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What’s Happening In The Florida Legislature  

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

With so many different political initiatives circulating on social media, it can be hard to stay updated on what’s actually becoming law, what’s been passed by each chamber, and what’s next up on the agenda. Florida’s 2023 legislative session has been heavily shaped by the Republican supermajorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With a long list of priorities, the legislature must act quickly to pass the desired legislation before the end of the 60-day legislative session, which will adjourn on May 5.  

So, what’s been passed so far? Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the following bills into law.  

Permitless carry (HB 543) – Taking effect on July 1, 2023, this bill allows individuals to carry concealed guns without a permit or training, with the only requirement being a valid ID. Currently, individuals 21 and older must apply for a license and pass a criminal background check in order to carry a concealed weapon, but this bill has made these requirements optional. In the wake of the recent tragic Nashville school shooting and protests calling for gun reform, critics argue that this bill will result in more gun-related injuries, and is unrepresentative of the wishes of Florida residents. U.S. Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10) made a statement calling the bill a “reckless, dangerous piece of legislation” where “Florida Republican leaders have decided the NRA is more important than Floridians.” And according to a poll by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab, 77% of Floridians, which includes 62% of Republicans, do not support letting individuals carry a gun without a license. Some Second-Amendment groups also criticize the bill for not allowing open carry, but the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has praised the bill, with interim executive director Randy Kozuch calling it a “momentous step in the Constitutional Carry movement” that “protects the right for law-abiding Americans to defend themselves outside their homes without fees or permits.”  

The Live Local Act- Affordable housing (SB 102) – This law allocates $711 million to make housing more affordable by banning rent control, promoting mixed-use development, limiting housing costs to 30% or less of someone’s pay, repurposing existing buildings into affordable housing, relaxing rules on building height and density, and offering tax exemptions for developers. This bipartisan bill aims to solve the pressing issue of unaffordable housing in Florida. A study by the University of Florida reveals that Florida has only 26 affordable rental units for every 100 households with incomes of 0-30% of the Area Median Income (AMI). And over the past decade, Florida has added upwards of 600,000 housing units with rents higher than $1,000 a month but lost almost 277,000 units with rents below $1,000.   

Lawsuit reform (HB 837) – This bill aims to protect corporations, businesses, and property owners from paying excessive damages in lawsuits. This bill reduces the statute of limitations for negligence actions, provides standards for evidence to prove damages for medical expenses in certain civil actions, and limits the amount of damages that can be sought by multiple plaintiffs. To reduce “frivolous” lawsuits, one-way attorney fees and attorney fee multipliers for all lines of insurance will be eliminated. Critics argue that this bill makes it even more difficult for the average person to file a lawsuit against their insurance company. In contrast, DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, and House Speaker Paul Renner view the bill as “the most comprehensive reforms in decades to decrease frivolous lawsuits and prevent predatory practices of trial attorneys that prey on hardworking Floridians,” according to a February news release.   

Universal school choice (HB 1) – This bill makes all students, regardless of economic status, eligible to receive up to $8,000 in state funds for private tuition or homeschooling through Florida Empowerment Scholarship vouchers. Previously, these vouchers were only available to low-income students. Proponents of the bill argue that this gives all students the opportunity to enjoy a high-quality education. On the other hand, opponents criticize the bill for taking resources away from our public school systems by allocating more funding to private schools. The bill has also been criticized for its estimated cost of $4 billion to Florida taxpayers, according to the Florida Policy Institute.  

What’s passed in one chamber  

“Heartbeat Protection Act”- 6-week abortion ban (SB 300) – The Senate passed this bill, banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking up to 15 weeks. If also passed by the House, DeSantis has emphasized his support for the bill and is therefore likely to sign it into law.  

Transgender health care (SB 254) – Passed by the Senate, this bill prohibits transgender healthcare for minors, prohibits certain public entities from using state funds to provide medical care for gender dysphoria, and allows courts to take custody of children who have been subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures. 

Pronouns in schools (HB 1069) – This bill requires every public K-12 school to implement a policy stating that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.” It also bans school employees from using a student’s preferred pronouns even with parental consent, prohibits instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity from pre-K to 8th grade, and requires reproductive education to promote abstinence and “the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”  

School start times (HB 733) – On March 31, the House passed this bill which would make middle school classes start after 8 AM and high school classes start after 8:30 AM. If signed into law, it would be effective in July 2026, to give schools and families time to adjust. 

Corporate activism (HB 3) – This House-passed bill would penalize companies that consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues when making investment decisions, which reflects DeSantis’s goal of “crippling the ESG movement,” as he wrote in his book “The Courage to Be Free.”  

Challenges to local ordinances (SB 170) – This bill requires local governments to suspend enforcement of an ordinance if it is being challenged by a single plaintiff that claims the ordinance is arbitrary or unreasonable. The bill also requires that the board of county commissioners conducts a business impact estimate prior to enacting a proposed ordinance.  

Expanding the Florida State Guard (HB 1285) – HB 1285 would expand the power of the newly created state military force, the Florida State Guard, by establishing a specialized law enforcement unit with the power to make arrests and carry weapons. It also gives the governor the ability to activate the State Guard for “threats to public safety,” instead of only in states of emergency.  

Bills that are on the agenda 

Banning diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education (HB 999) – If passed, this bill would require state universities and colleges to stop all diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, as well as implement more frequent tenure reviews for faculty members. It would also remove majors and minors related to race, gender, ethnicity, and queer studies. 

Utility costs (SB 1162) – This bipartisan bill allows utility companies to increase electricity bills in order to build renewable natural gas or hydrogen-based fuel facilities.  

Larger fines for insurers (SB 7052) – SB 7052 aims to increase insurer accountability by implementing more penalties and oversight for insurers.  

Public official travel records (SB 1616) – Under this bill, certain transportation records would be inaccessible to the public, which includes information about how and where the governor and other state officials travel.  

Suing news outlets (SB 1220) – This bill would make it easier to sue journalists and media outlets for defamation and other actions.  

Want to stay informed? Use the Senate Tracker to be notified when selected bills are updated.  

Kelsey Sherman is the Events Coordinator of the USFSP chapter of Her Campus. She oversees the planning and execution of campus events and manages an events team. She is also a writer, with a focus on political journalism. In 2021-22, Kelsey served as the Special Events Coordinator for the Florida Scholastic Press Association, responsible for planning a conference of over 1400 student journalists. Beyond Her Campus, Kelsey works as a Student Recruiter for USF Education Abroad. She is also the Campus Council Vice Chair for Student Government and a Volunteer Committee Co-Chair for the Honors Student Council. Kelsey is currently a senior at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, majoring in Political Science and Sustainability Studies with a minor in Urban Studies. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys hiking, hammocking, and reading. She loves to travel, and her most recent destination was Iceland.