by Jeremiah Tattersall
The 60-day legislative session is just over halfway over, but there’s still a lot of things that can happen until May 1, the last day of session. Below is a partial summary of some of the more interesting bills working their way through the legislative process.
Budget: The Florida House has passed their $76.2 billion budget, but it’s about $4 billion off from the proposed Senate budget and is almost entirely due to health care. Florida has continued its refusal to expand Medicaid due to Obamacare, which will now result in a loss of $2.2 billion hospital funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP) program. The LIP funding is crucial for hospitals that treat large populations of the working poor. The Senate budget has allocated money to fill this shortfall as well as $2.8 billion to expand a Medicaid-esque program in Florida. What’s more important for the Florida House — to help the working poor or to spite Obama?
Chances: Both budgets must be identical before the end of session. If LIP and Medicaid expansion isn’t fixed, there might need to be a special session called.
Bill: HB633/SB724 – the “abortion waiting period bill.”
Summary: This bill would require women seeking an abortion to receive counseling 24 hours before the procedure. This burdensome requirement isn’t imposed on any other medical procedure.
Chances: Very likely to pass this year. The bottleneck for this bill will be in the Senate. Call Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla at (850) 487-5040 and tell him to oppose the bill.
Bill: HB113/SB 778 – the anti-buy local bill.
Summary: When local governments are seeking to build something they often give a preference to local contractors in the belief that these tax dollars will be spent locally. This bill would stop this long-standing practice.
Chances: Very likely to pass. Call bill sponsor Rep Keith Perry at (850) 717-5021 to tell him to pull the bill.
Bill: HB1205/SB1468 – the Fracking bill.
Summary: This is the first step to opening up Florida to the environmentally damaging oil and gas extraction practice known as hydraulic fracturing. This process could prove even more damaging due to the unique aquifer structures in Florida.
Chances: Likely. Call Senator Ricter at (850) 487-5023 and tell him to pull his bad bill.
Budget: Florida Amendment 1 land acquisition dollars.
Summary: Amendment 1 was passed by 75% of the voters in 2014 and set aside some $740 million to purchase and maintain environmentally sensitive land. The House has proposed spending just $10 million and the Senate $35 million for land buying. Before 2009 the legislature regularly allocated $300 for land buying and Amendment 1 was meant to enhance this.
Chances: Tossup. Call Senator Dean at (850) 487-5005 and tell him to honor the will of the voters and fully fund the land acquisition program.
Bill: HB7111 – the gay adoption ban bill
Summary: This bill would allow private agencies to deny a family an adoption for moral reasons. It’s clear that this bill is meant to serve the religious right in the crusade against LGBTQ+ families.
Chances: Unlikely as there’s no senate companion bill filed.
Bill: HB583/SB1464 – the “continual Republican obsession with bathrooms and transgendered peoples” bill.
Summary – This bill would make it a crime for anyone to a bathroom that is different than their biological sex at birth. It is aimed at pre-empting local ordinances, like those in Alachua County and Gainesville, which allow transgendered people to use the bathroom of their preference. Despite there being no incidences of abuse of these local ordinances lawmakers are still seeking to squash this imaginary threat..
Chances: Tossup. The bill has stalled in the Senate but there’s still a chance it could make it to the floor. Call Senator Dean at (850) 487-5005 and tell him to pull this discriminatory bill.
Bill: HB7131/SB7020 – the corrections overhaul bill.
Summary – This bill would require use of force against inmates to be videotaped, make it a felony to abuse prisoners, and add other much needed oversights for our state prisons. Currently the Senate version would create an independent oversight commission for the corrections department. This much needed oversight commission is missing from the House version.
Chances: Unless the House agrees to the Senate version this bill will likely die. Call bill sponsor Rep. Trujillo at (850) 717-5105 and tell him that the Department of Corrections needs an oversight commission. D.