Here are a dozen bills the Florida Senate didn’t pass this year

Author: News Service of Florida Writer: Derrick Shaw
A general view of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. (Photo: AP)

As they finished most of their work Friday night, Florida lawmakers could celebrate bills they had passed during the 2020 legislative session. But hundreds of other proposals died along the way.

Here are a dozen high-profile issues that didn’t pass:

CONSTITUTION PANEL REPEAL: The state Constitution Revision Commission, a powerful panel that can place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, drew heavy criticism for the way it operated in 2018. The House during this year’s session approved a proposal (HJR 301) to eliminate the commission, but the Senate did not vote on it.

GAMBLING DEAL: As seems to happen every year, rumors buzzed in the Capitol that the state could reach a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that might include issues such as legalized sports betting. But despite behind-the-scenes talks, a potentially lucrative plan never emerged.

LAWSUIT LIMITS: Business groups lobbied for bills that would have limited costs in lawsuits but were largely stymied. As an example, the House passed a measure (HB 7071) that would have placed additional restrictions on what are known as “contingency risk multipliers” for plaintiffs’ attorney fees in lawsuits against property insurers. The Senate did not go along.

MARIJUANA POTENCY CAP: Warning about the effects of cannabis on young people’s developing brains, House leaders pushed to place a cap on the amount of euphoria-inducing THC in medical marijuana for patients under age 21. But the Senate would not agree to a cap, and the issue was dropped from a broader health-care bill (HB 713).

MOMENT OF SILENCE: The House approved a proposal (HB 737) that would have required public schools to hold a moment of silence at the beginning of each day. Supporters said it would give students a chance to reflect, but critics contended it was unnecessary because moments of silence are already allowed. The Senate did not take up the measure for a vote.

NO-FAULT REPEAL: Lawmakers waded back into a long-running debate about whether to repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance system, which requires motorists to carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage. But the proposals (HB 771 and SB 378), which included a bodily-injury coverage requirement, did not get votes in the full House or Senate.

OFFICE OF ENERGY MOVE: A controversy flared about a House plan to move the state Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection, under Gov. Ron DeSantis. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, fought the move, and the Senate scuttled it.

PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH RECORDS: With supporters arguing the change was needed to help draw top candidates, the House passed a bill that would have created public-records and public-meetings exemptions for presidential searches at colleges and universities. But the measure drew fire from open-government advocates, and the Senate did not vote on it.

SCHOOL SAFETY: For the first time since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018, lawmakers did not pass a broad school-safety bill. The House and Senate could not agree on a measure (HB 7065) that included recommendations from a commission created after the Parkland shooting and a statewide grand jury.

SENTENCING REVAMPS: Supporters of revamping criminal-sentencing laws floated a series of proposals but ran into opposition. Perhaps the highest-profile bill (SB 346) would have loosened sentencing laws in certain drug-trafficking cases. It passed the Senate but was not taken up in the House.

TERM LIMITS: Nearly three decades after voters approved term limits for state lawmakers, the House this year passed a measure (HJR 157) that sought to place similar eight-year limits on county school-board members. But senators were divided on the proposal, which did not come up for a vote on the Senate floor.

VACATION RENTALS: In an issue that drew heavy lobbying, lawmakers considered proposals that would have taken away power from cities and counties to regulate vacation rental properties. Local governments mobilized to fight the proposals (HB 1011 and SB 1128), which did not get votes in the full House or Senate.

News Service staff writer Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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