Sixty Days for 2.16.22 — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session

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Notes and highlights from today in Tallahassee.

Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:

The Last 24

The House moved forward with legislation (HB 403/HB 569) that would allow businesses to sue governments and halt enforcement of local ordinances. Backers of the proposal, a legislative priority, say it would cut down on the number of preemption bills in the Legislature in future Sessions. It would not allow businesses to block ordinances related to debt refinancing, budget adoptions, emergencies, fire code and prevention or developmental growth management. But it also wouldn’t require potential plaintiffs to speak up during the ordinance-crafting process. Opponents of the bill said that would allow businesses to “lay in wait” for an ordinance to pass so they can file suit and collect. The bill now heads to its final stop in the House. The companion bills (SB 280, SB 620) have already cleared the full Senate. Here’s your nightly rundown.

One or the other. The House and Senate budgets include a raise for state employees, but their plans aren’t identical.

No. 1 dad. The House passed a sweeping bill (HB 7065) that would invest $70 million to promote “responsible” fatherhood, protect at-risk boys and support foster children throughout Florida.

Collision course. The Senate and House Medicaid-managed care bills (SB 1950/HB 7047) are starting to converge, but major differences remain.

‘Victims of Communism.’ A bill (SB 268) that proposes public school students observe “Victims of Communism Day” is ready for its final committee hearing in the Senate.

Money matters. Legislation (HB 1115) requiring high schoolers to take a financial literacy class has graduated to its final committee.

Show some restraint. A bill (SB 390) that seeks to further restrict the use of physical restraints on students with disabilities is headed to its final committee stop.

Sanctity of the dead. A bill (HB 1215) that would create the Historic Cemeteries Program to research, repair, restore and maintain abandoned Black cemeteries cleared its second committee with a unanimous vote.

‘Pop-up’ parties. The longer, rowdier and sometimes violent cousin of flash mobs would be banned under legislation (SB 1954) ready for a full vote in the Senate.

Go digital. A Senate panel unanimously approved two bills (SB 1178/SB 364) that could bring significant changes to vehicle license plates.

Tickets, please. A bill (HB 969) that would make it easier for individuals to resell tickets for shows and sporting events cleared its first hurdle in the House.

Laying cable. Bills (HB 1543/HB 1545) to improve high-speed internet access in Florida are teed up for their final committee stops in the House.

Trotting along. Harness racing, heading toward what may be its final turn in Florida, would be offered another ride in a bill (HB 1289) approved by the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee

Regular checkups. A new poll shows voters support more frequent inspections of aging condo buildings.

Quote of the Day

“This is like the opening ceremony of the Olympics of lawsuits.”

— AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin, on a bill allowing businesses to sue local governments to block ordinances.

Bill Day’s Latest



3 Questions

The House last week unanimously passed HM 43, calling on the federal government to forcefully condemn the ongoing human rights abuses by the Communist government in Cuba.

Rep. Susan Valdés, a first-generation American-born daughter of Cuban immigrants, supported the legislation on the floor and with public statements.

Florida Politics spoke with Valdés about her family’s experience migrating to the United States, as well as what she thinks the federal government should do about Cuba.

Susan Valdés’ family owned a business in Cuba called the Blue-Sky Bar before the Communist government took it. She keeps pictures of the bar, back then and its ruins today, in her legislative office.

Q: Tell me the story of how your family migrated to the United States from Cuba.

My family migrated to the United States during the Battista era. They migrated in search of the American dream. Relations then were kind-of-sort-of normal with the United States and Cuba, you could travel back and forth. My dad and my mom migrated here with my little brother and my little sister. My mom would travel back and forth with my sisters and other siblings. What ended up happening is that, while in the process of trying to bring my other sisters over legally the right way with all the requirements, relations broke, and my two sisters were stuck in Cuba. My mom, dad and my brother, were stuck here in the United States. Our family was separated. My parents tried to bring them over through Jamaica, Spain, Mexico, Haiti. It was never able to come to fruition. My dad passed away at the age of 56 in Hialeah. He never got a chance to have his family at a dinner table together. My mom did not have her four children at a dinner table for the first time until the age of 75. My mom missed out on the birth of her first grandson, my sisters’ weddings, all those mile markers in the child’s life that normally parents are a major part of. My family was robbed of that opportunity.

My family had a business in Cuba, called the Blue-Sky Bar. In one of the pictures I have of it, you see my granddaddy, my sister, my brother and my cousin. I have a niece and grandnephews still in Cuba which I know that I won’t be able to see again or even help. Because of the fact that there are no relations right now. So even if I wanted to help my family with some food, or medications, I can’t even do that for them.

