Week Four of Nine in the Florida Legislative Session
ALERT: THIS UPCOMING WEEK WILL BE A CRITICAL WEEK FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN FLORIDA! Dangerous legislation designed to punish Christians and business owners living out their faith in Florida is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
On Monday 2/8 at 1:30PM EST, in room 110 of the Senate Office Building (connected to the Capitol) the Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering SB 120: Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a dangerous piece of legislation mirroring LGBT initiatives occurring at city, county, and state levels here in Florida and across the nation which attempt to create a new protected class for the categories of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (SOGI).
NEW SOGI RESOURCE PAGE for talking points, videos or other resources about this topic and to prepare you for joining us in committee on Monday and for fighting these bad laws in your community click HERE
Please do not miss this important opportunity for your voice to be heard in the halls of our Capitol on critical legislation affecting religious liberty. It is imperative that our voices are heard on this issue. Liberal voices from organizations like Equality Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Organization for Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood, and even large “family” corporations like Disney and others will be flooding the Capitol to advocate for this harmful bill.
We strongly urge you to consider joining us at the Capitol on Monday. We need as many advocates for truth as possible to make their voices heard. Please take off work or do whatever is necessary to take a stand in Tallahassee for religious liberty. If you are unable to join us, we ask that you partner with us in prayer. We believe the prayer is a powerful and effective tool.
LOCAL VICTORY REPORTS: Our team is constantly monitoring and engaging these local Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity SOGI laws advances all across the state. There has been attempts at advancing these bad laws recently in Tampa, Pensacola, Jacksonville and Palm Bay. We have several victories to report on.
This week the SOGI law in Palm Bay was defeated by powerful 4-1 vote at 1:30am this past Friday morning after 6 1/2 hours of testimony and debate! Hundreds of local citizens showed up to oppose the bad law and it had a major effect. The overflow room was packed out and they even had loud speakers outside the building so everyone could hear the meeting. We lobbied behind the scenes and helped secured the Councilman votes to help ensure victory.Congratulations Palm Bay! News story and videoHERE:
Months ago we also had a victory in Tampa where the county charter revision commission proposed language to place their bad local SOGI ordinance on the ballot to become permanent in the County Charter. But the language was so poorly worded even Equality Florida opposed it! Our President John Stemberger was on hand and called to the meeting to testify as an expert on SOGI laws. Because even our opponents opposed the misguided proposal it was voted down easily by the commission.
Finally this past week in Jacksonville, we had a serious show of force when the Florida Family Policy Council planned a briefing and a press conference with over 150 of Jacksonville pastors who gathered to “Just Say No to the HRO!” This event came just day before the victory when Jax Mayor Lenny Curry announced he would not support the HRO, impling he will veto any version that comes across his desk. The Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) is a SOGI law that was defeated in 2012 and we are planning to mount major resources again to kill this bill. We also asked Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to have their client Barronelle Stutzman to come and testify to the Jacksonville City Council and she showed them exactly the consequence of these ugly laws which punish Christians. As seen on Fox News, Barronelle was the florist from the state of Washington who could not provide flowers for a homosexual wedding and is being prosecuted for this. It is very likely that Jacksonville will become the next Houston and this will be a battle that will draw national attention. Photo of our Jacksonville press event is above. One TV news footage of the event can be seen HERE:
Our President John Stemberger is headed to Pensacola this week to organize citizens of that community against the SOGI laws being proposed there.
GOOD NEWS: Floridians everywhere are catching on quickly to the lies and the deception involved with these bad SOGI laws and we will not rest till the last one is defeated.
Now, here’s what’s been happening in the halls of our Capitol in Tallahassee and around our state this week:
HB 1411: Termination of Pregnancies by Rep. Burton (R-Lakeland) was heard in its 2nd of 3 committees, Health care Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, passing 9-4. FFA’s Amber Kelly and Courtney Gager were able to briefly visit with Rep. Daphne Campbell (D-Miami Shores), a very strong pro-life legislator, while the bill was being discussed. Amber testified in support of the bill, you can watch the entire discussion of the bill HERE starting at minute 36:50.
Legislators opposed to the bill were very vocal and repeatedly tried to discredit arguments for various portions of the bill. Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) went so far as to give an emotional testimony about how Planned Parenthood helped her when she was a younger, low-income woman. Rep. Brodeur (R-Sanford) responded with another personal testimony revealing that he was adopted shortly after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe vs. Wade. Rep. Brodeur, who chairs the next committee where the bill will be heard, made it abundantly clear that he will not allow unqualified claims or attacks on the bill when it is heard in his committee, the last stop for the bill in the House.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 1722 by Sen. Stargel (R-Lakeland) is currently sitting in its final committee, Appropriations. There was no movement on any of the other life bills being considered by the Legislature this week.
