The Florida Legislature officially convened its 2010 legislative session on Tuesday, March 2, 2010, and adjourned sine die - and with little ceremony - on April 30, 2010. The 2010 legislative session marked one of the most challenging for the ACLU of Florida, producing the largest number of threats to civil liberties that we have seen in recent years. Though many priority bills were heard even before session began, we were still fighting bills on the very last day of session. The ACLU of Florida monitored over one hundred high priority bills this year, with most of our energy focused on reproductive freedom, voting rights, fair districts, and religious liberty in schools.
Of our four significant losses, we are happy to announce that one - HB 1143 - was reversed on June 11, 2010, thanks to a successful veto campaign. We thank those of you who spoke out and took action during session, and we hope that your activism will continue in the months and years ahead.
Here are a few statistics to provide some context for the highlights that follow:
- The Senate and House combined filed 2,477 bills during the 2010 session.
- The Legislature passed 301 bills.
- The ACLU of Florida monitored some 223 bills (up from 184 in 2009), and tracked as priority some 127 bills (up from 43 in 2009).
The Bad and The Ugly
We experienced four significant losses during the legislative session, with one loss being reversed by a gubernatorial veto. They are as follows:
1. Reproductive Freedom: On the last day of the 2010 legislative session - without so much as a committee hearing or any opportunity for public input and following spirited and often emotional floor exchanges among members - Florida legislators passed HB 1143 with two provisions that drastically undermined women?s rights and access to reproductive healthcare.
One provision put government in the exam room, requiring physicians - before performing an abortion in the first trimester - to perform an ultrasound. The second provision allowed government to dictate to businesses that receive tax credits what types of health insurance coverage they could provide to their employees, going far beyond the federal plan by altogether precluding a person or company that receives a subsidy from buying comprehensive coverage in the exchange. This insurance provision in 1143 would have caused many Florida women to lose insurance coverage that they currently have.
Once passed, the ACLU of Florida met with allies and came up with a comprehensive strategy for a veto campaign. Thanks to the nearly 10,000 emails and calls that ACLU supporters - along with our steadfast partners, such as Planned Parenthood and Progress Florida - made to Governor Crist, we were able to secure a veto on this harmful legislation. This veto marks the most significant victory this session, in effect protecting women?s rights, reproductive rights, privacy, and personal freedom.
2. Fair Districts: In an effort to avoid any restrictions on their ability to draw districts, and therefore to give themselves the best possible chances of maintaining power, the Legislature placed their own rival redistricting amendment, Amendment 7, on the ballot to try to confuse voters and gut the provisions of Fair Districts' Amendments 5 and 6.
Fair Districts' Amendments 5 and 6 were placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative campaign. Nearly 1.7 million Floridians signed petitions to place these amendments on the 2010 ballot. Amendments 5 and 6 would establish fairness standards for use in creating legislative and congressional boundaries respectively. While protecting minority voting rights, the standards in Amendments 5 and 6 would prohibit drawing district lines to favor or disfavor any incumbent or political party.
The Legislature's "poison pill" amendment contains two standards, neither of which is mandatory - thus giving legislators free reign to draw districts as they see fit. The Legislature's amendment does not protect minority voting rights. In fact, it only requires that minority rights "be taken into consideration." The second non-mandatory provision is that "communities of common interest other than political parties may be respected and promoted." There is no definition of communities of common interest.
Perhaps most significantly, the Legislature's amendment says that these two standards are to be followed "without subordination" to other standards in the constitution. This means that the meaningless, toothless standards of Amendment 7 will stand equal to or above all other standards - possibly including the standards of Amendments 5 and 6, should all three amendments pass.
By confusing voters and potentially undermining Fair Districts, the Legislature's amendment thwarts the will of the nearly 1.7 million Floridians who wanted the opportunity to vote on Amendments 5 and 6.
Despite this loss in the legislative session, the ACLU of Florida and FairDistrictsFlorida.org are initiating a statewide campaign to educate voters on these three amendments in order to ensure fair districting for Florida with the passage of Amendments 5 and 6 and the defeat of Amendment 7.
3. Voting Rights for Voters with Disabilities: Sadly, the Legislature also passed HB 131, which contains a provision to extend by four more years the deadline by which voters with disabilities must be provided with voting machines that are both accessible and that provide a voter-verified paper ballot. When Governor Crist rightly made the decision in 2007 to move Florida to all voter-verified paper ballot voting systems, a compromise was made. Voters with disabilities were asked to wait until 2012 for their vote to be protected in the same way as the vote of all other Floridians. Now, with this bill, that original four-year compromise is extended to eight total years, forcing voters with disabilities to vote on a second-class voting system - and thus relegating them to second-class citizenship - until 2016.
