Insider’s Report- May 8, 2011

Final Week 8:  Florida Legislative Session

Bill Warren, Director of Policy & Communications

Florida Family Policy Council

“The House and Senate adjourn Sine Die!” With those words the 2011 Florida Legislative Session is gaveled to a close.  Although it took till the wee hours of the morning (3:35am for the Senate) our team was there till the bitter end tracking bills and following the process.  Surprising many, the Legislature was able to complete the duties required of them and finish the session within the 60 days prescribed in the Constitution and also deliver some historical victories on our core issues.

The Florida Family Policy Council came into this session with a legislative agenda that had a top priority list of seven bills. We are excited to report that at the close of session, six of those bills have passed both chambers. Our success this year is the culmination of years of work by citizens throughout Florida working to elect like-minded legislators to serve in Tallahassee and the hard work of the collective team with the FFPC and its coalition partners.  We have all sought to educate members on the issues of life and family that we all hold dear.  Some years we have planted, others years we have watered and God has shown us favor this year by giving the increase!  But major thanks for these victories goes to the leaders of each chamber, Speaker of the House Dean Cannon (left) and Senate President Mike Haridopolos (right).  Without the leadership they displayed, most of these bills may not have happened.

This session has been a landmark one for pro-life bills and life-related public policy.  In the previous 15 years of Republican control in Tallahassee, we have seen only four major pro life bills become law.  The Florida Legislature more than bettered that number in this one session alone.  Five bills that will improve the culture of life in this state are now waiting to be signed into law by Governor Scott.  We also saw success in defeating almost every attempt by the gaming industry to expand gambling in our state which if you ever under stand the intensity of this pressure in the legislature, is a major victory for all of Florida.

Listed below are the major victories from this year and links to look up the final vote counts them so you can see which of your local Representatives and Senators voted with us and which ones voted against us.

Victory # 1 – Ultrasound prior to an abortion

HB 1127 – Once again, the Florida Legislature passed a bill that would require a physician to use ultrasound technology to determine the gestational age of the unborn child before performing an abortion. Under this bill, the doctor would be required to give, show and explain the ultrasound to the mother of the child. This bill passed last year, but was vetoed by Governor Crist. The House sponsor wasRep. Liz Porter (R), (pictured left) a freshman member. The Senate sponsor was Sen. Ronda Storms (R) (pictured right). We appreciate their hard work on this important bill. House final vote:  81-37   Senate final vote: 24-15

Victory # 2 – Parental Notification

HB 1247 – Florida passed a Parental Notification of Abortion law in 2005. This bill tightens the notification requirements to ensure that parents are being notified prior to their minor daughters receiving an abortion.  It requires written notification to be sent via first class and certified mail.  If physicians choose to call parents to notify them of the abortion, this bill requires them to follow up with a written notification. Under the previous law, parents could waive the right to notification with a signed note. To avoid forgeries, this law requires those notes to be notarized and dated no more than 30 days prior to the abortion.

Under the previous law, the child could petition a court within her District Court of Appeals district.  In Florida, this means an adult could drive a child from Pensacola to Jacksonville (over 350 miles away) to find a judge to grant the waiver, a practice called judge shopping. This bill now requires the judicial waiver to be obtained from a judge within the circuit court district in which she lives.

Rep. Kelli Stargel (R) (left) and Sen. Alan Hays (R) (right) were the sponsors of the House and Senate bills.   House final vote: 82-35        Senate final vote: 26-12

Victory # 3 – Banning Obama Care Abortion Funding

HB 97 – Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress, states are required to establish insurance exchanges through which residents and small businesses will be able to purchase government mandated insurance under the act.  States were given the right to continue policies of not funding abortion procedures with state monies.  This bill will prevent the state of Florida from using state dollars to purchase insurance policies that provide abortions.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R), (left) a freshman Representative, and Sen. Steve Wise (R) (right) were the sponsors of the House and Senate bills.    House final vote: 80-35      Senate final vote: 28-11

Victory # 4 – Ban on Taxpayer Funding of Abortion: Constitutional Amendment (on Ballot in 2012)

CS/HJR 1179 – Florida currently prohibits the funding of abortions with public dollars by statute. This bill would give voters in Florida the opportunity to put that prohibition into the Constitution so no judge could ever overturn it.

