The seventh week of the Legislative Session ends 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 week’s top issues and how they may impact your business and a close look at this week’s happenings around the capital city.



According to Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, budget negotiations are expected to begin on Monday less than two weeks from Sine Die or the last day of session on Friday, March 8, 2024. President Passidomo stated that she didn’t want to inconvenience staff by holding the negotiations over the weekend. Both the Senate and House have proposed budgets that exceed $115 billion. The legislative leaders have been working on allocations, which determine the overall funding for different areas of the budget, such as education and health and human services. Once the allocations are finalized, conference committees will meet to negotiate the spending details. To finish the session as planned on March 8, the budget must be completed by March 5 to adhere to the constitutionally required 72-hour review or “cooling off” period. The budget will come into effect on July 1, 2024, marking the beginning of the 2024-2025 fiscal year.


State lawmakers are proposing tax packages to aid Floridians with cost burdens as well as homeowners with property insurance costs. Both chambers agree on sales-tax holidays but differ on lowering the commercial-lease tax. Senate Finance and Tax Chairman Sen. Blaise Ingoglia emphasizes the need for fiscal caution due to economic uncertainties. The Senate’s package aims to reduce revenue by $630.6 million, including insurance-related breaks recommended by Gov. Ron DeSantis. House Democrats argue for more direct assistance to Floridians, while Republicans believe all consumers benefit from tax cuts. The Senate’s insurance tax changes could save policyholders about 3.5% on homeowners’ premiums. The House includes an insurance-premium tax break for homeowners with properties valued at $750,000 or less but omits a Senate proposal for a flood-insurance tax exemption. Both packages feature back-to-school and summer tax holidays. The House extends sales-tax money for thoroughbred horse racing, while the Senate seeks to make these distributions permanent. The House proposes a significant cut in the commercial-lease tax, while the Senate focuses on regulating tourist-development taxes.


SB 7016/HB 1549 Health Care

The Florida House has given final approval to a comprehensive health care plan aimed at preparing for future population growth and promoting innovation. The bills, known as the “Live Healthy” plan, received overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House. The plan includes measures to expand medical residency programs, increase funding for loan forgiveness programs for health care professionals, and facilitate the practice of foreign-trained physicians in Florida.

The plan also addresses issues such as reducing non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms and allowing advanced birth centers to provide cesarean-section deliveries for low-risk pregnancies. The legislation has received praise from various health care associations in the state, who believe it will help address prevalent health care challenges and strengthen the health care workforce.

The bill includes $717 million in spending, while another companion bill provides $50 million annually for a revolving-loan fund program for health innovation projects. The program aims to support initiatives in areas such as rural hospitals and medically underserved communities.

While the plan has garnered support, there have been some concerns raised. Questions have been raised about the safety precautions in advanced birth centers and calls for expanding Medicaid coverage, which was not included in the package.

The bill now awaits being sent to Governor Ron DeSantis for his consideration.

HB 651/SB476 – Civil Liability for the Wrongful Death of an Unborn Child

A House committee approved a bill allowing parents to file civil lawsuits for the wrongful death of an “unborn child,” despite criticism of its broad scope potentially affecting doctors in Florida. The bill aims to extend existing law to include “unborn child” in cases of wrongful acts or negligence leading to death. While abortion-rights advocates express concerns about legal risks for abortion providers, sponsors clarify the bill is not abortion-related. The bill, approved by the House Judiciary Committee, triggers debates on its consequences, with supporters emphasizing parents’ rights and opponents fearing impacts on women’s healthcare. The bill progresses to the full House, while a similar Senate bill awaits further review. Critics raise concerns about potential misuse and implications for reproductive rights in Florida.


HB 735/SB 734 – Government Accountability 

The House State Affairs Committee supported a bill to delay the enforcement of a 2023 law requiring local elected officials to disclose financial information. The revised bill, sponsored by Rep. Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola, proposes pushing the effective date to 2025 and exempting mayors and local governing board members in communities with 500 residents or fewer. The current law led to resignations as officials chose not to disclose their finances. The bill also addresses lobbying registration requirements. Municipal officials will now be required to submit a more detailed Form 6 starting in 2025. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the disclosure requirement have been filed by municipalities and officials, citing violations of privacy and First Amendment rights. The lawsuits argue that the disclosure mandate does not serve a compelling interest and infringes on officials’ rights. Supporters of detailed disclosure argue it can reveal conflicts of interest in government dealings.

