- SB 1326: The DCF Accountability Act – The Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 1326 on Thursday. This bill is an accountability bill for the Florida Department of Children and Families, appropriating more than five million to the department over the next year. Pilot programs would be set up under this bill in a preventative measure to ensure the highest standard for a department that works with some of the state’s most vulnerable. Read more
- SB 680: Shark Fins – The Florida Legislature is moving forward with a bill prohibiting the import of shark fins to Florida, prohibiting the sale of shark fins within orthe export of shark fins from this state. “Shark finning” has been illegal in U.S. waters for 20 years, but importing and exporting still occurs where harvesters will take the sharks to shore before finning them “legally”. The Senate bill has one more committee before it reaches the floor and the House companion HB 401 is now on the calendar to be heard on the floor. Read more
- SB 70: Panic Alarms in Public Schools – This act is cited as “Alyssa’s Law” an act requiring public schools to be equipped with a panic alarm system. The bill reads “Each public school building must be equipped with at least one panic alarm for use in a school security emergency, including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation”. The panic alarm would be directly connected to a law enforcement agency as a first responder. The Senate bill is headed to the floor and the House companion is placed on the calendar for second reading. Read more
- SB 542: Back-to-school Sales Tax Holiday – The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a sales tax “holiday” for back to school shopping. This measure would allow shoppers to avoid sales taxes on clothing less than $60, school supplies costing $15 or less and computers $1,000 or less. The holiday would be ten days in total beginning on July 31 and ending on August 9. This proposal will be included in budget negotiations between the Senate and House in the next couple of weeks. Read more
State Budget Watch
The Florida Legislature has just under two weeks to reconcile differences in the state budget. Session is scheduled to end March 13, but the budget must be completed by March 10 due to a 72 hour “cooling off” period before both chambers can vote on it. Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley spoke to reporters this week and was confident the spending plan would be completed before the March 10 deadline. The Senate proposed $92.83 billion in spending while the House proposed $91.37 billion in spending. Big differences in the budget stem from these issues: state worker and teacher compensation, spending of affordable-housing, funding for Florida Forever, Visit Florida, and hospitals.
The House Commerce Committee voted on Thursday to proceed with E-Verify requirements. HB 1265 would require public employers and their contractors to register with E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility for workers. This bill would allow private employers to use the federal E-Verify system, or the required I-9 verification system, already required by federal law. Concern from the bill stems from the errors the system has in misidentifying eligible workers. According to a House staff analysis, of the 38.9 million workers that were run through the E-Verify system in 2019, 98.5% confirmed and the .23% of the workers denied were later found to have been authorized. The Senate counterpart SB 664 also includes exemptions for private employers and while there are differences in the two bills, SB 664 is now on the Rules Committee agenda and HB 1265 is headed to the Appropriations committee. Read more
Florida Atlantic University released a new survey showing that more than 86% of Floridians, across both political parties, agree that climate change is happening in the state. 91% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans agreed that climate change is happening. These numbers support policy that is moving through the Florida Legislature to improve and protect water quality and Florida’s natural resources.
The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee backed SB 332, funding $100 million to Florida Forever, administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is required to distribute Florida Forever revenues by a formula established in state statute with the DEP’s Division of State Lands (35 percent), the state’s five water management districts (30) and the Florida Communities Trust (21) being the primary recipients. Funding for Florida Forever will be negotiated as the Legislature heads into budget conferencing.
Separately SB 638 would direct $12 million from Florida Forever to land acquisition and projects that would improve surface and groundwater quality in the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay. The House counterpart, HB 1347 would fund Apalachicola Bay at $5 million.
Tally Madness 2020
Just like college basketball fans who fill out their brackets as part of “March Madness,” political aficionados in the capital and beyond can vote on a series of bracketed match-ups pitting Florida’s top lobbyists against each other. This year Florida Politics is mixing things up and crowning the first top ‘young’ lobbyist in Florida.
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