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Senate Panel Hears List of Bills Headed For Floor

The Senate Rules Committee  is the last committee for a number of bills before they get heard on the Senate floor. And because of that, it’s a place where sometimes changes are slipped in and a bill lawmakers heard in an earlier committee can be significantly different by the time it’s heard by the full chamber. That’s something Senate leaders say they hope to discourage. And something Senator Gwen Margolis (D-Miami) raised concerns about during Monday’s committee meeting.

“This is the rules committee. It’s a different kind of place. We’re looking to put things on the calendar,” Margolis said.

Margolis was talking about a significant change Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) wanted to make to one of his bills. Margolis said major changes need to be heard in other committees, but Senator Jack Latvala,(R-Clearwater) said Bean’s bill is a special case.

“I mean, I don’t think he’s pulling anything here. It looks pretty boring and I don’t see any juicy things in here, so I’m comfortable with it,” Bean said.

Latvala said a number of other bills had been added to Bean’s bill through amendments in a previous committee, making it a “heavy” bill and giving it a tougher chance of passing. Bean, a Republican from Jacksonville, said the point of his amendment is to recreate the original bill he’d been going for, which is a measure that would spell out the criteria for organizations that can accredit nursing homes receiving government funding. Bean said it’s really just a glitch bill.

“We changed it in statutes last year, one time, but there are 23 other places in Florida statute where it needs to be changed,” Bean said.

The bill passed out of the committee with the changes.

The panel of lawmakers also considered another measure authored by Senator Bean. The measure would extend state-backed Citizen’s Property Insurance coverage to structures attached to mobile homes like porches, but Senator Margolis said she’s not so sure that’s a good idea.

“I’ve seen many hurricanes and I’ve never seen a mobile home park last through any hurricane. And now not only are we taking on the 150-thousand that we’re already insuring, but we’re going to have their patios and we’re going to have their car ports and we’re going to have that metal flying all over the place. I think it’s a big mistake." Margolis said.

Margolis said extending the coverage means the state is taking on even more liability in the case of a major storm. The bill passed though the committee. Next it heads to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, a similar bill has already passed the full House.

And lawmakers also discussed a bill that would put more rules in place for a mentally ill person who is looking to buy a gun. Right now a person who is involuntarily committed for mental health treatment is listed in a database and not able to purchase a firearm.  A measure sponsored by Senator Audrey Gibson, a Democrat from Jacksonville would extend that to people who voluntarily commit themselves. It’s a move National Rifle Association spokeswoman, Marion Hammer, said her organization supports.

“The bill stops dangerous people from being able to purchase guns. The bill closes a loop in the Baker Act system. For those people who voluntarily agree to commitment and have been diagnosed as an imminent danger to themselves or others from being able to purchase guns until they have had treatment and can then apply to have their names removed from the database,” Hammer said.

The measure passed in the committee. Next it heads to the Senate floor. A similar bill has already passed in the House.

For more news updates, follow @regan_mccarthy on twitter!

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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