The 2022 Legislative Session ended on Mar. 14, three days later than scheduled due to the constitutionally mandated 72-hour “cooling off” period for legislators to review the budget.
In this post, we will review some highlights of the session, including debunking the common perception that it was dominated by “culture wars,” some of the more significant and impactful bills that were passed, two important areas of unfinished business, and an update on the redistricting process.
2022 Legislative Session
Perception and Reality
At a recent Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce event, incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said that, despite the common perception that “culture wars” dominated the session, the vast majority of bills that passed had bipartisan support.
I knew what perception she was referring to. It was a perception I shared.
After all, a Miami Herald article referred to the “‘culture wars’ session of the Florida Legislature.” An Associated Press article said, “the session was largely driven by Gov. DeSantis’ agenda on cultural issues.” A USA Today Network-Florida article described a session “marked by deep divisions.” And those are just three of the dozens of articles I’ve read since the session began.
Finding no easy way to fact-check Passidomo’s statement, I asked for her help. She responded, in an email, “I had staff put together a list of passed bills for the 2022 session and asked them to highlight the ones where the votes were on party lines. We passed 285 bills. All but 12 passed, either unanimously or with only one or two “no” votes. Of the 12 that were along party lines in the Senate, I think 5 of them had several democrats voting for and one Republican (Jeff Brandes) against.”
Please continue reading below for more on the party-line bills.
I appreciate Sen. Passidomo’s quick and informative response — and the reminder that perception isn’t necessarily reality.
Some Bills That Passed Unanimously
In view of that insight, I will begin this post with a review of some of the unanimously passed bills.
✤ Child Welfare
SB 7034 expands benefits for foster families and relatives who take on the responsibility of raising children who cannot live with their parents. Increases the child care subsidy to help defray the costs of the early learning or childcare program that is a requirement of children in foster care. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
- Senate passes increased benefits for foster families, caregivers who are relatives. (Press Release, 2/23/22)
✤ Streets to Schools
CS/CS/HB 1577 removes barriers to education and programs for homeless youth, and improves access for youth who are currently in, or were formerly in, foster care. Signed into law. See bill summary here.
- Gov. DeSantis signs law removing education, program barriers to homeless youth. (Florida Politics, 4/6/22)
✤ Veteran Suicide Prevention
SB 1712 requires the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide suicide prevention training as part of a pilot program to veteran service organizations. Signed into law. See bill summary here.
- Gov. DeSantis signs veteran suicide prevention bill into law. (Florida Politics, 4/7/22)
✤ Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
✤ Human Trafficking
HB 615 expands training on recognizing, preventing and reporting human trafficking for foster families, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and fire safety inspectors. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
✤ School Assessments
SB 1048 substantially changes Florida’s statewide standardized assessment program to include a statewide coordinated screening and progress monitoring tool to replace the Florida Standards Assessment. Signed into law 3/15/22. See bill summary here.
- Governor DeSantis signs groundbreaking legislation to make Florida a national leader by eliminating high-stakes testing. (News Release, 3/15/22)
✤ Financial Literacy
SB 1054 requires that, beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2023-2024 school year, students must earn one-half credit in personal financial literacy and money management in order to receive a standard high school diploma. Signed into law 3/22/22. See bill summary here.
- Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Bill Requiring Financial Literacy Class For High School Students. (CBSMiami.com, 3/22/22)
✤ Mental Health of Students
HB 899 builds on the state’s efforts to better understand and address the upward trend in the number of children subject to involuntary commitments under the Baker Act over the last 15 years. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
✤ No Patient Left Alone Act
SB 988 requires hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice facilities, hospitals, and facilities for the developmentally disabled to allow visitation to the greatest extent possible while maintaining the overall health and safety of the facility. See bill summary here. Signed into law.
- Visitation to the greatest extent possible’: Gov. DeSantis signs patient visitation rights bill. (Naples Daily News, 4/6/22)
CS/HB 7071 contains 13 provisions for sales tax relief including a one-month gas tax holiday, three provisions for ad valorem tax relief including increasing the widows, widowers, blind, or totally and permanently disabled property tax exemption from $500 to $5,000, and more. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
The Party-Line Bills
Republicans held 24 of the Legislature’s 40 Senate seats and 78 of the 120 House seats at the end of the legislative session.
The 12 party-line bills identified by Sen. Passidomo’s staff were:
Here are explanations of these party-line bills:
✤ Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality, aka “15-Week Abortion” Bill
CS/HB 5 amends several sections of law relating to reducing fetal and infant mortality. It bans abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury to the mother or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Florida currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Awaits Governor action. Read the bill summary here.
- Gov. DeSantis says he’ll sign ‘warranted’ 15-week abortion ban. (Florida Politics, 3/4/22)
✤ Individual Freedom, aka “Stop WOKE Act”
- Florida’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’ passes Senate, heads to DeSantis to sign into law. (WFLA.com, 3/11/22)
✤ Charter School Charters
CS/HB 225 modifies provisions relating to a charter agreement between a sponsor and a charter school, revises provisions related to consolidating two or more charter schools, and modifies the procedures and notification timeframe for terminating or non-renewing a charter. Note that while the bill passed on a party-line vote in the Senate, it had significant support from both parties in the House. Awaits Governor action. Read the bill summary here.
