Capitol Report: April 12, 2019

Nicolette Springer
Legislative Advocate







Week Six of the 2019 Legislative Session is now behind us. The high point of Week Six was having so many Leaguers in Tallahassee for Lobby Days. 100 members participated in our advocacy work in the Capitol building. After a brief training on lobbying, League members attended committee meetings and visited their legislators to share our five legislative priorities.

The bills mentioned below are just a sample of the over 200 bills we are tracking and acting on weekly. You can assist in the efforts by engaging with our Action Alerts. The alerts will be sent out for bills and issues that are our highest priorities.

Thank you all who participated in Lobby Days, it was wonderful to meet you!

In Solidarity,

Nicolette Springer, M.S.
Legislative Advocate
LWV of Florida

Legislative Highlights

Election Law

SB 7086/HB 7089 – Voting Rights Restoration (Senate Criminal Justice Committee/Rep. James Grant, District 64)

This pair of bills attempts to place additional requirement upon returning citizens in order to be eligible to vote. We are working closely with allies to combat these bills collectively. Our First Vice President, Cecile Scoon, has testified before committees on our behalf in the House and attempted to testify in the Senate this week, however Chair Sen. David Simmons (District 9) halted public comment, citing time constraints. Sen. Travis Hutson (District 7) asserted that he would stay as long as necessary.

The bill passed committee 5-3 on party lines. After the meeting was adjourned, Sen. Hutson stayed true to his word and spoke with every person who remained. In conjunction with various allies, the League hosted a press conference regarding these and related bills. You can view the event here.

SB 0232/HB 57 Percentage of Elector Votes Required to Approve Constitutional Amendment or Revision (Sen. Dennis Baxley, District 12/Rep. Rick Roth, District 85)

Proposes an amendment to State Constitution to increase the percentage required to approve amendment or revision to State Constitution from 60 percent to 66 and 2/3 percent. The Senate version has not been calendared for the second committee but the House revision is moving forward to its final committee, Judiciary, after passing State Affairs 15-6. The League is in opposition to both versions.

SB 7096/HB 7111 Constitutional Amendments (Senate Judiciary Committee/Rep. James Grant, District 64)

Passage of this will require a compensated petition gatherer to register with the Secretary of State and to attest that he or she is a Florida resident for a specified period before obtaining signatures on petition forms, require the name of the sponsor of an initiative to appear on the ballot with the percentage of donations received from certain in-state donors, and prohibit compensation for petition gatherers or entities based on the number of petitions gathered.

These bills aim to put additional burdens on citizen initiative constitutional amendments. The Senate version passed its first subcommittee this week 5-3 on party lines, moving it along to Appropriations Committee next week. The House version has yet to be heard but it could possibly be calendared for next week. The League opposes both versions.

SB 1306/HB 1359 Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee (Sen. Lauren Book, District 32 and Sen. Jason Pizzo, District 38/Rep. Amber Mariano, District 36)

Both bills would create a Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration Committee for the purpose of ensuring a suitable statewide observance of the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020. The committee may also establish a youth working group to advise and provide recommendations to the committee in fulfilling its duties. The Senate version specifies that one member of the committee will be appointed from the League of Women Voters of Florida, the House version does not. Both versions are heading to their final committees. The League supports these bills.

Gun Safety

SB 7030/HB 7093 School Safety and Security (Senate Education Committee/Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, District 31)

This bill is commonly known as the “Guardian” bill and intends to arm teachers. Last session a version of this bill passed but stated that teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties” are ineligible to participate. The current version eliminates that clause, thus allowing teachers to carry a gun into the classroom.

The Senate version was heard in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday. Unlike the other committee stops for both of these bills, Chairman Rob Bradley (District 5) ran a respectful and thoughtful meeting. Every person who appeared for public comment was given ample time to speak. Senators engaged in thoughtful discussion, respectfully guided by Sen. Bradley for almost four hours.

