TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Aug. 23, 2016) – Republican dominated leadership in the Florida House and Senate chose to maintain the unconstitutional status quo on multiple issues in 2016, killing a wide variety of bills that would have blocked state enforcement of federal policies. Many of the bills did not even receive votes in their respective chambers.
The rundown of crucial legislation that failed in Florida this year is as follows:
Two bills were introduced to help facilitate healthcare freedom and set the stage to nullify Obamacare in practice. Rep. Fred Costello (R-Ormond Beach) introduced HB37 and Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) introduced SB132 to clarify that direct primary care agreements (sometimes called medical retainer agreements) do not constitute insurance, thereby freeing doctors and patients from the onerous requirements and regulations under the state insurance code.
Although the bills did gain some initial traction, neither of them were passed and signed into law. HB37 passed the House with a unanimous 116-0 vote. In spite of this immense consensus in the House, the bill could not make it out of the Senate Health Policy Committee. It was killed there under the leadership of Chairman Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach). SB132 suffered a similar fate. After passing three Senate committees, Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) and Floor Leader Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) killed the bill by refusing to even schedule it for a vote.
Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) filed House Memorial 983 and Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) filed Senate Memorial 1384 to urge the rejection federal involvement in the state’s educational system and create a foundation for the general assembly to take further action down the line. Although passage of these measures would have had no legal effect in Florida, neither memorial passed. House Memorial 983 was killed in the House Education Committee under the leadership of Chairwoman Marlene O’Toole (R-The Villages). Senate Memorial 1384 was killed in the Senate Education Pre-K – 12 Committee under the leadership of Chairman John Legg (R-Trinity).
Two bills were introduced to take small, but important first steps toward setting the stage to nullify federal EPA rules and regulations. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr (R-Miami) and Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) introduced HB639 while Sen. Greg Evers (R-Bakers) introduced SB838 to bar the state from implementing rules or regulations, or from submitting to a state or multistate implementation plan that limits or attempts to limit carbon dioxide emissions based on EPA mandates unless Congress passes specific legislation or a higher court hands down a ruling pertaining to emission standards.
Unfortunately, both of the bills failed this year. HB639 was approved by the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee where it passed by a 10-2 vote, but was ultimately killed in the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee under the leadership of Chairman Ben Albritton (R-Bartow). SB838 was killed in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee under the leadership of Chairman Charlie Dean (R-Inverness).
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) introduced HB1369 to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, and clarify many of the state-level regulations regarding the products. Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) introduced SB1700 and SB1708 containing similar language. None of these bills were successful. HB1369 was killed in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee under the leadership of Chairman Ben Albritton (R-Bartow). SB1700 and SB1708 were killed in the Senate Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Chairman Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee).
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) introduced HB271 and Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced SB554 to set up the framework to effectuate a commercial hemp farming program in the state. These bills would have created the ability for the state to license and regulate industrial hemp farmers, effectively nullifying the federal prohibition on cultivating the crop. HB271 experienced some initial success in passing the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee by a unanimous 13-0 vote. However, the legislation was ultimately killed in the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee under the leadership of Chairman Erik Fresen (R-Miami). SB554 was killed in the Senate Agriculture Committee under the leadership of Chairman Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee).
Introduced by Rep. John Wood (R-Haines City), HB1183 would have created a state regulatory regime to allow medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the sick. Patients with a wide-variety of qualifying ailments would have had access to medical marijuana under HB1183. Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay) introduced SB616 and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) filed HB4021 to simply erase cannabis from the criminal code entirely and treat marijuana in the same manner as lettuce, tomatoes, or any other benign plant sold and consumed lawfully in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, these important bills never gained any traction. HB1183 was killed in the House Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Rep. Charles McBurney (R-Tallahassee). HB4021 was killed in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee under the leadership of Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami). SB616 was killed in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee under the leadership of Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).
Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville) introduced HB1095 while Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) introduced SB1712 to prohibit the state, its political subdivisions, their agencies and employees, along with any persons receiving state funds, from assisting with entry into or resettlement in state of any refugees who originate from, or in close proximity to, areas known to produce terrorists. HB1095 experienced some early success and passed in three committees. However, it was killed on the House floor after Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) and Majority Leader Dana Young (R-Tampa) refused to schedule the bill for a vote. SB1712 was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami).
Sen. Jeffrey Brandes (R) filed SB1044 and Rep. Matthew Caldwell (R) filed HB883 to require criminal prosecution and conviction of the property owner before finalizing asset forfeiture, making it more difficult for police to seize property. As it stands now, Florida law enforcement officers can seize assets they suspect were involved in criminal activity without even making an arrest. Unfortunately, these abusive policies will not be changing very much, even though one of the bills succeeded.
SB1044 was passed and signed to law, but was significantly watered-down during the process. After amendments were passed in the committee hearing process, it only requires an arrest before seizing most assets. Theoretically, the state can still proceed with forfeiture even if prosecutors never charge the owner of the property with a crime. Loopholes also remain to allow law enforcement in Florida to easily bypass the more stringent state law by turning cases over to the federal government. This will allow forfeiture to proceed under federal law that doesn’t even require an arrest. HB883 was killed in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee under the leadership of Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami).
Although the Florida legislature dropped the ball and refused to push back against federal overreach this year, all hope is not lost. The legislators who refused to uphold their oath to the Constitution and killed these bills are now more vulnerable than ever. Remember to alert your community about who is jeopardizing your rights. From that point, the legislature can be remade with individuals who have the backbone to protect your sacred freedoms through nullification.
The process can be a long, hard and ugly one, but it can pay off. Many of the states that are currently passing several nullification bills each year were in Florida’s situation not too long ago. However, liberty-minded activists in those states steadfastly refused to give up and successfully pushed their legislators to do the right thing. That is the future that Florida can achieve, but it is going to take some grit and determination to get there. Are you up to the challenge?