Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2021 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
Republican lawmakers are backing legislation (SB 146/HB 5) that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. The proposal faces staunch opposition from Democratic members of the state Legislature, who joined congressional leaders on Monday for an online news conference to mark the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court ruling by blasting the proposal. The House bill has already cleared its first committee, but Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book vowed to give anti-choice legislators the “fight of their lives” if the legislation moves forward in the Senate. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Map woes. House Democrats questioned whether redistricting staff took minority growth into account when crafting new state House and congressional districts.
Real big router. Florida TaxWatch released a report recommending lawmakers to pump nearly a half-billion dollars into rural broadband expansion.
‘Snake oil’ sites. House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne compared DeSantis’ focus on monoclonal antibody therapies to his prior focus on hydroxychloroquine, which proved to be “snake oil.”
Second opinion. Ahead of the first confirmation hearing for Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, House Democrats said the doctor lacks relevant experience related to COVID-19.
Game plan. State and congressional Democrats stressed the importance of passing federal voting rights legislation during a Monday news conference.
Legalize it. Miami Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph rallied supporters around the effort to legalize marijuana during a news conference inside the Capitol.
Payout cut. A Senate panel unanimously OK’d a claims bill (SB 80) directing the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to pay $7.2 million, down from $18 million, to the mother of boys maimed by a negligent state trooper.
Quote of the Day
“I had the ability to make that decision, I had the ability to weigh the pros and cons and the impact on my family … I was able to debate with just my husband, my doctor and my God, not the Florida Legislature.”
— Rep. Robin Bartleman, criticizing the proposed 15-week abortion ban.
Bill Day’s Latest
HB 5, which would ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks, passed its first committee along party lines last week. DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have both signaled their support for the bill.
While Republicans are pushing the bill, House Democrats have mobilized to try to stop it, with several reps swarming the bill’s first committee stop. Rep. Fentrice Driskell, the House Democratic policy chair, said their fight is not over.
Driskell spoke with Florida Politics about the specifics of HB 5 and any potential legal challenges that may come its way if it is passed.
Q: How would this abortion ban impact access in the state and in the South as a whole?
Driskell: This ban, if it were to be passed, would absolutely make it more difficult for Floridians to get access to reproductive health care. And let’s be clear that abortion is reproductive health care. It’s my understanding that after, if a pregnant person wanted to have an abortion after 15 weeks, they would have to leave the state of Florida, if they had the financial means and wherewithal to do so. The closest state that they could go to for such health care services would be North Carolina. I have grave concerns that it is going to adversely impact all women and pregnant people, but especially minority people who live in rural communities, and other Floridians who generally have faced significant barriers to being able to raise children, whether those are economic factors or otherwise. I think that this bill would be particularly harsh on them. And yeah, you asked about the South as a whole. Putting this in that context, because we can see that what’s happening now in the Florida Legislature is part of a broader strategy with multiple states across the south trying to pass some sort of draconian abortion ban that doesn’t track with Roe v Wade viability standards. I do believe it’s a part of a larger in concerted effort to ban abortion altogether.
I view my role as a lawmaker as fighting for every Floridian’s freedom to be healthy, prosperous and safe. And I want the public to know that there is nothing moderate about HB 5. It provides no exception if a child is forcibly raped, if a woman is forcibly raped, if a child experiences incest. There is no exception for these very sad and traumatic circumstances that sometimes happen to women. We heard public testimony from women who shared that they had been sexually assaulted or raped, and had to face the decision of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term or whether or not to have an abortion. And under HB 5, these women would have no recourse after 15 weeks. And 15 weeks is so early, it’s quite possible for a woman to not even know she’s pregnant at that point. And so I fear that Florida is moving in the wrong direction with respect to this bill and with respect to freedom.
Q: The bill has been described as a Mississippi-style abortion ban. Texas’ abortion ban was the subject of national attention last year. How are those two types of bans different?
Driskell: So the Mississippi-style ban is banning abortions after 15 weeks, the Texas-style ban would prohibit them after six weeks. So there’s a difference in the amount of time under each ban. But the challenge is that neither of them really track with Roe v. Wade viability standard. And so the simplest way to talk about viability is the ability of a fetus to live outside the mother’s womb. And you know, at six weeks or 15 weeks, I don’t believe that would be legal under Roe v. Wade, because I don’t think that it would meet the viability standard.
