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Tuesday, Jan 15, 2019
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A look ahead to week 2 of the Florida Legislature session

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida legislators head into week two of their 60-day annual session poised to take up two of the most important issues they are dealing with this year.

A select House committee formed to review problems before, during and after Hurricane Irma hit the entire Florida peninsula is considering more than 12 pages of recommendations on how to better prepare for hurricanes and their aftermaths.

Irma ripped through the state in September and was blamed for at least 84 deaths. It sparked a massive evacuation that jammed roads and led to widespread gasoline outages.

Among recommendations are extending a toll road in the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border, creating gas reserves and requiring all health care and assisted living facilities have an emergency source of power.

Another proposal would require gas stations to charge the same price for gas, regardless of the octane level.

A Senate committee will consider a bill (SB 8) aimed at fighting the opioid crisis. Nearly 6,000 people died in Florida from opioid overdoses in 2016. The bill being heard by the Senate Health Policy Committee would limit opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply, or seven-day supply in cases of acute pain. Doctors would have to write "medically necessary" if they prescribe more than three days of opioids. They would also have to take a continuing education course on prescribing opioids and check patients' prescription records before writing a prescription.

All medical professionals would have to check a state prescription drug database to see patients histories before writing an opioid prescription, and pharmacists would have to verify a patient's identity before dispensing the drugs.

Other bills coming up next week:

— A major overhaul of Florida's higher education system is scheduled to be heard by the House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee on Wednesday. The legislation (HB 423) calls for boosting the amount of financial aid paid by the state to top-performing Florida residents who attend a state college or university. A similar bill passed the Florida Senate last week.

— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Wednesday will consider a gambling bill (SB 840) that would make it clear fantasy sports are legal in Florida. The legislation also would allow dog tracks to keep poker rooms even if they end live racing.

—The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday is scheduled to take up two gun bills. One of the measures (SB 1048) would allow someone to carry a gun onto a private school campus if the school is run and operated by a church or religious institution.

—The House Oversight, Transparency and Administration subcommittee on Wednesday will consider a bill (HB 707) that would ban the governor and other statewide elected officials from asking for campaign donations while the Florida Legislature is in session. Currently legislators are banned from raising money during session.

—School board members would be subjected to term limits under a proposed constitutional amendment that is getting its first hearing on Wednesday before the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.

—The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education will consider a bill (SB 540) that makes changes to Florida's 28 colleges, including placing the colleges under a new statewide board and placing enrollment limits on certain four-year degree programs offered by the colleges.

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