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Legislative Update - April 21, 2023

Still no official word from leadership calling budget conference on (SB 2500 and HB 5001) this week. Bets are now on next week, most likely Monday, to begin conference for the purpose of negotiating differences between the House and Senate plans. Chairman Leek, House Budget Chair, announced today at the end of committee, requesting members be back Sunday night in preparation for a Monday budget conference start. While not the official word, it's a very good indication that proceedings will finally start next week.

HB 5 Economic Programs, the bill that eliminates Enterprise Florida, Inc., (EFI) was passed out of it's final House committee today. Relevant programs in EFI would be transferred to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).The bill provides that VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Sports Foundation may enter into agreements with DEO to continue any existing programs, activities, duties, or functions necessary for their operation. 

HB 999 Postsecondary Educational Institutions passed the last House committee stop this week and is available for floor action. The controversial bill would restrict public universities from teaching “theories that systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political and economic inequities.” It also limits faculty members from challenging a termination or a decision to strip them of tenure. In addition, faculty members would not be allowed to appeal the decision beyond the level of the university president, giving appointees expanded control.

SB 252 Protection from Discrimination Based on Health Care Choices continues to move passing the last committee stop on a party line vote (13-5) in the Senate Fiscal Policy this week. The bill prohibits mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates in educational institutions, business entities, and governmental entities. It also prohibits business entities, governmental entities, and educational institutions from requiring a person to wear a mask, a face shield, or any other facial covering that covers the nose and mouth. SB 252 is now available for floor action.

More Bill Action This Week

SB 238 Public Records / COVID – 19 Vaccination Mandates amends previous Florida Statute to expand and conform its public records exemption (PRE) provisions to match with the changes made to ss. 381.00316 and 381.00319, F.S., in SB 252. Specifically, the bill provides that a complaint alleging a business entity’s, governmental entities, or an educational institution’s violation of ss. 381.00316 or 381.00319, F.S., held by the Department of Legal Affairs (DLA) or the Department of Health (DOH) is confidential and exempt from public records provisions. The exemption lasts until the investigation into the complaint is completed or ceases to be active, unless releasing the information would jeopardize the integrity of another active investigation, reveal medical information about an individual, or reveal information about an individual’s religious beliefs.

Information made confidential and exempt may be released to a business or governmental entity or education institution in furtherance of the entity’s or institution’s lawful duties and responsibilities and may also be released in aggregated format.

SB 252 Protection from Discrimination Based on Health Care Choices amends several statutes in order to prohibit mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates in educational institutions, business entities, and governmental entities. The bill prohibits these entities and institutions from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery or requiring a COVID-19 test to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the entity or institution.

The bill also prohibits business and governmental entities from certain employment practices based on an employee’s, or a future employee’s, COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection status or the refusal to take a COVID-19 test. Additionally, it prohibits government, educational, and business entities from mandating wearing masks. 

The bill also creates and amends several statutes related to the provision of health care for COVID-19 including:

  • Prohibiting a hospital from interfering with COVID-19 treatment alternatives that are recommended by a health care practitioner with privileges at the hospital
  • Requiring a health care practitioner to obtain specified informed consent from a patient before prescribing any medication for the treatment of COVID-19 to the patient
  • Prohibiting a pharmacist from being disciplined for properly dispensing medications prescribed for the treatment of COVID-19.SB

SB 266 Higher Education includes a number of provisions intended to focus state university administrative and curricular activities on education that benefits students and the state. Specifically, the bill:

  •  Requires the Board of Governors (BOG) of the State University System to: o Include in the alignment of university missions, and in its strategic plan, economic development needs of the state and nondegree credential attainment, respectively.
  • Modifies personnel policies at each university by:  Assigning hiring authority to the president, who may delegate authority to the executive team or individual deans. It prohibits a pledge or oath in the admissions or personnel process except those to state or federal law, or the State or United States Constitution. Specifying that the faculty grievance process terminates with the university president.
  • Requiring the university president to present to the university board of trustees evaluations and salaries for personnel earning over $200,000.
  • Requires the BOG to provide a directive for universities to review programs violations of state law regarding discrimination and those based on specified theories; and o Provides additional restrictions on public education institution spending, with exceptions for specified programs.
  • Adds to the preeminent state research universities program a metric regarding STEM-related research, and revises the number of standards an institution must meet to earn a designation.
  • Modifies the general education program to:
    • Require a periodic review of general education core courses.
    • Specify standards for general education core course. Require a college or university board of trustees and its state-level governing board to approve general education courses at the institution. Creates the Institute for Risk Management and Insurance Education, and modifies the purpose, goals, or authorized activities of the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education, Florida Institute of Politics, and the Adam Smith Center for the Study of Economic Freedom.
  •  Specifies that a required change in accreditation for public postsecondary institutions is a one-time-only change, and prohibits an accrediting agency from compelling an institution to violate state law.
  • Modifies the “buy one, get one free” tuition waiver program to include up to two state approved teacher preparation programs, and specifies that students may not lose the tuition waiver if the program is removed from the approved list after enrollment.
  • Passed through Fiscal Policy Committee on 4/20, the debate for the passage was  as the portion about specific theories not being taught drudge up concern from quite a few members

