House blesses bill addressing ‘fatherhood crisis’ in Florida
Image via Jason Delgado.

DSC01187 2
The bill hit turbulence after Democratic lawmakers noticed an 'offensive' existing statute.

The House passed a sweeping bill Wednesday that invests $70 million to promote “responsible” fatherhood, protect at-risk boys and support foster children throughout Florida.

The bill (HB 7065) is a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Alongside his two children, he and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers highlighted the measure outside the Capitol steps before the vote.

Collectively they stressed the importance of fatherhood and warned of the possible negative outcomes of life without a father — an increased likelihood of poverty and incarceration, among other scenarios.

“We cannot legislate fatherhood, responsibility or character,” Sprowls said. “But we can direct some state resources to ensure that fathers, father figures and mentors have the support they need to be inspired, equipped and excited about being present and active in their children’s lives.”

In a town where lawmakers rarely agree, they appeared united Wednesday on a single fact: The lack of involved fathers is a “crisis” and carries dire consequences.

According to research shared by House staff, children raised in fatherless homes are twice as likely to drop out of school, while fatherless boys are three times more likely to go to jail.

Alternatively, the House boasted data saying children with father figures are twice as likely to attend college and hold a job. They’re also 80% less likely to spend time in jail.

Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman is the bill sponsor. He described the situation in Florida as a “cycle of fatherlessness.”

“This legislation will start a new journey for thousands of young people and their families for a fresh start,” said Altman, who serves as chairman of the Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee. “We not only bring the money, we bring hope of a bright future.”

Though passed unanimously, Democratic lawmakers took issue with an existing statutory provision they noticed while reviewing the bill.

The provision, they asserted repeatedly on the floor, is offensive to minorities. It categorizes disabled children and “Black or racially mixed” kids, among others, as “special needs.”

Pompano Beach Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams filed an amendment to address the statute, though it is not included in the bill.

Tampa Democratic Rep. Fentrice Driskell described the provision as discriminatory. Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis characterized it as insulting. They urged the Republican-controlled Chamber to accept the amendment.

Despite the objections, Democratic Leader Evan Jenne urged colleagues to support the “good” bill. He decried the existing statute’s language as “extremely problematic,” but vowed it would be addressed later in Session.

Jenne and Sprowls spoke one-on-one about the statute minutes before the vote. Jenne described Sprowls as a “man of his word” and vowed to members the language would be removed.

“The wheels are already spinning to make sure we get this hateful, hateful language out of our statutes and never have to look at it again,” Jenne said.

Lawmakers passed the bill with a 117-0 vote. It contains a slew of provisions, including plans tasking the state Department of Children and Families with awarding grants to fatherhood programs and nonprofits serving at-risk boys.

The bill also designates June as “Responsible Fatherhood Month” and provides steps to foster children who age out of care.

Democratic Tallahassee Rep. Ramon Alexander is among the proponents who applauded the bill at the afternoon rally.  He described the measure as a bipartisan “game-changer.”

“This is a monumental piece of legislation that will send shockwaves throughout our state for generations to come,” said Alexander, leader of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Roughly 30 or so lawmakers attended the event and former NFL player Jack Brewer was there, too. He serves on the Federal Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.

“The fight for equity and equality starts with the father,” Brewer said.

The bill now awaits the Senate’s full consideration. It further contains provisions that would require the Department of Juvenile Justice to coordinate with DCF and collect data on children involved with both departments.

Foster care caregivers would also get a boost under the bill, scoring a $200 monthly stipend increase intended for early learning and child care.

DCF will also develop a fatherhood resource webpage and will be required to launch a public education campaign.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.

One comment

  • JakkiK

    February 17, 2022 at 8:01 pm

    Democrats took offense to this: “It categorizes disabled children and “Black or racially mixed” kids, among others, as “difficult to place” into foster care.”

    why is it offensive, if it is true. It shines the light on those children who so desperately need a loving home. This might incentivize people to do more to accommodate these children. If people don’t know there is a problem, how can they help?

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn