5 things to watch Thursday at the Florida Legislature

March 21, 2013 

Like the weather, the legislative agenda is heating up. The House meets Thursday, taking up several important bills. There’s another grass-roots rally on election reform and the Senate is looking at topics like optometry and Medicaid.

Here are five things to watch:

A fast-tracked ban on Internet cafes (HB 155) moves to the House floor. The bill was prompted by a law enforcement raid on 49 gaming centers that led to the arrest of 57 people in Operation Reveal the Deal, a federal and state crackdown on illegal gambling.

Also on the House floor is one of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s top priorities: pension reform. Tje Wesley Chapel Republican has called Florida’s current pension plan a “ticking time bomb.” The Florida Retirement System bill (HB 7011), sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, gets a second reading.

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, Rep.’s Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, the Florida New Majority, Advancement Project and more than two dozen local community leaders from around the state will march to Gov. Rick Scott’s office after hosting a grassroots rally in the Capital’s fourth floor rotunda. Their message: House Bill 7013 and Senate Bill 600 do not go far enough to fix changes made in 2011, blamed for much of the long lines and confusion in the 2012 elections.

The Senate Appropriations Committee takes up the highly controversial bill (SB 278), sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, that would let optometrists dispense oral medications.

During the same Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, legislators will address another hot issue: the Senate alternative to Medicaid expansion (7038), proposed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

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