Legislative Update - April 8, 2023
The House and Senate have passed their respective budgets this week (SB 2500 and HB 5001) and leadership will organize conference to line up both budgets for passage of a single plan. We expect allocations to possibly be announced next week with the naming of conferees to follow shortly, and conference most likely beginning April 18th.
Despite Florida's elections being recognized nationally as one of the smoothest run and drama free processes, lawmakers have introduced an election bill tweaking current election law. SB 7050 would make wide-ranging changes in elections laws, placing new restrictions on voter-registration organizations, creating a new law for harassing elections workers, and relaxing campaign-finance reporting.
The Republican effort met opposition from Democratic Senator, Tina Polsky in committee, who said, "This process was really pretty awful. If this bill was so benign, we would have seen it a lot earlier," commenting on the sudden introduction of such a far-reaching elections bill.
Also this week, insurance legislation was introduced in the Senate (SB 7052) that would increase "transparency and accountability" for insurance companies according to the sponsor and would increase fines that regulators can place on insurers, adding reporting requirements, and requiring that rates reflect changes in law.
The bill comes after an earlier special session focused on property insurance and tort reform efforts. Currently, there is no House companion bill.
Bill Action This Week
SB 238 Public Records/ COVID-19 Vaccination Methods works 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 entity's, 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 of the State Constitution.
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 entities 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. Additionally, the bill 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, the bill 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 or denying a person access to, entry upon, service from, or admission to such entity or institution or otherwise discriminating against any person based on his or her refusal to wear a mask, face shield, or other facial covering. The bill provides exceptions to these prohibitions for health care providers and practitioners, as long as the provider or practitioner meets specific requirements established by the bill.
The bill establishes requirements for mandating masks in health care settings.
SB 254 Treatments for Sex Reassignment creates regulations relating to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures, as that term is defined in the bill. The bill:
- Creates a new section of statute relating to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act regarding court jurisdiction;
- Prohibits the expenditure of state funds by specified entities for sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures;
- Prohibits sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures for patients younger than 18 years of age, except that prescription treatments may continue for such patients whose treatment was commenced before, and is still active on, the bill's effective date, under specified parameters;
- Creates requirements for voluntary, informed consent that must be met in order for a patient 18 years of age or older to be treated with sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures;
- Provides that only allopathic or osteopathic physicians may provide sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures;
- Creates criminal penalties for the provision of sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures in violation of the bill's prohibition or requirements;
- Provides that a practitioner who is arrested for the crime of providing sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures to a patient younger than 18 years of age may have his or her license suspended via emergency order of the Department of Health (DOH);
- Requires that any hospital, ambulatory surgical center, or physician's office registered for the provision of office surgery, must provide a signed attestation to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) or the DOH, as applicable, that the facility or office does not offer or provide sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures for children, except those qualifying for the exception under the bill, and also does not refer such patients to other providers for those treatments.
The bill provides that if any provision of the bill, once enacted, or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid.
SB 262 Technology Transparency prohibits employees of a governmental entity from using their position or any state resources to communicate with a social media platform to request that it remove content or accounts. Additionally, a government entity cannot initiate or maintain any agreements with a social media platform for the purpose of content moderation. The bill creates a unified scheme to allow Florida's consumers to control the digital flow of their personal information. Specifically, it gives consumers the right to:
- Access their personal information;
- Delete or correct that personal information; and
- Opt out of the sale or sharing of their personal
The Act generally applies to businesses that collect Florida consumers' personal information, make in excess of $1 billion in gross revenues, and meet one of the following thresholds:
- Derives 50% or more if its global annual revenues from providing targeted advertising or the sale of ads online; or
- Operated a consumer smart speaker and voice command component service with an integrated virtual assistant connected to a cloud computing service that uses hands-free verbal activation.
The bill prohibits the collection of a consumer's precise geolocation data or personal information through the operation of a voice recognition feature, unless the consumer provides authorization. The bill requires a search engine to provide a consumer with information on how the search engine algorithm prioritizes or deprioritizes political partisanship or political ideology in its search results.
The bill also adds "biometric data," "genetic information," and "geolocation data" to the definition of "personal information" under the Florida Information Protection Act. As such, entities that possess fingerprints, DNA, and other biological or physiological identifying information must take reasonable measures to protect that data and report data breaches.
SB 300 Pregnancy and Parenting Support prohibits abortion after six weeks of gestation unless an exception is met. Current-law exceptions to abortion time frames are maintained and a new exception is established for cases in which the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. This new exception is available until the 15th week of gestation under the bill.
The bill specifies that abortions, including medical abortions, may not be provided through telehealth and that medication intended for the use in a medical abortion may only be dispensed by a physician and may not be dispensed via the U.S. Postal Service or by any other carrier. The bill also prohibits any person, educational institution, and governmental entity from expending state funds for a person to travel to another state to receive services that are intended to support an abortion, unless such expenditure is required by federal law or there is a legitimate medical emergency.
