Legislative Insider’s Report from Tallahassee – Week 6 of 9

Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those in Parkland who have been impacted by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We pray for each of the families who lost someone that God would comfort them in their mourning. We speak peace to the community shaken by violence. As Parkland, the state of Florida, and the body of Christ deal with the aftermath of the shooting in the coming weeks and months, we pray that all those in authority would have the wisdom of Almighty God and that each of us would operate in the love of Christ and the power of the gospel as we reach out to those in our communities who are hurting and suffering. 

While legislators try to figure out what to do in the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland this week, legislative business continued albeit at a slower pace than one might have expected. The Senate floor session was canceled on Wednesday and a number of committee meetings were scheduled for next week, so that bills that haven’t yet passed all of their committees can still be considered. While last week was dominated by education, this week seemed to be dominated by discussions of protecting children and of pornography.

Rep. Jeanette Nunez presents HB 335 on the floor of the HousThe child marriage ban bill was considered on the floor of the House this week. The Senate version was substituted for the House version and amended to include an exception for 16 and 17-year olds who are pregnant and wanting to marry someone no more than 2 years older with parental consent. Floor debate was lengthy on the issue as some members did not want any exception under the age of 18 and others felt that the pregnancy requirement should be removed (allowing all 16 and 17-year olds to marry someone no more than 2 years older with parental consent). Some Democrats argued that the pregnancy clause was unfair given same-sex marriage or that teens may get pregnant in order to get married. Florida Family Policy Council is supportive of the narrow exception in the bill to allow pregnant teens to marry an age-appropriate partner.

After the House Commerce Committee favorably considered a resolution on pornography as a public health risk on Tuesday, the full House passed HB 7017 on Child Exploitation on Wednesday. The bill increases penalties for child pornography but also makes child morphed porn illegal. Shockingly, this type of pornography, which places the face of a child on an adult’s body, is not already illegal. Unfortunately, the Senate version has only passed one committee and the bill looks like it will not pass the Senate this year. 

We are continuing to work hard on the ground in Tallahassee to see good legislation passed before the end of the 2018 session–which is just three weeks away! 

crc ft lauderdaleUpdate on Constitution Revision Commission 

Your voice is needed at one of the four upcoming historic hearings of the 2017-2018 Florida Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) scheduled during the next few weeks. Hearings are currently scheduled for Melbourne on 2/19, Jacksonville on 2/20, Pensacola on 2/27, and St. Petersburg on 3/13. For more information on what is happening and what is needed click here

Upcoming Event – CEO Symposium (February 20th and 21st in Lakeland, Tampa, Sarasota, and Ft. Myers)

Are you a Christian business owner or CEO? Are you concerned about recent lawsuits you’ve seen in the news infringing on the rights of Christian business owners like yourself to make decisions for their company based on their sincerely-held beliefs?

If so, please join the Christian Business Leaders Network for their upcoming FREE CEO Symposium tour to be held in four locations across Florida February 20-21, 2018. This symposium is specifically designed to brief you as a business owner on how to protect your religious liberty. You will hear from national business and ministry leaders on this fundamental right, including FFPC’s President and General Counsel John Stemberger, and network with other like-minded business owners and CEOs in your area. Click on one of the following locations to register or call (877) 634-2279 or email carolyn@reclaimingflorida.org.

Lakeland, FL Breakfast – February 20th

Tampa, FL Lunch – February 20th  

Sarasota, FL Breakfast – February 21st 

Ft. Myers, FL Lunch – February 21st


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


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 this Session.


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.

dismemberment abortion bill 2.15. HHS.png

Action: The House Health and Human Services Committee, the final assigned committee in the House, heard its version Thursday morning. This hearing was the least contentious of the three House committees with Dr. Kathi Aultman of Charlotte Lozier Institute providing expert testimony on what happens in a dismemberment abortion. Only one opponent to the bill testified in committee and she did not speak to the matter at hand – the killing of a child through dismemberment. Florida Family Action’s Amber Kelly testified on the bill and argued that this was an issue of our humanity. If we would not allow this method to be used as a form of capital punishment then why are we allowing it for an unborn child who has committed no crime? You can watch Amber’s testimony here from 19:13-20:51.  

Sadly, the bill did not pass unanimously but rather cleared the committee in a 13-6 party-line 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 this Session. 

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 this Session. 



