Florida Legislature

State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville
News Service of Florida

A years-long effort to block local governments from regulating vacation rentals is on the move again, as House and Senate leaders revive a proposal to prevent cities and counties from inspecting and licensing properties offered on platforms such as Airbnb.

Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus members are calling on Republicans to hear their bills. It’s not unusual for Democrats to struggle to get their proposals before committees in the Republican-led chambers. But the social justice protests over the summer and increased focus on health disparities during the pandemic have caucus members saying their proposals are too important to be ignored.

Legislation Banning Assault Weapons Filed

Feb 10, 2021

Gun safety advocates are backing legislation they say would make mass shootings less deadly. The groups want lawmakers to ban the sale of assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines.

A proposed bill would make the sale, transfer or possession of military-grade weapons or large-capacity magazines illegal. Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale) says if the rule was in place prior to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, more people would’ve survived.

“If Nicholas Cruz had just had to reload more often fewer people would be dead today," said Farmer.

A worker is silhouetted against the setting sun as he works on a power line in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Florida on Sept. 12, 2017.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Richard Gentry, a lobbyist and former longtime general counsel of the Florida Home Builders Association, was unanimously approved with no debate Tuesday to represent the public in utility regulatory cases. 

90,000.

That's about how many fewer students are enrolled in public schools this year. It's also a number that could determine everything from school funding to how the state should count student test scores, and it's a figure that's weighing heavily on the minds of lawmakers that will have to come up with plans to address COVID-19's impact on education.

When a police dog is injured on the job, Florida lawmakers want to ensure the animal can get care as quickly as possible.

Sen. Tom Wright (R-Port Orange) is sponsoring a measure to help them get medical care more quickly. He's a former police K-9 officer.

“This bill is intended to save the lives of our officers whether they’re two-legged or four-legged,” Wright says.

Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero
News Service of Florida

After years of discussions about the tricky issue of overhauling Florida’s retirement system for government employees, a Senate committee Thursday approved a proposal that would shut future workers out of a traditional pension plan.

Bills Filed To Kill Three Proposed Toll Roads

Feb 4, 2021

Bills were filed Wednesday that would kill the plan to build three new toll roads through rural parts of Florida.

Tina Polsky, D-Palm Beach County, filed the bill (SB-1030) in the state Senate. She said the plans to build 330 miles of highways are competing with more pressing needs.

TALLAHASSEE --- Senate budget chief Kelli Stargel says she appreciates Gov. Ron DeSantis’ optimism.

But after Stargel and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee heard a presentation Tuesday about DeSantis’ newly proposed $96.6 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, she signaled the Senate will take a more conservative approach when it draws up a spending plan.

“I like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who chairs the committee.

A bill to ban oil drilling in Florida is back before the legislature for the third time. The proposal also calls for the state to use 100% renewable sources for electricity by 2040. The bill's sponsor is Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando). She says she's spoken with Republican leaders about the proposal.

DeSantis, Legislative Leaders Take Aim At Tech Firms

Feb 2, 2021
Gov. Ron DeSantis is pictured speaking Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
WILFREDO LEE / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to set penalties and allow the state and members of the public to file lawsuits against five tech giants he says are imposing arbitrary, monopolistic rules mostly focused on the discourse of Republicans.

A Miami police sergeant holds a handgun that was turned in during a gun buyback program held at the Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in this 2016 file photo.
LYNNE SLADKY / ASSOCIATED PRESS

A proposal that would expand the authority of people to carry concealed firearms at religious institutions is moving forward in the Florida Senate.

Fla. Lawmakers, School Officials Eye Drop In Student Enrollment During Pandemic

Feb 2, 2021
News Service of Florida

Florida legislators and local education officials are trying to pinpoint what happened to nearly 90,000 “missing” public school students, as public school enrollment estimates have dropped amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) wants COVID-19 liability protections for healthcare facilities.

"It is my priority to ensure liability protections are extended to the healthcare industry this session," said Brandee. "These are people at the front lines of this pandemic who have worked tirelessly to protect residents and patients and we must stand up for them."

Gov. Ron DeSantis is pictured speaking Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to spend $25 million next year and more in coming years to set up a program that would help address coastal flooding and other climate-change impacts across the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
News4Jax

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday proposed a record $96.6 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, offering a more upbeat picture of Florida’s finances than lawmakers who will have to stitch together a spending plan as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hamper the economy.

