January 10-13, 2012
FIRST WEEK OF THE 2012 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The annual Session of the Florida Legislature was opened Tuesday, January 10 and is scheduled to conclude Friday, March 9, 2012. Each Friday afternoon during the 60-day Session, the Conference highlights legislative action on priority bills and provides a summary of activities of interest at the Capitol. For filed bills closely followed by Florida Catholic Conference staff, see the legislative bill report, which is updated on a daily basis.
Two constitutionally required duties of the legislature are expected to dominate much of the 2012 Session: redistricting and passing a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Once-a-decade after receipt of census data, legislators are required to redraw state legislative and Congressional district boundaries. After public hearings across the state to gather input from Florida residents, House and Senate subcommittees are working to develop proposals that will eventually be presented to the full chambers. Due to population growth, Florida will be adding two Congressional districts, increasing our state’s representation in the U.S. House to 27.
This year, lawmakers are facing a budget shortfall of nearly $2 billion requiring tough budget decisions that may lead to cuts in programs for our state’s poor and vulnerable populations.
Opening Session Remarks and State of the State
On Tuesday morning, both the Senate President and House Speaker convened their chambers and gave opening remarks reviewing last year’s accomplishments and expectations for 2012.
To a joint session of the legislature, the Governor delivered his State of the State address. In his speech, he appealed to legislators to lower taxes on small businesses and eliminate unnecessary regulations, require greater accountability for Workforce Boards and job training for those receiving unemployment, and continue a commitment to education by increasing school choices for Florida’s parents and significantly increasing state funding for education.
Highlighted Bill Action This Week
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a Proposed Committee Bill (JDC1) that provides additional jurisdiction for the Office of Statewide Prosecution relating to human trafficking and increases the criminal penalty for a person who knowingly engages in human trafficking from a second degree felony to a first degree felony and for human smuggling from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. During the committee meeting, Conference staff stated support for the measure. A companion bill, SB 1880 (Flores), has been filed in the Senate.
An additional human trafficking related bill, SB 80 (Joyner), was passed favorably by Criminal Justice (6-0). Conference staff indicated support for the measure. This bill requires employees of massage parlors to have valid work authorization documents on the premises. This provision was added to JDC1 in the House.
HB 531 (Reed) was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the Health and Human Services Access Subcommittee (14-0). Conference staff stated support for the bill during the committee meeting. This bill requires the motor vehicle registration form and driver license application to include an option to make a voluntary contribution to aid the homeless and establishes a homelessness prevention grant program. The measure goes next to the House Appropriations Committee. Companion SB 1130 (Storms) is referred to Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
CS/SB 402 (Negron) creates the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns and was reported favorably with a Committee Substitute by the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations (7-0). This was the second committee of reference for the bill, which passed Health Regulation unanimously during the committee weeks prior to the start of the session. It goes next to Senate Budget. Companion HB 227 (Stargel) is now in the House Health and Human Services Quality Subcommittee. The measure is supported by the Conference.
Florida Kidcare Program
SB 510 (Rich) removes the prohibition on children of state employees from participating in the Kidcare program if they are otherwise eligible. The bill was found favorable with a Committee Substitute by Senate Health Regulation (7-0) and is referred next to Budget. Conference staff waived testimony and stated support for the measure during the committee meeting. House companion HB 849 (Schwartz) is now in Health and Human Services Access Subcommittee.
HB 273 (Kiar) requires emergency response agencies responsible for notifying school districts of emergencies to also notify private schools in the district. The bill having been found favorable by its first reference during committee weeks preceding the session was reported favorably this week by the Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee (13-0) and is now in the Education Committee. Senate companion, SB 494 (Negron), has been referred to Education Pre-K-12. The measure is supported by the Conference.
Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program
SB 962 (Benacquisto) was found favorable with a Committee Substitute this week by Education Pre-K-12 (4-2) and is now in the Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. This bill, which is supported by the Conference, increases the funding cap for the FTC Scholarship Program from $175 million to $250 million, allowing as many as 6500 more students from low-income families to access the program. During the past school year, the program grew to serve approximately 35,000 students, of which 4,120 were in Catholic schools. A related but not identical bill, HB 859 (Corcoran), is now in the House Finance and Tax Committee.