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Capitol Reports » Capitol Report: March 2, 2023

Capitol Report: March 2, 2023

This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from February 21, 2023 through March 2, 2023.

Pre-Session At A Glance

The end of Interim Week 7 marks the last interim committee week scheduled before the 2023 Legislative Session kicks off on March 7th. As of now, legislators have filed 1,138 bills before we head into an anticipated busy session.

House and Senate leaders have outright said the goal of the upcoming legislative session is to get priorities of Governor Ron DeSantis “across the finish line” which so far has been the takeaway from these past weeks. On behalf of the League, Capitol Alliance Group has been diligently tracking priority legislation while participating in committees as well.

Key legislative activities that took place in Interim Week 7 include:

On Tuesday the 21st, the Judiciary Committee met to hear HB543. League President Cecile Scoon waved in opposition to HB543.
On Thursday the 23rd, the House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee met to consider three pieces of legislation: HB1, HB49, & HB117. A member of the League was in attendance and spoke in opposition of HB1.
Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a motion this week to reinstate part of a 2016 law that prohibited state and local funds from going to institutions that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. The provision in law withholding state and local funds was initially ruled unconstitutional by Federal Judge Robert Hinkle, who ruled it discouraged organizations from providing abortion care. Moody argues the law now should be seen in a new light because since Hinkle ruled, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending long standing constitutional protections for the right to obtain an abortion.

League members will be returning to town for Lobby Days on March 7 & 8 which coincide with the opening of the regular Session. CAG is working with the League to schedule meetings with legislators.

The opening of the regular session is packed with members, families, visitors and lobbyists so it will be a very busy couple of days. Until then, there are no committee meetings as we prepare for the 2023 Legislative Session.

League Action on Legislation

House Bill 543: Concealed Carry of Weapons and Firearms Without a License/SB 150: Public Safety

House Bill 543 by Representatives Brannan III and Payne was heard in the Judiciary Committee on February 21st, 2023.

This bill amends previous legislation to authorize a person to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm (CWCF) if he or she has a valid license to carry a concealed weapon (CWL) or does not have a CWL, but otherwise satisfies the criteria for receiving and maintaining a CWL, except that such person is not required to demonstrate competency with a firearm or affirmatively state that he or she desires a legal means to carry a CWCF for lawful self-defense.

Senate Bill 150 by Senator Collins is the companion bill to HB543 and now sits in its second committee, Fiscal Policy. The League waived in opposition to this bill.

The bill passed committee by a party line vote 16-7.

Senate Bill 202: K-12 Education/HB 1: School Choice

Senate Bill 202 by Senator Simon was in the Education Pre-K committee on February 21st, 2023. This bill establishes and modifies K-12 education programs to provide additional financial support for families and flexibility for school districts. The bill also requires the State Board of Education to provide recommendations to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature by Nov. 2, 2023 regarding any repeals and/or revisions of the Florida Early Learning-20 Education Code, which will be considered in the 2024 legislative session.

The House companion bill (HB 1 – School Choice) currently sits in its second committee, Pre-K Appropriations Subcommittee. The League testified in opposition to HB1.

The League believes that 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.

The bill passed by a party line vote 9-3. It now moves to the Appropriations Committee on Education.

Senate Bill 320: Land Acquisition Trust Fund

Senate Bill 320 by Senator Harrell was heard in the Environment and Natural Resources committee on February 21st, 2023. This bill appropriates from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund a minimum of the lesser of 7.6 percent of the funds remaining after debt service or $50 million annually for projects dedicated to the conservation of the Indian River Lagoon. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will use the funds to provide grants for projects that implement the 2008 updated Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Priority must be given to projects for ecosystem monitoring and habitat restoration, septic to sewer conversion, and management of stormwater, freshwater, and agricultural discharges.

The League waived in support of this bill. The bill passed unanimously passed 9-0.

Senate Bill 214: Sales of Firearms and Ammunition

Senate Bill 214 by Burgess was heard in the Banking and Insurance committee and voted favorably 9-3 on February 21st, 2023. Senate Bill 214 revises Florida gun registry laws to prohibit certain entities from using an identifying code for purchases from firearm or ammunition retailers. The information gathered from the use of such codes could be construed as a firearm registry maintained by private entities, which current law prohibits government entities from creating or maintaining. The bill makes Legislative findings with respect to maintaining records or tracking by nongovernmental entities of the purchase of firearms and ammunition, specifying that such records and tracking may frustrate the right to keep and bear arms and violate the reasonable privacy rights of lawful purchasers of firearms or ammunition.

The League waived in opposition of the bill. SB 214 now moves to the Commerce and Tourism committee.

Senate Bill 284: Energy

Senate Bill 284 by Senator Brodeur was heard on February 21st, 2o23 in the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability committee and voted favorably 8-0. SB 284 exempts the components and labor used in an electric vehicle conversion from sales tax . This bill also removes requirements that state agencies use ethanol and biodiesel fuel when available, and that certain entities procure biofuels for fleets when possible. The bill revises the vehicle procurement requirements for the state purchasing plan.

Specifically, the bill requires vehicles of a given use class to be selected for procurement based on the lowest lifetime ownership costs, including costs for fuel, operations, and maintenance rather than on the greatest fuel efficiency available, when fuel economy data is available. The current exemption to this requirement is continued for emergency response vehicles.

The League waived in support of this bill. While committee substitute text has been filed for this bill there is no further action.

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 7th, 2023. 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. 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 League provided testimony to recommend modifications to the bill to ensure that the wildlife remains protected as trails are constructed within the corridor. The bill passed unanimously 7-0. The bill is now on the committee agenda for Appropriations for February 22nd.

Senate Bill 170: Local Ordinances

Senate Bill 170 by Senator Trumbull was heard on February 8th, 2023, in Community Affairs. 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 stands in opposition to this bill. The requirement for local governments to prepare a detailed business impact statement before adoption of any ordinance seems overly burdensome on local governments. The amount of research specified and time required to prepare these statements will place a burden on local government staff that is already strained and will adversely affect the ability of local governments to enact ordinances.

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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