The greatest point of contention was centered around an amendment proposed by Sen. Thurston. His amendment would have excluded classroom teachers from being armed via the guardian program. The heated discussion on this amendment revealed that our advocacy is working. After multiple strategic bipartisan sidebar conversations, the amendment was withdrawn. However, we are feeling hopeful that the in-depth conversation that occurred during this fine committee is a sign that some Senators are moving in the direction of opposing arming teachers.

The bill passed committee 11-9 in what was almost a party line vote. Sen. Anitere Flores was the only Republican on the committee to vote against the bill. Please consider calling Sen. Flores and thanking her for her vote against arming teachers. Her office number is 850-487-5039.

Our team will continue to work here in Tallahassee, but we need your help. Action alerts will be sent out in the coming days — please act on them and ask others to do the same.

SB 1238/HB 403 Safety of Religious Institutions (Sen. Debbie Mayfield, District 17 /Rep. Erin Grall, District 54)

Authorizes religious institutions to allow concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to carry firearm on property of institution and gives private schools authority to designate someone to carry a weapon on the school property in accordance with the schools adopted policies and procedures.

The League is opposed to this bill for several reasons. First being our opposition to guns being on any school campus. Second, it would infringe on home rule. Finally, the bill does not address the very common practice of religious institutions who rent space from public institutions such as school buildings. On Monday, the Senate version was temporarily postponed in the Criminal Justice Committee and has not been scheduled for next week. However on Tuesday, the House version passed the Education committee 15-0. It now moves to the final committee, Judiciary.

Education

SB 7070/HB 7075 School Choice (Senate Education Committee/Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, District 31)

This bill pertains to various existing voucher programs, including creating a new one entitled the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Passage of this bill will greatly expand “scholarships” and increase eligibility. The League affirms that funneling general revenue dollars to private and religious schools reduces general revenue for public schools, and is clearly unconstitutional based on the 2006 Supreme Court Case.

The Senate version still has one committee stop and the full House vote is still postponed. LWVFL opposes this bill and will be sending out Action Alerts when it returns to the schedule.

HB 7095 School Choice (Rep. Vance Aloupis, District 115)

The bill would allow community service organizations and Houses of Worship to house charter schools without re-zoning. Additionally, in relation to Schools of Hope, the bill would change the definition of “persistently low-performing” to a school three grades lower than a C in at least 3 of the last 5 years. It would expand the areas in which School of Hope funds can be used and allow them to be built in Florida Opportunity Zones.

Passage of this bill would shift control over charter schools away from the locally-elected school board. It also expands the definition of School of Hope and a low-performing district. The change in language of land and zoning would allow charter schools and Schools of Hope to be housed within religious institutions. This bill passed out of the House Education committee 16-0. It is now headed to the full floor of the House. The League is opposed to this bill; expect Action Alerts.

SB 1224/HB 1163 Charter School Employees (Sen. Gary Farmer, District 34)

Requires each charter school principal, governing board member, chief financial officer, or their equivalent, to meet certain certification requirements. The House version is yet to be heard in committee and the Senate version is still awaiting to be calendared in the second of three committee stops. The League supports this bill.

HB 1197 Charter Schools (Rep. Jason Fischer, District 16)

Authorizes state universities and Florida College System institutions to sponsor charter schools; revises reporting & accountability requirements; provides for funding; authorizes career & professional academy to be offered by charter schools.

We oppose this bill. It has made it through two of three committees down party line however it has stalled and is waiting to be calendered in the House Education committee.

Health Care

SB 1774/HB 1335 – Abortion (Sen. Kelli Stargel, District 22/Rep. Erin Grall, District 54)

This bill would require teens to obtain parental consent prior to receiving an abortion. Most teens already seek the counsel of their parent or guardian when making this health care decision, but when they don’t there is usually a good reason. That’s why leading health and medical professionals oppose this bill.

