Another legislative session is just about wrapped up. The only remaining business is the passage of the state budget and tax package bills on Sunday afternoon. (According to a joint agreement, the House and Senate are not able to discuss any other items when they reconvene on Sunday.)
It has been a long, emotionally exhausting week with many hours on the floor of both chambers dedicated to the passage of HB 7026, the Legislature’s response to the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and HB 7055, an education omnibus bill which includes the Hope Scholarship program for victims of bullying and harassment. About 25 hours were spent on SB 7026 alone this week between the two chambers. The school safety bill seeks to protect children in the event of another attempted shooting at a Florida school. Tears were shed by members of both chambers as they discussed what happened in Parkland, various provisions they hoped to see added to the bill, and when asking for their fellow members to support the bill. The Senate voted 20-18 to approve the bill on Monday and sent it to the House.
On Tuesday, House members introduced 78 amendments to the bill on the floor. None of those amendments passed, but extensive time was spent on questions and debate. Amendments ranged widely from gun control measures, to mass shootings, to whether school personnel should be allowed to conceal carry after extensive training, to background checks, and psychological testing. After another 8 hours debating the bill on Wednesday, the House passed it in a 67-50 vote. The bill was not without its detractors on both sides of the aisle; some Republicans voted no because of the gun control provisions (requiring those purchasing long guns to be 21 years old and a 3-day waiting period) while some Democrats voted no because of the marshal program (allowing some school personnel to be armed on campus if they volunteer and pass rigorous requirements mandated in the bill). Governor Scott signed the bill into law on Thursday.
The remainder of the week the Legislature wrapped up legislative business for the year. Budget negotiations were completed on Wednesday with the final product hitting legislators’ desks on Thursday afternoon. There was also a last-ditch effort to come up with a compromise on gambling but after the third meeting of the joint conference late Friday night, Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran called an end to negotiations. Negron was quoted as saying the House was being too “cute” in their last offer. This means that no comprehensive gambling bill has come out of the Legislature for the third year in a row. With this year’s Voter Control of Gambling Amendment (Amendment 3) on the ballot in November, it was likely this session was the final chance for the Legislature to expand gambling.
Monday also saw the passage of HB 7055, a comprehensive education bill, which includes the Hope Scholarship program. The Hope Scholarship program allows students who have been bullied or harassed to attend another public school (and receive a small scholarship for increased transportation costs) or attend a private school on a Hope scholarship on a first-come, first-serve basis. HB 7055 was also amended to include language from HB 839 which requires the state motto “In God We Trust” be displayed in all public schools. After the Senate modified the bill, the House was required to concur (or agree with) those changes and did so on Monday. Debate from some legislators got emotional as some shared personal stories from students who have been bullied. Rep. Randy Fine (R-Melbourne) shared his own story of being bullied in school for four years with no other options available to him or his family. The bill passed the Senate 20-17 Monday and the House concurred in a 74-39 (mostly party-line) vote.
As we say goodbye to this year’s legislative session we want to thank each and every one of you for your prayers and support. We could not do what we do without each of you. If you haven’t yet given a financial gift to FFPC this legislative session, would you please consider doing so now? While we believe that our efforts are well worth it, the financial cost of being on the ground in Tallahassee is significant. We could use your financial help in covering these costs! You can donate online or call our office at (407) 251-5130 to give a gift.
Here are some exciting events happening around the state we hope you will attend:
Strengthening the Black Family Forum
We are pleased to partner with the Douglass Leadership Institute to present the Strengthening the Black Family forum in Pompano Beach on Saturday, March 17. This free forum event will celebrate the importance of family in the black community while highlighting the challenges facing many children today due to single parent households, divorce and poverty. During the event, participants will also hear from and receive leadership training from respected political and policy experts, including FFPC’s President John Stemberger and Rev. Dean Nelson, chairman of the Douglass Leadership Institute. The goal of this Saturday morning conference is to discuss how black churches and families can be strengthened, as black American families are disproportionately disadvantaged in many ways.
Saturday, March 17, 2018 | 9 am -12 pm EST
Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church
890 NW 15th Street, Pompano Beach, FL 33060
To register for the event, click here or contact Kevrick McKain at 919-935-9220
Upcoming Florida Constitution Revision Commission Hearing (St. Petersburg)
Your voice is needed at the final upcoming historic hearing of the 2017-2018 Florida Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) scheduled for St. Petersburg on 3/13. For more information on what is happening and what is needed click here.
Christianity & Culture Conference
This conference is designed to help people of all ages develop a biblical worldview and think and live according to these principles. The worldview training will be provided by Worldview Academy in Titusville April 20-21.
Friday, April 20 to Saturday, April 21, 2018
Trinity Community Church, 6750 S. Washington Avenue, Titusville, FL 32780
Register for the event here.
