|Session At A Glance|
Today marks the 42nd day of this year’s regular 60 day session of the Florida legislature. This means we are under two weeks away from March 1st, the 50th day of session and the last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings aside from the two respective Rules committees.
The sixth week of the 2022 Legislative session continued as a whirlwind with legislative leadership in both chambers fast-tracking their legislative priorities ranging from radically restricting abortions, modifying voting, shifting environmental funding and preempting local governments. The big news as of lately included committee hearings on abortion, what can be discussed in classrooms, election laws and the preliminary House and Senate budgets. Capitol Alliance Group has been working closely with the League’s Lobby Corps to present a strong voice in support and opposition of key legislation.
|Voter Suppression Legislation|
Senate Bill 524, the Anti-Voter Freedom Act, is up for a hearing this upcoming Thursday, February 24 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. A proposed committee substitute is likely to be considered at the scheduled hearing.
The proposed legislation, in it’s current form, would:
– Fund an expensive and unnecessary Office of Election Crimes and Security,
– Create a new set of confusing rules on how to vote by mail,
– Lead to more rejected ballots, and raise costs for election officials without providing more funding,
– Purge thousands of registered voters from registration rolls
– Make it a felony to assist voters in some circumstances, and
– Harm organizations that help register voters with egregious fines.
Floridians deserve free and fair elections. The Anti-Voter Freedom Act creates new, expensive, unnecessary, and deliberate barriers to voting. During the 2020 presidential election, Governor Ron DeSantis touted Florida’s election process as the “gold” standard nationwide.
While we can all agree that election security is of the utmost importance, these additional confusing and unnecessary steps will deter voters from participating in the democratic process. We must do everything in our power to protect our freedom to vote in safe and secure elections.
League Members: Look out for an Action Alert on this bill VERY SOON and PLEASE ACT!
|Our Fight for Fair Districts|
Action has started once again in the Florida House when it comes to congressional redistricting.
Earlier in the session, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed his own congressional redistricting plan that would eliminate at least one Black-held congressional district. This move brought the redistricting process to a halt. The DeSantis’ move, which included the Florida Supreme Court getting involved, did not pan out in ways the Governor likely envisioned.
Following the pause, the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee started up its work again. Robert Popper, a senior attorney at the conservative Judicial Watch, joined a February 11 meeting at the request of Governor Ron DeSantis. Popper is a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who helped devise the Polsky-Popper test, with fellow attorney Daniel Polsky, for measuring the compactness of a proposed district on a 10-point scale. The test is one of three the Legislature is using in devising new districts to account for the 2020 U.S. Census. Representatives pointedly pressed Popper on the value of minority representation versus compact districts and were openly unhappy with his answers, which focused on the arcana of federal law and elided the points they were trying to establish. Mr. Popper indicated he’d been sent by DeSantis to warn members that they’d better get on board with the governor or else the U.S. Supreme Court would “torpedo” their plan.
LWVFL President Cecile Scoon argued in public testimony at this meeting that what Mr. Popper expressed doesn’t account fully for population growth among Florida Hispanics and Blacks nor was what he expressed relevant to the work of the legislature. Click here to watch a playback of the meeting.
The committee ignored Popper’s advice, voting 14-7 to send the map to the full Redistricting Committee which is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Feb. 24.
|Budget & Taxes|
House: The House passed their $105.3 billion budget and accompanying bills, including a plan to create a $2 billion fund that would help address inflation-related costs.
The budget includes:$442.5 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for various springs, $50 million for beach restoration and $14.6 million to address red tide outbreaks
Legislative leadership also touted putting more money into state reserves, while simultaneously establishing a $500 million fund that the Governor can “use for emergencies”
A refusal to expand eligibility for MedicaidIncludes $25 million for local projects pitched by Democrats, compared to $457 million for Republican-backed proposals.
Senate: The Senate has passed their large Appropriations bill. The $108.6 billion package (SPB 2500) includes things such as a $1.46 billion increase in the main funding formula for public schools and money for state worker raises that would bring minimum pay to $15 an hour.
The two chambers must now come together in the Budget Conference process. Once this process begins, it signals the end of session is near. This process consists of a committee composed of members of the Senate (appointed by the President) and members of the House of Representatives (appointed by the Speaker) whose sole purpose is to resolve the differences between the two houses on the content of a bill, in this case the state budget.
|Updates on Legislation by Issue Area|
Reproductive Health & Justice
HB 5 – 15 Week Abortion BanHouse Bill 5 mirrors Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban. The League has expressed time and time again that 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. On February 17, the House passed HB 5. The Florida Senate then decided to take up the House’s version of the 15-week abortion ban instead of moving forward with their own. House Bill 5 was heard in this one Senate committee. The League testified in opposition. The bill’s next (and final) stop prior to the Governor’s desk is the full Florida Senate. When a hearing is announced, expect another LWVFL Action Alert.
