2021 Lobby Day Recap
April 8th marked the Florida League’s annual Lobby Day. This year’s event took place virtually. More than 100 Leaguers joined in as we heard from legislators, met on a number of key bills, strategized as a group on how to best defeat the harmful bills that would attack our voting rights, and we received trainings from the Capitol Alliance Group and former Education Commissioner and State Senator Betty Castor.
We also hosted a virtual press conference focused on the fact that political and racial gerrymandering distorts and undermines our representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters. The Florida League renewed our fight for fair districts and called upon legislators to sign a “Fair Districts” pledge alongside Florida Rising, All On The Line, FairDistrics Now, and Senator Annette Taddeo.
After our long day of trainings and meetings, we gathered in the evening to honor the recipient of our David King Defender of Democracy Award.
In years past, LWVFL has awarded this honor to legislators or esteemed journalists. This year, the decision was to made honor those who served as the backbone of our democracy under the threat of a global pandemic and an onerous election: the 200+ League members who served as poll workers and/or election protection volunteers of the 2020 election.
Around the Capitol
With sine die around the corner, the Senate and House release their proposed budgets this week. Both appropriations bills were heard in the respective Senate and House Appropriations Committees.
The Biden “American Rescue Plan” should offset some of the estimated $2.6 billion budget deficits resulting from a long year of COVID. Sadowski funding for Affordable housing was slated to be trimmed up but a new agreement from House and Senate has reinstated a recurring $200 million.
The House and Senate budgets differ based on a difference in use of federal CARES and Rescue funds anticipated. The appropriations bills for both chambers passed their first committee stop along party lines, although although many legislators said that they wish to see changes made before the bills make it to the floor.
Last Weekend: Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Manatee county after the threat of Piney Point Gypsum Stack. Thousands of people have been told to evacuate due to the potential of a flood of toxic water if the stacks were to collapse. In addition, 345 jail inmates in Manatee County were also evacuated and transferred to different locations, while the remaining 721 were moved to the second floor of the jail facility.
On Monday, April 5th, the Florida League issued a brief statement in regards to the situation. Legislators have indicated that they may appropriate money this session to deal with this environmental crisis.
Top Priority Opposition — Election Changes Legislation
(Senate Bill 90 + House Bill 7041)
House Bill 7041
On April 7th, a strike all amendment was filed to HB 7041, the strike all changed the bill but will still make settling litigation challenging election law harder, require people returning a ballot to a drop box to show ID to a staffer, make voters apply for mail ballots more frequently, limit third party return, prohibit private funding of elections, irrationally regulate drop boxes and reduce the number of signatures when validating provisional mail ballots.
On April 8th, the bill was heard in the House Appropriations Committee and advanced along party lines. The bill’s next stop and final committee stop is in State Affairs.
Senate Bill 90
Senate Bill 90, the worst of the two proposed election changing bills, was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on April 6th. The bill was temporally postponed and not heard. The bill is scheduled to be heard again in the Rules Committee on April 14th.
An action alert will be issued early next week regarding this bill — get a jump start on it now by writing in opposition to the members of the Rules Committee.
Top Priority Opposition — Anti-Protest Legislation
(House Bill 1/Senate Bill 484)
The Florida Senate used a creative procedural maneuver to resurrect the controversial “anti-protest” bill HB 1. HB 1 had yet to be heard within the upper chamber until this procedural anomaly happened. Typically either chamber (House or Senate) does not take up the other chamber’s bill in committee meetings. This procedural move to take up HB 1 is both odd and a shameful trick.
The bill was heard on April 9th in an all day meeting of the Appropriations Committee. During the morning session of the April 9th bill hearing, Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely waived in support of all the attempted amendments that made the bill less abrasive, and ultimately spoke in opposition to the bill overall in the afternoon.
The bill passed the Appropriations Committee after 8+ hours of debate and public testimony. Sen. Jeff Brandes was the only Republican to break party lines and vote no.
Next, it will be placed on the Special Order calendar to be heard on the Senate Floor.
Other Voting Rights & Election Legislation
House Bill 61: Percentage of Elector Votes
HB 61 by Representative Roth proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to approve or revise amendments from 60 percent to 66 & 2/3 percent, except that repeal of the amendment need only be approved by same percentage of elector votes that were required at time of passage of such amendment.
HB 61 was heard in committee on Monday, March 29 in the Public Integrity & Elections Committee. League Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely testified in opposition to this bill, however it passed committee with a 11-6 vote. The next and last stop will be in the House Judiciary Committee.
SB 1238 is the companion bill by Senator Rodriguez. It was last heard in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee back in the beginning of March. We expect it to be placed on the agenda in the Senate Rules Committee
House Bill 155: Public Records/Voters and Voter Registration
HB 155 by Representative Stevenson provides exemption from public records requirements for specified information regarding voter or voter registration applicants; authorizes disclosure of confidential & exempt information under certain circumstances; provides for future legislative review & repeal; provides statement of public necessity.
This bill was heard in committee on Monday, March 29 after being workshopped earlier that month. It was reported favorably with a 11-6 vote. The League waived in opposition to this legislation. On Thursday April 1, the House removed the referral to the Government Operations Subcommittee. This means that it only has one more stop in the House Rules Committee before it will be brought to the floor for a vote.
The Senate version (SB 1492) has only been heard once which was in the beginning of March. SB 1492 has yet to be put on the agenda for the next committee stop in the State Affairs Committee.
Senate Bill 1890 – Campaign Financing
The legislature constantly moves the goal posts for citizen led ballot initiatives.
The legislature has made this process extraordinarily expensive and now, they want to cap contributions only to amendments proposed by initiative.
SB 1890 and its companion HB 699 would be the death knell of ballot initiatives. The bills cap contributions to a political committee that sponsors a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative t0 3,000 until the Secretary of State has issued a certificate of ballot position and a designating number for the proposed amendment.
League Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely testified in opposition to this bill when heard in the Senate Rules Committee, however it passed along party lines and awaits to be heard on the Senate Floor.
Senate Bill 86 – Student Financial Aid
The Florida Senate voted, despite overwhelming bipartisan public opposition, to remove the guaranteed funding of Bright Futures, the merit based, lottery funded scholarship that many of our families rely on for a high quality, affordable in-state college degree. SB 86 makes the value of the scholarship award subject to the whims of the annual appropriations process.
For the time being, there has not been action on this legislation in the House and there is no direct companion.
Natural Resources Legislation
Senate Bill 1954 – Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience
SB1954 requires the Department of Environmental Protection to complete a comprehensive statewide flood vulnerability and sea level rise data set, establishes the Resilient Florida Grant Program, and requires the department to develop an annual Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan and submit the plan to the Governor and Legislature along with additional measures.
This bill, a priority bill in which the League supported, has passed both chambers and will now go to the Governor for final approval.