Along with a number of disability rights advocacy organizations and voting rights groups, we led a veto campaign against HB 131. You can read our letter to the Governor here: http://www.aclufl.org/news_events/index.cfm?action=viewRelease&emailAlertID=3831
Unfortunately, the Governor approved HB 131 on May 28, 2010.
4. School prayer: The Florida Legislature also passed HB 31, which is a direct reaction to our successful and very necessary litigation against the Santa Rosa School District for their long history and pervasive pattern of egregious violations related to school districts? constitutional mandate to remain neutral with respect to religion. Due to the litigation, the Santa Rosa School District voluntarily entered into a Consent Decree. Unfortunately, the Consent Decree itself was misrepresented time and again by legislators in committee hearings and during floor debate. In order to try to counter the misinformation that was circulating so widely, the ACLU developed a ?Myths and Facts? sheet about Doe v. Santa Rosa County School Board, which is available here: http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/SRosaMyths.pdf
Ultimately, there were amendments added to this bill that essentially made it a completely unnecessary piece of legislation, since the language of the bill itself does little. The ACLU continued to speak against the bill after changes were made because the general discourse of supporters went against one of the most principal constitutional values, religious liberty. While the passage of this bill is mostly symbolic, it is perhaps a reflection of the ongoing struggle that we face in protecting religious liberty in Florida.
The Governor approved HB 31 on June 4, 2010.
Despite the difficulties of this session, we also experienced some significant victories, including:
1. Protecting Florida's "No Aid" Provision: Chief among our victories was the defeat of joint resolutions that would have placed an amendment on the ballot to remove the "no aid to sectarian institutions" provision from Florida's Constitution and to add language that would open the door to vouchers not only in education, but also in social services and more. In order to effectively oppose these bills, we assembled a broad-based coalition that sent a coordinated, strong message to state legislators.
2. Reproductive Freedom: Working closely with Planned Parenthood, we narrowly defeated a fetal homicide bill, as well as a bill that would have gutted the judicial bypass process for minors seeking abortions. We also defeated a number of horrible anti-choice amendments that were placed on bills on the floor in the final days of the session. Unfortunately, the amendment attempts continued until ultimately two made it into HB 1143 - the bill that fortunately was vetoed by the Governor in June.
We also contributed to the defeat of bills and/or provisions that would have:
- undermined Florida's speedy trial procedures;
- funneled minors into the criminal justice system for the bad behavior of "sexting";
- locked in the status quo patchwork of municipal, county and state residency restrictions for sex offenders;
- prohibited entertainment industry tax credits for productions with "non-traditional family values";
- prohibited public access to recordings of 911 calls;
- urged Congress to prevent trials of enemy combatants in civilian courtrooms;
- increased racial profiling and interfered with the employment of legal residents and citizens by mandating state contractors' participation in the faulty federal employment verification system;
- removed students from the classroom, thereby interfering with their education, for wearing "saggy pants";
- and much more.
Below are the final outcomes on some of the bills we monitored, grouped by issue. The last name of the sponsoring senator/representative follows the title of the bill. Companion bills are not always listed here.
The "unSpeedy" trial bill
HB 1517 Relating to Criminal Trials Eisnaugle Designates act "Raymond L. Marky Speedy Trial Reform Act"; provides legislative findings & intent concerning speedy trial requirements; specifies periods for commencement of trial absent request for application of speedy trial time periods; etc. A two-thirds vote of the membership of each chamber was required to pass this bill. Passed by the House; died in Senate messages.
The ACLU spoke out against this bill, which would have undermined Florida's current speedy trial rule and resulted in innocent people potentially spending long periods behind bars awaiting trial.
National security issues
HB 1609 Relating to Enemy Combatant Trials in Civilian Courtrooms Fresen Urges Congress to use its constitutional authority to prevent trial of enemy combatants from taking place in civilian courtroom. Passed by the House; died in Senate messages.
We testified against this symbolic bill. The bill was almost defeated in committee at the time we testified.
SB 0296 Relating to State Attorneys Wise Deletes provisions that require each state attorney to submit on a quarterly basis deviation memoranda relating to offenders who are not sentenced to the mandatory minimum prisons sentence in cases involving the possession or use of a weapon and in cases involving certain specified offenses, etc. Passed by the Senate; died in House messages.
HB 0761 Relating to State Attorneys Ray Deletes provisions that require state attorney to report why case-qualified defendant did not receive mandatory minimum prison sentence in cases involving certain specified offenses; etc. Died in committee.
We did not go on record on these bills, but they were good bills in that they would have removed a process that currently discourages state attorneys from deviating from mandatory minimum sentences.
Sealing of criminal records
SB 0340 Relating to Sealing Criminal History Records Wilson Cites this act as the "Jim King Keep Florida Working Act." Authorizes a court to seal a criminal history record of a person who had a prior criminal history record sealed or expunged in certain circumstances. Passed by the Senate; died in House messages.
