The Florida legislature wrapped up three straight weeks of committee meetings this week and will now take a one week break before the start of the session on March 3rd. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee did not meet this week, but it is scheduled to meet in the afternoon of the opening day of session. The House Governmental Operations Subcommittee also did not meet this week and has yet to announce a meeting when the legislature returns for session.
The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee met on Tuesday and discussed two bills Common Cause Florida is tracking that deal with the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC). SB 288 by Senator Jack Latvala is a good PSC reform bill that would require the Commission hold public customer service meetings around the state, require PSC lobbyists register as legislative lobbyists and require the Governor to remove any PSC member who violates the ex parte statute. The bill also requires PSC Commissioners undergo four hours of ethics training annually. It passed by a unanimous vote. Common Cause Florida intends to offer Senator Latvala our support for this bill.
The other bill before the Committee was SB 230, another good consumer bill by Senator Charles Dean that would prohibit a public utility from charging a higher rate based on an increase in energy usage when that increased usage is attributable solely to an extension in the billing cycle. That bill was also passed by the committee.
On Thursday, Ben Wilcox, Brad Ashwell and Marilynn Wills met with Secretary of State Ken Detzner to learn about his legislative priorities. Secretary Detzner told us he will not have an elections related package this year, but the Department will be weighing in on individual bills that come up. Secretary Detzner raised the issue of the online application for voter registration and said he believes it’s an issue whose time has come, with one caveat.
Detzner says the Department is in the middle of revamping both their own voter registration database and also working with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on their voter registration process. He says he does not believe they can resolve both of those issues in time to put an online voter registration system in place before the 2016 election. He says that will be his position if and when the legislature considers potential legislation.
Secretary Detzner told us he looks forward to working with us on the online voter registration legislation as well as other bills that may come up this year. He also offered to be available to discuss issues by phone or in a meeting on an ongoing basis.
Common Cause Florida is currently tracking a number of bills that have already been filed for the coming legislative session. They include:
- SB 228 and HB 227 - These bills would create an online application process for voter registration. Common Cause Florida supports this legislation.
- SJR 208 – This bill would propose a constitutional amendment that, if passed by voters, would automatically restore the voting rights of non-violent ex-felons, once they have completed the terms of their sentences. Common Cause Florida supports this bill.
- SB 170 and HB 199 – These bills would prohibit elected officials from serving on the Public Service Commission for two years after they leave office and create districts that Commissioners would have to be appointed from to ensure statewide representation. Common Cause Florida supports these bills.
- SB 230 and HB 81 – These bills would prohibit a public utility from charging a higher rate based on an increase in energy usage when that increased usage is attributable solely to an extension in the billing cycle. It also prohibits a public utility from making any change in a billing cycle without obtaining approval from the Florida Public Service Commission at least one month before the effective date of the change.
- SB 288 and HB 219 – These bills would reform the Public Service Commission to require those who lobby the PSC register as legislative lobbyists, require the PSC to hold public customer service meetings around the state and require the Governor remove any PSC member who violates the ex parte statute. Common Cause Florida supports these bills.
- HB 473,HB 67 and HB 4001 – These bills would repeal the nuclear cost recovery law passed in 2006 that allows power companies to charge customers in advance for nuclear plants that may or may not eventually get built. Common Cause Florida is now in favor of these bills.
- CCFL is also hoping a campaign finance reform bill will be filed by Senator Soto that would place new restrictions on candidates coordinating with political committees to solicit funding and run advertising. If the bill is filed, we will let you know the number.
Capitol Report will be filed weekly when the legislature holds committee meetings and during the legislative session. We will let you know if there is any recommended action that can be taken by Common Cause members that would be helpful to our lobbying efforts.
Office: Common Cause Florida