Legislative Insider’s Report: Weeks 5 and 6 of 9

Florida Family Policy Council’s 

Legislative Insider’s Report 

2017 Legislative Session – Weeks 5 and 6 (of 9 weeks)

Dear Friend,

We hope this message finds you and your family well and that you had a blessed celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this past weekend. 

We are sorry that we missed sending you week 5 of our Insider’s Report, but we’ve included it in this week’s report.  The Legislature slowed down a bit in Week 6 because of Passover and Good Friday, but for the days that the Legislature was in session this week, each chamber began passing their version of the budget and most of the normal committee meetings were canceled.  

Tally FAMU.JPG

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) met in Tallahassee this past week and several local residents made statements at the public hearing held at Florida A&M University. At every city the CRC has held a public hearing in thus far, many citizen’s have testified and expressed concerned about Article 1, Section 23, Florida’s Privacy Clause which was enacted in 1980 by a vote of 60% of voters to protect citizens from the government collecting private information.  But nine years after it was passed in 1989, the Florida Supreme Court ignored the legislative intent and history of the amendment and suddenly found a fundamental right to abortion for a minor child in the clause in case of In Re: T.W. A Minor, 551 So. 2d 1186 (1989).  There has been a strong show of support of pro-lifers and constitutionalists asking the CRC to fix the privacy clause. Planned Parenthood supporters are also appearing asking the CRC to protect Florida’s very strong right to abortion. Interestingly, none of the mainstream media covering the hearings have reported this issue accurately.  We reported several weeks ago that our President, John Stemberger was appointed for the next year and a half to the CRC by Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran.  The CRC only gathers every 20 years as per the Florida Constitution.  For more information on upcoming public hearings in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Panama City and Tampa check out the official website at FloridaCRC.gov

Rep. David Richardson

Rep. David Richardson on the House floor
Credit: Scott Keeler, TB Times

During Week 5, there was a move by Rep. David Richardson (D) to add non-discrimination language for sexual orientation and gender identity to a bill regulating ridesharing companies (i.e. Uber, Lyft).  Rep. Richardson who is one of two openly gay-identified legislators in Florida, filed two separate amendments to the bill.  The first stated that these services are public accommodations and adding the non-discrimination language to the law governing public accommodations (adding some of the most controversial parts of the Competitive Workforce Act to statute). This amendment failed in a voice vote. Rep. Richardson then moved to the next proposed amendment which would require each company’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This also failed in a voice vote, but Democrats then forced a roll call vote (meaning we know how each member voted).  We expect to see more of these types of moves in the future and will be on the lookout for them.

The biggest news out of Week 6 in the Legislature was in the House during Floor Debate on a controversial bill which allocates $200 million to “Schools of Hope”.  Schools of Hope are charter schools which are established within 5 miles of perpetually failing schools; however, the organizations establishing these schools must have a proven track record of success within impoverished communities.  Prior to the debate, Rep. Shevrin Jones (D) held a press conference with Tallahassee mayor and extreme left wing Democrat, gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum opposing the bill.  All told, the House spent over five hours debating the measure this week before passing it 77-40 along party lines.  The Senate then picked up the bill but refused to pass the House language meaning it will be sent to committee.

Now for the action report from Amber Kelly, our Communications and Political Director, on the bills that we’re most closely monitoring… 

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 helps families in crisis by allowing parents to place their children with respite care families temporarily while they work to better the situation for the entire family (whether it is seeking treatment for addiction, finding a job, etc.) This program is for families where there are no allegations of abuse/neglect which would cause DCF to remove the children from their home.  

The Senate version was heard in its first committee during Week 5.  Despite the 5-0 vote in favor of the bill, senators expressed concern about some of the provisions of the bill. Some of the senators’ concerns were based on a misunderstanding of the situations in which the program operates. Specifically, some senators were concerned that the program is for families dealing with troubled youth, which is not the case.  The Family Law section of the Florida Bar opposes the bill; it appears their opposition is solely because they believe lawyers need to be involved in the process and a foster-care lite system should be implemented. Florida Family Action is continuing to support the bill and encourage senators to support this highly successful, worthwhile program. The Senate Judiciary committee will be hearing the bill next Wednesday.

The full House heard this bill in second reading on Tuesday and passed it in a 96-16 vote on Wednesday. The nay votes primarily centered around concerns over notifying a non-custodial parent that the custodial parent was going to enter into a respite care agreement.  Rep. Lori Berman (D) proposed two amendments to require notification prior to an agreement, which does not always work in crisis situations requiring immediate care or changing the notification period from five days to two. Both amendments failed. 

