Since January of 2015, committee meetings have been taking place in Tallahassee in preparation for the 2015 Legislative Session. Common Cause Florida has a number of priority issues that are expected to receive attention during this year’s regular session which begins on March 3rd. Work on some of these issues has already begun during pre-session committee weeks. There were two weeks of committee meetings in January and there are three weeks of committee meetings scheduled in February.
As a result of the 2014 election, the 2015 legislature looks slightly different from the way it did last year. Republicans picked up 8 seats in the House for a veto-proof super majority of 82. Members of the Democratic Party dropped from 45 to 37.
Several House seats will be the subject of special elections later this year resulting from a number of Representatives resigning to run for the Senate seat of former Senator John Thrasher who was named President of Florida State University late last year. There will also be a special election for House District 64. Incumbent Republican Representative Jamie Grant faces a write-in candidate in that race.
In the Florida Senate, no incumbents were defeated in 2014 and the makeup of the chamber remains the same with 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
This will be the first legislative session for new Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Both leaders are expected to continue to work in a more bipartisan fashion like their predecessors. Leading the Democrats this year will be Senator Arthenia Joyner and Representative Mark Pafford.
In January, Governor Rick Scott unveiled his proposed $77 billion budget going into the first legislative session of his second term. Included in the plan is $50 million in new money aimed at fixing problems in the state’s prison system, increases in education spending and $1 billion in cuts in taxes and fees over the next two years.
There have now been three weeks of committee meetings and no action has been taken on issues Common Cause Florida has identified as priorities. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has met once to hear presentations from the Supervisors of Elections, the Division of Elections, the Ethics Commission and the Elections Commission. We have also met personally with Senator Garrett Richter, chair of the Ethics and Elections Committee. While Senator Richter did not have specific priorities for his committee, he did say that bills to create an online application process for voter registration have been referenced to the committee and he expects them to be considered.
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.
- 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 supports 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