State Capital Briefs
Around the State
FOURTH FLOOR: BIG NAMES LOBBYING UP
As lobbyist registrations roll in more than a month before the 2013 legislative session, some big corporate names are amassing large lobbying teams. Walt Disney World companies had 16 legislative lobbyists registered as of Monday afternoon, according to a state website listing registrations. AT&T had 14, while United States Sugar Corp. had 13. Also, South Central Florida Express, a railroad that is a subsidiary of U.S. Sugar, had 10 lobbyists registered.
EARLY VOTING ON COMMITTEE AGENDA
The first proposed legislation to increase the number of early voting days has been sent to a committee and could get a hearing next week. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has put the legislation (SB 80) on its agenda for Feb. 5. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, would require early voting to start on the 15th day before an election, rather than the 10th, as was the case during the last election, and not end until the Sunday before Election Day, rather than the Saturday before as is the case under current law. The bill also expands possible early voting sites, and would once again allow voters who move to change their address and vote by regular ballot in their new precinct.
BILL WOULD RESTRICT MASSAGE PARLOR HOURS
Calling it an attempt to combat human trafficking and prostitution, Sen. Jeff Clemens on Monday filed a measure prohibiting most massage establishments from operating after 10 p.m. Clemens, D-Lake Worth, introduced the measure that would require massage establishments to shut down between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they were operated by a medical professional or located onsite at a hotel or motel. Massage parlors are frequent fronts for illegal human trafficking, which often involve children. Since 2010, Department of Children and Families has investigated 1,266 cases of alleged human trafficking involving children; of those, 717 were already in the Department of Juvenile Justice system. "The Legislature recognizes that, although the majority of massage establishments are operated by law-abiding citizens, a small number of establishments are operated by persons who use the establishment as a place to engage in illegal activities, such as human trafficking and prostitution," the bill reads.
AHCA CHALLENGES ER IMMIGRANT RULING
In a case that involves hospitals across South Florida and the Tampa Bay area, the state Agency for Health Care Administration is appealing a judge's ruling in a dispute about paying for emergency services for undocumented immigrants. AHCA filed a notice this month with the 1st District Court of Appeal that it will challenge a Dec. 21 ruling by Administrative Law Judge John D.C. Newton. The state's Medicaid program pays hospitals for emergency services provided to undocumented immigrants, but the case focuses on the extent of services that should be covered. In the past, payments were made when emergency services were considered "medically necessary." In 2010, AHCA began using a more-restrictive standard that said payments would be made until patients are "stabilized." Newton, however, agreed with a coalition of hospitals that AHCA made the changes without going through a required rule-making process.
SCOTT TO LEAD CHILE TRADE MISSION
Gov. Rick Scott will lead a trade mission to Chile in May, continuing his globetrotting effort to drum up business for Florida. Scott will headline an entourage of business executive and economic development leaders for the four-day trip that begins May 20 to the state's sixth largest trading partner. Scott's first term has included similar ventures to other top Florida trading partners including Colombia, Brazil, England and Spain. Enterprise Florida is coordinating the event, Scott's eighth trip. The registration deadline for companies is March 25. Smaller business owners may be eligible for some deferred costs.
SEVEN HOUSE INCUMBENTS PREP FOR 2014
Seven incumbent House members have joined a list of candidates preparing to run again in 2014. Those incumbents, who filed papers with the state Division of Elections during the past 10 days, include Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, in District 28; Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, in District 59; Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, in District 62; Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, in District 68; Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, in District 78; Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, in District 82; and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, in District 90. Also filing papers last week was former Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat who would run in District 100. That seat is currently held by Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, who will face term limits in 2014. Meanwhile in Central Florida, Altamonte Springs Republican Robert Cortes filed papers to run in District 30. Cortes would try to unseat freshman Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland. Filing the papers, at least in part, allows candidates to raise money.