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Here's how 18 big issues settled from the 2023 Florida legislative session

Legislators attend the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers ended the 2023 legislative session Friday. During the 60-day session, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed numerous high-profile bills that lined up with priorities of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Here are snapshots of 18 different issues, with links to relevant WUFT coverage over the past several months:

• Abortion: After passing a 15-week abortion limit in 2022, lawmakers and DeSantis went further this year and approved a plan (SB 300) to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week limit would take effect if the Florida Supreme Court rules that a privacy clause in the state Constitution does not protect abortion rights.

• Affordable housing: In a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, lawmakers passed a plan (SB 102) aimed at making housing more affordable for workers. The bill, signed by DeSantis, includes providing incentives for investments in affordable housing and encouraging mixed-use developments in commercial areas.

Antisemitism: The governor on May 2 signed a bill that says "that people who take actions such as damaging religious cemeteries, interrupting an assembly of worship or projecting images of religious 'animus' onto a property without consent can be charged with a third-degree felony, or it could be considered a hate crime."

Budget: The House and Senate on Friday passed a record $117 billion budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which will start July 1. The plan will go to DeSantis, who has line-item veto power. Lawmakers on Friday also passed a wide-ranging tax package (HB 7063) that includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” and trimming a commercial-lease tax.

Campus free speech: Both chambers of the legislature passed a measure that would put new requirements on universities related to debates and other campus forums, with supporters saying it would bolster free speech but critics arguing it could have unintended consequences. The governor is now considering the legislation, would would prevent state colleges and universities from requiring students and staff to complete “political loyalty” tests as a condition of admission or employment.

• Child autopsies: Legislation passed that would ban the public release of autopsy reports for minors killed by domestic violence – and also ban release of photographs, audio or video, such as police body camera recordings or in reports by child abuse investigators, in cases when a minor is killed, no matter the circumstances. The governor is now considering whether to sign the bill.

Death penalty: Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 450) that eliminated a requirement for unanimous jury recommendations before judges can impose death sentences. The bill lowered the threshold to recommendations of eight of 12 jurors. Lawmakers also approved a bill (HB 1297) aimed at allowing death sentences for people who rape children under age 12.

• Defamation: Bills that would have made it easier for people to sue news outlets for defamation passed one committee in both the House and Senate but made it no further before the end of session.

• Elections: In the latest round of partisan battles about elections laws, Republican legislators passed a bill (SB 7050) that would place additional restrictions on voter-registration groups, ease campaign-finance reporting requirements and change a “resign to run” law to help clear the way for DeSantis to potentially run for president in 2024.

• Gainesville Regional Utilities: State Rep. Chuck Clemons pushed a successful effort to change the governance structure of Gainesville's city-owned utility. The governor can now sign it into law.

Guns: Lawmakers and DeSantis approved a measure (HB 543) that will allow Floridians to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses. Called “constitutional carry” by supporters, it will do away with a decades-old licensing process. The House also unsuccessfully sought to undo a 2018 law that prevents people under age 21 from buying rifles and other long guns.

Immigration: Taking aim at federal border policies, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 1718) that includes stepping up requirements on businesses to check the immigration status of workers, cracking down on people who bring undocumented immigrants into Florida and collecting data about whether hospital patients are in the country legally.

• Lawsuit limits: In a major win for business groups, lawmakers and DeSantis approved a bill (HB 837) aimed at helping shield businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits. The bill, which drew opposition from plaintiffs’ attorneys, includes changes such as shortening the time to file negligence lawsuits and largely eliminating “one-way” attorney fees.

• LGBTQ issues: Lawmakers passed a series of bills targeting LGBTQ issues. That included a bill (SB 254) that would bar doctors from providing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender minors. Also, they approved expanding a prohibition on instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools (HB 1069) and implemented restrictions on drag performances.

• Natural gas expansion: An attempt to change how much customers pay to help utilities build natural gas facilities fell short at the end of this year's session.

School start times: If the governor agrees with lawmakers' actions, middle and high school students in Florida will have their school day start times delayed.

School vouchers: In a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, lawmakers and DeSantis approved a bill (HB 1) that will make every student eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers, which could be used for private-school tuition and other expenses. The bill includes ending income requirements in current voucher programs.

• Teacher unions: The governor on Tuesday was presented with legislation the House and Senate approved that will require teacher unions to gain 60% of dues-paying members in order to be valid and maintain collective bargaining rights. The threshold was previously 50%. The measure exempts police, firefighter and correctional officer unions.

Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org
The News Service of Florida is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.
Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org
The News Service of Florida is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.