In conjunction with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we went on record in support of this bill, as we have done in previous years.
HB 0961 Relating to Criminal Justice Taylor Designates act "Keep Florida Working Act"; requires state agencies & regulatory boards to identify & evaluate restrictions on licensing & employment for ex-offenders & report; prohibits state agencies from denying application for license, permit, certificate, or employment based on person's lack of civil rights; provides exception; requires employer to review criminal background investigation results & not place employee who has criminal record in position where conduct similar to employee's past criminal conduct would be facilitated; requires employer to determine that criminal background investigation does not demonstrate that employee is unsuitable for particular work or employment in general; clarifies when person may legally deny existence of sealed or expunged criminal history record; etc. Died in committee without a hearing.
The ACLU of Florida had a hand in ensuring that the above bill, which was the House companion to Senator Wilson?s SB 340, was introduced.
Pretrial detention and release
HB 0445 Relating to Pretrial Detention and Release Dorworth Requires all pretrial release programs to facilitate release of defendants from pretrial custody to conform to policies & restrictions established in act; preempts local ordinances, orders, or practices; requires every pretrial release program to provide first appearance court all pertinent information about defendant, including defendant's ability to pay for surety appearance bond; requires that defendant meet certain specified criteria for pretrial release; etc. Passed by one committee; died pending review of the committee substitute.
We were prepared to testify against the above bill due to the disproportionate impact that the original text would have had on the indigent ? resulting in more poor people being forced to remain behind bars while awaiting trial. However, changes made to the bill in committee resulted in our taking no position, other than to support the committee?s changes.
DNA Exoneration / Eyewitness Identification Task Force
HB 1323 Relating to Evidence of Crimes Randolph Designates act "The Enhancing Crime-Solving Potential and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System Act"; provides that governmental entities only required to maintain evidence for potential DNA testing for specified serious crimes; provides that only portion of piece of evidence that is likely to contain biological evidence must be retained & other portions may be disposed of when retention is impracticable; provides that defendant in serious crime may request inventory of biological evidence; provides for Eyewitness Identification Task Force; requires task force to develop recommended guidelines for policies, procedures, & training with respect to collection & handling of eyewitness evidence; requires task force to consider specified policies & procedures; provides that guidelines developed by task force serve as basis for training program; etc. Died in first committee of reference without a hearing.
SB 2522 Relating to Evidence of Crimes Joyner This is the Senate companion to HB 1323. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
Early in the legislative session, the ACLU issued an action alert asking our supporters to contact the relevant committee chairs to try to get hearings scheduled for these good bills. The bills would help preserve DNA evidence for purposes of exoneration, and would create an Eyewitness Identification Task Force to put in place much-needed guidelines.
Drug testing of unemployment compensation applicants
SB 0258 Relating to Unemployment Compensation/Drug Testing Bennett Creates the Drug Deterrence Pilot Program within the Agency for Workforce Innovation. Provides for the screening of individuals to determine which individuals must be tested, etc. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
This is basically the same bill that Bennett introduced in 2009 and that received some committee hearings in that year. Fortunately, it did not move this year.
HB 0575 Relating to Drug Testing of Potential and Existing Beneficiaries of Unemployment Compensation Williams (T) This was the House companion to SB 258. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
Misdemeanor pretrial substance abuse programs
HB 1101 Relating to Misdemeanor Pretrial Substance Abuse Programs Waldman Provides that person who has previously been admitted to pretrial program may qualify for program. Passed by the House; died in Senate messages.
SB 1694 Relating to Misdemeanor Pretrial Substance Abuse Programs Ring This is the Senate companion to HB 1101.
Free Speech / Access to Information
SB 2560 Relating to Offense of Sexting Aronberg Provides that a minor commits the offense of sexting if he or she knowingly uses a computer, or any other device capable of electronic data transmission or distribution, to transmit or distribute to another minor any photograph or video of himself or herself which depicts nudity and is harmful to minors. Provides noncriminal and criminal penalties, etc. Passed by the Senate; died in House messages.
HB 1335 Relating to Offense of Sexting Abruzzo This is the House companion to SB 2560. Died in committee.
The ACLU went on record as opposing these sexting bills. While the intent of the bills was good - to prevent minors from being convicted of a felony sex offense for sexting - we felt that the language was misguided in that adolescents still would have been funneled into the criminal justice system for what amounts to bad behavior. We advocated that the proper way to deal with this very real problem is through a public education campaign, and with help of parents - not through criminal penalties.
Public display of a noose
SB 0252 Relating to Noose/Public Display Wilson Prohibits a person from placing a noose in a public place, on the property of another without first obtaining the written permission of the owner or occupier of the property, or in an exhibit of any kind with the intention of intimidating another person, etc. Provides that a person who violates the act commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. Provides criminal penalties. Passed favorably by one committee; died in the next.