Q: Gov. DeSantis and Speaker Sproles have both signaled support for the ban. How likely is it that the ban will pass? What avenues are there for legal challenges to it?
Driskell: I don’t know whether or not this will pass in the Senate. I think that from what we’ve seen with prior abortion legislation very likely to pass in the house. And from that perspective, the Senate then would be our only legislative backstop. With respect to legal challenges, I do think that there’s a pathway to challenge it under Roe v. Wade. Right now, there’s a case before the Supreme Court. The court has considered Roe v. Wade at least seven times since its inception, whether or not to uphold it. And each time the court has determined that the right to an abortion is fundamental. So the Florida Legislature is taking a real gamble with this legislation right now. But if it were to pass in both the House and the Senate this session, litigation would be the only pathway to getting the law overturned.
Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub and Postmates. Over the past two years, many of us have become intimately familiar with their delivery fee structures, drop-off etiquette, and their lists of exclusive restaurants.
They’re a great way to take care of dinner without leaving the house, but they share one shortcoming: Nothing they bring to your door can compete with a top-tier home-cooked meal.
Enter Shef.com. It’s basically Etsy for food. If one of your neighbors knows how to make a mean vindaloo, Shef can connect you to them and get a batch delivered to your doorstep.
The company already operates in New York and California, but they can’t break into the Florida market without a little help from the Legislature.
That’s because current state regulations on cottage food businesses don’t allow cooks working out of their home kitchen to sell food that requires refrigeration. Basically, macaroons are OK, manicotti is a no-go. Shef has tapped the team at Lewis Longman & Walker to help them get that changed.
Lori Killinger, Executive Shareholder and Chair of LLW’s lobbying practice, foresees a little pushback from traditional restaurants but believes the concerns will be diffused once they and lawmakers learn more about the service.
For one, Shef isn’t an on-demand service and isn’t trying to be. If you want food delivered in an hour, you’ll need to fire up a different app because your neighbor isn’t going to drop what they’re doing to make a Publix run. If you want that vindaloo, you’ll want to put the order in a couple of days in advance.
There’s also a feel-good element here: Shef launched a program that helps Afghan refugees get back on their feet by waiving fees and providing them the resources to get started. Assuming the Legislature lets Shef come to the state, you can help by putting in an order for some qormah and a batch of mantus.
The Next 24
— The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will consider legislation (HB 761) to require water management districts to create land conservation acquisition lists. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Morris Hall.
— A bill (HB 499) to require professional sports teams that receive government funding to play the national anthem before home games will go before the House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee when it meets at 9 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee will consider a school safety bill (HB 1421) when it meets at 9 a.m. in Reed Hall.
— The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 105) that would allow local bans on smoking in public parks or on beaches. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— Sen. Annette Taddeo, Rep. Felicia Robinson and Rep. Geraldine Thompson will hold a news conference advocating for Medicaid expansion at 9 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol. It will also be livestreamed via Zoom.
— Science centers, museums and student groups will host STEM Day at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday. Festivities will include displays and hands-on activities demonstrating how STEM education benefits the state. They will be set up in the Florida Capitol courtyard and rotunda from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
— The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear a bill (SB 796) that would enhance criminal penalties for evidence tampering in certain criminal cases when it meets at 10 a.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— A bill (SB 1300) that would require school boards to hear public comments during meetings and allow speakers to criticize board members during their comments will go before the Senate Education Committee when it meets at 10 a.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— Democratic Reps. Joe Geller, Michael Grieco, Christopher Benjamin, Kevin Chambliss and Felicia Robinson will hold a news conference on retaining electronic ballot images at 11 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol.
— Rep. Stan McClain will hold a news conference and reception alongside FreedomWorks at noon on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.
— The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will consider the confirmation of gubernatorial appointees, including James Hartsell to lead the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and former Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera for a seat on the Florida Elections Commission when it meets at 1 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— The House State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a bill (HB 357) dealing with the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers when it meets at 1 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will consider a bill (SB 186) aimed at reducing policy counts at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
Also, the following committees will meet.
— The Revenue Estimating Conference meets at 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.
— The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets at 10 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets at 1 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.
— The House Post-Secondary Education & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m.in Morris Hall.
— The House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee meets at 1 p.m. in Reed Hall.
— The Senate Community Affairs Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.
— The Senate Transportation Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.
— The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Reed Hall.
— The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.
— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.
— The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets at 3:30 p.m.in Morris Hall.