Additionally, the bill, amends the pregnancy support and wellness services network established in s. 381.96, F.S., to expand access to childcare and resources for pregnant women and mothers.
The bill appropriates $25 million for the expanded network. The bill also appropriates $5 million in, above what is currently appropriated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), for family planning. Clarifying that the current-law exception for fatal fetal anomalies is available until the third trimester of pregnancy, rather than until fetal viability; and repealing rulemaking language that is no longer applicable.
SB 306 Catalytic Converter Antitheft Act addresses tampering with and theft of a catalytic converter, a device the bill defines as an emission control device that is designed to be installed and operate in a motor vehicle to convert toxic gases and pollutants in the motor vehicle's exhaust system into less toxic substances via chemical reaction. There have been numerous incidents throughout the United States of catalytic converters being detached from motor vehicles and stolen due to precious metals contained in the devices.
The bill requires recordkeeping and records inspection and disclosure regarding certain transactions involving a catalytic converter, and punishes certain unlawful transactions involving a catalytic converter. Specifically, the bill:
- Defines key terms;
- Limits purchase of a detached catalytic converter to a registered secondary metals recycler and requires that this recycler comply with statutory recordkeeping and other requirements;
- Provides that it is a third-degree felony to knowingly possess, purchase, sell, or install a stolen catalytic converter, a catalytic converter removed from a stolen vehicle, a new or detached catalytic converter from which specified information has been removed, or a detached catalytic convertor without proof of ownership (with exceptions);
- Provides that it is a second-degree felony to knowingly import, manufacture, purchase for the purpose of reselling, etc., a counterfeit, fake, or nonfunctional catalytic converter;
- Provides that proof that a person was in possession of two or more detached catalytic converters, unless satisfactorily explained, gives rise to an inference that the person in possession of the catalytic converters knew or should have known that the catalytic converters may have been stolen or fraudulently obtained; and
- Prohibits a secondary metals recycler from processing or removing from the recycler's place of business a catalytic converter the recycler has purchased for a period of 10 business days after the date of purchase.
This prohibition does not apply to a purchase from another secondary metals recycler, a salvage motor vehicle dealer, or a person or entity except under s. 538.22, F.S.
SB 454 Physician Assistant Licensure revises the eligibility requirements for physician assistants (PAs) seeking licensure. The bill changes the requirement for graduation from an approved program to a requirement to have "completed" or "matriculated," as applicable.
The bill authorizes the Board of Medicine (BOM) and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine (BOOM) to grant a license to a PA applicant who does not meet the educational requirements for licensure but has passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). These changes reinstate the licensure eligibility for PAs who graduated from accredited PA programs with a bachelor's degree who were negatively impacted by the Legislature's 2021 revisions to the PA licensure statutes.
SB 558 Certified Nursing Assistants creates a new designation of "qualified medication aide" (QMA) for certified nursing assistants (CNA) who work in a nursing home and meet specified licensure and training requirements.
The bill allows a nursing home to authorize a registered nurse (RN) working in the nursing home to delegate medication administration to a QMA who is working under the direct supervision of the RN.
In order to be designated as a QMA, a CNA must hold a clear and active certification as CNA for at least one year preceding the delegation; complete 40 hours of training that consists of the six hour training course currently required for a CNA to administer medication in a home health setting and a 34-hour course developed by the Board of Nursing (BON) specific to QMAs; and successfully complete a supervised clinical practice in medication administration conducted in the nursing home.
SB 564 Interchange Fees on Taxes prohibits an issuer, a payment card network, an acquirer bank, or a processor from charging an interchange fee on any tax that is separately itemized on a sales invoice, sales slip, or other evidence of sale in any electronic payment transaction if the merchant informs a specified entity of such tax amount as part of the authorization process for such transaction. The merchant must transmit the tax amount data as part of the authorization process to avoid being charged interchange fees on the tax amount.
A merchant that does not transmit the tax amount data for eligible electronic payment transactions as part of the authorization process may submit tax documentation to the specified entity no later than 180 days after the date of the electronic payment transaction, and within 30 days, the issuer must credit to the merchant the amount of interchange fees charged on the tax amount of the electronic payment transaction.
An issuer, a payment card network, an acquirer bank, a processor, or other designated entity that has received the tax amount data and that violates these provisions is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 per electronic payment transaction, and the issuer must refund the interchange fees charged on any tax amount relative to the electronic payment transaction.
HB 1043 Medicaid Coverage of Rapid Whole Genome Sequencing requires the state Medicaid program to cover Rapid whole genome sequencing (rWGS) as a fee-for-service benefit for Medicaid recipients who:
- Are 20 years of age or younger;
- Have a complex or acute illness of unknown etiology that has not been caused by environmental exposure, toxic ingestion, an infection with normal response to treatment, or trauma; and
- Are receiving inpatient treatment in a hospital ICU or high-acuity pediatric care unit.
