Countdown: Here are 40 unresolved issues heading into last week of the Legislative Session
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Time is running out. What will happen before the hanky drops?

There’s just one week to go before the planned end to the 60-day Legislative Session. In just under two months, the Florida Legislature has passed a 15-week abortion ban, twice as many congressional maps as it needs, and plenty of other pieces of legislation, both controversial and ho-hum. So what remains on the docket in the next five days? Plenty. Now it’s just a question of whose priorities pass before the hanky hits the floor.

Here is a list of 40 issues the Legislature still needs to address before Sine Die.

Mandatory — Pass a budget

The three little words sound so simple. The Legislature has one constitutional responsibility to fulfill each year, and that’s to approve a balanced budget both the House and Senate agree upon to send to the Governor’s desk. Plenty of items further down this list will be a part of this overarching mission. And thanks to a statutorily required three-day cooling period before conforming bills stand for a final vote in each chamber, appropriations leaders need to balance this $105-billion-plus checkbook before midnight on Tuesday if they want to avoid Session going into overtime.

1. Data privacy (Update: Dead)

The House already passed a data privacy bill last week, but that’s never who was blocking the calls. This has been a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis for two years, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls has made it a major priority in his chamber, which did pass a bill last year. But fiscal watchdogs continue to sound alarms on potentially massive costs for the business community if enforcement measures in the legislation make their way into law. Sprowls believes those fears should be allayed, but there’s still a private cause of action that could allow consumers to sue companies. Last Session, the Senate effectively scuttled House-passed language at the end of Session. The next few days will show if there is more openness to measures this go-round.

2. Moffitt money (Update: Budgeted)

The legacies of presiding officers often get measured in bricks and asphalt. All Session, Senate President Wilton Simpson has pined for some $600 million for Moffitt Cancer Center via $20 million in recurring funding over 30 years. “This facility will rival any cancer research center on the planet when we’re finished with it, when Moffitt is finished with it,” Simpson told the press last week. That was after money seemed to vanish amid negotiations between the House and Senate. Simpson expressed confidence the money would return, but an appropriation for a road extension connecting to the campus has dropped out of the Senate’s budget offers.

3. The water bill

Is a fight between the Senate and Gov. DeSantis over a controversial Lake Okeechobee management plan (SB 2508) truly water under the bridge? Groups like the Conservation Association Florida seemed to stamp approval on an amendment to Senate language. That change assures funds for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project, the C-43 West Basin Reservoir Project, and the Indian-River Lagoon South projects aren’t contingent on certification requirements outlined in the bill. That seemed to calm political waters, but the legislation remains in conference.

4. Pump pain relief (Update: Budgeted)

Gov. DeSantis in November laid out a plan to “basically zero out” Florida’s 26.5% gas tax for a period of time to provide relief to consumers. With skyrocketing fuel costs resulting from the conflict in Ukraine, consumer demand for relief at the pump seems as great as ever. But to date, neither the House or Senate has included a gas tax moratorium in tax cut proposals within the competing state budget. Will March 11 roll by without stopping for relief? Because this feels like a measure the Governor wants to announce from a podium at Buc-ee’s in the very near future.

5. Passing controversial “parental rights” bill (Update: Passed)

The House already suffered through the national media firestorm that came with passing a measure critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. One of several high-profile culture war accelerants working their way through the process this year, the legislation would prohibit educators from raising the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in lower grade-school levels and requires the subjects only be discussed in an “age-appropriate” manner elsewhere. High school students across Florida walked out of class in protest of the bill, some marching straight to the Capitol to demonstrate last week. Senators are set to debate the language on the floor on Monday.

6. Settling workforce grants (Update: Budgeted)

Significant strides took place last week to bring the House and Senate together on state funding for workforce education, but there is still work to be done. A chief priority for Speaker Sprowls, the chambers start this week with a $5 million gap in money earmarked for the Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program. Notably, the Senate has offered more money for related workforce programs in the neighborhood of $25 million. It may be that the negotiations now center on which programs get the largest checks, rather than on how much goes to the mission altogether.

