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BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON REPRESENTING US — Above are West Volusia delegates to the Florida Legislature pictured in DeLand City Hall. From left are Sen. Jason Brodeur, Sen. Travis Hutson, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Sen. Tom Wright, Rep. Tom Leek and Rep. Paul Renner. All of Volusia County’s representation to the Legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 620. VOICE OF THE PEOPLE? — At an Oct. 6 listening session at DeLand City Hall are members of the Volusia County legislative delegation, from left, Sen. Jason Brodeur, Sen. Travis Hutson, Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Sen. Tom Wright, Rep. Tom Leek and Rep. Paul Renner; all represent parts of Volusia County in the Florida Legislature. All are Republicans. At the listening session, members of the public and representatives from local municipalities talked to the legislators about bills and issues ahead of the upcoming legislative session. Not pictured is Rep. Webster Barnaby, who was present for the listening session, but left before the photo was taken

Hot-topic bills lined up on COVID-19, abortion and more

The Florida Legislature is back in session Jan. 11, and will discuss all manner of potential laws, including pushing back against COVID-19 safety measures, adding strict limits on abortion, and much more. 

The Florida House of Representatives has 120 members, three of whom represent West Volusia districts, while the Florida Senate has 40 senators, three of whom represent West Volusia. 

What are West Volusia’s legislators focused on? 

Sen. Travis Hutson, Dist. 7, including Ormond Beach and Northwest Volusia: 

SB 314 — This bill would reclassify offenses including murder, armed burglary and sexual assault to higher degrees if committed by an illegal alien. 

SB 280 — This bill would reimburse attorney fees for people who sue local governments. The bill would also require municipalities to prepare “a business impact statement” before the adoption of ordinances.  

SB 1078 — This bill would abolish all Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Florida. 

Read Volusia County Soil and Water Chair Wendy Anderson’s thoughts on this bill HERE.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, Dist. 9, including much of Southwest Volusia: 

SB 254 — This bill would exempt religious organizations from emergency orders that would otherwise prevent religious practices from occurring. 

SB 1040 — This bill would authorize the Agency for Persons With Disabilities to create a registry for all persons with “special needs” across Florida. Those special needs include Alzheimers disease, dementia and autism. The database, per the bill, would be “for the purpose of assisting law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, or fire personnel in responding to a call for service.”

Sen. Tom Wright, Dist. 14, including most of central and southern Volusia County: 

SM 826 — This memorandum would request the federal government to allow Florida to expand the size of its National Guard to keep up with population demands and the fallout of natural disasters, like hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

SM 816 — This memorandum would “urge” Congress to adopt legislation lowering the amount of sodium allowed in processed and restaurant foods sold in the U.S.

Rep. Webster Barnaby, Dist. 27, including much of Southwest Volusia: 

HB 167 — This bill would prohibit abortions from being performed once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. Similar to a bill passed in Texas, anyone who “performs or induces” an abortion after the window when it is guaranteed as a constitutional right would be subject to a $10,000 fine. As with the Texas law, citizens, as well as governmental officials, may bring action against abortion providers.

HB 121 — Co-sponsored by Barnaby and Brevard County Rep. Tyler Sirois, this bill would allow animal cruelty to be added as an additional charge if an animal is seriously wounded while a person is committing another crime. The bill would also classify killing an animal belonging to a family member or housemate as a third-degree felony.

Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Dist. 26, including DeLand and most of Daytona Beach: 

HB 117 — This bill would add COVID-19 to the list of harmful and potentially fatal exposures first responders and other emergency workers may be exposed to while on the job. 

Among other bills filed, Fetterhoff has also sponsored a number of bills seeking appropriation funds for community organizations and projects. These include Home Brings Hope and Devereux – Services for Victims of Human Trafficking/Sexually Exploited Youth.

Rep. Paul Renner, Dist. 24, including Northwest Volusia and a small amount of northern Volusia County near the Flagler County line: 

Renner has not sponsored or co-sponsored any bills for the 2022 legislative session.

