Florida Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, today filled Senate Bill 72, Civil Liability For Damages Relating To COVID-19. [Read more…] about Senator Brandes Files Legislation to Protect Businesses Safely Reopening During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Senator Jeff Brandes
State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced that he will hold mobile office hours in Largo on May 20, 2019, and in St. Pete Beach on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. [Read more…] about Senator Brandes Announces Summer Mobile Office Hours
SB 972 & HB 821 allow APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education and training
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representative Cary Pigman (R-Sebring), at a press conference today, emphasized the important role Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) play within Florida’s health care system by increasing access to health care, lowering health care costs and maintaining patient quality of care. [Read more…] about Sen. Brandes and Rep. Pigman File Legislation to Remove Barriers by Modernizing Delivery of Health Care
Bill would create circuit wide civil citation programs
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed SB 1392, which will find a similar companion in the House with Representative Larry Ahern (R-Seminole). This bill directs all judicial circuits in the state to create and implement both an adult and a juvenile civil citation program. Participation in the programs will remain optional, but SB 1392 will ensure that every municipality has the opportunity to partake in a prearrest diversion program.
“Allowing civil citations for minor offenses committed by juveniles and adults has proven to be an effective tool for law enforcement by modifying the behavior of cited individuals without the scarlet letter of an arrest,” stated Senator Brandes. “This bill enhances this tool, requiring all judicial circuits implement a civil citation program, while maintaining the flexibility of local control and officer discretion.”
SB 1392 does not do away with any current programs. However, if an existing program does not meet certain criteria established by the circuit, it will need to adjust to comply. Senator Brandes believes civil citations are an important tool for law enforcement, as they will free up the court system to deal with more serious offenses, and this tool will provide individuals with an opportunity to face appropriate sanctions to reduce recidivism.
For more information on SB 1392 please click here.
Bill would ensure citizens’ privacy in the use
of their cell phones and home-use devices
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed SB 1256, which protects citizens’ expectation of privacy in the use of their cell phones and microphone-enabled household devices, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home, by requiring that law enforcement obtain a warrant in order to search communications and location data contained in these devices.
“As technology continues to become more integrated in our daily lives, it is critical that the law recognize that electronic devices are the modern day equivalent of papers and effects, falling under the protections of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution,” stated Senator Brandes. “It is my hope that this collaborative effort will accomplish my goal of bringing us into this day and age technologically without compromising law enforcement’s ability to provide public safety.”
Senator Brandes sought advice from industry experts and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement prior to filing the bill to ensure that privacy is maintained and to provide clarity as to how law enforcement may access these devices.
SB 1256 makes clear that collection by law enforcement of an individual’s location, a cell phone, or a home enabled device, without the consent of the person or owner of the devices, should be allowed only when authorized by a warrant, unless certain exigent circumstances exist.
For more information on SB 1256, please visit flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/01256.
Alternative proposal for medical marijuana offered for consideration by full Senate
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed legislation to implement the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 2, which passed with over 71% of voter approval on the November 2016 General Ballot. The proposal by Senator Brandes will be considered as an amendment to Senate Bill 8A, the Amendment 2 implementation bill filed by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) scheduled to be heard by the Senate during the 2017 Special Legislative Session A.
“This proposal is the purest implementation proposal that the legislature has seen to date for Amendment 2,” stated Senator Brandes. “For the first time the Florida Senate will have an opportunity to vote consistent with our Republican principles of free markets and fair competition. This legislation puts Florida patients first, and protects the physician-patient relationship. I look forward to a robust conversation with my colleagues on this proposal, and I urge their support so that we can address this important issue during the Special Session.”
The proposal by Senator Brandes repeals Florida’s current law relating to low-THC medical marijuana. Under the Brandes proposal, medical marijuana is not subject to sales tax. Additionally, the number of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC) licensed in the state will be determined by market demand, rather than an arbitrary maximum set in law. Furthermore, the Brandes proposal eliminates the “vertical integration” mandate, which is a requirement that the same company must grow, process, transport, and dispense medical marijuana. The Brandes proposal provides flexibility to local governments to determine whether or not medical marijuana retail facilities may be located within their jurisdiction, and limits the number of retail facilities to not more than one per 25,000 residents. Finally, the Brandes proposal authorizes any method of consumption so that physicians can determine the best form of administering medical marijuana, rather than lawmakers.
For more information on the proposal by Senator Brandes, click here.
Proposal reforms incentive funds and recasts state focus to small businesses
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed two bills, Senate Bills 1110 and 1112, proposing reforms to Florida’s economic development programs. The legislation adopts several oversight provisions over Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and establishes new programs focusing on the growth of small businesses and fostering a start-up environment in the state.
“The focus of economic development should be on Florida’s small businesses,” stated Senator Brandes. “Fostering a start-up culture in our state and encouraging small business development will create a better ecosystem where opportunity can thrive. This legislation provides greater oversight and safeguards over our current economic development programs. This bill recasts our focus on new businesses that breathe the entrepreneurial spirit and diversify Florida’s economy.”
The proposal reforms Florida’s economic development programs in several ways. $117 million held in escrow in the Quick Action Closing Fund will be returned to the State Economic Enhancement and Development Fund. Businesses that relocate from the state within 3 years of receiving final incentive payments will be sanctioned, and DEO is prohibited from making material amendments to incentives contracts. Those incentive contracts are limited to 10 years, and capital investments made with incentive money must remain within Florida. The Board of EFI will be reconfigured to incorporate representation of rural economic development interests along with CareerSource Florida. Finally, the President of EFI will be subject to Senate confirmation.