SB 742/HB 705 – Public Works Projects

Legislation that aims to eliminate city and county ordinances that impose local hiring preferences for public works projects has advanced to the Senate floor after passing through the Senate Rules Committee. The bill, known as SB 742, expands the existing preemption in state law to include projects that use local and state funds, such as the construction of buildings, roads, sewer and water systems, or utilities substations. However, critics argue that the bill will suppress wages for contractors and limit opportunities for contract workers in rural areas. Supporters of the bill, including sponsor Sen. Erin Grall, argue that imposing local hiring preferences drives up the cost of living in communities and that sometimes there may not be enough resources in a community to meet all public work needs. The bill received opposition from three Democrats and one Republican, who expressed concerns about the impact on small counties and cities with limited revenue. One Democrat who voted for the bill, Sen. Darryl Rouson, indicated that he might switch his vote on the floor if changes are not made, citing the history of broken promises to the community in the development of the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The House version of the bill, HB 705, is also ready to be heard on the floor in that chamber.


SB 1638/HB 1417 – Funding for Environmental Resource Management

The Senate unanimously approved a proposal to allocate funds from a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for environmental initiatives, including expanding a state wildlife corridor. The legislation aims to allocate at least $450 million annually for projects like land conservation, invasive species removal, flood planning, and transitioning properties to sewer systems. Senate sponsor Travis Hutson emphasized the significance of the environmental protection efforts, describing it as a positive step for Florida. The House version is set for consideration, with Governor Ron DeSantis finalizing the gambling deal with the tribe in 2021. The compact allows the tribe to offer online sports betting and new games in exchange for substantial payments to the state. Despite legal challenges from pari-mutuel companies, legislative leaders are confident in the compact’s validity and view it as a means to support environmental conservation in line with the tribe’s values.

SB 7040/HB 7053 Ratification of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Rules Relating to Stormwater

This week the Senate unanimously passed SB 7040. The Clean Waterways Act (SB 712; 2020), directed the DEP and the water management districts, to initiate rulemaking to update the stormwater design and operation regulations for environmental resource permitting, including updates to the Environmental Resource Permit Applicant’s Handbook. The proposed rules were developed to increase the removal of nutrients from stormwater to protect the state’s waterways. There have been some amendments to the rule that DEP submitting, including clarifying provisions related to grandfathered projects, allowing alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters, and providing that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices. The House bill awaits a hearing on the House floor.


HB 385/SB 580 – Safe Exchange of Minor Children

A proposed bill, known as HB 385, has been approved by the Senate with a vote of 37-1 and previously passed unanimously in the House. This bill allows courts to mandate parents who share custody of children to conduct timesharing exchanges at designated “neutral safe exchange” locations. These locations would be utilized in situations where there is a perceived risk or imminent threat of harm to either party or the child during the exchange. The bill requires county sheriffs to designate specific parking lots at their offices or substations as safe exchange locations, meeting certain criteria like adequate lighting, video surveillance, and 24-hour accessibility.

Senator Lori Berman expressed concerns about the interpretation of the bill, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding against imminent threats of harm during exchanges. On the other hand, Senator Clay Yarborough clarified that the bill does not restrict the discretion of the courts in cases involving court-ordered parenting plans. Yarborough highlighted that the bill aims to provide the courts with the flexibility to consider all factors and ensure the safety of all parties involved.

The bill, named the “Cassi Carli Law,” is in memory of a Northwest Florida mother, Cassi Carli, who tragically lost her life after a timeshare exchange with the father of her child. The bill’s purpose is to enhance safety measures during custody exchanges to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

SB 472/HB 569 – Suits Against the Government

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee gave its approval to a bill, SB 472, proposed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that aims to revise Florida’s sovereign-immunity laws. The bill seeks to increase the limits on the amounts of money that government agencies can be required to pay in lawsuits and introduce other changes to the existing laws.

