The Florida Legislature opened the 2022 Session on Tuesday, January 11th. The House and Senate met in a join session Tuesday morning followed by Governor Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address. In the Governor’s address to the State, he emphasized Florida’s pandemic response and concluded that the state is free from Covid restrictions. Other highlights from the Governor’s address to the state include mention of his nearly $100 billion budget proposal. Governor DeSantis also reiterated his goals for the 2022 Session including: additional funding for police and correction officers, fighting election fraud, and opposing the teaching of critical race theory in schools. He also announced his support for funding a memorial for the victims of the Champlain Towers condo building collapse.
Issues To Watch In 2022 Session:
- BUDGET: Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a $99.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year that includes funneling money to education, the environment, and increase in pay for law-enforcement officers. Florida is flush with cash because of the huge influx of federal COVID-19 stimulus money and higher-than-expected state tax collections as the economy has recovered.
- HEALTH CARE & COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate health care and lawmakers will consider extending pandemic-related legal protections for hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers. DeSantis also proposed increased Medicaid funding that supporters say could help with staffing problems at nursing homes. Both the House and Senate moved bills this week to change Florida’s telehealth laws and make it easier for physicians and other health care providers to treat their patients.
- INSURANCE: With private insurers dropping polices and customers flooding into the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., lawmakers will again consider making changes to the property-insurance system. Lawmakers in recent years have tried to address issues such as curbing litigation over insurance claims, but problems persist in the industry.
- SCHOOL BOARDS: Republican lawmakers could take aim at county school boards after upheaval about issues such as student mask mandates during the pandemic. Legislative proposals include shifting from nonpartisan to partisan school-board elections and setting requirements for school boards to take public comments during meetings
- TAXES: Buoyed by federal stimulus money, DeSantis has proposed suspending state gasoline taxes for five months, starting July 1st. The Governor would use $1 billion in stimulus money to make up for lost gas-tax revenues, which are directed for funding transportation projects. Lawmakers also will consider a series of sales-tax “holidays.”
The House State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee met Tuesday to hear any comments from the public. The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee met at the same time on Tuesday and also heard requests from the public. A spokesperson from the League of Women Voters urged lawmakers to consider minority districts when drafting the additional congressional district Florida gained due to population increase in order to avoid future lawsuits with the maps. The Senate Reapportionment Committee chose Congressional and state Senate map proposals on Thursday. Both map proposals will now head to the floor for consideration from the full Senate. Florida’s 28 district Congressional map proposal, SB 102, passed on a 10-2 vote with little discussion. The state Senate district map proposal, SB 100, also passed on a 10-2 vote after an amendment by Senator Audrey Gibson failed to stick. Members then held a raffle-style drawing to determine odd and even district numbers, which can affect which Senators could potentially serve an extra two years in the Legislature. The House Redistricting Committee also met Thursday and reviewed map proposals in a workshop, but no votes were taken.