Florida Legislature

Florida’s House and Senate Democrats have appointed new leaders for the upcoming state legislative session.

Florida’s House Democrats will have two leaders to guide the caucus over the next two years. The chamber’s Democrats elected Rep. Bobby DuBose (D-Fort Lauderdale) Monday as minority leader. DuBose then officially named Rep Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach) as his co-leader.

When the Florida House of Representatives meets on Tuesday for the first time since March, new leadership will take the helm. This week, incoming House speaker Chris Sprowls published a list of proposed rule changes for the chamber during his two-year term.

During the organizational session Tuesday, the House will vote on those rule changes. Among them are provisions increasing the number of bills House members can file from 6 to 7, and reducing the number of proposed committee bills allowed.

TALLAHASSEE --- After the Florida House and Senate early this year asked for a rehearing in the case, a federal appeals court Tuesday again cleared the way for a lawsuit that alleges the Legislature has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing closed captioning on online videos of meetings.

Incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls on Thursday rolled out a leadership team and committee changes, including a new committee that will be directed to look at the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and plan for future emergencies.

The Palm Harbor Republican, who takes the gavel on Nov. 17, sent a memo to House members that named a dozen leaders for the next two years and outlined changes such as creation of the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee.

Orlando Attorney John Morgan said he will sue if Florida lawmakers try to thwart implementation of a minimum wage amendment.

Morgan spent upwards of $5 million getting a $15/hour minimum wage amendment passed on election day.

Sixty-one percent of voters — just over the 60% level needed for passage — approved Amendment 2, which will raise Florida’s minimum wage to $10/hour in 2021 and to $15/hour in five years.

The Florida Senate begins its Organizational Session in mid-January. Lawmaking will look a lot different next year due to the coronavirus, with the state senate releasing precautionary rules.

Every Senator must be tested for COVID-19. The session starts on Jan. 11 and ends on Feb. 19. During that time district staff based outside of Tallahassee won’t be able to travel to the capital.

It is a Florida tradition. Two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, lawmakers will return for a one-day ceremonial session. A new House speaker and Senate president will take charge. Dozens of newly elected legislators will take the oath of office and the Legislature will adopt rules to guide it for the next two years. Lawmakers believe they have to take those steps in person -- not remotely.

Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson said there will be restrictions on public access to the Capitol, and limits on how many people can be in the Senate Chamber.

Board Says Fla. Pelvic Exam Law Is For Women Only

Oct 16, 2020
News Service of Florida

A new state law aimed at protecting patients from unwanted pelvic exams does not apply to people who are “biologically male,” according to a state medical board.

Fla. House Speaker Questions COVID-19 Death Toll

Oct 14, 2020
Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes
News Service of Florida

The Florida House speaker on Tuesday called into question the state's COVID-19 death toll, warning that it was based on compromised data and used a methodology that inflated death rates.

With an organizational session scheduled for November fast approaching, Florida Senate leadership recently announced the chamber will contract with Tampa General Hospital for a plan to keep its members safe from COVID-19.

The Senate will pay $200 hourly to the hospital for providing services – and an increased rate of nearly $270 per hour for “physician-specific” services. The contract also says the Senate will cover travel expenses incurred by TGH staff related to consultations.

Team Tries To Limit Florida Capitol COVID-19 Risks For Legislature

Oct 12, 2020
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Florida Capitol on Nov. 17
News Service of Florida

In a little more than a month, the doors of the Florida Capitol are scheduled to swing open as 160 legislators get back to work.

GOP Chairman, Incoming Speaker Voice Opposition For Minimum Wage Hike

Sep 29, 2020

Two state Republican leaders added their voices Monday in opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment that would gradually boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Florida.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, a state senator from Sarasota, and incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, described the ballot initiative as “a Trojan horse,” “a trapdoor,” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that will bring to Florida “failed policies” from liberal cities where streets are “covered in poverty, riots, crime.”

This week, Governor Ron DeSantis suggested he’d like to see a special session for the Florida legislature to consider protecting small businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Bill Herrle is state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He welcomes the idea of lawmakers visiting the issue sooner rather than later, saying businesses “urgently need reform.”

A final batch of 26 bills approved by the House and Senate during the 2020 legislative session was sent Friday to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The measures range from a revamp of the state’s specialty license-plate system (HB 1135) to putting additional teeth into the fight against shark finning (SB 680) and trying to curb electronic-cigarette use by teens (SB 810).

