Florida Family Policy Council
Week 5 of 9 – February 11, 2022
Week 5 has come to an end! If a bill has not yet been through at least some committees at this point, the odds that it will pass are rapidly shrinking. Subcommittees and some committees are beginning to wrap up as the focus turns to floor debate on the bills passed out of committees. As many good bills advance in the session, the intensity and frustration of the opposition has increased.
On Monday, Sen. Doug Broxson presented SB 1184, the Free Speech for Healthcare Practitioners Act, in its second committee, Judiciary. While addressing threats to freedom of speech for medical providers, Sen. Broxson answered opponents who justified government speech restrictions on doctors. He affirmed that a doctor does not forfeit his freedom of speech when he accepts his job. Sens. Dennis Baxley, Danny Burgess, and Ray Rodrigues all spoke in debate in favor of the bill, pointing out the Constitutional and scientific significance of medical free speech and calling it crucial to the advancement of medical progress. In addition to compelling physician testimony on the need for the bill, Legislative Director Aaron DiPietro also testified in support. He argued that, if private medical certification boards acted with police powers over medical professionals and restricted their speech, they would have no right to do that–even a governmental body would be forbidden to restrict the free speech of doctors. Aaron DiPietro was also briefly cross examined by bill opponent Sen. Audrey Gibson. The bill passed shortly thereafter.
Tuesday morning, SB 1834, the Parental Rights in Education Act, the now nationally infamous bill facing attacks all the way up to the White House, was heard in the Senate Education Committee. Bill sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley defended the rights of parents to be involved in their children’s educational progress as well as the need for school districts to be transparent with parents when official policy changes. Baxley also discussed the importance of parents being involved in overseeing discussions of sexuality with elementary students and keeping school district policy focused on academics.
Public testimony in this committee was quite combative as opponents made the absurd claim that the bill would result in the deaths of LGBT-identifying youth across the state. People in favor of the bill argued that parental rights were fundamental and must be respected by the state, regardless of the political opinions of school district officials. Legislative Director Aaron DiPietro spoke about the critical nature of parental involvement in a child’s educational success and emphasized the bill’s focus on protecting “children by empowering parents to be engaged in their children’s lives and education by increasing transparency in official school district policy.” Though tensions were high, decorum was maintained until after the bill was passed. As the committee adjourned, opponents from the audience began to shout, “Shame on you,” and “Blood is on your hands!” Insults and attacks were even hurled at one mother who testified in support the bill, leading her to be escorted out the back of the committee room for safety precautions.
President Joe Biden Tuesday called this bill “a hateful bill” towards the LGBTQI+ community, and opposition nationwide has dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Watch me defend this bill on Washington Watch with Tony Perkins here at this link or on NTD News (The Epoch Times) at this link.
Later that evening, the Individual Freedom Act, the bill restricting CRT in public schools, among other places, was heard in the Education and Employment committee, presented once again by Rep. Bryan Avila, the bill sponsor. Opponents from both the public and the committee continued to accuse the sponsor of seeking to revise history, while Rep. Avila and Rep. Randy Fine, among others, passionately argued the opposite, that in fact, the bill was seeking to ensure true history was taught, apart from political bias. Legislative Director Aaron DiPietro spoke out in favor of the bill, once again urging the distinction between teaching historical facts and political philosophies of ideological interpretation. Despite heated debate from the opposition over a two hour period, the bill passed out of the committee.
Finally, on Thursday, HB 5 (the late-term abortion ban) was heard in the Health and Human Services Committee. The hearing kicked off with pro-abortion Rep. Michelle Rayner introducing an amendment to strip the pro-life protections from the bill; she was quickly rebuffed by Reps. Tyler Sirois and Will Robinson who argued her amendment undermined the bill. The amendment was quickly defeated. Bill sponsors Reps. Erin Grall and Jenna Persons-Mulicka then introduced the bill. Surprisingly, the bill opponents declined to cross examine Grall and Persons-Mulicka, choosing to allow public testimony to proceed. Committee Chair Colleen Burton and Ranking Member Tracie Davis then debated over time allotted to speakers. After the bill opponents agreed to forfeit closing debate, a compromise time was reached. Legislative Director Aaron DiPietro testified in support of the bill, emphasizing the humanity of the child. Other testimonies included a 25-year OB/GYN physician, a 19-week pregnant mother, and nurse all speaking in favor of life. Over one-hundred speaker cards were submitted including many opponents. Toward the end, a small commotion erupted as one speaker attempted to break up the meeting with chants but was quickly escorted out with the offending audience members. The bill passed, heading to the whole House floor next week.
Below is an updated list of some of the top bills we are tracking in this session, and some include an ACTION ALERT in Red, signifying upcoming bills that will be heard this week, providing opportunities for supporters to attend and show support for those bills. Next week is shaping up to be an action-packed week for some of our key, top priority bills!
Stay tuned for our weekly updates throughout the session.
Now, for this week’s update on our core legislative agenda!
Description: The act, based in part on the Mississippi law recently heard by the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case set to potentially undermine and/or reverse Roe v. Wade, prohibits abortions after 15 weeks; if enacted, it would be the strongest protection for the unborn post-Roe. In addition, the bill mandates stricter reporting requirements on abortion clinics, providing needed data on chemical abortions in the state.
Status: HB 5 passed its final committee stop, Health and Human Services, Thursday, 14-7. On the Senate side, SB 146 is awaiting a hearing in its final Senate committee, Appropriations.
ACTION ALERT: HB 1184 has been placed on the Special Order Calendar to go before the whole House Chamber on Tuesday.
Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Conscience
Description: The Religious Institutions Bill attempts to stop discriminatory government mandates against religious organizations in times of emergency. This issue came to the forefront during the COVID pandemic when governors from across the nation placed churches and houses of worship under unique restrictions than harsher than those of businesses and other organizations. (For example, in several states, governors allowed most businesses to operate at 50% occupancy, while only allowing 10 or 50 people in a church service, regardless of the size of the church, creating a double standard that discriminated against religious organizations.) Thankfully, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has not pushed such policies, but future administrations could reverse course. This bill proactively protects religious institutions by requiring equal treatment under the law under during state emergencies.
Status: The House version (215) now heads to the House floor; the Senate version passed the full Senate floor 31-3 and has been sent to the House. Florida Family Policy Council was instrumental in suggesting additional language to further strengthen equal protections under the law for religious institutions.
The House version (215) has been placed on the Calendar for a full House vote. Once passed, the bill will head to Governor DeSantis’s desk.
Description: This proposal provides protections to health care professionals from being penalized, reprimanded, or deprived of their licenses for exercising their freedom of speech on social media. In light of recent pro-life and pro-family censorship against pro-life and pro-family, it requires anyone who attempts to accuse a health care worker of saying something incorrect on social media to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If anyone falsely accuses a health care worker for saying something incorrect on social media, that person will face serious penalties.
Status: On Wednesday, the Senate version passed its second committee, Judiciary, 7-3, and has one final committee stop; the House version will have its first committee Monday.
ACTION ALERT: HB 687 will be heard in its first House committee meeting, Professions and Public Health, on Monday, February 14th (the committee meets from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm) in 212 K in the Knott Building.
Description: The bill would protect the rights of medical doctors, nurses, or other providers, as well as religious medical facilities, to practice their conscience convictions in their healthcare practices. Specifically, no medical professional or entity could be forced to recommend, participate in, and provide non-emergency medical procedures and actions that would violate their sincerely held convictions and beliefs. For example, no doctor would be forced to perform an abortion, and no nurse would be demanded to participate in a “sex-reassignment” surgery, among other actions that could violate their rights of conscience.
Status: The bill has passed one committee, and awaits a hearing in Judiciary, the second of three stops. It has not moved in the Senate yet.
Education/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Description: This proposal would ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Florida public schools and provide standards for enforcement and guidelines for education policy. It also would prohibit corporations doing business in Florida from mandating CRT training for their employees.
Status: SB 148 is in Rules committee as the last of 2 committee Senate stops. The House version (HB 7) passed its final committee, Education and Employment, 14-7, and now heads to the full House floor where it awaits a final vote.
Education and Parental Rights
Description: This proposal seeks to further build on the education provisions of the state’s Parent’s Bill of Rights by allowing greater parental access to school information on their minor children; forbidding school districts from withholding information on children from their parents; prohibiting school districts from encouraging discussions of sexuality and gender identity for younger students; and laying out ground rules for how school districts are to respect parental rights.
Status: HB 1557 has passed its first committee and now heads to its final House stop Judiciary. The Senate version, SB 1834, passed its first committee Education, 6-3, on Tuesday and moves on to Senate Appropriations, the second of three stops.