The second week of the Legislative Session comes to a close today and bills are moving through the Florida House and Senate. Gunster’s Government Affairs team is working hard, closely tracking legislation and meeting with legislators to monitor and lobby on behalf of our clients.
Below is a weekly update from Gunster’s Government Affairs Consultants with a summary of the issues of the week and how they may impact your business, a recap of bills that are moving through the Legislature and a close look at this week’s happenings around the capitol city.
SB 202 and HB 1 Relating to School Choice: were both heard this week. The Senate version differs in a few ways than the House:
- The Senate version will remove a portion of the homeschooling families with a family of four that have an annual income of $111,000 from receiving the $8,000-a-year voucher to private schools
- To be eligible for the program, homeschooling families will have to submit to more oversight. Homeschoolers who want to participate in the scholarships will now fall under the “personalized education program” (PEP).
- The Senate version has a cost associated with it of $646.5 million in new costs while the House costs reflect an estimate of $210 million in new costs. Representative Kaylee Tuck attributed the difference to the Senate estimate considering money from the state’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. The House does not include that pot of money in its estimate.
HB 1 passed the full body in the House today and SB 202 is at its last committee stop – Senate Appropriations.
HB 1069 – Education: filed by Representative Stan McClain was considered and reported favorably by the House Education Quality Subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill would allow for parents to object to books that they feel contain sexual content. Once the book has been challenged by a parent, an appeal process will be put in place and the book will be reviewed. During the challenge/appeal process the book will be remove from the school and inaccessible to students. An amendment was filed on the bill to allow removal from just the student of the parent who felt it was inappropriate for their child so that all students didn’t lose access to the book, but the amendment failed. The legislation also addresses sex education materials and what students should learn about sex and reproductive issues. The bill as reported favorably out of committee with a 13-5 vote. Its next stop – House Education & Employment Committee.
HB 517/SB 274 – Nursing Education for Military Combat Medics: expands existing law to apply military combat medic training and education toward postsecondary credit or career education clock hours in accrediting nursing education programs. The sponsor, Representative Dr. Joel Rudman, and proponents of the bill say these efforts will help alleviate the nursing shortage in Florida. Under the legislation, the Articulation Coordinating Committee will be required to create a workgroup that provides a recommended process for postsecondary course equivalencies and the minimum credit or clock hours that must be awarded in an accredited program for such military training and education. The bill has been reported favorably out of its first two committees of reference: Postsecondary Education & Workforce Subcommittee and Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. HB 517 has one more committee stop – House Education & Employment Committee – before becoming eligible to be placed on the House Special Order Calendar and heard on the floor. The Senate companion, SB 274 by Senator Bryan Avila, has been reported favorably out of its three committees of reference and awaits being placed on the Senate Special Order Calendar.
HB 379 – Technology in K-12 Public Schools: a measure, sponsored by Representative Brad Yeager, that would restrict access to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and ban TikTok on school district networks and devices and prohibit students use of cellphones in class. This week the bill was reported favorably from its last committee of reference, the House Education & Employment Committee. HB 379 is eligible to be placed on the House Special Order Calendar and heard on the floor. This measure has received support from members across the political spectrum including Governor Ron DeSantis. The Senate companion, SB 52 by Senator Danny Burgess, has been reported favorably from its first two committees of reference. SB 52 has one more committee of reference, the Committee on Fiscal Policy, before being eligible for the Senate Special Order Calendar.
HB 121 – Florida Kidcare Program Eligibility: the bill, by Representatives Robin Bartleman and Dana Trabulsy, would allow Florida families to earn more money and still qualify for Florida KidCare. It will also allow families who earn up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) ($75,000 for a family of four) without losing access to the reduced health insurance plan. The income eligibility would increase to 300% of the FPL ($90,000 for a family of four) by 2024. The bill was reported favorable at its first committee of reference, the Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee, on Thursday. HB 1245, a similar bill filed by Representative Chip LaMarca, would allow families who earn 400% of the FPL ($120,000 for a family of four) and continue to qualify for the program. The Senate companion to HB 121 and HB 1245, SB 246 by Senator Alexis Calatayud was reported favorably by the Senate Health Policy. SB 246 has two more committee stops, Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services and Fiscal Policy, until becoming eligible to be placed on the Senate Special Order Calendar.
SB 300/HB 7 – Pregnancy and Parenting Support: legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy was filed by Senator Erin Grall on the opening day of Session. Planned Parenthood has raised concerns that the 15-week threshold imposed last year is already having deleterious effects and that often, people don’t even realize they’re pregnant at six weeks. SB 300 is scheduled to be heard in Senate Health Policy Committee on Monday, March 20th. While the HB 7 was heard and reported favorably by a 13-5 vote, along party lines, from the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee on Thursday.
HB 3 – Government and Corporate Activism: the measure would prohibit state agencies and local governments, including public schools, colleges and universities, from requesting or considering information about a company’s social, political or ideological beliefs when determining if that company can provide services. Other financial institutions – banks, trust companies, credit unions, consumer finance lenders, and money services businesses – may be subject to administrative sanctions if they engage in an “unsafe and unsound business practice” by denying or canceling services based on political beliefs or affiliations, religious beliefs or affiliations, business sector, any other factor that is not a quantitative, impartial, risk-based standard, or applying social credit scores. The bill passed its last committee on Tuesday with amendments adopted on the bill. The changes adopted were as follows:
- Clarification of the definition of the term “pecuniary factor.”
- Clarified that the investment restrictions created by the bill do not apply to individual member directed investment accounts established as part of a defined contribution plan.
- Ensured that existing state investment prohibitions related to Cuba and Venezuela remain in place.
- Clarified that bonds may be issued for specific governmental environmental projects but are prohibited from being marketed as generalized or global environmental bonds.
- Corrected a cross reference
The bill is eligible to be placed on the House Special Order Calendar and hear on the floor. The senate companion, SB 302 by Senator Erin Grall, has not been heard in committee.
SB 236 and HB 837 – Civil Remedies: the “tort reform package” is on the move. The proposed legislation in HB 837 sponsored by Representative Tommy Gregory passed the House Friday while the Senate version sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson passed out of its final committee stop on Thursday making it ready for the full Senate. Amendments agreed to by both bill sponsors were adopted in the Senate’s final committee stop. The tort reform package includes: largely eliminating what are known as “one-way” attorney fees in lawsuits against insurers, reducing from four years to two years a statute of limitations for filing negligence lawsuits, revamping laws about “comparative negligence”, making it harder to pursue “bad faith” lawsuits against insurers, and helping shield owners of property such as apartment complexes from premises-liability lawsuits if people are injured in crimes.
Next week the House and Senate plan to review and discuss the 2023-2024 budget in their respective committees.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Cabinet members approved the investment of $46.6 million to conserve five properties that cover more than 21,000 acres. Four of the properties are located in the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which supports and protects over 700 threatened species in the state. The acquisitions will safeguard habitats and create connections between public land and private conservation easements.
Cabinet members unanimously approved Michael Yaworsky to become Florida’s new Insurance Commissioner. Yaworsky has a legal background and most recently served on the Florida Gaming Control Commission. He was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and succeeds David Altmaier, who stepped down from the position at the end of last year.
Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Special District Bills
Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the last two local, independent special district bills approved by lawmakers last month during a Special Session B. HB 11B ratifies and confirms the continued existence of the Sunshine Water Control District in Broward County and HB 13B ratifies and confirms the continued existence of the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District in Franklin County. The two districts were at risk of being dissolved on June 1, 2023.
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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.
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