Currently, the caps on payments to a single person stand at $200,000, while it is $300,000 for incidents involving multiple people. However, these caps can be exceeded if a special type of measure called a “claim” bill is passed by lawmakers. The proposed bill would double these caps, raising them to $400,000 and $600,000, respectively. This would allow government agencies to settle lawsuits for higher amounts without having to go through the lengthy and uncertain claim-bill process.

Furthermore, the bill also addresses claims against agencies involving sexual batteries against victims under the age of 16. It eliminates the statute of limitations for such claims, providing victims with the opportunity to pursue legal action against the agencies without time constraints.

The bill will now proceed to the next stage of legislative review and consideration.

HB 757/SB 1780 – Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses

The House Judiciary Committee approved a contentious proposal to reform defamation laws, potentially increasing liability for media organizations. The bill, HB 757, passed with a 14-7 vote along party lines and could impact journalists using anonymous sources. It introduces a “rebuttable presumption” of actual malice, making it easier for public figures to sue for false information. Opposition from various groups, including Americans for Prosperity and the ACLU of Florida, raises concerns about First Amendment rights. Despite criticism, sponsor Alex Andrade defends the bill, emphasizing the importance of protecting reputations. The Senate version, SB 1780, awaits approval from the Fiscal Policy Committee before advancing to the full Senate.


HB 931/SB 1044 – School Chaplains

The Florida House has passed a measure, HB 931, that would allow school districts to authorize volunteer chaplains to provide support, services, and programs to students in public schools. The chaplains would need to undergo background screenings, and parental consent would be required for students to receive their services. Supporters of the measure believe that having chaplains in schools would help address children’s mental health needs.

However, some Democrats have raised concerns about the constitutionality of allowing chaplains in schools. They question whether the bill includes provisions to prevent religious proselytization and coercion of students, as well as violations of the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU of Florida has argued that the bill is unconstitutional and could lead to religious coercion and indoctrination of students.

The bill would require school districts and principals to meet certain requirements if they choose to allow chaplains. For example, parents would need to be informed about the availability of chaplains and would be able to choose from a list provided by the school district, which would include information about the chaplain’s religious affiliation.

Critics of the bill have also questioned why it does not mandate training or credentials for chaplains. They are concerned that individuals without qualifications or experience could claim to be chaplains and provide services to students.

The measure would need approval from the Senate before it can proceed to Governor Ron DeSantis for consideration. Senate leaders believe that the bill is constitutional and would pass the necessary requirements.

HB 1 – Online Protections for Minors

Florida lawmakers have given final approval to a bill, HB 1, that aims to keep children under the age of 16 off social media platforms. The bill received overwhelming support in the House, with a vote of 108-7, and was later approved by the Senate with a vote of 23-14. The bill, which has been a priority for House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, seeks to protect children from the potential harms of social media, including mental health issues and exposure to sexual predators.

However, there are opponents of the bill who argue that the decision of whether children should use social media should be left to parents, and that the bill may be unconstitutional. Governor Ron DeSantis has also expressed concerns about the bill, particularly regarding parental rights and the impact on 14- and 15-year-olds. DeSantis believes that while social media can be harmful, parents should have a role in deciding whether their children can access these platforms.

The bill includes provisions that prevent children under 16 from creating social media accounts, require platforms to terminate existing accounts held by minors under 16, and allow parents to request the termination of minors’ accounts. The bill also sets criteria for determining which platforms would be subject to the restrictions, including considerations of algorithms, addictive features, and content visibility.

In an effort to address potential court challenges, the bill focuses on platform features rather than content. However, opponents still believe that the bill may be deemed unconstitutional, as similar laws in other states have been blocked by judges. Tech industry groups have also expressed concerns about the bill and the potential infringement on First Amendment rights and privacy.

Aside from social media restrictions, the bill also includes measures to prevent minors under 18 from accessing online pornographic sites by implementing age verification requirements.

