At 2:40 pm on Friday, April 30, the 2021 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close.
At the end of each week of the 60-day session, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) provided a summary of activity on priority bills and other items of interest at the capitol. Previous summaries are available on our website. Full bill text and legislative actions can be found on the websites of the Florida House and Florida Senate.
The following is our final summary for the 2021 Legislative Session:
On Tuesday, April 27, Fr. John Cayer delivered the opening prayer for the House Session at the invitation of Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Coral Gables). Fr. Cayer is the rector of the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Tallahassee and serves as chaplain of the Florida Catholic Conference / Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.
On Wednesday, April 28, at the invitation of Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills), Fr. Cayer offered the opening prayer in the Senate. You can view a recorded broadcast of Fr. Cayer delivering the prayer in the House and Senate on The Florida Channel website.
The legislature passed a record $101.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021. The budget will go to Governor Ron DeSantis who has line-item veto authority.
Pregnancy Support Services - An additional $500,000 is allocated to the Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN), bringing total funding to $4.5 million. FPCN pregnancy care centers provide services such as counseling, referrals, material support, training, and pregnancy and childbirth education to pregnant mothers as they prepare to parent or place their babies for adoption. FCCB has been supportive of the program since its inception in 2005, and Catholic Days participants advocated for the inclusion of the program in Florida statutes in 2018.
Hormonal Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (HLARC) - A $2 million recurring allocation for HLARC was included in the budget during final negotiations between the Senate and the House. This is a funding expansion of abortifacient family planning. The FCCB will be urging Governor DeSantis to veto this line item.
Affordable Housing Trust Fund - The Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund will receive approximately $209 million, protected from being swept to general revenue, under a new affordable housing and resiliency plan passed by the legislature. This is about half of the revenue that would have been available for affordable housing in previous years. While the FCCB supports resiliency and infrastructure improvements, it has long supported full funding of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Sea-level rise initiatives and sewage treatment projects will each receive approximately $111.7 million under the new plan. SB 2512 passed the Senate (25-14), and the House (78-38).
Hospital and Nursing Home Funding - Medicaid reimbursement rates were held at current levels. Prior to an infusion of federal funds, serious cuts were being contemplated. The FCCB worked with a wide variety of stakeholders and advocates to protect funding for entities at the front line of the COVID response.
Dual Enrollment - $15.5 million was included in the budget for the Dual Enrollment Program, funding equal access to the program for non-public high school students at no cost to the student or the school as is the case for their public school and home school peers. Dual enrollment allows students to take college level courses while they are still in high school. Usually these courses are taken on the college or university campus during the normal school day.
The following legislative proposals were actively engaged by the FCCB during the Session.
Bills passed by the legislature are presented to Governor DeSantis for final action. From the date the governor receives a bill, he has 15 days to either sign, veto, or let the bill become law without his signature. Links are provided to final House and Senate votes.
SCHOLARSHIP EXPANSION 2021 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue HB 7045 (Education & Employment) / SB 48 (Diaz): Support Eliminates from all scholarship programs the requirement that scholarship recipients be previously enrolled in public schools; increases the maximum income eligibility and the scholarship amounts for the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC); folds the McKay and Gardiner Scholarships for students with special needs and unique abilities into the FES; Catholic Days Backgrounder House: Passed (79-36); Senate: Passed (25-14)
PARENTAL RIGHTS HB 241 (Grall) / SB 582 (Rodrigues, R.): Support Ensures the right of parents to review instructional materials and curriculum is clearly communicated; establishes parental consent requirements for medical care provided to a minor child; FCCB letter of support. House: Passed (78-37); Senate: Passed (24-15)
OPPORTUNITY AND INTEGRITY IN WOMEN'S SPORTS HB 1475 (Tuck) / SB 2012 (Stargel): Support Protects the rights of female athletes and promotes equality in women's sports by recognizing key biological differences between men and women and requiring separate sex-specific athletic teams. Provisions of the bill were amended to SB 1028 (Hutson) and passed by both chambers; FCCB letter of support. House: Passed (79-37); Senate: Passed (23-16)
DUAL ENROLLMENT HB 281 (Duggan) / SB 52 (Rodrigues, R.): Support Provides access to dual enrollment courses for all Florida high school students. Under current law, public school and home school students have free, unencumbered access to dual enrollment courses; however, private school students have very limited access. House: Passed (83-32); Senate: Passed (26-14)
EARLY LEARNING HB419 (Grall) / SB 1282 (Harrell): Support Streamlines agency oversight of the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) Program; reasonably and effectively increases accountability for VPK providers; provides more useful and accurate assessments to monitor student progress. House: Passed (118-0); Senate: Passed (40-0)
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND EDUCATION HB 545 (Chaney) / SB 410 (Rodriguez, A.): Support Requires school districts to make sex education curriculum and instructional materials available to parents via a link on the district website; requires district school boards to annually approve all instructional materials used to teach reproductive health in an open, noticed public meeting. House: Passed (82-24); Senate: Passed (36-4)
PURPLE STAR CAMPUSES HB 429 (Learned) / SB 938 (Wright): Support Requires the Department of Education to establish a Purple Star Campus Program to assist students from military families as they transition to new schools. House: Passed (117-0); Senate: Passed (40-0)
EDUCATOR PREPARATION AND CERTIFICATION HB 1159 (Busatta Cabrera) / SB 934 (Wright) Revised provisions relating to state-approved teacher preparation, career, and professional development programs. House: Passed (114-0); Senate: Passed (40-0)
CONCEALED WEAPONS ON SCHOOL CAMPUSES HB 259 (Williamson) / SB 498 (Gruters): Oppose Authorizes the carrying of concealed weapons or firearms on property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, a synagogue, or any other religious institution, unless the institution has a policy specifically prohibiting persons from carrying a firearm on such property. Schools that would seek to be gun-free would be required to enact policies to that effect; other schools may resort to allowing parents or faculty to provide armed security who are far less trained than required by law today; FCCB letter of opposition. House: Passed: (76-37); Senate: Passed (24-16)
COMBATING PUBLIC DISORDER HB 1 (Fernandez-Barquin) / SB 484 (Burgess): Oppose Aims to address public disorder by creating new riot-related crimes and enhancing penalties on existing offenses. The FCCB opposed the bill as it is unnecessary and potentially harmful. Any violence committed during a riot, or at any time, is already prosecutable, and it is unnecessary to raise penalties for those crimes. Additionally, some broad terms in the bill could potentially criminalize some of our ministries' public activities such as praying in front of an abortion facility, sidewalk counseling, and prayer vigils to end the use of the death penalty; FCCB letter of opposition House: Passed (76-39); Senate: Passed (23-17) Signed by Governor DeSantis on April 19
LAW ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES HB 7051 (Judiciary): Support Includes several provisions to address civil unrest such as collecting data on use-of-force by law enforcement, de-escalation training, and limiting chokeholds. FCCB proposed these approaches as an alternative to HB 1. HB 7051 also prohibits a child younger than seven years of age from being arrested, charged, or adjudicated delinquent, unless the violation of law is a forcible felony. House: Passed (113-0); Senate: Passed (40-0)
JUVENILE DIVERSION PROGRAM EXPUNCTION HB 93 (Smith, D.) / SB 274 (Perry): Support Requires the expunction of a nonjudicial arrest record of a minor who has successfully completed a diversion program for any eligible offense, rather than only a misdemeanor. House: Passed (117-0); Senate: Passed (39-0)
PERSONAL CARE ATTENDANTS SB 1132 (Bean) / HB 485 (Garrison): Support Codifies into law an emergency rule prompted by the pandemic that authorized nursing homes to begin using a new category of employee to support non-clinical services for residents; provides an on-the-job training path to Certified Nurse Assistant licensure. House: Passed (106-11); Senate: Passed (32-7)
FLOODING AND SEA LEVEL RISE HB 7019 (Environment, Agriculture & Flooding) / SB 1954 (Rodrigues, R.): Support Creates the Resilient Florida Grant Program, which authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to provide grants to local governments to help combat rising sea levels. Requires DEP to start tracking flood vulnerability and sea level rise on an ongoing basis. The data will be used to inform a Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan to be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature every three years. House: Passed (118-0); Senate: Passed (40-0)
ABORTION 2021 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue HB 351 (Gregory) / SB 744 (Rodriguez, A.): Support Prohibited abortion after 20-weeks gestation; Catholic Days Backgrounder. House: Died in Committee; Senate: Died in Committee
HB 1221 (Grall) / SB 1664 (Rodriguez, A.): Support Prohibited a physician from performing an abortion if the physician knows, or should know, that the woman is seeking the abortion solely on the basis of a prenatal test result or fetal diagnosis of a disability or the potential of a disability. An exception was provided if the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. House: Passed (74-44); Senate: Died in Committee
SURRENDERED NEWBORNS HB 133 (Harding/Beltran) / SB 122 (Baxley) Authorized the installation of newborn safety devices or "baby boxes" to accept surrendered newborn infants at the same locations where newborns may now be surrendered; increased the allowable age of surrender from seven days old to 30 days. House: Passed (116-0); Senate: Died in Messages
DEATH PENALTY 2021 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue HB 6019 (Geller) / SB 568 (Farmer, Jr.): Support Repealed the death penalty for capital felonies; Catholic Days Backgrounder. House: Died in Committee; Senate: Died in Committee
SB 1156 (Brandes): Support Prohibited the imposing of a sentence of death if the defendant had a serious mental illness at the time of committing the offense. House: No Bill Filed; Senate: Died in Committee
MEDICAL ETHICS AND DIVERSITY (MED) ACT 2021 Catholic Days at the Capitol Issue SB 1986 (Baxley): Support Protected health care workers and entities from being forced to provide services that they find objectionable on ethical, moral or religious grounds; Catholic Days Backgrounder House: No Bill Filed; Senate: Died in Committee
CONSUMER FINANCE PROTECTIONS HB 895 (Stevenson) / SB 1478 (Gibson): Support Ensured that borrowers are not penalized for prepayment of loans and that installment loans can be paid in installments. House: Died on Calendar, on 2nd Reading; Senate: Died in Committee
CRIMINAL JUSTICE HB 235 (Hart) / SB 1032 (Perry): Support Increased the amount of rehabilitation credits someone in prison can receive in order to reduce the term of sentence. House: Died in Committee; Senate: Died in Committee
HB 589 (DuBose) / SB 1114 (Pizzo): Support Removes a prohibition on receiving compensation for wrongful incarceration for those with unrelated prior convictions and extended the deadline to establish one's status as wrongfully incarcerated and eligible for compensation from 90 days to 2 years. House: Died in Committee; Senate: Died in Committee
JUVENILE JUSTICE SB 474 (Bracy): Support Raised the minimum age at which a juvenile can be transferred to the adult criminal justice system through the process of direct file from 14 to 15 years old. House: No Bill Filed; Senate: Died in Committee