With the conclusion of Week Eight, we are one week away from the scheduled end of the regular legislative Session. Committees wrapped up their work this week for the Session also. Per the Senate rules, after the 50th day, the Senate may provide notices four hours in advance of a meeting. Next week, the House will only hear Senate bills on their Special Order calendar Monday and Tuesday and the remainder of the week they will only hear Messages from the Senate. As of today, approximately 75 bills have passed both the House and Senate thus far. With only 7 days left, the Florida Legislature has passed only a total of 2.4% of the filed bills this year.
Governor Signs HB 1 – Monday Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1, which he purports will combat riots. Opponents say the bill stifles protests and free speech. The bill was a top priority for DeSantis this Legislative Session. It stiffens penalties against violent protest, requires those arrested for street violence to stay in jail until the first appearance, and also protects police budgets from cuts by allowing local lawmakers to appeal proposed reductions to the Governor and Cabinet.
Governor Signs Online Sales Tax Bill – Governor DeSantis signed the online sales tax bill into law, but he waited until he had one hour left to act on the bill. It is estimated $1 billion in revenue could come from enforcement of sales taxes technically already owed on purchases Floridians make from out-of-state sellers. DeSantis had until midnight to sign or veto the bill into law or it would have gone into effect without his signature. He was sent the bill on April 12th.
Governor DeSantis Signs New Compact with Seminole Tribe – Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida agreed to a new gaming compact. The Legislature announced they will not take up the compact during the remaining time in the regular Session and will instead hold a Special Session on gaming May 17th. Details are still forthcoming, but reportedly the Seminole Tribe will be granted exclusive control of sports betting, which the Tribe would be able to offer at its own facilities, as well as through pari-mutuels. The Tribe would negotiate deals to allow online platforms like FanDuel, DraftKings, and Barstool to operate in Florida.
Glades Restoration Accord – Governor DeSantis signed an agreement Thursday with the Army Corps of Engineers that will continue work on a key reservoir in Everglades restoration. Work on the long-stalled Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir in western Palm Beach County is to be shared between the state and federal governments.
Budget Watch: Negotiations continue on the state budget. Unresolved issues bumped to the Appropriations Chairs Monday evening and the Chairs presented offers to one another in two meetings Thursday and Friday.
Senate Democrats Select New Leader – Senator Lauren Book will lead Senate Democrats after a vote held at a caucus meeting Wednesday. Reportedly, the decision takes Senator Book out of the running for any statewide campaigns, including a potential challenge to incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Protecting Consumer Data – On Wednesday , the House approved HB 969 by Representative Fiona McFarland, which gives the public an opportunity to regain ownership of personal data collected by companies and the right to sue companies for mishandling information. This proposal is a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis and legislative leadership. The House bill, has a provision included that would allow individual consumers to sue companies that do not comply with the law, including selling information when a consumer has asked that a company not do so. The Senate companion bill, SB 1734 by Senator Jennifer Bradley, is expected to be heard in the Senate, but without the personal cause of action provision. This difference could be a deal breaker between the House and Senate.
Physician Assistants – SB 894 by Senator Manny Diaz and HB 431 by Representative Bob Rommel, give physician assistants, or PAs, more independence. The Senate bill this week passed its last committee and is now headed to the Senate floor. The bill would allow a physician to supervise up to 10 assistants, instead of the current four. It will also allow PAs to prescribe limited amounts of psychiatric medicine and sign-off on certain medical documents, such as Baker Act commitments. The House companion has already passed the full House.
Right to Farm Legislation – A proposal that would strengthen the Florida Right to Farm Act is on the way to the Governor. SB 88 requires a person who sues a farm to have clear and convincing evidence that the farm does not comply with state and federal environmental laws. Proponents say the proposal supports farmers by prohibiting and discouraging “nuisance lawsuits” from developers and neighbors. Those in opposition claim the measure goes too far and the right to go to court should not be limited. The proposal passed the full House on Thursday with a 110-7 vote and now DeSantis has until April 29th to act on the bill.
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