Public Comment:

They said it. We report it.

"If you say the cruise lines can’t sail, you’re basically an anti-vaxxer.”  — Gov. Ron DeSantis

New Business: On tap this week.

Local Impact: State issues

  • Reclaimed Water Legislation (HB 263 by Rep. Maggard/SB 64 by Sen. Albritton) The legislation would set a five-year timeline to eliminate non-beneficial surface water discharges. The legislation would also create a permit structure for the use of reclaimed water, including for human consumption, a process colloquially referred to as “toilet-to-tap.” The full Senate unanimously passed the measure. The House Special Order Calendar for Tuesday lists both versions of the bill.
  • Combating Public Disorder Legislation (HB 1 by Rep. Fernandez-Barquin/SB 484 by Sen. Burgess) Following the House’s passage of HB 1 (along party lines), Senate President Wilton Simpson referred the controversial bill to only the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate version of the same bill, which would increase penalties for certain crimes committed during protests, has been held up in its first committee stop, the Criminal Justice Committee, by Chair Sen. Jason Pizzo who opposes the bill. Thanks to the Senate President’s procedural maneuver, the House bill was heavily debated on Friday by the Senate Appropriations Committee and passed by a vote of 11-9 to the Senate floor. HB 1 is on the Senate’s Special Order Calendar for Wednesday.
  • State Preemption of Seaport Regulations Legislation (HB 267 by Rep. Roach/SB 426 by Sen. Boyd) The bills would preempt local government ordinances that “restrict or regulate commerce” at Florida seaports. The provision targets a Key West ordinance aimed at keeping cruise ships away from the island. The Senate bill will go before the Senate Rules Committee, its last committee stop, this Wednesday at 9 a.m. 
  • Home-Based Businesses Legislation (HB 403 by Rep. Giallombardo/SB 266 by Sen. Perry) The bills would preempt local ordinances regulating most home-based businesses. In the House, the bill has been temporarily postponed on the Special Order Calendar. In the Senate, the bill will go before the Senate Rules Committee, its last committee stop, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
  • Vacation Rental Preemption Legislation (HB 219 by Rep. Fischer/SB 522 by Sen. Diaz) The bills originally would have preempted local ordinances regulating vacation rentals and set up a statewide regulatory framework for the industry, requiring platforms like Airbnb to collect and remit tourism taxes. As well, the bills would not have superseded local ordinances enacted before June 1, 2011. Since the original filing, the Senate amended its legislation to remove the state preemption language. The Senate bill will be heard on Wednesday at 9 a.m. by the Senate Rules Committee, its last committee stop.
  • State Budget (HB 5001 by Rep. Trumbull/SB 2500 by Sen. Stargel) The House and Senate passed their respective budgets this week, officially signaling the start of a critical phase in the legislative session: budget negotiations. The Senate’s spending plan totals $95 billion. The House plan is $97 billion. However, unlike the upper chamber, the House budget includes federal funds expected to be drawn down from the American Rescue Plan. Florida is in line to receive $10.2 billion from the federal coronavirus relief effort over the coming year. Upon the Senate budget’s passage, Senate Budget Chief Kelly Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, described the chamber’s comparatively modest proposal as a “worst-case scenario.” And while state economists have forecast a better fiscal outlook every time they’ve met this year — revenue estimates ticked up by $2 billion Tuesday — Sen. Stargel said her chamber will prioritize frugality this year. The Legislature also came to an agreement on a controversial plan to spend a portion of documentary stamp tax revenues, which are typically used to fund affordable housing, for environmental projects. Under the plan, the state would put $200 million toward housing and use $111.7 million to fund efforts to combat sea-level rise and another $111.7 million for wastewater infrastructure grants. Lawmakers maintain the infrastructure plan is not a “Sadowski sweep” and note the $200 million funding level is more than the Legislature typically spends on affordable housing and statutorily protects the fund from any future sweeps. A developing environmental crisis at Piney Point, the derelict phosphate mine in Manatee County, led Sen. Jim Boyd — with Senate President Simpson’s blessing — to offer a budget amendment that would direct coronavirus relief funds to the cleanup effort. The total bill could be $200 million or more.

State Report

  • Barber Services Legislation (HB 855 by Rep. Nixon/SB 1176 by Sen. Stewart) The bills would change barber regulations to allow for house calls. Current law only allows house calls for customers with debilitating health issues. The Senate Rules Committee approved SB 1176 and is now ready for a floor vote. The House has already passed the companion bill.

The legislation would update the State Emergency Management Act to better address and minimize threats that arise due to pandemics or other public health emergencies. It would address planning and preparations; require greater transparency for emergency orders, delegated emergency powers, and emergency spending; and pull back the authority of local government emergency orders that restrict individual liberties, among other things. This priority legislation is moving quickly in both the House and Senate. The Senate bill cleared its final committee this week, though it is now pending a reference review and could go before another committee before hitting the chamber floor.

The bills would require online retailers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases regardless of whether they have a physical presence in Florida. The measure is expected to increase tax collections by $1 billion. Initially, the money will be used to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund, after which it will offset a decrease in the commercial rent sales tax. The proposal has cleared both chambers and is headed to the Governor’s desk.

  • Growth Management Legislation (HB 59 by Rep. McClain/SB 496 by Sen. Perry) The legislation would require local governments to consider adding a “property rights element” to its comprehensive plan that would consider property owners’ rights to privacy, perform property improvements, and sell or gift the property, among other things. The Senate took up the House bill and passed it unanimously. It now heads to the Governor.

Federal Report

  • U.S. Congress was in recess this past week, but President Joe Biden made sure that it was not quiet in Washington, DC, as he announced COVID vaccination updates, rolled out executive actions, and released his proposed budget. We break it all down below. 
  • On Tuesday, President Biden announced that all American adults should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. This timeline keeps him on track to meet his accelerated goal of distributing 200 million vaccines within his first 100 days in office. Equally as significant is the White House’s opposition to requiring a vaccine passport. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
  • On Thursday, President Biden rolled out a series of firearm-related executive actions. One of Biden’s six executive actions would take steps to stop the sale of “ghost guns,” coined for their lack of a serial number. More on these actions can be found here.
  • On Friday, President Biden released what we fondly refer to in DC as the “skinny” budget. This “skinny” budget provides suggested funding levels for Congress to debate and consider. The release of this budget symbolizes the start of the Appropriations process and allows the House and Senate Appropriations Committee to set budget numbers and get to work on writing bills which will include, for the first time in a long time, Member Community Project Funding (i.e., earmarks).
  • The President’s blueprint requests $1.5 trillion in federal spending for FY22 and includes plus ups in almost all domestic programs. Key items of note:

     

    • $36.5 billion investment in high poverty Title I schools.
    • $6.5 billion brand-new investment in what is being called ARPA-H (Advanced Research Project Agency-Health) to develop innovative solutions to health care challenges, such as cancer rapid innovation and development on therapeutics for COVID-19 and future pandemics. This will be housed at NIH.
    • $3.9 billion increase on opioid/substance abuse prevention.
    • $14 billion in new funding for climate change and climate related programs.
    • $8.6 billion to Centers for Disease Control, which is the biggest increase in 20 years.
  • In other, somber news, longtime Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings passed away on Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. His loss is felt particularly hard within Florida’s 20th Congressional District, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, but is also deeply felt in the halls of Congress. With his passing, the Democrats’ slim majority in the House shrinks further to a 218 to 211 margin. This could have significant impacts as Congress considers policy, and specifically as they look to pass President Biden’s controversial $2.25 infrastructure package (American Jobs Plan).​