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LWVFL News » LWVFL Capitol Report: March 16, 2021

LWVFL Capitol Report: March 16, 2021

March 16, 2021

Around the Capitol

Another week packed full of committee meetings and the second week of session has come and gone. There has been a total of 2,987 bills filed to date. Unfortunately, the past week brought movement on a number of detrimental bills dealing with issues like attempts to suppress votes, guns on in Houses of Worship and attached schools and countless preemption bills.

Citizens and advocates still face the problem of being able to access the Capitol building. The lack of passionate voices in the Capitol seems to be opening the flood gates for these bills to float through the committee process.

Reminder: All committee meetings are being held at the FSU Civic Center for the Senate. In order to testify, one must fill out the form and deliver it in-person.

The House is still holding their meetings in the Capitol building; however, you must be speaking on a specific bill to get a seat. If you wish to just log a position (waive) it’s asked that you do so within a form online.

Top Priority Opposition — SB90: Election Changes

Senate Bill 90 by Senator Baxley was heard in committee last Wednesday. Prior to the committee meeting, there was an amendment filed that would outlaw all drop boxes for vote by mail ballots. 1.5 million Florida voters used those ballot boxes during the last election cycle. The claimed reasoning was due to lack of security when it came to chain of custody and who handles the ballots once they have been dropped off by a vote. The sponsor claimed the change was needed due to lack of security when it came to the chain of custody, and who handles the ballots once they have been dropped off. The sponsor stated numerous times that this bill is “not trying to fix a problem we experienced during Florida’s election, rather try, and prevent a problem that they haven’t seen yet.”

Florida had one of its most successful elections this past year, so this bill comes to a huge shock to many. Several Supervisors of Elections spoke against this bill in the committee hearing. Supervisors stated that it was not necessary and even posed the question that if legislators are so worried about the chain of custody of ballot boxes that are secure and watched 24/7, why did they apparently not have a problem with the USPS, which is less secure.

This bill, in our view, is a clear attempt at voter suppression. If passed, it would make voting by mail less accessible. If you would like to watch the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee meeting in which Trish Neely testified at, click here.

Following the bill’s committee hearing, Florida League President Patricia Brigham joined CNN New Day alongside Lake County Supervisor of Elections and Former State Senator Alan Hayes (R) to discuss this bad bill, click here to watch.

The bill is now in the Rules committee, but has not yet been placed on the committee agenda.

Top Priority Opposition — HB 1 & SB 484: Anti-Protest Legislation

House Bill 1 made its last appearance in committee this week. Unlike past weeks, this week’s version of the bill was amended to tighten up some of the definitions on words like “riot”, “mob intimidation” & “aggravated riot”. This amendment slightly improved the still awful bill. The bill in its amended form passed committee with a 14-7 vote and is poised to be heard on the House floor.

During the Judiciary committee hearing, Lobby Corps Chair Trish Neely testified. Click here to watch the lengthy hearing. Click here to watch the lengthy hearing.

Voting Rights & Election Legislation

  • Senate Bill 1238 – Percentage of Elector Votes

Senate Bill 1238 proposes an amendment to Section 5 of Article XI of the State Constitution to increase the percentage of elector votes required to approve an amendment to or a revision of the State Constitution from 60 percent to 66and 2/3 percent, except that the repeal of an amendment or revision need only be approved by the same percentage of elector votes as was required at the time of passage of such amendment or revision, etc. During committee, Senator Taddeo brought forth an amendment that would require the legislature to be held to the same standards that this bill is bringing forward, unfortunately the amendment failed.

Trish Neely testified against this bill, click here to watch the committee hearing. It sadly passed the Ethics and Elections committee with a 5-3 vote. The bill is now in the Rules committee, but has not yet been placed on the committee agenda.

Natural Resources + Clean Energy Legislation

  • Senate Bill 856/House Bill 839 – State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulations

Last week, Senate Bill 856 was heard in Community Affairs Committee. The legislation will undermine local autonomy, environmental protection, and environmental justice. Under this bill, a local government would have no say over the development of a waste-to-energy incinerator next to an elementary school or a substation in the heart of a residential neighborhood. It would also instantly invalidate every local renewable energy commitment and years of carefully developed public policy. Meta Calder testified against the bill on behalf of the League, click here to watch the committee hearing.

SB 856 was heard in the Regulated Industries committee on March 16th, the League waived in opposition. The bill passed and now awaits to be heard in the Rules committee but has not been placed on the committee agenda as of yet.

  • Senate Bill 1128/House Bill 919 – Preemption on Restriction of Utility Services

Last week, Senate Bill 1128 was heard in the Community Affairs Committee. The legislation will prevent municipalities from moving away from outdated, gas-powered building codes to modern, clean-energy building codes. The legislation would effectively make any commitment to 100% clean energy impossible. Meta Calder testified against the bill on behalf of the League, click here to watch the committee hearing.

SB 1128 was heard in the Regulated Industries committee on March 16th, the League waived in opposition. The bill passed and now awaits to be heard in the Rules committee but has not been placed on the committee agenda as of yet.

Reproductive Rights Legislation

  • House Bill 1221 – Parental Rights

House Bill 1221 was heard in the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee on March 11th. The bill looks to ban some abortions in Florida based on the results of prenatal genetic testing. The sponsors of this bill claim that it combats discrimination, but the League believes bans on abortion won’t make Florida a better place for people born with disabilities. Taking away the ability to make personal, private, and often complicated decisions should not be tolerated.
The bill passed in committee along party lines and awaits to be heard Health & Human Services Committee.

Gun Safety Legislation

  • Senate Bill 498 and House Bill 259 -Safety of Religious Institutions

Last week, both Senate Bill 498 and House Bill 259 were heard in their respected committees and passed along party line.

In the Senate Criminal Justice committee on March 9, Senator Pizzo brought forth two amendments. One which would allow private property owners the soul right to not allow a tenant to have guns on their property. This amendment comes from a previous gun in churches bill from back in 2018. That legislation was favorable across party lines and by NRA lobbyist, Marion Hammer. However, when the amendment was heard in committee this year, it was deemed an unfriendly amendment by the bill Sponsor Senator Gruters.

Marion Hammer testified in opposition of the amendment as well. When it came to a vote, it failed. The 2nd amendment would have change language in the bill from making those who chose to be gun free zone post a sign, instead doing the reverse, and making those who wish to have guns on their campus post a warning. In response to this proposed amendment, Senator Gruters filed his own, which would take away requiring signs at all. Unfortunately, Senator Pizzo’s amendments failed while Senator Gruters passed.

Prior to the Senate Criminal Justice committee meeting, the League participated in a press conference with the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Florida PTA, The Campaign the Keep Guns Off Campus, and SPLC Action Fund. Click here to watch the virtual press conference recording.

House Bill 259 by Representative Williams also passed its committee last week, with the same amendment to take out the language to require signs of any sort. The League waived in opposition. Both bills have one more stop until they will be heard on their respective chamber’s floor.

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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