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Florida Family Policy Council's 

Legislative Insider's Report 

2017 Legislative Session - Week 7 of 9

FL House in Session

The Florida House in Session

The question on everyone's mind this week is "Will they or won't they?"  Speculation is running rampant in the Capitol as to whether or not the Legislature will finish its business before the end of the normal 60-day session, which is May 5th.  There are a number of issues which have yet to be resolved, most importantly the budget.  We've heard that the Joint Legislative Budget Commission likely won't meet until next Wednesday, which doesn't give them much time to conduct their business.  The budget is the one thing that the Legislature must do each legislative session.  Another important issue before the Legislature this year is gambling in the state. The House and Senate seem to be miles apart on the issue and while the SunSentinel reported that the Gaming Conference Committee would be meeting on Thursday at 4 pm, it was never formally announced.  It was then canceled according to the SunSentinel once the Florida Supreme Court approved the language for a constitutional amendment which would require voter approval of the expansion of gambling in the state. 

Another issue that needs to be resolved this year is the implementation of Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in the state.  Both House and Senate committees heard implementing bills for Amendment 2 this week.  The House bill bans smoking, vaping, and edibles and requires a doctor to have at least a 90-day relationship with a patient before marijuana can be prescribed.  Opponents to these measures said that these restrictions were unacceptable.  While some legislators agreed that 90 days is too long for patients to wait for medical marijuana, representatives were less willing to accept claims that Floridians voted for the right to smoke marijuana.  During debate, multiple members made it clear that some of the provisions would change when it goes to conference with the Senate.  The measure passed its second committee in a 16-8 vote, along party lines. It will likely be heard in its final committee next Monday.  

The Senate bill implementing medical marijuana is not identical to the House version and opponents’ comments centered around the limited licensing of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.  The bill passed 6-1 and will likely be heard in its final committee next Tuesday (the last day of regularly scheduled committee meetings).  

Now for some of 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 Judiciary Committee heard this bill on Wednesday. Once again, the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar testified against this good bill, essentially demanding the program be changed in order to support the bill; their requested changes would destroy the program by essentially expanding foster care and requiring government interference in this remarkable program.  While the Family Law Section claims they are only looking out for the best interest of children, their motives seem to be more about making sure their lawyers stay in business.  Despite Sen. Anitere Flores’ concerns with the bill it passed in a 6-2 vote.  This bill is scheduled to be heard in its final committee next Tuesday. 

 

LIFE 

AK with Sen. Bean.jpg

Amber Kelly with Sen. Aaron Bean

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 coercive nor contain religious content.

This bill was scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services committee on Tuesday, but due to a busy agenda and a medical emergency during the committee meeting meant that it was not considered.  According to Senate rules, the meeting could not be extended without a motion from the floor of the Senate.  Unfortunately, this means the bill is dead for the year as it was the committee’s final meeting of the year. 

 

EDUCATION 

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.  

HB 833 is scheduled to be picked up the full House next Tuesday. 

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 passed the bill on Wednesday in a 117-0 vote. 

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

AK with Rep. Fine.jpg

Amber Kelly with Rep. Randy Fine

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. 

During its final committee stop on Thursday, the House bill was amended to eliminate the state Algebra II end-of-course exam, require paper-based state language arts and math tests for third- through sixth-grade, move the state testing window to later in the spring, and shrink it to a shorter time frame and change the value-added model of evaluating teachers.  The bill was passed unanimously out of the Education committee.  SB 906 is dead for the year, but the amendment makes it similar to SB 926, which would eliminate more end-of-course exams, extend paper testing to more grades and detach the value-added model for teacher evaluations. That bill has cleared all of its committees and is ready to be picked up by the full Senate.


GAMING 

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 House bill was passed quickly out of its final committee on Wednesday in a 26-2 vote, with only Rep. Tom Goodson (R) and Rep. Richard Stark (D) voting no on the measure. 

The Senate version was passed out its second committee on Wednesday as well.  Members of the Senate Judiciary committee questioned the bill sponsor as to whether the warning could also print something like “For help, call…”. While that is not currently in the bill, it could be amended to the bill and would be a positive change to a good bill.  The vote was 5-3 with Sen. Audrey Gibson (D) once again commenting that the lottery is not gambling, but rather funding for education.   This bill may be scheduled for its final committee next Tuesday, the final day for regularly scheduled committee meetings. 

 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

HB 1383 / SB 852 Child Victims of Human Trafficking 
Sponsors: Rep. Jeanette Nuņez (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.

This bill is scheduled to be picked up by the full House next Tuesday.

HB 1165 / SB 972 Victims of Human Trafficking
Sponsor: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Randolph Bracy (D)

This bill allows victims of human trafficking to sue the individuals who engaged in their trafficking, including businesses who profited from their trafficking.

On Monday, this bill was heard in Senate Criminal Justice and passed favorably in a 7-0 vote.  The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled this bill for its Wednesday meeting and also passed it in a 7-0 vote.  It will hopefully be heard in its final committee next week and move on to the Senate floor, despite its late movement during the legislative session.  

HB 1167 / SB 970 Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Sponsor: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Randolph Bracy (D)

This bill establishes a trust fund to compensate victims and pay their legal fees, pay for human trafficking education and awareness training for communities, and advertise the national human trafficking hotline.  Finances for the trust fund will come from court penalties, civil actions, seizure of properties used by traffickers, and donations from outside sources or the Legislature. 

On Monday, this bill was heard in Senate Criminal Justice and passed favorably in a 7-0 vote.  The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled this bill for its Wednesday meeting and also passed it in a 7-0 vote.  It will hopefully be heard in its final committee next week and move on to the Senate floor, despite its late movement during the legislative session.  

 

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. 

 

ALCOHOL

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. 

While we previously believed this bill might be dead for the year, it may have been resurrected.  The bill is on the Special Order Calendar for next Tuesday. We hear the lobbying corps has been out there pounding the pavement working on members to get them to vote yes on this bad bill. 

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