This edition of the “LWVFL Capitol Report” includes highlights of the Florida League’s legislative work from January 18 through January 28, 2022. For previous editions, please visit our website.
Session At A Glance
The League of Women Voters of Florida continues to make a major impact in the state capital as the third week of the legislative session concludes. Both weeks two and three were packed full of action!
Week two included a flurry of action on the redistricting front. Week three marked our annual Lobby Days which entailed trainings, an increased presence of League members in the capitol and a number of individual meetings with legislators!
3,605 bills have been filed to date, on average 300 or so will pass both chambers. The League, alongside Capitol Alliance Group, continues to monitor legislation and act accordingly.
Our Fight for Fair Districts
On January 18th, the Florida 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.
Following that release, the League then echoed similar sentiments when the Governor shockingly submitted his own proposal for congressional maps.
On January 19th, the Senate passed its versions of maps for both state Senate and Congressional districts. Florida League President Cecile Scoon met that same day with legislators (prior to the floor vote) on the maps expressing the League’s concerns with minority representation and inadequate functional analyses on protected districts and areas of population growth across the state.
On January 20th, the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee meeting was cancelled due to numerous members being absent due to COVID-19. This cancellation means no progress on the House’s version of a Congressional map have been considered. Only previous “workshop” maps were discussed by this subcommittee.
On January 21st, President Scoon raised similar concerns as the ones raised to members of Senate to the House State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee. The aforementioned subcommittee then passed the state House maps onward to the House Redistricting Committee for review.
On January 26th, President Scoon, alongside a number of attendees of LWVFL’s League Lobby Days, testified during the House Redistricting Committee meeting on the League’s concerns which have been raised time and time again as exemplified above. The committee then passed a version of state House maps. The next stop for the state House maps is the House floor on February 1st with a vote likely on February 2nd.
On the docket for the House’s version of a congressional map is consideration by the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee which is currently scheduled to meet on February 4th.
Updates on Legislation by Issue Area
Elections & Voting
HJR 1127 & SB 1412 – Limiting Subject of Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Citizen Initiative
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 House Public Integrity & Elections Committee on January 18th with a vote along party lines. The League waived in opposition. Public testimony on the bill was overwhelmingly in opposition with nine organizations and three private citizens testifying or waiving in opposition.
Reproductive Health & Justice
HB 5 & SB 146 – 15 Week Abortion Ban
House Bill 5 (and Senate Bill 146) mirror 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. The League testified in opposition at the January 19th House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee and was in place to testify on January 27th during the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee but the chair of the committee barred public testimony from taking place.
SB 1124 & HB 943 – Preemption of Local Government Wage Mandates
Senate Bill 1124 would erase every current local responsible wage ordinance and prevent all future one. If passed public workers and contractors would face thousands in lost wages. The League was prepared to waive against this bill on January 25th in the Senate Community Affairs Committee but the bill was temporarily postponed.
SB 148 & HB 7 – “Individual Freedom”
Senate Bill 148 & House Bill 7 would prohibit public schools and private businesses from inflicting “discomfort” on white people during lessons or training about discrimination was approved by the state’s Senate Education Committee on January 18th and the House Judiciary Committee on January 26th . The bills have seemingly come from concerns surrounding critical race theory from the majority party of our state legislature and Governor. Critical Race Theory which, as a reminder, is an academic concept based on the idea that racism is not about individual people’s prejudices but about institutions and policies is not currently taught in Florida’s public schools. The League testified in opposition at both hearings of the bill and will continue to do so.
HB 1557 & SB 1834 – Parental Rights in Education
House Bill 1557 by Representative Harding passed the Education & Employment Committee favorably 15-5 on January 20th with opposition from House Democrats. The bill is akin to the Parents’ Bill of Rights measure passed last year. As the bill sponsor, Harding confirmed the bill allows parents the right to sue if they believe a school’s procedures are infringing on their “fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.” The bill includes expressly anti-LGBTQ provisions that prohibit “discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels,” appears intended to undermine LGBTQ support in schools, and includes vague parental notification requirements open to manipulation. The League waived in opposition at its hearing and plans to testify against it in the future. We, along with organizational partners, believe this legislation is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, isolate LGBTQ+ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a safe, inclusive classroom. The existence of LGBTQ students and parents is not a taboo topic that has to be regulated by the Florida Legislature.
SB 892 & HB 225 – Charter School Charters
Senate Bill 892 by Senator Burgess was heard and voted favorable 7-2 on January 25th. The League waived in opposition. We stand opposed to SB 892 because the legislation makes it easier for charter schools to merge to escape the two year waiting period for capital outlay funds.
SB 1300 & HB 1467 – District School Boards
Senate Bill 1300 by Senator Gruters modifies district school board member salaries to align to the salaries of members of the Florida Legislature. The bill also provides specific requirements for school districts in selecting instructional materials and materials used in school libraries and media centers. The League waived in opposition to this legislation during the Senate Education Committee on January 25th. The League believes beginning to ban books sets a very dangerous precedent and can be likened to censorship.
SB 1348 – Educational Scholarship Program Funding
Senate Bill 1348 modifies provisions related to funding for the Family Empowerment (FES), Florida Tax Credit (FTC), and Hope scholarship programs. The League waived in opposition to this bill in the Senate Education Committee on January 25th. The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program was originally intended for low and moderate income families. This bill revises eligibility for the program specifically increasing family income for a family of 4 to nearly $200,000, thereby eliminating the original intent of this program. The bill deletes limits on the number of students receiving scholarships, diluting student enrollment in traditional public schools and siphoning funding from those schools that must continue to pay for fixed costs that don’t change with fewer students. Schools are left with fewer dollars for support services.
Natural Resources + Clean Energy
SB 0198 – Water Resources Management
Senate Bill 198 by Senator Anna Maria Rodriguez was heard and voted favorable 3-2 on January 18th, 2022. The League testified in opposition. This bill, while on its surface looks to do good, would allow developers and individuals destroying seagrass for docks and channels to merely support a mitigation bank, while damaging a critical resource. With mitigation banks the restoration activities may take place hundreds of miles away. There is also a loss of responsibility on the part of the person doing the construction as they assign all responsibility to a third party whom they just pay. Among the other immediate effects of seagrass bed destruction, the loss of habitat for the Florida Manatee which is literally starving into extinction due to loss of sea grass along Florida’s coast. Therefore, the League is strongly opposed to this form of “Seagrass Mitigation Banks “which provide a too easy “out” for developers.
SB 1400 – Land Acquisition Fund
Senate Bill 1400 by Senator Burgess was heard and voted favorable 10-0 by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government on January 26th. SB 1400 amends s. 375.041, F.S., regarding the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, to provide an annual appropriation in the amount of $20 million to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to implement the Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act (Act). The League testified in support of this bill. The “Land Acquisition Trust Fund” was set up by Amendment 1 passed by the voters of Florida in 2014. It was designed to take at least 33% of the document stamp tax revenue paid by developers and put it into the Florida Forever Fund to purchase land explicitly for conservation purposes. Voters were extremely upset when these funds were diverted under Governor Rick Scott to pay for DEP expenses The League is in support restoring this spending to pre-2009 levels of approximately $300 million annually.