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Capitol Reports » Capitol Report: 2020 Legislative Wrap Up

Capitol Report: 2020 Legislative Wrap Up

Capitol Report
“Bringing Tallahassee to your doorstep”
March 28, 2020
Provided by: Capitol Alliance Group
106 E. College Ave, Suite 640 Tallahassee, FL 32301


Thursday, March 19th, marked the 66th Day of an extended Session – a session that culminated amid unprecedented health and economic uncertainties as state and global economies are learning to cope with the widespread impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the tourism and retail scene – with which Florida is greatly dependent.

During the waning days of this year’s regular legislative session, impulsive yet calculated safeguards were crafted as coronavirus fears and unknowns collided quickly, leaving legislators with no choice but to adjust budget funding (teacher pay being just one of the casualties) – all while bills took a backseat and, as a result, many of them died. As the projected impact on the state’s economy grew larger and larger with each passing day and each Emergency Order from the Governor sent shock waves through the businesses, local governments and communities, legislative budget chiefs were motivated to cut projects and programs from the budget.

The Legislature had originally planned to adjourn for the last time — or Sine Die — Friday, March 13. But an untimely budget provided to the members pushed that adjournment to Thursday because lawmakers are required to undergo a 72-hour “cooling off” period once the two chambers reach a spending deal.

Before last week’s budget vote, Governor DeSantis mandated the closure of public and state universities to offer online classes only through the remainder of the Spring semester – cancelling all commencements.

Governor DeSantis began the week ordering all bars and nightclubs to be shut down for 30 days to thwart the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Also, he and Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran, called for the suspension of accountability testing for K-12 schools and the implementation of distance learning until at least the 15th of April. Following those orders came a mandatory closure of all dine-in restaurants and gyms, non-essential businesses, parks, beaches, cruise lines, etc. The whirlwind of closures mirrors what is happening across the country as government leaders seek to contain the virus before sickly patients overwhelm the health care system.

Legislators reconvened in Tallahassee almost a week after scheduled Sine Die – absent of the traditional ceremonial festivities and collegial pomp and circumstance – and voted on the 2020-21 spending plan, bringing the 2020 Legislative Session to an official close in overtime, at least for the time being. Next fiscal year’s budget will total $93.2 billion.

Legislators are praising their commitment to a $500 million teacher pay increase, a 3% across-the-board pay raises for all state employees, $100 million for Florida Forever, $650 million for water/Everglades, fully funding Visit Florida and the Sadowski Trust Fund – to name just a few budgetary high notes. Yet, the looming impact of COVID-19 led to a last-minute appropriation of $28 million for emergency health services and another $300 million set aside in preparation of impacts from the pandemic.

It is expected that the legislature will return in special session during the summer to readjust this number as businesses close, unemployment skyrockets, and state revenue receipts dwindle. The Governor has vowed to veto many of the non-essential community projects and included in the budget, to free up funds for the recovery.

The legislature’s traditional priority on less government, coupled with the disruption caused by the virus crisis led to a lack of interest in passing substantive legislation and they remained judicious with approval and passage of bills filed. This is reflected in the number of bills passed as a percentage of bills filed:

· 3,578 Bills and PCBs filed
· 2,596 Amendments filed
· 4,217 Votes Taken
· 40 Floor Sessions
· Only 207 Bills passed both chambers (5.7%)

The CAG team is privileged and honored to represent the League of Women Voters of Florida before the Legislature and fight for your priorities. We continue to be focused on ensuring that the Legislature does not erode free and fair elections, voting rights and Home Rule for local governments across our state.


Requiring Panic Alarms in Schools Passes

SB 70, called “Alyssa’s Law,” was taken up at the request of Parkland parent Lori Alhadeff whose daughter, Alyssa, was killed during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. Radio problems and miscommunications plagued the response to the Parkland shooting, and likely delayed the arrival of help. SB 70 passed both chambers unanimously with a 40-0 vote in the Senate and a 119-0 vote in the House.

Abortion Parental Consent Bill Passes

One of the Leagues major issues and one of the most contentious bills filed during this session, the Parental Consent Bills (SB 404 by Stargel and HB 265 by Grall) passed in the final week. Following emotional debate, a divided Florida House approved a parental consent requirement for minors seeking abortion – reviving a measure declared unconstitutional 30 years ago by the state Supreme Court. The bill would force girls under age 18 to get notarized approval from a parent or guardian or, otherwise, seek a hearing and gain consent from a judge before terminating a pregnancy. It was approved 75-43 in a mostly party-line vote in the Republican-controlled House.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, sided with Democratic opponents, saying it was impossible for lawmakers to create a family dynamic that may be missing in many households. Her notable vote and following quote, “We don’t live in a Utopia where parents always love and advise their children and young girls never get pregnant,” was a pleasant surprise coming from a House Republican member.

