This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from March 12, 2023 through March 27, 2023.
Session At A Glance
The second and third week of session moved quickly with legislative leadership fast tracking their priorities including, but not limited, key culture war issues such 6 week ban on abortion, tort reform, universal school vouchers, and permitless carry.
Budget Emerging: Also this week, the House and Senate appropriation chairs rolled out their spending plans ahead of budget conferencing. Yesterday, the senate released an initial $113.7 billion budget proposal including a 4.75% increase in funds per public school student, 3% pay increase for all state employees and $350 million in recovery grants that would go to areas impacted by hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The House budget came in at $112 million late Friday and we are still reviewing the details.
HB 1 and SB 202 Pass: These Universal School Choice bills passed and will be sent to the Governor for signing. HB 1 expands eligibility for Florida’s School Choice Scholarships to all students who are residents of Florida and eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school. The scholarship program undermines traditional public schools by diverting funding and resources away from them. This can lead to a decline in the quality of education provided by public schools, and exacerbate existing disparities in educational outcomes between different communities and socioeconomic groups. Another concern is that private schools that participate in scholarship programs may not be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools. This can lead to a lack of transparency and oversight, and allow private schools to discriminate against certain students based on factors such as religion or sexual orientation.
Abortion Ban Gets Traction in Senate: This week Senate Health Policy Committee advanced the bill, sponsored by Sen. Grall. The proposal aims to ban abortion after six weeks with exceptions for rape and incest up to 15 weeks. The proposal also maintains exceptions currently in Florida law that allow for abortions in the case of fatal fetal abnormalities and risk of death or imminent, severe injury for the mother. The committee vote comes a few days after a House subcommittee advanced a similar companion bill on Thursday, signaling early support among Republicans in both chambers.
However, even if the ban ultimately passes, whether it goes into effect is contingent on how the Florida Supreme Court rules in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s current 15-week ban. Both bills call to expand services provided by Department of Health-contracted pregnancy crisis centers to include assistance for new parents; the Senate version provides $25 million per year for those services and $5 million per year for family planning services such as contraception and counseling.
The bill also requires that abortion care be administered in person by a physician and would make it illegal to mail abortion-inducing medication.
Tort Reform Heads to Governor: House Speaker Paul Renner has led the push for a broad expansion of vouchers and to take steps to help prevent costly lawsuits against businesses and insurers. HB 837 includes largely eliminating what are known as “one-way” attorney fees in lawsuits against insurers. One-way attorney fees have long required insurers to pay the attorney fees of plaintiffs who are successful in lawsuits. Among other things, the bill would reduce from four to two years a statute of limitations for filing negligence lawsuits; make it harder to pursue “bad faith” lawsuits against insurers; and revamp laws about comparative negligence, which involves situations when juries find more than one party at fault.
Permitless Carry Passes the House: House Bill 543 enacts that a person who is authorized to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm without a license is required to carry valid identification when in actual possession of a concealed weapon or concealed firearm. Such a person must display his or her identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer. Additionally, the bill removes the requirement for a licensed carrier to carry his or her license to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm. Under the bill, the requirements for the carrying and display of identification are the same for licensed and authorized carriers. A violation of these provisions is a noncriminal violation, punishable by a $25 fine.
Should this legislation or it’s companion pass the Senate, the lives of all Floridians will be put at risk. Background checks and training are common sense measures that support public health and safety while also upholding our right to bear arms. Eliminating the permit to carry a concealed weapon would allow anyone to carry a gun in public, even people who have been shown to have a history of violence or who might otherwise not pass a background check.
The League has long recognized that the right to vote is meaningless without the right to vote safely. The unchecked and open carrying of concealed firearms imperils the electoral process at multiple stages, from the threat of violence at registration to voter intimidation at the polls.
League Action on Legislation
Senate Bill 300: Pregnancy and Parenting Support
A timely action alert has been issued on this bill. Click here to view the alert and respond now!
Senate Bill 300 by Senator Grall was heard and voted favorably 7-4 by the Health Policy Committee on March 20, 2023. The League waived in opposition to this legislation. The bill is being heard in the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Tuesday, March 28 at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 7 ban abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, leaving Floridians with a narrow window in which they can access care.The League believes abortion bans are extreme, no matter when in pregnancy they start, because they put politicians where they don’t belong: in charge of other people’s personal health care decisions. If passed, this will devastate abortion access in the southeast even more than it already has been. For months, Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks has put lives and health at risk. This 6-week ban would only make things worse. Instead of addressing that harm, lawmakers are doubling down on their anti-abortion agenda. Everyone should be able to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures without interference from politicians.
House Bill 1281: Preemption Over Utility Service Restrictions
House Bill 1281 by Representative Buchanan was heard and voted favorably 13-3 in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee on March 20, 2023. The League waived in opposition. Preemption Over Utility Service Restrictions prohibits certain local governmental entities, subject to specified exceptions, from enacting or enforcing resolution, ordinance, rule, code, or policy or from taking any action that restricts or prohibits or has effect of restricting or prohibiting use of any major appliances.