SB 302 Government and Corporate Activism addresses the provision of products and services by financial institutions, the investment of certain state and local government funds, the issuance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) bonds, and procurement of and contracting with vendor’s by certain state and local entities and educational institutions.  

The bill requires financial institutions, consumer finance lenders, and money services businesses, to make decisions about the provision or denial of services based on an analysis of risk factors unique to each customer, and prohibits them from engaging in any “unsafe and unsound practice” or applying a “social credit score” when making determinations about the provision of services.

It also codifies and expands the program adopted by the State Board of Administration last year that requires, with limited exceptions, investments of certain state and local funds to be based solely on pecuniary factors and not on the furtherance of any social, political, or ideological interests.

HB 425 Transportation addresses matters related to transportation. The bill:

  • Expands Florida’s existing Move Over Law to include disabled motor vehicles.
  • Requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish standards by which the State Highway System will be graded according to their compatibility with the operation of autonomous vehicles.
  • Revises provisions regarding airport land use compatibility zoning regulations and noise studies at airports.
  • Codifies the Implementing Solutions from Transportation Research and Evaluating Emerging Technologies (ISTREET) Living Lab within the University of Florida.
  • Provides that a producer of construction aggregates (gravel, sand, etc.) may not represent that an aggregate is certified for use unless such aggregate complies with DOT rules.
  • Requires a local governmental entity to accept electronic proof of delivery for construction materials.
  • Requires DOT contracts for bridge work over navigable waters to require a marine general liability insurance provision in an amount determined by DOT.
  • Requires DOT to implement strategies to reduce project costs while still meeting applicable federal and state standards.
  • Authorizes DOT to share up to 10% of construction cost savings with design and engineering consultants whose input was involved in realizing the cost savings.
  • Provides that stipends paid by DOT to nonselected design-build firms that have submitted responsive proposals for construction contracts, which stipends are contained in DOT’s legislatively-approved work program, are not subject to specified documentation and notification requirements.
  • Authorizes a contractor who desires to bid exclusively on construction contracts with proposed budget estimates of $2 million or less (increased from $1 million) to submit reviewed, rather than audited, financial statements.
  • Authorizes an applicant for a contractor certificate of qualification to submit a request to keep an existing certificate, with the current maximum capacity rating, in place until the expiration date of the existing certificate.
  • Repeals a public records exemption for documents that reveal the identity of a person who has requested or obtained a bid package, plan, or specifications pertaining to any project to be let by DOT.
  • Authorizes specific information panels to be placed on rights-of-way if specified conditions are met.
  • Authorizes DOT to request legislative approval of a proposed turnpike project regardless of how complete the project’s design phase is.
  • Encourages the consolidation of and cooperation between Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).
  • Requires a report regarding the consolidation of the MPOs serving Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties.
  • Revises provisions regarding the Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council.
  • Authorizes DOT to use $5 million from the State Transportation Trust Fund for workforce development
  • Removes the requirement that railroad police be appointed by the Governor and gives them arrest powers in every county in which the railroad operates.
  • Requires DOT to make $20 million available each year to provide for the movement and storage of aggregate.                                                                                       

SB 598 Higher Education Facilities Financing revises various provisions related to the Higher Educational Facilities Financing Authority (HEFFA). Specifically, the bill:

  • Clarifies that the term for a new appointee to the HEFFA begins on the later of the dates on which the current term expires or the date of appointment by the governor.
  • Authorizes the authority to conduct meetings and workshops by means of communications media technology, and:
    • Provides notice requirements and participation specifications for meetings and workshops conducted via communication media technology.
    • Specifies that majority voting is for members participating in the meeting, rather than those present.
  • Authorizes the HEFFA to contract for administrative services.
  • Modifies the time by which the HEFFA determines the financial responsibility and capability to fulfill a project to at the time the financial agreement is executed.
  • Revises the timeframe within which the authority is required to submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature from 2 months to 6 months after the end of the fiscal year.

