2018 Florida Legislative Session

To frame the political and social justice timbre to Florida’s 2018 legislative session, please read Linda Geller-Schwartz’s astute report very carefully, completely and take action when encouraged. With suggested scripts and phone numbers Linda makes it easy to express your valued opinions. To exercise our precious right to be heard on critical issues affecting the basic tenets of our democracy will make huge differences. In today’s divisive and unstable political climate many of this year’s bills shamelessly present a power grab by special interests that is astoundingly self-serving, i.e., home rule, women’s health options, ill-conceived gun bills. Some bills are positive and we need to support them! Please keep informed, vigilant, and active.
power grab

SB574

The Trump Administration launched 2018 with dramatic actions to centralize power and undermine the expression of progressive policies throughout the nation.  In Tallahassee, we see a continuation of the trend to remove local authority and substitute the will of the majority in the state legislature. 

Historically, local governments have been seen as the crucible of American democracy and state governments have been viewed as “laboratories of democracy”.   We know, of course, that  these noble concepts have also deteriorated into cries of “states’ rights” used to justify segregation or “local democracy” used to explain why school boards have to ban books.  The governments closest to the people are not always the most democratic or responsive.

However, when local authorities use their powers to respond to the progressive desires of their residents or when a state acts to express the clear will of its population to protect and advance their interests, this furthers democracy and federalism.   A responsive government that is close to the people is often better than a remote government.

Nationally and at the state level we see a trend to wrest authority away from those who should justly exercise it.  When states grab power from local governments this is frequently done by “preemption” legislation.   The federal government also tends to use its legislative or administrative tools to remove power from the states.  Here are a few examples of recent examples:

Actions in D.C.

  • This week AG Sessions rescinded the policy of the last Administration to discourage federal prosecutors in most cases from bringing charges wherever marijuana is legal under state laws. Currently, seven states & DC have legalized recreational and medical marijuana, and 21 others (including Florida) allow for medical use of marijuana.  These policies, in every case, have come about because of the will of the people in the state.
  • The Interior Department outlined a 5-year plan that would put up for auction the right to drill for oil and gas in areas offshore that in some cases had been off limits for decades, including the Atlantic coast and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Governor Scott and Senators Nelson and Rubio immediately opposed the plan.
  • The tax “reform” bill that took effect on January 1, would limit the amount of state and local taxes that are tax deductible exerting pressure on progressive states and local governments to reduce their taxes — and , inevitably, their services.  It appears to be a deliberate attempt to impose D.C.’s “small government policies” throughout the country down to the most local level.
Florida:
There are several bills before the legislature that would “preempt” local authority .  Here are a few:
  •  Senator Steube has filed a number of preemption bills this year, including SB 574 that would prevent cities and counties from requiring permits for the trimming, removal or mitigation of certain trees on private property.  Apparently, Senator Steube wasupset he had to get a permit to cut down some trees on his property.  His reaction is to propose to remove all such local authority in the state!
  • HB 871 /SB 1290  (Fant/Baxley), entitled the “Free Enterprise Protection Act” would prohibit local governments from taking any “discriminatory action” against a business because of its “personnel and employee benefit policies.”  This would give business a license to discriminate (on religious or any other grounds) against LGBTQ employees or clients — and local governments could do nothing about it.
  • HB9/SB308 (Metz/Bean),the Federal Immigration Enforcement Act, is designed to allow the state to mete out severe punishment against any local authorities that choose to become  sanctuary environments.  (see below)

These bills continue the accelerating trend  to usurp local power, particularly when it appears to be getting “too progressive”.   In the past, we have seen the state deny local governments the right to regulate guns or ammunition, enact living wage ordinances or mandate paid sick leave.  Every session seems to bring more preemption laws.  This is a very concerning, because whether it is the federal government overruling progressive states or states overruling progressive counties or cities, the result is a chipping away at federalism and democracy.

If you are near Palm Beach County, and would like to learn more about this problem, you can hear County Commissioner Dave Kerner speak on “Who makes the Decisions in Palm Beach County?” on January 17  11-1 pm at Atlantis Country Club, sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Palm Beach County.  Click here for more information and to reserve a place.

STATE OF THE STATE
florida state seal

The 2018  60 day Session begins on Tuesday January 9.   Since some controversial bills were given only one or two committee assignments, which were completed in the Pre-session Committee hearings, these bill are now ready for full floor debate and passage.  There are two important bills that we need to take action on immediately.

The Constitutional Revision Commission Committees will meet on Thursday, Jan 11 and Friday, Jan. 12 in Tallahassee and a new set of public hearings begins in early February.

Every year, on the first day of the legislative session, there are Awake the State events across the state where citizens can come to express their goals and concerns for the next 60 days.  To find an event near you, go it:  http://www.awakethestate.com/

Floridians for Reproductive Freedom
CRISIS PREGNANCY CLINICS

The Legislature is fast-tracking a measure that was hotly debated in 2017, but did not pass. HB41/SB444  (Toledo/Bean) seek to make permanent a state program that refers women to so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).   CPCs are anti-abortion, often religiously-affiliated organizations masquerading as women’s health clinics while failing to provide comprehensive, evidence-based medical care.    CPCs have withheld essential, often life-saving, reproductive health information from women who are led to believe that they are visiting an objective medical facility.