The bill bounced back and forth between chambers in mid- February due to differences between the House and Senate version, but the Senate concurred with the House bill and it passed on a party line vote.

Disposition of Surplus Funds by Candidates Dies

On Friday, March 13, HB 491 Related to the Use of Surplus funds by Candidates, passed on the Senate floor with a 38-0 vote. Earlier in the day, Senator Jeff Brandes (24-R) filed an amendment on uniform statewide voter registration application. The House picked it up in messages and Rep Blaise Ingoglia (35-R) filed an amendment that would change the way you could handle vote by mail ballots and make it a misdemeanor of the first degree if you exchanged, distributed, ordered, requested, collected or delivered vote by mail ballots for compensation. During questioning and debate on the House floor, Rep. Mike Grieco gave a compelling argument in opposition of the proposal. The session video is linked here. Rep. Grieco starts asking question at minute 1:09:00. After a heated discussion, the amended bill passed the House but died in returning messages to the Senate.

The League was strongly opposed to this amendment. CAG worked with Rep Grieco and the House Democratic Caucus to oppose this language.

Constitutional Amendment Process Modifications Passes

In another highly debated bill, the League and CAG strongly opposed SB 1794 and HB 7037 that would change the way the citizens of Florida could amend their constitution. League members testified in opposition on several occasions in both House and Senate committees.
The Republican-backed measure (SB 1794 by Hutson and HB 7037 by Judiciary Committee) would impose a series of new restrictions on ballot initiatives, including increasing the signature threshold triggering Florida Supreme Court reviews. Both chambers passed the bill, with a vote of 23-17 in the Senate and 73-45 in the House measure along party lines. The bill will be laid on Governor DeSantis’ desk and he is expected to sign it.
SB 1794 C3 modifies the process for amending the State Constitution.

Most of the bill’s changes apply only to citizen initiative amendments, including:
· Expands the scope of Florida Supreme Court review to include facial validity of the proposal under the U.S. Constitution.
· Narrows the role of the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) to estimating the proposal’s financial impact on state and local governments and the state budget (removing impacts to the local governments and economies).
· Statutorily authorizes the Senate President and House Speaker to direct legislative staff to analyze any other impacts of the proposal.
· Increases the geographic diversity and number of petition signatures that must be verified before the Secretary of State refers the proposal to the Attorney General and the FIEC. · Creates a cause of action for citizens to challenge a petition circulator’s registration.
· Provides that petition signatures are valid until the next February 1 of an even-numbered year, which prevents signatures from being held over for a subsequent election.
· Requires a supervisor of elections to charge the actual cost for verifying a petition signature in lieu of the current rule of the lesser of 10 cents/signature or the actual cost and requiring the Department of State to determine the cost annually by rule.
· Providing that a signature obtained illegally, including by an unregistered paid petition circulator, is invalid.
· Allowing the Division of Elections or a supervisor of elections to provide a petition form in PDF format, with printing costs to be borne by the sponsor.
· Requiring the ballot for a citizen initiative include a bold-font statement that the FIEC: estimates a positive financial impact OR estimates an indeterminate financial impact OR estimates a net negative impact on the state budget or cannot reach a consensus, along with indicating the possible negative tax and government services impacts.
· Additionally, the bill requires every proposed constitutional amendment—not just one originating as a citizen initiative—to be reviewed by the FIEC and requires the ballot for every amendment to include a financial impact statement.

The bill is effective upon becoming a law and, by its express terms, applies to 2020 ballot initiatives, though it does not “affect the validity of any petition form gathered before the effective date of this act or any contract entered into before the effective date of this act.” This is another attempt by the Florida legislature to limit citizen initiatives and continued efforts to dilute this must be stopped.

The League has launched a campaign, with a number of groups, asking the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation. Read about our initial veto ask here. See coverage of the League-led coalition request here.

Voting Systems Reform Passes

SB 1312 by Senator Montford and HB 1005 by Representative Byrd carried main the voting system bill this year. This bill was initially opposed by the League due to some concerns about the optical scanning recount software language, but later changed to neutral after League members spoke with Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Mark Early who explained the verification safety measures in the bill. The bill was supported by the statewide SOE’s and the Florida Secretary of State.

HB 1005 passed on March 11. The effect of the bill is as follows:
The bill allows county canvassing boards and supervisors of elections to use automated tabulating equipment that is not part of the voting system to conduct both machine and manual recounts.