What else has been filed?

<p><p>The Florida Historic Capitol building in Tallahassee. While not where the Legislature now meets, the historic building, restored to its appearance when it was in use as the legislative headquarters, houses a museum.</p></p><p>vmfreire - stock.adobe.com</p>
The Florida Historic Capitol building in Tallahassee. While not where the Legislature now meets, the historic building, restored to its appearance when it was in use as the legislative headquarters, houses a museum.vmfreire – stock.adobe.com

Thousands of bills have been filed by members of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. 

Here’s a small snippet of a few that could become law after the upcoming legislative session. For a full list of bills filed, visit the Florida House website, which includes bills filed in both chambers of the Legislature. 

HB 47 — Sponsored by Miami-Dade Rep. Michael Grieco, would make the counterfeiting of any document relating to COVID-19 vaccination a felony. 

HB 57 — Co-sponsored by Brevard County Rep. Randy Fine and Duval County Rep. Jason Fischer, this bill would prohibit “state agencies, counties, municipalities” and public schools from mandating equity training promoting “certain concepts.” 

These concepts include, per the bill, that “One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” and “The United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.”

HB 99 — Sponsored by Lake County Rep. Anthony Sabatini, this bill would require Gov. Ron DeSantis to hire a third-party investigator to perform a forensic audit on the 2020 election. Sabatini, a Republican, has espoused the fraudulent claim that voter fraud caused the 2020 election to be stolen from former President Donald Trump.

HB 85 — Sponsored by Orange County Rep. Anna Eskamani, this bill would make diapers and other incontinence products, like underwear lines, exempt from sales tax.

HB 83 — Also sponsored by Eskamani, this bill would, among other revisions to policies involving firearm ownership and domestic violence convictions, require anyone convicted of a “misdemeanor domestic violence offense” to surrender any firearms or ammunitions they own.

HB 359 — Another Eskamani bill, this one would enter Florida into an interstate agreement that prevents, among other things, the use of tax incentives to bring companies to Florida. 

HB 75 — Another Sabatini-sponsored bill, this time taking aim at mandates relating to COVID-19. This bill would prevent any municipality from adopting any rules mandating the usage of face coverings “to minimize the spread of COVID-19 or any other infectious disease.” The bill would also prohibit municipalities or private businesses from requiring patrons or visitors to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or refusing a person employment due to their COVID-19 vaccination status.

HB 207 — Mockingbirds be damned! This bill, sponsored by Polk County Rep. Sam Killebrew, would change the Florida state bird from a mockingbird to the Florida scrub jay.

HB 6003 — Also sponsored by Eskamani, this bill would remove prohibitions in Florida statutes preventing municipalities from granting legal rights to the natural environment.  

HB 205 — Sponsored by Orange County Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, this bill would prohibit a defendant’s shock at an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity — referred to as “gay and transgender panic legal defense” in the bill — “to excuse or justify the conduct of the individual who commits a criminal offense.” Smith, a Democrat, is the first openly gay Hispanic person to serve in the Florida Legislature.

HB 199 — Also sponsored by Smith, this bill would prohibit the distribution and possession of assault weaponry — including firearms like the AR-15 — and high-capacity magazines. 

The import or sale of an assault rifle or high-capacity magazine would constitute a third-degree felony. Ownership of an assault weapon, unless by licensed gun owners including law enforcement and members of the armed forces, would also constitute a third-degree felony.

SB 154 — Sponsored by South Florida Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez, this bill would increase the value of ad valorem tax exemptions for widowers, widows, individuals who are blind and other disabled persons from $500 to $5,000. 

SB 495 — Also sponsored by Rodriguez, this bill would authorize municipalities to adopt measures that would provide breaks on ad valorem property taxes for affordable housing.