7. Election policing (Update: Passed)

The Senate on Friday passed one of DeSantis’ priorities, legislation to ratchet up election integrity measures and form a dedicated law enforcement agency for election crimes. A companion bill (HB 7061) has made its way through all necessary committees but has yet to be debated and passed on the House floor. Will fiscal hawks scuttle the measure or is it headed for another near party-line vote approval? Representatives will likely move this bill early this week to get it shipped to DeSantis’ desk.

8. Immigration crackdown dollars (Update: Passed)

DeSantis budgeted $8 million in his pre-Session proposal to spend shipping undocumented immigrants out of state if the federal government flies them into Florida. A discussion that kept Senators on the floor into wee hours last week finally resulted in the Senate passing legislation on a 24-15 vote. Companion legislation already moved through committee in the House but has been waiting for a scheduled debate on the House floor. That needs to happen this week before Session crosses the calendar border known as Sine Die.

9. Paying teachers

Everyone in the Legislature agrees more needs to be set aside to pay educators in Florida, and so does DeSantis. But there’s a good $200 million between what the Senate and House want budgeted for teacher salaries, making it one of the biggest discrepancies bumped by committee chairs up to Appropriations Chairs Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull. The Senate has set aside $600 million, which is what DeSantis’ budget called for at the start of Session. But the House wants to toss another $200 million on top. That’s based on differing formulas for setting starting and veteran teacher pay.

10. Punishing school districts

Another education spending dispute? The House still wants to punish a dozen school districts that, for part of this school year, kept masking requirements in place. That defied an executive order from the Governor. Rep. Randy Fine last month unveiled a “Putting Parents First Adjustment” that denies a collective $200 million to these districts and shifts it instead to obedient school districts. But to date, the Senate hasn’t taken to this plan.

11. Banning books

Legislation exposing instructional material in Florida’s school systems to more scrutiny already passed in the House but has only slowly coursed its way through the Senate. Sen. Joe Gruters ushered the bill (HB 1467) through a Senate Rules Committee vote, where the legislation saw a party-line breakdown that showed up with numerous controversial issues this year regarding education. Will Senators give the legislation a passing grade from the Senate floor? The same legislation also imposes term limits on school board members across the state.

12. Property insurance reform

The last piece of legislation passed in the 2021 Session was a homeowners insurance reform package aimed at stabilizing consumer costs and reducing the state-run insurance providers’ exposure. But House negotiations and a court ruling left Senate leadership hoping to achieve more this year. The Senate last week passed a bill (SB 1728) crafted by Sen. Jim Boyd that seeks to lower costs related to legal complaints. Speaker Sprowls, however, has openly expressed skepticism the Legislature needs to process any more claims of reform. He hasn’t ruled out a bill reaching the floor, but the time to do so is running short.

13. Online transparency

The Senate on Friday passed an online transparency bill (SB 944) that largely shuts down the anonymous selling of merchandise, an attempt to stop thieves from profiting off stolen goods. It’s part of a retail theft crackdown Attorney General Ashley Moody pushed for ahead of this year’s Session. But a companion bill in the House has been kicked around in committee but never advanced. With the Senate legislation already sent over in messages, will the House act on it before the end of Session?

14. Affordable housing (Update: Budgeted)

A seller’s market has morphed rapidly into a housing shortage — and in some markets, a full-blown crisis. Rep. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat, told Florida Politics that addressing the housing issue in some meaningful way for renters needs to happen before lawmakers go home. Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Dianne Hart, Anika Omphroy and Susan Valdés will hold a press conference on the steps of the Old Capitol on Tuesday. Otherwise, count on members of the party bringing the issue up daily on the floor, as has already happened for weeks. But for the moment, the House seems committed to putting the money toward a Florida Hometown Hero Housing program instead of the State Apartment Incentive Loan, the approach favored by the Senate.

15. Sprinkle list (Update: Budgeted)

Isn’t the budget season ultimately one big build-up to releasing the sprinkles? These member projects usually earmark geographically important expenditures, from water quality projects to cultural destinations to research funding at dedicated institutions. Often pulled together with the remaining parts of the state budget after all mandated expenses are taken care of, it will be one of the last parts of budget negotiations to come together. It’s just the sort of thing fiscal watchdogs like to label as turkeys but which incumbent members love to take home and itemize on mailers and brochures.

