From parental consent to school vouchers, DeSantis considers over 7 dozen bills


TALLAHASSEE, Florida –A controversial proposal to stop Key West and other local governments from banning certain types of sunscreen was among 89 bills that landed on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The proposal (SB 172), which would ban local governments from regulating over-the-counter drugs and cosmetics, was developed in response to Key West’s plans to ban the sale of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Key West pointed out that the chemicals could damage coral reefs. Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island and Rep.

Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said the sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer and disputed that the targeted chemicals damage coral reefs.

The bill has received support from Johnson & Johnson, which makes oxybenzone-based sunscreens, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.

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But critics said the measure was a threat to local authorities and the need to maintain endangered coral reefs.

During this year’s legislative session, Representative Javier Fernandez, D-South Miami, called the proposal a “gross and overreaction to what has been a measured and reasonable limitation adopted by the city of Key West.”

Parental consent

DeSantis has indicated he will sign a hotly debated bill that would require parental consent before minors can have abortions.

The Republican-dominated legislature passed the bill (SB 404) in February, but it wasn’t officially sent to DeSantis until Tuesday.

Florida requires parents to be notified before minors have abortions, but a consent requirement would be more restrictive.

The current law provides for a process by which minors can go to court to avoid telling their parents about the abortion – a so-called “judicial circumvention” which is also part of the consent proposal.

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The Florida Supreme Court overturned a parental consent law in 1989, ruling that it violated the right to privacy enshrined in the state’s constitution.

But supporters of this year’s proposal, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, expressed confidence that it would continue, at least in part because of a new conservative majority on the search.

E-check the proposal

A bill that would require all government employers to use a federal electronic system to verify the immigration status of new workers was also sent to DeSantis on Tuesday.

The measure (SB 664) would require all public employers – such as local schools, public universities and state agencies – and their contractors to use the electronic system, known as E-Verify.

Private employers who do not do business with the state government would not be required to use E-Verify.

However, companies that receive government-funded economic incentives would be required to use the verification system. In addition, government contractors would be required to use it.

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Private employers who decide not to use E-Verify would be required to keep a three-year record of documents used by workers to complete an “I-9” form, which federal law already requires companies to use.

Until this spring, years of failed attempts to pass an E-Verify bill in the Republican-led legislature. But the push for the audit plan this year has received a political boost from the governor.

DeSantis, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, has made cracking down on illegal immigration the cornerstone of his 2018 campaign for governor.

The E-Verify bill sent to the governor on Tuesday, however, does not go as far as DeSantis initially wanted.

The Republican governor had promised a mandate for private and public employers, but lawmakers opted for an E-Verify requirement for government employers and their contractors.

DeSantis has until July 1 to act on the measure.

Clean Water Act

Other bills that went to DeSantis on Tuesday included a measure known as the “Clean Waterways Act” (SB 712).

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Senate Godmother Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge, said the bill offered “lasting solutions,” including establishing new rules for septic tanks, increasing environmental fines and imposing record requirements on agricultural fertilizers.

However, several environmental groups have said the bill does not go far enough.

“Rather than stopping pollution at the source, the bill is full of bureaucratic household chores and weak and inadequate measures,” Florida conservation voters said in a press release. “Rather than imposing strict nitrogen reduction standards for septic systems, it is simply moving septic tank regulations from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection. Rather than issuing stricter pollution standards for farms, it relies on best voluntary management practices. “

School vouchers

A bill that could help nearly 29,000 more students attend private schools was sent to DeSantis on Wednesday, as Republican leaders seek to continue expanding voucher programs.

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Lawmakers passed the bill (HB 7067) in March but didn’t officially send it to DeSantis until Wednesday.

The bill, in part, is designed to significantly expand the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, which was created last year. The program provided 17,724 vouchers in February – a number that could rise to more than 46,600 in the 2020-2021 academic year under the bill.

When lawmakers created the program, they capped enrollment at 18,000 students for the 2019-20 academic year. But they also incorporated a formula designed to lead to program expansions in subsequent years.

This formula provided for increasing the number of students in the program each year by an amount equal to 0.25% of the overall public school enrollment – a potential increase of 7,225 vouchers during the 2020 school year. -2021, according to an analysis by House.

But the bill approved in March would change that formula to result in a 1% increase in overall public school enrollment. This would translate to around 28,902 additional vouchers in the year 2020-2021, according to the analysis.

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Genetic information

The legislature sent a bill to DeSantis on Wednesday that would prevent life and long-term care insurers from using customers’ genetic information to make policy decisions.

The bill (HB 1189) has been a priority for Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Republican from Palm Harbor who is expected to become Speaker of the House in November.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure in March, but it wasn’t officially passed on to DeSantis until Wednesday.

Federal law already prohibits health insurers from using genetic information in underwriting policies and setting premiums.

But the ban does not apply to life insurance or long-term care coverage. Proponents of blocking the use of genetic information point to privacy concerns. But the bill met with opposition from the life insurance industry.

The bill, in part, would prevent companies from using genetic information in pricing policies.

It would also prevent companies from requiring or soliciting genetic information from applicants. In addition, it would apply to disability insurers.

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Deregulation, other measures

Dubbed the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act, a bill that would reduce regulations on a variety of professions was sent to DeSantis on Wednesday.

Led by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and Senator Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, the Deregulation Bill (HB 1193) would bring changes related to professions ranging from hair braiders to interior designers and addresses issues such as local food truck regulations.

Other invoices sent to DeSantis included a measure (HB 1095) that would lead to term limits for the state’s public councilor, who represents consumers in matters of public services.

Under the bill, the public counsel would be appointed for a four-year term and could not serve more than 12 years. Time spent by current public counsel JR Kelly before July 1 would not count towards the 12-year limit. Kelly has held the position since 2007.

In addition, DeSantis received a bill (HB 5301) that would create 10 new judge positions in the state. The measure would add two circuit judges to the 9th judicial circuit, made up of the counties of Orange and Osceola; a circuit judge in the 1st judicial circuit, made up of the counties of Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton; and a circuit judge in the 14th Judicial Circuit, made up of Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.

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The bill would also add four county judges in Hillsborough County, a county judge in Orange County and a county judge in Lee County.

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