Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
For the second year in a row, the House has voted to strengthen consumer data privacy in Florida. The proposal (HB 9), passed via a 103-8 vote, would give consumers more control over their personal data, including the right to request companies delete or stop selling it. The bill would apply to businesses that meet two of three thresholds: have $50 million global annual revenue, sell the data of 50,000 consumers, or derive half of its global revenue from selling personal data. Ultimately, lawmakers hope to prevent companies from trading in Floridians’ data without approval. Polling published Tuesday showed the proposal is overwhelmingly popular among voters, but the business community has railed against the bill, claiming it could cost Florida businesses as much as $21 billion. Supporters, however, note the potential costs would be shouldered only by companies that actively trade in consumer data. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Three-quarter bil, y’all. The Senate budget sets aside $720 million to help a proposed housing development in Senate President Wilton Simpson’s home district.
Snip snip. The House unanimously passed a tax cut package that includes sales tax holidays for school supplies, hurricane prep, baby clothes and more.
Cyber snub. The House cybersecurity budget requests — a priority of Sprowls — total $120 million, but the Senate hasn’t set aside a dime.
Cancer cash. A bid to boost spending on cancer research is on the verge of getting approved — and named for First Lady Casey DeSantis.
Grounded. The Senate is seeking $20 million to purchase two planes for the state, but the House is holding firm at $0.
Pearly whites. Lawmakers have agreed to spend nearly $1.8 million for the dental loan repayment program and an initiative called Florida’s Donated Dental Services, which is $1 million more than the Florida Dental Association asked for.
Health and Wellness. Senate and House budget negotiators agreed to set aside $1.25 million for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department’s Health and Wellness Center.
Forgotten cemeteries. The House has continued to hold out on an appropriation that would kick-start an education program on local abandoned African American cemeteries in Tampa Bay.
Surfside bills collapse. A slate of Surfside-inspired bills appear to have died after receiving little attention in committee.
Quote of the Day
“There are a few times that we get the opportunity to see one of our colleagues stand strong against the onslaught of special interest opposition to do what is right for the people of Florida.”
— House Speaker Chris Sprowls, commending Rep. Fiona McFarland’s data privacy bill.
Bill Day’s Latest
HB 7, Republican-backed legislation to extinguish “woke” indoctrination in the classroom and corporate settings, passed its final Senate committee yesterday. The bill only needs the Senate’s approval before making it onto Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.
Groups and individuals have criticized the bill for potentially quelling classroom discussions about racism and other issues. Mutaqee Akbar, attorney and president of the Leon County NAACP, is one of those critics.
Florida Politics spoke with Akbar about HB 7 and why he believes it is going through the legislature.
Q: What are your thoughts on HB 7?
Akbar: HB 7 is an unnecessary bill. I think the purpose of it is to send the Black community a message that white men are still in control. I know that sounds harsh, but the fact that it is unnecessary, the fact that critical race theory is not taught in elementary, middle school or high school, that it is a focused curriculum in law school. But the idea is, ‘we do not want you people talking about White supremacy, or systemic oppression, so we’re going to put these laws in place to try to curb that idea and send a message of who’s in control.’ I did a press conference this morning with Nikki Fried about it, and what I said was the very evils that they don’t want us to talk about, like, these are examples of those evils, which is systemic oppression and White supremacy, because it’s saying ‘you can talk about your history, but limit how much you talk about it.’ Or if I feel uncomfortable, when you talk about the history, then it’s gone too far. It’s a restraint on how teachers would teach.
It, the bill itself, it says that one of the teaching requirements is ‘students had developed an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms, and examine what it means to be a responsible and respectful person for the purpose of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions.’ That’s in the bill itself. I don’t think you can do that in any kind of way, really understand the ramifications of prejudice, really understand the ramifications of racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms without having a full and honest conversation. That’s what makes the statute inconsistent and unnecessary.
Q: Conservative activists and parents have been pushing against what they label as critical race theory across the country over the past several months. Where do you think that push is coming from?
Akbar: I think the push is coming from the very, very conservative right. And again, I think it’s coming from, you know, white men concerned about their position in this world. And it’s coming from the conversation that was started because of what people call the Black Lives Matter movement a couple of years ago, and then identify systemic oppression and white supremacy as the root of the evil that caused the death of George Floyd and other deaths throughout this country. They don’t want those conversations to take place because they themselves feel uncomfortable about those conversations.
Q: How do you believe topics like slavery, segregation, and systemic racism should be taught and discussed in schools? Do you think Florida is meeting that standard?
Akbar: I think they should be taught exactly for what they are. I think they should be taught the same exact way it is enumerated for the Holocaust, which is this was about race. In statute, it says that when we teach about the Holocaust, you teach that this entire group was annihilated because of their race. I think slavery needs to be taught the same way. I think Jim Crow needs to be taught the same exact way. That these people were made slaves because this group of people thought they were inferior. These people were separated and given messed up and unequal education, health and everything else because this group of people thought they were inferior. I think it needs to be honest conversations and no concern over who feels uncomfortable about it.
The first budget offer from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government matches the House with nearly $12.8 million in payments for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System.
According to the offer, released Wednesday morning, the chambers will set aside $6.64 million for the relocation and reconstruction of radio towers, $2.2 million for First Net subscriptions and $1.5 million for staffing and independent verification and validation services, and $1 million for tower repair and replacement.
The chambers have also agreed on a handful of smaller items related to SLERS, including money for tower lease payment increases, network testing equipment, legal services and radio units themselves.
Much of the money would head to L3Harris, which is in charge of the SLERS rebuild. The Melbourne-based company is represented by two of the top firms in the state with their lobbying roster featuring Brian Ballard, Jeff Atwater and Carol Bracy of Ballard Partners, as well as Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair and Will Rodriguez of Corcoran Partners.
Notably, the $2.2 million chunk for First Net subscriptions would not go to L3Harris, but instead to AT&T. FirstNet is the name brand for an AT&T service that operates on a dedicated network, providing police, firefighters and EMTs with a means to communicate free from interference.
While the telecommunications giant has dozens of lobbyists on retainer, FirstNet is offered under its subsidiary, AT&T Services. The division is represented by Nick Iarossi, Ken Granger and Andrew Ketchel of Capital City Consulting and Alan Suskey and RJ Myers of Shumaker Advisors Florida.
The Next 24
— The Senate will hold a floor session at 10 a.m.
— The House will hold a floor session at 10 a.m.
— 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 adjourns.