Senate Bill 1320: Child Protection in Public Schools
Senate Bill 1320 by Senator Yarborough was heard and voted favorably 9-3 with CS by Education Pre-K-12. The League waived in opposition. SB1320 is now in Fiscal Policy. This bill extends through grade 8 the prohibitions from the 2022 “Don’t Say Gay” law that were through grade 3. In grades 9-12, the instruction “must be age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” It defines the term “sex” as an immutable biological trait; prohibits public school employees, contractors or students from being required to refer to a person using personal titles or pronouns that do not correspond with that person’s sex; prohibits classroom instruction by school personnel on sexual orientation or gender identity until grade 9; requires district school boards to adopt and publish a specified process relating to student access to certain materials, requiring that certain materials be unavailable to students until the resolution of any objection, etc. The League believes districts are now being forced to abandon their own students. By imposing severe restrictions on the kinds of discussions teachers may have with students in all grades, the bill prevents children from seeking assistance with issues that cause them distress. In America we celebrate free speech, independent thinking, and equality – these are the ideals of our nation. Trying to limit or remove those freedoms is not patriotic. It’s censorship.
Senate Bill 162: Water and Wastewater Facility Operators
Senate Bill 162 by Senator Collins was heard and voted favorably 9-0 with CS by Environment and Natural Resources on March 20, 2023. The League waived in support. SB 162 is now in Regulated Industries. SB 162 requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue reciprocal licenses to water utility workers licensed in other jurisdictions and other applicants that meet certain requirements. The bill directs DEP to award education and operational experience credits to applicants who have performed comparable duties in the United States Armed Forces but who do not meet the other requirements for a reciprocal license.
Senate Bill 192: Everglades Protection Area
Senate Bill 192 by Senator Avila was heard and voted favorably 9-0 by the Environment and Natural Resources on March 20, 2023 and is now in Rules. The League waived in support. SB 192 requires any proposed comprehensive plan or plan amendment by a county as defined in s. 125.011(1), F.S., or any municipality located therein, applying to land within, or within 2 miles of, the Everglades Protection Area to be reviewed pursuant to the state-coordinated review process. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is tasked with determining whether the plan or plan amendment will adversely impact the Everglades Protection Area or the Everglades restoration and protection objectives in state law. It has 30 days after receipt of the plan or plan amendment to issue a written determination identifying any adverse impacts.
Senate Bill 1476: State Acquisition of Lands
SB 1476 by Senator Simon was heard and voted favorably 9-0 by Environment and Natural Resources on March 20, 2023. The League waived in support. SB 1476 directs the Department of Environmental Protection to disclose otherwise confidential appraisal reports related to the acquisition of state lands to private landowners or their representatives, provided they agree to maintain the confidentiality of the reports or information. In addition, the bill requires the contract to state that the final purchase price must be the fair market value as determined by the highest appraisal.
Senate Bill 1632: Environmental Protection
Senate Bill 1632 by Senator Brodeur was heard and voted favorably 9-0 with CS by Environment and Natural Resources on March 20, 2023. The League testified in support. SB 1632 is now in the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. CS/SB 1632 is a bill related to environmental protection. The major topics in this bill include wastewater treatment, onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDSs), sanitary sewer services, basin management action plans (BMAPs), the wastewater grant program, the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), and the acquisition of state lands. The League believes These improvements are all aimed at making this acquisition and monitoring of lands in this state more efficient, and reducing pollutant loads to outstanding Florida waters
Senate Bill 358: Residential Graywater System Tax Credits
Senate Bill 358 by Senator Burgess was heard and voted favorably 10-0 with CS by Finance and Tax Committee on March 21, 2023. The League waived in support. SB 358 creates a corporate income tax credit for the purchase of residential Graywater systems. The credit is equal to 50 percent of the cost of each system, up to $4,200 per system. The credit applies to taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2024. The bill specifies eligibility conditions for the credit, authorizes the carryforward of unused credits, and authorizes the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt rules to implement the tax credit. Additionally, the DOR is authorized to share information related to the tax credit with the DEP.
House Bill 551 Required African American Instruction
House Bill 551 by Senator Benjamin and Senator Fine was heard and voted favorably 14-0 by the PreK-12 Appropriation Subcommittee on March 22, 2023. The League waived in support. HB 551 is now in the Education & Employment Committee. The bill requires school districts to provide evidence that requirements relating to the instruction of African American history are being met. The bill also allows the Department of Education (DOE) to seek input from and contract with state or nationally recognized African American educational organizations to support curriculum on the history of African Americans. The bill requires school districts to submit to the Commissioner of Education (commissioner) and post on their website an implementation plan for required instruction topics that includes methods in which instruction will be delivered for each grade level, professional qualifications of instructional personnel, and a description of instructional materials. The bill also requires the commissioner or the DOE to notify school districts if they do not meet implementation plan requirements and gives school districts 45 days from the date of notification to submit revisions to their implementation plans.