|Committee Weeks Come To A Close|
While the 2022 legislative session does not begin until January 11, various legislative committees have met since mid-September in preparation for the annual lawmaking session. With the sixth and final committee week finishing on December 3rd, legislators are about as prepped as they can be for another whirlwind session.
During the fifth committee week (November 15-19). Governor DeSantis scheduled a special legislative session in which legislators were able to pass legislation outside of the normal timeframe of our state’s 60-day session. The session had a focus on COVID-19 and vaccine related legislation.
A number of bills have begun to move through their various committee stops (especially during the sixth committee week) and the League, in partnership with Capitol Alliance Group, continues to monitor them all. While committee weeks have concluded, committees continue to meet throughout the session to advance legislation forward until it reaches each chamber’s respective floor.
|Special Legislative Session Recap|
The special session can be summarized as the following: three days in Tallahassee we could easily have lived without. Prior to the session, the League made our stance against it publicly known. Before, during, and after the special session many deemed it to mostly political instead of substantive policy needed to better our state.
As the special session commenced, the League sent a letter to all legislators outlining a number of flaws in the various bills that were put forth.
While lawmakers passed legislation the League disagreed with, in the end, lawmakers did not go as far as the governor had hoped. But, what did they do?
Legislators passed legislation (largely by party lines) that:Banned vaccine mandates for public school districts and local governments and gave parents sole discretion over whether students should get vaccinated or wear masks.Allowed vaccine mandates for private businesses as long as companies included exemptions for medical and religious reasons that were expected to be much broader than the federal exemptions. Employees could also opt out if they were willing to be periodically tested or wear protective equipment, like masks. Employers would have to pay for the tests or provide the masks.Imposed fines of $50,000 per violation for employers with 100 workers or more (and fines of $10,000 for smaller employers) that mandate vaccines outside the allowable guidelines.Allocated $1 million to the Governor’s office to study leaving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
ICYMI: LWVFL hosted a Lunch & Learn all about what happened during the 2021 special session which featured guests such as Dr. Nancy Staats, Health Care State Action Chair Kathy Winn, Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely, and Dr. Jeffery Sharkey of Capitol Alliance Group. Click here to watch the program.
An Update Our Fight for Fair Districts
Capitol Alliance Group coordinated meetings for the League on November 30th with key House and Senate members to discuss legislative priorities for the session, the main priority focused on the redistricting efforts underway in the legislature but also included comments about our 5 other priorities.
Requests were made of both Republican and Democratic legislators and staff but with this week being the last committee week and packed with meetings, scheduling visits was somewhat challenging. LWVFL scored 7 meetings and managed to catch some crucial legislators in the halls as they jetted off to other meetings!
The League participants included Cecile Scoon, Trish Neely, Danielle Irwin, and Ginger Mundy. The various meetings were extremely timely and informative with Cecile and the team discussing concerns about access to precinct level data which is necessary to do the analysis on whether the proposed maps address minority representation.
All of the House and Senate members were very appreciative of the League’s insights and understanding of the requirements of the Fair District laws and each one asked for talking points or information to help them better understand the methodology behind the maps and what additional data and information is necessary to ensure that a more accurate and unbiased analysis of the maps and the redistricting process can be accomplished.
Following these meetings, the League sent resources to legislators along with a letter asking for specific questions/situations to be addressed.
|Other Legislative Updates|
Elections + Education
SJR 244: Partisan Elections for Members of District School BoardsThe League is opposed to this bill because of a longtime League position (1970) that school board should be nonpartisan plus the a 1998 ballot initiative regarding this exact topic passed with more than 64% of the vote. Senate Joint Resolution 244 by Senator Gruters was heard on November 30th, 2021. This bill passed the committee on Ethics and Education 5-4. The League waived against it. Senate Joint Resolution 244 proposes an amendment to the state constitution to require members of a district school board to be elected in a partisan race. If SJR 244 is adopted, members of district boards may not be elected on a partisan basis until the general election held in November 2024. Primary elections for purposes of nominating political party candidates to district school boards may occur before the 2024 general election. This bill has now been referred to the Education Committee.
HB 225: Charter School ChartersThe League is opposed to HB 225 because the legislation makes it easier for charter schools to merge to escape the two year waiting period for capital outlay funds. House Bill 225 by Representative Hawkins was heard and voted favorable 17-0 on December 1st, 2021. Charter schools are public schools created through an agreement, or “charter,” with a sponsor. The charter provides the school flexibility relative to regulations created for traditional public schools in return for a commitment to higher standards of accountability. The term of a charter is five years, excluding two planning years, and a charter may be renewed for another five-year term or a 15-year term if certain conditions are met. The law allows for a charter to be modified, including consolidating two or more charter schools, and provides procedures for terminating or non renewing a charter. The bill revises these provisions to: specify that a charter may be modified at any time, during any term; require that a request for the consolidation of multiple charters be approved or denied within 60 days after submission of the request; require that any sponsor who denies a request for consolidation to provide the charter school’s governing board with the specific reasons for the denial within 10 days; specify that a sponsor provide notice to a charter school of a decision to renew, terminate, or not renew before a vote and at least 90 days before the end of the school year; and provide for the automatic renewal of a charter if notification does not occur at least 90 days before the end of the school year. This bill is similar to SB 0892 by Senator Burgess and on December 2nd, 2021, the House committee substitute text was filed.
SB 622: Florida Institute for Charter School InnovationThe League is opposed to Senate Bill 622 because it could result in giving more money to charter schools without assurance said assets will stay within the public school system if the charter school should close. The bill, sponsored by Senator Diaz, was heard and voted favorable 7-3 on November 20th, 2021. The bill has been referred to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. SB 622 establishes the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation (institute) at Miami-Dade College to improve charter school authorizing practices in the state. Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Education to collaborate with the institute in developing the sponsor evaluation framework. The bill provides an appropriation of $1 million in recurring general revenue funds.
SB 506: Hope Scholarship ProgramThe League opposes Senate Bill 506 because it expands eligibility for the hope scholarship (vouchers) to students in districts that are being punished by the state Board of Education for any variety of reasons such as when they didn’t follow the “no mask mandate” rule. The bill, sponsored by Senator Diaz, was heard and voted favorable 6-4 on November 30th, 2021. It has now been referred to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
Natural Resources + Clean Energy
SB 1024/HB 741: Net Metering93% of Floridians support solar net metering. The proposed changes to net metering in Senate Bill 1024 & House Bill 741 would decimate Florida’s growing rooftop solar industry and result in the loss of thousands of solar jobs.Our partners at Solar United Neighbors (SUN) want to ensure that Florida legislators hear from the thousands of Floridians that support our solar rights. Click here to use SUN’s tool to contact key legislators now!
Partner Event: Reproductive Rights Mobilization
As some anti-abortion legislators prepare to elevate misinformation and bad policy, we are preparing a unifying story grounded in the freedom to determine what’s best for our bodies, our families, and our communities. On January 12, 2022, Floridians will converge on the Florida Capitol to defend reproductive freedom.
Advocates will demand the ability to make the decisions to have or not have children and to raise them safely. Please consider joining this mobilization to Tallahassee on January 12, 2022. Floridians for Reproductive Freedom (FRF), a coalition representing tens of thousands of Floridians, is planning actions throughout the day, sure to include a press conference, a speakout, and legislator visits.
Click here to RSVP now. Meals and materials will be provided for all who register. Specific details will be provided by FRF to all registrants as they become available.