1. Arming Teachers
On Tuesday, Florida moved a step closer to arming teachers, with the State Senate approving a change to lift Florida’s ban on arming classroom teachers, allowing them to receive the same voluntary training to carry weapons in school.
The proposal (SB 7030) is based on recommendations from a commission formed to examine the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year that left 17 dead. The state commission concluded that lives would have been saved had faculty in the building been armed.
Under the current program, teachers are allowed to carry guns in school if they have a role outside the classroom. School districts have to approve the program and teachers have to volunteer and undergo training and psychological evaluations. The bill, which now heads to the conservative house, opens the program up to all teachers, regardless of what role they have at the school.
The bill is expected to pass in the House before being signed into law.
2. Banning Sanctuary Cities
Another win came on Wednesday in the form of immigration. The GOP-led House, after hours of debate, voted 69-47 on a bill (HB 527) that would ban sanctuary cities in the state. Without question, this is one of the legislative session’s most politically charged fights. If signed into law, the bill would ban sanctuary cities and require local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd, now goes to the Senate where a similar bill (SB 168) by Sen. Joe Gruters is pending.
"We welcome you. But we ask one simple thing: we ask that you follow our laws and our rules," Byrd said.
Similar bills have passed in the House but not the Senate. This bill, however, seems to have enough momentum to pass and be signed into law.
3. Reforming Assignment of Benefits
GOP lawmakers touted one other victory Wednesday, with legislators passing an assignment of benefits reform package by Rep. Bob Rommel that includes several reforms aimed at curtailing fraudulent insurance lawsuits. The bill (HB 7605) -- known universally at the Capitol as AOB -- will restrict attorney fees in such cases and allow insurers to sell policies that would not be subject to assignment of benefits.
“Today’s passage of SB 122 in the Florida Senate is the result of a lot of hard work and cooperation, and I’m grateful to my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle for making this happen for the consumers of our great state," said Representative Rommel. "These are commonsense reforms that will go a long way toward bringing skyrocketing insurance costs down and restoring insurance customers’ faith in the system. This is good for policyholders and it’s good for our economy. I’m proud to have been a part of its passage, and I look forward to Governor DeSantis’s signature making these reforms a reality.”
The bill passed in the Senate today with a 24-14 vote.
Following the vote, Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to sign the bill into law the moment it reaches his desk.
“The exponential growth in AOB abuse has contributed to mounting insurance costs for Floridians for far too long,” said Governor DeSantis. “In recent years, there have been calls for reform and today, the Legislature took action. I thank them for their efforts in getting this done and I look forward to signing this meaningful legislation into law.”
Under the current system, homeowners sign over the benefits of their insurance policies to contractors and attorneys, essentially allowing them to assume the role of the homeowner. In doing so, these third-parties rack up additional costs that may not be used towards the repair, and sue insurance companies for not complying.
Proponents of the bill claim that such cases hurt consumers, and make homeowners insurance rates across the state skyrocket.
The bill’s key provisions include:
• Defining “assignment agreement” and establishing requirements for the execution, validity, and effect of such an agreement
• Prohibiting certain fees and altering policy provisions related to repairs in an assignment agreement
• Transferring certain pre-lawsuit duties to the assignee
• Allowing an insurer to make a policy prohibiting assignment available under certain conditions
• Revising the state’s one-way attorney fee statute
• Requiring service providers to give an insurer and the consumer prior written notice of at least ten business days before filing suit on a claim
With these three wins, Republicans in the state have solidified this legislative session as a victory for conservatives and Floridians demanding accountability in the state. Of the important issues remaining, lawmakers on the right have tackled three of the four important issues that are left on the menu.
The final one: The "Fetal Heartbeat Bill" that seems to be in political purgatory.
Introduced by Sen. Dennis Baxley and Rep. Mike Hill (SB 792 and HB 235), the bills would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected -- usually around the six week mark. The measure would also make it a felony for any person who “knowingly or purposefully performs or induces an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human being whose fetal heartbeat has been detected."
The pro-life bill is a no-brainer for conservatives wanting to set an important precedent in a time where states like New York are Virginia are attempting to expand late-term abortions.
As is stands, similar bills have been adopted in Kentucky and Mississippi, and a similar proposal in Georgia is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. Even Ohio, a battleground state every election, became the third state this year to pass a "heartbeat" bill.
If conservatives want a clean sweep this session, then Republican leadership needs to work quickly before the May 3 deadline.