Here are 25 bills that died this Session. Will they come back next year?
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/7/23-The Historic Florida Capitol is illuminated in purple to recognize the fight against Alzheimer's disease, Tuesday, in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Some would likely have benefited residents and businesses. Others are more divisive and potentially harmful.

Florida lawmakers handle a lot of bills. Some center on hot-button issues sure to attract ample attention and at least a few hearings. Others die without a hearing, either due to the disinterest or distaste of committee Chairs, technical issues with the legislation or because the bills fell through the proverbial cracks amid a landslide of other, more eye-catching proposals.

The 25 bills below are a blend of both. Some would likely have benefited Sunshine State residents and businesses if they had become policy. Others are more divisive and potentially harmful. What they have in common is that they’re all interesting and likely to come back in future Sessions, for better or worse.

For now, however, they’re dead.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has boosted the idea of holding media outlets more accountable for their reporting. Image via the Florida Channel.

Defamation

For the second year in a row, Pensacola Republican Rep. Alex Andrade carried defamation legislation in the Senate that would have changed the threshold to sue for defamation. 

While Gov. Ron DeSantis boosted the concept last year as a chance for conservative causes célèbre to hold national media outlets accountable, the bill angered several conservative radio outlets, many of them family-owned stations and media groups. 

Drew Steele, a conservative radio host on Fort Myers-based 92.5 FOX News, predicted in an op-ed published in Florida Politics that conservative outlets may be hit hardest by changes proposed in the bills. It also drew the attention of advisers to Donald Trump, who predicted it would allow attacks on right-wing outlets instead of left-leaning ones. 

The bill drew the attention of nationally prominent conservatives, including Stephen Miller, a policy adviser to the former President who said the law would stifle conservative speech.

David Borrero proposed a near-total abortion ban. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Abortion/Personhood

With a pending Florida Supreme Court decision that could trigger a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, legislative leaders in both chambers said passing another bill was unlikely this year. 

That included a measure (HB 1519) from Sweetwater Republican Rep. David Borrero, which would have banned nearly all abortions in Florida. It never got a hearing. 

A different bill (SB 476) by Fort Pierce Republican Sen. Erin Grall initially sought to make it easier for parents who lose an unborn child through negligence to file suit for damages. But Grall and the bill’s House sponsor, Fort Myers Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, later expanded it to define an unborn child as a person. 

Democrats and abortion rights activists saw it as an end-run attempt to insert “personhood” into state law, essentially putting the courts on a path to outlaw abortion. 

After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a state’s constitution deems fertilized embryos as persons, prompting in vitro fertilization clinics to shut down, the political firestorm that the ruling unleashed halted the bill’s progress in the Sunshine State.

Lauren Book wanted to hold the Governor to his word. Image via Florida Politics.

Protecting women who obtain abortions

When he ran for President, DeSantis told national press that Florida would not prosecute women and girls seeking abortions. 

State laws passed in the last two years after the overturning of Roe v. Wade say otherwise. 

Florida law today provides that anyone who “actively participates” in an illegal pregnancy termination will be punished for committing a third-degree felony. That includes women seeking the procedure.

So, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book this year filed legislation to hold DeSantis and his anti-abortion allies in the Legislature to their word. She filed legislation (SB 34) to amend Florida Statutes to make clear penalties do not apply to pregnant women seeking to terminate pregnancies. 

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat who previously worked with Planned Parenthood, filed a House version of the bill. 

Neither received a single hearing.

Bills to cap pot potency were stamped out. Image via AP.

THC caps in marijuana

Florida voters will soon learn whether they’ll have a chance to legalize recreational marijuana this November. But they need not worry about if the potency of the joints on the ballot will be blunted. 

An effort to cap THC levels in adult-use marijuana died in January, failing to find a space on a Senate Fiscal Policy agenda. 

A Senate Health Policy Committee bill (SB 7050) that would cap delta-9 levels had moved out of its first stop on a 7-3 vote. Meanwhile, a companion bill (HB 1269) had made it through all committee stops in the House. 