The ACLU did not testify on the bill in committee, but rather spoke directly with Senator Wilson about ways in which the bill?s language could be tightened to both criminalize actions that constitute a true threat via this historic instrument of death and terror, while at the same time preserving protected First Amendment speech.
Limiting public access to e911 calls
We testified against a House bill that would have severely limited public access to recordings of enhanced 911 calls. The bill passed a House committee, albeit in slightly better form than the original. However, an amendment allowing the person making the call to obtain a recording without going through a court proceeding (as would be necessary in general to obtain a recording under the bill) failed. Under the new version, it still would have been possible ? but much more difficult ? to obtain recordings. Florida law already exempts personally identifiable information from release as part of e911 calls, and so we felt that the law should be maintained as is. Fortunately, the House bill did not continue to move forward.
Sex offenders and internet access
HB 0429 Relating to Sexual Offenses Involving the Internet Fetterman Prohibits persons convicted of certain sexual offenses involving the Internet from accessing the Internet or maintaining or contracting for Internet access; provides employment exception. Heard by Public Safety & Domestic Security Policy Committee and temporarily postponed.
The bill came up for a hearing during the last committee week prior to session. The original version of 429 prohibited offenders convicted of certain offenses from ever accessing the internet for life. A strike-all amendment was offered that made the ban on internet access a condition of probation. We testified against the bill, but the amendment lessened our concern. The bill was temporarily postponed over questions that we raised concerning whether constituents would be able to email their legislators under the proposed law. We expected the bill to come up again, but it did not.
Mandating state contractors' participation in eVerify
HB 0219 Relating to Immigration Adams Prohibits agencies from entering into contract for contractual services with contractors not registered & participating in federal work authorization program by specified date; provides procedures & requirements with respect to registration of contractors & subcontractors; provides for enforcement; provides schedule for phased compliance; requires DMS to promulgate rules, etc. Passed unanimously by the House; died in Senate messages.
As we have done in previous years, the ACLU testified against the above bill based on the increased racial profiling that it would cause and the detrimental impact that it would have on employment for legal residents and citizens.
SB 1880 Relating to Enforcement of Immigration Laws While not identical, this is more or less the Senate companion to HB 219. SB 1880 died in its first committee of reference without a hearing, which made passage of HB 219 very difficult.
"Anti-sanctuary" bills that encourage racial profiling
HB 0503 Relating to Illegal Immigration Schenck Prohibits restrictions on reporting of certain immigration status information by public employees; prohibits certain local government restrictions concerning communication or cooperation with federal officials concerning immigration law enforcement. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
SB 2368 Relating to Illegal Immigration Storms This is the Senate companion to HB 503. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
We have testified against bills similar to the above in the past - because the language is unnecessary, and also because it would contribute to racial profiling and place government employees in the position of trying to determine someone's immigration status without having the adequate means to do so. We did not testify against the bill this year because it was never heard in committee.
Deportation program for state inmates
SB 0600 Relating to Inmates/Illegal or Undocumented Aliens/Deportation Bennett Requires the DOC and the Parole Commission to establish agreements to implement a federal deportation program for state inmates, etc. Died in Judiciary Committee.
Ending the ban on gay adoption
HB 0003 Relating to Adoption Brandenburg Repeals provision relating to prohibition against adoption by homosexual. Died in Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council, its first committee of reference, without a hearing.
SB 0102 Relating to Adoption Rich Repeals provision relating to the prohibition against adoption by a homosexual. Died in first committee of reference without a hearing.
While the above bills did not get hearings, for the first time in 30 years, the issue of gay adoption was debated very briefly on the floor of the Florida Legislature. This came about because the Senate and House both scheduled for third reading bills to ensure that lawful gun ownership does not affect one's ability to adopt. Senator Charlie Justice offered an amendment that would have also ensured that one's sexual orientation does not affect one's ability to adopt. In the House, Representative Randolph offered an amendment to that effect. The amendments were introduced, debate was held and then the amendments were withdrawn. There were several beautiful, impassioned speeches articulating why Florida's unjust ban must be repealed. Notably, no one spoke in support of the ban.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
SB 2240 Relating to Florida Assisted Reproductive Technology Act Judiciary Provides general requirements that an assisted reproductive technology agency must follow. Requires said agency to establish an escrow account for certain funds. Prescribes requirements for contracts for third-party reproductive services. Prohibits an agency from engaging in third-party reproductive services if the owner or operator of the agency has had any arrests, charges, or convictions related to certain crimes, etc. Died in the Judiciary Committee.
