At the start of a week in which senators will consider a series of hot-button issues from abortion to immigration, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book says the 2022 Session is one of the worst she’s seen yet.
With the close of the 60-day Legislative Session less than three weeks away, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday will take up bills to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (HB 5) and a crackdown on illegal immigration (SB 1808/HB 1355). Additional legislation in the works, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics (SB 1834/HB 1337), is expected to go before the House later this week before making its way to the Senate.
The Republican-led Legislature has until March 11 to pass those bills plus the budget and more, including controversial Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo’s confirmation.
“We’ve got 18 more days to go, so basically we’re in hell week until Sine Die,” Book said. “Sorry, pretty sh*tty.”
The Democratic Leader drew comparisons to last Session, when lawmakers passed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” legislation that banned transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports.
While that measure was directly harmful to only a handful of students, proposals like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill would affect “untold children, families, teachers” with painful consequences, Book told reporters. So would the abortion ban, the immigration bill, and other bills regarding elections and critical race theory.
“I think this year, this is all very personal, and it feels personal,” said Book, who has been a senator since 2016. “I know it’s not coming from a mean-spirited place, because I don’t believe that my colleagues are trying to pass legislation that is mean in spirit. But I do believe that this is probably one of the worst Sessions that I’ve seen, where we’re taking issues that are going to deeply, deeply affect Floridians.”
She noted last week marked the fourth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the school safety and classroom protections measures that followed the shooting.
“But we’re a bridge too far because we don’t want to talk about two moms and two dads?” Book questioned, referring to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “What the hell are we doing? We can do better than this.”
Book will miss the Appropriations Committee meeting after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Speaking to reporters over Zoom, she told them she wished she could attend the meeting but would be back for floor session on Tuesday.
House Democrats are holding out hope that the Senate will make changes to legislation coming out of the House. On the abortion bills, Democrats hope to convince Senate Republicans to add exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking to the 15-week ban.
Because Democrats are outnumbered 24-15 in the Senate, they have little say over most major flashpoints. The leverage Democrats have to fight those bills in the remaining weeks, Book said, is to make it challenging for Republicans to pass them by asking difficult questions and pressing the policies.
“I think that you’re going to find a caucus during these next couple of weeks that are, on some of these really bad pieces of legislation, working very hard to poke holes, cut out crap and trying to make it different,” Book said.