Around the Capitol
As we recap the third and a portion of the fourth week of session, the legislature is gearing up to go into their budget conference which is likely to begin in the coming weeks. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the expectation is to see a decrease in the amount of appropriation bills passed.
There have been a total of 3,028 bills filed to date this session. Unfortunately, the Capitol is still on lock down due to COVID, so access to the building and committee hearings remains extremely limited.
These next couple of weeks will be crucial in tracking key legislation as bills start to move more quickly through committees, before making their way to the Senate and House floors.
Top Priority Opposition — Election Changes Legislation
Concerning developments have been made through efforts to modify our elections process in Florida.
A 44-page bill filled with changes to the state elections code surfaced only last Thursday afternoon and was publicly debated for the first time Monday morning in the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee.
Among many other changes, the bill would require tighter security and mandatory photo IDs for voters who use drop boxes, and mail ballots could be returned only by an immediate family member or someone who can prove residency at the same address. Election supervisors could face $25,000 fines if they use drop boxes without in-person surveillance. Supervisors have many problems with the bill and predict it will cause confusion and long lines at the polls next year.
The Florida League proudly hosted a press event outlining all the problems with the newly filed legislation and Senate Bill 90. The press event was held alongside other nonpartisan voting organizations including NAACP Florida State Conference, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida and All Voting Is Local. Click here to watch a recording of the virtual press event.
The House Bill was introduced as a committee bill and at the time was dubbed as “PIE5.” The bill has now been given an official bill number and will be known as HB 7041.
The League will continue to harness our power to try and defeat HB 7041, SB 90 or any other legislation that could negatively impact voters or complicate voting in Florida.
Top Priority Opposition — HB 1 & SB 484: Anti-Protest Legislation
House Bill 1 is the proposed legislation pushed forward by Governor DeSantis. This 60 page bill politicizes the right to protest and disregards the protections provided by the First Amendment. House Bill 1 will be heard on the House floor this week. It will be introduced on March 25, and voted on March 26. The Senate version (SB484) has still yet to be heard in the committee process.
We’ve urged our members to act by calling their representatives and asking them to vote NO on this anti-American proposal! Missed the action alert? Click here to view it in your browser.
Gun Safety Legislation
- House Bill 259 – Safety of Religious Institutions
HB 259 will be heard on the House floor this week. It will be introduced on March 25, and voted on March 26. The bill is the proposed legislation that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to bring guns to churches, synagogues and other religious institutions that share property with schools.
Proponents of this bill claim it is needed to protect the public if a crisis were to break out. We know that smart people can craft smarter solutions to security concerns within religious institutions without including guns. Individuals with firearms who have never actually reacted in a crisis situation have a very high risk of harming innocent bystanders or themselves.
We’ve urged our members to act by calling their representatives and asking them to vote NO on this legislation! Missed the action alert? Click here to view it in your browser.
Other Voting Rights & Election Legislation
- Senate Bill 1890 – Campaign Financing
SB 1890 by Senator Rodrigues (R) will create a limitation on contributions made to political committees sponsoring a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative. The bill would have a serious effect on passing or defeating citizen initiatives and other ballot measures.
The League was prepared to testify on our opposition to this legislation on March 16th, however, the bill was temporarily postponed and has yet to be put back on the committee agenda.
Natural Resources Legislation
- Senate Bill 496 – Growth Management
SB 496 (and its House companion HB 59) would remove rights from local governments to determine where certain types of development can occur within their counties. These property rights elements would be duplicative (?) and expensive additions to every comprehensive plan in Florida. This bill would give property owners the right to do seemingly anything they want with their property, irrespective of zoning or other land use decisions in place within the county’s comprehensive plan. This preempts the local governmental ability to ensure continuity of development decisions, right of way, etc. Owners of property, even if they were in an agreement regarding future use of a property, could transfer this property without ensuring that the new owners were prepared to abide by the previous agreement. These bills permit individuals/others to develop property without regard to adjacent individuals or neighborhoods, including those of underserved and marginalized communities. This can cause the loss of natural resources habitats, increase flooding on adjacent properties, increase traffic, and thereby air pollution, as well as other adverse impacts.
Trish Neely testified in opposition to this bill when it was heard in the Judiciary committee. Click here to watch the testimony.The bill is now scheduled to be heard on March 25th in the Rules committee.
- Senate Bill 86 – Student Financial Aid
When heard in committee on March 16th, SB 86 would have decreased the amount of funding students could receive from Bright Future scholarships if they chose a degree that would be less likely to lead to a job after college. The bill would have also required the Board of Education to compile a list that would outline which degrees they deemed to be more successful and create a database where students could go and gauge how much they could potentially make depending on the degree they choose. Over 70 students from across the state testified against the bill, as did the League. Click here to watch the testimony.
After our testimony in the Education committee, the bill was sent to the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. During that subcommittee meeting on March 24th the bill was greatly modified. The League is still reviewing the changes but the overall intent of the legislation has changed for the better due to the public pressure effort.
Reproductive Rights Legislation
- Senate Bill 582/House Bill 241 – Parental Rights
Senate Bill 582 was heard in the Education Committee on March 23rd, it passed on a partly line vote. This bill would prevent young people from receiving the essential services they need, including wellness exams and reproductive health care. This would make our young people less healthy and less safe. House Bill 241 is scheduled to be heard later this week.
The League is opposed to this legislation and is working with organizational partners to try and defeat it.