Legislative Update: Week of March 16th

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


SB 7044 (Senate Health Policy PCB) passed unanimously out of the Health Policy committee on March 10th. This bill is an alternative to Medicaid expansion and would provide private health insurance to nearly 80,000 people by using federal dollars to covers those who do not qualify for Medicaid. SB 7044 is on agenda for the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services on March 17th. There has not been any word of opposition from the House on this bill…yet.

Ethics and Elections 

The Senate Ethics and Elections committee met on Tuesday, March 10th and unanimously passed three bills:

SB 184 by Senator Greg Evers(R-Pensacola)-Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot; Authorizing absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters to use the federal write-in absentee ballot in any state or local election; prohibiting the supervisor of elections from canvassing federal write-in absentee ballots from overseas voters in certain elections until 10 days after the date of the election; revising minimum requirements for Department of State rules used to determine what constitutes a valid vote on a federal write-in absentee ballot, etc.

SB 1058 by Senator Chris Smith (D- Ft. Lauderdale) -Canvassing of Absentee Ballots; Extending the time for canvassing and processing absentee ballots to 28 days before an election; revising absentee ballot instructions for absent electors and certain first-time voters, respectively, to conform to changes made by the act

SB 1202 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)-Voter Registration; Designating a specified period each year during which supervisors of elections are authorized to provide certain students with the opportunity to register to vote at school and with instruction on the elections process

The Ethics and Elections committee is set to meet again on March 17th at 11 am. On the agenda is Online Voter Registration (SB 228) and SB 386 filed by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) which requires the supervisor of elections to make available an online form that allows an elector to electronically submit a notice of in-state change of residence.

Online Voter Registration

SB 228-Online Voter Registration filed by Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) has been placed on the agenda for the next Senate Ethics and Elections committee meeting after a strike-all amendment which changed the implementation date to 2017. Shortly after the strike-all, Senate Ethics and Elections committee chairman; Senator Garret Richter (R-Naples) became a co-sponsor. With bi-partisan support, this bill is likely to move through the Senate.

The House version of Online Voter Registration (HB 1161) filed by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) has not been scheduled for a hearing yet in its first stop which is House Government Operations Subcommittee.

Criminal Justice

SB 290 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) was moved 10-2 on Thursday by the Senate Rules Committee. This is the last stop before the bill moves to the full Senate. SB 290 would allow people to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses during the first 48 hours after emergency evacuation orders are given.

HB 19 filled by Representative Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) permits school superintendents with the approval of the school board to designate people to carry weapons on campus. Those people could be current or former law enforcement officers or current or former members of the military. They would have to pass background checks, take school-safety courses and have concealed-weapons licenses. This legislation received a bipartisan 10-1 vote in the House K-12 subcommittee on Wednesday.

Fundamental Right to Vote

New Florida Majority has worked with Senator Oscar Braynon II (D-Miami Gardens) and Representative Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) to file SB 1442/HB 1139. The identical legislation 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: Senate | House