Florida Legislature seems lost on priorities

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Mar 4, 2023.

OUR POSITION: From the looks of bills being proposed by Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee, we are left wondering how the party could have diverted from what should be its priorities this year.

Florida is flush with cash and riding a population explosion and a wave of construction and new business.

Some might say things couldn’t be better. And that would be correct if the Legislature focused on some of the problems all this growth is causing.

Lawmakers should be looking at the thousands of homeowners who have not been able to settle their claims from Hurricane Ian damage with their insurance company.

But, the Legislature is making it more difficult to sue insurance companies, signaling to them they can avoid claims as much as they can if they will just stay in Florida.

The state should be making affordable housing its number one priority as people struggle to find a home or rental they can afford.

Republicans have taken a stab at some long-term relief, but they seem more excited about culture bills and bills that are little more than a “stunt.”

That would include a bill that can only serve as comic relief, filed recently by Spring Hill Republican Senator Blaise Ingoglia. SB 1248, which would be called The Ultimate Cancel Act, would direct the Florida Division of Elections to “immediately cancel the filings of a political party, to include its registration and approved status as a political party, if the party’s platform has previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.”

Southern Democrats favored slavery during the Civil War.

In that regard, registered Democrats would be forced to re-register as having “no party affiliation.” There would no longer be a Democrat party in Florida. Talk about getting back at your enemies, this is the ultimate slap.

There are other bills being proposed that we certainly could do without.

They include:

  • A bill that would restrict the use of preferred gender pronouns in schools.

House Bill 1223 would require schools to adopt policies that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait.”

The bill would ban employees and students from addressing a person with their preferred pronoun if that does not correspond to the person’s sex.

  • The Florida Senate is intent on approving a bill that would make it easy to challenge city and county ordinances. It is supposed to be a small-business-friendly bill but it is actually a bill to handcuff local governments.

SB 170l would require local governments to suspend enforcement of ordinances while lawsuits are being heard. And, if the plaintiff wins, they could get up to $50,000 in attorney and court costs.

The bill, which got a hearing last year, would require local governments to provide a “business impact estimate” before passing any ordinance limiting a business from doing business. We argued last year that this was nearly impossible when the Legislature wanted to stop local governments from shuttering businesses during the height of COVID. Trying to assess how much the business was impacted would be arbitrary at best.

  • Another bill that favors businesses and not us little guys is one that would prohibit some family members from suing a nursing home or assisted living facility for the wrongful death of a loved one. It would only allow claims to be paid to a living spouse or offspring younger than 25.
  • Finally, let’s not forget the defamation bill (ed: HB 991) Gov. Ron DeSantis so badly wants. It would allow a business, government official or anyone to sue someone or some business they claim defamed them.

If passed it could open the door we believe to, for example, a company like Mosaic suing someone for getting up in a public meeting and saying they feared the impact of mining along the Peace River and leveling criticism at Mosaic.

We believe the public needs to write, e-mail or call our local representatives and let them know your priorities. They work for you.

 Image Credits: Image by Venita Oberholster from Pixabay