16. Free the doctors?

One of several pandemic “freedom” bills filed this year, the Free Speech of Health Care Practitioners Act hasn’t managed to reach the floor in either chamber of the Legislature. But fresh off confirmation of controversial Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, DeSantis last week made a final push for the bills, which would prevent medical organizations from reprimanding, sanctioning or revoking credentials from health care professionals for expressing freedom of speech.

17. Resolving redistricting

Well, one major task was seemingly checked off the list Friday when the Senate took up and passed the House’s proposal for congressional redistricting. The problem is, DeSantis promised as the House debated its primary map (H 8019) on the floor that he was going to veto the cartography. Lawmakers appear to be girding for a Special Session — where such a veto may be overridden — or to defend its own maps in court. But if there’s any chance to come together around reapportionment without returning to the Capitol again before qualifying week, the time is now.

18. Constitutional carry

Another issue DeSantis may try to grab from the Legislature’s cold, dead bills is open carry. Asked at a press conference about what activists call “constitutional carry” legislation, DeSantis said “Put it on my desk and I will sign it,” as Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis applauded. It’s not the same as calling a conference on the issue with one of those “Let Us Alone” placards, but wildly aggressive gun rights expansions seem like one of those election-year issues incumbents would like to have in their holster if a GOP Primary lies in their future. Watch out for stray amendments this week.

19. Union busting

The AFL-CIO went into high alert Friday when a seemingly dead bill on union membership renewals made it into Senate messages and onto a Rules Committee agenda. The bill (HB 1197) — which would ask public employee union members to reaffirm annually that they want to remain members — passed in the House on a 60-47 vote. It never made a committee agenda in the Senate, but keep an eye out whether it rises like a union fee in the final days of Session.

20. Build the (fire)wall (Update: Budgeted)

Stopping hackers isn’t easy, and a major state government makes Florida a prime target for some of the most skilled cybercriminals and hostile powers around the globe. But last week closed with the Senate and House in disagreement about cybersecurity spending to the tune of $117 million. That’s a lot of plans for Chief Information Officer James Grant to delete from his files if an agreement can’t come together very soon.

21. This year’s disaster

The regular Session just can’t seem to close sometimes before a natural disaster resets budget priorities on a dime. This year, wildfires ravaged Bay County in the final days of Session. As it happens, the flames rose from House Appropriations Chair Trumbull’s home district, which has impacted both the timetable for budget negotiations as he deals with constituent needs back home and the pressure cooker of budget conferences simultaneously. Regardless, it’s also forcing an evaluation of how much money needs to land in the agriculture silo to help a burning Big Bend.

22. Doing IT right

Much of the budget negotiation this weekend centered around the state’s approach to data management, but that’s become more complicated than optimizing a hard drive. “What we’re probably going to end up looking at is how we look at data and IT issues holistically in the budget,” Trumbull told reporters Saturday. That means while the House and Senate appear to be close to $92 million apart in what they have budgeted on IT, it may be more a question of how to allot resources than how many dollars to spend.

23. Building inspections

After the collapse of a Surfside condo building killed 98 people in the middle of the night last June, a change in Florida’s building codes seemed inevitable. Yet nothing has made it across the finish line with days left to go. An inspections reform bill (SB 1702) carried by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, has made it through Senate committee stops but awaits a vote on the floor. A committee bill (SB 7042) came out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, but no further. Meanwhile, a House bill regarding condominium association requirements (HB 7069) has cleared the House but hasn’t been heard in the Senate. It seems hard to imagine the Senate will close without some response to the Surfside disaster, but chambers need to come together on something quickly.

24. Bottle service

It’s been nearly a month since the House passed legislation repealing big bottle limits on wine, with just a single dissenting vote. But before anyone raises a glass, there’s been no movement on a Senate companion bill (SB 384). The bill is at risk of dying for the fourth year in a row. Will the Senate come to the table, or maybe the winery bar, and send this to the Governor’s desk?

