State News in Review – December 2018

News in the weeks since the November elections has been filled with stories related to the transition. While Collier’s legislative delegation is largely unchanged, the new Governor, Cabinet members, and House and Senate leaders have new priorities. The news highlighted in this post provides a good indication of what to expect in the Legislative Session ahead. Following the review of state news are links to December news by or about Collier’s representatives in Congress.
Public Education
  • More challenges for Florida’s science curricula? Two members of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ transition team for education are linked to efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution and climate change. Education Week, 12/7/18
  • Florida taps Republican politician for top education post. The Board of Education unanimously chose former House Speaker Richard Corcorcan despite being urged to first conduct a national search. APNews via Naples Daily News, 12/18/18
  • DeSantis pledges more voucher funding. Among those in his inner circle, Florida Trend magazine names former House speaker Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Byron Donalds. Tampa Bay Times, 12/22/18
Financing and Delivery of Healthcare
  • Passidomo: Florida’s mental health system needs total revamp. Collier’s Sen. Kathleen Passidomo helped pass a law in 2016 to provide better mental and behavioral services across the state, but it was never funded. WPTV.com, 12/11/18
Election Law
  • House Democrats weigh election reforms. Proposals include adjusting voting and registration deadlines, eliminating prohibitions on counting early votes and requiring signature-matching training for supervisors and canvassing boards. Miami-Herald, 12/12/18
Gun Safety
  • School massacre panel recommends arming teachers. The group convened to investigate the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shootings voted 13-1 to allow the arming of teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training. APNews, 12/11/18
  • Gun permit process needs stronger oversight, audit finds. Commissioner of Agriculture-elect Nikki Fried wants a review of the entire process. Orlando Sentinel, 12/6/18
  • Related: Problems with concealed weapons program are worse than first reported. Tampa Bay Times, 12/6/18
Environmental Protection and Pollution Control
  • Where’s Florida? Nine Attorneys General sue to stop massive harming of marine life in Atlantic. Florida AG Pam Bondi is notably absent from the legal action. Florida Phoenix, 12/20/18
  • Water woes await DeSantis; transition team wants to do more now. His 40-member panel will frame issues and identify steps to improve water quality. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 12/10/18
  • Related: Transition panel wants state input in Army Corps’ Lake O releases. Florida Watchdog, 12/12/18
  • SFWMD board to pay $7.2 million for test wells to cut Lake O discharges. District officials say 30 to 60 “deep injection wells” could dramatically reduce the need for discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Treasure Coast Newspapers, 12/13/18
  • SFWMD drops option to buy U.S. Sugar land. The deal negotiated by then-Gov. Crist called for the state to buy 187,000 acres to re-create the flow-way to the Everglades. But Gov. Scott dramatically cut the district’s revenue from property taxes, citing the recession. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 12/13/18
  • Cabinet approves land deal. The state will purchase a conservation easement for $6.4 million on nearly 20,000 acres of timberland near the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico. Southeast AgNet Radio, 12/5/18
The economy
  • Florida businesses to see 13.8 percent decrease in workers’ comp insurance rates. “This amounts to almost a half billion dollars in savings for Florida’s business community,” Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said. Press Release, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 11/9/18
  • S&P raises credit rating on Florida’s $24 billion Treasury Investment Pool to AA- from A+. S&P cited the “quality of investment, comparison with other funds with similar composition, and sound management by CFO Patronis’ Division of Treasury” as reasons they raised the rate. Florida Daily, 12/12/18
  • Florida unemployment rate drops to 3.3 percent, lowest in 12 years. Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 79 of the past 80 months. Press Release, Office of Gov. Rick Scott, via Naples Daily News, 12/21/18
  • Florida’s low reemployment tax rate earned it national recognition. Since 2012, Florida has reduced its reemployment (i.e. unemployment insurance) tax rate by more than 94 percent. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18
  • Florida’s tax revenues boom as budget runs $365 million ahead of projections. DeSantis and lawmakers are looking at the biggest state two-year increase since the pre-recession peak of 2006. Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18
  • Related: Projected surge in 2019 revenues may trigger 2020 tax refunds for Florida businesses. Watchdog.org, 12/22/18
Other matters of public policy
  • DeSantis names Seminole County elections supervisor to be Florida’s next secretary of state. Michael Ertel will replace Ken Detzner, who was appointed to the position in 2012 by Gov. Scott. Miami-Herald, 12/28/18
  • More than 20 DeSantis campaign donors advise him on important policy decisions. They may have “an outsized role” in charting a course for the administration, says Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. Miami-Herald, 12/16/18
    • Related: DeSantis advisors reject criminal justice reforms, urge strict prison sentences. Miami-Herald, 12/21/18
  • 2019 E-Verify bills likely to revive bitter feud among Republicans. They could pit immigration reform proponents against the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the state’s agricultural industry. Florida Watchdog, 12/19/18
  • Florida’s growing population to impact post-Census redistricting. The Legislature draws congressional and state legislative district lines, and is already gearing up for what could be a contentious battle. Florida Watchdog, 12/31/18
  • Who pays for Alligator Alley’s lonely fire station? Sen. Passidomo has filed SB 72 to ensure that tolls charged on the Alley cover the budget for emergency responders at the station. Florida Politics, 11/26/18
Florida Legislature – Collier Delegation Committee Assignments
  • Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (District 28) will serve as Senate Majority Leader, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee; Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Ethics and Elections Committee; Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee; and Rules Committee.
