HB 17 - Tort Reform
One of the many bills targeting trial lawyers in the 2019 legislative session, Rep. Tom Leek looks to pass comprehensive legislation to cut down on frivolous lawsuits that directly impact insurance businesses and insurance rates for Floridians.
Leek's bill, which if successful, would impose restrictions on product lawsuits in which the product was “unreasonably misused."
"'Unreasonable misuse' means a type of misuse in which a product was used for a purpose or in a manner that was not reasonably foreseeable by the seller, or a reasonably prudent person would not have used the product in the same or similar manner or circumstances," according to language in the bill.
Essentially, the bill would protect sellers from being sued by consumers for misusing a product, allowing them not to be held liable.
The bill also seeks to bring back a cap on damages at $1 million.
According to the bill, "In any civil action, damages for noneconomic losses to compensate for pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, loss of a decedent's companionship and protection, lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance, and other damages may not exceed $1 million. The jury shall not be informed of this limit.
As it stands, juries get to decide how much someone’s pain and suffering is worth.
The high court, which in the past was made up of mostly liberal justices, made it easier for trial lawyers to enact excessive litigation. But with Gov. Ron DeSantis reshaping the highest court in the Florida, it's now or never for lawmakers to tackle tort reform.
With a conservative court and cabinet, Leek's bill could be a catalyst that changes the legal landscape.
HB 6007 - Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons or Firearms
A year-around hot-button issues, Rep. Anthony Sabatini's firearms bill will be a game changer in the 2019 Legislative Session. The House Republican proposed a measure that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on college and university campuses.
Under the current law, people are banned from carrying firearms on college and university campuses. Gun-rights enthusiasts have lobbied for years to be allowed to carry on campuses, permitted they have a concealed-weapons license.
Proposals in the past have died, with legislators and educators opposing the idea. But Sabatini, along with co-sponsors Rep. Mike Hill and Rep. Spencer Roach, are looking to buck the trend.
If successful, the bill would delete "a provision from prohibiting concealed carry licensees from openly carrying a handgun or carrying a concealed weapon or firearm into a college or university facility."
In hypersensitive gun-control climate, expect this bill to receive a lot of push back from the political left. Nevertheless, if successful, the bill could see Florida embrace the ability to use guns as a deterrent.
SB 558 - Termination of Pregnancy
In January of this year, Sen. Joe Gruters was elected to serve as the Chairman of Florida's Republican Party. As chairman, Gruters will be instrumental in uniting the base to usher in another Trump victory 2020.
With the new position increasing the Sarasota Senator's political stock, Gruters could have taken the easy way out this session and not filed any meaningful proposals. But that's not Gruters' style, and with a list longer than Santa's, Gruters proved that he would not let his newly-acquired title get in the way of his duties as a legislator.
Gruters' measure will look to tackle the polarizing topic of abortion, and if successful, the bill would ban abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization unless an abortion is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant patient.
The "Florida Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" would curb the current Florida law, which allows for abortions to be performed until roughly 24 weeks into term. The only exception to SB 558 is if a mother's life is at risk, with the bill noting that it must be due to a mother's physical health concerns, not her mental health.
The bill is an attempt to set the standard for Florida, with eight states having no gestational limits on abortion: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, along with Washington, D.C.
Gruters has already received intense criticism from the left, with opponents suggesting that the law would restrict a woman's right to choose (but what about the viable life that will one day be person? Do they have rights?)
The Senate Republican will continue to be vilified by his opponents, while supporters are thrilled that someone on the right is attempting to right the wrongs of Roe v. Wade.
With states becoming more and more progressive when it comes to abortion issues, Gruters policy is a beacon that could prevent the lost ship from crashing into the rocks. Essentially, he's fighting to keep the Sunshine State from becoming another left-leaning state that allows a potential child to be executed moments before they are born. Gruters is setting an important precedent that other states could adopt to combat pro-abortion lawmakers. With this bill, Gruters could save lives in Florida and in others states if legislatures adopt his model.
In reality, this article could have been a entire list of bills introduced by Gruters -- sanctuary cities, smoking on public beaches, campaign financing, etc. But because abortion is such a contested issue, we felt like it was the most important.
SB 1410 - Hope Scholarship Program
Keeping in line with Gov. DeSantis' consistent message to expand school choice, Sen. Manny Diaz wants to enlarge a 2018 scholarship for students who have been bullied in school.
The “Hope” scholarship, which is funded by a sales tax credit on automobile purchases, was established to allow children in district schools to attend different private or public schools if they had been abused or harassed. Diaz's new proposal would allow private school students to be eligible for a scholarship, as well.
Diaz, who chairs the all-important Senate Committee on Education, is a proponent of supporting families’ decisions to choose what’s best for their children’s education. He, along with Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, will look to reshape Florida's dismal education scene.
His bill would also take schools out of the decision making, giving more freedom to parents. It would have parents whose children were subjected to an incident listed in the law go directly to a scholarship funding organization for an application.
You can view the details of the 2018 Hope Scholarship here.
Diaz's push to open doors for private schools is not going unnoticed. Democrats and school districts are concerned that parents will have too much freedom in the decision-making process. Many on the left would like reports on bullying to be more transparent, but to date, the program does not require proof that the bullying occurred.
Meanwhile, conservatives are praising the bill, believing it to be a key piece of legislation that could finally put the power back into the hands of those who have the most stake in such a decision.
Diaz stated that this bill is a "conversation piece," hoping that it will encourage healthy political discourse. He believes that by bringing the controversial measure to the table, more research can be done to improve how the scholarship could be utilized.
He, along with DeSantis and Corcoran, are slowly making changes to the way Floridians view education. If it passes, expect the state to be the flag-bearer when it comes to expanding the market of school choice.
SB 254 - Marriage Equality
While Republicans control the majority in the House and Senate, Democrats are hoping that some on the right will reach across the aisle to repeal provisions relating to marriages between same-sex individuals.
Sen. Gary Farmer filed the bill back in January, and he and other Democrats are hoping that Republicans will repeal Florida’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1997 statute declaring Florida only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.
As it stands, Florida can issue marriage certificates for same-sex couples, but the state does not recognize the union between the two.
Legislation brought in the House and Senate could potentially strike the language from law, but Democrats will need assistance from Republicans. Given the new administration's willingness to work on bipartisan issues, Democrats in both the House and Senate are hoping this openness will bleed through to the legislature.
Other than Gruters' LGTBQ anti-discrimination bill -- which divided many on the right -- Republican lawmakers have been rather silent on the issue. Many Republicans continue to take a traditional stance on marriage, believing their view on the controversial matter preserves the sanctity of the unification.
Let's see if that changes in 2019.