Florida legislative update: Bills to watch

by Jeremiah Tattersall, Florida AFL-CIO – North Central Florida Central Labor Council

This is an incomplete list of bills to watch this legislative session. Contact Senator Perry at 352-264-4040 to make your opinion on these bills heard. 

Anti-Collective Bargaining  – HB 13 by Williamson limits the ability for public sector unions to represent their members by curtailing the activites union officials can engage in. 

Workers’ Compensation – SB 1636 by Perry / HB 1399 by Byrd drastically hurts workers who have been injured on the job. In 2003 the legislature radically altered Florida’s workers’ comp system by slashing benefits and capping attorney fees in an attempt to restrict the working class’ access to the courts. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that this cap on fees was unconstitutional and this bill attempts to graze the already low bar of unconstitutionality.

Preemption of Conditions of Employment – SB 432 by Gruters / HB 847 by Rommel bans local ordinances or regulations related to “conditions of employment.” Big business is pushing this in response to other states passing fair scheduling laws giving workers more consistent schedules. This bill can potentially preempt local wage theft ordinances, living wage ordinances, and human rights ordinances.  

Reigning in Abuse of Other Personal Services (OPS) Workers – HB 825 by Watson automatically moves OPS workers to non temporary status after one year of employment, denying OPS workers of any benefits including contributions to their social security, even after being employed by the state for years, or decades. 

Abolishing the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) – SJR 362 by Brandes / HJR 249 by Drake is one of the few bills that has bipartisan support. The CRC is empowered by Florida’s Constitution to meet every twenty years to discuss changes to the constitution with the ability to place proposed amendments directly on the ballot for voter consideration. The CRC is composed almost entirely of untouchable political appointees with incredible power. 

Attorney Fees and Costs – SB 1140 by Hutson / HB 829 by Sabatini – The Florida Legislature has been taking power away from local governments through preemption, and many have serious constitutional issues that have to be settled by the courts. These bills create an assumption that any preemption passed by the Legislature is constitutional and force municipalities to pay all legal costs anytime someone challenges the preemption, regardless of who wins the case.This bill forces local governments to cease consideration of local ordinance anytime someone threatens to sue.

Voting Rights Restoration SB 7086 / HB 7089 by Grant would institute a poll tax for the constitutional amendment that returned the right to vote for most felons in Florida. This bill requires previously incarcerated people to pay all of their fees associated with their sentence before they register to vote.

K-12 Education-School Choice – SB 7070  / HB 7075 is an education “train bill” with many negative aspects. The bill continues temporary unfair bonus schemes to compensate teachers, and involves a massive expansion of available vouchers, further eroding our traditional public schools and shifting millions from our public system into the private, for-profit system.

School Safety and Security – SB 7030 / HB 7093 by Sullivan is a massive legislative package that implements recommendations from last session’s Parkland School Safety Commission, which includes arming teachers. Although there are many good recommendations from the Commission, armed teachers is not one of them. 

Expansion of the “Bully Voucher” – SB 1410 by Diaz expands the Hope Scholarship program, which allows children believed to be bullied to transfer to a private or charter school at the public’s expense. The program is less than a year old, and this bill removes investigative actions and documentation that verify bullying incidents, while expanding transportation vouchers and elimination responsibility to ensure students are doing well in their new school.

Forced Local Funding for Charter Schools – SB 1028 by Hutson forces Alachua County and other school boards to share revenue from taxes with charter schools. Currently, charter schools get a higher percentage of PECO (construction dollars) funds, arguing that they can’t pass referenda for increased tax revenue. This change allows them to, and increases inequities.

Federal Immigration Enforcement – SB 168 by Gruters, SB 170 by Bean / HB 527 by Byrd is attempting to obstruct the power and authority of local governments to protect the civil rights of their communities; this bill forces local governments and officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities at a level that is not mandated or funded by the federal government; would authorize the Attorney General to sue local governments and officials who do not comply, and could force public sector employees to conduct immigration activities and reporting for which they are not trained or compensated. This isn’t just an attack on immigrant communities, this is another attack on local control, that could have negative impacts on local budgets and public sector workers everywhere. Florida has no “sanctuary cities.” This is a divisive messaging bill designed to marginalize an already marginalized community. 

Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment (fracking ban) SB 314 by Montford / SB 146 by Stewart / HB 239 by Fitzenhagen. This is the good ban on fracking while PCB/SB 7064 by Agriculture / HB 7029 by Raschein is a fake fracking ban. 

Elimination of Certificate of Need SB 1712 by Harrell / HB 21 by Fitzenhagen cancels the requirement for new hospitals to show a need before they are built. This is supposed to lower cost by increasing competition but studies have shown larger hospitals are safer for many procedures. Instead of dealing with the rising medical costs by expanding access to healthcare and regulating insurance companies the Legislature is attempting to errode the quality of care provided by larger, safetynet hospitals like Shands. 

Property Development SB 1730 by Lee / HB7103 by Fischer preempts many affordable housing initiatives that community activists are currently working on in the Alachua County area. 

Fetal Heartbeat SB 792 by Baxley / HB 235 by Hill would make it illegal for women to have abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. This happens typically 6 weeks after conception when many women are still unaware they are pregnant. 

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