities throughout the state, is opposed the recommendations in the report, saying it will shift money from high-quality nursing homes to lower-quality nursing home, threatening the quality of the care offered in facilities across the state.
The Florida Health Care Association, which represents about 82 percent of all facilities, was generally supportive of the the Navigant study, but did request a few changes.
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Sponsor proposes changes to VISIT FLORIDA bill

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

As the House gets ready to start considering a bill to overhaul VISIT FLORIDA, its sponsor filed an amendment to dilute some of its strict requirements.
The measure (HB 9) will be on the House floor today (Thursday) for questions. Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, filed the amendment Tuesday, records show.
It would impose new reporting requirements on the state’s tourism marketing agency only when a project it funds is slated to get over 50 percent of its budget “from funds derived from a tax.” The bill now applies to deals that involve any amount of public dollars.  
But the proposal still mandates disclosures such as “specific performance standards,” “the value of any services provided,” and “salaries of all employees and board members … and (their) projected travel and entertainment expenses.”
Originally, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, aimed to abolish both Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization and dispenser of many of the state’s business incentives, and VISIT FLORIDA.
Both are officially public-private endeavors, but both are overwhelmingly funded through taxpayers’ dollars. House leadership later decided to split the legislation, still eliminating Enterprise Florida but saving and overhauling VISIT FLORIDA.
The speaker had threatened to sue VISIT FLORIDA after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism, later revealed to be worth up to $1 million. The ensuing controversy cost former agency CEO Will Seccombe his job.
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Darryl Rouson, Lori Berman urge Florida to become a ‘Tobacco 21’ state

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Two Florida lawmakers want to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in the Sunshine State.
Sen. Darrly Rouson and Rep. Lori Berman held a press conference Thursday to tout legislation they filed to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21. The proposals (SB 1138 and HB 1093), lawmakers said, would help lower the number of young adults who become addicted to tobacco and cut down on the state’s leading cause of preventable death.
“I’ve seen many struggles with addiction and its consequences,” said Rouson. “I believe we should firmly protect the youth and teens of this state from the dangerous addictive properties … in tobacco. Protecting them, their welfare, and their health is essential.”
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be an estimated 19,000 new lung and bronchus cancer cases in Florida in 2017. The organization estimates 11,790 people will die from lung and bronchus cancer in Florida in 2017.
“The benefits of this bill are not only for the individual who can have a longer lifespan, but also for our state, because we can decrease our health costs,” said Berman. “This is a nationwide movement that we are proud to be a part of, with two states already on board. It’s time for Florida to lead and this Legislature to make Florida a tobacco 21 state.”
Berman said California and Hawaii have already passed laws increasing the age to buy tobacco products.
Neither bill have received its first committee hearing yet.
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Report: Richard Corcoran urges Democratic support of Enterprise Florida bill

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is asking for Democrats support to legislation that would abolish Enterprise Florida, saying if Democrats join the House will be able to override Gov. Rick Scott’s expected veto of the bill.
POLITICO Florida reported that Corcoran asked Democrats for their help to “get a veto-proof majority” during a House Democrats dinner.
The dinner came on the eve of the bill (HB 7005) first hearing by the full House. The House is also expected to discuss a bill (HB 9) today that would tighten restrictions on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, when it goes into session later today.
There are 41 Democrats in the House, and 79 Republicans. In the Senate, 25 of the 40 members of Republicans. POLITICO Florida reported Corcoran told House Democrats it was time for the Senate, which has stayed out of the fight, to “pony up and say ‘are you going to clean up these agencies.’”
POLTICO Florida reported Corcoran told Democrats he wants “to vote their conscience.”
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Florida House faults universities over salaries and spending

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

A top Florida House Republican says that state universities are spending way too much money inappropriately and that they don’t need more help from taxpayers.
State Rep. Carlos Trujillo also suggested Wednesday that legislators may need to look at how much university presidents are paid, as well as even how much football and basketball coaches are paid. The Miami Republican and House budget chief said too many people work for universities or university foundations who earn more than $200,000 a year.
The House is scrutinizing university spending at the same time that the Florida Senate is poised to approve a major overhaul of colleges and universities that includes spending more. Senate President Joe Negron is pushing the proposal to put Florida schools on par with other well-known universities.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
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Mandatory recess bill sails through second Senate committee

