Tallahassee Capital Building

Good morning Activists!

Here is a little update on where we are with Legislation that the Dems Senior Caucus has been monitoring!

4/1/23 Florida Legislative Summary
This report only includes bills filed in the 2023 Legislative Session that are assigned to committees, have a companion bill, and appear to have enough support to advance.  New content is in italics.  New bills are in red.  Please contact your legislators and voice your opposition or support.  You can view the state legislature in action on-line or on TV on the Florida Channel. 
Criminal Justice and Legal
CS/SB450 & HB  455 Jury Recommendations in Death Penalty Cases             Oppose
This bill will eliminate the current requirement for unanimous death verdicts in all death penalty cases.  The bill has been amended as follows:  in the sentencing phase of a trial if fewer than 8 jurors vote to recommend death, the sentence must be life in prison without parole, if at least 10 jurors recommend death the court must impose the death sentence, if either 8 or 9 jurors recommend death the judge may override the sentence and impose life without parole in certain circumstances.  Florida has the largest death row population of all states that still conduct executions.
Status:   Passed two committees in the House.  Passed Senate 29-11.
HB 991 & SB 1220 Defamation….                                                                           Oppose
This bill would make it easier to sue the media for defamation.  It limits the “malice requirement” that somewhat shields journalists from legal liability in defamation cases.  The plaintiff would not have to prove real injury to successfully sue for defamation.  The bill contains a severablility clause.   This means that if certain portions of the bill are struck down in court, other provisions will remain.  The bill allows someone who sues a journalist and wins to get their legal costs covered. Meanwhile, if that person loses, the journalist would have to cover their own legal expenses.   It allows a public figure (legislator, office holder) to be awarded statutory damages of at least $35,000 in defamation cases..
Status:  Passed one committee in the House.  Passed one committee in the Senate.
 Economy & Business
HB 3 & SB 302 Government & Corporate Activism                                              Oppose
This bill would prohibit Florida state and local retirement funds and FL tax dollars from being invested in funds or banks that practice so-called ESG investment policies.  Environmental, Social, and Governance criteria are widely embraced by the largest funds and banks on Wall Street.  The bill also prohibits banks from denying services to client’s based on political beliefs or if they are involved in the firearms or fossil fuel industries.  This bill could cost as much as $361 million in higher interest rates for municipal bonds.  It could severely affect millions of people invested in the state’s $180 million retirement fund for state employees.
Status:   Passed House 80-31.  Passed one committee in the Senate.
 HB1267 & SB 580  Consumer Finance Loans                                                       Oppose
This bill raises the maximum interest rate that may be charged for consumer finance loans (loans less than $25,000)  from 18% to 36%.
Status:  Passed one committee in the House .  Passed one committee in the Senate
(Anti) Education
SB 308, HB 225  Interscholastic Activities                                                            Oppose
This bill will allow prayers to be played over loudspeakers at public school sports events and allow any home schooled or private school student to try out for and participate in public school sports teams.  It would also restructure the Florida High School Athletic Association, eliminating local participation in the Board and giving the Governor full control of the Board.
Status:  Passed the House 80-29, passed all committees in the Senate.
HB 999 & SB266 Public Post Secondary Education                                             Oppose
This bill requires the board of trustees of  each Florida public institution of higher learning must approve all faculty hiring and firing, that tenure may be “reviewed and revoked” at any time, and that majors or minors in subjects like gender studies, etc. must be removed.  It prohibits any spending on programs that promote diversity, equity, or inclusion.
Status:  Passed two committees in the House, passed one committee in the Senate.
HB 1223, SB 1320  Child Protection in Public Schools                                        Oppose
This heinous bill expands the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to include all K-8 public school classrooms in the Senate version of the bill or in all K-12 schools in the House version of the bill.  The bill bans schools from acknowledging the existence of LBGTQ+ people in public school classrooms.  The bill specifically prohibits classroom instruction regarding sexual and gender identity, it bans the use of personal pronouns, promotes teaching ‘abstinence only’ birth control, and strips local school boards of the right to choose reproductive health course materials that include the information about menstruation, birth control, and STD’s.  This bill also makes it easier for “interested parties” to challenge books and materials.  Books or materials that are challenged will be unavailable until until a ruling is issued.  Any book or materials that “depict or describe sexual conduct” are illegal under this bill. 
Status:  Passed one committee in the House, passed one committee in the Senate.
SB256 & HB1445   Employee Organizations Representing Public Employees   Oppose
This bill aims to break the teachers’ unions in Florida.  The bill bans the automatic deduction of dues from union members paychecks and requires that at least 60% of the workers eligible for union representation be dues paying members.  It would “decertify” unions that don’t meet the 60% threshold, rendering contracts unenforceable.  Other public sector workers, law enforcement and firemen, are exempt from this bill.