Transforming Florida Truth Project Reunion
Join us Saturday, April 28 as we celebrate Transforming Florida’s Truth Project Reunion. The event will be held in two parts–a morning training session with Dr. Tackett (creator of The Truth Project) who will be introducing his new series “The Engagement” and an evening reunion dinner with both he and Marc Fey.
In addition to featured guests, the dinner will include testimonies from individuals whose lives were changed by The Truth Project and a special tribute to R.C. Sproul. Tickets are now available to attend the training, the dinner or both events.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
Hiers-Baxley Life Event Center, 3975 Wedgewood Lane, The Villages, FL 32162
To learn more or to register for this exciting event, click here. Early bird rates available until Thurs, March 15.
Now for our final report on this year’s legislative agenda!
Sponsors: Rep. Richard Stark (D), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)
Status: Never heard in committee.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Erin Grall (R), Rep. Joe Gruters (R), Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R)
Status: Passed by House 72-42. Never heard in the Senate.
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.
Status: Never heard in committee.
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.
Status: Never heard in committee.
This bill prohibits anyone from interfering with women attempting to enter abortion clinics. Sidewalk counselors or protesters 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.
Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Kelli Stargel (R)
Status: Adopted by the House. Never heard in the Senate, but as it is a resolution it did not need to pass both chambers.
Recognizes the public health risk created by pornography and acknowledges the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change to protect Floridians.
Status: Passed by House 97-10. Never heard in the Senate. The language of the bill was added to HB 7055, an education omnibus bill, which was passed by the House 74-39 and the Senate 20-17. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. The governor has until 3/24/18 to sign the legislation into law.
Requires each Florida school and each school district building to prominently display the state motto “In God We Trust.”
Sponsors: Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)
Status: Passed by the House 113-0. Passed by the Senate 37-0. Not yet sent to the Governor.
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.
Status: Passed the House 71-41, but only passed two out of three assigned Senate Committees. However, the Hope Scholarship program is part of a larger omnibus education bill (HB 7055) which was passed by the House 74-39 and the Senate 20-17. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. The governor has until 3/24/18 to sign it into law.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Rommel (R), Rep. Clemons (R), Sen. Baxley (R)
Status: The Senate version passed one out of two assigned committees, while the House version was ready for a vote by the floor until its language was added to SB 4, a higher education omnibus bill. SB 4 passed the Senate 33-5 and the House 84-28. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. The governor has until 3/21/18 to sign it into law.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), Sen. Dana Young (R)
Status: Passed one out of three House committees and all of its Senate committees. The language was added to the Senate’s main gambling bill (HB 840) and the House’s gambling bill (HB 7067). While both HB 840 and HB 7067 passed their respective chambers, substantial differences between the bills remained. A joint conference committee to negotiate a compromise was convened, but after multiple offers were made, the committee was dissolved because it was clear that they would not be able to come to an agreement.
Exempts fantasy gaming contests such as fantasy sports leagues from being subject to gambling penalties and regulations. In effect, legalizing fantasy gambling.
VICTORY – DEFEATED – SB 840 Legalizing Fantasy and Designated Player Games/Expanding Slot Machines
Sponsor: Sen. Travis Hutson (R)
Status: The Senate amended the language from SB 840 onto the House gaming bill HB 7067, but the House refused to accept the Senate’s changes. A joint conference committee to negotiate a compromise was convened, but after multiple offers were made, the committee was dissolved because it was clear that they would not be able to come to an agreement. The Voter Control of Gambling Amendment (Amendment 3) will be on November’s ballot, which would require voter approval of any expansion of gambling. Polling shows that it is likely this amendment will pass, meaning that the issue of gambling will not be as big of an issue for the legislature in upcoming years.
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).
Status: Not heard in committee. However, language allowing preview games and machines was added to the Senate’s gaming bill SB 840. The House refused to accept the Senate’s language when amended onto their gambling bill (HB 7067). A joint conference committee to negotiate a compromise was convened, but after multiple offers were made, the committee was dissolved because it was clear that they would not be able to come to an agreement.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Ross Spano (R), Sen. Lauren Book (D)
Status: Passed all of its committees in the House and one of two committees in the Senate.
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.
Status: The House version passed all of its committees. The Senate version passed 38-0.
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.
Status: Passed by the House 111-0. Senate bill never heard in committee.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Jackie Toledo (R), Sen. Aaron Bean (R)
Status: Passed the House 73-29 and Senate 21-12. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature. The governor has until 3/24/18 to sign the bill.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Ben Diamond (D), Rep. Rene Plasencia (R), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D)
Status: Never heard in committee.
The worst bill in the Florida Legislature because it violates the dignity and privacy of women and children and Floridians’ First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association. 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.
Status: Never heard in committee.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Clay Yarborough (R), Rep. Danny Burgess (R), Sen. Kelli Stargel (R)
Status: Passed by two out of three committees in the House and one out of three in the Senate.
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.
Status: Never heard in committee.
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.
Sponsors: Rep. Jay Fant (R), Sen. Dennis Baxley (R)
Status: Never heard in committee.
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.