As the 2016 legislative session readies to convene, Keys' Raschein focuses on environment, Daylight Saving Time and more

The sun sets near the Seven Mile Bridge.
The sun sets near the Seven Mile Bridge.

Securing more environmental money for the Florida Keys remains her priority as the Florida Legislature begins its 2016 session Tuesday, but state Rep. Holly Raschein has other issues, too.

Those include laser hair-removal, state lottery vending machines and 12 months of Daylight Saving Time -- all contained in bills filed or co-sponsored by the Key Largo Republican.

"Why do we still have this in our modern-day society?" Raschein said Tuesday of the twice-yearly shift between Eastern Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time.

"I think Florida would be fine with an extra hour of daylight -- we're the Sunshine State," Raschein said.

"I would prefer it," she said, "and so would a lot of other people I know -- parents, Keys constituents, friends and professional acquaintances."

Raschein is a co-sponsor of the House companion to Senate Bill 1098, the Sunshine Protection Act filed by state Sen. Darren Soto of Kissimmee.

It's the latest attempt to make "Daylight Saving Time ... the year-round standard time of the entire state and all of its political subdivisions."

Previous efforts to move the clock have faltered. "As the Sunshine State, Florida should be kept sunny year-round," Soto's bill says.

Hawaii and Arizona have adopted all-year Daylight Saving Time "and done fine," Raschein said, but noted that having a different time from most other states may create some logistical concerns for computers, markets and businesses.

A slice of Florida's Panhandle west of the Apalachicola River -- nine counties and part of another -- is on Central Time, meaning that part of the state is an hour behind the rest of Florida.

Raschein used one of her six House bill slots (HB 415) to expand Florida Lottery sales to point-of-sale terminals at gas stations and checkout lines.

"The bottom line is boosting funding for public education," Raschein said.

Games in the Florida Lottery collected a record $5.58 billion in the most recent fiscal year, but the overall annual rate of revenue growth has declined and ticket sales for some games have dropped significantly.

"For whatever reason, people weren't buying lottery tickets," Raschein said. 

Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, an independent government study group, "took a look at some things that have worked in other states, and this bill is an impetus for that."

Raschein also introduced House Bill 591, intended to maintain training standards for electrologists in the laser-hair removal business. Some business interests have been pushing to relax licensing requirements, Raschein said.

"If there is an 18-year-old wielding a laser at your face, it's good to make sure he's qualified to do so," Raschein said. "It's a public-safety issue."

Raschein emphasized that the main focus in this 60-day legislative session will be working on the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, intended to dedicate $25 million annually to local environmental projects and land conservation.

"That is by far the most important issue," Raschein said.