BREAKING: League of Women Voters of Florida and Others Sue Over Gov. DeSantis’ Congressional Map

Capitol Reports » LWVFL Capitol Report: February 10, 2022

LWVFL Capitol Report: February 10, 2022

February 11, 2022

This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from January 28 through February 10, 2022.

Session At A Glance

As we recap highlights of the fourth and fifth weeks of Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

A number of bills are moving through the legislative process that make it harder to vote, stymie free speech, put onerous restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, diminish public education and force the state governments will on our local communities.

The Capitol Alliance Group remains actively engaged and committed to the League’s legislative agenda and high priority issues. Our League Lobby Corps continue to make an impact by testifying and waiving on key pieces of legislation.

A New Battle: Another Attempt at Voter Suppression Legislation

New pieces of legislation (Senate Bill 524 and House Bill 7061) which modify existing processes pertaining to Florida’s elections are being fast tracked through the Florida House and Senate.

The proposed language makes up 45 pages of unnecessary, costly and harmful changes to Florida’s already existing elections laws. These bills include:

Establishing an “Office of Election Crime and Security” to investigate election fraud in Florida
Requiring annual purging of voter rolls
Requiring additional identification to vote by mail
Adding additional steps to vote by mail
Raising caps on potential fines against third-party voter registration organizations to $50,000
Making it a felony offence to compensate petition circulators based on number of signatures collected.
Prohibiting ranked-choice voting in Florida, overruling existing ordinances

On February 1st, SB 524 was advanced out of the Senate Ethics & Elections committee, roughly 24 hours after the bill language was first introduced. The bill was later pulled from all of its previously scheduled committee stops and instead only needs to clear the Appropriations Committee hurdle to go to a final Senate vote, where it will almost certainly pass.

With less than a day to prepare, Florida League President Cecile Scoon testified at the first hearing in the Senate to express LWVFL’s opposition in a powerful testimony which can be watched by clicking here.

President Scoon was interviewed by CBS This Morning prior to the first Senate hearing, click here to watch the piece.

In the House, the companion bill (HB 7061) was placed on the public agenda for one day, the minimum amount of time necessary, before passing the bill out of the Public Integrity & Elections Committee.

LWVFL Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely testified against the measure in the House with even less time to prepare. Trish’s testimony can be watched by clicking here.

Let’s be clear: this bill is as bad, and potentially worse, than 2020’s Senate Bill 90. Our existing electoral system works. These additional measures are unnecessary, expensive, will deter voting and increase rejections. They are an added burden to Supervisors of Elections, voters and taxpayers. It will have a chilling effect on community-based organizations conducting voter registration. Seniors will be especially at risk to experience difficulty in casting their ballots. Especially of concern in the language is that there are no safeguards on the Office of Election Crime and Security to prevent this new police force from becoming politicized.

These two bill will likely be put on their next committee agendas in the coming days. LWVFL is watching these bills closely and will be sending an action alert when it is scheduled in the next committee. It is absolutely imperative that League members respond to any action alerts on these two bills.

Our Fight for Fair Districts

The state Senate and House legislative lines in the once-a-decade redistricting process are now headed to the Florida Supreme Court for a final review. On February 2, the Florida House amended the new state House lines on to the all encompassing state legislative reapportionment bill which included the already approved Senate lines. The House added their lines with a 77-39 vote. On February 3, the Senate took up the now amended bill with both the Senate & House districts and approved it with a 37-0 vote. The conforming bill, now approved by both chambers, heads to the attorney general and the aforementioned Florida Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Florida’s new congressional map remains on hold. In a sign that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may veto a new congressional map being drawn by the state legislature, the Governor further inserted himself into the redistricting process and asked the state’s highest court to tell him whether or not a 200-mile congressional district linking Black neighborhoods must be kept intact.

In briefs submitted early this week to the Florida Supreme Court, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Republican legislative leaders and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry backed DeSantis’ request for the requested advisory opinion.

LWVFL’s Fair Districts Coalition partners Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now and All On The Line Florida submitted briefs opposed to DeSantis’ request. Newly elected South Florida Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick also submitted her own opposing brief. Common Cause Florida and Fair Districts Now contended in their joint brief that the Florida Constitution does not provide the governor with the right to ask the court to advise him whether he should veto a hypothetical congressional redistricting bill.