The bill restricts the use of any genetic data resulting from rWGS only to assist in diagnosing and treating the patient, and considers such data protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The bill permits genetic data generated by rWGS to be used in scientific research only if the patient, or the patient's guardian if he or she is a minor, expressly consents to such use. Such consent may be rescinded at any time.
The bill has a significant, negative fiscal impact on state government.
HB 5303 Biomedical Research conforms law to the General Appropriations Act (GAA) proposed by the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2023-2024. The bill:
- Expands those cancer centers eligible for funding pursuant to the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program (DeSantis program) to include cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center with at least one geographic site in Florida.
- Exempts $37,771,257 from the annual allocation fraction calculation for participating cancer centers in the DeSantis program and distributes those funds to participating cancers centers using the proportion as determined by the calculation.
- Eliminates authorization for the endowed research chair contained within the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program. Expands eligible programs for funding from the Biomedical Research Trust Fund to include "other cancer research initiatives as appropriated by the Legislature."
SB 7050 Elections makes the following changes to the Election Code:
- Enhances an existing requirement for signature matching
- Clarifies authority of the Office of Election Crimes and Security and duties of the statewide
- Requires certain first-time Florida voters to vote in
- Revises registration requirements, procedures, deadlines, and fines for third-party voter registration
- Adds to content that must be included on voter information
- Revises processes to be used by supervisors of elections and the Department of State in voter registration list maintenance activities and enhances information other governmental entities must provide for that purpose.
- Reenacts a public records exemption for certain voter registration information received from other states or the District of
- Clarifies and modernizes requirements for disseminating voter signature update information and for the process of signature
- Updates and enhances requirements for post-election
- Creates a new candidate disclosure requirement for certain outstanding fines and
- Prescribes requirements for use of a candidate nickname on a
- Specifies how candidates with the same surname running for the same office in a general election may be distinguished on the ballot. □ Clarifies the costs that supervisors may charge for verification of signatures on petitions.
- Modernizes certain notice requirements by authorizing notice to be made on specified websites instead of in a local Modernizes requirements for precinct boundary data maintained by supervisors. □ Clarifies situations in which a provisional ballot must be voted.
- Implements some of the recommendations in the Department of State's vote-by-mail
- Provides an additional option for discretionary early voting
- Clarifies the allowable number of alternate members of county canvassing
- Modifies timeframes for meetings of the Elections Canvassing Commission, submission of county returns by county canvassing boards, and certification of presidential electors.
- Allows state committeemen and state committeewomen to
- Clarifies the existing felony for casting more than one
- Creates a new criminal penalty for harassing or threatening an election
- Revises required frequency for campaign finance reports and preempts local governments from enacting reporting schedules that differ from those provided in statute.
- Adds text messages to the types of services and costs that do not constitute contributions that count toward specified contribution
- Creates new framework regulating use of voter
- Adjusts fines that may be imposed for violations of specified election The bill takes effect July 1, 2023.
SPB 7052 Insurance Oversight contains various provisions intended to increase consumer protection and insurer accountability in this state. Regarding insurance coverage the proposed bill:
- Prohibits authorized and surplus lines insurers from cancelling a property insurance policy during any pending claim until after repairs are complete;
- Requires that Citizens cover property with open claims that are being handled by FIGA (Florida Insurance Guaranty Association);
- Prohibits the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) from waiving its review of policy forms for 3 years for any insurer that has violated the Insurance Code;
- Provides that the prohibition on applying any other deductible under the policy if a roof deductible is applied encompasses any other loss to the property caused by the same covered peril.
- Tolls the time period for filing a property insurance claim during an insured's active duty military service; and
- Clarifies legislative intent that Chapter 2022-271, Laws of Florida, passed during Special Session A in December 2023, (SB 2- A  on Property Insurance) shall not be construed to impair any right under an insurance contract in effect on or before the effective date of that chapter law (December 16, 2022).
- Clarifies that the provisions of do not impair rights under policies in effect before the act's effective
Regarding rates charged for insurance, the proposed bill:
- Requires that property insurance and motor vehicle rate filings must include, and the OIR must consider in reviewing rates, the combined effect of recent legislative reforms;
- Appropriates $500,000 from the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund for OIR to obtain an actuarial study to implement this
- Requires that property insurance mitigation discounts be updated at least every 5 years and insurers to provide consumer-friendly information on their website describing hurricane mitigation discounts available to policyholders; and
- Makes title insurance rates subject to OIR rate
Regarding insurer claims handling, the proposed bill:
- Requires OIR to ensure liability insurers are complying with proper claims handling practices by following specified best practices
- Creates a 60-day prompt-pay law for non-PIP motor vehicle insurance claims similar to the prompt pay law for residential property insurance claims;
- Requires insurers to annually submit their claims manuals to the OIR and attest that the manual comports to usual and customary industry claims handling practices; and
- Strengthens the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act by:
- Prohibiting altering or amending an adjuster's report without including a list of changes, who made the change, and an explanation of a change that reduces coverage; and
- Prohibiting payment of bonuses to officers and directors while an insurer is impaired or insolvent.