HB 43: Pastor’s Protection Act by Rep. Plakon (R-Longwood) was heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Rep. José Rodrίguez (D-Miami) introduced an unfriendly amendment to the bill, which he said would codify what was actually happening in practice today – specifically, that churches would not be covered if they were deemed to be “public accommodations”. A church could be deemed a public accommodation if it operates daycare/VPK open to the public, hosts events open to the public, or rents space on church property for other events. This was a reaction to claims by groups like Equality Florida that the bill was a Trojan horse that would be amended to expand protections to others allowing them to discriminate and hurt those in the LGBT community. The amendment could have increased the likelihood of churches being targeted for lawsuits had it been adopted; however, the amendment FAILED.
Many pastors testified both in support of and opposition to the bill. Legislators in support of the bill were clear that the bill would do no harm and would only be applicable if legal action was initiated against pastors or churches. In addition, the bill would clearly indicate the legislative intent to protect religious liberty for pastors and churches to the courts allowing them to dismiss lawsuits brought against the protected pastors and churches. The bill ultimately passed favorably out of committee 12-5 with one Democrat crossing party lines in support of the bill.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 110 by Sen. Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) will be considered by the Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday next week at 10 AM.
STATE BUDGET & DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD
The Senate and House Appropriations committees both met on Wednesday to discuss their proposed budgets for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The Governor released his suggested budget earlier this year. Usually, the Senate and House must appoint members to take part in a joint committee to negotiate and reconcile both bills before voting on them in their respective chambers.
The proposed House budget includes language to block all state funds to Planned Parenthood. However, the same language is not currently included in the Senate’s proposed budget. This would be an example of where the House & Senate must reconcile their budgets. Click HERE for a recent article by the Tampa Bay Times on the House’s proposed budget to block state funds to Planned Parenthood that cites the Florida Family Policy Council’s campaign to have Florida Governor Rick Scott defund Planned Parenthood from receiving state tax payer dollars.
HB 1151: Relating to Parentage sponsored by Rep. Richardson (D-Miami Beach) was again heard by the Health Quality Subcommittee this week after the bill sponsor asked the bill to be temporarily postponed last week so that he could take time to make some adjustments to the bill. The bill sought to remove all references to gender in referencing a child’s parents, including on a child’s birth certificate, which FFA opposed. Rep. Richardson offered a late amendment to the bill, which would allow parents to choose whether they want the birth certificate to read mother, father, or parent on the appropriate lines. Public testimony was heard on the bill with those in the LGBT community coming out in full support of the bill and telling legislators that this was a necessary step. The bill passed out of committee favorably, with the adopted amendment, 10-0.
HB 669: Relating to Educational Choice by Rep. Sprowls (R-Clearwater) increases educational opportunities for Florida’s students by allowing students to attend any public school anywhere in the state, provided they are not at capacity. The bill was heard by the Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, passing favorably as a committee substitute by an 9-4 vote. It now moves on to the House Education Committee, its final committee before being sent to the House Floor. FFA supported the bill in committee and thanked the Representative afterwards for his commitment to protect the right of parents to determine their child’s education.
HB 835: Relating to Education by Rep. Eisnaugle (R-Orlando) protects the right of parents to educate their child in a manner they deem is in the best interest of their child, without fear of government overreach or intrusion. The bill also provides the opportunity for home school students to access certain school district programs and resources, and removes some of the financial and educational barriers that have put home schoolers at an unintentional disadvantage to other Florida public school students. The bill was heard by the House Education Committee Thursday, and enjoyed bipartisan support in a unanimous vote. The Senate version of the bill has not yet been heard by a committee.
The Senate Regulated Industries Committee met again this week. They did not discuss the Seminole Gaming Compact as they have for the last two weeks (although many lobbyists & activists from the Seminole Tribe of Florida were in Tallahassee advocating for the adoption of the Compact this week). They did address a bill regarding the sale of lottery tickets in the state. Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon) introduced SB 790: State Lottery and argued that the state government has become far too dependent on revenue generated by the lottery and that the revenue was disproportionately generated from low-income neighborhoods. Sen. Lee seeks to remedy this situation by imposing limits on the amount of lottery tickets that can be purchased at a time (20) and the maximum dollar amount of a scratch-off ticket (from $25 to $10).
Questions were asked both by Senators on the Committee and in public testimony about how the state was going to replace the revenue loss that would occur as a result of the enactment of this bill. While Sen. Lee had no concrete answer, he insisted that the state needed to pass this bill to rectify the situation that has communities least able to afford paying higher taxes from doing so.
The bill passed its final Senate committee 8-2, and will now head to the Senate Floor. FFA supported this incremental restriction on gambling in the state.
The Seminole Compact (in bill form) and two other gambling bills related to the Compact are soon to be released, according to House Regulatory Affairs Committee Chairman Jose Diaz (R-Miami). One bill is specific to the contract, the other two relate to parimutuels and a constitutional amendment. These bills are rumored to be released before the weekend.
HB 527: Opposing Commercial Boycotts of Israel Rep. Workman (R-Melbourne) unanimously passed its final House Committee today and is now ready to be discussed on the floor of the full House and voted on by every State Representative. The Senate version of the bill, SB 86, has already been sent over to the House, after it was passed by the Senate. The two bills are similar, but will need to be amended to match, or else the Senate bill will need to be substituted for the House bill and voted on by the House.