2020 Florida legislative update | Joan Wallin

Update on Florida Legislation – February 2020
Joan Wallin, chapter president emeritus briefed the chapter members on Florida pending legislation in the 2020 session.

March 13th is the end of regular session

I’m not going cover everything since our lobbyists are tracking over 80 bills. You should be receiving weekly updates in The Capitol Report provided by our lobby firm Capitol Alliance Group. It’s great that the League has a team of lobbyists working for us. You also should be getting Action Alerts from the State League. Please act immediately when you receive one.

We’re now in the final weeks of sessions when negotiations are taking place between the House and Senate. Spending plans have passed both bodies and they are $1.4 billion apart.

Referendums

Thus far there are four constitutional amendments that have qualified to appear on the ballot and two amendments the Legislature may add. There are three ways to amend the Florida Constitution. Every twenty years Florida convenes a Constitution Revision Commission. You’re all familiar with the petition process for putting an amendment on the ballot. The third way is the Florida House and Senate may propose an amendment by passing it by three-fifths majority in both houses.

Two Possible Legislative Proposals

  • 1. School Board Term Limits (League opposes)
    A proposal to limit elected school board members in Florida to eight consecutive years
    The referendum garnered a 79-39 vote margin in the Republican-controlled chamber. But there may not be the necessary votes to pass in the Senate. Legislative proposed referendums do not require review by the governor to advance onto the ballot.
    The League believes that voters should determine when an elected official should leave office.
  • 2. Increase requirements for ballot initiative
    Current law requires initiative backers to gather the signatures of registered voters of a number equal to 8% of the voters who participated in the last presidential election in at least half of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Lawmakers intend to ask voters to keep the requirement at 8% of the previous vote count but increase the number of required number of congressional districts meeting the 8% requirement to all 27 congressional districts. Meeting that requirement would be a tough bar to meet.

Four Petition Initiatives have met requirements for being on the ballot in November:

  • 1. Raising minimum wage to $15
    Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.
  • 2. Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments (Legislature proposes) (League Opposes)
    Requires that all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution be approved by 60% of the voters who cast ballots in two elections, instead of one election, in order to take effect. Petitions gathered would be valid for the two-year period.
  • 3. Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida
    Current constitutional language states: Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered. New language would change “every citizen” to “Only a citizen.” Florida Citizen Voters worked to put this on the ballot. The purpose for the change and funding sources are unclear.
  • 4. All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet (League Gathered Petitions and Supports)
    Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024. You may recall the Florida League conducted a two-year primary study and went through a consensus building process based on what we learned in the study. It believes that opening primaries to non-party affiliated voters will increase voter turnout in primary elections. Language is waiting for Florida Supreme Court review.

 

Preemption is a Disturbing Legislation Trend
Last year a law was passed that took away local control over tree management. They also want to take away local control over sunscreen, and single-use plastics like straws. St. Petersburg has a city ordinance that abolishes super PAC’s and prohibits spending by foreign-influenced corporations in city elections. Senator Jeff Brandes wants to block it.

This session legislators want to prohibit local regulation of vacation rentals through HB 1011 and SB 1128. The proposed changes would ban ordinances that specifically target vacation rentals. Cities and counties would still be allowed to pass ordinances dealing with noise, parking and trash, so long as they apply to all residential properties.

Constitutional Amendment Process (League Opposes)
House Bill 7037 and Senate Bill 1794
House Bill 7037 is before the House State Affairs Committee. This proposal would make the process more difficult and more expensive to amend the state Constitution.
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The House bill would increase from 10% to 50% the percentage of required signatures to get an initiative reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, while decreasing the time period to collect those signatures from two years to one. In the Senate the companion bill Senate Bill 1794 was amended to decrease the 50% threshold to 33%.

Currently, the 10% threshold must be met in 1/8 of Florida’s Congressional Districts. The legislation would change it to 1/3. It is also proposes having the Supervisors of Elections charge a fee for verifying petition signatures.

E-Verify
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a requirement for private sector businesses to verify workers’ employment eligibility using a federal database but carved out requirements for Agriculture and small businesses. Speaker Oliva, does not support E-Verify. The House has not heard it yet. Passage is a priority of Governor DeSantis.

Education
Propose to set teacher starting pay at $47,500 by both houses with details to be negotiated. There is no bonus money in either plan.

Gun Safety
Legislation seeking to close the gun show loophole has stalled, with legislative leadership not too optimistic the bill will get another hearing

Ending on a positive note
ERA: A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers hope Florida becomes the 39th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.