By: County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, Dist. 4 Special to the Delray Newspaper
With the New Year comes a new session of the Florida legislature. Under the state Constitution, our legislators meets each year in Tallahassee for sixty consecutive days. Those annual sessions are typically held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.
However, the Legislature can decide to start Sessions at other times in even-numbered years (ostensibly to allow time for representatives to campaign for reelection, election to higher office or to avoid being trampled by the cacophony of presidential hopefuls descending on Florida to curry favor with the electorate).
Since 2016, the legislative sessions have begun on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in January in even-numbered years.
While there are other ways in which the legislature may be convened, including Special Sessions, called by the Governor or by a joint proclamation issued by the Senate President and House Speaker, the legislative process is generally condensed into a finite number of days, sometimes referred to as the most dangerous 60-days in Florida since until the session is closed, there is no safe place to hide from the potential impacts of the legislative process.
Having an early Session in 2020 (coinciding with many of the legislators focused on their own political future) tends to impact the legislative dynamics especially with the committee meetings initiated soon after ‘Sine Die’’ the end of the 2019 Session on May 4th. Interestingly, of the 1861 bills filed (excluding local appropriations projects) last year, only 195 passed.
There is actually only one piece of business the legislature must complete during its annual session, passing a balanced budget (also known as the General Appropriations Act) for the following year.
If lawmakers fail to pass the budget within their allotted time, they will have to extend the legislative. If a new budget isn’t passed by the start of a new fiscal year, a state government shutdown is inevitable.
For the upcoming session, lawmakers have already filed an eclectic mix of bills with much of the attention of Florida lawmakers on appropriations to show the people “back home” they can bring home the bacon. Lawmakers are apt to shy away from contentious issues, leaving them to the candidates for federal office to debate.
Gun control will likely cause some of the most heated controversy in Tallahassee. Lawmakers have already filed bills potentially making fundamental changes to gun ownership in Florida.
Under a bill offered by Senator Annette Taddeo (SB-134), local governments would be permitted to enact their own gun control ordinances — authority that was stripped from them by the legislature in 2011. Gun owners wishing to sell or transfer a firearm would be required to use a licensed dealer to complete the transaction under a bill sponsored by Senator Lauren Book (SB-94).
Senator Lori Berman has proposed a bill to expand the “Red Flag” legislation enacted in the shadow of the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Under Berman’s bill (SB-114) family members would also be able to seek a court order to remove firearms from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others. Her efforts could be given added traction in light of a federal bill introduced by US Senator Marco Rubio to provide grant money to states, like Florida, enacting risk protection legislation.
However, State Representative Mike Hill has filed an omnibus firearms bill (HB-6003) that would repeal the risk protection law, which Senator Berman seeks to expand.
A bill to protect residents accepting inside deliveries to their homes was filed by Representative Mike Caruso in response to the murder of a 75-year old woman by an individual installing a new appliance in her Boca Raton home.
The proposed “Evelyn Udell Delivery Bill” has two components. Retailers would be required to advise customers when delivery services are subcontracted and individuals employed to make inside deliveries would be required to have a Level 2 background check.
This is but a tiny sampling of what’s on the legislative plate for January. The best advice, keep an eye on Tallahassee. It may be a long way from South Florida, but what happens up there will have an impact down here!