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Call it another small victory for recess.
The Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill (SB 78) requiring school districts to provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, unstructured free play each week — or 20 minutes of free play each week — to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
While the bill received strong support from the committee, some members expressed concern they were issuing a mandate to local school districts.
“Who can be against recess? I loved it. It was one of my favorite portions of the day, and I was pretty good (at it),” said Sen. Doug Broxson. “However, this is a mandate and we are telling our 67 school districts that they must do this. I would’ve preferred to make a strong suggestion and see if they could work it out themselves, but it appears we’re not going to do that.”
Sen. Anitere Flores, the bill’s sponsor, said she would have preferred not to have had legislative mandate recess ether, but said “maybe the school districts need a little more guidance with this.”
According to a recent report by the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability, 11 school districts across the state had a school board approved recess policy in 2015-16.
Eight districts, including Miami-Dade and Lee counties, required recess for students in kindergarten through fifth grade; while while three district encouraged recess but did not require it. But the report found found district policies regarding time and number of days varied from district to district.
“We know recess is essential for the health and well-being (of students),” said Marie-Claire Leman, a Leon County mother who supports the bill. “We know without your leadership, many kids across the state will continue to go without daily recess.”
The 2017 measure has bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, and is similar to

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Jack Latvala, Kathleen Peters file beach renourishment bill

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

The state’s sandy shores have a powerful ally in the Florida Legislature.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala announced Friday he filed legislation aimed at saving the state’s beaches from continued erosion. The proposal (SB 1590) would, among other things, dedicate a minimum of $50 million a year to beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects in Florida.
The proposal also adds transparency and accountability measures to the use of state funds; directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a new three-year work plan for beach repair, similar to the Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan; and refocuses attention on effective sand management at the state’s inlets.
“We’ve got tangible evidence that the health of our beaches is a big return on our investment. Everyone acknowledges that, even the House acknowledges it,” said Latvala, who announced the legislation at Lowdermilk Park in Naples. “We’re fighting over some of the other economic development programs, but no one’s fighting over this. So let’s at least get this done right.”
While Latvala’s district includes between 25 to 30 miles of beaches, there was a reason behind his decision to unveil his legislation a few hours south of his home turf. He attended the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association Convention in Naples back in September, and committed to do what he could protect Florida’s beaches. A spokesman for Latvala said the senator wanted to return to the community to make good on his commitment.
But that wasn’t the only reason Latvala decided to head to the Paradise Coast to announced the legislation. Latvala said the reason he decided to announce in Naples was because of the “really outstanding effort the Naples Daily News has put forward on this issue and bringing this issue to our attention.”
In November, the Naples Daily News released a four-part series called “Shrinking Shores”

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Jeff Brandes files bill to create affordable housing task force

Friday, February 10th, 2017

A Senate bill filed this week would create a task force to address the state’s affordable housing needs.
The bill (SB 854), filed Friday by Sen. Jeff Brandes, would create an affordable housing task force assigned to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. According to the St. Petersburg Republican’s proposal, the task force would be charged with “developing recommendations for addressing the state’s affordable housing needs.”
With an another 5 million people expected to be living in Florida by 2030, Brandes said he filed the bill because he thinks there needs to be discussion about how the state approaches workforce housing and affordable housing going forward.
“There really isn’t a statewide direction for affordable housing,” said Brandes.
The proposal calls for a 10-member board made up of the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, or her designee; two members appointed by the Governor, two members appointed by the Senate President; two members appointed by the House Speakers; the executive director of the Florida Association of Counties, or a designee; the executive director of the Florida League of Cities, or a designee; and the executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., who will serve as the board chairman.
Members of the task force will not be compensated, but would receive per diem travel expenses as spelled out under state law.
The goal, Brandes said, is to “take a holistic view” of affordable and workforce housing.
According to his proposal, the committee would be tasked with making a recommendation that includes reviews of market rate developments; affordable housing developments; land use for affordable housing developments; building codes for affordable housing developments; states’ implementation of the low-income housing tax credit; private and public sector development and construction industries; and rental market for assisted rental housing.
The bill also calls on the task for to develop “strategies and pathways for