Status:    Passed the Senate 23-17  Gruters and a few other Republicans joined the Democrats to vote NO.  Passed one committee in the House.
SB192  HB175   Everglades Protection Area                                             Support
This bill provides additional rigorous scrutiny by the Department of Environmental Protection of county comprehensive or municipal plans located within 2 miles of the Everglades Protection Zone to protect the area’s resources from sprawl.  Endorsed by the Sierra Club.
Status:   Awaiting Senate floor vote.   Passed one House Committee.
 Firearms & Guns
SB 214 & HB 221 Sales of Firearms and Ammunition                             Oppose
This bill prohibits banks and other financial institutions from classifying or categorizing any transaction related to the sale of firearms or ammunition.
Status Passed the Senate 27-11.    Passed two committees in the House.
SB222 & HB 305 Protection of Medical Freedom                                     Oppose
This dangerous bill prohibits mandatory enrollment in the state”s immunization registry, rendering it useless for public health and disease control.  It expands the 1962 civil rights act to include discrimination protection for the unvaccinated. 
Status:  Awaiting committee hearings in both houses.
SB864 & HB1231 Death with Dignity                                                          Support
This bill allows a person with a fatal prognosis to request medication to end their life in a humane and dignified manner.   The bill specifies the conditions under which a patient would qualify for this, the waiting periods for the request, and right to rescind the request.
Status:  Awaiting committee hearings in both houses.
SB1718 & HB1617 Immigration                                                                   Oppose
This bill increases fines for businesses that hire illegal immigrants and allows for the revocation of  their business licenses.  It increases criminal penalties for those renting to immigrants.  The bill requires local sheriffs to take DNA samples from immigrants when they are arrested and to notify ICE.   It Invalidates out of state drivers’ licenses and prohibits local governments from issuing ID cards to immigrants. The bill mandates that hospitals track and report the cost of caring for immigrants to the state.  It also bans Dreamers from getting a Florida law license after November 2026.
 Status:  Awaiting hearings in the House.  Passed one committee in the Senate. 

(Anti) LGBTQ+ Rights
SB1438  & HB1423  Protection of Children                                   Oppose
This bill authorizes the state to fine, suspend, or revoke the license of any restaurant, bar, or hotel that admits a child to an adult live performance.  It is targeting “drag shows”. 
Status:  Passed one committee in the House.   Awaiting floor vote in the Senate.
SB 254 & HB 1421  Treatments for Sex Reassignment                           Oppose
This heartless and dangerous bill grants the courts the right to issue a temporary emergency injunction to stop a child from receiving gender affirming medical care.   It allows Florida courts the power to vacate child custody determinations for transgender children that were made in other states. 
Status:  Awaiting floor vote in the Senate.   Awaiting floor vote in the House.
 Local Preemption
CS/SB 170, HB1515 Local Ordinances                                                      Oppose
This bill is an onerous and wide ranging state preemption of local authority.  It requires governments to prepare business impact statements before the enactment of a proposed ordinance, it empowers business owners to sue municipalities and counties for passing ordinances that cause them financial losses, and allows businesses that prevail in a lawsuit  to receive attorney’s fees and costs.  Local governments are not entitled to the same attorney fee and cost reimbursement.
Status:  Passed the Senate 29-11.   Awaiting floor vote in the House.
HB359 & SB 540   Local Government Comprehensive Plans                 Oppose
This bill makes it more difficult for local homeowners and citizen groups to challenge comprehensive plans and amendments to comprehensive plans.  The loser of the challenge is liable for all legal fees and court costs.  Currently, the loser of the challenge is only liable for their own legals fees and court costs.
Status:  Passed one committee in the the Senate.   Awaiting floor vote in the House.
 Voting & Elections
HJR 31 & SJR 94 Partisan Elections for Members of District School Boards      Oppose
State Constitutional amendment for the partisan election of school board members.  If passed this amendment will be on the 2024 ballot.
Status:   Passed the House 79-34.  Passed two committees in the Senate.
HB 411 & SB444  District School Board Elections   Oppose
Allows people to run for school board who do not live in the district.   If elected, they must move into the district before being sworn into office. 
Status:  Passed the House 83-28.  Passed one committee in the Senate.
Women, Family, Children   
HB 97, SB130  Domestic Violence                                                              Support
This bill allows the court to consider tangible evidence of domestic violence against a parent when determining or reviewing custodial rights.  It would allow the temporary suspension of custodial rights when a restraining order is granted against a parent by the co-parent.  It is also known as Greyson’s Law, in honor of deceased four year old Greyson Kessler.  Current law does not mandate the court to consider such domestic violence evidence.  This bill is endorsed by the Family Law Division of the Florida Bar Association Florida.
