The 60-day regular 2022 Legislative Session started on Tuesday, January 11 amid the traditional pomp and circumstance of opening day. Despite rising COVID-19 infection cases and spread of the new omicron variant, the Capitol remains open, mask-less and legislators have been conducting business as usual.
With the kick-off of the legislative session, came the Governor’s traditional State of the State speech, followed by the Speaker of the House and Senate President, all outlining their legislative priorities and visions.
This year’s ceremonial pomp and circumstance surrounded the Governor’s proposed $99.7 Billion budget – dubbed the “Freedom First” budget- as well as his legislative priorities.
Our Fight for Fair Districts
With the commencement of the 2022 Legislative Session, the redistricting process has taken off. Last week, staff for the Senate Reapportionment Committee released more draft Senate maps and draft Congressional plans. Ultimately, the Senate passed two out of committee onward to the full Senate.
The House of Representatives still have more work to do as they have to draft 120 House districts versus the Senate’s 40 along with their own congressional maps. The House continues to discuss “workshop” maps but has not given the public any inkling on when a real work product will be released.
Throughout the week, Florida League President Cecile Scoon sat in and testified in opposition to the Senate and House mapping efforts. She noted concerns about the implementation of both the state Fair District Amendments and the federal Voting Rights Act which require completing a functional analysis in order to ensure minority representation.
In order to ensure transparency and minority representation, the League will continue to put pressure upon Florida Legislators to conduct a fair redistricting process.
On January 18th, the League released a statement criticizing the Senate’s efforts to fast track their proposed maps and implored them to consider the proper route to calculating proper minority representation. The League echoed similar sentiments when the Governor shockingly submitted his own proposal for congressional maps.
Legislative Priorities Update
Natural Resources + Clean Energy
SB 1024 – Net Metering
Senate Bill 1024 by Senator Bradley 4 amends s. 163.04, F.S., relating to energy devices based on renewable resources, to allow governing entities with a deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement affecting the alteration of residential dwellings or condominiums to prohibit the installation of solar collectors in locations outside of specifically designated parameters. The bill also amends s. 366.91, F.S., relating to renewable energy, requiring the Public Service Commission (PSC) to revise its rules on net metering of customer renewable generation. 93% 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.
The League testified in opposition to SB 1024 but it was passed 6-2 on January 11th, 2022 despite numerous instances of public opposition to the bill. We will continue to fight this legislation.
Reproductive Health & Justice
SB 868 – Sexual Battery on a Mentally Incapacitated Person
Senate Bill 868 by Senator Stewart expands the actions that constitute the offense of sexual battery of a mentally incapacitated person. As a result, an offender who commits sexual battery on a voluntarily intoxicated victim is subject to the same penalties that apply to the sexual battery of a victim who is involuntarily intoxicate This bill would change that statute to include people who are drunk or high, regardless of how they got to that state. On January 10th, 2022, SB 868 was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee 10-0.
The League waived in support of this legislation and we are hopeful it will pass this session along with a number of our organizational partners.
HB 5 – 15 Week Abortion Ban
House Bill 5 (and Senate Bill 146) mirror Mississippi’s 15 week abortion ban. The legislation is considered a distraction from the real work that the state legislature should be doing. Unfortunately, it’s a distraction that could leave real-world Floridians without access to safe and legal reproductive health care. The League believes that abortion isn’t and shouldn’t be a crime. It’s normal health care accessed by 1 in 4 American women during their childbearing years.
This bill is up in its first House Committee on January 19th and the League has issued an action alert encouraging our members to speak out against this.
SB 832 – Implementation of Blue-Green Algae Recommendations
Senate Bill 832 by Senator Stewart would implement the state Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s. The League waived in support of this bill on Monday, January 10th, 2022. SB 832 passed 5-0 through its first committee on January 10th, 2022. However, HB 0561, identical to this Senate bill, has not been heard yet. Senate Bill 832 now sits in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government.
SB 882 – Inventories of Critical Wetlands
Senate Bill 882 by Senator Brodeur was heard and passed 4-0 in committee on January 10th, 2022. The League waived in support of this bill at this hearing. Identical to this bill is House Bill 761 by Representative Truenow which also passed through its first committee unanimously 14-0 on January 12th, 2022. This bill directs water management district governing boards to work with local governments to develop a list of critical wetlands to be acquired through the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
SB 494– Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Senate Bill 494 by Senator Hutson passed through its stop on January 12th, 2022 after being voted 9-0 in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. Trish Neely, Chair of the LWVFL Lobby Corps, testified in support of this bill.
This bill allows the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or law enforcement agencies to declare a boat “at-risk” of becoming derelict if it is “tied to an unlawful or unpermitted mooring or other structure.” The legislation also adds a provision clarifying a portion of state law which allows officials to set up zones within a spring to restrict boat speed and the mooring, beaching or grounding of boats. The new language states those zones may be set up whenever “substantial, competent evidence shows that demonstrable harm has been caused by vessel activity.”