HB 645 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act expands the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” to include: A water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station, A liquid natural gas or propane gas terminal or storage facility, regardless of capacity, A refinery, A gas processing plant including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas, A seaport, An inland port or other facility serving as a point of intermodal transfer of freight, An airport, A spaceport territory certain military installations and armory, A dam or other structures such as locks, floodgates, or dikes, which are designed to maintain or control the level of navigable waterways.

The bill removes the requirement that a person or governmental entity seeking to restrict or limit the operation of drones in close proximity to infrastructure or facilities must apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for such designation under s. 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.  The bill removes the provision that a drone operating in transit for commercial purposes can operate over a critical infrastructure facility. 
704 Substance Abuse Prevention expands the authority of pharmacies, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and emergency responders to possess, store, dispense, and administer, as applicable, emergency opioid antagonists. The bill also expands civil and criminal immunities for those who receive, possess, store, or administer an emergency opioid antagonist.

Additionally, the bill creates the Statewide Council on Opioid Abatement (Council) within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for the purpose of enhancing the development and coordination of state and local efforts to abate the opioid epidemic and to support the victims of the opioid crisis and their families.

The bill has been amended to match the language of the bill tin the House. Additionally, the language is now inclusive of injectable devices.

SB 908 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act revises the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” for purposes of the operation of unmanned aircraft systems, or “drones,” over or near certain facilities and structures to include: water intake structures; water treatment facilities; wastewater treatment plants; pump stations; certain deepwater ports; railroad switching yards; certain airports; certain spaceport territories; certain military installations; or certain dams or other structures, such as locks, floodgates, or dikes, which are designed to maintain or control the level of navigable waterways.

The bill removes from state law:

  • A virtually identical requirement under federal law that a person or governmental entity apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to restrict or limit the operation of drones in close proximity to infrastructure and facilities that the person or governmental entity owns or operates.
  • A provision making the definition of “critical infrastructure facility” inapplicable to a drone operating in transit for commercial purposes in compliance with FAA regulations, authorizations, or exemptions.

HB 1133 Physician Assistant Licensure changes the eligibility requirements for PA licensure to applicants who matriculated into, rather than graduated from, an approved program prior to before December 31, 2020. The bill also authorizes the BOM and BOOM to grant a license to a PA applicant who does not meet the educational requirements in statute, but passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. These changes reinstate licensure eligibility for PA bachelor degree program graduates effected by the 2021 change to the PA licensure statute.

SB 1140 Rapid DNA Grant Program creates s. 943.324, F.S., to establish the Rapid DNA Grant Program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to award grants to county jails or sheriffs’ offices to procure Rapid DNA machines and other necessary supplies required to rapidly process DNA samples in support of the statewide DNA database under s. 943.325, F.S.

The bill requires the FDLE to annually award funds specifically appropriated for the grant program to county jails and sheriffs’ offices. The FDLE may establish criteria and set specific time periods for the acceptance of applications and for the selection process for awarding grant funds.  The total amount of grants awarded may not exceed funding appropriated for the grant program which is 200,000.

SB 1182  Education and Training for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Forms of Dementia establishes universal Alzheimer’s disease and related disorder (ADRD) training requirements to be used by nursing homes, home health agencies, nurse registries, companion or homemaker service providers, health care services pools, assisted living facilities (ALF), adult family-care homes (AFCH), adult day care centers (ADCC), and ADCCs that provide specialized Alzheimer’s services to replace each license type’s individual training requirements on that topic.

The bill requires that all employees of covered providers receive basic written information about interacting with persons who have ADRD upon beginning employment. Employees of covered providers who provide personal care to or have regular contact with patients, participants, or residents, must also complete one hour of dementia-related training within 30 days of his or her initial employment.

The bill also requires that each employee of a home health agency, nurse registry, or companion or homemaker service provider who provides personal care receive two hours of additional training within the first seven months of employment. Each employee of a nursing home, ALF, AFCH or ADCC who provides personal care must receive three hours of additional training within the first seven months of employment. Employees of ALFs with a limited mental health license are not required to complete this additional training.

This bill details numerous other requirements like training, etc. in order to remain practicing and working.

HB 1209 Economic Development requires an agency agreement that provides state of federal financial assistance to a recipient or subrecipient to include a provision allowing the agency to pay to the county or municipality for verified and eligible performance.  

Related to the Regional Rural Development Grants Program, the bill:

  • Removes the match requirements.
  • Removes the requirement for local governments and private businesses to make financial or in-kind commitments to the regional organization. 