Status:  Awaiting floor vote in the House.  Passed the Senate 40-0, all Republican Senators joined on as co-sponsors.   Kudos to Democratic Senators Berman and Book for their tireless work over two sessions on this much needed bill.
 SB 1416 & HB 1409 Dissolution of Marriage                                             Oppose
This bill makes it harder to be awarded alimony.  If awarded, the alimony would be of shorter duration, and would be less than current law allows.  The bill bans so-called “permanent” or “lifetime” alimony which is seldom awarded and only awarded in cases of a long term marriage (over 20 years) with extenuating circumstances such as a spouse or child with a permanent disability. 
Status:  Passed one committee in the Senate.  Passed one committee in the House. 
HB 7 & SB 300  Pregnancy and Parenting Support                                  Oppose
This bill is a 6 week abortion ban with exception for rape and incest.  However, victims of rape or incest would have to provide a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record or court document to obtain an abortion after  the sixth week of pregnancy.  This paperwork requirement renders the exception virtually useless.  Documented rape and incest exceptions would end after 15 weeks of pregnancy.  Currently, only about 20% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to police.  The bill bans the dispensing of abortion inducing medication through the mail or any other shipping service.  These medications must be dispensed by a physician, in person. 
Status:  Awaiting floor votes in both chambers this week.
 HB29 & SB 114   Tax Exemption for Diapers, Incontinence…    Support
Exempts diapers, incontinence undergarments, incontinence pads, & incontinence liners from sales & use tax.
Status:  Passed two committees in the Senate.  Passed one committee in the House.
 HB1201 & SB 1634   Dependent Children                                      Support
This is a comprehensive bill regarding the foster care system.  It contains new rules protecting children in foster care, streamlining court proceedings, and updating procedures regarding the adoption of children in foster care.  It expands support for those that “age out” of the foster care system (18-21 years olds).  Includes regulations for group homes for those at risk of human trafficking and victims of human trafficking.   This is a good first step for our expansive and very troubled foster care system.
Status: Passed one committee in the Senate.  Awaiting committee hearings in the Senate.
HB 543 & SB150 Public Safety                                                                                Oppose
This bill allows anyone over the aged 21 and over  to carry a concealed weapon in the state of Florida without licensure, background screening, and training.  As amended in the Senate it also provides funding for school “hardening”, including the use of firearm-detection dogs in schools, and armed “guardians” in public schools. 
Status:  Passed the House 76-32.  Passed the Senate 27-13.
 CS/HB 837 & SB 236  Civil Remedies                                                                     Oppose
This bill eliminates one-way attorney fee provisions for insurance cases, it significantly limits what a jury can award for medical damages, changes the statute of limitation from 4 to 2 years for individuals filing suit against a business, limits the admissibility of past medical treatment and expenses in a trial, limits damages to those without private health insurance to a percentage of the excessively low Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.  Modifies the “bad faith” framework for civil suits.  represent a transfer of wealth from consumers and taxpayers to the insurance industry. As written, this bill will make it virtually impossible for an individual, except the extremely wealthy, to sue businesses.  represent a transfer of wealth from consumers and taxpayers to the insurance industry.
Status:    Passed  the House 80-31.   Passed the Senate 23-15.  Signed by the Governor 3/24/23.
 HB 1 & SB 202 – School Choice                                                                              Oppose
This bill makes K-12 school children eligible for educational savings accounts that can be used to pay private school, religious school, and voucher school tuition, private tutoring services, and home schooling expenses.  Each student will be eligible for about $8,000 per year in funding that would be diverted from public school funds. This will decimate funding for public education by directing public school funds to private schools, religious schools, and home schooling services and expenses that are exempt from state educational regulations including teacher qualification and academic standards.   In addition to this, the Senate version of this bill reduces accountability standards for public schools.
Status:   Passed the House 83-27.   Passed the Senate  26-12.   Signed by the Governor 3/27/23.
SB 102 & HB 627 Housing
This bill is called the “Live Local Act”.   It attempts to address the affordable housing crisis in Florida by easing zoning restrictions, giving tax exemptions to landlords that offer a percentage of their units below market rate, giving developers a tax break for for setting aside land for affordable housing, and adding over $500 million of dollars to the Sadowski Affordable Housing Fund.  It also restricts counties or municipalities from imposing rent controls.  This bill has bi-partisan support is probably the best bill we can hope for on this topic given the make-up of the legislature.
Status:  Passed Senate unanimously.  Passed the House 103-6.   Signed by the Governor 3/29/23.
Thank you Rose LaChapelle for this compilation and continued success as President for the Sarasota Democratic Senior Caucus
Thank you to Laurie Plotnick/chair – Florida Dems Senior Caucus and Loretta MacKay – Keys Dems Precinct Leader for sending this to me.
After reading this I just want to take a shower. What a pile of crap!
Bert Sise/Chair