But based on the language of both bills, the chambers never managed to find the same wave. Senate leadership made clear it would not take up the House bill without a thorough vetting, and caps were snuffed out, likely at the last opportunity before voters consider legalization in the fall.

The idea of paying $4,000 for a good Taylor Swift ticket has a lot of people angry. Image via AP.

Ticketmaster monopoly-stifling

Nosebleed seats at Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen concerts now sell for thousands of dollars. Bad Bunny pass prices soared 35% since 2019 to similar sums. 

Something must be done. This year, Andrade and Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur answered the call with twin bills (SB 204, HB 177) aimed at taking on the issue. 

The legislation would have prohibited live venues from selling tickets through just one company and banned arenas and concert halls from selling or transferring passes at prices higher than originally listed. It would also have forced venues to let performers sell tickets too. 

Those policies no doubt would make a dent in the profits of LiveNation, an industry mammoth and the owner of Ticketmaster that now controls more than 70% of the ticketing and live event market, including 80% of all concerts. Ticketmaster’s near-monopoly stronghold on the industry has attracted a 19-state lawsuit and similar legislation in California and Tennessee. 

It also got Congress talking, but garnered little action in Tallahassee. Brodeur yanked his bill from consideration after seeing scant support at its first committee stop. Andrade’s never got a hearing — blocked, he said, by House Commerce Committee Chair Bob Rommel, who “just didn’t like it.” 

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said she had no intention of giving trans-stifling ID bills play in the chamber. Image via Florida Politics.

Transgender identity erasure

House lawmakers passed legislation to require sex — and not gender — to appear on government documents and criminalize changing the designation. 

The bill (HB 1639), sponsored by Republican Reps. Doug Bankson of Apopka and Dean Black of Jacksonville also impacted coverage of gender affirmation surgery and coverage for conversion therapy, a treatment widely considered quack science by most medical associations. 

No companion version of the legislation was ever filed in the Florida Senate. 

The same day transgender activists held a “Let Us Live” march on Tallahassee to call out the bill as trans erasure, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told the press she had no intention of hearing the House bill in the upper changer. 

Of note, the driver’s license portion of the bill has already been implemented administratively, with the Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles telling Tax Collectors to treat gender changes as a violation of existing false ID statutes.

Ironically, outward bigotry is what killed an effort to ban displaying the rainbow flag at public facilities. Image via AP.

Pride flag ban

It was dubbed the “don’t display gay” bill by critics.

Borrero, Fort Myers Republican Sen. Jonathan Martin and Republican Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay filed legislation (SB 1120, HB 901) to prohibit flags representing any political, racial or ideological viewpoint from being displayed at public facilities. 

While that can cover many flag types, it was widely seen as targeting the rainbow flag cherished by the LGBTQ community. And that seemed to be the interpretation among members of the public, including John Labriola of the Christian Family Coalition, who called the Pride flag discriminatory. 

“There is no color there for heterosexuals,” he said during the bill’s first committee stop. “How is that inclusive? It is a highly offensive flag.” 

With the quiet part said out loud, Martin called for the bill to be postponed.

Jonathan Martin also had a tough time passing a proposal to protect historic monuments. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Historic monument protections

And then Martin went to another committee to present a bill about protecting historic monuments. 

Again, he stressed his legislation (SB 1122) would cover all kinds of military memorials from Unconditional Surrender in Sarasota to a tribute to Union soldiers in his district. 

Critics and supporters alike saw it chiefly as a bill to preserve Confederate monuments. 

It didn’t help that Black, the House sponsor, originally included language about the old Edmund Kirby Smith statue in his bill (HB 395) or that he so tied it to Jacksonville’s removal of the Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy.

But again, it was supporters from the public who doomed the bill by openly supporting White supremacy, prompting a Democratic walkout and leading Passidomo the next day to say perceptions of the legislation were “abhorrent.”

Three days is long enough for Joel Rudman. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Gun purchase waiting period

There’s a three-day waiting period to buy a gun in Florida, but that wait can be extended until a background check is completed. The House passed a bill (HB 17) by Navarre Republican Rep. Joel Rudman that would have required the gun to be delivered after the three-day period (excluding holidays and weekends) regardless of whether the background check was completed or not. 