  • Rep. Bob Rommel (District 106) will chair the Civil Justice Subcommittee and will serve as Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee and of the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, and as a member of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Health Market Reform Subcommittee, and Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.
  • Rep. Byron Donalds (District 80) will chair the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and will serve on the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Education Committee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, and Ways & Means Committee.
  • Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez (District 105) will serve as a member of the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Civil Justice Subcommittee, Health Quality Subcommittee, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.
The Florida courts
  • Court battle over felons’ rights could end. The passage of Amendment 4 may make moot a suit over the constitutionality of the state’s Clemency Board process. News Service of Florida via WUSF Public Media, 12/21/18
  • Democratic legislators call for a change in how state Supreme Court judges are nominated. Proposed SB 138 and HB 93 would curb the governor’s influence on the process. Tallahassee Democrat, 12/12/18
  • Medical-marijuana ruling put on hold by Florida appeals court. The case could open the door to more firms doing business in the fast-growing medical marijuana market. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 12/19/18
  • Florida Supreme Court to take up ‘Assignment of Benefits’ insurance fight. AOB has been one of the most controversial insurance issues in recent years and is expected to spur a fight during the 2019 legislative session. News Service of Florida via Palm Beach Post, 12/29/18
  • State appealing ‘liquor wall’ decision. The ruling could allow retailers to sell hard liquor in their main stores, instead of in separate stores as they do now. Florida Politics, 12/29/18
Florida Cabinet
  • Almost 70 years later, Florida prepares apology to families of the Groveland Four. The young black men were falsely accused of rape, tortured and killed or imprisoned. Incoming Clemency Board members DeSantis, Fried, Moody, and Patronis have each said they support or will consider a pardon. Tampa Bay Times, 4/19/17; Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18; APNews, 12/19/18; Miami-Herald, 12/20/18
  • Moody to crack down on Chinese fentanyl. Fentanyl abuse was a central part of her campaign for Attorney General. She called the synthetic “much more dangerous and deadly” than heroin. Florida Politics, 12/3/18
  • Citizens Insurance board approves 8.2 percent hike in property insurance rates. The recommendation by the state’s “insurer of last resort” must be approved by the state Office of Insurance Regulation, which is administratively housed within CFO Patronis’ Dept. of Financial Services. Sun Sentinel, 12/12/18
Congress — Collier Delegation
  • Rubio sees opportunities to deal with migration from Central and South America. Miami-Herald, 12/14/18
  • Rubio introduces bill to help hospitals providing care to low-income patients. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/18/18
  • Rubio one of 12 senators to vote no on Trump-backed criminal justice overhaul. Politico, 12/18/18 and FOX News Radio
  • Rubio, Diaz-Balart, and Scott urge Trump to nix proposed 30-year Cuban baseball deal. Florida Politics, 12/27/18
  • Rubio releases “Fighting for Florida” report detailing his 2018 legislative accomplishments. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/28/18
  • Rooney’s carbon tax a bipartisan effort despite conservative opposition. Naples Daily News, 12/9/18
  • Rooney: Federal Farm Bill a “waste of money”, has “bloated subsidies” for sugar companies. Rooney and Rubio voted no; Diaz-Balart and Nelson voted for the bill. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18; WINK News, 12/19/18
  • Rooney, Diaz-Balart among 60 members of Congress to urge Trump admin to fund programs related to toxic algae crisis. Florida Daily, 12/20/18
  • Rooney: Protect eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling. Cape Coral Daily Breeze, 12/28/18