Capitol Reports: April 6th, 2019

Capitol Reports: April 6th, 2019

It’s been so busy in Tallahassee that this is a double issue of the Capitol Report for both week four and five! In fact, the last two weeks have been our busiest yet. 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.

Legislative Highlights

Election Law

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 the State Constitution to increase percentage of elector votes required to approve amendment or revision to State Constitution from 60 percent to 66 & 2/3 percent. Both bills are headed to their second committee next week. The League is in opposition to both.

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

This pair of bills attempts to place additional requirements on returning citizens in order to vote. We are working closely with allies to combat these bills collectively. Our First Vice President Cecile Scoon, has testified before committee on our behalf in the House and will do so next week before the Senate. You can watch her remarks here beginning at 2 hrs and 45 minutes in.

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; requiring the name of the sponsor of an initiative to appear on the ballot with the percentage of donations received from certain in-state donors; prohibiting compensation for initiative petition gatherers or entities based on the number of petitions gathered.

These bills aims to put additional burdens on citizen initiative constitutional amendments. The Senate version moves to its second committee on Tuesday, while the House will hear it for the first time on Tuesday. LWV opposes both bills.

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. We are working on getting the two to reconcile. 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 House version was scheduled for a floor vote this past Wednesday but was temporarily postponed. LWV is proud to give credit for that postponement to our joint efforts with allies in Tallahassee.

Within days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the League of Women Voters of Florida co-founded the nonpartisan Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. This week that Coalition partnered with students from March for Our Lives to unify our voices and let legislators know that parents, teachers, students, and numerous law enforcement officers do not want to arm teachers. This day of action resulted in leadership pulling the bill from the House floor when it was scheduled for a vote on Wednesday. It is currently not scheduled for a vote next week, but we expect it will return. The Senate version is headed to its final committee this week. Expect an action alert on the Senate version. 

Students created a powerful visual holding photos of those lost to gun violence while lining the walkway into the House chambers, forcing legislators to walk past them in order to enter the chamber. It should be noted several legislators deliberately choose to bypass the students by taking alternative paths. 

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. The Senate version passed out of the first committee 8 to 2 and will go to second of three committees on Tuesday. The House version is also headed to its second committee next week but has not yet be calendared.

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 called the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Passage of this bill will greatly expand “scholarships” and increase eligibility. The LWV 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 is most likely headed to its final committee next Thursday. The full House vote was postponed and is currently not on next week’s agenda. We oppose this bill and will be sending out Action Alerts when it returns to the schedule.

HB 7095 School Choice (Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, District 31)

The bill 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 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 committee 8 to 1. The only no vote was Rep. Patricia Williams of District 92. It is now headed to the full Education committee. The League is opposed to this bill.

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, however the Senate version is potentially moving on to its second committee next week. LWV supports this bill.

HB 1197 Charter School (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. LWV opposes this bill. It has made it through one of three committees with a 19 to 10 vote down party lines. We are expecting it to be back in committee next week.

Health Care

SB 1174/HB 1335 – Abortion (Rep. Erin Grall, District 54)

These bills 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 House version passed through Judiciary 10 to 6 on a party line vote and now moves its final committee next week. The Senate is scheduled for its first committee on Monday. LWV is opposed to these bills and action alerts are forthcoming. Please act on them.

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 a fetal heartbeat is detected, and HB 1345 and SB 558 would restrict this health care option to prior to 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 (Sen. Oscar Braynon, District 35/Rep. Shevrin Jones, District 101) Infectious Disease Elimination Programs

Authorizes certain eligible entities to establish sterile needle and syringe exchange programs. This bill has very strong bipartisan support and passed 9 to 1. The Senate companion passed 21-0 in Senate Appropriations the following day. The House bill has two more committee stops while the Senate bill is ready for the floor. Creating syringe exchange programs has been a priority of the Department of Health for many years and has been viewed as an effective disease prevention program by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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 version moved to the final of three committees. The Senate will hear it for the first time next week. LWV is in support of this bill.

Worth Your Time

ACLU of Florida statement on House Bill restricting Amendment 4

Every Incident of Mishandled Guns in Schools

Bill to arm teachers postponed as Parkland students rally at Capitol

Students travel to Tallahassee with a message — don’t arm our teachers

Activists Warn Against Florida Bill Requiring Parental Consent for Underage Abortions

Editorial: Here’s why Florida can’t afford private school vouchers

The big price tag for a new voucher program

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