2015 Legislative Issues
Standardized Testing, Teacher Evaluations and End-of-Course Exams
Florida lawmakers are looking to pare down on the number of tests occurring in the state’s public schools. The move comes after a year of criticism and efforts by parents and anti-common core/Florida Standards
groups to boycott the state’s standardized testing system. A bill by Senator John Legg (R-Lutz) has filed a bill revamping the testing structure, and revising what tests can be used for teacher evaluations and how much they count toward deciding how successful teachers are.
Opposition to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has slowly been whittling away this year. The Florida Medical Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce say they would support pulling down tens of billions in federal dollars to extend the program that provides health insurance to low-people to a million more. Some Republican leaders have said they’re even willing to re-visit the issue giving advocates hope that Florida will soon be added to the list of states that have expanded the program.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate are putting forward a proposal that would enshrine telemedicine in state law. The practice of doctors using video technology to treat patients remotely is already in place in many Florida hospitals and other places. Supporters say by recognizing telemedicine in law, and making in reimbursable in the state’s Medicaid program, its use will increase and potentially drive down costs.
- The state’s prison system has a new Secretary in Julie Jones. She’s been tasked with trying to change the culture of the troubled Florida Department of Corrections, which has been plagued by inmate deaths and prison guard abuse allegations.
- Allowing guns on college and university campuses.
- Bill re-filed allowing people to carry guns during mandatory evacuations caused quite a dustup between the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the National Rifle Association last year
Police Body Cameras Bill
- Bill mandating law enforcement officers across the state wear body cameras. According to the bill’s sponsor, that bill will now be watered down
Child Welfare Reform Law
- There have been a number of high profile death incidents in recent months that has already spurred a number of changes to Florida’s child welfare agency.
- The lawmakers who were charged with writing an overhaul of the Florida Department of Children and Families are now looking at making some tweaks to the law, including to the state’s child abuse hotline.
- Primarily a fight between craft and major brewers
- Two big issues—bottle size restrictions (growlers); the tourism exception
- Secondary question: liquor sales in retail establishments like grocery stores w/out separate entrance
- Alt. angle: check in w/ FL wineries and distilleries about the impact of regulation on their business
- Top line issue is still implementation of low-THC marijuana law from ’14 session
- Low-THC goes to negotiated rulemaking early February, but could still be challenged
- Sen. Brandes (and we’ll see who else) proposing broader medical marijuana legislation
- John Morgan still active in push for amendment/legislation
We’re keeping tabs on any gaming related issues coming up this session. While lawmakers look to be shying away from a major gaming overhaul complete with a resort casino expansion this year, some gaming related legislation is expected. Senate President Andy Gardiner has said a bill aimed tracking injuries sustained by racing greyhounds is one of the first he expects to pass this session. Meanwhile, a gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is set to expire. State leaders are keeping mum on how negotiations to re-up the plan are going, but many expect to see a new agreement of some kind come before legislators this session.
Things are heating up on the energy front in the legislature this session. Lawmakers have filed several bills aimed at taking the state’s utility regulators, The Public Service Commission, to task. The bills would change how commissioners are selected, and create term limits. Other proposals more directly impact utilities and range from new rules about how utilities can bill customers to agreements between municipally owned utilities the areas they serve. Some lawmakers are also pushing for a repeal of the state’s controversial nuclear cost recovery program.
Water/ Amendment One
The passage of a new constitutional amendment that sets aside a portion of revenue from home sales for environmental protection has set off a scramble for the dollars. The state is expected to set aside $750 million the public mandated for preservation programs. But lawmakers and the governor are at odds over how and where to spend the money.
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