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A Report from Florida

April 27, 2022

Here’s what our former Florida lobbyist

JEJ & Associates company logo     April 2022 eNewsletter   From the Capitol   The Legislature returned to Tallahassee for an April 19th – 22nd special session to consider new congressional maps. Governor Ron DeSantis had vetoed the maps that were passed during the regular session.   

At a press conference in The Villages on April 19th, the Governor expanded the call of the special session to include consideration of termination of all special districts enacted in Florida prior to 1968 that had not been reauthorized. He specifically mentioned the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which is the governing entity of Walt Disney World. 

A second bill would erase the carve out Disney was granted during the last session that allows lawsuits against media companies regarding content moderation decisions. Relatedly, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments this week on the 2021 law.  

The members considered a congressional map submitted by the Governor’s Office, which would eliminate a predominantly Black congressional district in North Florida now held by Congressman Al Lawson (a former member of the Florida Legislature, serving from 1982 – 2000) and creates four new Republican-leaning districts. Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) proposed a competing 28-district congressional map prior to the special session.

It was heard during the Senate Reapportionment Committee meeting, but did not pass. Other amendments were adopted to designate Leon County as the court venue if the maps were challenged and for an appropriation of one million dollars from the General Revenue Fund for litigation expenses. The Governor’s map passed along party lines – 24-15 in the Senate on April 20th and 68-38 in the House on April 21st.

Fair Districts Now and Common Cause requested a federal court to intervene in the congressional redistricting process. With the passage of the reapportionment bill, Secretary of State Laurel Lee asked the court dismiss the case.  

The session ended in dramatic fashion with members of the House Black Caucus exceeding their time to debate on the floor and staging a sit-in and noisy protest of the congressional map. There was no final debate on the bills to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District or the technology company exemption from content moderation decision lawsuits due to this chaos. The bills passed along party lines as well.   

BILLS RECEIVED BY THE GOVERNOR   The Governor continues to receive bills passed by the Legislature for his consideration. To date, he has signed 73 bills. Below is a sampling of bills signed into law:   HB 5 regarding reducing fetal and infant mortality, restricts abortion access after fifteen weeks, leaving no exception for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking. Additionally, it provides funding for a committee to review ways to reduce maternal and fetal mortality.   HB 7 regarding individual freedom expands the interpretation of discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and the Florida Education Code in the classroom and workplace. Known as the Stop Woke Act, it will prohibit certain kinds of diversity, equity and inclusion training.   SB 292 requires newborn screenings to include testing for congenital cytomegalovirus if the infant fails a hearing screening.   SB 1054, the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, revises the required credits for a standard high school diploma to include one half credit instruction in personal financial literacy and money management in public schools.   HB 1467, addressing K-12 education, establishes term limits for local school board members, requires school boards to keep a list of instructional materials and library books available to the public, and provides an avenue for parents to challenge any school library book and have them removed from circulation.   HB 1557 regarding parental rights in education specifies how school districts adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in their student’s services or monitoring related to their mental, emotional or physical health. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, it prohibits lessons on sexual orientation in grades K-3.   
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