Related to the Rural Infrastructure Fund, the bill:

  • Allows DEO to award grants for up to 75% of the total infrastructure project cost.
  • Allows DEO to award grants for up to 100% of the total infrastructure project cost for a project located in a rural community or a rural area of opportunity, if the county is also fiscally constrained.
  • Removes the requirement related to infrastructure feasibility studies and other infrastructure planning activities that grants awarded be limited to 30% of the total project cost.

SB 1482 Rural Development modifies economic initiatives relating to rural development including certain agreements funded with federal or state assistance, the Regional Rural Development Grants Program, and the Rural Infrastructure Fund.

The bill prohibits an agency agreement that provides state or federal financial assistance to local government entities within a rural area of opportunity (RAO) from requiring the local government entity to expend funds in order to be reimbursed.

The bill amends the Regional Rural Development Grants Program to:

  • Eliminate the rural matching requirement.
  • Eliminate the requirement that grant funds received by a regional economic development organization must be matched each year by nonstate resources in an amount equal to 25% of the state contributions.
  • Clarify that applicants must provide information about any financial or in-kind commitment to the regional organization by a unit of local government or the private sector.

The bill amends the Rural Infrastructure Fund to:

  • Increase the maximum grant award from 50% to 75% of the total infrastructure cost, or up to 100% of the total infrastructure project cost for a project that is located in a rural community or a RAO and that is also located in a fiscally constrained county.
  • Remove the requirement that projects must be linked to specific job-creation or job-retention opportunities.
  • Increase the maximum grant for infrastructure feasibility studies, design and engineering activities, or other infrastructure planning and preparation activities to $300,000 for all projects and removes the limitation that the grant not exceed 30% of the total project cost.
  • Remove the 50% local matching fund requirement for surveys, feasibility studies, and other activities related to the identification and preclearance review of land which is suitable for preclearance review, and removes the requirement that a grant for an employment project create or retain a minimum number of jobs.

SB 1532 Regional Transportation Planning provides legislative findings and intent to explore the dissolution or transfer of the governance, staff, operations, funding, and facilities of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority with the goal of enhancing regional transit service and connectivity in the Tampa Bay Area.  

The bill directs the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), or its consultant, to conduct a study of the potential dissolution of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. The study must address all aspects of the winding down of the affairs of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, this includes a number of actions.

HB 7063 Taxation provides for the following tax-related provisions designed to benefit both families and businesses.

Sales taxes, the bill:

  • Creates permanent exemptions for specified baby and toddler products and clothes, adult incontinence products, oral hygiene products, machinery and equipment to produce renewable natural gas, certain agricultural fencing, and small private investigative agency services.
  • Provides a one-year exemption for certain ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators, refrigerator/freezer combinations, water heaters, and clothes washers and dryers; a one-year exemption for gas ranges and cooktops, and an estimated 13-month reduction in the business rent tax from 5.5% to 4.5%.
  • Creates two 14-day “back-to-school” tax holidays, one in July and August 2023, and one in January 2024, for certain clothing, school supplies, learning aids and puzzles, and personal computers; a 14-day “disaster preparedness” holiday in May and June of 2023 for specified disaster preparedness supplies for families and their pets; a three-month “Freedom Summer” tax holiday from Memorial Day through Labor Day for specified recreational items and activities; and a seven-day “Tool Time” tax holiday in September for tools and equipment needed in skilled trades.

Property taxes, the bill:

  • Makes several changes to expand, clarify, or correct provisions related to homestead benefits for permanently and totally disabled veterans, first responders, and surviving spouses of either; Allows an educational facility to qualify for an exemption if they have a bona fide 98-year lease with nominal payments.
  • Makes technical and clarifying changes to several sections of existing law.

Corporate income tax, the bill:

  • Adopts the Internal Revenue Code in effect on January 1, 2023, to maintain conformity with federal provisions.
  • Creates a tax credit for homebuilders that purchase and install residential graywater systems, and for companies that purchase machinery and equipment for use in the production of human breast milk fortifiers.

The bill also delays the imposition of natural gas fuel taxes by two years; provides administrative provisions related to discretionary sales surtaxes found to be unconstitutional; freezes local communications services tax rates for three years; changes a population cap for a tourist development tax provision; exempts certain small business loans from duplicative documentary stamp and intangible tax treatment; clarifies the calculation of a certain penalty as related to the Florida Tax Credit Program, New Worlds Reading Initiative, and Strong Families Tax Credit programs; increases the annual cap of the Strong Families Tax Credit to $20 million; and revises the qualifications to participate in that program. 

Staff estimates the total state and local government impact of the bill in fiscal year 2023-24 is -$1,376.7 million (-$245.2 million recurring).

*Bill summaries provided by House and Senate staff analyses