During the machine recount process, the ballots may be run through the automatic tabulating equipment instead of the voting system’s tabulators that performed the original tally. While the machine recount is underway, overvotes and undervotes may be identified and sorted physically or digitally in preparation of a manual recount, should one be warranted.
To facilitate faster manual recounts of overvotes and undervotes, the bill specifically allows for the counting of the actual paper ballots or the digital image of the ballots. In addition, a county canvassing board or local board involved in the recount may compare a digital image of a ballot to its corresponding physical paper ballot during a manual recount.
The bill directs DOS to adopt by rule “procedures relating to the certification and the use of automatic tabulating equipment that is not part of a voting system.”

Finally, the bill corrects a provision of law that results in voting systems being tested for accuracy after the canvassing of vote-by-mail ballots has begun in certain instances. In order to correct this issue, the bill requires testing to occur at least 25 days before the commencement of early
Voting systems made it through all its committee stops and hit both of the chambers floor. The senate took up the house version of it and it passed out of both chambers (Senate 38-0) (House 118-0) and was sent to the Governor’s desk.

After consideration, the League is opposed to HB 1005 and we’ve called for a veto of this bill. The reasoning is due to concerns about the possibility of tampering because of only one possible vendor. Clear Ballot of Boston is the only currently eligible vendor to supply the machines and software for the secondary system.


CAG lobbied a broad number of bills identified by the League that would have positively or adversely affected their policy priorities. We worked with League volunteers and staff to communicate to legislators the League’s position on many of these with varying outcomes.

Here is a list of the LWVFL priorities (both supporting & opposing) that passed both chambers:

Bills Passed that the League Supported

HB 43: Child Welfare
Requiring the Florida Court Educational Council to establish certain standards for instruction of circuit and county court judges for dependency cases; requiring the Department of Law Enforcement to provide certain information to law enforcement officers relating to specified individuals; requiring Child Protection Teams to be capable of providing certain training relating to head trauma and brain injuries in children younger than a specified age; requiring the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to establish standards for the instruction of law enforcement officers in a specified subject, etc.

HB 73: Environmental Regulation
Environmental Regulation: Specifies requirements for contracts between residential recycling collectors or recovered materials processing facilities & counties or municipalities for collecting, transporting, & processing residential recycling material & contaminated recyclable material; prohibits local governments from requiring further verification from DEP for certain projects; revises types of dock & pier replacements & repairs that are exempt from such verification & certain permitting requirements. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

HB 81: Health Care for Children
Health Care for Children: Requiring the Department of Health to create and make available electronically a pamphlet with specified information; revising applicable provisions for the reimbursement of school-based services by the Agency for Health Care Administration to certain school districts; requiring certain individual educational plan teams and individualized family support plan teams to include a specified specialist, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

HB 115: Keep Our Graduates Working Act
Keep Our Graduates Working Act: Prohibits state authority from denying license, refusing to renew license, or suspending or revoking license on basis of delinquency or default in payment of his or her student loan; provides exception to requirement that certain entities prohibit candidate from being examined for or issued, or having renewed license, certificate, or registration to practice health care profession if he or she is listed on specified federal list of excluded individuals & entities; repeals provisions relating to health care practitioners in default on student loan or scholarship obligations. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

SB 178: Public Financing of Construction Projects
Public Financing of Construction Projects; Prohibiting state-financed constructors from commencing construction of certain structures in coastal areas after a specified date without first taking certain steps regarding a sea level impact projection study; requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to develop by rule a standard for such studies; providing that such rule operates prospectively on projects that have not yet commenced as of the finalization of the rule, etc. Effective Date: Except as otherwise expressly provided in this act, this act shall take effect July 1, 2020

SB 348: Florida Kid Care
Florida Kidcare Program; Removing the lifetime maximum cap on covered expenses for a child enrolled in the Florida Healthy Kids program, etc. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

SB 374: Housing Discrimination
Housing Discrimination; Providing that discriminatory restrictions are unlawful, unenforceable, and declared null and void; removing housing discrimination as a cause of action for certain relief and damages stemming from violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992; revising the conditions under which an aggrieved person may commence a civil action in any appropriate court against a specified respondent to enforce specified rights; authorizing, rather than requiring, a civil action to commence within a specified period after an alleged discriminatory housing practice, etc. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

SB 702: Petroleum Clean Up
Petroleum Cleanup; Authorizing the Department of Environmental Protection to use funds from the Inland Protection Trust Fund to pay for specified activities related to removal and replacement of petroleum storage systems; providing for petroleum storage system repair or replacement due to damage caused by ethanol or biodiesel and for preventive measures to reduce the potential for such damage; revising the contents of an advanced cleanup application to include a specified property owner or responsible party agreement, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2020