- Opinion: Bill makes it easier for charter schools to escape two-year waiting period for capital outlay funds. (League of Women Voters of Florida Capitol Report, 1/28/22)
✤ Local Business Protection
CS/SB 620 creates a cause of action for an established business to recover loss of business damages from a county or municipality whose regulatory action has caused a significant impact on the business. Awaits Governor action. See the bill summary here.
- More than 20 Mayors urge Gov. DeSantis to veto ‘Local Business Protection Act’. (Florida Politics, 4/5/22)
✤ Election Administration
CS/CS/SB 524 revises provisions governing elections “to improve election security, transparency, and administration.” Awaits Governor action. For a list of the changes in the bill, see the bill summary here.
- Florida House sends election police bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis for expected signature. (Associated Press via Los Angeles Times, 3/92)
✤ Soil and Water Conservation Districts
CS/CS/CS/SB 1078 requires the volunteer soil and water conservation district board members to be employed in, or retired after ten years of being engaged in, agriculture; employed by an agricultural producer; or own, lease, or be actively employed on agricultural land with annual gross revenue of more than $500,000. Awaits Governor action. Read the bill summary here.
- Opinion: Florida’s soil and water conservation districts are under attack. By Rob Long, Chair, Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District, via TheInvadingSea.com, 3/18/22
✤ Campaign Financing
CS/CS/HB 921 limits non-Floridians from donating more than $3,000, and out-of-state political committees from receiving donations worth more than $3,000, when it comes to ballot initiatives in the petition-gathering process. Signed into law. See bill summary here.
- Gov. DeSantis signs second pass at limiting big dollar influence in ballot initiatives. (Florida Politics, 4/6/22)
- New contribution limit to face fight. (News Service of Florida via Citrus County Chronicle, 4/8/22)
✤ Parental Rights in Education aka “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
CS/CS/HB 1557 prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students. Signed into law. Read the bill summary here.
- DeSantis Signs Florida Bill That Opponents Call ‘Don’t Say Gay’. (NYTimes, 3/28/22)
- As Gov. DeSantis signs controversial parental rights law, Disney pushes for repeal. (Florida Politics, 3/28/22)
- Legal fight begins over new Florida law on teaching sexual orientation, gender identity. (News Service of Florida via Miami Herald, 4/1/22)
✤ Dissolution of Marriage
- Opinion: Gov. DeSantis, veto SB 1796; it puts our seniors and children at risk. By Heather Apicella, chair of The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, via Tallahassee Democrat, 3/19/22
✤ Immigration Enforcement
CS/SB 1808, relating to federal immigration enforcement, prohibits sanctuary policies and seeks to ensure that state and local entities and law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal government officials to enforce, and not obstruct, federal immigration laws. Awaits Governor action. Read the bill summary here.
- Immigration bill going to Florida Gov. DeSantis for signature. (WTXL.com, 3/9/22)
✤ K-12 Education
CS/HB 1467 modifies school district requirements for instructional materials, including instructional materials in school libraries and media centers to provide increased oversight over, and public access to, all materials used in instruction. It also establishes 12-year terms limits for school board members. Signed into law. Read the bill summary here.
- Crisis in the Classroom: New law on school textbooks gives Florida parents more control. (ABC3WEAR-TV, 4/5/22)
✤ Postsecondary Education
SB 7044 establishes requirements related to postsecondary education post-tenure review and institution accreditation, provides additional transparency for student fees and textbooks and instructional materials, and modifies requirements relating to transfer of credit. Awaits Governor action. Read the bill summary here.
- ‘We will be back fixing this’: Legislature passes amended bill addressing higher ed accreditors. (Florida Politics, 3/10/22)
In addition to the bills identified by Sen. Passidomo’s staff, I noted another bill that had a party-line vote in the Senate.
✤ Rooftop Solar
CS/CS/HB 741 makes major changes in rules regarding “net metering,” including credits that utilities provide owners for electricity generated by their rooftop solar systems. Passed the Senate 24-15; passed the House 83-31. Awaits Governor action. See the bill summary here.
- Rooftop solar bill goes to governor, despite objections from the solar industry and environmentalists. (WLRN Miami, 3/7/22)
Other Important Bills
Amid concerns raised by South Florida leaders, water shortage bill changed in Senate. (Florida Politics, 3/10/22)
SB 2508 passed the Senate 33-0; passed the House 99-8. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
‘Our newspapers are struggling as it is’: Florida Legislature passes bill shifting public notices away from legacy media. (Florida Politics, 3/10/22)
HB 7049 passed the Senate 26-13; passed the House 79-40. Awaits Governor action. See bill summary here.
