TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — As we enter the final week of the 60-day legislative session, a number of contentious bills and the Florida budget still remain to be seen, resolved and passed.
MONDAY: SEX PREDATORS ON THE ROAD
On this final Monday, the Senate floor will hear the proposed Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles bill by Sen. Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Pete). This legislation includes a controversial provision requiring bright red lettering on the driver’s licenses of sex offenders and sexual predators, clearly highlighting their offenses.
“It troubles me that we're putting it in red, particularly. I mean the comparison to those scarlet letters is undeniable," Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) said in the Committee on Fiscal Policy.
In an unusual break from party lines, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book filed an amendment last week taking the bill one step further: all vehicles driven, leased, or owned by sex offenders would need to have fluorescent green license plates.
Monday will show how her fellow Dems react to this move – potentially singling out sex offenders for harassment by fellow motorists – and perhaps even target practice for Floridians exercising their newly won permitless carry right.
TUESDAY: SEXUAL IDENTITY TEACHINGS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Sen. Clay Yarborough’s (R-Jacksonville) Child Protection in Public Schools bill is set for the Senate floor this Tuesday. This legislation expands the Leftist-nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning teachings of sexual orientation and gender identity from Pre-K through eighth grade. It also prohibits the usage of pronouns not corresponding to one’s biological sex.
Critics have raised concerns about the impact on menstruation instruction in schools, calling the House version the “Period Banning Bill.” When the House sponsor, Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala), was asked if this would restrict a fifth-grade girl from speaking about her menstruation cycle with her teacher, he replied “It would.”
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo clarified this period provision is not in Yarborough’s Senate version. However, a discrepancy between chambers must be addressed for the bill to pass the legislature.
WEDNESDAY: TAX RELIEF FOR FLORIDIANS
Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) is introducing a massive tax exemption bill to the Senate floor this Wednesday. This mammoth legislation aims at $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians – expanding sales tax “holidays” for back-to-school supplies and hurricane-preparedness items.
In a bipartisanly-backed move, the bill exempts diapers, adult incontinence products, gas stoves, Energy Star appliances and oral hygiene products. It institutes a "Freedom Summer" tax holiday, lasting from Memorial Day through Labor Day, providing sales tax exemptions on certain outdoor activities.
The House version of the bill provides for a $1.38 billion tax exemption, slightly differing from the Senate version. Upon the two bills becoming identical, it will pass the legislature with a majority vote in both chambers.
THE BUDGET: HOPING FOR A VOTE BY FRIDAY
This past weekend, both the Senate and House have been busy finalizing the budget, working out chamber discrepancies.
According to Florida Politics, the chambers have agreed on a five percent pay raise for state employees and a boost to pension benefits. The retirement age for police, firefighters, and first responders will be decreased from 30 years of service to 25, or the age of 60 to 55. The chambers have decided to increase pediatricians’ rates by $76.1 million, and spend an additional $27.5 million on cancer research funding.
“Our budget chairs of the subcommittees have been working really well together. It’s really remarkable when people work together how much they can accomplish,” Sen. President Kathleen Passidomo told the press last week. “I give a lot of credit to the Speaker, because he has said to his members and I have said to the Senators: ‘I want you guys to work it out.’ Sit down, talk, work it out. My hope would be we get the final document typed and printed up and on the desk by Monday night, Tuesday morning — that gets us to vote Friday.”
Still to be resolved is whether or not to increase reimbursements for hospitals that treat the sickest children, Florida Politics reports. The Senate wants to increase those rates by $76.1 million, though no offer has been made to the House on altering or keeping that number.