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Capitol Report: April 19, 2019

Nicolette Springer
Legislative Advocate







The seventh week of Session has brought the majority of committee meetings to a close, resulting in bills either moving to the floor or dying due to not being heard in committee. Next week my report will include a list of all the bills that never made it past committee categorized by 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.

In Solidarity,

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

Legislative Highlights

Election Law

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

Passage of this bill would require a compensated petition gatherer to register with the Secretary of State and attest that he or she is a Florida resident for a specified period before obtaining signatures on petition forms, would 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 place additional burdens on citizen initiative constitutional amendments. We are watchful for the Senate version to be placed on the Appropriations Committee calendar, although it is likely dead due to its lack of placement on that committee’s calendar. The House bill was heard in its final committee and passed 15-8 along party lines. It will be will be heard on the floor next week. If passed in the House, the Senate could still take up that version. 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 by the League of Women Voters of Florida. The House version was amended by Rep. Dotie Joseph (District 108) to read, “A representative of the League of Women Voters of Florida nominated by the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, appointed by the Governor.” Both versions have passed their final committee with full support and are ready for a full floor vote.

SB 342 Public Records/Voters and Voter Registration (Sen. Tom Lee, District 20)

Protects the privacy of minors who choose to pre-register to vote. Passed Rules committee 16-0. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a full vote. Similarly, the House version is also ready for the a floor vote. The League supports this bill.

SB 274 Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board (Sen. Dennis Baxley, District 12)

Proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to limit the terms of office for a member of a district school board. The League opposes this bill as it preempts home rule. We contend that counties or municipalities should retain their ability to decide on whether or not they prefer term limits on local school board members — it should not be mandated by the state.

The Senate version favorably passed the Education Committee 14-3 and is headed to Rules this past week, however, it was temporarily postponed. The House version is waiting to be placed on the calendar for a full floor vote.

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

This pair of bills attempts to place additional requirements upon returning citizens in order to be eligible to vote, undermining Amendment 4. We are working closely with allies to combat these bills collectively. The Senate version heads to the Rules committee on Tuesday. The House version is ready for a floor vote. Keep an eye out for Action Alerts.

SB 232/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 the State Constitution to increase the percentage of votes required to approve amendment or revision to State Constitution from 60 percent to 66 and 2/3 percent. The League opposes both versions.

Fortunately, as of writing this report it appears as if both bills have not made it out of committee, meaning they may no longer be of concern. However, we will continue to monitor them in case the language from these bills is placed onto another, more viable bill.

Gun Safety

SB 7030/HB 7093- Implementation of Legislative Recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission (General Bill by Senate Education Committee/General Bill, 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” would be ineligible to participate. The current version eliminates that clause, thus allowing teachers to carry a gun into the classroom.

The Senate version was debated on the floor of the Senate earlier this week. An amendment proposed by Sen. Perry Thurston (District 33) would have excluded classroom teachers from being armed via the Guardian Program, however it was defeated 22-16 along party lines. The failure of this amendment leaves intact the language allowing exclusively classroom teachers to be armed. With this language remaining, the League is in strong opposition.

The Senate will hear the bill on the floor for third reading and a final vote on Tuesday. The House version is still postponed but will likely be calendared soon. 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 a firearm on property of an 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. The first being our opposition to guns being on any school campus. Second, the bill 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.

The Senate version is still postponed in the Criminal Justice Committee and therefore will not resurface. However, the House version is headed to the floor for the first round of debate next week.

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 LWVFL 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 full House vote is still postponed but could resurface next week. The Senate version passed its final committee this past week and may go to the floor soon. The League opposes this bill and will be sending out Action Alerts.

SB 1470/HB 7095 School Choice (Sen. Manny Diaz, District 36/Rep. Vance Aloupis, District 115)

These bills would allow community service organizations and Houses of Worship to house charter schools without rezoning. 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 these bills would shift control over charter schools away from the locally-elected school board. It would also expand the definition of School of Hope and low-performing districts. The change in language of land and zoning would allow charter schools and Schools of Hope to be housed within religious institutions. The Senate bill is stalled in committee but the House bill has been placed on the calendar and will be heard on the floor next week. The League opposes both bills.

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

Authorizes state universities and Florida College System institutions to sponsor charter schools; revises reporting and accountability requirements; provides for funding; authorizes career and professional academy to be offered by charter schools. The League opposes this bill. It has made it through all three committees along party lines and is headed to the House floor.

SB 1224/HB 1163 Charter School Employees (Sen. Gary Farmer, District 34/Rep. Shevrin D. Jones, District 101)

Requires each charter school principal, governing board member, chief financial officer, or their equivalent, to meet certain certification requirements. The House version has still gone unheard but the Senate version could possibly be heard in the Rules committee on Tuesday. The League supports this bill.

Natural Resources

SB 1278/HB 405 Biosolids Management (Sen. Debbie Mayfield, District 17/Rep. Erin Grall, District 54)

Defines the term “biosolids”; requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules for biosolids management. The League supports this bill. The Senate version passed its final committee on Thursday and should be headed to the floor, but unfortunately the House version did not make it out of committee this past week.

SB 1400/HB 1159 Private Property Rights (Sen. Ben Albritton, District 26/Rep. Mike La Rosa, District 42)

Prohibits local governments from requiring permits, fees, or other notices for certain tree activity on residential property under specified conditions; deletes provision that authorizes electric utilities to perform certain right-of-way tree maintenance only after certain local government approval; creates Property Owner Bill of Rights; requires county property appraisers to provide specified information on their websites. The League opposes these bills because of the preemption of home rule. Each county and municipality can enact their own ordinances regarding property rights; it should not be directed by the state. The Senate version will be heard in its final committee on Tuesday; the House version passed its final committee this past week.

Health Care

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

Would require young people to obtain notarized parental consent prior to receiving an abortion. Most young people 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 young people in harm’s way or forces them to go to court. HB 1335 unfortunately passed a full House vote on Wednesday, 60-44. There was heated debate that lasted until 10:45 PM; you can watch it here. The Senate version of the bill is headed to its last committee stop next Tuesday.

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 approximately six weeks into pregnancy, and HB 1345 and SB 558 would restrict this health care option to prior to 20 weeks. Although none of these made it through committee, we are still being mindful that the language from these bills can be added to an existing bill.

SB 290/HB 587 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 and specifies that the 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 moving to the floor soon, whereas the Senate bill died in committee due to never being placed on the calendar. The Senate is likely to take the House version of the bill if and when it passes. The League supports these bills.

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

Authorizes certain eligible entities to establish sterile needle and syringe exchange programs. This bill has very strong bipartisan support and the League is in full support as well. Creating syringe exchange programs has been a priority of the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both bills passed each chamber and are now headed to the Governor’s desk.

Headed to the Floor this week:

The full schedule has yet to be released therefore this list is incomplete.

SB 7030 – Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission Implementation
SB 7068 – Transportation
SB 446 – Coastal Management
HB 369 – Substance Abuse Services
HB 7089 – Voting Rights Restoration
HB 7111 – Constitutional Amendments
HB 689 – Voting Methods
HB 131 – Voter Registration
HB 1135 – Red Tide Mitigation

Worth Your Time

Senate plays ball on Oliva health care priorities

Sliding down a slippery slope toward making Florida Schools armed camps

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.19.19

Florida lawmakers seek to purge undocumented immigrants from voter rolls

Florida House OKs bill requiring parental abortion consent

Toll roads plan hits speed bump

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