The ACLU-FL raised concerns in a Senate committee hearing about this bill relating to assisted reproductive technology -- e.g., the use of gestational surrogates, sperm/egg donation, etc. The bill was intended to provide some basic regulation of this industry, as well as some consumer protections. But the bill's text extended and continued the use of very archaic language concerning "commissioning couples" - meaning heterosexual, married couples - and drew into question the ability of single people, gay or straight, to engage in third party reproductive services. The proposal also had other problematic aspects related to mental health evaluations of all participants, a ban on the use of gestational surrogates who are non-citizens or even U.S. permanent residents, and more.
While this bill did not move forward, it points to very problematic language in Florida law - language that should be removed and replaced with neutral language such as "intended parent(s)" - but that will be difficult to change.
Anti-Gay Entertainment Industry Incentive Package
HB 0697 Relating to Entertainment Industry Economic Development Precourt Revises entertainment industry financial incentive program to provide corporate income tax & sales & use tax credits to qualified entertainment entities rather than reimbursements from appropriations; etc. Passed by the House; died in Senate messages.
SB 1430 Relating to Entertainment Industry Economic Development Haridopolos Revises the entertainment industry financial incentive program to provide corporate income tax and sales and use tax credits to qualified entertainment entities rather than reimbursements from appropriations, etc. Died in committee.
HB 697 and the similar bill SB 1430 are designed to attract film and entertainment business to the state. The problem was that HB 697 as originally written would have prevented productions with so-called "non-traditional family values" - a phrase that was not defined from receiving the tax credit. ACLU-FL opposed the legislation during the time that that phrase was in the bill, and lobbied for its removal. Fortunately, the objectionable phrase was eventually removed from both bills in committee, and so the threat was averted.
Competitive Workforce Bill
HB 0391 Relating to Prohibited Discrimination Skidmore Designates act "Competitive Workforce Act"; prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation & gender identity or expression; defines terms; substitutes references to "disability" for references to "handicap"; revises & conforms terminology. Died in a committee without a hearing.
SB 0798 Relating to Prohibited Discrimination Gelber Revises provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as impermissible grounds for discrimination. Revises provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as impermissible grounds for discrimination in public lodging establishments and public food service establishments. Died in first committee of reference without a hearing.
While the above bill, SB 798, was not officially workshopped, Senator Gelber did manage to secure time on the Judiciary Committee agenda for discussion of the importance of creating a competitive workforce environment in Florida. Mallory Wells of Equality Florida, who headed up efforts to secure this discussion, spoke in favor of prohibiting discrimination on the basis of these categories, as did Daria Dawson of the ACLU, a small business owner and others.
Statewide domestic partnership
SB 0232 Relating to Domestic Partnerships Sobel Sets forth fees and costs to be applied when petitioning for a dissolution of a domestic partnership or registering a domestic partnership, respectively. Provides applicability of domestic partnerships to state tax laws. Requires two individuals who wish to become partners in a domestic partnership to complete and file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership form with the clerk of the circuit court, etc. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
HB 0477 Relating to Domestic Partnerships Steinberg This is the House companion to SB 232. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
Red light cameras
HB 0325 Relating to Uniform Traffic Control Reagan Preempts to state use of cameras to enforce traffic laws; authorizes counties & municipalities to use traffic infraction detectors under certain circumstances; creates Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program; authorizes DHSMV, county, or municipality to use traffic infraction detector to identify motor vehicle that fails to stop at traffic control signal steady red light, etc. Effective Date: July 1, 2010. Approved by Governor on May 13, 2010.
SB 2320 Relating to Code of Student Conduct Siplin Requires the district school board to include in the code of student conduct adopted by the board an explanation of the responsibilities of each student with regard to appropriate dress and respect for self and others, and the role that appropriate dress and respect for self and others has on an orderly learning environment. Provides disciplinary actions for students who violate the dress code, etc. Passed the Senate; died in House messages.
The above bill is commonly known as the "Saggy Pants" bill. The ACLU of Florida has opposed this bill for the past few legislative sessions, on the grounds that it would likely have a disproportionate impact and that it interferes with students? education by removing students from the classroom. The 2010 bill contained reduced penalties as compared to similar bills in past years. However, it still imposed an in-school suspension and ban on participation in extracurricular activities that could negative impact students? educational opportunities and academic performance. The ACLU favors prevention and intervention measures that do not remove students from the classroom.
HB 1553 Relating to Basic Rights Rader Proposes amendment to s. 2, Art. I of State Constitution to eliminate authority granted to Legislature by constitutional amendment that at time of adoption in 1926 allowed Legislature to regulate or eliminate real property rights of individuals based on race or national origin, so that, as amended, Florida Constitution will state that all natural persons are equal before law & have inalienable right to acquire, possess, & protect property, without exception. This good bill moved forward but died in the Rules and Calendar Council.
SB 0084 Relating to Basic Rights Sobel Proposes an amendment to the State Constitution relating to basic rights similar to the above. Died in its first committee of reference.