Clock Running On Bills Remaining From 2020 Florida Legislative Session

Sep 2, 2020

A final batch of bills approved this year by the Legislature, many scheduled to become law Oct. 1, continue to await a call from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The 26 remaining measures, ranging from a revamp of the state’s specialty license-plate system to putting additional teeth into the fight against shark finning and trying to curb e-cigarette use by teens, have been sitting in the House and Senate since the legislative session ended on March 19.

News Service of Florida

State House members Kimberly Daniels and Mike Hill, who clashed with other members of their parties because of sometimes-controversial positions and statements, were unseated Tuesday, while Rep. Al Jacquet also appeared headed toward defeat.

Community organizer Angie Nixon easily defeated Daniels in the Democratic primary in Duval County’s House District 14. With only a write-in opponent on the November ballot, the primary win virtually assured that Nixon will become the district’s next representative.

Party-Backed Candidates Win Fla. Senate Primaries

Aug 19, 2020
News Service of Florida

Party-backed Senate candidates in a Republican primary in Southwest Florida and two Democratic primaries in Southeast Florida scored sweeping victories on Tuesday night, a relief for party leaders heading into the November election.

TALLAHASSEE --- Gov. Ron DeSantis, while expressing hope that the coronavirus crisis could ease across Southern states in September, said on morning radio shows Monday that the pandemic will “loom” over every budget and policy debate during the 2021 legislative session.

DeSantis said mapping out budget priorities for next fiscal year will depend on factors such as the use of federal stimulus money and the condition of the state’s economic recovery.

State Representative Randy Fine has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The Republican lawmaker, who represents southern Brevard County, tested positive for the coronavirus about two weeks ago. His wife and two sons also tested positive, but he says they have already recovered.

Fine spoke with me by telephone on Monday.

COVID-19 Continues To Batter Florida's Government Revenue

Jul 28, 2020
Bobby Caina Calvan / Associated Press file photo

State tax revenues continued to take a hit in June as Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded economic-recovery efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new report shows.

State Rep. Randy Fine has coronavirus. The Brevard County Republican tested positive for coronavirus along with his wife, Wendy, and sons Jacob and David.

TALLAHASSEE --- More than 100 new laws will hit the books Wednesday from the 2020 legislative session, with issues ranging from expanding school vouchers to increasing fines for bear poaching.

Out of 156 bills Gov. Ron DeSantis had signed into law as of Tuesday afternoon, 112, including the state’s new $92.2 billion budget, will take effect Wednesday, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis late Monday signed 28 bills into law, including a controversial measure that will prevent local governments from imposing bans on certain types of sunscreen.

The sunscreen bill (SB 172), spearheaded by Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, stems from a plan by Key West to enforce a ban on the sale of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Key West pointed to concerns that the chemicals could damage coral reefs.

DeSantis Signs $92.2 Billion Budget, Vetoes $1 Billion

Jun 29, 2020
Gov. Ron DeSantis is pictured on  June 19, 2020, at Florida International University in Miami.
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

Pointing to “difficult circumstances,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said he signed a $92.2 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year after vetoing about $1 billion in spending.

TALLAHASSEE --- Continuing to gradually finish the work of this year’s legislative session, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday signed 21 bills, including measures aimed at improving school-bus safety and preventing bear poaching.

Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach
News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vow this week to make deep cuts in the new state budget has health-care advocates and lawmakers on edge, as the Legislature tucked nearly $100 million in so-called “special projects” into the health and human-services portion of the more than $93 billion spending plan.

Governor Ron DeSantis likens upcoming budget cuts to the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones—lots of spending is going to die, including some of his own agenda items. The state has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic and is expecting the outlook to get worse. State agencies will likely have to hold back a portion of their budgets.

News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed 25 bills into law, including approving $2.15 million for a Jacksonville man wrongfully imprisoned for almost 43 years and two measures tied to a series of controversial highway plans.

Former Florida Senate President Gwen Margolis has died. She was 85.

When Margolis was first elected to the legislature, it was 1974. Efforts to enshrine equal rights for women through the Equal Rights Amendment were at their zenith.

“And I worked hard to get elected, and I was one of 6 women that got elected that year, which was good. And now, of course, at least 40% of the legislature is female,” Margolis said in a 2013 interview with the Florida Channel.

It’s the end of an era in Florida’s Capitol. After parts of four decades, one of the Legislature's most prominent and at times, controversial members, Senator Tom Lee, will call it quits in November.

Lee was first elected to the Senate in 1996. He’s the last link to the bygone era of Florida’s last Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles and he's exiting in an unprecedented health crisis and the most severe economic downturn in decades.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and one thing led to another. I really have not enjoyed my role there,” Lee told WFSU News.