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Capitol Reports » Capitol Report: February 22, 2023

Capitol Report: February 22, 2023

This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from February 4, 2023 through February 22, 2023.

Pre-Session At A Glance

This edition of our Capitol Report combines the activities that took place in interim committee weeks 5 & 6 to provide continuity to the League’s “Legislative Strike Team” visit during week 5.

The visit took place amid Special Session 2023B during Interim Week 5 that covered a wide variety of topics (listed below).

A League “Legislative Strike Team” came to Tallahassee on February 8-9, during a special legislative session called by Governor DeSantis. The team was able to meet with a variety of legislators to discuss our organization’s legislative priorities. Strike team members included Cecile Scoon, Jennifer Adams, Meta Calder, Jill Spector and Trish Neely.

“Legislative Strike Team” meetings included the following officials:

Secretary of State Cord Byrd (to discuss Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Senate Minority Leader Book (to discuss Education, Natural Resources, Reproductive Rights, Gun Safety, and Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Representative Skidmore (to discuss Natural Resources & Reproductive Rights)
Representative Sirois (to discuss Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Senator Jones (to discuss Education)
Representative Arrington (to discuss Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Senator Rodriguez (to discuss Natural Resources)
Representative Hunschosfky (to discuss Natural Resources)
Representative Bartleman (to discuss Natural Resources, Gun Safety, and Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Representative Mooney (to discuss Natural Resources)
Representative Eskamani (to discuss Education, Natural Resources, Reproductive Rights, Gun Safety, and Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Senator Pizzo (to discuss Education, Natural Resources, Reproductive Rights, Gun Safety, and Voting Rights & Election Reform)
Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections and President of the Florida Supervisor of Elections Association (to discuss Voting Rights & Election Reform)

Special Session 2023B

During the fifth week of interim committee meetings, the Governor and legislative leadership convened a Special Legislative Session (dubbed 2023B) for the purpose of passing specific legislation addressing emergency management funding, creating a position for a statewide prosecutor for so-called election crimes, immigration, Disney’s Reedy Creek, and two local bills dealing with water control districts.

The following bills were passed during last week’s Special Session. Governor Ron DeSantis has received SB 2B, 4B and 6B from the Florida Legislature. The remaining bills have not yet been presented.

SB 2B Emergency Response – Appropriates $650 million in emergency funding for hurricane relief and creates a $50 million loan program for local governments impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole last year.
SB 4B Statewide Prosecutor – Delineates the election-related crimes over which a statewide prosecutor has concurrent jurisdiction with state attorneys to prosecute.
LWVFL released two statements in regards to this specific legislation, one statement when the bill reached final passage and an additional statement once Governor DeSantis signed it into law.
SB 6B Transportation of Inspected Unauthorized Aliens – Creates the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program within the Division of Emergency Management to facilitate the transport of inspected unauthorized aliens within the United States.
HB 7B Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights – Modifies provisions relating to intercollegiate athlete compensation and rights in Florida.
Three local special district bills, including HB 9B that would rename the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and allow the Governor to appoint board members that would take over the provision of local government services to Walt Disney World.

With Special Session 2023B adjourned, the Legislature returned for their sixth week of interim committee meetings on February 13.

League Action on Legislation

House Bill 543: Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License

House Bill 543 which authorizes permitless carry in Florida by Representatives Brannan III and Payne was heard in the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, & Government Operations Subcommittee on February 7.

President Scoon traveled to Tallahassee and spoke eloquently in opposition to this bill. The League has long recognized that the right to vote is meaningless without the right to vote safely. The unchecked carrying of concealed firearms imperils the electoral process at multiple stages, from the threat of violence at registration to voter intimidation at the polls.

Click here to watch a playback of Cecile’s remarks.

The bill passed this subcommittee by a party line vote 10-5.

Since testifying, this bill has gone on to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee where the League waived in opposition and issued an action alert ahead of the hearing.

The Senate companion (Senate Bill 150) has also had its first hearing which the League waived in opposition at.

Senate Bill 106: Florida Shared-Use Non-Motorized Trail Network

Senate Bill 106 by Senator Brodeur was heard in the Senate Transportation committee on February 7. This bill expands the existing Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Network and enhances coordination of the state’s trail system with the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The League is watching this bill closely.

Some of the various bill objectives include:

prioritizing the development of “regionally significant trails,
enhancing the planning, coordination, and marketing of the state’s bicycle and pedestal trail system,
recognizes “trail town” communities,
directs specified entitled to promote the use of trails as economic assets, and
increases recurring funding for the SUN Trail Network from $25 million to $50 million.

The bill passed this committee stop unanimously (7-0).

Senate Bill 170: Local Ordinances

Senate Bill 170 by Senator Trumbull was heard in Community Affairs and voted favorably with 7-2 on February 8. This bill pertains to the passage and challenging of local ordinances. It adds to the process for local governments passing ordinances and gives certain additional rights to those challenging local ordinances. The bill requires counties and cities to produce a “business impact estimate” prior to passing an ordinance with exceptions. The estimate must be published on the local government’s website and include certain information, such as the proposed ordinance’s purpose, estimated economic impact on businesses, and compliance costs. The League is watching this bill closely.

The bill now sits on the Rules Committee agenda for February 23.

House Bill 129: Requiring Broader Public Support for Constitutional Amendments or Revisions

House Bill 129 by Representative Roth was heard in the Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee. The joint resolution changes the threshold required to approve an amendment or revision from 60 percent of the electors voting on the measure to 66.67 percent of such electors. However, the joint resolution specifies that the repeal of a constitutional amendment or revision only requires the approval by vote of at least the same percent of the electors as was required at the time of the amendment or revision’s passage.

The League testified in opposition to this bill. The citizens initiative process has made Florida a better place to live; from environmental protection, fair districts, raising the wage, and voting rights restorations. Floridians have been able to build a better state through this fundamental right. Now, that right is in jeopardy. The League believes elected officials should be working to make it easier for citizens to access democracy and government at all levels, not harder. Constitutional amendments in Florida almost always pass with a higher threshold than elected leaders. Those placed on the ballots by citizens indicate even further broad support. It is already very hard to pass constitutional amendments by initiative, and we should expand access and empower the voices of Floridians, not continue to limit them.

The bill was voted favorably 12-6 and is now in the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 31: Partisan Elections for Members of District School Boards

House Bill 31 by Representative Roach and Representative Sirois was heard in the Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on February 14. The House joint resolution proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution requiring that members of a district school board be elected in a partisan election. The proposed change would apply only to elections on or after November 3, 2026, except that earlier primaries for the purposes of nominating candidates for placement on the 2026 general election ballot are permissible.

The League testified in opposition to this bill. The League believes politics doesn’t belong in our public schools and making school board races partisan will only increase the level of politicization. Public schools are an integral part of their communities and are most effectively governed by locally elected school board members who are responsive and answerable to their communities rather than to political party leaders. If passed by the Legislature, the proposed change would go before voters in 2024 because it would require a Constitutional Amendment. Florida voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1998 requiring school board races be nonpartisan.

The bill was voted favorably 15-3 and is now in the Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee.

House Bill 131: Recall of County Officers and Commissioners

House Bill 131 by Representative Rudman was heard in the Local administration, Federal Affairs, & Special Districts committee on February 15. Currently, the county officers created in the Florida constitution and county commissioners may be removed from office when their terms expire or if suspended by the Governor and removed by the Senate. A county charter also may provide for recall of county commissioners or county constitutional officers, or both. HJR 131 proposes amending the Florida Constitution to allow the Legislature to provide by general law for the recall of county officers and commissioners. HB131 is now in the Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee. The League is watching this bill closely.

The bill was voted favorably 17-0.

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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