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Aaron Bean files bill focused on nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Industry advocates said a Senate proposal filed this week could change the way nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid without severely impacting high quality nursing homes.
Sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, the bill (SB 712) transitions nursing homes that accept Medicaid payments to a prospective payment system. But LeadingAge Florida CEO Steve Bahmer said Bean’s bill “creates a better way to pay for care without devastating the highest quality” homes, unlike a model recently put forth by consultants.
The Florida Legislature OK’d legislation in 2016 set aside $500,000 for a study to develop a proposal to convert Medicaid payments for nursing home services from a cost-based reimbursement to a prospective payment plan. The state hired Navigant Consulting to conduct the study, which included a series of public meetings across the state.
Bahmer said a model developed by Navigant could shift “Medicaid funding from the highest quality nursing homes to the lowest quality nursing homes.” That model divides the state into two regions — the South region, which consists of Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and the North region, which is the rest of the state.
The median cost in each region is then determined, and Bahmer said if facilities that are being paid more than that would lose money; those that receive less than the median would receive more.
Bahmer said while there are a “number of fundamental flaws” the Navigant plan, this could be one of the most significant ones. The cost of delivering care varies widely, and Bahmer said having such a larger region could make it difficult for nursing homes to provide “high quality care.”
Bean’s bill moves the state to a prospective payment system, and calls on the agency to set nursing rates based only on audited cost reports. It also calls on the agency to use the Fair Rental Value System

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House members’ project bills would add $708 million to state budget

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

House members had filed 319 bills seeking money for local projects as the deadline for such legislation fell Monday. They would cost more than $708 million if enacted.
Under rules approved when Richard Corcoran assumed the speakership, members must file a specific bill describing each project they hope to insert into the state budget. The idea is to get away from secretive logrolling late during sessions.
According to House Rule 5.14, in order for a project to be included in the House budget, it must be filed as a stand-alone bill, favorably considered in committee, and made with non-recurring appropriations.
According to a Lobby Tools tally, the most expensive item is HB 2503 by Cary Pigman, a Sebring Republican. He would spend nearly $62 million to tear down and replace the aging Okeechobee High School.
The least expensive is HB 2003, by Deltona Republican David Santiago, to install a virtual reality lab for STEM students at Edgewater Public Elementary School in Volusia County. The price tag is $25,000.
Of the items, 23 had been vetoed once before, including drainage improvements in Miami Lakes valued at $650,000, and $500,000 for the Madison County Agricultural and Exposition Center.
Also vetoed before were $1.4 million for a post-doctoral research program, and nearly $3 million for “drug discovery and translational research,” at Scripps Florida.
The number of bils would have hit 320, but Bill Hager, a Boca Raton Republican, withdrew his request for $83,000 to remove non-native species and restore shorelines on Bingham Island in Palm Beach County.
The House rule has inspired grousing in the Senate that the other chamber was trying to impose its will. Corcoran has suggested that senators seeking projects find a House co-sponsor, to remain within the spirit of the House’s drive for transparency.
“We have our own rules in the Senate. We are going to abide by our

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House to consider proposed committee bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

The Florida House has fired back, filing a proposed committee bill this week completely eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs agency.
The proposed committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) would, among other things, abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two organizations which have drawn the ire of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
The bill, which is expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting, comes as Gov. Rick Scott makes some of his strongest criticisms to date about the House’s position on incentives and Visit Florida.
“If you don’t support Enterprise Florida, if you don’t support Visit Florida, then you don’t care about jobs,” said Scott after Thursday’s Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting. “When somebody gets a job, who gets helped the most? The most disadvantaged in our state gets helped the most. So who ever doesn’t support Enterprise Florida, doesn’t support Visit Florida, doesn’t understand how business works and is not focused on how families in every part of the state get a job.”
Corcoran played a key role in blocking Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in 2016, and he’s poised to do the same in 2017. He remains staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”
And on Tuesday, Corcoran said there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.
That position could be costing the state jobs in the long run. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended soon after.
“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” he said. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a

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Florida House to mull ‘ban the box’ bills

