Insider’s Report: Week 8 of 9, Florida Legislative Session
The 2023 Legislative Session is almost over, as Week 8 comes to completion.
The Capitol was mostly quiet, except for on Thursday, when over 200 LGBT pro-drag queen activists in red shirts, including some dressed as drag queens, gathered at the Capitol, both for a rally in the courtyard and for a loud protest inside the building between the House and Senate door openings. The rally centered on opposition to the legislature’s recent actions to protect Florida’s children from being sexualized in both the public schools and the public square from being exposed to sexualized adult performances like so called “drag shows.”
A video of the protesters chanting can be found here:
The pace of session in the second to last week has slowed greatly as the main committees have completed their work and all activity has moved to the House and Senate floors for final debate and passage of the remaining bills on the agenda. Floor sessions are now in full swing, lasting from around 10 am to around 6 pm, depending on the volume of bills on the agenda for the day.
Any bills that did not make it through all their assigned committees are all dead at this point. Final negotiations on bills which have passed both houses but have different language (either the Senate or House language) are still under way.
Additionally, FFPC helped gain a victory during participation in behind-the-scenes discussions on a groundbreaking immigration bill. The focus was on early draft language from SB 1718 trying to prevent the incidents of human traffickers and smuggling attempts. But the bill unintentionally would have applied criminal penalties to churches, pregnancy care centers, medical clinics and ordinary citizens engaged in helping and ministering to undocumented people already here. FFPC was able to work with numerous coalition partners, along with the Governor’s office and Senate sponsor, to clarify the language to make sure human traffickers are brought to justice and properly punished, while ensuring that churches and other community-based ministries were protected to continue to minister to individuals in need, regardless of immigration status. FFPC commends the Governor and legislative sponsors for their willingness to work together on striking a proper balance on this critical application of the legislation. The fix to the bill now only creates criminal penalties to people who are bringing illegal immigrants into Florida across state lines. It does not affect anyone caring for people who are already here.
Below, we have listed the top bills still alive this session that Florida Family Policy Council is tracking, along with the latest updates on each. With the name and number of the bill is also a summary of each and links to each bill’s text. You can always keep track of all of our priority bills on our website, which will be updated as new priorities arise.
As always, our Legislative Affairs Director Aaron DiPietro is on the ground full time during the session, engaging with legislators, testifying in committee, and working to advance our priority bills through the process, and he will be providing regular updates on our social media platforms; in addition, we will also provide email updates weekly throughout the session.
For real-time updates follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, or sign up for text alerts here.
Thank you again for your support,
SUPPORT 1. HB 7/SB 300 Heartbeat Protection Act (Rep. Persons-Mulicka/Sen. Grall)
Description: The proposal protects the unborn after 6 weeks, the time period at which a heartbeat can be detected, the strongest protections for the unborn in Florida post-Roe. Secondly, the legislation also prohibits state funding to be used for transporting mothers out of state to receive abortions. Thirdly, the bill prohibits the mailing of chemical abortion prescriptions and that a doctor must be present in person to prescribe such medications and to perform surgical abortions, cutting off the ability of clinics to use non-medical staff to conduct abortions or use telehealth to prescribe those abortion drugs. Finally, the bill expands support for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, providing needed resources for mothers in unexpectant pregnancies.
Action: SB 300 passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor DeSantis!
Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Conscience
SUPPORT 1. HB 1403/SB 1580 Medical Conscience Protection Act (Rep. Rudman/ Sen. Trumbull)
Description: The bill would protect the rights of medical doctors, nurses, or other providers, as well as religious medical facilities, to practice their conscience convictions in their healthcare practices. Specifically, no medical professional or entity could be forced to recommend, participate in, and provide nonemergency medical procedures and actions that would violate their sincerely held convictions and beliefs. For example, no doctor would be forced to perform an abortion, and no nurse would be compelled to participate in a “sex-reassignment” surgery, among other actions that could violate their rights of conscience.
This proposal also provides protections to health care professionals from being penalized, reprimanded, or deprived of their licenses for exercising their freedom of speech by private medical certification boards.
Action: HB 1403 has passed all committee stops and is expected to come up for a final vote next week. On Friday, SB 1580 passed off the Senate floor, 28,11, on a party-line vote, and now heads to the House.