"Government Run Religion" Amendments to Remove Florida's "No Aid" Provision
SJR 2550 Relating to Religious Freedom Altman Proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to provide that an individual may not be barred from participating in any public program because of choosing to use public benefits at a religious provider and to delete a prohibition against using public revenues in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or any sectarian institution. Died in the Rules Committee.
HJR 1399 Relating to Religious Freedom Precourt This is the House companion, though it differed in a key respect, to SJR 2550. Died in Rules and Calendar Council.
The above two joint resolutions, each requiring 3/5's vote of each chamber in order to pass, would have amended the state constitution in ways similar to 2008's Amendment 7, against which we were mobilizing in opposition when it was struck from the November 2008 ballot by litigation. The bills - SJR 2550 and HJR 1399 - were very similar but not identical.
As soon as these bills began to move forward, we reconstituted the coalition organizations that came together in 2008 to oppose Amendment 7. With the ACLU's leadership, some 18 organizations signed on to a joint statement opposing HJR 1399 and SJR 2550. The joint statement is available here: http://www.aclufl.org/news_events/?action=viewRelease&emailAlertID=3823
We held a press conference in order to highlight the broad opposition. The defeat of these bills is probably our biggest victory this year. If they had passed, we would have found ourselves facing yet another campaign to defeat a deceptive, misleading, and harmful ballot initiative on the 2010 ballot. While we don?t have to do that this November, we can expect that the effort to undermine religious liberty in our state will raise its head again.
HB 0031 Relating to Public Education Drake Prohibits district school boards, administrative personnel, & instructional personnel from taking affirmative action that infringes or waives rights or freedoms afforded by First Amendment to United States Constitution in absence of certain consent. Effective Date: July 1, 2010 HB 31 is the school prayer bill, which passed both houses and was approved by the Governor.
SB 1580 Relating to Public Education/Protection of School Speech Wise This is the Senate companion to the above bill. The House bill was ultimately substituted for this one.
Please see discussion of this issue in "The Bad and The Ugly" portion of this memo.
Expansion of the corporate tax credit scholarship program
The ACLU monitored—but did not speak out against—bills to expand the corporate tax credit scholarship programs and significantly raise the amount of vouchers that are available through those programs.
Specialty license plates
SB 1522 Relating to License Plates Baker Creates an I Believe license plate, a Florida Biodiversity Foundation license plate, a Preserving the Past license plate, a Trinity license plate, and a Children First license plate. Establishes annual use fees for the plates. Provides for the distribution of use fees received from the sale of the plates. Creates an In God We Trust motorcycle license plate. Provides for the distribution of use fees received from the sale of the plate. Died in committee.
We were prepared to mobilize against the "I Believe" and "Trinity" license plates if they moved forward. Fortunately, we did not have to do so.
Maintaining the confidentiality of juveniles going through judicial bypass proceedings for an abortion
HB 7115, relating to the public records exemption of a minor seeking a judicial bypass in Florida was signed into law by the Governor on Friday, May 7, 2010. This creates a permanent public records exemption unless changed in law. Now, we will need to be prepared to repeat this process again in five years for the new exemption created for information held by the office of criminal conflict and civil regional counsel or the Justice Administration Commission, which were not included in the original public records exemption when passed in 2005 and thus do not yet have a permanent exemption.
The Van Zant "abortion ban" bill
HB 1097 Relating to Abortion Van Zant Creates "Florida for Life Act"; provides legislative findings; prohibits induced abortions; prohibits operation of facility for purpose of providing abortion services; prohibits termination of pregnancy unless specified conditions are met; requires consent; provides exception; provides standard of care if fetus is viable; provides that woman's life is superior to concern for life of fetus; requires that fetal remains be disposed of according to specified standards; provides that provisions do not apply to specified procedures; provides civil cause of action for violations; repeals provisions relating to termination of pregnancies & abortion referral or counseling agencies; repeals Partial-Birth Abortion Act; requires statewide list of attorneys providing pro bono adoption services for women with unwanted pregnancies who would have selected abortion, if lawful, rather than adoption; provides that all federal moneys received by state as result of efforts made by Office of Adoption & Child Protection shall only be spent by that office; provides certain provisions only take effect if other provisions are declared unconstitutional or had enforcement enjoined; provides that certain repeals & amendments in act may be void in other such circumstances. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
Fortunately, the bill filing deadline came and went without the introduction of a Senate companion to this nefarious ban-abortion-in-Florida bill. The lack of a Senate companion made the bill?s passage unlikely. Although the bill contained extreme and clearly unconstitutional language, it was not the biggest threat to reproductive freedom that we faced during this session.
The so-called Unborn Victims of Violence Act
HB 0141 Relating to Offenses Against Unborn Children Poppell Designates act "Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act"; defines term "unborn child" for purposes of vehicular homicide; revises terminology to refer to "unborn child" rather than "viable fetus"; provides construction; provides that certain offenses relating to killing of unborn child by injury to mother do not require specified knowledge or intent. This bill died in its first committee of reference in the House. It had much better luck in the Senate.
SB 0290 Relating to Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act Fasano Defines the term "unborn child" for purposes of vehicular homicide. Revises terminology to refer to "unborn child" rather than "viable fetus." Passed by the Senate; died in House messages.
SB 290, the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," and its identical companion HB 141, would have elevated an embryo to the status of a full grown human being. Under the language of the bills, someone could be charged and potentially convicted of a capital offense for the loss of a pregnancy even in a scenario where the alleged perpetrator did not know and had no reason to know that the victim was pregnant and had no intent to harm the fetus. We worked closely with Planned Parenthood to defeat this legislation. It comes close to passage every year; this year was no exception.
"Infants born alive" legislation
HB 1063 Relating to Infants Born Alive Snyder Designates act "Born Alive Infant Protection Act"; provides that an infant born alive subsequent to abortion is entitled to same rights, powers, & privileges as child born alive in course of birth that is not subsequent to abortion; provides standard of care to be exercised by health care practitioners toward such child; requires health care practitioners to report violations; provides that violations may constitute grounds for discipline of health care practitioners under specified provision.
This bill was scheduled for a hearing but then temporarily postponed and never brought back up. We were in contact with the national ACLU?s Reproductive Freedom Project to determine whether and what we should say with respect to this bill in the case that it continued to move forward.
SB 2446 Relating to Parental Notice of Abortion Gardiner Revises notice requirements relating to the termination of a pregnancy of a minor. Provides exceptions to the notice requirements. Revises procedure for judicial waiver of notice. Provides that in a hearing relating to waiving the requirement for parental notice, the court consider certain additional factors, including whether the minor's decision to terminate her pregnancy was due to undue influence. Requires mandatory reporting of child abuse, etc. Temporarily postponed and died in the Health Regulation Committee.
Defeat of the above bill was one of our big victories this year. The bill was temporarily postponed in the Health Regulation Committee because proponents simply did not have the votes to pass it.
HB 1449 Relating to Parental Notice of Abortion Stargel This is the House companion to SB 2446. Died pending review of a committee substitute.
Comprehensive sexuality education
HB 0169 Relating to Education in Public Schools Concerning Human Sexuality Fitzgerald Creates "Florida Healthy Teens Act"; requires public schools that provide certain information or programs to students concerning human sexuality to provide information that meets specified criteria; authorizes parents or guardians to seek review of school's compliance & provides for corrective actions; provides for exemption from certain teaching. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
SB 1502 Relating to Public Schools/Human Sexuality Education Smith Cites this act as the "Florida Healthy Teens Act." Requires public schools that provide certain information or programs to students concerning human sexuality to provide information that meets specified criteria, etc. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
We support this legislation every year, but unfortunately, since the bills were not heard this year, we had no opportunity to speak on record.
Prevention First Act
SB 0652 Relating to Reproductive Health Services/Rape Survivors Rich Creates the "Prevention First Act." Provides duties of licensed health care practitioners and facilities relating to the treatment of rape survivors. Requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide for enforcement and impose penalties. Requires licensed pharmacies to dispense certain forms of contraception without delay. Specifies conditions under which a pharmacy may refuse to provide a contraceptive, etc. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
HB 0517 Relating to Reproductive Health Services and Family Planning Gibson This is the House companion to SB 652. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
We support the above legislation every year but unfortunately had no opportunity to go on record this year.
Sex Offender Registry Restrictions
HB 0119 Relating to Sexual Offenders and Predators Glorioso Prohibits loitering or prowling by certain offenders within specified distance of places where children were congregating; prohibits certain actions toward child at public park or playground by certain offenders; prohibits presence of certain offenders at child care facility or pre- K through 12 school without notice & supervision; provides exceptions; provides penalties, etc. Effective Date: upon becoming a law. This bill was passed by both houses on April 30, 2010.
SB 1284 Relating to Sexual Offenders and Predators Aronberg Enhances the penalty for loitering or prowling by certain offenders within a specified distance of certain places where children congregate. Substituted for HB 119; refer to HB 119.
The ACLU-FL has long opposed local sex offender residency restrictions that result in homelessness in heavily populated areas such as Miami-Dade County, and that threaten to decrease public safety by increasing transience and instability among the offenders in question. We believe it was always the legislature?s intent to put in place its own statewide statutory system for the monitoring of sex offenders, and to have local restrictions preempted by the 1,000 foot statewide statutory restriction. For the past few years, we have supported the introduction of language that would make it explicit that the legislature did indeed intend to preempt to the state the authority to impose restrictions on where sex offenders can live.
