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Killed bills: What Northeast Florida lawmakers wanted to do, but couldn't

The Florida House of Representatives gives Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls a standing ovation after Sprowls gave his farewell speech on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Wilfredo Lee
The Florida House of Representatives gives Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls a standing ovation after Sprowls gave his farewell speech on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

As hotly debated bills grabbed the spotlight — like the Stop WOKE Act and the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill — hundreds of other ideas were withdrawn or died in committee this legislative session.

The failed plans by Jacksonville-area lawmakers included proposals for a local spaceport authority, increased transparency from nursing homes and a longer eviction window.

Here are 10 of the changes Northeast Florida lawmakers had in mind, before they were stymied:

1. Kids' hearing aids: A proposal by Rep. Robert Brannan, R-Macclenny, would have required health insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for kids, but it failed on the House floor despite garnering bipartisan support. Instead, facing objections from insurance companies, lawmakers allocated $5 million in the state budget to help families buy hearing aids.

2. Nursing home transparency: Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, filed a bill that would have limited nursing home manager salaries and required more transparency about the cost of care. Her Nursing Home Accountability bill died in the Legislature, but a related, Republican-backed bill that increases financial reporting and auditing requirements for nursing homes passed unanimously.

3. Parental leave: Two Jacksonville Democrats, Reps. Angie Nixon and Tracie Davis, filed a bill that would have required employers to offer paid parental leave. It also would have banned retaliation against employees who take parental leave. The plan died in both the House and Senate, as did a bill that would have created a state medical leave trust fund.

4. Spaceport authority: Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, sponsored bills aimed at establishing a Northeast Florida Regional Spaceport Authority. The authority would have been tasked with luring business from aerospace companies to Northeast Florida, but the plan died in committee. Florida already has a statewide space agency, Space Florida.

5. Police harassment: Bean also tried to make it a misdemeanor for someone to "directly or indirectly harass the law enforcement officer" after a warning to approach. The bill died almost immediately in committee.

6. Eviction window: Nixon filed a bill that would have required landlords to give evicted tenants who are pregnant or who have kids in the home, three months to move out. Currently, under Florida law, tenants have three days to move out after being evicted.

7. Social media literacy: Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, wanted the State Board of Education to develop a social media literacy curriculum for kids. School boards also would have been required to make the instructional material available online for parents. The House and Senate bills died in committee.

8. Virtual school in jail: Rep. Sam Garrison, R-Fleming Island, filed a bill that would have required Florida Virtual School to established a Justice Education Program for young people incarcerated in facilities run by the state's Department of Corrections. Florida Virtual School also would have been required to perform assessments on incarcerated students and report results to the state. The plan received bipartisan support but died before a full House vote.

9. Crimes by immigrants: Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, tried to increase the punishment for crimes if they are committed by undocumented migrants. Under his plan, misdemeanor crimes would have been reclassified as felonies, but only for undocumented immigrants. The plan failed, but other legislation aimed at illegal immigration did pass, including a bill by Sen. Bean to stop government agencies from contracting with transportation companies that have transported undocumented migrants into Florida.

10. Equity office: In stark contrast to the Stop WOKE Act backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, tried to establish an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the governor’s office. The new office would have responsible for creating and implementing a strategic plan to combat systemic racism. The office also would have planned implicit bias training for state employees.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.