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

There is a movement afoot in the United States to allow reformed criminals to have a second chance, and a couple of bills in the Florida House could be part of that.
Earlier this month, Rep. Shervin Jones filed House Bill 31, which would remove the requirement on job applications for an applicant to disclose whether he or she has ever been convicted of a felony.
Employers would have recourse to a background check later in the process, but the initial screening wouldn’t be scuttled by an initial conviction.
“I firmly believe that automatically denying someone an interview based on their previous actions deprives them of that second chance,” Rep. Jones said in a press release.
On Thursday, a second bill was filed, one which echoed the sentiments of HB 31.
House Bill 553, filed by Tallahassee Democrat Ramon Alexander, bars requirement of criminal history disclosures on applications for public employment and public colleges and universities.
While the public employer eventually can consider criminal history, once it is determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified, no such provision exists for the colleges — which means that those with criminal history would have parity with those without such blemishes on their records throughout the process.
Alexander said that, in the case of college admissions, “second chances” are necessary to “break generational cycles.”

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Drug Free America urges caution as lawmakers discuss Amendment 2 implementation

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Drug Free America is urging Florida lawmakers to “proceed with caution” as they begin crafting legislation to implement the state’s newest medical marijuana law.
“While we were opposed to Amendment 2 for a number of specific reasons, we recognize Florida voters have spoken,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of Drug Free America, in a statement. “We also recognize lawmakers will soon convene and consider implementing language … that will dictate policy for generations to come. We strongly urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.
On Thursday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed Senate Bill 406, the Amendment 2 implementing bill. The bill comes just days after the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules, as outlined under the ballot language.
The bill, among other things, allows for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.
“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a statement last week. “Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly.”
Under Bradley’s bill, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.
Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with

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Mandatory overdose reporting bill filed in Florida House

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

A bill codifying statewide standards for the reporting of drug overdoses was filed in the Florida House Tuesday, a response to the opioid epidemic.
House Bill 249, filed by Southwest Florida Republican Bob Rommel, requires certain people to report overdoses to authorities in their respective counties.
Failure to report is not an option, according to the bill, which offers “immunity” to those who report overdoses in good faith.
Overdoses, claims Rommel in the bill language, present a “crisis” with impacts on the financial, health care, and public safety spheres.
This crisis is exacerbated by a lack of “central databases” and “quick data collection,” the bill maintains.
With an eye toward crisis abatement, a section in Florida Statute would be created by this legislation.
“Mandatory reporting of controlled substance overdoses,” also known as Section 893.22, would mandate the following.
Health care workers who treat or “attend” an overdose treatment would be required to report the incident within 24 hours.
The sheriff, or a delegated party such as the medical examiner, would be tasked with compiling and organizing these reports.
The reports would contain usable demographic data, such as the age of the overdose victim, the location of the event, and the suspected intoxicant and quantity thereof.
These reports would be compiled and reported semiannually to the Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council. On the county level, they would have to be retained for five years.
Failure to report by omission would constitute a second degree misdemeanor; a willful refusal to report would constitute a first degree misdemeanor.

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House civil justice subcommittee takes up judicial term limits

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

A House panel began talking Thursday about imposing term limits on judges — and also reviewed how quickly the courts are clearing their caseloads.
Judicial term limits failed in the Legislature last year, but House Speaker Richard Corcoran has declared the issue an important priority.
Heather Fitzenhagen, chairwoman of the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee, said she has not yet taken a position.
She rejected a suggestion that House Republicans want to publish the Florida Supreme Court for rulings striking down GOP priority legislation.
“Absolutely not. What we’re trying to do is the people’s business and making sure that all of our branches of government are functioning at the best possible efficiency, and that we’re getting things done in the best manner possible. That justice is served in a timely manner.”
In Florida, appellate judges — including justices of the Supreme Court — are appointed by the governor subject to merit retention elections. They may serve until age 70 if the voters retain them.
No appellate judge has ever been bounced via a merit retention vote, according to Nathan Bond, policy chief for the subcommittee. He supplied the committee with statistics detailing court efficiency levels.
Warren Husband, a Tallahassee attorney appearing for the Florida Bar, said the organization’s Board of Governors unanimously opposed last year’s proposal over practical concern that higher turnover might affect the administration of justice.
As it happens, the appellate courts experienced a nearly 30 percent turnover rate between 2011 and 2015, he said.
“You’re probably going to get older applicants than you get now — and, in fact, older appointees and nominees than you get now,” Husband said.
“You can’t carry on a law practice while you’re a judge. You have to leave your practice, leave your clients, turn those over to other folks, go on the bench for 12, 13, 15 years, whatever it happens to be,