The Senate, though, didn’t hold a hearing on its version of the bill (SB 1124) that Martin sponsored.

The home shooting range police say the bullet that hit Nicole Allen came from. Image via Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.

Shooting across property lines

If you’re a Florida resident in a rural area not exclusively zoned for residential use, beware of stray bullets; there’s not much, legally, to protect you from them. 

Nicole Adams learned this the hard way while working on her farm in Lake Worth Beach in September, when she was shot — nonfatally, fortunately — in the back.

The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office traced the round to a neighbor’s home shooting range, but it couldn’t charge anyone with a crime because the shooting didn’t violate existing statutes. 

Residents across the state have complained about the issue for years, and Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman has tried for years to address it through legislation to no avail. This year’s effort, which included the help of Wellington Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron, came with an intriguing twist: Rather than run the legislation (SB 270, HB 259) as a gun bill, Berman presented it as a matter of property rights — namely, keep your bullets on your property or face charges. 

Berman’s bill narrowly cleared its first committee stop in January before stalling out. Waldron’s never got heard.

Bobby Payne aimed to reverse a post-Parkland age limit on long gun purchases. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Lower age limit to buy rifles

Sometimes you just need some shooting practice out on the range. 

That’s basically what the House did when it carried a bill (HB 1223) to lower the age from 21 to 18 for long gun purchases all the way through the committee process and voted it off the floor, even though it didn’t have a companion bill in the Senate.

Republican Reps. Bobby Payne of Palatka and Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island sponsored the measure.

The Legislature raised the age limit from 18 to 21 in 2018 following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead, including 14 students. But it was part of a larger bill that included school safety enhancements, and the vote split both parties. 

Some Republicans who voted against that bill because of its gun restrictions have been itching to repeal the age limit piece.

If you’re packing heat, Mike Beltran thinks you should be able to show what you’re working with. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Open carry 

Republican lawmakers have rolled back many gun law restrictions, but despite pleas from firearm activists, legislation to allow the open carrying of guns in public hasn’t gained traction. 

This year’s bill (HB 1619) was sponsored by Rep. Mike Beltran, a Riverview Republican.

It didn’t have a Senate companion and never received a hearing.

Kratom products remain largely unregulated in Florida despite the passage last year of a so-called “Kratom Consumer Protection Act.” Image via AP.

The real Kratom Consumer Protection Act

Technically, Florida lawmakers last year passed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, a measure Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters tried to pass for years to crack down on haphazardly formulated and sometimes dangerous kratom goods. 

But the bill’s title was misleading. Gruters wanted to impose stringent processing, reporting and labeling requirements for products containing kratom, a plant of Southeast Asian origin with euphoric ingredients that some people use to manage drug withdrawal symptoms. 

By the time it cleared the Legislature in May, however, Andrade, the House sponsor, had cut all those safety standards except one: a ban on under-21 sales.

The strictures Gruters wanted returned this year, this time with Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry’s name attached to them. And while Andrade again carried a companion measure, it again was the weaker of the two, aiming just to set narrower labeling requirements for kratom products. 

The bills didn’t go far.

Shevrin Jones called parts of Florida’s new public school standards for African American history lessons ‘a slap in the face.’ Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Erasing insult to injury

When Florida released its new K-12 curriculum for African American history last July, one section in particular gained a lot of attention — and no shortage of ire. 

In its guidance for middle school pre-Civil War lessons, the curriculum stated that public schools must teach students “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Needless to say, the backlash was heated and far-reaching. 

Not to mention bipartisan. Vice President Kamala Harris decried the standards. So did U.S. Sen. Byron Donalds, a Republican Trump ally

So, Sen. Shervin Jones and Rep. Christopher Benjamin, both Miami Gardens Democrats, filed legislation with Beltran to remove the requirement.

Jones, an education professional, called the standard “a slap in the face” to Black Floridians.

“We can’t be the laughingstock for this foolishness,” he said. “It’s baffling that we even have to have this conversation.” 