Not all young people are fortunate enough to have a healthy relationship with their parents. This legislation puts those already vulnerable teenagers in harm’s way or forces them to go to court. The Senate bill was heard in the Health Policy Committee on Monday. Despite strong opposition during public comment, this bill advanced to the next committee. Unfortunately, the chair stopped public comment before we had the opportunity to testify.

SB 1174 has two more committees, therefore we still a chance to voice our concerns. The House version is headed to floor for a full vote next week. Watch out for an Action Alert on these bills.

Other Abortion Bills: The parental consent bill joins a handful of others in this year’s legislative session that would restrict abortion. HB 235 and SB 792 would limit the procedure to before six weeks, and HB 1345 and SB 558 would restrict this health care option to prior 20 weeks. Though all of those bills have been referred to committees, none have yet been scheduled for a hearing. I’ll keep you posted if they do.

SB 366/HB 171 Infectious Disease Elimination Programs (Sen. Oscar Braynon, District 35/Rep. Shervin Jones, District 101)

Authorizes certain eligible entities to establish sterile needle and syringe exchange programs. This bill has very strong bipartisan support. Creating syringe exchange programs has been a priority of the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both bills are scheduled for full floor votes next week. The League is in support of this bill.

SB 0290/HB 0587 Medicaid School-based Services (Sen. Bill Montford, District 3/Rep. Alex Andrade, District 2)

Revises provisions relating to reimbursement of school-based services by AHCA to certain school districts and private and charter schools; specifies that U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is authorized to waive certain school-based provider qualifications. This bill aligns state law with federal requirements concerning Medicaid sharing the cost of providing school health services to students who are Medicaid recipients. The House bill is stalled in the third committee but may be heard next week. The Senate has yet to calendar this bill. We support these bills.

Natural Resources

SB 7064 Oil Drilling (Agriculture Committee Bill)

This bill attempts to define the term “fracking” and also prohibits fracking in Florida. Although the language presented bans fracking, this bill does not ban matrix acidizing, therefore the League is opposed to the bill. It passed out of its second committee, 6 to 4 on party lines. This bill has been held up waiting to be calendared into the third of four committees. As of writing this report, it was not on the agenda for next week.

SB 376 Land Acquisition Trust Fund (Sen. Bill Montford, District 3)

This bill requires that funds be distributed into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund must be used for conservation and management projects in certain counties. The first committee stop result in full support to move forward, however it has yet to be calendared since March.

LWVFL is in support of this bill. Please consider calling Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee, and ask her to place SB 376 on the agenda. Her office number is 850-487-5017.

SB 944 Land Acquisition Trust Fund (Sen. Linda Stewart, District 13)

Requires a specified annual appropriation to the Florida Forever Trust Fund and prohibits moneys from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund from being used other costs. Similar to SB 376, this bill is stalled in committee despite full support out of its first committee.

Please consider calling Sen. Debbie Mayfield, the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee, and ask her to place SB 944 on the agenda. Her office number is 850-487-5017.

SB 1278 Biosolids Management (Sen. Debbie Mayfield, District 17)

Defines the term “biosolids”; requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules for biosolids management. The League is in full support of this bill. This bill passed with full support and is on to the third and final committee. When you call Sen. Mayfield about SB 944 and SB 376, thank her for this bill.

Headed to the Floor this week:

HB 1187 Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders – LWV is in support.
HB 1335 Abortion (Parental Consent) – LWV in in opposition. Action Alert forthcoming.
HB 0171 Infectious Disease Elimination Programs – LWV is in support.
HB 0366 Infectious Disease Elimination Programs – LWV is in support.
HB 0325 Coastal Management – LWV is in support.

Worth Your Time

Senate Democrats, Republicans may be compromising on allowing teachers to be armed

Bill in Florida House would require school districts to share local referendum money with charter schools

How Women Got the Vote Is a Far More Complex Story Than the History Textbooks Reveal

House bill to expand needle exchange program clears final committee

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.12.19

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