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EMTeLink hires David Bishop as legislative lobbyist

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

EMTeLINK, a leading medical information company, has enlisted the help of Solaris Consulting.
David Bishop, the president of Solaris Consulting, registered as a lobbyist to represent EMTeLink on Dec. 13
A technology company, EMTeLINK provides first responders with information patients medical conditions in the event of an emergency. The technology allows first responders and medical technicians to access a patient’s medical information with the patient’s driver’s license.
The company allows families and individuals to store emergency contacts and medical histories, including medications and allergies.
State records show Richard Watson with Richard Watson & Associates was also registered as a lobbyist to represent the firm before the Legislature in 2016. Watson’s registration went into effect Jan. 6, 2016.
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Ray Rodrigues: House bill won’t include tax on medical marijuana

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Florida House will push to make medical marijuana tax exempt, according the sponsor of the yet-to-be filed bill implementing Amendment 2.
While lawmakers are in the early stages of drafting an implementing bill, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues said the House does not plan to include a tax on medical marijuana in its proposal. The Estero Republican will be sponsoring the House bill during the 2017 Legislative Session.
“Obviously our goal is to honor the intent of the constitutional amendment that more than 70 percent of Florida voters approved,” said Rodrigues. “The only thing I can firmly commit to is, I reviewed the Senate testimony that was offered in the Senate Health committee, and Ben Pollara, who led the organization that put the amendment on the ballot, said … it was his hope that Amendment 2 would be treated with the same seriousness as we treat medicine and all other health care decisions.”
“We respect that and, to that end, the one thing I can say about the House bill is we’re going to treat medical marijuana like medicine and we will not contain a tax on medical marijuana,” he continued.
Rodrigues said he is in the early stages of crafting the legislation, but does not currently have legislation in bill drafting. He said he hopes to meet with all of the stakeholders before drafting the legislation. But when it comes to the legislation, Rodrigues said he thinks everything will be on the table.
“I think the key is to come out with a product that honors the constitutional amendment, but also provides the regulations that are necessary to safeguard Florida citizens,” he said.
Rodrigues’ comments came after a two-hour House Health Quality Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, where lawmakers heard from Christian Bax, the director of the state’s Office of Compassionate Use, and other medical marijuana

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Rick Scott selects Matilde Miller to serve as interim DBPR secretary

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Matilde Miller will take the helm of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation — at least temporarily.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday Miller was named the interim secretary of DBPR, replacing former Secretary Ken Lawson.
“Matilde has spent many years at DBPR serving in numerous leadership positions and understands how important it is to help businesses open and create jobs in our state,” said Scott in a statement. “Like Secretary Lawson, she will focus on reducing burdensome regulations and fees that make it harder for job creators to succeed in Florida. She has extensive legislative experience and relationships and I am confident she will be a great leader at DBPR.”
On Tuesday, Lawson was hired to serve as the president and CEO of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency. The former federal prosecutor replaces Will Seccombe, the outgoing president and CEO, who resigned amid the fallout from a secret deal with rapper Pitbull.
Visit Florida refused to say how much it paid Pitbull or disclose any of the details of a contract with the Miami superstar, calling it a trade secret. House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued in December to release the contract, but withdrew the lawsuit after Pitbull used Twitter to release it.
Scott, who has praised Visit Florida in the past, responded to criticism by calling on Seccombe to resign. During a meeting in Orlando on Tuesday, the Visit Florida board of directors agreed to pay Seccombe $73,000 as severance.
Lawson will receive a salary of $175,000 a year and work without a contract. He has led the Department of Business and Professional Development since 2011.
“Ken understands the responsibility we have to be transparent with every tax dollar. He has tirelessly fought to make it easier for Florida businesses to create jobs, has helped cut millions of dollars in fees and has streamlined the agency to