HB 713: Dept. of Health
Health Regulation: Revising the purpose of patient care networks from serving patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome to serving those with human immunodeficiency virus; requiring the Department of Health to develop strategies to maximize federal-state partnerships that provide incentives for physicians to practice in medically underserved or rural areas; revising term limits for Tier 3 cancer center designations within the Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers Program; requiring dentists and certified registered dental hygienists to report in writing certain adverse incidents to the department within a specified timeframe, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

HB 1339: Community Development & Housing
Community Development and Housing: Authorizing a board of county commissioners to approve development of affordable housing on any parcel zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial use; revising the information that the county budget officer must submit to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research regarding the final budget and the county’s economic status; amending the Florida Interlocal Cooperation Act of 1969 to authorize private entities to enter into specified loan agreements, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

SB 1082: Domestic Violence Injunctions
Domestic Violence Injunctions: Authorizing a court to take certain actions regarding the care, possession, or control of an animal in domestic violence injunctions, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2020

Bills Passed that the League Opposed

SB 406: Public Records/Minor’s Petition to Waive Consent/Abortion
Public Records/Minor’s Petition to Waive Consent/Abortion; Providing a public records exemption for information that could identify a minor which is contained in a record held by the court relating to the minor’s petition to waive consent requirements to obtain an abortion; providing for future legislative review and repeal under the Open Government Sunset Review Act; providing a statement of public necessity, etc. Effective Date: On the same date that SB 404 or similar legislation takes effect if such legislation is adopted in the same legislative session or an extension thereof and becomes a law

SB 1066: Impact Fees
Impact Fees; Prohibiting new or increased impact fees from applying to certain applications; providing that impact fee credits are assignable and transferable under certain conditions, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2020

HB 7067: K-12 Scholarship Programs
K-12 Scholarship Programs : Revising initial scholarship eligibility criteria for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program; requiring that priority be given to students whose household income levels do not exceed a specified amount or who are in foster care or out-of-home; requiring a scholarship-funding organization to refer students who did not receive a scholarship because of lack of funds to another scholarship-funding organization, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2020

SB 410: Growth Management
Growth Management; Prohibiting counties from adopting, after a specified date, a comprehensive plan, a land development regulation, or another form of restriction unless certain conditions are met; requiring the Department of Economic Opportunity to give a preference to certain counties and municipalities when selecting applications for funding for specified technical assistance; requiring local governments to include a property rights element in their comprehensive plans; providing that certain property owners are not required to consent to development agreement changes under certain circumstances, etc. Effective Date: 7/1/2020

The League has signed onto a letter, spearheaded by Sierra Club, to ask for a veto of this anti-environment bill.

SB 712: Environmental Resource Management
Environmental Resource Management; Citing this act as the “Clean Waterways Act”; requiring the Department of Health to provide a specified report to the Governor and the Legislature by a specified date; requiring the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection to submit to the Governor and the Legislature, by a specified date, certain recommendations relating to the transfer of the Onsite Sewage Program; directing water management districts to submit consolidated annual reports to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research; removing provisions requiring certain onsite sewage treatment and disposal system research projects to be approved by a Department of Health technical review and advisory panel, etc. Effective Date: Except as otherwise expressly provided in this act, this act shall take effect July 1, 2020.

The League’s position on this bill changed several times, as you may have seen through our Action Alerts.


Sadowski Fund fully funded:
For the first time since 2007, the Florida House and Senate have agreed to fully fund the state’s affordable housing trust fund, known as the Sadowski fund. Both chambers agreed to dedicate the full $370 million dollars to the fund, instead of taking money out to fund other projects like in year’s past.

The Sadowski Trust Fund was set up to help ease the burden of housing costs, using money collected from a doc-stamp tax on all state real-estate transactions. Specifically, the trust started out with a 10-cent tax on every $100 of every real estate sale. In 1995, the tax doubled to 20 cents. Each year, the fund collects hundreds of millions of dollars, this money can go a long way to help families and individuals looking for affordable housing: everyone from the homeless to first-time home buyers.

Florida Forever:
Florida Forever, the state’s signature land-preservation program, got a sizable, one-time boost in funding as lawmakers closed Sunday and patch together an estimated $92 billion budget for next fiscal year.

The $100 million planned for Florida Forever isn’t the $300 million the program annually received more than a decade ago, but it’s a boost for supporters of the program, which got $33 million during the current fiscal year.

Teacher pay:
The budget that the Senate and House agreed on allotting $400 million to raise the minimum teacher salary and $100 million to raise the pay of veteran teachers and other instructional personnel.

The League of Women Voters of Florida encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund works to register voters, provide voters with election information through voter guides as well as candidate forums and debates.


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