On February 10, the Florida Supreme Court denied the Governor’s request for an advisory opinion. The Florida Supreme Court will not issue an advisory opinion on whether the Governor’s congressional map illegally diminishes the minority population in CD 5. The court said the Governor’s request was too broad and “contains multiple questions that implicate complex federal and state constitutional matters.” The court also said the request “might necessitate fact-intensive analysis and consideration of other congressional districts, not just District 5.”

Updates on Legislation by Issue Area

Elections & Voting

SJR 1412 & HJR 1127 – Limiting Subject of Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Citizen Initiative
Senate Joint Resolution 1412 ( and House Joint Resolution 1127) would put on the ballot a constitutional amendment limiting citizen initiatives to “procedural subjects or to the structure of the government or of this constitution,” was passed out of the Senate Ethics and Election Committee along party lines. The League testified in opposition. Since 1968, Floridians have used this process to advance policies when the Legislature has refused to listen to our priorities. In recent years, the Legislature has attacked this right by adding unnecessary rules, timelines, and costs to weaken the citizen initiative process. The Florida Constitution is meant to protects the power of the people – not just the few in legislature.

Reproductive Health & Justice

HB 5 & SB 146 – 15 Week Abortion Ban
Senate Bill 146 (and House Bill 5) mirrors Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban. The League believes this legislation is an attempt to advance a political agenda over sound science and medicine. It is important that a pregnant person, their family, and doctor have every medical option available. Laws banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy would take that deeply personal decision away. This bill requires two physicians to sign off on a medical exception, provides no exceptions for when a person is raped, even if they are a minor, and only very limited exceptions for when the pregnant person learns that there are serious fetal anomalies. Florida League President Cecile Scoon testified in opposition at the February 2 Senate Health Policy Committee. On February 10, the League waived against the bill in its final House committee stop. The bill has one more committee stop in the Senate and is poised to be taken up on the House Floor as early as next week.

Preemption/Home Rule

HJR 663 & SJR 1004 – Recall of County Officers and Commissioners
House Joint Resolution 663 (and Senate Joint Resolution 1004) proposes amendment to our State Constitution that authorizes the legislature to provide by general law for recall of county officers & commissioners. The bill was heard in its third stop on February 7, it is now posed to go the House Floor. The League testified in opposition. The bill ultimately looks to change the state constitution to allow the state legislature to recall County Commissioners and Officers. This is an absolute preemption of local governments. There are no limitations or reasons for this recall. Every large county and a number of cities are ruled by charters. Within these charters are processes for recalling elected officials. This is a clear overreach by the state legislature to interfere in the governance of local communities to remove county and city elected officials with no process and no redress.

Education

HB 7 & SB 148 – “Individual Freedom”
House Bill 7 by Representative Avila passed 16-8 through its second committee on February 1 and passed 14-7 in its third committee on February 8. It is now posed to be heard on the House Floor in the coming days/weeks. The Senate version has one more committee stop before a full vote. HB 7/SB 148 seek to ban teaching inclusive concepts in schools and workplaces, including topics dealing with race and gender discrimination. The legislation would also give employees the ability to file discrimination claims against an employer engaging in such trainings or discussions. HB 7/SB 148 could effectively ban books, classroom materials or classroom discussions if parents believe the materials have subjective spins on historical facts that could cause some students to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race. The League believes HB 7/SB 148 are a part of a dangerous nationwide trend attempting to ban discussions of race and gender in schools and in the workplace. These bills overstep the state’s authority to determine school curriculum and constitutes censorship. Students should be taught an accurate view of our nation’s history, including the good and the bad.

SB 1834 & HB 1557 – “Parental Rights in Education” better know as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
Senate Bill 1834 and House Bill 1557 would require school district personnel to encourage a student to discuss issues relating to his or her well-being with his or her parent, or to seek permission to discuss or facilitate discussion of the issue with the parent. Additionally, the procedures must comply with the rights of parents in accessing their student’s educational records that are created, maintained, or used by public educational institutions. The bill creates a cause of action for parents to seek declarative and injunctive relief against a school district that violates the provisions of the bill. Senate Bill 1834 was heard for the first time on February 8 in the Senate Education Committee and passed along party lines. The League testified in opposition. The League certainly supports and encourages parental involvement in the education of their children. However, the League is OPPOSED to this bill because of the restrictions it places on teacher/student communication and its potential for an adversarial relationship between students/teachers/parents rather than a positive one, in which research has shown contributes positively to students’ well-being and high academic achievement. This bill diminishes students’ belief that teachers are trusted adults who are genuinely concerned about them and may potentially negatively impact student mental health. It will silence classroom and individual discussion/conversation about student concerns whether of a personal, family, or general nature. The bill undermines LGBTQ+ support in schools. It prevents teachers from serving as a caring role model for students.

