Another Florida special session starts Monday. Here's what's on the schedule
Typically, a special legislative session focuses on just one—maybe two—subjects. This time, lawmakers are tacking a full slate of issues. Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for the special legislative session that starts Monday.
Lawmakers are expected to allocate more funding for efforts to support recovery following Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. That includes funneling more money into the Governor’s Emergency Response and Preparedness Fund, and earmarking dollars for a Local Government Bridge Loan Program through the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Elections Crime Crackdown
Lawmakers are expected to clear the way for a statewide prosecutor to pursue cases of elections crimes in Florida for both both state and federal races. A memo from the Senate President’s office says the goal is “clarifying the Office of Statewide Prosecution jurisdiction.”
The move follows a law passed last year that created an elections crime unit. It resulted in more than 20 formerly incarcerated people facing voter fraud charges, but those cases hit several road blocks. At least one of those cases was dismissed after a lawyer argued a statewide prosecutor was the wrong person to charge his client since he only voted in one place and a statewide prosecutor only has jurisdiction when crimes are committed across judicial districts.
Immigration and Migrants
Spring Hill Republican Senator Blaise Ingoglia will present a bill that supports continued efforts from Governor Ron DeSantis to transport migrants.
Earlier this year, Florida made headlines when it flew a group of migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. In his proposed spending plan unveiled Wednesday DeSantis requested another $12-million to support continued efforts to transport undocumented immigrants "from any point of origin in the U.S. to any jurisdiction."
A memo on the special session from House and Senate leadership indicates action is needed “to respond to an influx of migrants landing in the Florida Keys.” An estimated 300 Migrants landed in the Dry Tortugas National Park over New Year’s weekend. Park officials say they’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of boats arriving in the park from Cuba.
Name Image and Likeness in College Athletics
In 2020 Florida passed new rules that let college athletes sign endorsement contracts and get paid when their name, image or likeness is used for promotional purposes. Universities have complained the law has made recruiting more difficult for Florida schools since many athletes are now considering what kind of deals are available to them as part of their decision on where to play. In Florida universities are barred from helping athletes secure those deals, but that’s not the case in other states where a patchwork of so-called NIL rules have passed nationally.
Recently, the NCAA changed the way it investigates NIL violations, putting the burden on schools to prove their innocence when violation claims are made. The session memo from legislative leadership says recent changes have put states with NIL laws at a disadvantage prompting the state to revisit the issue.
Special Districts and Disney
Lawmakers will look at potential changes to a handful of special districts. One is the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District, which lawmakers are expected to reauthorize. Another is the Reedy Creek Improvement District. It’s a special taxing and governing district on the land that’s owned by Disney World.
The Disney company drew the ire of Governor Ron DeSantis last year when it pushed back on the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-through-3. Lawmakers passed legislation during a special session on redistricting last April to dissolve the Reedy Creek district in June of this year. Now, lawmakers are expected to advance a plan to transfer control of the district to the state without assuming responsibility for the district’s debts.
As special sessions become more common in Florida speculation is growing the governor could see them as a tool to highlight certain legislation and gain media coverage.
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