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 the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change to protect Floridians.

Action: The House Commerce Committee, the final committee in the House, picked up this resolution on Tuesday afternoon. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) filed a series of amendments prior to the committee meeting, which deleted the language about pornography and inserted a variety of other items as public health crises, including cancer, influenza, gun violence, MS-13, and even a porn actress’ name. These amendments trivialized and minimized the consequences of pornography in our society today. Committee members heard the first amendment, but the amendment sponsor withdrew it before a vote. The remaining amendments were not even heard as Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) objected to them as not germane to the bill and Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), the Commerce Chair, ruled in favor of his objections. This led Rep. Moskowitz to try to table or postpone the bill. Voice votes were called in which Democrats joined with Rep. Moskowitz to postpone the hearing, but the majority voted against such motions. 

pornography resolution 2.13 2nd.pngAmber Kelly in her testimony on HR 157 laid out some of the public health risks of pornography in society today and said that in an era of the #MeToo movement, we must have a discussion about the ills of pornography and their impact on society today. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; a variety of organizations and leaders who are working on combatting human trafficking, as well as the Department of Justice, recognize that pornography fuels sex trafficking. Amber’s testimony on HR 157 can be watched here from 1:59:16 to 2:01:30.

Despite Rep. Moskowitz’s antics and attempts by some Democrats, like Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa), to argue that other issues should be listed as public health crises or risks before pornography, the committee voted 25-1 in favor of the resolution. The resolution is scheduled to be heard by the full House next Tuesday.  

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 version is scheduled to be heard by the full House next Tuesday, but the Senate version has had no action this year.  



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: The House version is scheduled to be heard by the full House next Tuesday while the Senate version has only one committee remaining. 

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: HB 7055, a larger education bill, which has the Hope Scholarship Program language in it is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee next Tuesday (it has already been passed by the full House).  



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 Senate version will be heard in its final committee next Tuesday. It also has one committee remaining in the House.  



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: None this week. 

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: A 90-page amendment was introduced this week in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.  The amendment would allow a new 20-year deal with the Seminoles which the House wants, but it also allows the Seminoles to add craps and roulette to their casinos and authorizes designated player games all of which the House opposes. It also exempts fantasy gaming from gambling regulations. The bill is likely to continue to move forward so that the two chambers can enter into negotiations. While the House and Senate appear to be very far apart and the new contract with the Seminoles must still be negotiated, it remains to be seen whether there is time left to even address all of these issues. 

The Voter Control of Gambling Initiative, which requires voter approval of any gambling expansion, is on November’s ballot. The Legislature knows that if they are going to expand gambling they will have to do it now as it is widely expected that Amendment 3 will pass this year. Florida Family Policy Council remains opposed to any expansion of gambling in Florida and encourages lawmakers to hold off from expanding gambling before November.

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 this Session. 



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: The Senate version passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee in a 5-0 vote. Both the House and Senate versions have one remaining committee, but it remains to be seen whether the bill will pass this year with the hotel industry staunchly opposed to the measure. 

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.

The Senate version passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee in a 5-0 vote. Both the House and Senate versions have one remaining committee, but it remains to be seen whether the bill will pass this year with the hotel industry staunchly opposed to the measure. 

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 this week. 



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 this week. It has already passed both chambers, we are just waiting for it to be sent to the governor. 



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 this Session.

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 this Session.  



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.

Action: None this week. 

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 this Session.



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 this Session.

The Senate bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. The bill was amended in committee by the sponsor Sen. Baxley (R-Lady Lake) to clarify liability language for public institutions and add increased accountability for student governments in charge of funding student campus organizations.The bill was highly contested in committee, with some Senators even questioning the need for this legislation. The bill sponsor reminded the committee that restricting free speech to certain areas or groups on public campuses as some Florida universities (and many others around the country) are practicing is setting a dangerous precedent. Not only do these actions silence or alienate those with differing views leading to complete intolerance, but it also violates the First Amendment.One senator brought up the inflammatory example of the KKK as a reason to have waiting periods or restrictions on speech on college campuses. However, as one speaker pointed out, as much as this form of speech is not welcome by society, placing restrictions on any group and not on other groups is an unequal application of rules and is effectively content based discrimination. After further discussion, the bill was passed on party lines 7-4. The bill has one more committee, Judiciary, before it heads to the Senate floor.