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Seminole Compact, other gambling issues expected to be top priority in House Commerce committee

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

The House Commerce Committee is poised to tackle everything from assignment of benefits to economic incentives, but it’s the most narrowly defined subcommittee that could be the busiest in the months leading up to, and during, the 2017 Legislative Session.
The full House Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, met Tuesday morning to get an overview of topics expected to come up in the upcoming 60-day legislative session.
“So it begins,” said Diaz. “We’re going to be busy. We will be dealing with some of the weightiest issues of the state.”
While each of the subcommittees laid out what could be considered jam-packed agendas, Rep. Mike La Rosa, chairman of the Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee, outlined an aggressive schedule largely focused on gambling in Florida.
The subcommittee will spend the next few weeks tackling different aspects of the industry, looking first at the Seminole Compact. The subcommittee is scheduled to hold a two-hour panel discussion Thursday to discuss issues relating to the Seminole Compact.
A federal court judge in November sided with the Seminole Tribe saying the state broke its exclusivity deal with the tribe allowing it to keep blackjack tables until 2030.
“With everything we did last year, we thought we were going to be able to pass a bill, but it didn’t get across the finish line,” said Diaz. “We feel like the opportunity to negotiate (is still there). We’re having negotiations with the Senate, and we’ll pass a compact or bill that’s in the best interests of the citizens of Florida that invests money in the right places.”
Diaz said the Legislature is still “in the early stages of conversation,” but warned the end of session will be here before lawmakers know it.
“If you have concerns with the compact, if you want to make sure (issues are) addressed, now is the

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Anitere Flores files bill aimed a decriminalizing youth

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Sen. Anitere Flores has filed a bill to decriminalize youthful transgressions, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.
Flores, a Miami Republican and the Senate President Pro Tempore, filed Senate Bill 196 on Tuesday. The measure allows law enforcement officers to issue juveniles who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor a civil citation or require the child to participate in a diversion program.
Under the proposal, law enforcement officers could issue civil citations or require a juvenile to participate in a diversion program for several misdemeanor offenses, including possession of alcohol, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct.
According to a draft of the bill, juveniles who participate in civil citation or similar diversion programs would have to spend a “minimum of 5 hours per week completing” a community service assignment.
Flores’ proposal doesn’t apply to juveniles currently charged with a crime or those who have entered a plea or have been found guilty of an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
The push to decriminalize adolescence is a top priority for Negron. The Stuart Republican mentioned the issue during his designation speech last year and again in November when he formally took over as Senate President.
During his designation speech, Negron said he and his brothers threw water balloons at cars passing by. He celebrated when a balloon hit one of the cars, but said the moment of fun turned somber when his target stopped in the middle of the road.
The man, he told his colleagues, looked him in the eye, flipped down his badge and told him he “hit the wrong car.”
“He marched us up to my father, told him what happened and suffice it to say, that never happened again,” he said during his designation speech.
“Now, take that same factual circumstance in fact pattern and transport it to today.

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Emily Slosberg files bill to strengthen texting while driving law

Monday, December 12th, 2016

State lawmakers will once again try to strengthen the state’s texting while driving during the 2017 Legislative Session.
Two bills have already been filed in the Florida House aimed at beefing up the state’s texting while driving ban. The first — House Bill 47, sponsored by Reps. Richard Stark and Emily Slosberg — removes language from state law that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, and increase penalties for someone caught using their device in a school zone.
The second bill — House Bill 69, sponsored by Slosberg — makes texting while driving a primary offense for juvenile drivers.
The state OK’d legislation in 2013 making it illegal to read or type text messages while driving. There were exceptions of course: Wireless devices could be used for GPS or reporting criminal behavior. And you can use them when the vehicle is stopped.
But lawmakers made texting while driving a secondary offense, making it difficult for law enforcement officers to ticket offenders. That’s because someone first needs to be pulled over for a different traffic infraction, like speeding or not wearing a seat belt, before they can issue a citation for texting and driving.
“It’s like the seat belt law used to be,” said Lt. Eddie Elmore, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “As technology advances, sometimes … laws lag a couple of years behind the technology.”
And that’s why Slosberg is hopeful her bill to make texting while driving a primary offense will gain traction. She said by passing the measure, it would put the state’s texting while driving law on the same trajectory as the seat belt law.
“That’s how the seat belt law evolved,” she said. “First it was a secondary (offense). Then it became a primary for juveniles. Then it became a primary for everyone.”
Traffic safety is a