SUPPORT 1. HB 1421/SB 254 Gender Interventions on Minors Act (Rep. Fine/Sen. Yarborough)
Description: The bill seeks to bans anyone from subjecting minors to dangerous “sex change” hormone treatments or so-called gender reassignment surgeries. It also establishes provisions for affected minors to have opportunities to seek damages from the individuals and entities that subjected them to the harmful treatments in the first place.
Action: SB 254 passed the full Senate by a vote of 27-12, with Sen. Gayle Harrell being the only no vote in the GOP caucus. The House also passed SB 254, with amendments, 82-31, on a party line vote. The amended version heads back to the Senate for a final vote there.
SUPPORT 2. HB 1423/SB 1438 Protecting Children from Adult Entertainment Act (Rep. Fine/Sen. Yarborough)
Description: The bill establishes penalties for private businesses that allow children to have access to adult entertainment venues, including sexually explicit drag shows. Penalties range from serious fines for initial offences, to loss of business license for repeat offences. It also restrict local government agencies and municipalities from permitting such events on public property or in publicly owned buildings where children are allowed to access.
Action: After SB 1438 passed the full Senate on a 28-12 party line vote, it also passed the full House, 82-32, also on a party line vote, and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
SUPPORT 3. HB 1521/SB 1674 Safety in Private Spaces Act (Rep. Plakon/Sen. Grall)
Description: The bill aims to codifying that certain private spaces such as restrooms, lockers, showers, and certain sleeping quarters, among other categories are to be kept separated by biological sex for the purposes of public safety and privacy. The legislation applies to government buildings, including educational institutions and correctional facilities, among many other state owned or leased facilities.
Action: SB 1674 passed the final committee stop, Fiscal Policy, 14-6, and is waiting for the final Senate vote. HB 1521 passed the full House floor, 80-37 and has been sent to the Senate.
Description: This bill expands the Florida Education Scholarships to all students statewide, allowing the tax dollars to follow the child to the school of the parent’s choice, allowing parents to determine how their children are educated. This act will revolutionize school choice here in the state of Florida and allow parents, who would otherwise be forced to have their children in public schools, the freedom to choose other options. The bill exempts traditional home education from the bill’s oversight for those homeschoolers who decline to use the funds and establishes a separate category in state statute for those who choose to homeschool and receive the funds, under the category of personalized education plans.
Victory Alert: The governor has signed HB 1!
SUPPORT 2. HB 1223/HB 1069/SB 1320 Parental Rights in Education Act (Rep. Anderson/Rep. McClain/Sen. Yarborough)
Description: The proposal seeks to further build on Parent’s Rights in Education law by expanding the prohibition on classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to cover PreK-8th grades. The bill also seeks to protect students and school employees from being forced to use preferred pronouns when those pronouns do not correspond with biological sex realities. The bill also mandates any teaching in higher grades be tied to teaching biological sex as the basis of gender. It also eliminates the sex ed supplemental materials loophole which unintentionally allowed explicit material if the material was considered “supplemental”, ensuring that all materials in the classroom must meet the same standards. And finally, the proposal adds additional rights for parents to have access to materials in the classroom and rectify violations of the provision.
Action: HB 1069, (which also includes the language of HB 1223) passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. SB 1320 passed all committees and is awaiting a full Senate vote.
SUPPORT 3. HB 379/SB 52 Student Social Media and Devices Safety Act (Rep. Yeager/Sen. Burgess)
Description: This proposal seeks to protect young students in their usage of electronic devices while in public school. Public school servers must block access to certain inappropriate websites and block access to all social media platforms for students using those servers. In addition, strict standards on electronic device usage in the classrooms are required to be set and select educational staff are to undergo training on recognizing and addressing the dangers of social media.
Action: HB 379 passed the House floor, 110-0, and also passed the Senate floor, 39-0, with an amendment. The amended version was returned to the House for one additional final vote.
Other Related Issues
SUPPORT 1. HB 1013/SB 252 COVID Non-Discrimination Health Act (Rep. Griffitts/ Sen. Burton)
Description: The proposal prohibits business entities, governmental entities, and educational institutions from mandating masking, Covid testing, or Covid vaccination requirements upon their customers or employees, to ensure their rights of religious freedom, conscience, and medical choice are protected. The legislation also requires that hospitals allow their doctors to provide a variety of treatments to address Covid cases and prohibits the hospitals from penalizing the doctors in any way for doing so.
Action: SB 252 passed all committees and is awaiting a final Senate floor vote. On Monday, HB 1013passed the Commerce Committee, 11-4, and now heads to the House floor for a final vote.