Legislative Insider’s Report Week 3 of 9

We were excited to see so many new faces this week in Tallahassee for our 5th annual Pro-Family Days! Each year the event has grown, and this year is no exception. Over 250 supporters and legislators from around the state joined us on Monday and Tuesday for this exciting event!

On Monday, Pro-Family Days attendees were trained on how to lobby and were briefed by policy experts Bill Bunkley of Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Marco Paredes of Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops; Paul Seago of No Casinos; Amber Kelly of Florida Family Action; and FFPC President John Stemberger on important bills facing the Legislature during the 2018 Session. Some of the bill topics discussed included life, education, religious liberty, gambling, and LGBT issues.

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Monday evening we had the distinct pleasure and incredible privilege of honoring pregnancy care center directors from across Florida in a special celebration of life on the infamous anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We are so grateful for the work these men and women do on a daily basis to love, support and care for these new mothers (and fathers) facing an unplanned pregnancy.

On Tuesday, FFPC hosted a Legislative Prayer Breakfast attended by 250 people, including many elected officials. Guest speakers included Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam; House Speaker Richard Corcoran; Senator Kelli Stargel; Representative Jennifer Sullivan; and keynote speaker Pam Tebow, a homeschool pioneer, pro-life activist, and mother to Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Click here to watch the livestream from her keynote address (starting at 21:18) and sit-down interview with Al Laws of WIN Family Services.

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During Pro-Family Days, attendees also met with their legislators; toured the Florida House of Representatives with House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’ Lakes) and Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater); and heard from Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston at the Florida Supreme Court.

Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for photos from this year’s event. More photos will continue to be added in the coming days. Tag yourself and share these photos with your friends and encourage them to join us next year for Pro-Family Days! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to continue to receive our most current updates on what’s happening around the state relating to the issues of life, marriage, family, and religious liberty. 

Constitution Revision Commission Update

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On Thursday, the CRC’s Declaration of Rights Committee passed out Proposal 22, the Florida Privacy Restoration Act. The proposed amendment will clarify that the privacy clause in Florida’s Constitution guarantees a right to informational privacy. Opinions by the Florida Supreme Court in recent years have not upheld a right to informational privacy, but have granted other rights, such as a right to abortion.  While abortion would remain constitutional under Roe v Wade if the Florida Privacy Restoration Act passes, it is possible that reasonable laws regulating abortion, such as parental consent for a minor to obtain an abortion, would now be ruled constitutional. This has angered groups like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women. These groups attempted to scare commissioners into voting no by telling them that liberties we have enjoyed for decades will disappear. This is outrageous and patently false, but leftist groups will brook no limitation on abortion, no matter how reasonable. They demand that abortion be available any time, any place, for any woman who wants one.  

Commissioner Arthenia Joyner painted the judicial activism that has taken place as “progress” in the same way that women have been granted the right to vote and blacks were given civil rights. What Commissioner Joyner failed to mention was that the courts didn’t grant those rights, but rather a constitutional amendment and federal legislation did. Zach Jones, an FSU student, passionately testified that while he was pro-choice, the courts did not have the ability to grant a constitutional right to abortion and that if Floridians wanted a constitutional right to abortion, they would need to pass a constitutional amendment that said so. After nearly two hours, the Declaration of Rights Committee voted 4-3 to advance Proposal 22. It heads to the CRC’s Judiciary Committee next and will be heard on Thursday, February 1st.  

Now, for this week’s update on our legislative agenda! 

ADOPTION/FOSTER CARE

OPPOSE HB 357 / SB 576 Adoptee Birth Certificates
Sponsors: Rep. Richard Stark (D), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

This bill mandates opening up birth records to birth parents and adult adoptees (even without the consent of the birth parents in adoptions after July 1, 2018) by requiring the Florida Department of Health to issue noncertified copies of unaltered, original birth certificates to adoptees and birth parents.

Action: None.

ABORTION

SUPPORT HB 1429 / SB 1890 Dismemberment Abortion
Sponsors: Rep. Erin Grall (R), Rep. Joe Gruters (R), Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R)

Prohibits dismemberment abortion, where an unborn child is killed by an abortionist using instruments to cut or rip the child’s body apart piece by piece and then extracts the pieces from the mother.

Week 3 - Testimony Dismemberment Bill.pngAction: The House Health Quality Subcommittee heard the bill this week.  Florida Family Action’s Political and Communications Director, Amber Kelly, testified on the bill (her testimony can be seen from 1:18:15 1:20:24).  Amber spoke about the fact that while cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited in punishing criminals, the practice of dismemberment abortion is allowed which is cruel to the unborn child. The bill does not prevent a woman from choosing to have an abortion, but it does ensure that once a woman has chosen to have an abortion that a child is not killed brutally.  The bill passed its first committee stop in a 9-6 vote. 

OPPOSE HB 1273SB 1718 Contraception Mandate
Sponsors: Rep. Holly Raschein (R), Sen. Lauren Book (D)

Mandates employers provide insurance plans which pay for contraception, including abortion inducing drugs. The exemption for employers is limited to religious objections by religious nonprofits or small, privately-held companies and it requires notification of objection to providing coverage. Insurance companies are still required to provide coverage of contraception to employees who work for an exempt organization.

Action: None.

OPPOSE HB 189 / SB 320 Abortion Clinics
Sponsors: Rep. Amy Mercado (D), Sen. Linda Stewart (D)

This bill prohibits anyone from interfering with women attempting to enter abortion clinics. Sidewalk counselors or protestors could face fines, civil suits, and criminal penalties for simply calling out to a woman to not abort her baby. This bill goes beyond prohibiting criminal and inappropriate interference with abortion facilities and limits free speech. 

Action: None.

CULTURE

SUPPORT HR 157 / SR 480 Declaring Pornography a Public Health Crisis
Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Kelli Stargel (R)

Recognizes the public health crisis created by pornography and acknowledges need for education, prevention, research, and policy change to protect Floridians.

Action: None.

SUPPORT HB 839 / SB 1158 Display of State Motto in Public Schools
Sponsors: Rep. Daniels (D), Rep. Ponder (R), Sen. Perry (R)

Requires each Florida school and each school district building to prominently display the state motto “In God We Trust.”

Action: The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee heard the bill on Tuesday and passed the bill unanimously.  It only has one more committee stop before it can head to the floor of the House for passage out of that chamber.  It has yet to be heard in the Senate.

EDUCATION

SUPPORT HB 731 / SB 732 Home Education
Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

Clarifies that a home education program is not a school district program and parents who wish to homeschool their children must register with the district school superintendent only for the purpose of complying with the state’s attendance requirements. It requires the district school superintendent to accept the parental notification and register the program upon receipt of the notice. The school district cannot require any additional information unless the student chooses to participate in their programs or services. The bill also stipulates that the content of a child’s portfolio shall be determined by the parent, not the school district.  Finally, it allows school districts to provide homeschool students access to career and vocational courses and requires that industry certifications, national assessments, and statewide, standardized assessments offered by the school district be available to homeschool students. For homeschool students who are dual enrolled to earn college credit, the bill stipulates that course or program limitations may not exceed the limitations for other dually enrolled students.

Action: After a couple of technical amendments and with no debate, the Senate version passed out of the Education committee unanimously on Monday.  It has two remaining committees.

SUPPORT HB 1 / SB 1172 Hope Scholarship Program
Sponsors: Rep. Byron Donalds (R), Sen. Bill Galvano (R)

Establishes the Hope Scholarship for students after an incident of battery, harassment, hazing, bullying, kidnapping, robbery, sexual offenses, harassment, assault, threat or intimidation. The student will have an opportunity to transfer to another public school or to apply for a scholarship to attend a private school. Scholarship funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Action: The Senate bill was taken up on Monday in the Education Committee. An amendment to the bill added additional language which allows a school principal to investigate allegations and establish the at-fault parties, the circumstances surrounding the incident, etc.  Opponents suggested that the offender should be penalized rather than removing the victim from a hostile environment.  The bill sponsor noted that there are already rules and consequences in place for those who harass, bully, or otherwise threaten or intimidate another. Some committee members suggested that they would like to see additional programs, like counseling, being included to help the victims. 

