TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida legislative session kicks off on March 7 with opening ceremonies, beginning a months-long process of writing, reviewing, amending, and trying to pass a veritable stampede of legislation for the state.
Lawmakers from across the aisle are bringing their ideas of what Florida needs to the forefront and the Senate and House floors, hoping to gain their colleagues support and provide changes and relief for state residents.
Heading in, more than 1,000 bills have already been filed, focused on education, tax relief, immigration, criminal justice reform, and more.
Here’s a few of the bigger ticket items to keep an eye on as the 2023 Florida Legislature starts its normal session.
Changes to Florida’s curriculum, education rules, and even teacher conduct are all on the table this session. From changes to higher education and restrictions on not only what can be taught but how, to reductions in how many students are learning about reproductive health, Florida lawmakers have already introduced at least 10 bills aimed at removing “indoctrination” and “ideology” from the public school system, including Pre-K to colleges and universities.
- Term limits for school boards, county commissions
- A ‘Teachers’ Bill of Rights’
- Banning study of critical race theory, gender studies, intersectionality in colleges and universities
- Raise the mandatory school age to 18
- Banning so-called political loyalty tests for higher education
- Banning use of pronouns different than those assigned at birth
- Redefine what curriculum says is “sex”
- Change how union dues are collected for public school teachers
- Expand school voucher programs in Florida
- Ban TikTok at Florida schools
Abortion Rights & Restrictions
After 2022’s passage of House Bill 5, which restricted abortion access in Florida to 15 weeks of gestation, lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis have said they want to make those restrictions even broader, pushing the limit back from 15 weeks to just six.
Even if the bill clears both chambers and gets DeSantis’ signature, which he’s already promised to provide, the proposal will likely face legal challenges, while contests of HB 5 continue in Florida courts.
Gun Rights & Control
Lawmakers are taking two approaches to gun rights and gun control in Florida. Some lawmakers are proposing a complete removal of restrictions for carrying a concealed firearm in the state, another policy that DeSantis has promised to approve of, while other lawmakers instead want to track and potentially limit who can buy ammo, who it can be given to, and whether or not you should have a background check to do so.
During a budget proposal for the year, DeSantis announced a number of tax relief options for Floridians that he’d like the legislature to implement.
If the governor gets his wish, the state would approve roughly $1.5 billion in tax relief for state residents, including for items like diapers, gas stoves, and an expanded summer fun tax holiday.
Criminal Justice, Crime & Law Enforcement
Another topic with multiple approaches seeing efforts in Tallahassee, criminal justice and law enforcement reforms have been pitched by representatives and senators on both sides of the political spectrum.
- Make death penalty an option for child sex abusers
- Revoke the so-called “gay panic” as criminal defense
- Make citizen’s arrests illegal
- Make harassing phone calls a felony
- Make driving in the left lane illegal
- Prison reform & criminal rehabilitation
- Penalties for drunk drivers refusing sobriety tests
- End of unanimous jury requirement for death penalty
Miscellaneous Priorities and Proposals
Moving away from the rest, Florida lawmakers have already announced or filed plans to handle affordable housing to tort reform to animal welfare. Here are a few of the proposals already making the rounds in the halls of the Florida Capitol.
- Theme park ride safety, the “Tyre Sampson Act”
- Make companies that pay for gender reassignment also pay for reversal
- Make it easier to sue news companies and media outlets
- Protect animals, ban declawing cats
- Revoke Democratic Party certification
- Affordable Housing
- Tort Reform
- Require all courthouses have space for breastfeeding mothers
- Find and protect historic Black cemeteries
- Regulate pet cremation
- Allow fees instead of security deposits for renters
- Change the Florida state bird
- Ban on fans rushing the field during sporting events
- Give job promotion preferences to military veterans
Rights and Regulations
Not only is Florida introducing several reforms to litigation, it’s also putting up what it calls protections for free speech, and even some requirements for writers who cover politics to put themselves on a state registry. Also coming to lawmakers for a decision is a ban on certain social media sites.
- Require bloggers who write about state officials register with government
- Make being unvaccinated, for anything, a protected class