HB 133 — Sponsored by Sabatini, this bill would prohibit any state or local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with — including sharing information — members of the U.S. Capitol Police Force. 

HB 103 — Also sponsored by Sabatini, this bill would decrease barriers for gun ownership and possession. The bill would reduce the severity of punishments for bringing concealed weapons into prohibited locations and allow anyone “not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm …” to possess and use firearms and other supplies. Similarly, there’s HB 6099, also sponsored by Sabatini, which would remove prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons into legislative meetings.

HM 231 — Another Sabatini sponsorship, this memorandum would “urge Congress” to complete the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and issue a moratorium on all immigration into the U.S.

HB 129 — Sponsored by Pasco County Rep. Adrian Zika, this bill would require health insurers to cover 100 percent of the costs for COVID-19 self-tests regardless of whether the purchaser has a prescription for a test.

SB 224 — Sponsored by Sarasota County Sen. Joe Gruters, this bill would allow municipalities to further restrict the proximity within parks and beaches smoking is allowed and restrict the proximity within state parks that smoking is allowed. 

HB 211 — More from Sabatini — this time prohibiting doctors from performing gender confirmation surgery or prescribing puberty blockers to minors. Performing any of the prohibited procedures or prescribing any of the prohibited medications would result in a first-degree misdemeanor for the physician.

SJR 1004 — This joint resolution, also sponsored by Gruters, would allow the Legislature to pass laws removing county officers and commissioners. Under Florida law, the governor is the only one deputized to remove county officers and commissioners.

SB 212 — Sponsored by Broward County Sen. Gary Farmer, this bill would repeal the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. This act, passed in the 2021 legislative session, restricts the ability of children who were born as male but identify as female to participate on girls’ and women’s sports teams. The debate surrounding this act was contentious, and it nearly did not pass during the 2021 legislative session. 

SB 386 — Also sponsored by Farmer, this bill would abolish the death penalty in the state of Florida. 

SB 250 — Sponsored by Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, removes the flag of the Confederate States of America as a protected symbol and removes Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis’ birthday from the state list of public holidays. 

HB 467 — Sponsored by Gainesville-area Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, this bill would legalize marijuana for recreational use.The more than 150-page bill includes provisions that would remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances and allow anyone age 21 and over “to engage in certain activities involving personal use of marijuana in limited amounts.”

There are also a number of bills taking aim at educational materials in schools. 

Gov. DeSantis previously announced the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, a legislative proposal that would “ban critical race theory.” A number of other bills have been filed relating to educational materials. 

HB 51 — Sponsored by Orange County Rep. Geraldine Thompson, this bill would require instruction be taught in classrooms about the Holocaust and the history of African Americans, including slavery.

HB 281 — Another education bill, this time filed by Orange County Rep. Anna Eskamani. This bill would mandate curriculum surrounding “The history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the immigration, citizenship, civil rights, identity, and culture of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to American society.”

HB 361 — This bill, sponsored by Jacksonville Rep. Clay Yarborough, would require classroom instruction on media literacy and social media platforms.

There are also proposals from Volusia County’s legislators to set aside money for projects, including fixing up Lake Helen’s City Hall (Barnaby), an Orange City public safety facility (Fetterhoff) and more. 

Want to keep up with all the updates on the Florida Legislature this session? 

www.myfloridahouse.gov — Official website for the Florida House of Representatives. Browse all filed bills, and search by number or bill text. This site also has information about each representative, including what committees they are assigned to and what bills they are sponsoring.

www.flsenate.gov — Official website for the Florida Senate. Browse all filed bills, and search by number or bill text. This site also has information about each state senator, including what committees they are assigned to and what bills they have introduced.

www.thefloridachannel.org —The Florida Channel is a television station in Tallahassee operated in cooperation with Florida State University. The Florida Channel broadcasts sessions and committee meetings of the state Legislature live on TV and online. The Florida Channel also maintains a schedule of what the Legislature is up to and when.

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