FREE SPEECH

SUPPORT HB 909 / SB 1234 Free Speech Zones on Campus
Sponsors: Rep. Rommel (R), Rep. Clemons (R), Sen. Baxley (R)

Protects the right of free speech outdoors on public campuses of higher education such as state colleges, universities, law schools, etc. Prohibits a public college, university, law school, etc. from creating “free speech zones” or restricting free expression except in cases that are reasonable and content-neutral. No student, faculty or staff member would be allowed to materially disrupt another individual or organization’s scheduled or reserved activities. If a violation occurs, the Attorney General or the person whose rights were violated may take the violator to court within one year of the violation for reasonable compensation. 

Action: The House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee took up the bill on Tuesday and passed the bill in a 9-5 vote in a party line vote. The House version must pass two more committees.

GAMBLING

OPPOSE HB 223 / SB 374 Fantasy Contests
Sponsors: Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), Sen. Dana Young (R)

Exempts fantasy gaming contests such as fantasy sports leagues from being subject to gambling penalties and regulations. In effect, legalizing fantasy gambling.

Action: The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee heard the bill on Tuesday and passed it unanimously. The House bill still has two more committees.  The Senate Rules committee picked up its version on Thursday and passed it in a 9-2 vote, which means it is now headed to the Senate floor.

OPPOSE SB 840 Legalizing Fantasy and Designated Player Games/Expanding Slot Machines
Sponsor: Sen. Travis Hutson (R)

In addition to exempting fantasy gaming from state gambling regulations, this bill would remove the requirement that greyhound, thoroughbred, quarter horse and harness horse permit holders conduct live racing at their pari-mutuel facilities in order to be eligible for or keep their slot machine and cardroom licenses. This bill would allow these facilities to take wagers for intertrack races and simulcasts. It would also legalize designated player games (playing against a designated player rather than the house). 

Action: None.

OPPOSE HB 1293 / SB 1802 Preview Games and Machines
Sponsor: Rep. Al Jacquet (D), Sen. Perry Thurston Jr. (D)

Legalizes preview or pre-reveal machines, slot machines which draw individuals in by revealing the prize before the game is started. A Florida judge has already ruled the machines constitute gambling. 

Action: None.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

SUPPORT HB 167 / SB 1044 Civil Action for Human Trafficking Victims
Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Lauren Book (D)

Allows a victim of human trafficking to bring a civil cause of action against a human trafficker or facilitator (a person or business who aids in or turns a blind eye to human trafficking activities). Under this provision, a victim of human trafficking could receive payment for medical bills, mental health services, repatriation, etc. as well as monetary damages for pain, loss, trauma, etc. A trafficker or facilitator would also be liable under this section to provide an additional $100,000 in damages to the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking (established by HB 169/SB 1046) and, in some cases, additional damages to law enforcement to aid in future human trafficking rescue efforts. Punitive damages would be equally divided between the victim and the trust fund.

Action: None.

SUPPORT HB 169 / SB 1046 Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking
Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Lauren Book (D)

Creates the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking and Prevention within the Department of Law Enforcement. This fund would be funded by penalties and damages obtained under as referenced in   HB 167 / SB 1044 and other sources, including funds appropriated by the Legislature. The trust fund would be used to assist victims of human trafficking with medical and mental health exams and treatment, living expenses, lost wages and repatriation. The funds could also be used for a variety of education and prevention efforts, creating a survivor’s resource center, or for vacating convictions against trafficking victims incurred due to trafficking, etc.

Action: None.