LIFE 

HB 969 / SB 1130 Pregnancy Support Services 
Sponsors: Rep. Jackie Toledo (R) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R) 

This bill would require the Department of Health to contract with a network of crisis pregnancy centers to provide support services for women who suspect or know they are pregnant for the term of their pregnancy through the first year of the child’s life.  The services provided cannot be noncoercive nor contain religious content.

The full House heard this bill in second reading during Week 5 and passed it in a 79-38 vote, but not before House Democrats spent both days grilling bill sponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo (R).  Claiming that they were concerned with center standards and rising costs, Democrats opposed this bill. Perhaps the most shocking statements were made regarding ensuring that women had access to abortions and their opposition to providers who were pro-life.  If you have a few extra moments, be sure to thank Rep. Toledo for her sponsorship of this bill and standing strong during the hours she was questioned on the House floor. 

The Senate version of this bill is scheduled to be heard in its second committee stop (of three) next Tuesday. While time is running short, this bill can still pass this legislative session. 

EDUCATION 

Amber Kelly with Sen. Tom Lee

Amber Kelly presenting Sen.  Tom Lee (R)
with the “Champion of the Family” award

HB 1391 / SB 1556 Clarifying Homeschool Requirements 
Sponsors: Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (R), Sen. Tom Lee (R)

This bill seeks to ensure that school districts cannot interfere with a family’s decision to homeschool once they are provided proper notice unless they receive corroborated outside evidence that the children are not being educated properly.

The House bill was very quickly passed out of its final committee on Thursday morning during week 5 in a unanimous vote by the Education Committee.  It is headed to the floor of the House, but the Senate version has yet to pass its first committee. The Senate bill was heard in a workshop this week but has not been scheduled for a vote.  FFA requested that the committee chair schedule the bill for a vote, but it has not yet been granted.

HB 833 / SB 692 Revising Student Eligibility for Virtual School 
Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

This bill removes a requirement that 2nd through 5th graders be enrolled in a public school in the year prior to enrolling in virtual school.  

The House bill passed favorably out of its final committee unanimously and is now on 2nd reading in the House.  It has not yet been put on the Special Order calendar to be heard. 

The Senate version was heard in an Education Committee workshop but has not yet been voted on to pass it to the next committee.  A similar bill, SB 868, which includes provisions regarding open enrollment and Florida Virtual School is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday in its second (of three) committee. 

Amber Kelly with Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R)

Amber Kelly with Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R)


HB 15 / SB 1314 Expanding the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), Sen. Denise Grimsley (R) 

This bill expands the students who are eligible for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

The House bill passed out of its final committee and is scheduled to be heard in the full House next Tuesday. During its final committee stop, the bill was amended to once again include an expansion of the Gardiner Scholarship Program (which had been removed during its first committee stop due to funding concerns).

The Senate version was scheduled to be heard by the Education Committee but wasn’t during week 5. It is once again scheduled for consideration in that committee for next Monday. The Education Committee is the first stop out of four total for the Senate bill so it must start moving quickly if it is to pass this year.

HB 549 / SB 906 Publication of State Assessment Tests for Parental and Educational Review 
Sponsors: Rep. Randy Fine (R), Sen. Greg Steube (R), House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee

This bill seeks to require the publication of certain state assessment tests every three years.  Currently, no one has access to the questions on these exams, including the Department of Education nor any government officials.  Students are being told that they cannot tell anyone the content of test questions, including their parents. 

The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee passed its version of the bill unanimously, but it has not yet been scheduled to be heard in Education (the final stop).  The Senate bill still has not been scheduled for a vote in its first committee (although it has been workshopped). 

GAMING 

Rep. LaRosa Closing HB 7037

Rep. Mike LaRosa (R) closing on HB 7037

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.

This bill was scheduled to be heard by the full House during week 5. Upon the introduction of the bill, the House picked up the Senate gambling bill (SB 8) and amended it to conform it to HB 7037.  During both the 2nd and 3rd reading, while some members chose to participate in questions and debate, it was largely understood that a conference committee would be convened to negotiate the vast differences between the chambers’ bills.  The bill was passed 73-40, along party lines.  The Senate refused to concur and a conference committee has been announced with the following members: Sen. Galvano (Alternating Chair – R), Rep. J Felix Diaz (Alternating Chair -R), Sen. Benacquisto (R), Sen. Braynon (D), Sen. Flores (R), Rep. Geller (D), Sen. Hutson (R), Rep. La Rosa (R), Rep. Metz (R), Rep. Moskowitz (D), Rep. Nunez (R).and Sen. Thurston (D).  It remains to be seen whether the House and Senate will be able to come to terms regarding gaming this year.  FFA continues to encourage the House to stay strong on its bill to restrict the expansion of gaming long-term. 

Senate Regulated Industries

HB 937 / SB 1370  Warnings for Lottery Games
Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), Sen. Keith Perry (R), House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee

This bill would require a warning placed on lottery tickets that lottery games can be addictive.

The bill was heard in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee (first of three committees) and passed 7-3. Sen. Gibson (D) opposed the bill because she does not believe the lottery is gambling. There was no action on the House version of the bill.

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 assisting victims, and requires officials to follow up with victims within six months to evaluate services used and their effectiveness.

The House bill passed out of its final committee unanimously and is on 2nd reading for consideration by the full House.  The Senate version was passed out of its final committee, was placed on the Special Order calendar, and is scheduled for 3rd reading and final vote next Tuesday. 

HB 1165 / SB 972 Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Sponsor: Rep. Ross Spano (R), House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee

This bill allows victims of human trafficking to sue the individuals who engaged in their trafficking.  

The House version has passed out of its final committee and will be placed on the 2nd reading calendar next week.  The Senate version had been scheduled to be heard in its first committee during week 5, but was postponed.  The bill is scheduled to be heard in its first committee next week and will also be heard in its second committee (Judiciary) if the first committee passes it favorably.  We thank Sen. Greg Steube (R), who chairs Senate Judiciary, for placing it on his agenda this week. 

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 codifies the current state of religious liberty in public schools. It prohibits a school district from discriminating against students, parents, or school personnel on the basis of religious viewpoints or expression and clarifies 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.

This bill was placed on the Special Order Calendar in week 5. Once the bill was read, the Senate version was picked up and amended to conform to the House version of the bill.  With very little fanfare, the bill was passed 114-3 and sent back to the Senate to either concur or refuse (sending it to conference). It remains to be seen what will happen with the bill, although Senate President Negron opened session stating that this bill was a priority for him.   

ISRAEL

HB 281 / SB 574 Opposing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334
Sponsors: Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D), Sen. Kevin Rader (D)

This Resolution pronounces that the Legislature opposes and requests the repeal or fundamental alteration of UN Resolution 2334, 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.  It calls on the US to ensure that the UN Resolution 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.

The Senate adopted the Resolution by voice vote during week 5.

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 CWA 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 and would allow men access to use women’s showers, locker rooms, bathrooms, women’s domestic violence shelters, etc.  

This bill which we have described as the worst bill proposed in the Florida Legislature due to its effect on public safety and religious liberty has not been scheduled to be heard in committee.  We continue to educate legislators on the dangers of this piece of legislation, and it continues to be dead on arrival despite some liberal Republican support. 

GAMBLING

SB 8 Gaming Expansion Bill 
Sponsor: Sen. Bill Galvano (R)

This bill was amended by the House to conform to its good gambling bill. The Senate refused to concur and the two chambers will convene in conference to iron out their differences. The following legislators were named to the conference committee:  Sen. Galvano (Alternating Chair – R), Rep. J Felix Diaz (Alternating Chair -R), Sen. Benacquisto (R), Sen. Braynon (D), Sen. Flores (R), Rep. Geller (D), Sen. Hutson (R), Rep. La Rosa (R), Rep. Metz (R), Rep. Moskowitz (D), Rep. Nunez (R).and Sen. Thurston (D).  It remains to be seen whether the House and Senate will be able to come to terms regarding gaming this year.  FFA continues to encourage the House to stay strong in its resolve to restrict the expansion of gaming long-term. 

HB 149 / SB 592 Fantasy Gaming
Sponsors: Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), Sen. Dana Young (R)

The bill effectively legalizes fantasy sports contests in Florida and states that it is not gambling.

This bill unanimously passed the House Ways & Means Committee (second of three committees) during Week 5. This bill has met with no resistance in the House to date. While the Senate companion has not moved, the larger Senate gaming bill (SB 8) does address fantasy gaming.  If the two chambers are able to come to an agreement on a gambling bill, we wonder if this might be part of the package. 

ALCOHOL

Amber Kelly with Rep. Scott Plakon.jpg

  Amber Kelly with Rep. Scott Plakon (R)

HB 81 / SB 106 Hard Liquor in Grocery Stores 
Sponsors: Rep. Bryan Avila (R), Sen. Anitere Flores (R)

Dubbed “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. 

This bill was placed on the Special Order Calendar for the 2nd time and then postponed once again while the House was in session.  Rep. Scott Plakon (R) proposed two amendments to the bill which opponents say are meant to kill the bill. One of the measures would require all store employees in a retail store selling hard liquor to be at least 21 years of age.  Rep. Plakon believes this is good public policy and expands the choices that retailers currently have; it allows them to sell alcohol in their main store but ensures that those who are underage won’t be responsible for liquor sales. 

With two postponements and the fact that it hasn’t been scheduled for the third time, we believe this bill is dead for the year. 

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