Unfortunately, the conversation was neither far-reaching nor long-lasting. Both measures died without a hearing.

Blaise Ingoglia tried to set term limits for thousands serving on County Commissions across the state. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Term limits for county commissioners

Bills from Spring Hill Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (SB 438) and Escambia County Republican Rep. Michelle Salzman (HB 57) sought to impose term limits on long-serving County Commissioners. 

But the debate over how to limit term lengths was ultimately too great to resolve.

Hard-line conservatives were adamant eight years was enough time on a county governing board, the same as for state lawmakers. That condition wasn’t sellable in the Senate. 

Florida has 373 County Commissioners across its 67 counties, a majority of which would have been affected by the legislation. Eight counties already impose an eight-year term limit, while three more — Broward, Lee and Polk — allow Commissioners to serve for 12 years. 

Most Commissioners face no term limits.

Gayle Harrell was behind a not-so-successful effort to allow local governments to convert all public schools in their area into charter schools. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Charter school conversions

Ever since the days of Gov. Jeb Bush, the GOP-led Legislature has pushed the boundaries of school choice options, including an aggressive move last year in approving universal vouchers for all K-12-age students. 

This year, another aggressive move aimed at allowing cities to approve the conversion of all public schools in their area to charter schools failed to gain momentum. 

The bill (HB 109), another Andrade proposal, passed through one House committee. 

Its Senate analog by Stuart Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell didn’t move at all.

Sixty percent approval for an amendment to the Florida Constitution isn’t a high enough bar for Rick Roth. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Raising amendment thresholds

The Legislature, for years, has sought ways to make it more difficult to amend the Florida Constitution. 

The latest attempt came from West Palm Beach Republican Rep. Rick Roth, who filed a joint resolution to raise the threshold for passing an amendment on the statewide ballot. 

HJR 335 would have required an amendment to receive support from 66.67%, or two-thirds, of voters to pass. 

The House Ethics, Elections & Open Government Subcommittee advanced the matter in January. But Roth was never able to find support among even 2.5%, or one-fortieth, of the Senate. 

With no Senate version of the bill filed, the matter stalled early in the House.

Fear of foreign interference in Florida elections through tainted voting machines were represented in several pieces of legislation this Session. Image via AP.

Foreign voting machines

During an election year, a large and controversial election bill was always going to be a heavy lift. 

Three bills this year — SB 1752, HB 359 and HB 1669 — would have banned foreign-owned, operated or produced voting machines ahead of the November 2024 election. 

Other parts of the bills would have severely restricted mail ballots and allowed more poll watchers. 

Sponsors included Ingoglia, Roth and Republican Reps. Berny Jacques of Seminole and Taylor Yarkosky of Monteverde.

None of the bills received a hearing.

House Speaker Paul Renner spoke about the positives and negatives of requiring Primary runoffs. But no committee in his chamber weighed the issue. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Primary runoffs

Before 2002, Florida had runoff elections for Primary contests, but those were junked as part of elections reforms following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle. 

The issue was not raised again until Week Five of this year’s Session when the House State Affairs Committee released a bill (PCB SAC 24-06) to bring them back. 

But the backlash from Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Ingoglia, a former Republican Party of Florida Chair, was swift. 

House Speaker Paul Renner said he understood their concerns, such as reducing the odds for hard-right candidates and the greater expense of holding more elections. 

He also recognized arguments for the bill, such as ensuring that each party’s nominee has at least 50% support from the voters. 

Despite that, the bill was never heard — even in the House.

Jason Brodeur sought to increase the amount of money a person could receive by suing the government. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Sovereign immunity cap increases

Another attempt to increase the caps on lawsuit damage awards against the government failed to cross the finish line this year. 

This year’s attempt (SB 472, HB 569) by Brodeur and Republican Reps. Fiona McFarland of Sarasota and Toby Overdorf of Palm City got farther than most. It reached the floor in the Senate and moved through two panels in the House. 

The bills would have increased the cap from $200,000 to $400,000 for one individual and from $300,000 to $600,000 per incident. Under the current law, anyone awarded damages after suing a government entity must get a claims bill passed by the Legislature to receive any amount awarded above the caps.

