Legislative Insider’s Report: Week 1 of 9

CapitolThe Legislature opened the 2017 session this week with a bang! On Tuesday, we saw addresses from the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President.  A battle has been brewing between Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran over legislation regarding Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.  Speaker Corcoran has taken aim at ending the two programs, which are pet projects of Governor Scott’s, as wasteful of taxpayer dollars.  Much of the Governor’s State of the State could be summed up with an “I’m talking to you, Speaker Corcoran.” For his part, Speaker Corcoran remained dedicated to ending the programs he calls corporate welfare.  The Governor believes the program creates jobs and helps the economy.  The House voted 87-28 to end Enterprise Florida on Friday afternoon. 

In a busy first week, the Legislature passed its first bill which will be sent to the Governor to sign. The subject? The death penalty.  The Supreme Court ruled that last year’s law was unconstitutional and required a unanimous jury verdict to impose the death penalty. The Legislature passed that measure this week, and it is expected to be sent to the Governor soon. 

In the upcoming week, our entire FFPC staff team will be at the Capitol along with about 225 pastors, pro-life leaders and other citizen activists for the 2017 Pro-Family Lobby Days at the Capitol event. We packed the event out and have reached capacity at the Civic Center venue where the event is being held.  Otherwise, I would ask you to consider buying a last-minute ticket.  We will report on that at the end of the week (in our next Legislative Insider‘s Report).  

Amber Kelly, our Director of Policy and Communications, who has extensive experience in lobbying and politics is doing a great job representing us full time in Tallahassee.  You will hear more from her in the upcoming weeks with updates and live-streaming video.  Follow us on social media for instant and immediate information while the news is breaking in Tallahassee.  I would recommend following us on Twitter first and Facebook second.  

For a look at some of the bills that Florida Family Policy Council is tracking in 2017, look at our bill summaries below my signature.  The most up-to-date list of good bills and bad bills can always be found on our website. We will list our top priority bills next week.  

Thanks for your support,

John Stemberger

GOOD BILLS

ADOPTION / FOSTER CARE

HB 363 / SB 200 Temporary Respite Care for Families in Crisis

Sponsors: Rep. Frank White (R), Rep. Patricia Williams (D), Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R)

This bill would help families who are dealing with crises, such as drug abuse, illness, unemployment, or homelessness which have not yet led to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to remove children from the home. Several private, non-profit organizations in Florida work with respite care families to provide a temporary, safe environment for children while their parents work to reestablish a safe and stable living environment.  This is a voluntary program on the part of the parents and seeks to intervene in situations before children are placed in child welfare due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. 

ABORTION  

HB 19 / SB 1140 Injuries Resulting from an Abortion

Sponsors: Rep. Erin Grall (R), Sen. Kelli Stargel (R)

This bill gives women who have an abortion a new way to sue the doctor performing the abortion if they sustain physical or emotional injuries.  Specifically, if a woman was not properly informed of the possible risk of abortion and she suffers emotional problems as a result, she may sue the abortionist.  If the doctor was negligent in performing the abortion and the woman suffers physical injuries as a result, she may sue the abortionist. 

LIFE

HB 969 / SB 1130 Pregnancy Support Services

Sponsors: Rep. Jackie Toledo (R), Sen. Aaron Bean (R)

This bill requires the Florida Department of Health to contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) to provide pregnancy support services for women who suspect or know they are pregnant. FPCN would then provide support to pregnant women and address their wellness needs. The bill would require subcontractors with FPCN to promote and support only childbirth. Services provided must be noncoercive and could not include religious content.

HB 841 / SB 1006 Humanity of the Unborn Child

Sponsors: Julio Gonzalez (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

This bill requires the Department of Health (DOH) publish the following on their website: pregnancy support and adoption services in the state (both public and private), their contact info, and a description of services at these agencies. A statement alerting pregnant mothers that there are agencies to assist them must be posted on the DOH website as well as at medical offices, hospitals, etc. that provide OB/GYN services. This bill also assists local crisis pregnancy groups with community outreach and awareness campaigns for options to abortion for expectant mothers. 

HB 203 / SB 348 Pain Capable Abortion Ban

Sponsors: Rep. Joe Gruters (R), Sen. Greg Steube (R)

This bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks, except in rare cases. It would require abortion clinics to reportthe abortions they perform annually, along with descriptive information such as the estimated age of the child, and what abortion method was used, etc. The bill would also allow civil and criminal damages to be brought against any physician who intentionally violates this ban.

GAMING

HB 7037 Addressing Gambling Long-Term

Sponsor: Rep. Mike La Rosa (R) and the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee

This bill will constrict or freeze gambling in Florida by requiring the Governor to renegotiate the state’s compact with the Seminole Tribe, with terms for a 20-year contract. It allows the Seminole Tribe to provide banked card games and slots outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties exclusively, effectively freezing state authorized gambling outside of these areas for the next 20 years. It requires horse and dog tracks to have live races, limits the types of card games allowed, and bans highly addictive slot machines from these facilities. It prohibits new permits for horse and dog tracks and does not allow them to be converted.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

HB 1383 / SB 852 Child Victims of Human Trafficking

Sponsors: Rep. Jeanette Nuñez (R), Sen. Rene Garcia (R)

This bill seeks to help children who have been the victims of sex trafficking by requiring the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to maintain a database of services available for victims of commercial sexual exploitation,  increases the situations in which a defendant’s confession may be used at trial, outlines procedures for assessment and staffing in evaluating and assisting victims, and requires either DCF or the local sheriff’s office to follow up with victims within six months to evaluate services used and their effectiveness. 

