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Capitol Report: March 9, 2019


Nicolette Springer
Legislative Advocate







The first week of the 2019 legislative session is complete and our team is keeping tabs on our state Capitol. The LWV of Florida prides itself on being a grassroots organization driven to empower voters and defend democracy. Based on surveys of local Leagues, the League established five legislative priorities.

Powered by our volunteer Lobby Corps, I will be advocating on behalf of the League in the House and Senate to ensure substantive progress is made in the areas of election reform, education, health care, gun safety, and the protection of our natural resources. Over the coming weeks, I will be reporting to you weekly through this newsletter but I’m always available for feedback and can be reached at nicolette@lwvfl.org.
As a reminder, our 2019 Lobby Days are April 9th and 10th. You can register here. I look forward to seeing you in Tallahassee in a few weeks!

In League,

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

Legislative Highlights

Election Law

SB 268 Voting Methods: This bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley is a response to the various problems Florida had during the recounts of the 2018 election. It also makes in-person voting more accessible for the visually impaired, and requires voter interface devices to produce a voter-verifiable paper output. We had some major concerns about this bill, however Sen. Baxley offered an amendment that addressed those concerns and SB 268 passed the Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously. The League supports this bill.

Education

HB 195 Study of the Bible and Religion: Requires each school district to offer specified courses related to the study of the Bible as elective courses. This bill passed through PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee but not without rigorous questioning and opposition from Reps. Eskamani, Thompson, and Webb. This bill exclusively supports teaching the Christian Bible, and despite requests to include other holy books in the bill, the sponsor, Rep. Daniels, was not open to expanding the course of study. Both Rep. Webb and Rep. Hogan-Johnson pointed out that bill violates state law and is unconstitutional. Rep. Webb cited nine court cases supporting that assertion. This bill is now moving to Appropriations. The League is opposed to this bill.

SJR 344 Homestead Property Assessment: This bill is not directly an education bill but will have a direct impact on education funding. It proposes amendments to the State Constitution to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit increases in the assessed value of homestead property, for school district levy purposes, the property is held by a person who is 65 years of age or older and if he or she has held such title and maintained permanent residence on the property for at least 25 years. This would strip an unknown amount of funds from public education. Senators Farmer and Pizzo voiced several concerns about the fiscal impact. The bill sponsor, Senator Diaz, was unable to provide basic information such how many homes would be eligible. This bill passed through Community Affairs and is moving on to the Finance and Tax committee. The League is opposed to this bill.

Natural Resources

HB 325 Coastal Management: Revises criteria Department of Environmental Protection must use in determining & assigning annual funding priorities for specified beach management & erosion control projects. Approximately 20 organizations including the League and some counties waived in support. There was no opposition, committee discussion, or speakers. It passed unanimously and now moves on to the State Affairs Committee. There is an identical corresponding bill in the Senate (SB 446) that has moved on to the Appropriations committee. The League is supporting both bills.

Government Oversight – Home Rule

SB 82 Vegetable Gardens: Prohibiting local governments from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties. The League supports home rule for counties and municipalities and opposes any preemptive legislation to counter home rule thus the League is opposed to this bill.

Worth Your Time

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

Some easy, necessary steps to fix Florida’s elections problems

Here’s how Florida lawmakers plan to prevent another 2018 recount fiasco

From guns to abortion, Florida Legislature to tackle controversial issues

Betty Castor: Florida’s public schools deserve support

Looking for a specific bill or issue that you think the League should take a position on? LWVFL prides itself on being a grassroots organization and establishes our legislative priorities from local league input before each upcoming session. From those priorities, we’re able to create a comprehensive list of bills to lobby for or against in the Capitol.

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