Around the Capitol
Session kicked off this year with a week packed full of committee hearings. There has been a total of 2,974 bills filed to date. This time last year the legislature had hit over 3,000 bills!
During opening day remarks, Senate President Simpson focused on issues like COVID-19 and this year’s budget while also highlighting school choice, vocational pathways and protecting our youth from abuse and neglect. House Speaker Sprowls touched on COVID-19, but mainly focused on what exactly session is and the hard work that gets put into it.
During the joint session, Governor DeSantis spoke and restated his priorities for this year, one of them being the anti-American piece of legislation that Rep. Fernandez-Barqiun is carrying in the House.
This legislative session is unlike any years in the past. The State Capitol doors are closed to the public, where in the past the doors would be open and the halls flowing with people walking around trying to get their priorities heard. Committee meetings are being held off site and via Zoom, something that we have never experienced before.
It is more important now, more than ever before, to stay vigilant and alert to help advocate for everything the League of Women Voters of Florida stands for.
Top Priority Opposition — HB 1 & SB 484: Anti-Protest Legislation
House Bill 1 was back in committee after being heard for the first time a month ago during committee weeks. It was heard on Wednesday, just a day after the Governor gave his opening session remarks, highlighting this key legislation. It was put on the agenda and heard in the Justice Appropriations subcommittee. This bill gives a broad definition on words like riot, mob intimidation, and would take away a city’s ability to control their budget, giving the power to the state. The League has actively been fighting against this legislation in committee meetings, with one-on-one meetings with various legislators and in the media. It currently has not moved in the Senate. House Bill 1’s final hearing in the house will be March 10th in the Judiciary Committee.
Voting Rights & Election Legislation
Senate Bill 354 – Restitution
Senate Bill 354 by Senator Harrel was heard on Tuesday March 2nd in the Criminal Justice committee. This is the second committee stop for the bill. The first time it passed with a 10-0 vote and on Tuesday it passed with a 8-0 vote. Trish Neely testified against this bill, click here to watch Trish’s testimony. She highlighted the top concerns we face with this legislation. She drove her point of the problems you could potentially face with determining restitution based on a fair market value. The question was raised on if there was a possibility for a court to decide on a different amount than would be fair. The bill now awaits to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee, but has not been placed on the agenda.
Natural Resources Legislation
- Senate Bill 88 – Farming Operations
SB 88 sets up an uneven playing field between potential plaintiffs and farm operation defendants. The League is opposed to this legislation and testified against it in the Rules Committee on March 4th, click here to watch her testimony. This bill will make it difficult or impossible for residents currently subjected to 8 months of smoke and ash from sugar burning each year to successfully sue for damages. This bill is headed for the Senate Floor on March 11th.
- Senate Bill 64 – Reclaimed Water
SB 64 creates a timeline and plan to eliminate nonbeneficial surface water discharge within 5 years. It contains a series of conditions authorizing discharges that are being beneficially used or otherwise regulated, and for specified hardships. The bill requires domestic wastewater utilities that dispose of effluent, reclaimed water or reuse water by surface water discharge to submit a 5- year plan to eliminate nonbeneficial surface water discharge to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The League is in support of this legislation and waived in support at the Community Affairs Committee meeting on March 3rd. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 11th.
Healthcare + Reproductive Rights Legislation
- Senate Bill 582/House Bill 241 – Parental Rights
Parental Rights (SB 582) by Senator Rodrigues is back again for another year, along with the House companion bill that Representative Grall is carrying. These bills would help tighten access minors have to health care without a parent’s consent, promote parental involvement within the school system and would allow a parent to remove their child from certain curriculum being taught in class if they do not want their child being taught a topic the school is covering.
Trish Neely, the LWVFL Lobby Corp Chair, testified against this bill on Tuesday, March 8, 2021. It passed the Senate Judiciary committee with an 8-3 vote. If you’d like to watch the testimony, click here. The house version was also on the agenda this week and passed with a 13-7 vote. The League waived in opposition to HB 241. The bill will be heard in the Education committee next but has not been placed on an agenda.
Juvenile Justice Legislation
- Senate Bill 474 – Prosecuting Children As Adults
This bill increases the age of a child at which a state attorney may, or is required to, request a court to transfer the child to adult court for criminal prosecution. The League waived in support of this legislation during the March 2nd Judiciary Committee Meeting. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and awaits its next committee hearing in the Rules Committee.