Florida lawmakers have bipartisan issues they agree on


Election fraud, transgender athletes, riots, vaccination warrants. These wedge issues engulfed hours of debate in the Florida legislature last year, spawning dozens of national headlines. Republicans, who own the governor’s mansion and intimidating majorities in the State House and Senate, have worked their way through every issue.

Yet, as lawmakers return to Tallahassee for their 60-day annual session which begins Tuesday, there are still several policy areas in which Republicans and Democrats see room for compromise – if not agreement. Here are eight bipartisan measures to watch for.

Medical marijuana

During the 2021 legislative session, a move to limit the potency of medical cannabis led to some of the session’s most controversial partisan dust-ups.

While this bill has failed, its sponsor, Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, is back this session with a new bipartisan proposal. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon, is Bill’s co-sponsor.

“None of us, no activist, no stakeholder, gets everything they want from this proposal,” Learned told a press conference in December. “But that’s the nature of compromise.”

Among other things, the bill would make it illegal to sell consumable hemp products such as “Delta-8” to Floridians under the age of 21. Some lawmakers fear that these products, which can induce euphoric effects similar to traditional cannabis, could be – in the current state of the law – sold to children. The measure would also make the medical cannabis program more convenient for patients by allowing registration cards to last for two years instead of one.

Its sponsors say the measure is a bipartisan olive branch intended to improve Florida’s medical marijuana program. It is not, however, clear whether the main Republican leaders support the various measures.

Spokesmen for House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, and Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, did not respond to specific questions about the proposal. Gov. Ron DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said he was “watching” the bill.

Telehealth

In 2019, the legislature passed a sweeping bill that defined “telehealth” – the practice of allowing medical professionals to virtually observe patients – in state law. Yet the legislation, which enjoyed bipartisan support in the state House and Senate, did not allow doctors to see patients over the phone.

The following year, the coronavirus pandemic led to an increase in the popularity of telemedicine. Now Senator Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, is sponsoring a move to overturn the ban on telemedicine by telephone.

So far, the measure has been passed unanimously in two Senate committees. A complementary bill in the House has not yet been heard. In a textual statement, Diaz said he believes the measure has bipartisan support because it gives access to telemedicine to Floridians who are not tech-savvy. However, Diaz said he was not sure House leaders were in favor of the measure. Sprows’ office did not respond to specific questions about the measure.

Diaz’s Bill isn’t the only telehealth measure to be heard this session. The medical marijuana bill would allow physicians to recertify medical marijuana patients through the computer – a practice permitted under an emergency order from the DeSantis administration for over d ‘a year earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

Minors exemption invoice

A measure that would allow tens of thousands of minors to erase their criminal records after completing a behavioral program is already gaining bipartisan support.

Last year, the same measure crossed the votes of committees and the prosecution with little to no hindsight on the part of lawmakers.

DeSantis, however, vetoed the bill after raising public safety concerns about it, giving what he said was “unlimited ability to strike out serious crimes.”

His veto has surprised many lawmakers, including Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, who sponsored the bill last year and is pushing it again this year in a way he says will allay the governor’s concerns. .

If approved and signed by DeSantis, the measure would allow around 27,000 minors to request that their criminal records be removed after the successful completion of a misdemeanor and certain misdemeanor program.

End of several spring tests

DeSantis wants to revamp the state’s education system by eliminating several annual exams and replacing them with shorter “progress tracking” tests throughout the year, which would be tailored to each student.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have signaled a desire to reinvent the state’s testing system, but friction could arise when the details emerge.

While some assessments would disappear under the governor’s proposal, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said other elements of the school accountability system will remain the same, including school grades, teacher ratings based in part on student performance and recovery plans for schools in difficulty.

Transparency of retirement home income

Each year, the state sends nursing homes tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. This money supports the bottom line of one of the most powerful industries in the state.

This year, Republicans and House Democrats say the nursing home industry needs to be more transparent about its revenues. A proposal sponsored by Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, would require retirement homes and their home offices to submit audited financial reports to the state every year.

Florida hospitals, which receive hundreds of millions in state Medicaid reimbursements, have been submitting these reports since 1992.

Nick Duran, D-Miami, who sits on the House healthcare credit subcommittee, said Democrats back the proposal because the party’s labor base has long argued that the nursing home industry is putting profit above all.

In a text message to the Herald / Times, Trumbull, the bill’s sponsor, said Republicans back him because it makes tax sense to see how a big industry that receives taxpayer money spends its money. silver.

An increase in the wage bill

Bonuses and salary increases: something Democrats and Republicans can support.

For the third year in a row, DeSantis is seeking bonuses of $ 1,000 for teachers and principals. And for the second year in a row, he’s seeking bonuses of $ 1,000 for first responders and law enforcement officers.

DeSantis is also proposing $ 600 million to maintain and meet the goal of increasing the minimum wage for teachers to $ 47,500 per year. School personnel – such as guidance counselors, reading coaches, bus drivers and librarians – are excluded from the state bonus program. Veteran teachers are not guaranteed a salary increase under the governor’s initiative.

The exclusions are likely to generate debate in the 2022 legislative session, but overall the compensation initiatives are likely to attract bipartisan support from lawmakers.

Knowledge of social media

He’s a short bill, but he has fans on both sides of the aisle. A two-page measure co-introduced by Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate would require schools to teach students about social media.

HB 361 and SB 480 would set statewide standards for teaching social media literacy for the first time in state history. The state would add this program to other required courses such as US History and the Importance of Free Enterprise to the US Economy.

“This bill seeks to empower, not only our parents in providing this material, but also to ensure that children are aware of the long-term risks inherent in having, essentially, the world at their fingertips. ” Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, said at a committee meeting in November.

Importing prescription drugs

In 2019, lawmakers passed a bill directing the state to form a plan to import safe and inexpensive drugs from Canada. Of all the measures on this list, this was perhaps the most controversial, with around two dozen Democrats voting against in 2019. Yet the bill passed with the help of conservative Republicans and Democrats. liberals.

The bipartisan vibes extend to the federal government as well – at least on the surface. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have externally supported the idea of ​​importing Canadian drugs.

However, the Biden administration has yet to approve Florida’s import proposal, which was submitted in November 2020. A spokesperson for the United States Food and Drug Administration said the government is not commenting. no pending proposals.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration spokesperson Cody Farrill said the Biden administration appealed to states with import plans on March 31, 2022. It is not known whether this means significant progress on the federal side.

“Will Florida receive approval prior to this call?” Farrill wrote in an emailed statement. “Only time will tell.”


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