A 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee is nearing the end. While some bills related to election administration and social media are making progress, other pieces of legislation are stalling — not to mention a $100 billion budget that still must be approved. Session is set to end Friday, April 30, as legislators work to get their bills to the finish line.
SENATE BILL 90 — ELECTION ADMINISTRATION
Passing through the Senate via a 23-17 vote on April 26, the bill sponsored by Dennis Baxley, who represents Sumter, Lake and Marion counties, puts tighter regulations on vote-by-mail ballots. The bill ends the 24/7 drop boxes and requires monitoring in-person by an election official. And those voting by mail ballot must request a mail-in-ballot every election cycle, instead of every two years under current law. In addition, legislation would require a voter to provide a valid Florida driver’s license number, state identification number or the last four digits of their Social Security number when requesting a mail-in ballot or changing party affiliation. The bill awaits House consideration.
SENATE BILL 7072 — SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Co-introduced by state Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who represents the Keys, the bill would establish a violation for social media deplatforming of a political candidate or journalistic enterprise, and requires a social media platform to meet certain requirements when they restrict speech by users. The bill would prohibit social media platforms from deplatforming candidates for political office and allows the Florida Elections Commission to fine a social media platform $100,000 per day for deplatforming statewide candidates, and $10,000 per day for deplatforming all other candidates. Additionally, if a social media platform knowingly provides free advertisements for a candidate, such advertisement is deemed an in-kind contribution, and the candidate must be notified. The bill passed the Senate via a 22-17 vote on April 26. It now awaits House consideration.
HOUSE BILL 1119 — WATER SAFETY AND SWIM CERTIFICATION
Known as the Edna Mae McGovern Act, the bill cosponsored by state Rep. Jim Mooney, who represents the Keys, would require each public school to provide each parent of a student initially enrolling in the school with information on the important role water safety education courses and swim lessons play in saving lives. The information must include local options for age-appropriate water safety courses and swim lessons that result in a certificate, including courses and lessons offered for free or at a reduced price. Schools have flexibility to provide the information electronically or in hard copy. The bill specifies that the information must be provided to the student, and not the parent, if the student is 18 or older or is under the age of 21 and is enrolling in adult education classes. Legislation sits in the House Education and Employment Committee.
SENATE BILL 900 — CHILD WELFARE
Sponsored and filed by Rodriguez, legislation expands the list of entities that have access to child abuse records and requires assessments if the total number of children in a family foster home exceeds six, excluding the family’s own children, before placement of a child. Current state law requires an over-capacity waiver assessment when the number of children in a foster home exceeds five, including the foster parents own children, while the federal language allows up to six children to be placed in a foster home, excluding the foster parents own children, before being considered over-capacity. Legislation passed unanimously through the Senate on April 22. A similar bill in the House awaits consideration.
HOUSE BILL 1563 — AUXILIARY CONTAINERS, WRAPPINGS AND PLASTIC BAGS
Cosponsored by Mooney and other House members, legislation requires the Department of Environmental Protection to update its report on retail bags and submit a report to the legislature by a specific date. The bill asks DEP to review and update its 2010 report on retail bags and analyze the need for different regulation of auxiliary containers, wrappings or disposable plastic bags used by consumers to carry products. Legislation requires DEP to submit an updated report with conclusions and recommendations to the Florida legislature no later than Dec. 31. Among the states in the U.S. with strong plastic bag laws are California, which imposed a statewide ban in 2014; Hawaii, which prohibit non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout; and New York, which recently banned bags. The bill sits in the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee.