In many ways, the 2020 Legislative Session is already underway, even though it officially doesn’t open till Jan. 14. That’s because lawmakers just concluded the second of several committee weeks leading up to the Session’s start. The highlight was on Tuesday, with the formal selection of state Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, as Senate President-designate for 2020-22. He’s now officially set to succeed Bill Galvano as head of that chamber when the Bradenton Republican is term limited out after the 2020 elections. 

 

Florida House of Representatives

House members began mulling teacher compensation in light of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise the pay of rookie educators to the second highest rate in the nation. The Governor wants to raise the new teacher starting salary to $47,500 statewide. Chris Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who chairs the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, said that "when it comes to rewarding our teachers, everything's on the table."

 

Florida Senate

The words “climate change” weren’t uttered often in Tallahassee this past decade. That doesn’t mean no one thought about it. The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee met to discuss the impact of changing climate and ways Florida can better adapt. Speakers included the state’s new Chief Resilience Officer, Julia Nesheiwat. Said committee chair Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican: “I’m elated you all have been thinking about this.”

   
 

Bill of the Week

Nebuchadnezzar may yet come to Florida — the wine bottle size, not the king of ancient Babylon. State Sen. Travis Hutson, a Palm Coast Republican, will try again this Session to repeal the state’s bottle-size law. Current law generally makes it illegal to sell wine in an individual container holding more than 1 gallon unless in a reusable 5.16 gallon container. A typical bottle is 750 milliliters, roughly a fifth of a gallon. The bill for 2020 (SB 138) would allow wine bottles of all sizes. That includes the "Nebuchadnezzar," which holds 15 liters — the volume of 20 standard wine bottles. The bill also includes positive changes for craft distilleries and their consumers, including revised language which will make it easier for craft distilleries to sell their branded products to consumers from the gift shop.

If passed, the bill goes into effect next July 1. The measure also repeals a legal provision requiring restaurant-goers to order and consume a full meal before they can take home an opened bottle of wine. That would extend the “merlot to go” legacy of the late Senate President Jim King‘s 2005 measure that first legalized carryout wine.

 

Federal Spotlight

GrayRobinson's Washington, DC office releases a newsletter each week entitled The Golden Apple, reporting on the "latest discord on Capitol Hill." This week's newsletter discussed Senator Ron Wyden's (D-OR) introduction of sweeping privacy legislation. The Mind Your Own Business Act would impose fines and prison terms on executives who misuse customers’ personal information and lie about that to Congress. 

In announcing the bill, Wyden named Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as someone who hadn’t suffered enough consequences for violations of privacy and lying to the government. The bill expands on legislation Wyden circulated as a discussion draft last year; it would grant the Federal Trade Commission sweeping new powers to set privacy and cybersecurity standards, levy fines of up to 4% of a company’s annual revenue, create a national Do Not Track system that lets consumers opt out of sharing their data online, and give consumers a way to review and challenge the personal information companies have collected about them. Wyden said that his bill would provide the most comprehensive privacy protections ever introduced, going further than the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

 

GrayRobinson Alumni News

 

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed two new circuit judges for Hillsborough County's 13th Judicial Circuit, one of which is a GrayRobinson alumnus.

Alissa Ellison, previously a GrayRobinson shareholder, will replace Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, who resigned. Ellison has been a Hillsborough County Judge since last April, when she was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott.

In other GrayRobinson alumni news, former shareholder Carlos Muniz was recently honored during an investiture ceremony for his appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a justice of the Supreme Court. Muniz is the first Nicaraguan American Justice to join the court.

Additionally, former shareholder Allen Winsor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve in a lifetime appointment as a U.S. federal district judge for the Northern District.

Congratulations to these accomplished GrayRobinson alumni!

 

Looking Ahead

The second of back-to-back committee weeks this month begins Monday. But the Senate will be doing double duty as it also convenes in Special Session to consider the fate of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Gov. DeSantis suspended him over his handling of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Now, the Senate is constitutionally tasked with reviewing the suspension and deciding whether to remove or reinstate Israel to office. Special Master Dudley Goodlette, a lawyer and Republican former lawmaker, has already heard evidence in the matter and recommended that Israel be returned to office.

Senators will convene briefly at 9 a.m. Monday in the chamber to formally organize the Special Session, then the Rules Committee meets at 10:30 a.m. to review Goodlette’s advisory report and recommendation that Israel be returned to the job. Lawyers for Gov. DeSantis, who wants Israel gone, will give a presentation, as will Israel’s lawyer, and public testimony will be taken. The Rules Committee will then come up with its own recommendation. By Wednesday, the full Senate meets again to consider the Rules recommendation and may vote.