A history-making removal from office of a county sheriff by the Senate, and the resurgence of a controversial abortion-related bill drove the debate in the Capitol last week. Lawmakers now take a break until November 4, when they will return for another pair of back-to-back committee weeks leading up to the 2020 Legislative Session, which starts January 14. 

Florida House of Representatives

A House panel cleared a bill requiring parental consent before a minor seeks an abortion. (Currently, the requirement is just parental notification.) The House Health & Human Services Committee reported favorably on partisan lines the bill (HB 265) filed by Republican Representative Erin Grall of Vero Beach. That panel was the only stop for the bill, which makes it available for a full floor vote when the Legislature convenes in January. If approved, it would reinstate a 1980s-era provision that required consent but was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court. There’s no alimony bill yet filed for 2020, but House Civil Justice Subcommittee chair Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, held a workshop to consider crafting such legislation. The Legislature has taken up proposals to revise or replace what’s known as “permanent alimony” for several years. It passed a major bill in 2016 that was vetoed by then-Governor Rick Scott. "We understand this is an extremely sensitive issue on both sides," Rommel said.

Florida Senate

The talk in Tallahassee this week was the removal by the Florida Senate of suspended Broward Sheriff County Scott Israel. The decision to remove was made largely along party lines with a final vote of 25-15. The issue drew spirited debate from both sides including an admonition by Senate President Bill Galvano to Democratic state Senator Perry Thurston to “tone it down.” The postscript is that this was just a prelude to the 2020 elections for which Israel has already filed to run for his now former post. 

Bill of the Week

Senator Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat, has filed legislation to stop employers from asking about a job applicant's criminal history early in the application process. Employers would, however, ultimately be able to consider an applicant's criminal history before making a hire. 

The measure (SB 616) is motivated by the so-called "Ban the Box" movement, where employers are discouraged from asking about a person's previous felony history upfront since the question can be used to screen out those applicants even if a conviction was decades ago. 

Advocates say that with additional barriers to finding a job, it increases the likelihood of an individual reoffending and returning to prison. Under the bill, employers would be required to review an application and conduct an initial interview before asking an applicant about his or her criminal history.

The downside: Employers who do not comply would be hit with a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation. The measure would not apply to positions within law enforcement or the criminal justice system. It also does not apply to volunteer positions, or any field where “federal, state, or local law, including corresponding rules and regulations, requires the consideration of an applicant’s criminal history.” If passed, it would take effect on July 1, 2020.

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 the defense of the housing reform plan.  

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin, HUD Secretary Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, and FHFA Director Dr. Mark Calabria appeared before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday to explain the Administration’s plan for ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and making other changes to the federal structure for housing finance. HFSC Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said that the Administration’s plan would eliminate affordable housing goals and make housing inaccessible to those who need it most. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), the Committee’s ranking member, said this is a powerful opportunity to enact “difficult policy that divides both parties,” since lasting change will require bipartisan action. All sides do agree on the need to preserve a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage option. 

Client Spotlight

Here’s all you need to know about Crystal Lagoons: They transform any destination into an “idyllic beach paradise.” And even idyllic beach paradises need representation. 

Tallahassee Managing Director Jason Unger represents the interests of Crystal Lagoons U.S. Corp., a multinational company that developed pioneering technology allowing crystalline lagoons of unlimited sizes to be built around the world.

In fact, they look like seasides—bodies of turquoise-colored water surrounded by white sand beaches. One of the company's most recent lagoons in the U.S. is at the award-winning community of BeachWalk in St. John’s County. 

Also, it shouldn’t surprise that the company’s “official global ambassador” is none other than 28-time Olympic swimming medalist Michael Phelps. 

Looking Ahead

The next big event on the calendar is the Associated Press Legislative Preview day on Tuesday. The scheduled lead-off speaker is Governor Ron DeSantis, who may choose to debut his 2020-21 state budget, as previous Governor Rick Scott was wont to do.    Also on the list (in expected order): Galvano, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, House Speaker Jose Oliva, Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, and Secretary of State Laurel Lee.

Looking even further ahead, the November set of back-to-back committee weeks are chockfull of appropriation subcommittee meetings in the House and Senate. With over 200 appropriation project requests filed in the House, expect those meeting agendas to be full of member project requests from around the state. This is especially so, as the internal House filing deadline for appropriation project requests is November 15.