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Thursday Morning Reads: Bills, bills, bills

TALLAHASSEE — It’s only two days into the legislative session, but lawmakers are keeping busy with committees passing out a variety of bills so far this week and hearing presentations on many other issues.

So with that, here are five stories you should be reading this morning.

* The Orlando Sentinel reports that a new House bill would give the governor power over agency rules. From the story: House lawmakers are advancing a response to the Florida Supreme Court ruling last summer that Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his bounds by creating a new rules office and freezing agency rulemaking on his first day in office. The House Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, passed a bill (PCB RRS 12-02) along party lines Wednesday that spells out that the governor has the express authority to direct the work of his agency chiefs – but does not enshrine Scott’s rule-review office into law.

* The Tampa Bay Times reports that Kurt Browning is resigning as Secretary of State. From the story: Browning, 53, submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Rick Scott during a 15-minute meeting in Scott’s office. Browning agreed to stay on until Feb. 17 to oversee his last statewide election, the presidential preference primary on Jan. 31.

* The Herald Tribune writes that a state hotline to improve government efficiency is proving inefficient. From the story: One tipster suggested the state cut heating bills by forcing government workers to wear more clothes. Another called the Florida government efficiency hotline to recommend incarcerating certain juveniles with adults to free up prison beds. Employees with the state’s Get Lean Florida office, created in 2009, are not always sure what to do with such suggestions, and lack the authority to force changes at state agencies. The result has been anything but efficient for a program set up to reduce government inefficiency.

* The News Service of Florida writes that an expert witness bill is advancing. From the story: Renewing a lobbying fight between business groups and trial lawyers, a House panel Wednesday approved a bill that would lead to tougher standards for expert witnesses in lawsuits. The bill (HB 243) would replace a decades-old standard that judges use in determining whether to allow expert testimony. Supporters say the bill would make Florida’s standards similar to what are considered in federal courts and help prevent expert testimony that is sometimes described as “junk science.”

* Two Palm Beach County lawmakers are urging the Legislature to make some changes to a new law that required all local governments to repeal all local gun ordinances. From the Sun-Sentinel:Two Palm Beach County lawmakers are pushing for the Legislature to re-examine a law passed last year forcing local governments to strike county and city gun laws from the books, including those that prohibited gun owners from bringing their firearms into government buildings.

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