Historically, cities and counties, especially smaller locales with more modest tax bases, have opposed increasing the caps because it would increase insurance costs.

Former Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Maury Hernandez and Matt Cowart, President of the Broward Deputy Sheriff’s Association, IUPA Local 6020, addressing members of the Broward Legislative Delegation on Oct. 4. Image via The Florida Channel.

Making Maury Hernandez whole

For a legislative body that so often proclaims to “back the blue,” the story of ex-Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Maury Hernandez is perplexing. 

More than 16 years ago, Hernandez was off-duty when he gave chase to an out-of-control motorcyclist who shot him in the head, leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to continue his police career. 

The shooter, a felon, should never have been on the street. In the preceding four months, he accrued 40 traffic and administrative violations, including reckless driving and unauthorized possession of a firearm. 

Despite all that, his parole officer at the Department of Corrections never reported him. 

Several current and former lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Tom Wright, Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb and Republican Rep. Alex Rizo, who sponsored bills (SB 14, HB 6005) this year to pay Hernandez $10 million for his pain and financial losses, agreed the state should compensate him for its negligence. 

But for the seventh straight year, the Legislature largely snubbed Hernandez, now 44, because the state’s sovereign immunity law doesn’t classify what happened to him as something for which it’s liable. 

Legally speaking, however, nothing is stopping the Legislature from making Hernandez whole.

Uber and its ride-share competitors want a fairer shake at Orlando International Airport. Image via AP.

Uber, Lyft vs. Orlando airport

At every airport and seaport in Florida, transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft are charged the same or nearly the same fees to pick up passengers at the facilities as taxicabs — with one exception: Orlando International Airport. 

The highly trafficked tourist destination charges higher fees to Uber and Lyft, something Ingoglia tried to address in a bill (SB 7076) that would have required them to be charged the same rate as taxis. 

The bill moved through two Senate committees but never had a House companion measure.

Travis Hutson filed multiple bills to regulate large-scale fantasy sports platforms. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Fantasy sports

Bills to regulate large-scale fantasy sports platforms and impose license fees reached the Senate floor, but stalled in the final week of Session. 

One bill (SB 1568) by Palm Coast Republican Sen. Travis Hutson would have established rules for fantasy sports operators with prize payouts of $1,500 or more per season or more than $10,000 per year. 

Another (SB 1566) Hutson filed would have required a $500,000 first-time fee, with a yearly renewal of $250,000. 

The House didn’t act on the issue until late in Session, but Lighthouse Point Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca advanced identical bills (HB 7079, HB 7081).

Those bills, however, were never put on the agenda for the House floor, signaling that concerns the bills would punish amateur, recreational operators won out.

Yvonne Hinson led a failed charge to hold wrongdoers at a “notorious” women’s prison in Ocala to higher standards. Image via Colin Hackley/Florida Politics.

Body cameras at Lowell prison 

Lawmakers this year again sidestepped a proposal to bring more accountability to Lowell Correctional Institute, an Ocala women’s prison where federal investigators found “notorious acts of sexual abuse, including rape, against prisoners.” 

The action Jones and Gainesville Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson demanded through twin bills (SB 108, HB 391) was simple: outfit Lowell’s guards, some of whom were accused of violently mistreating inmates, with body cameras. 

There isn’t any question about whether more surveillance is needed. In a 2020 report, U.S. Department of Justice personnel wrote 22 times about how the “inadequate” camera layout at the facility enabled sadistic guards and staff. And in 2020, the Florida Department of Corrections settled a lawsuit with the family of a prisoner paralyzed by a guard suspected of “repeatedly” raping prisoners. 

“With the rise of incidents in our jails,” Jones told Florida Politics in November, “it is only right that levels of accountability are put in place for the safety of those incarcerated and our correctional officers.” 

Martin and Tavares Republican Rep. Keith Truenow, who chaired the committees each bill was to appear at first, apparently disagreed and never scheduled them for a hearing. 

___

Jacob OglesGray Rohrer and Jesse Scheckner contributed to this report.

Staff Reports



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