25. Gutting tenure

A late-filed amendment to a higher education bill sent the Senate into a tizzy last week. A bill from Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, could soon require tenured college faculty to face a review every five years. Passed on a 23-15 vote on the floor, the underlying legislation still needs to pass in the upper chamber. Then this changed amendment needs to pass muster in the House. Coming on the heels of the University of Florida trying to bar three professors from testifying against a state law, this legislation has lawmakers cramming before final votes.

26. Boating safety (Update: Passed)

Ethan’s Law, a bill named for a Sarasota boy killed in a boating accident, would place requirements for wearable engine kill switches for watersports instructors working with children. A version championed by Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, already passed in the House in a unanimous vote in February. But companion legislation in the Senate has so far failed to make any waves. Will someone throw this boating safety bill a lifesaver in the next few days? That may have come in the form of an amendment to a separate boating safety bill under consideration in the Senate. That would require a bouce back to the House but would keep the proposal going for now.

27. Stopping student wokeness (Update: Passed)

The House already passed legislation that includes allowing parents to sue if teachers discuss critical race theory in class. But a Senate companion bill (SB 148) still hasn’t made it through the Rules Committee. DeSantis raised the issue last year when pitching a different bill, the Stop WOKE Act. Considering the hours of debate about one of the most controversial pieces of legislation under consideration this year, the life of this bill could significantly impact how many other items on this list make it before Sine Die. On the bright side, maybe there will be more renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” put on the public record.

28. Medicaid waiting list

Advocates for the disabled for years have tried to increase attention on a waitlist for home-based care. The House and Senate remain in negotiations over how much money can go into shorting that list, with a House offer setting aside $117 million toward that goal. But with nearly 23,000 at risk of dying before they can enroll in the state program, there’s about $1 billion of need.

29. Sea cow salvation

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded 1,101 manatee deaths in 2021, shattering prior records and potentially claiming more than 10% of the state sea cow population. By comparison, there were 637 deaths recorded in 2020. Experts attribute the spike to loss of sea grass, prompting the state to pour 25 tons of lettuce into the water this year in a feeding program. But will a long-term funding solution for sea grass replenishment come out of Session?

30. Algae task force implementation

Legislation that would increase sewage discharge site inspections and the revision of water basin management plans — all recommendations of DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force — has largely stalled in the Senate after going nowhere in the House. Water quality and the environment defined the beginning of DeSantis’ first term as Governor. There isn’t much time left for provisions of these high-profile environmental efforts to manifest before lawmakers head home.

31. Florida State Guard

The Governor in December announced a desire to reinstate the Florida State Guard. While his use of the 1940s era military force’s “Let Us Alone” slogan proved off-putting to critics who thought the imagery authoritarian, supporters noted Florida’s low ratio of Florida National Guardsmen per capita, a constant struggle for lawmakers in both parties at the federal level. Regardless, the issue seemed to gain little traction in the Legislature, until funding suddenly showed up in the Senate budget for a state force. Will legislation be dispatched quickly?

32. Pooling milk (Update: Passed)

The House will vote early this week on allowing Medicaid to cover breast milk from donor banks for hospital patients. The legislation (HB 1333) will hit the House floor after already passing unanimously in the Senate. Consider it one more health care issue supporters hope won’t curdle as controversial items carve into debate time. The Senate already passed a version in the upper chamber.

33. Medicaid managed care

The Senate has pushed hard for administrative changes to the state’s Medicaid managed care program in advance of bidding out new contracts for the health care safety net program for the state’s poor, elderly and disabled. The upper chamber passed a bill (SB 1950), but the House postponed a planned vote on a companion bill (HB 7047). Of note, the Senate has made clear it wants its bill to be the one that passes. It should be clear early this week whether the House will take them up on that.

34. Pain and suffering

The most-lobbied health care bill of this Session could allow parents of single, childless adults killed through medical negligence to seek pain and suffering damages in court. But while all that effort resulted in the House passing a bill, that so far hasn’t been able to jolt Senate legislation (SB 262) to life. In the upper chamber, the matter never got a vote in its first committee stop. But any bill that made it all the way on one side of the Capitol always has a chance to rise from the dead in the last days of Session.