Both of the above 2010 bills at one point had varying versions of language related to explicit preemption of local residency residency restrictions in favor of one uniform statewide restriction. For awhile, the proposed preemption language was weak but favorable. However, this language was removed from the House bill early on. In the Senate version, the ?intent? language was removed in favor of language that would have continued the status quo patchwork of extensive local restrictions. In the final days of the session, it became clear that the provisions concerning ?no loitering zones? would not pass with any preemption language attached, and so all preemption language was removed.
In good news, Representative Glorioso, the sponsor of the House bill that passed, made statements that seemed supportive of eventually removing the large local residency restrictions that are currently causing homelessness in some areas of the state.
Voting Rights & Election Reform
HB 0057 Relating to Early Voting Gibbons Authorizes supervisor of elections to establish early voting hours for each county; provides for daily minimum & daily maximum number of hours during early voting periods. Workshopped and died in its first committee of reference.
SB 0256 Relating to Early Voting Aronberg Authorizes the supervisor of elections to designate any public university, college, or community college facility as an early voting site. Requires that the supervisor for each county establish early voting hours. Provides a minimum and a maximum daily duration for such early voting hours. Died in first committee of reference without a hearing.
Voting for overseas and military voters
HB 0131 Relating to Elections Adams Provides that all matters in chapters 97 through 105, F.S., are preempted to state, unless otherwise specified; defines term "absent uniformed services voter"; revises definition of term "overseas voter"; revises voter challenge oath requirements; provides circumstances under which challenged voter may execute change of legal residence, be directed to proper precinct, or vote provisional ballot, etc. Effective Date: upon becoming a law, except as otherwise provided. The bill was passed and subsequently approved by the Governor on May 28, 2010.
The above bill description does not state that this is the bill that extends by four years the deadline by which voters with disabilities must have voting equipment that is both accessible and that provides a voter-verified paper ballot. This is because that provision was rolled into this bill very late in the session. When this bill dealt exclusively with overseas and military voting, we expressed concerns that in its original form, it would have allowed for the transmission of both blank and VOTED ballots by fax and e-mail to/from military and overseas voters. We do not object to the transmission of blank ballots, but allowing the transmission of voted ballots poses huge security problems for voters and risks to the integrity of the electoral process. Fortunately, the provision allowing for the transmission of voted ballots was removed and the ACLU went on record in support of the bill. This was prior to the provision related to voters with disabilities being added. After that provision was added, we opposed this bill and later encouraged the Governor to veto. The bill?s good provisions related to military and overseas voting were not enough to justify passage of the unjust provision related to voters with disabilities, particularly since federal law will already usher in the most important changes for military and overseas voters.
Placing polling place addresses on voter identification cards
SB 0192 Relating to Voter Information Cards Joyner Requires that voter information cards contain the address of the polling place of the registered voter. Requires a supervisor of elections to issue a new voter information card to a voter upon a change in a voter's address of legal residence or a change in a voter's polling place address, etc. Passed favorable by one committee; died in the next.
We went on record in committee in support of the above bill.
HB 0625 Relating to Voter Information Cards Gibson This is the House companion to SB 192. Passed favorably by one committee; died in the next.
Fair Districts Florida
SB 2288 Relating to Legislative and Congressional District BoundariesHaridopolos Proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to provide standards for establishing legislative and congressional district boundaries. Substituted for HB 7231; Refer to HB 7231.
HB 7231 Relating to Standards for Establishing Legislative and Congressional District Boundaries Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning; Hukill This is the House companion to SB 2288. Passed by the Legislature.
From the very outset of the legislative session, the ACLU strategized with numerous other organizations to protect the Fair Districts ballot initiatives that were placed on the 2010 ballot by Florida voters in order to reform Florida?s flawed redistricting process. Please see additional discussion of passage of the Legislature?s poison pill ?unFair Districts? amendment in ?The Bad and The Ugly? section of this memo.
SB 1192 Relating to Equal Rights for Men and Women Joyner Ratifies the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to equal rights for men and women. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
HB 8003 Relating to Equal Rights for Men and Women Jenne This is the House companion to SB 1192. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
The ACLU has gone on record in support of the ERA in previous years; unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to do so this year because the bills did not receive hearings.
Equal Pay Protection Act
HB 1623 Relating to Employment Discrimination Cruz Creates "Helen Gordon Davis Equal Pay Protection Act"; requires AWI to conduct studies & provide information to employers, labor organizations & public concerning means available to eliminate pay disparities between men & women; etc. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
SB 2672 Relating to Helen Gordon Davis Equal Pay Protection Act Joyner This is the Senate companion to HB 1623. Died in its first committee of reference without a hearing.
The ACLU did not have the opportunity to take a position on the above bill since it did not receive a hearing.