The bill further creates a new Start-Up Florida Grant Program focusing on incubators and small business accelerators. The $50 million annual program provides up to $5 million each year to an eligible incubator recipient for capital spending and $1 million annually for operations funding. Along with the grant program, the bill creates the Small Business Information Center (SBIC) within the Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida. The SBIC will serve as an information gateway for small businesses to navigate permitting, licensing, and regulation. The SBIC will also serve a mentorship role, linking small businesses to resources including institutions of higher learning and other business resources to aide in their success.
Bill strengthens dedicated prosecutor program statewide to address insurance fraud
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), in partnership with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo), announced the filing of Senate Bill 1012, investigative and forensic services, to tackle the growing issue of insurance fraud in Florida. Every year insurance fraud adds to the cost paid by consumers for everything from automobile insurance to homeowners’ insurance. The legislation will require cooperation between the insurance industry and the state to investigate and prosecute fraud.
“Insurance fraud in Florida is evolving, and policyholders are forced to pay for it through higher premiums every year,” stated Senator Brandes. “This is a hidden tax on every Floridian who drives a car, owns a home, rents an apartment, or pays for health insurance. If left unchecked, the cost of fraud will grow and consumers will continue to pay the price. I am committed to making insurance affordable for Floridians, and I am proud to work with Jeff Atwater to address this critically important issue.”
“We must do everything possible to help hold the line on rising insurance rates—rates that are particularly high in South Florida,” said Representative Holly Raschein. “I’m proud to sponsor this common sense solution that will better align the resources that we already have in place, and allow law enforcement to use them strategically in the fight to curb the fraud that drives up rates in our state.”
“We’ve made significant strides in our fight against insurance fraud, and we couldn’t have done so without the steadfast partnership of the fraud-fighting units housed within many of our state’s insurance companies and the dedicated prosecutors who take our cases to trial,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “With this bill we hope to further improve our processes and hone our techniques so that we can continue to stay a step ahead of the criminals who seek to defraud Floridians. I am thankful to Senator Brandes and Representative Raschein for their leadership on this important issue.”
Fraud can account for as high as 10 percent of the property and casualty insurance industry’s loss expenses every year. This proposed legislation seeks to strengthen the state’s efforts to fight insurance fraud. The bill requires the development of anti-fraud plans by insurance companies and be submitted to the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. The bill further requires anti-fraud training for personnel within insurance companies designated to oversee the company’s fraud prevention efforts. The bill requires reporting of anti-fraud statistics to the division annually, so that the division can better track the changing trends of fraud statewide. Finally, the bill strengthens a program to assign dedicated prosecutors to different regions of the state to tackle insurance fraud. The Chief Financial Officer of Florida, based on the annual fraud statistics submitted to the division, may assign and re-assign the dedicated prosecutors as needed to address the changing trends of insurance fraud.
For more information on SB 1012 please visit http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1012.
Bill will require pension plans to increase contributions and reduce unfunded liabilities
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) jointly filed legislation today to change the methodology used by pension plans in determining appropriate levels of annual contributions. If adopted, many pension plans will be required to increase their annual monetary contributions. The proposed changes will increase the financial strength and solvency of the plans by reducing unfunded liabilities.
“Many pension plans in Florida are dangerously underfunded, bringing into question whether they will be available to our police, firefighters, first responders, and public employees who rely on them for retirement,” stated Senator Brandes. “This legislation will prevent pension plans from playing games with their funding formulas, and bring about fiscally prudent funding practices in these important programs.”
“We’ve made a promise to our teachers, first responders, and hardworking public servants that in exchange for their sacrifice we would help support them in retirement,” stated Representative Fischer. “For far too long faulty assumptions and pie in the sky numbers have put that promise at risk. This bill will put us on a path to fiscally responsibility by pegging the state retirement calculations to the real world.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 632 and House Bill 603, change the way pension plans determine their assumed return rates for investments made by plans. The legislation would implement recommendations from a 2014 report from the Society of Actuaries, urging the use of more reasonable rate-of-return assumptions by plans to avoid unfunded liabilities that accumulate over time. This legislation follows reforms by Senator Brandes in 2013 and 2015 that increased transparency in pension funding levels, and required more updated actuarial assumptions be used when projecting future plan costs due to plan participant mortality. Senator Brandes and Representative Fischer have also collaborated this year on pension reform legislation designed to prevent underfunded local plans from entering the Florida Retirement System.
For more information on SB 632 and HB 603 please visit http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0632.
Proposal eliminates cap on licenses and expands access to Florida patients
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) today filed Senate Bill 614, Medical Marijuana, to implement Amendment 2 passed by 71% of Florida voters on the 2016 General Election ballot. If adopted, the legislation will repeal Florida’s existing marijuana laws and replace them entirely with a broader set of regulations designed to encourage more participation from medical marijuana providers.
“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” stated Senator Brandes. “The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients. This legislation outright repeals Florida’s defective law.”
“Florida should focus on what is best for patients,” Senator Brandes continued. “The state today artificially limits the number of marijuana providers, promoting regional monopolies and standing in the way of the physician-patient relationship. This legislation removes those barriers, and will provide expanded access to Floridians who could benefit from the use of these products.”
The legislation eliminates existing statutory caps on Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs), and establishes 4 new types of function licenses for MMTCs: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail. The bill does not require MMTCs to be vertically integrated. Under the new regulatory approach, a MMTC is free to possess any function license or a combination of multiple function licenses. Retail licenses are permitted on a population basis of 1 license per 25,000 residents in every county, and local governments may prohibit any retail facility in their jurisdiction. A MMTC with a transportation license may deliver marijuana to qualifying patients, guaranteeing access to those who reside within jurisdictions where retail facilities are banned. Senator Brandes was the first Republican legislator to endorse Amendment 2, and he proposed legislation in 2015 and 2016 to reform Florida’s medical marijuana laws.
For more information on SB 614 please visit http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0614.