35. No Patient Left Alone

The Senate on Friday passed the No Patient Left Alone Act, which aims to strengthen patient visitation rights in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. After some shaping in several House committees, a companion bill has been added to the House calendar, and it could hit the floor in the lower chamber this week.

36. Net metering (Update: Passed)

A controversial overhaul of Florida solar power regulations will light up floor debate in the Senate this week. The net metering legislation (HB 741) already passed in the House and reported favorably out of Senate Rules. Critics say the proposed change in statute will end cost-saving incentives for consumers and leave solar panels a feature of luxury homes. But power companies have pressed for years, concerned solar homes are effectively getting subsidized by other users.

37. Limiting out-of-state checks (Update: Passed)

Rep. Brad Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, will bring legislation to the floor on Monday that would limit non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000 and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000 when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. The Senate in committee amended a bill last week so it does the same thing. Now the measure needs to pass in both chambers.

38. Cyber terror (Update: Passed)

The Senate already passed a bill criminalizing theft of sexually explicit pictures. That was filed by Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat and survivor of abuse, who said Florida’s digital sex crime statutes have yet to catch up with modern technology. The House is set to take up the measure on the floor early this week.

39. Retail theft (Update: Passed)

Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, worked with Moody’s office this year on ways to crack down on organized retail theft in Florida stores. It proposes to do so by increasing penalties for those who steal multiple items from multiple stores in a short period of time. The bill (SB 1534) won unanimous Senate passage last month but still needs a vote by the House before it heads to DeSantis’ desk.

40. Stopping any of this

Of course, plenty of people in the process when asked what needs to get done this week did not list something that must pass, but rather suggested initiatives that need to be stopped. Any high-profile issue that hasn’t passed in both chambers by Day 55 likely has detractors who want to stop it. It’s also crunch time for obstruction, and the last chance anyone has to kill a bill or secure state dollars before another cause fills the silo first.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


5 comments

  • Tom

    March 7, 2022 at 10:13 am

    Hey Jacob?
    Went about the gas moratorium that Gov recommended? How about Simpson helping the peeps, not just big suga, state employees and all the lobsters? Geez.

    • Jim Matthews

      March 11, 2022 at 9:07 pm

      The “simple’ ala Dick Nixon for that ‘Arab Embargo’ way back when… set US 20 million barrels benchmark fixed price at $75=80. Advise our large suppliers = Canada = to ship it elsewhere IF they can!
      Oil reached $40 a barrel under The DON… on November 10, 2020 ‘median price’ was $2.20… SloeJoe& Kameltoe caused this disaster!
      VOILA… next major world calamity ya need solved with Common Cents?

  • Rich Nascak

    March 8, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    Mr. Ogles,
    You called open carry “wildly aggressive gun rights expansions”. Tell me, how is it “wildly aggressive” when only 4 states criminalize it?

  • Jim Matthews

    March 11, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    SCOTUS clarified in Heller 2008 & McDonald 2010 Constitutional Carry has been law of our land for 233 years.
    21 states will see AL / GA / IN / OH push the number to 25 generally Red States who agree with SCOTUS… sadly on the day after the FL Legislature allowed HB103 to “die in committee” again this year by ‘ADJOURNING’
    I asked FL Senate Pres Walt Simpson to request each Senator give him one ‘this needed to pass this year’ Bill… whittle down to six, include HB103 he claims to ‘endorse with GOV Ron… and call back a Special Session in three weeks ! All six will be even more “controversial” for our ‘backrow’ CommieNaziRatBastards than the 40 they spewed such hate to those doing the heavy lifting in Florida the past 23 years of SuperMajority GOP Governance.
    2.5 million CWL adults = one of seven adults in FL be packing… have lowered our Violent Crime RATE to 35% of Jeb’s first oath of office!!

  • Susan B. Aertker

    March 14, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    Are you going to update this for all the items mentioned?
    What about #10? Is it dead?

    HB 1467 (#11 on your list) passed
    I’m fairly sure the attack on tenured professors (#25) passed

Comments are closed.


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