State Politics

Five things you might have missed in frantic finish of the legislative session

Florida Senator talks about his bill to ban sanctuary cities in Florida

Sen. Joe Gruters talks about his bill SB 168 to ban sanctuary cities in Florida on March 12, 2019.
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Sen. Joe Gruters talks about his bill SB 168 to ban sanctuary cities in Florida on March 12, 2019.

Florida legislators have 60 days every year to pass policy and make laws in Tallahassee, but many of the most consequential bills are heard and passed only in the waning days of the legislative session.

Among them this year were sweeping healthcare changes, a bill that would allow arming teachers in school districts after last year’s Parkland tragedy, a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” and a bill implementing a constitutional amendment broadly granting felons voting rights (though it passed with a controversial requirement attached).

But several other bills didn’t garner major headlines. Many cleared both chambers in the very final hours of lawmaking. Here are five things you might have missed in the 2019 legislative session:

Gambling warnings: Lawmakers passed a bill Friday that would require all Florida Lottery tickets and advertisements (like radio spots or billboards) to carry a warning that the game “may be addictive” or that buyers should “play responsibly.” The bill had been opposed by several groups, and Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell had asked lawmakers in the last week, unsuccessfully, to oppose the measure. Though the legislation has cleared both chambers in the past, former Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it in 2017.

College names: There will be fewer “community” colleges in the state, after legislators approved renaming both Florida Keys Community College and North Florida Community College to the College of Florida Keys and North Florida College, respectively. The name changes are part of a broader rebranding of such schools to “state colleges” or “colleges,” as proponents say such institutions offer more resources, degrees and credentials.

Financial literacy: In honor of former state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who died late last year, lawmakers included a requirement for a high school financial literacy course in a broad workforce education bill passed in the session’s final week. The bill requires all school districts to offer a financial literacy course as an elective — improving financial literacy among students had been one of the late lawmaker’s top priorities.

Financial reporting: Lawmakers also passed a bill that would require county and municipal officers to submit additional information to the state every year on various financial metrics, including government spending per resident, the average municipal employee’s salary, number of special taxing districts and how much of its budget is spent on salaries and benefits.

Abortion bill didn’t pass: A much debated, emotionally charged bill that would have required that minors obtain parental consent for abortions was not passed. The state already requires that parents or guardians be notified if a minor has an abortion, but critics said that adding a requirement for consent would be not only more burdensome but violate the state’s constitutional right to privacy that is largely construed as a protection of the right to an abortion. It’s a bill that may very well resurface in 2020 — though the election-year session is likely to make legislators more cautious about pursuing controversial policies.

The 2020 session convenes on Jan. 14.