HB 665 / SB 286 Human Trafficking Education in Schools

Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Greg Steube (R)

Requires health education in public schools to include information regarding the dangers and signs of human trafficking.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

HB 303 / SB 436 Religious Liberty in Public Schools or “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act”

Sponsors: Rep. Kim Daniels (D), Rep. Patricia Williams (D), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

This bill would prohibit a school district from discriminating against students, parents, or school personnel on the basis of religious viewpoints or expression.  This bill states that a school cannot penalize or reward a student’s religious expression in their coursework, artwork, or other specified assignments.  It provides equal access to all religions and non-religions before, during, and after school.   

ISRAEL

HB 281 / SB 574 Opposing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334

Sponsors: Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D), Sen. Kevin Rader (D)

The UNSC adopted Resolution 2334 in December 2016, which stated that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, has no legal validity, and is a major obstacle to the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. The US abstained from voting when it had the power to veto Resolution 2334.  This Resolution pronounces that the Legislature opposes and requests the repeal or fundamental alteration of Resolution 2334 so that it: is no longer one-sided and anti-Israel and authorizes all final-status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct, bilateral negotiations between the parties involved.

 

BAD BILLS

LGBT RIGHTS  

HB 623 / SB 666 Creating Special Rights for LGBT Citizens or “Florida’s Competitive Workforce Act”

Sponsors: Rep. Ben Diamond (D), Rep. Rene Plasencia (R), Sen. Jeff Clemens (D)

The worst bill in the Florida Legislature because of its effect on public safety and freedom of conscience. It adds sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to Florida’s Civil Rights Act of 1992 as impermissible grounds for discrimination. This bill provides a new way for LGBT individuals to sue employers and small businesses for discrimination.  Would allow men access to use women’s showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms.  

A full list of House and Senate co-sponsors.

HB 659 / SB 742 Creating Special Rights for LGBT Citizens in Housing

Sponsors: Rep. Holly Merrill Raschein (R), Sen. Jack Latvala (R)

Adds sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida’s Fair Housing Act as impermissible grounds for discrimination.  Provides a new way for those in the LGBT community to sue property owners, rental agencies, real estate firms, etc. for discrimination. Would allow men access into women’s domestic violence and homeless shelters. 

HB 273 / SB 578 Banning Conversion Therapy

Sponsors: Rep. David Richardson (D), Sen. Jeff Clemens (D)

This bill makes it unlawful for people in Florida who are licensed to provide professional counseling and others, like pastors who are licensed counselors, to counsel youth under the age of 18 struggling with their “sexual orientation and/or gender identity” to think and live in a heterosexual manner consistent with their biological gender, even if the child (as the patient) asks for their help to do so.

GAMBLING

SB 8 Gaming Expansion Bill

Sponsor: Sen. Bill Galvano (R)

This bill is a massive and unprecedented expansion of gambling in the State of Florida. It ratifies and amends the 2015 Seminole Gaming Compact to allow lottery tickets at gas pumps, slot machines, blackjack, poker games, and fantasy sports to be offered across Florida.  SB 8 would allow 24/7 slot machines in the state wherever approved in a countywide referendum and would permit free or reduced-price alcoholic beverages to be served to those using the slots.  Furthermore, it would allow horse and dog tracks to quit live races and replace the live races with other types of gambling while giving $20 million of taxpayer dollars annually to live thoroughbred racing.  Lastly, it creates an “Office of Amusements” to allow and oversee fantasy sports gaming.

ABORTION

HB 6025 / SB 1114 Abortion Funding and Abortion Clinic Records

Sponsors: Rep. Lori Berman (D), Sen. Jeff Clemens (D)

Removes a prohibition against taxpayer dollars going to organizations/clinics that perform abortions. Removes the requirement that the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) review at least 50% of patient records.

MARRIAGE

HB 6041 / SB 1174 Marriage Equality

Sponsors: Rep. David Richardson (D), Sen. Gary Farmer

Removes the language in the statute which prohibited same-sex couples from marrying and the State of Florida from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states. 

ALCOHOL

HB 81 / SB 106 Hard Liquor in Grocery Stores

Sponsors: Rep. Bryan Avila (R), Sen. Anitere Flores (R)

Often called “Whiskey and Wheaties,” this bill would allow grocery stores and large retail stores to sell hard liquor in their main store rather than building or renting a separate store to sell liquor. It would also allow stores to have an entrance that physically connects a liquor store with a retail store.  Lastly, it would also allow smaller, hard liquor bottles to be sold in larger bins next to other products giving greater access to both kids and shoplifters. 

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