State Senator Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine
News Service of Florida

A proposal filed in the Florida Senate would prevent local governments from regulating construction of a wide range of energy-related projects involving electricity and such things as natural gas and petroleum.

Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, filed the proposal Wednesday,

Legislation increasing penalties for violent protesters passed its first stop in the House Wednesday on a party-line vote. Democrats argue the measure is targeted at the Black Lives Matter movement. Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring) pushes against that characterization.

“Every American has the right to peacefully protests in whatever they believe in," said Tuck. "But no American has the right to violently riot. The bill provides the necessary tools to prosecute those who intend to commit violent and unlawful acts mob intimidation and destroy property.”

Florida GOP Lawmakers Target Big Tech After Trump Social Media Ban

Jan 27, 2021

Trying to return former President Donald Trump and other banned conservatives to social-media platforms, two Florida lawmakers filed proposals Tuesday that would prohibit state agencies and local governments from contracting with some tech-industry giants.

The proposals (SB 810 and HB 439), filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, target Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Alphabet.

TALLAHASSEE --- Senate President Wilton Simpson doesn't expect his side of the Capitol to be open to the public or lobbyists until after the upcoming 60-day legislative session, as many lawmakers and staff members likely will continue to await COVID-19 vaccinations.

During a meeting Monday about Senate procedural issues, Simpson advised members to get used to talking with lobbyists outside the Capitol complex. And he said public comments during Senate committee meetings will continue to be streamed online from rooms a few blocks away at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.

Legislation shielding Florida businesses from COVID-19 related claims is moving in the state Senate. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is carrying the proposal in the chamber:

“If we had not had businesses stay open especially our essential businesses individuals would not have had access to pharmaceuticals. They would not have access to gas in their cars or food at their table," said Brandes. "Senate Bill 72 creates a civil liability protection for individuals, businesses, or other organizations against COVDI-19 related claims.”

Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Since then, state lawmakers have tried to make changes. This year is no different. Proposals for full legalization and one providing employee protections for medical marijuana users are on the table.

Florida Senate Releases Sweeping School Choice Proposal

Jan 25, 2021

Republican legislative leaders are lauding a sweeping school-choice measure filed Thursday, while Senate Democrats have vowed to “fight like hell” against the proposal.

The legislation, filed by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz of Hialeah, would expand eligibility for school-voucher programs, consolidate existing school-choice programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs.

State Retirement System Could See Major Change

Jan 22, 2021
News Service of Florida

In a potentially major change to the Florida Retirement System, a Senate Republican on Thursday proposed a bill that would require new state employees to enroll in a 401(k)-style plan.

State Sen. Danny Burgess
News Service of Florida

Businesses will remain open for the economic well-being of the state even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Florida, the head of a Senate select committee on the pandemic said Thursday.

For much of the past year, state transportation officials heard strong opposition to plans for three major new toll roads in Florida. But the controversial projects aren’t dead. They were back before the Legislature just last week.

Thousands of Floridians criticized the planned roads at dozens of task force meetings held over the past year. As a result, the task forces sent a report to the Legislature in November with no consensus on whether they should be built. But the Department of Transportation is forging ahead with the next step — environmental and economic studies.

Online Sales Tax Collection Bill Goes To Florida Senate Committee

Jan 19, 2021
In 2018, Adrienne Kosewicz, owner of Play It Safe World Toys, paid $3,600 a year for tax collection software to handle payments and reports to her home state, Washington. Her online business sold products through Amazon, which handled collection.
Elaine Thompson / Associated Press 2018 file photo

A proposal that would require more online sellers to collect Florida sales taxes and turn the money over to the state will appear Monday before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Bobby Caina Calvan / Associated Press

State lawmakers are advising about limited tax dollars amid the COVID-19 pandemic but they have already proposed at least 43 hometown projects worth more than $45 million. 

Florida Capitol, Where It's Legal To Carry Guns, Braces For Possible Armed Protests

Jan 15, 2021
Fresh Take Florida

Ahead of warnings about possible armed protests at Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee so dire that legislative leaders urged employees to stay away, what some might consider an oddity emerged: It’s lawful for some citizens to carry guns inside the Capitol.

The Florida Legislature wants to stop scammers from taking advantage of people seeking vaccine doses. Fraudsters created fake internet pages designed to look like Pasco and Pinellas County Health Departments and charged money for fake vaccination appointments. And they aren’t the only ones. The Department of Legal Affairs Consumer and Protection Division has been contacted more than 14,000 to report COVID-19 related fraud. (R-Land O' Lakes) is the bill sponsor.

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