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Supreme Court won’t hear David Rivera’s appeal in ethics case

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear former Florida House member David Rivera’s appeal of a recommendation he pay nearly $60,000 in penalties for alleged ethical violations.
Chief Justice Jorge Larbarga and justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry signed an order dated Tuesday declining to hear the case. Justice Fred Lewis voted to consider the appeal.
Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston did not participate.
Rivera, of Miami, left the Legislature in 2010 and served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost an attempt to win re-election to the Florida House this year.
Also in 2010, the Florida Commission on Ethics received complaints that Rivera had charged taxpayers for travel expenses already paid by his campaign account and failed to properly disclose his income.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted a separate investigation, but never filed charges, according to court records.
The commission ultimately recommended that Rivera pay $16,500 in civil penalties and more than $41,000 in restitution. It was up to the House speaker to impose any penalties.
On appeal, Rivera argued that, because he no longer serves in the House, the speaker and the House no longer enjoy jurisdiction over him.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in July that Rivera’s appeal would have to await the imposition of any sanctions. That ruling did not preclude an appeal if, and when, that happens.
 
The post Supreme Court won’t hear David Rivera’s appeal in ethics case appeared first on Florida Politics.

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House freshmen get schooled on how a state budget becomes law

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Florida House freshmen attended an introductory course to writing a state budget Tuesday. They learned that the process gives them sweeping authority, but within the limits of fiscal reality.
At present, Florida government is running a $3 billion reserve within a total budget of around $83.5 billion. But if spending continues at existing levels, that reserve will fall by half by this time next year.
And if that happens, the state will find it impossible to maintain its ability to borrow and its cash-flow obligations, while still providing services to the public, House Appropriations Committee chairman Carlos Trujillo said.
“The most important thing is to realize the responsibility that we have,” he summed up following the budget workshop.
“We have to pass a balanced budget. We don’t have any additional revenues. In order for us to meet our obligations, we have to manage our revenues with our expenditures. If our expenditures continue to grow, we have to find other places to save money.”
The 45-minute workshop was among a number of offerings during Legislature University, organized by House leaders to orient new members. You can find the line-up here.
Trujillo and budget committee staff director Joanne Leznoff led the discussion.
They covered the basics about the state budget.
“It’s a bill. It’s filed. It’s vetted through the process. It’s passed out of the House. It’s passed out of the Senate. It’s sent to conference. At the end, like any other bill, both sides have to match,” Trujillo said.
Freshmen might find the process hard to follow, he continued.
“Your first year, and probably your second year, the budget is almost a mystery,” Trujillo said. “You’re voting on it and it’s very difficult to follow. Our goal today is that you’ll all have an elementary understanding of how that function works.”
Trujillo and Leznoff emphasized the Legislature’s sweeping authority over money. Unspent

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This is your Florida House — men, whites, youth have the numbers

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

The Florida House is 76 percent male, 66 percent white, and has an awful lot of newcomers this year, according to data released by the Majority Office.
The Republican caucus is 82 percent male and overwhelmingly white, also at 82 percent, with 17 percent Hispanic and 1 percent African-American.
That last would be Rep. Byron Donalds, representing Hendry and Collier counties.
The 41-member Democratic caucus is 63 percent male, and nearly half — 49 percent — are African-American. Whites comprise 34 percent of the caucus, and Hispanics 17 percent.
Numbers reflect power. Although House Speaker Richard Corcoran has named Miami Representative Jeanette Nunez as his House speaker pro tempore, men  will preside over the nine major House committees.
On the Democratic side, Janet Cruz of Tampa is minority leaders — the first Hispanic woman to hold the post.
For comparison’s sake, here is the state’s demographic breakdown according to U.S. Census figures: nearly 78 percent white; nearly 17 percent African-American; and nearly 25 percent Hispanic.
About those newcomers: There are 49 freshmen in the House this year, including 27 in the GOP caucus and 22 Democrats. Only 20 members are in their fourth year of service, including 17 Republicans and three Democrats.
Southeast Florida sent the most representatives to Tallahassee — 39. North Central Florida sent the fewest (8), followed by Jacksonville (9), the Panhandle (10), Southwest Florida (13), Tampa (19), and Orlando and the Space Coast (22).
The House skews young — 67 of the 120 members are not yet 50 years old, and the 30-39 group is the largest, at 36. Three are in their 20s. There are 35 in their 50s and three in their 70s.
Within the GOP caucus, the 40-49 age-group predominates, with 23 members. But it was close: There are 21 Republicans in their 30s and 20 in their 50s.
There are two age-group spikes among