SUPPORT HB 7039 / SB 1502 Increased Penalties for Human Trafficking
Sponsors: House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Lauren Book (D)

Requires a 10-year minimum mandatory imprisonment sentence for any individual, who knowingly or recklessly without regards to the facts, engages in, attempts to engage in, or financially benefits from human trafficking. Removes fees to expunge certain portions of criminal records for victims of human trafficking as it relates to their trafficking. Redefines the term “Adult Entertainment Establishment” to include additional adult-style businesses.

Action: None.

LIFE

SUPPORT HB 41 / SB 444 Pregnancy Support Services
Sponsors: Rep. Jackie Toledo (R), Sen. Aaron Bean (R)

Requires the Florida Department of Health to contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) to provide pregnancy support services for women who suspect or know they are pregnant. FPCN would then provide support to pregnant women and address their wellness needs. The bill requires FPCN subcontractors to promote and support childbirth only. All services provided must be voluntary and cannot include religious content.

Action: None.

LGBT

OPPOSE HB 347 / SB 66 Creating Special Rights for LGBT Citizens or “Florida’s Competitive Workforce Act”
Sponsors: Rep. Ben Diamond (D), Rep. Rene Plasencia (R), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D)

The worst bill in the Florida Legislature because of its effect on public safety and freedom of conscience. It adds sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to Florida’s Civil Rights Act of 1992 as impermissible grounds for discrimination. This bill provides a new way for LGBT individuals to sue employers and small businesses for discrimination. Would allow men access to use women’s showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms.

A full list of House and Senate co-sponsors.

Action:  None.

OPPOSE HB 717 / SB 696 Banning Conversion Therapy
Sponsors: Rep. Evan Jenne (D) / Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D)

This bill makes it unlawful for people in Florida who are licensed to provide professional counseling and others, like pastors who are licensed counselors, to counsel youth under the age of 18 struggling with their “sexual orientation and/or gender identity” to think and live in a heterosexual manner consistent with their biological gender, even if the child (as the patient) asks for their help to do so. 

Action: None.

MARRIAGE

SUPPORT HB 1323 / SB 1580 Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage  
Sponsors: Rep. Clay Yarborough (R), Rep. Danny Burgess (R), Sen. Kelli Stargel (R)

Creates the Marriage Education Committee, which is tasked with developing the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage, which is required to include resources on conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities and management, domestic violence, and parenting responsibilities; current information from marriage education and family advocates to assist in forming and maintaining a long-term marital relationship; and information regarding premarital education, marriage enrichment education, and resources that are available to help restore a marriage that is potentially moving toward dissolution. Clerks will be responsible for posting the guide on their websites and individuals applying for a marriage certificate must certify that they have read it or similar resources.

John Stemberger, Rep. Clay Yarborough, Richard Albertson

Action: The House Civil Justice and Claims picked up the bill this week. Florida Family Action President John Stemberger testified on the divorce problem that the state of Florida has.  Richard Albertson of Live the Life also testified on the economic impact of divorce on Florida taxpayers.  There was no opposition to the bill in public testimony; however, one member of the committee seemed to want to ensure that same-sex couples would be included in the guide. The bill passed out of committee, mostly along party lines, in a 10-4 vote.  The Senate version is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday afternoon.

OPPOSE HB 130 / SB 6027 Same-Sex Marriage
Sponsors: Rep. David Richardson (D), Sen. Gary Farmer (D)

Removes the language in state statute which prohibited same-sex couples from marrying and the State of Florida from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states.

Action: None.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

SUPPORT HB 871 / SB 1290 Free Enterprise Protection Act
Sponsors: Rep. Jay Fant (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)

Prohibits any level of state government or individual acting on behalf of the state from discriminating against a business based upon their internal personnel or employee benefits policies or their exercise of free speech and religion as protected under the Florida and federal Constitutions. The state and its subdivisions would be prohibited from revoking tax exemptions and benefits; denying grants, certifications, licenses, etc.; and access and entitlement to property, facilities and speech forums, among other provisions.

Action: None.

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