This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from January 3, 2023 through February 3, 2023.
Session At A Glance
Following the special session on property insurance in December, legislators returned to Tallahassee for three interim committee weeks in January.
Both the House and Senate have finalized committee structures, chair and leadership positions and member committee appointments. The deadline has now expired for submitting proposed bills into bill drafting to prepare for official filing. More than 500 bills have been filed to date with an anticipated 3500 by beginning of the session on March 7.
In January, Governor DeSantis announced his 2023 budget recommendations and unveiled a transportation funding initiatives as well as his plan to “transform higher education” in the state.
The Legislature will return for their fifth week of interim committee meetings on February 6 and meet for three weeks until a short break before the start of the regular session on March 7 and will adjourn on May 5, 2023. A special session will coincide with the fifth committee week. The League & Capitol Alliance Group will be monitoring this session carefully.
The special session will address the following topics:
Emergency Management (dealing with Hurricane Ian challenges)
Statewide Prosecutors (dealing with Office of Elections Crimes and
Reedy Creek Improvement District (Disney)
Sunshine Water Control District
Eastpoint Water and Sewer District
Legislation regarding abortion and permitless carry were not included in the issued memorandums regarding Special Session 2023 B.
Capitol Alliance Group is working closely with the League on setting up legislative meetings for a “League Strike Force” made up of LWVFL Board Members and Action Team Leaders on February 8 & 9 in Tallahassee to discuss our 2023 legislative priorities.
The Capitol Alliance Group are honored to represent the League of Women Voters Florida and champion these legislative priorities.
League Action on Legislation
HB 1: School Choice by Representative Tuck
House Bill 1 was heard by the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on January 26. The League testified to express our opposition.
The League believes public education is the bedrock of democracy. Since the 19th century, American citizens have trusted in the covenant made between taxpayers and their government to use their money to benefit the welfare of the citizens, including maintaining an equitable system of free public education. Taxpayers trust that the government will provide oversight and accountability for the education of its youth.
Now for the first time in history we see taxpayer money being diverted to individual persons with little or no transparency or accountability. We also see that language has been manipulated to fool citizens.
Here are some examples:
Vouchers are called “scholarships.” A more truthful term would be “scholar-gifts.” Students have not earned a scholarship in the traditional sense, but rather their parent is given a taxpayer gift to spend on a wide array of goods and services.
Education “Savings” Accounts should be called Education “Spending” Accounts. An ESA is essentially a debit card for many non-vetted purchases including home schooling.
The most egregious language twist is to call Step Up for Students a “charity.” No taxpayer has willingly donated their money to Step Up as they would for any actual charity such as the American Cancer Society. Corporations are not donating funds from their profits, but rather diverting taxes owed to the government to a private organization, now valued in the billions of dollars.
Finally, “parent rights” twists the intent of a democracy to assure the rights of all citizens for a secular school system that welcomes every student regardless of disabilities and gender preference. Private schools need not comply.
Without truth and trust, democracy withers and dies. Public education is the bedrock of democracy. For years the voucher system diverting public funds for private and religious education has chipped away at this bedrock. HB1 adds a sledgehammer.
HB 1 passed this committee stop with a 13-4 vote. It’s next committee stop is PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. There is not currently a Senate companion.
HB 19: Individual Education Plans by Representative Tant
House Bill 19 was heard by the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee on January 26. The League waived in support of this legislation.
To support students with disabilities and their parents when the student attains the age of majority while in school, the bill requires school districts to provide information and instruction to a student and his or her parent on self determination and the legal rights and responsibilities relating to educational decisions that transfer to the student upon turning 18. The information provided must include options for maintaining parental involvement in educational decision making including a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act waiver, powers of attorney, guardian advocacy and guardianship.
HB 19 passed this committee stop with a 17-0 vote. It’s next committee stop is the Civil Justice Subcommittee. There is not currently a Senate companion.
SB 54: Land Acquisition Trust Fund by Senator Rodriguez
Senate Bill 54 was heard by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources on January 17. The League waived in support of this legislation.
Senate Bill 54 appropriates $20 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the purpose of:
Entering into financial assistance agreements with local governments located in the Florida Keys or the City of Key West Areas of Critical State Concern to promote the protection or restoration of Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, and nearshore marine ecosystems, including coral reefs;
Acquiring land within the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern with increased priority given to acquisitions that achieve a combination of conservation goals.
SB 54 passed this committee stop with a 9-0 vote. It’s next committee stop is the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. HB 135 is this bill’s companion in the House of Representatives.