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Anitere Flores to push for mandatory recess during 2017 session

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

A push for mandatory play time at Florida’s elementary schools will once again be on the agenda during the 2017 legislative session.
Sen. Anitere Flores filed legislation Tuesday that would require school to provide “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free play recess” each week. The mandatory recess would apply to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and would break down to at least 20 minutes each school day.
The bill, Senate Bill 78, is similar to a bill that moved through the Legislature during the 2016 legislative session. That bill received overwhelming support in the Florida House, passing 112-2. But it failed to gain traction in the Senate, despite calls from parents and lawmakers to consider the proposal.
Former Sen. John Legg, who chaired the Senate’s education policy committee at the time, declined to hear the bill. The Tampa Bay Times in February reported Legg considered the issue a local one, and said at the time it didn’t “merit a Tallahassee solution.”
A House companion bill to the 2017 proposal has not yet been filed.
The post Anitere Flores to push for mandatory recess during 2017 session appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Anitere Flores to push for mandatory recess during 2017 session

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

A push for mandatory play time at Florida’s elementary schools will once again be on the agenda during the 2017 legislative session.
Sen. Anitere Flores filed legislation Tuesday that would require school to provide “at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free play recess” each week. The mandatory recess would apply to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and would break down to at least 20 minutes each school day.
The bill, Senate Bill 78, is similar to a bill that moved through the Legislature during the 2016 legislative session. That bill received overwhelming support in the Florida House, passing 112-2. But it failed to gain traction in the Senate, despite calls from parents and lawmakers to consider the proposal.
Former Sen. John Legg, who chaired the Senate’s education policy committee at the time, declined to hear the bill. The Tampa Bay Times in February reported Legg considered the issue a local one, and said at the time it didn’t “merit a Tallahassee solution.”
A House companion bill to the 2017 proposal has not yet been filed.
The post Anitere Flores to push for mandatory recess during 2017 session appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Richard Corcoran: In the House, “We are very, very conservative”

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

The Capitol Press Corps got its first scolding, albeit a gentle one, from Richard Corcoran last week.
The new House Speaker was repeatedly asked during a news conference about how Senate President Joe Negron‘s priorities during the coming legislative session might conflict with his own.
“You people are so conditioned and trained. But so are we — I don’t fault you,” he said after the House’s Organization Session.
“There are 160 legislators. We’ve got to move past, ‘this is a speaker’s priority; this is a Senate president’s priority.’ They ought to be corporate priorities of both chambers.”
The old way of doing things — powerful legislative leaders imposing their will on the Senate and House — is over as far as Corcoran is concerned.
And everybody — his members, the Senate, lobbyists, the press — is going to have to learn that.
When asked whether he could support Negron’s goal of boosting higher education funding, Corcoran objected: “We are trying to transform and move away from a top-down system in the House.”
Corcoran appointed committee chairs, but wants to let them chose committee members and subcommittee chairs, and let all of them decide upon priorities together.
Does even he know what this system will produce?
“You never do,” Corcoran replied. “There’s not a single person in the history of the Legislature who can predict what it’s going to look like come May, whatever it is, at this point in time.
“I’m encouraged, though. I think there is a vast difference between the House and the Senate. We are very, very conservative. You can see that just in the rules, and how it’s going to play out over the next two years.”
He did allow that “Sen. Negron … has always behaved, in my opinion, as a great statesman. He’s a great communicator. That’s why he’s Senate president.”
To Corcoran, there are “good” compromises, in which parties accept less than they’d hoped

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