HB 1467 – K-12 Education
House Bill 1467 by Representative Garrison was heard and passed 15-10 through its second committee on January 31st, 2022. The League testified in opposition. House Bill 1467 would require unnecessary overreach in selecting books and learning materials. It would impose a litany of new rules overseeing the process for selecting and curating library and textbook content. It is the League’s belief that this bill does not facilitate a positive relationship between parents and a school. The wide swath of prohibited material in this bill constitutes censorship overreach. This bill discounts the experience and true cultural history of minority students, despite the fact that they are now the majority of students in Florida schools.

SB 1690 & HB 1347 – Charter School Revolving Loan Program
Senate Bill 1690 by Senator Diaz passed 7-2 through its first committee on February 1st, 2022. The League testified in opposition. Senate Bill 1690 now sits in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. Before we give more capital outlay funds to charter schools, we need to strengthen Florida Statute 1013.62 (5) to make sure the funds and the assets they purchase stay within the public school system if the charter school should close. One of the League’s legislative priorities in 2022 is to support legislation that would require charter school contracts to stipulate how capital outlay funding and the assets they purchase will be recouped by the school district if the charter school should close or if the building is sold.

Natural Resources + Clean Energy

SB 1024 & HB 741 – Net Metering
Senate Bill 1024 and House Bill 741 would lower the utility savings for Floridians using rooftop solar panels. The measure would start reducing how much utility companies pay consumers when the consumers produce more electricity than they use. The League testified in opposition on February 8 and joined solar supporters and organizational partners for a rally in the Capitol’s courtyard. The bills are being promoted based on the argument that customers who have rooftop solar and therefore use less electricity are not paying their fair share of grid costs. To compensate, the bill provides that the credit rate for excess electricity sent to the grid should be set at wholesale rates rather than retail rates, plus allows for additional fixed charges.

SB 1238 – Saltwater Intrusion Vulnerability Assessments
Senate Bill 1238 by Senator Polsky passed 6-0 through its first committee on January 31st, 2022. The League testified in support of this legislation. This bill amends the Resilient Florida Grant Program to authorize DEP to provide grants to coastal counties to conduct vulnerability assessments that analyze the impact of saltwater intrusion on their water supplies. This bill requires DEP to update its Comprehensive Statewide Flood Vulnerability and Sea Level Rise Data Set and make any appropriate information received from the saltwater intrusion vulnerability assessments available to the public on its website. This bill also requires the DEP to provide counties with a population higher than 50,000, 50 percent cost-share funding, up to $250,000, for each grant awarded under the Resilient Florida Grant Program. Senate Bill 1238 awaits to be heard by its second committee.

SB 1426 & HB 965 – Environment Management
Senate Bill 1426 by Senator Burgess passed 4-1 through its first committee on January 31st, 2022. The League testified in opposition to this legislation. This bill creates the concept of Water Quality Enhancement Areas (WQEAs). This bill allows adverse water quality impacts to be offset through water quality enhancement areas and offset credit purchasing. While the League believes the concept is good, the details of credit banking and trading are not sufficiently clear to support evaluation. Care must be taken to ensure that this does not include offsets for wetland destruction.

SB 1678 & HB 1285 – Energy Equity Task Force
Senate Bill 1648 by Senator Gibson passed 8-0 through its first committee on February 1st, 2022. The League waived in support of this bill. This bill establishes the Energy Equity Task Force which is adjunct to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This bill requires the Task Force to make recommendations for a fair and equitable transition of Florida’s energy infrastructure to renewable energy technology in minority, underserved, rural, and low-income communities. This bill also requires at least 11 people to be on the Task Force to reflect Florida’s racial and gender diversity. Senate Bill 1678 now sits in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government.

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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