HB41 was only assigned to one Committee in the House, the Health and Human Services Committee.  It passed the Committee, almost on a party-line vote, in mid-November and will probably be on the floor of the House early this session.  Meanwhile, in the Senate, the measure has passed one Committee and has now been put on the agenda for the Senate Appropriations on Health and Human Service Committee for next Wednesday, January 10th  from 4:00pm-5:30pm. 

TAKE ACTION:

ATTEND:

  • If you plan to be in Tallahassee on Wednesday, January 10, from4-5 pm, please attend the committee hearing and waive in oppositionto the bill.  If you would like to address the committee, please contact Kim Scott (Kimberly.Scott@ppsenfl.org ) for assistance with preparing your remarks.

CALL:

  • Please call the following committee members and ask them to oppose SB444

                    Chair: Senator Anitere Flores (R)- (850) 487-5039
Vice Chair: Senator Kelli Stargel (R)- (850) 487-5022
Senator Dennis Baxley (R) – (850) 487-5012
Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R) – (850) 487-5028

MESSAGE:

Please vote NO on SB 444, which would legitimize Crisis Pregnancy Clinics that are pretending to be medical providers but do not provide medically accurate information. CPCs just end up delaying health care and risking the health of women across the state.


FEDERAL IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT:
Rule of Law Adherence Act”

HB 9 (Metz) and SB 308 (Bean) relate to state and local government enforcement of federal immigration laws.  These bills provide that no state entity, law enforcement agency, local government entity, state university, or representative thereof may adopt a “sanctuary policy.”

Sanctuary policy is defined broadly in the bill to include “a law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom adopted or permitted by a state entity, local governmental entity, or law enforcement agency” which limits or prevents compliance with federal immigration policies.

The bills include draconian penalties.  Entities (such as local governments) that enact sanctuary polices can be fined up to $5,000 a day while the policy is in force.  A so-called “sanctuary policymaker”may be suspended or removed from office. The bills also restrict state grant funding for five years for any governmental entity that has violated the law!

HB9 has already passed out of the Judiciary Committee (the only committee to which it was referred) and is ready for the House floor.

The bills have come under criticism from many sources.  For example, the ACLU of Florida has opposed HB 9 on the following grounds.  The bill

  • will put a target on the backs of immigrants by requiring law enforcement to act as immigration agents and potentially violate their constitutional rights.
  • will  drain law enforcement resources that could be used to protect our communities.
  • will erode trust between police and the communities they serve, making Florida less safe.
  • will drive victims and witnesses into the shadows.  Laws such as these have shown that when victims are afraid to report their abusers to the public for fear of deportation, it affects all of us.
  • will make local law enforcement honor warrantless ICE detainer requests which would violate people’s civil rights.   Laws such as HB9 have been found by courts to be unconstitutional as they violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. 
These bills are clearly telling Florida municipalities with large immigrant populations that their views on how best to govern their diverse communities and keep them safe, do not count.  This is a case where preemption of local laws and policies is a very bad idea.
TAKE ACTION:
CALL:

Your state Representative and ask them to oppose HB9.  To find you representative click here.MESSAGE:

House Bill 9 would have a devastating impact on all of Florida’s communities. As a constituent in your district, I am asking you to oppose HB9.

Constitutional Revision Commission
constitutional review

The committees of the Constitutional Revision Commission have started to review the remaining 79 proposed amendments to the Constitution that have been filed by the Commissioners.  The process is as follows:  The committees forward the amendments they approve to the full Commission.  If 22 of the 37 Commissioners agree on an amendment it will appear on the November 2018 ballot.  All amendments need to be finalized by May 10, 2018 to be included on the ballot.  An amendment must receive 60% of the vote to be approved and become part of the Florida Constitution.

Some proposals have been withdrawn, others have been postponed, and a few have been moved on to a second committee for consideration.  You can follow the individual proposals through a tracking process on the website.   Having said that, there is widespread criticism of the process as being rushed, and not transparent or organized.

The Committees will meet again in Tallahassee on Thursday, January 11 and Friday, January 12 this week and then again on Thursday and Friday on the following week.   You can find the calendars on their web-site;  https://www.flcrc.gov/Meetings/Calendars/2017

They have also announced that the CRC will again be holding Public Hearings throughout the state.  Here is the schedule so far:

  •      February 6, 1:00-7:00 PM.   Nova SE University, Fort Lauderdale
  •      February 19, 1:00-7:00 PM   Eastern Florida State College, Melbourne
  •      February 20, 1:00-7:00 PM   University of North Florida, Jacksonville         
  •      February 27, 1:00-7:00 PM CST   University of West Florida, Pensacola            
  •      March 13, 1:00-7:00 PM  University of South Florida – St. Petersburg

For more information about these hearings, see: https://www.flcrc.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/1071

The CRC is still considering many very troubling proposals (including a terrible blanket preemption amendment).  By the end of January, after this round of Committee hearings, we will have a better idea of where we need to focus our energies to try to stop very bad amendments from appearing on the ballot in November.  Please make plans to attend a hearing near you!  We will need a show of force of concerned citizens.


FIND A BILL AND TRACK IT: