Florida Legislative Update - March 2021

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Friday ended the second week of Florida’s 60 day legislative session. While overall things are still moving slower than usual, priority bills from both chambers are moving quickly through the process. The appropriations process is also well underway. We expect budget subcommittees to start workshopping their preliminary budgets soon.

Bills to Watch

Consumer data privacy: HB 969 by Rep. McFarland has passed its first hearing, while SB 1734 by Sen. Bradley is still waiting for its first committee stop. Though aimed at “big tech,” if passed, these bills will have significant impacts on businesses of all types and sizes. For instance, a major concern of the financial services industry is the lack of exemption for entities regulated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which already requires companies to safeguard consumer data. Learn more about this issue here.

Medical marijuana/THC caps: HB 1455 by Rep. Roach and SB 1958 by Sen. Rodrigues limit the amount of THC in medical marijuana products in addition to adding other new regulations to the industry. The House bill is ready for its second hearing. This issue has not received much traction in the Senate previously, but this year could be different.

E-Fairness/online retailers: SB 50 by Senator Gruters is ready for a final chamber vote, after being voted out of every committee unanimously. HB 15 by Rep. Clemons has only one committee reference to go. Read more on this issue here.

COVID-19 liability protection for businesses: HB 7 by Rep. McClure has passed the House and now heads to the Senate. SB 72 by Sen. Brandes is ready for a full Senate vote.

COVID-19 liability protection for healthcare workers: HB 7005 by Rep. Burton is ready for the floor, while SB 74 is on its last committee stop.

School vouchers: A major expansion and consolidation of Florida’s private scholarship programs, SB 48 by Sen. Diaz, is ready to be taken up by the full Senate. This bill will solidify Florida’s status as the most school choice-friendly state, allowing hundreds of thousands of low-income and special needs students to receive education savings accounts paid for by the state.

Increased penalties for rioters: HB 1 by Rep. Fernandez-Barquin has passed all committees on a party line vote, and is ready for the House floor. SB 484 by Sen. Burgess has yet to get a hearing. This bill adds penalties to riots and lawless behavior.

Child welfare: Numerous bills are moving in both chambers, including SB 80 by Sen. Brodeur, SB 92 by Sen. Bean, SB 96 by Sen. Book and HB 1473 by Rep. Busatta Cabrera. Child welfare reform is a top priority for the Senate President.

Sports betting: SB 392 and 396 by Sen. Brandes and HB 1317 and 1321 by Rep. LaMarca have yet to be heard, but if passed, would be a dramatic departure from the ban on sports betting that currently exists in Florida. Negotiations are occurring behind the scenes to come to a broad agreement on gaming that would include some legalization of sports betting in Florida as part of a larger gaming package. 

To-go alcohol: SB 148 by Sen. Bradley and HB 329 by Rep. Tomkow are both on their their final committee stops. These bills would allow alcohol take out, as was temporarily legalized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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