HB 7 & SB 148 – “Individual Freedom”Dubbed by the Governor as the “Stop WOKE Act”, House Bill 7 would censor conversations about racism, discrimination, and injustice, allowing people to sue for discrimination if they are made to feel “guilty” or “discomfort” because of a training or school lesson. This extends to private businesses as well, giving employees the right to sue their employers for discrimination if trainings that cover implicit bias, racial equity, and even sexual harassment cause them discomfort. HB 7 is up for a vote in the House of Representatives on February 24. Click here to access our action alert on this bill and tell your state Representative to vote NO!
SB 1834 & HB 1557 – “Parental Rights in Education” better know as the “Don’t Say Gay” BillHouse Bill 1557 bans discussion of LGBTQ+ people or issues in primary grades, would further stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community, chill efforts to create inclusive school environments, and isolate LGBTQ+ kids who are already at staggeringly higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. HB 1557 is up for a vote in the House of Representatives on February 24. Click here to access our action alert on this bill and tell your state Representative to vote NO!
SB 892 – Charter School ChartersSenate Bill 892 will make it easier for new charter schools to escape the two year waiting period for capital outlay funds (tax dollars). More than $1 billion in government grants have been lost on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed in Florida. As of 2019, 409 charter schools closed in Florida. Currently there aren’t adequate safeguards to insure the sales surtax and property tax money funding charter school buildings will stay within the public school system if the charter school closes. The Florida League has long supported increased oversight of the development and implementation of charter school contracts. This bill decreases oversight. The League testified in opposition to this bill on February 15. At a minimum, our state should be making sure the charter school will be successful before giving them capital outlay funds. SB 892 will be heard in the Florida Senate on February 23. Click here to access our action alert on this bill and tell your state Senator to vote NO!
Natural Resources + Clean Energy
HB 7041 – Net MeteringThe proposed changes to net metering in House Bill 741 would decimate Florida’s growing rooftop solar industry and result in the loss of thousands of solar jobs. The League testified in opposition on February 21. Given the massive repercussions of this bill as written, we believe it’s time for a study, not sweeping policy changes.
HB 449 – Land Acquisition Trust FundHouse Bill 449 appropriates $20 million from the LATF for DEP to use toward the 2016 Florida Keys Stewardship Act. However, the bill prohibits funds from being used to implement wastewater management projects or programs. House Bill 449 by Representative Mooney passed 14-0 through its first committee on February 14th, 2022. The League waived in support of this legislation.
HB 603 – Land Acquisition Trust FundThis bill provides consistent money to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for designing or constructing projects that protect, restore, or enhance Central Florida’s headwaters. Funds would come from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) and pay to implement the 2017 Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act, which outlines the expenditures. House Bill 603 by Representative Bill passed 13-1 through its first committee on February 14, 2022. The League waived in support.
HB 1377 – Land Acquisition FundingThis bill extends the retirement date of bonds issued to fund the Florida Forever Act from 2040 to 2054. This bill revises the percentage distributions of Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) proceeds and requires the annual appropriation to Florida Forever from the LATF to be a minimum of the lesser of 40% or $350 million. Additionally, this bill prohibits Both bills also prohibit LATF monies from being used for state agency executive direction and support services. House Bill 1377 by Representative Roth passed 4-1 through its first committee on February 14. The League testified in support.
SB 442 – Powers of Land AuthoritiesThis bill authorizes land authorities to assist the counties within which they are located in the administration of state and federal grants awarded to those counties for residential flood and sea level rise mitigation projects. The League waived in support on February 15. Senate Bill 224 by Senator Gruters will be heard on the Senate floor this coming week.
HB 1077 – Public Financing of Potentially At-risk Structures and InfrastructureThis bill revises current law provisions that require certain public-financed projects and infrastructure to undergo a Sea-Level Impact Projection Study prior to construction. This bill expands the types of projects and infrastructure subject to the requirement by including “potentially at-risk” projects within an area that is “at risk due to sea-level rise,” as defined in the bills. The bill also adds a requirement that a public-financed constructor provide a list of flood mitigation strategies evaluated as part of the design of the potentially at-risk structure or infrastructure and identify the flood mitigation strategies that have been implemented or are being considered as part of the structure or infrastructure design. The League waived in support on February 14. House Bill 1077 by Representative Hunschofsky is now in its final committee.