Q: Amid recent international issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic, what abuses are currently happening in Cuba?

The lack of health care. You know, one of the things that they talk about is that every Cuban in Cuba is very well educated. I’ve got to give them that, you know, they all are literate folks. And you have physicians, teachers, lawyers, just amazing academics over there. But unfortunately, although they tout how the medical system works over there, it doesn’t. There’s very little health care over there. So, you see the streets in Havana, in the neighborhoods with potholes and stagnant water. It’s just awful. I haven’t been to Cuba since 1979. That was the first time that I was able to go meet my family, when then-President Jimmy Carter, made the reunification law where if you were an American citizen or a legal resident, and you had family in communist nations, then you could go visit your family. That is the only time I’ve been to Cuba, and that was the first time I was able to meet my sisters for the very first time at the age of 14. They had those infrastructure problems when I went, and they still persist. With the lack of internet and the control, we cannot see exactly what is happening over there, and that’s really, really sad. You have people that have gone out to demonstrate and those individuals and their families are jailed or disappeared. It’s just awful.

Q: What do you think the federal government should do about Cuba?

President (Barack) Obama has been criticized for removing the wet foot dry foot that the Cuban population had enjoyed for many years. That was part of a negotiation, if you will, because we were starting to have small incubators of businesses happening in the Cuban people. So, the Cuban people were now getting a taste of that capitalism and what it means to be able to have a small business and, and reap some, some benefits from that. And although the government, you know, is going to take their cut, we take our cut here, right? It’s called taxes. So that kind of sort of opened up their eyes even more so to the possibilities. And then the next administration comes and stops all relations, making it more difficult for the Cubans that have family members in Cuba that live here to help take care of our families.

Think about it. We tout in these United States our core family values. Well, where are my family values? That’s my family over there, and I can’t help because my government does not allow me to help. Yet, I’m supposed to turn a blind eye to that. I just hope that we can come up with some type of agreement so that families can help their family members back home. For families like mine, where the immigration process is not an option, how do I help my niece and my grandnephews survive in a regime that is very difficult? This is very close to my heart, and there are many others that are in my same predicament. I just wish that we can come up with solutions to be able to honor my family values as an American to be able to help my family in a place where no help exists.

Lobby Up

One of the most controversial bills moving its way through the Legislature this Session would closely regulate LGBTQ instruction in the classroom and conversations with younger students.

The legislation (SB 1834/HB 1557), sponsored by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley and Williston Republican Rep. Joe Harding, would ban school districts from “encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate.”

Proponents of the bill say such discussions circumvent a parent’s role in their child’s development and that the legislation would prevent teachers from pushing “social agendas.”

However, the opposition says it is designed to reinforce heteronormativity in children and banning discussions only serves to further stigmatize LGBTQ relationships and identities.

Equality Florida is among the most staunchly opposed to the bills. The group works to secure equal rights for LGBTQ people in the state. In Tallahassee, they are represented by public policy director Jon Harris Maurer, senior political director Joe Saunders and public policy fellow Rindala Alajaji.

The organization recently launched a new, two-part ad campaign blasting the legislation, which it has labeled as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

The House Health and Human Services Committee will consider a bill (HB 105) that would allow local governments to ban smoking on beaches and in public parks. It meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall.

The House Commerce Committee will consider a bill (HB 907) that would allow Putnam County to request a grant to conduct a port feasibility study and add the county to the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council when it meets at 8 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

The Senate will hold a floor Session at 10 a.m. The chamber is expected to consider its 2022-23 budget proposal (SB 2500).

The House Education & Employment Committee will consider a bill (HB 703) that would shield applications for state college and university presidents from public record when it meets at 3 p.m. in Morris Hall.

The House State Affairs Committee will take up a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1/HB 1563) that would provide an additional homestead exemption for teachers, nurses, child welfare workers, police, firefighters and other first responders. The committee meets at 3 p.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

The House Judiciary Committee will consider a bill (HB 1557) that would restrict discussions of LGBTQ and gender issues in schools when it meets at 3 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

Also, the following committees will meet.

— The House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee meets at 8 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Appropriations Committee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 212 of the Knott Building.

— The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building. The meeting begins 15 minutes after the floor Session ends.

— The House Ways & Means Committee meets at 11:30 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Rules Committee when it meets at 6:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

Full committee agendas, including bills to be considered, are available on the House and Senate websites.

Staff Reports


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