Gov. DeSantis signs law enforcement recruitment package into law. Florida Politics, 4/1/22
HB 3 passed the Senate 34-0; passed the House 114-3. Signed into law 4/1/22. See bill summary here.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of nursing home bill: ‘Unconscionable’. (AARP.org, 4/7/22)
HB 1239 passed the Senate 28-9; passed the House 80-31. Signed into law 4/6/22. See bill summary here.
The final 2022-23 state budget totals just over $112 billion, the largest in Florida’s history and 10 percent higher than the current year, thanks to an influx of federal dollars. Total federal stimulus funds account for about $3.5 billion of the overall budget. For more, see House Speaker Sprowls’ budget summary here and infographic here.
About the education funding in the budget, the Florida Teachers Union (FEA) wrote, “The Legislature’s proposed increase to the education budget is one of the largest ever planned and includes a base student allocation increase of $214.49 per student. The proposal also funds increases to educator pay, but does not fully address the salary issues contributing to the staffing crisis.” (FEAweb.org, 3/11/22)
Still To Come: Line-Item Vetoes
Gov. DeSantis said the $112.1 billion budget approved by the Legislature might be too generous in some areas, and people celebrating getting projects in the spending plan should refrain from “any irrational exuberance.” (News Service of Florida via WLRN.org, 3/17/22)
The Senate and House failed to reach agreement on a bill that would require inspections of aging condo buildings and mandate that condo boards conduct studies to determine how much they need to set aside for repairs. (NBC News, 3/11/22; HB 7069)
Property Insurance Reform
House and Senate leaders were also unable to agree on insurance reforms, even though the property insurance industry is widely acknowledged to be in crisis. Homeowners’ rates have been going up by double digits the last few years, and more than a dozen companies have recently suspended new business in Florida, limited the types of homes they cover or canceled policies outright.
- Florida Legislature leaves without addressing property insurance crisis. Tampa Bay Times, 3/15/22
In an Apr. 6 letter to Senate and House leadership, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he might use a provision in state law to try to spur a special session.
- Brandes pushes property insurance special session. News Service of Florida via Tampa Bay Times, 4/6/22
Previously, I reviewed the Legislature’s progress on the redrawing of Florida’s congressional and state legislative district maps based on the 2020 census. (Sparker’s Soapbox, 1/7/22), Sparker’s Soapbox, 2/7/22, and Sparker’s Soapbox, 3/6/22)
For a brief history of redistricting in Florida, including the 2010 Fair Districts amendments that established constitutional limits on political gerrymandering, click here.
At the time of our last update, the state House and Senate maps were set, but Gov. DeSantis had said he intended to veto the congressional map when the redistricting bill reached his desk.
Every seat matters, given the Democrats’ 12-seat House majority. (U.S. House Press Gallery, 4/7/22)
The Governor’s Veto
Within minutes of receiving the bill, the Governor did as promised. A seven-page memo from his General Counsel explained why. (Miami Herald, 3/29/22; Governor’s Veto Message; General Counsel’s redistricting memorandum)
DeSantis claims that the Legislature’s map is unconstitutional “because it assigns voters primarily on the basis of race but is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.”
“Although I understand the Legislature’s desire to comply with the Florida Constitution,” he wrote, “the Legislature is not absolved of its duty to comply with the U.S. Constitution. Where the U.S. and Florida Constitutions conflict, the U.S. Constitution must prevail.”
Special Session Scheduled
Gov. DeSantis called a special session “to produce a new map establishing lawful congressional voting districts in Florida and consider legislation relating to any legal challenges to them, including funding.” (Governor’s Proclamation, 3/29/22)
Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls immediately issued a joint statement making clear their desire to reach common ground with the Governor.
The Special Session will convene at 12 p.m., Apr. 19, and end no later than 11:59 p.m., Apr. 22.
The Legal Challenges
Meanwhile, even before the veto, two lawsuits were filed, one in a state court and one in a federal court.
The state court case was filed by nine individual plaintiffs on Mar. 11 (here). It alleges that Florida’s current congressional map, which was drawn with 2010 census data, does not accurately reflect the state’s population, and therefore the current districts are mal-apportioned in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Given the state’s “near-certain” impasse due to gridlock between the Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis, along with the fast approaching 2022 elections, they ask the court to implement a new map using 2020 census data that accurately reflects the state’s population and adheres to the constitutional requirement of one person, one vote. (Democracy Docket, 3/11/22)
Judge Refuses to Recuse
On Mar. 29, the plaintiffs in the federal case filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to withdraw from it because of his past representation of the Florida House on a series of redistricting issues from 2005 to 2013. (News Service of Florida via Law.com, 3/31/22)
On Apr. 6, Judge Winsor said he will not step aside. “This is a different case, featuring different issues, addressing a different map, in a different redistricting cycle — nearly a decade after I stopped working on redistricting matters,’’ he wrote in a 13-page order. (Miami Herald, 4/6/22)
That’s it for Florida government news for March. My next state news post will include highlights of the Special Session.