The bill will now go to Governor DeSantis for his consideration.


HB 1645/SB 1624 Energy Resources

Florida lawmakers are advancing a state energy law overhaul that includes removing references to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and banning offshore wind-energy generation. The Senate Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations Committee approved a revised bill aligning with the House measure. The bills cover natural gas pipelines, advanced nuclear power studies, and eliminating parts of the law on emissions reduction. Supporters aim to maintain grid stability and balance costs while critics raise concerns about sea-level rise impacts. The proposed changes focus on ensuring energy supply, promoting public welfare, and economic growth. The bills also address natural gas regulations and propose a ban on offshore wind turbines near Florida coastlines. The Senate committee approved the bill, which must pass the Fiscal Policy Committee before reaching the full Senate.


SB 7028/HB 1263 – My Safe Florida Home Program

Florida legislators are considering additional funding for the My Safe Florida Home program, with a focus on assisting those most in need. Proposed changes include creating application windows, starting with low-income homeowners aged 60 and older. The program offers up to $10,000 to cover wind and water mitigation work. Eligibility criteria remain unchanged, including having a homestead exemption and an insured value under $700,000. If approved, homeowners can apply in specific order based on income and age. The bill seeks to add $100 million in funding, which could accommodate 10,000 applications. The program has already authorized nearly 21,000 grants, resulting in $26 million in reimbursements for improvements. The program aims to strengthen homes and reduce insurance rates. Notable changes in 2024 include allowing homeowners to choose any licensed contractor for approved improvements.

HB 1503/ SB 1716 – Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

One of these bills, HB 1503, aims to allow unregulated companies to assume policies from the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. This provision specifically applies to secondary homes owned by policyholders. However, the takeover would be subject to approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). To be eligible, surplus lines carriers, which are out-of-state insurers not regulated by the state, must possess an “A” or better rating from A.M. Best and have a risk program managed by a Florida surplus lines broker.

Surplus lines carriers typically provide coverage for higher-value homes located in more hazardous coastal areas. Unlike regulated insurers, their rates are not approved by the OIR, and homeowners cannot file lawsuits against them in Florida regarding claim disputes.

The Senate version of this bill, SB 1716, still needs to go through one more committee review in the Senate before it can proceed to the floor for further consideration.

HB 1149/ SB 1104 – Policy Cancellations and Nonrenewals by Property Insurers

Lawmakers are considering an extension of the requirement for insurers to provide coverage for homes damaged by hurricanes in HB 1149. Currently, insurers are prohibited from canceling or non-renewing coverage for a damaged home for 90 days after a storm. The proposed bill would mandate that insurers continue coverage until repairs are completed or until one year after the next renewal date following the damage, with exceptions for nonpayment of premiums or fraudulent claims.

In the Senate version of the bill, SB 1104, coverage would be extended for 90 days after repairs are finished. The bill is pending one more committee review before reaching the Senate floor.

HB 1611/SB 1622 – Insurance

HB 1611 would require insurers to submit monthly reports instead of quarterly reports to the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). The bill also grants the Financial Services Commission the authority to develop forms for insurers to notify policyholders when they plan to cancel or non-renew 10,000 or more residential policies within a 12-month period.

The bill also imposes restrictions on surplus lines carriers, limiting their ability to cancel policies after hurricane damage. Furthermore, it prohibits Citizens, the state-run company, from charging homeowners who switch from an insolvent insurer more than 50% of their normal rate. The Senate version of the bill, SB 1622, has one final review before it can proceed to the Senate floor.

Governor’s Activity 2024

Governor DeSantis signed 6 bills into law Thursday.

BillTitleDate PresentedGovernor’s DeadlineDate Acted UponAction
SB 0072Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved
SB 0074Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved
SB 0076Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved
SB 0078Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved
SB 0080Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved
SB 0082Florida Statutes02/08/2402/15/2402/15/24Approved

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.

About Gunster 
Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 13 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa Bayshore, Tampa Downtown, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With more than 290 attorneys and consultants, and over 290 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at


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