The resolution also limits the right to abortion in the state constitution to be no broader than the right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the right to privacy in the state constitution confers broader rights to an abortion than that in the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Dennis Baxley (R) (right) and Sen. Anitere Flores (R) (left) were the sponsors of the House and Senate bills.   House final vote: 79-34      Senate final vote: 27-12

Victory # 5 – Choose Life License Plate Revision

HB 501 – Florida was the first state to offer drivers the option to “Choose Life” and to support organizations around the state that assist mothers committed to placing their children for adoption. This popular license plate has been a resounding success, generating $751,580 in sales in 2009-2010.  Unfortunately, over $300,000 remain in a state trust fund due to difficulties in distributing the funds.  This bill will change the way the money is distributed to ensure that all of the money collected makes it way into the hands of those for whom it was intended.

Sen. Mike Fasano (R) (left) and Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)  (right) were the sponsors of the Senate and House bills.  House final vote: 82-35   Senate final vote: 28-10

Victory # 6 – Religious Freedom Amendment (on Ballot in 2012)

CS/HJR 1471 – Florida’s constitution contains a provision in Article 1, Section 3 that prohibits public money being used to directly or indirectly aid a religious institution. This language in commonly referred to as the Blaine Amendment and was adopted many years ago by those who many argue were motivated by Catholic bigotry.  This prohibition has led to lawsuits against faith based substance abuse facilities that receive state funds.  This joint resolution would allow Florida voters to decide if this discriminatory language should remain enshrined in our Constitution.  Any group providing services for the state should not be discriminated against merely because they are faith based. Voters will have a chance to vote on this amendment in 2012.

Sen. Thad Altman (R) (left) and Rep. Scott Plakon (R) (right) and were the sponsors of the Senate and House bills.  House final vote: 81-35       Senate final vote: 26-10

Victory # 7 – Parental Rights Memorial

HM 557 – This memorial encourages Congress to propose and submit to the states for ratification an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would enshrine the fundamental rights of parents in the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Anitere Flores (R) (left) Rep. Marti Coley (R) (right) and  were the sponsors of the Senate and House bills.

House final vote: Adopted on voice vote
Senate final vote: Adopted on voice vote

Victory # 8 – Destination Casinos – DEFEATED

The gambling industry this year proposed legislation that would have allowed Las Vegas style resort casinos in Florida. With its tourism and limited exposure to gambling, Florida is a coveted prize for industry. There were 3 bills filed that would have authorized these facilities in Florida this year. HB 1415 by Rep. Eric Fresen (R) was discussed in committee in the House but was never voted on. SB 1708 by Sen. Dennis Jones (R) was debated in committee but had several amendments added that upset the sponsor so he withdrew the bill. Finally, SB 2050 by Sen. Oscar Braynon (D) became the vehicle of choice. The bill passed its first committee 4-2, but was defeated in the next committee on a 3-3 vote. This issue will be back again next year. The industry is determined to make continued inroads into Florida.

Victory # 9 – Internet Poker – DEFEATED

CS/SB 812 by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R) would have allowed poker rooms in Florida to operate an internet poker network. This would have brought poker into the homes of Floridians. The bill was defeated in the Criminal Justice on a tie vote.

Because of the conservative nature of the current legislature, many of the bills that we opposed never made it onto the agenda of a committee, which prevented them from advancing through the process. These included a domestic partnership bill and a bill that would have included gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida’s discrimination laws.

We appreciate the leadership that has been on display by both Speaker Cannon and President Haridopolos. Because of the conservative atmosphere that they have encouraged, our issues have been able to flourish. Please send a note of thanks to them for their work on behalf of our core issues.

To e-mail Speaker Dean Cannon, click here.

To e-mail President Mike Haridopolos, click here.

This has truly been a banner year for advocates for life and family values in Tallahassee. Thank you for your prayer and continued support through this exciting time.  We take seriously our role of being Your Voice for Your Values on life, marriage, family and liberty issues in the halls of the state capitol.

Bill Warren

Director of Policy and Communications
Florida Family Policy Council

PS- If you would be able to make a gift to support our work at this time we would be so grateful.  There is an enormous expense that goes into maintaining our full time presence in Tallahassee and we can only continue this in the Capitol City because of your support.  Please consider making an online gift right now HERE: