By: María Alejandra Pulgar
Florida Legislature is half-way through their session. The broad scope of issues covered by Representatives and Senators vary from bills to designate Strawberry Shortcake as the official State Dessert, to the prohibition of abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy; provisions for safety cameras inside public schools’ classrooms; protection of local businesses; modifications on limitations for construction defects claims and regulations for the preservation of individual freedoms in education, among hundreds of other bills.
The session consists of six work-intensive weeks, with daily committee meetings and floor discussions. To become a law, bills have to be approved by both chambers before going to the Governor’s desk for signing. At this point of the session, when bills are being discussed at different committee levels, the flow of information from Tallahassee is constant and changes quickly; people need to be informed of what their legislators are proposing, as this the time of the session when constituents can call or write to their legislators to provide comments, support or refusal to the bills being discussed before they are passed and signed into laws or dropped.
Certain bills have similar or identical bills in both chambers, increasing the chances for achieving a consensus for approval. On the website of the Florida Congress http://www.leg.state.fl.us/ constituents can look for their legislators, see what they are sponsoring or voting, check the list of bills that are being discussed on each chamber, review the agenda, read the drafts and working papers that are being used on the committees by legislators and follow all details of the process of a bill of interest.
Involved constituents that contact their legislators, far from obstructing, are facilitators of their work by providing them with the information they need to develop, support or modify the laws of the State according to what people really expect and need.
To provide you with some food for thought, below we present the details on several bills that have been read and are currently being discussed.
SB736: Construction Defect Claims
The bill modifies the Florida Statute to establish at 4 years the limit for presenting construction claims, either based “on a patent or obvious defect or a latent or hidden defect”. A provision for latent defects claims is amended to variable lengths, ranging from 4 years up to 10 years depending on the type of building to be improved. This bill has been approved on the Judiciary and Community Affairs committees; will be discussed in Rules on February 3rd.
HB1055: Video Cameras in Public School Classrooms
This is a bill analyzed in the House; if passed it would allow school districts to install video cameras inside the classrooms to record the activity in order to monitor incidents of abuse or neglect of students by either a school employee or other students. Cameras would not be installed in restrooms. Recordings would be kept for three months and available for parents upon request. And in case operation of cameras is stopped, written explanation should be provided to the school principal and school board and kept for a year.
The bill had a first reading and was referred to the Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee for review. The status has not changed since January 11th.
SB148/HB7: Individual freedom
This is one of the several bills related to education that are being considered in both chambers. In particular, SB148 and HB7 amend the Florida Statute to specify certain concepts that would be considered as discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin and should be deemed unlawful as knowledge requirements to obtain employment, membership, certification, passing an examination, etc.
In addition, it is very thorough in details on the content, methodology, and kind of materials that should be used and covered to teach concepts such as civic and character education, reproductive health, human growth, and development, etc. It is worth reading it in its entirety to fully understand the importance of the details covered. The text being analyzed for approval can be found at https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/148/BillText/Filed/PDF
This bill passed favorably at the Judiciary and State Affairs committees of the House; in the Senate it was approved in Education and was introduced in Rules on January 18th. No further progress has been recorded on its approval at either chamber.
SB620: Local Business Protection
This bill “creates a process by which an established business can recover losses caused by new ordinances imposed by local governments.” It also requires that local government, prior passing regulations that may impact local businesses, provide an estimate of the impact they may cause.
It has already completed the approval cycle in the Senate and has moved on towards the House for review and approval.
SB146/H5: Fetal and Infant Mortality Reduction
The changes proposed on this bill include several measures to improve pregnant women’s health and prevent fetal and infant mortality. It also prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of gestation; redefines gestation as the time period “from the first day of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period” and include an exception to the ban if “the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality and has not reached viability” confirmed by two physicians. It does not include exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape, incest and human trafficking.
This bill passed in the Health Policy committee of the Senate and now moved on to Appropriations. The similar House Bill 5 passed on the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and moved to Health and Human Services.