Senate debates Citizens and dyed chicks

Mar 6, 2012

With the end of the regular legislative session in sight, the Florida Senate was in high gear Tuesday.  Tom Flanigan reports the chamber dealt with a total of sixty bills in the morning session alone.

The blistering pace was set right out of the box.  On Monday, debate on the surplus lines insurance bill took up nearly two hours of senate time.  On Tuesday, Representative Garret Richter introduced that bill for the third and last time…

Richter: “As we debated yesterday, this bill allows surplus lines companies to remove policies from Citizens Property Insurance.”

Haridopolos:  “Is there debate?  Seeing no debate, the secretary will unlock the board and senators prepare to vote.  Have all senators voted?  Have all senators voted?  Secretary will lock the board and announce the vote.”

Secretary: “Twenty-six yeas, eight nays, Mr. President.”

Haridopolos:  “And by your vote it passes.  Read the next bill.”

Total elapsed time, less than half-a-minute.  In its final form, Citizens policyholders would have to agree in writing to being taken over by a surplus lines insurer.  Later in the day, the House took up the senate version of the bill.  With all the amendments added on Monday, Richter said few if any surplus lines insurers would actually wind up doing business in Florida.  Another bill that has sparked much discussion this year would allow state workers at the bottom of the pay scale to apply for KidCare, the children’s health program for low-income families.  Bill sponsor, Weston Democrat Nan Rich, had told members the measure would wind up saving the state money.

“I said that we would save $626; I meant $626,000 is the estimate.  Although I think that will be a lot higher.  But the most important thing about this bill is that it will be covering more children in our state.”

Rich’s bill passed without a single “no” vote.  As did a bill from Miami Republican Anitere Flores….

“Thank you very much, Mr. President.  Members, this bill provides that it is a third-degree felony for a person to knowingly distribute to a minor, or post materials harmful to a minor on school property.”

Several other bills passed the senate.  One would give the Florida Department of Agriculture the power to regulate bee keeping amongst other things.  Republican Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale proposed an amendment.

“This amendment would repeal Section 828.161, which prohibits artificial coloring and sale of certain animals and fowls.  We’re the only state in the entire country that prohibits the dyeing of animals.”

Senator Nan Rich was waiting with her own amendment to keep that unique Florida law on the books that bans brightly colored bunnies, chicks and ducklings.

“And you know what, they look really cute dyed at a couple months of age.  But then when they get older and nobody wants them, then we have all of these animals out there who either get turned loose or sent to our animals shelters.”

Which brought this response from Bogdanoff:

“It doesn’t harm the animal.  And I don’t know about any of you, but I have not seen articles and a tremendous amount of problems with respect to green or yellow chickens….no, chickens are yellow, actually….green or pink chickens that have flooded the market in 49 other states.”

Finally, the Ag bill, with the Bogdanoff and not the Rich amendment in place, passed.  That brings Floridians closer to the day they may buy brightly colored live critters at Eastertime.  There were more serious bills before the senate, too.  One of them from Bradenton Republican Mike Bennett.

“The bill creates a forfeiture by wrongdoing hearsay exception.  Under this exception, a hearsay statement would be admissible if the party against whom it is offered engaged in wrongdoing that caused the person who made that statement to be unavailable to testify.”

This would make it easier for victims in domestic abuse cases to testify, even if they were afraid to show up in court.  Senator Bogdanoff also had an add-on for this bill:

“This amendment provides that except when provided by Florida Constitution or written permission from the owner, evidence obtained from the warrantless search of a cellular phone or other electronic device is inadmissible in a court of law.”

With that extra provision, the bill headed for a final reading and vote.  Dozens of other bills are headed in the same direction.