Legislative Update: Week of April 27th

Provided by Moné Holder, The New Florida Majority’s Legislative & Policy Director

Elections/Voting Rights

Online Voter Registration

Late Monday, Senator Jeff Clemens’ (D-Palm Beach) SB 228 passed the Senate 34 to 3. The bill, which would require the creation of an online voter registration application, had been placed on the Senate’s special order calendar for April 27.

Media reports have the bill passing the House, paving the way for a potential showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who has not yet committed to signing the proposal into law. The House version of the bill, HB 7143, had been temporarily postponed on third reading last week and placed on the agenda in the House for Monday.

Fundamental Right to Vote

SB 1442 by Senator Oscar Braynon II (D-parts of Miami-Dade and Broward) and HB 1139 by Representative Cynthia Stafford is legislation that outlines that voting is a fundamental right that should be enshrined into state law. This would require strict scrutiny, the highest standard of judicial review, to apply to voting in Florida – and protect citizens against partisan efforts to make voting harder.

SB 1442 has been referenced to the Ethics and Elections, Judiciary and Rules committees.

HB 1139 has been referenced to Government Operations Subcommittee, Civil Justice Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committee

The full bill language can be found here

New Florida Majority and its members have been urging chairman of the Senate Ethics & Elections committee; Senator Garret Richter (R-Naples) and chairman on the House Government Operations subcommittee; Representative Michael Bileca (R-Miami) to hear these bills in their committees.

Criminal Justice

SB 248 by Senator Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) addresses public records exemptions to body camera footage. The bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday with 36 Yeas/2 Nays.  It was placed on the House special order calendar on Friday and passed with 112 yeas/2 nays.

HB 57 by Representative Shevrin Jones (D-Broward) also passed out of the House unanimously on Friday. This bill will require all departments to issue written policies regarding body cameras.

2015 Budget

The State constitutes that the Florida Legislature passes a balanced budget by the end of each legislative session.  Generally in the final weeks of session, budget conferences take place to settle any differences in the House and Senate budgets. This year that has not been the case.

The current major difference in the House and Senate budgets rests on the expansion of Medicaid to nearly 1 million Floridians who are uninsured.  The Senate’s budget includes the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program while the House of Representatives have not moved on expanding Medicaid at all.

There is the possibility of a Special Session (extension of the 2015 legislative session) in order to settle the differences and pass a budget. Currently, the House has budget conferencing on the calendar Tuesday-Friday from 8 am- 10 pm.

The 2015 Regular Session ends on Friday, May 1, 2015.