2021 Weekly Legislative Update
Week 1: March 5, 2021
2021 Session Opening Day Remarks Include Florida Chamber Priorities

The Florida House and Florida Senate on Tuesday conducted the annual joint legislative session to receive Governor DeSantis’ State-of-the-State speech. This annual set of remarks lays out many of the Governor’s public policy priorities ahead of each legislative session. Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls also delivered opening remarks (their full speeches are linked here: Simpson / Sprowls) in their respective chambers outlining some of their legislative priorities for the coming session. Their remarks touched on several of the Florida Chamber’s top legislative priorities outlined in the Florida Chamber’s 2021 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda.
Business Liability Protections Bill Passes House as COVID Liability Dominates Week 1

Today, the Florida House passed the business COVID-19 liability protections bill, HB 7 by Representative McClure, with a bipartisan vote of 83-31. This bill sends a signal of confidence for businesses that are doing their part to keep employees and customers safe that they will not be party to litigation. The Florida Chamber thanks Representative Lawrence McClure and Speaker Chris Sprowls for ensuring this bill passed the House during the first week of the 60 day legislative session. 
COVID-19 continued to dominate discussions before the legislature this week with all four COVID-19 liability protection bills seeing movement this week (see below tracking chart). The Florida Chamber was proud to stand in support of these important bills in each committee and fight accusations from trial lawyer interest groups that lined up against these common-sense protections for our local businesses.
Florida Chamber Leads Business Trade Associations Letter on Reemployment Tax Increase

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with other Florida business advocacy associations, sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, encouraging their immediate attention to the $713 million unemployment compensation tax increase facing Florida employers.

Florida businesses are being faced with a $713 million tax increase as a result of pandemic-imposed shutdowns and the subsequent economic downturn and layoffs. This increase is happening at a time that employers are still struggling to keep employees paid and bring employees back to work. It is in the best interest of businesses, employees, and Florida’s economy that we find ways to reduce this tax burden and work toward recovering to pre-pandemic levels.
Florida Chamber-Backed Education Bills Advance in Both Chambers

Florida’s first week of legislative session saw several Florida Chamber-backed education priorities move through their respective committees. In a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of paramount importance that Florida’s Representatives and Senators continue to focus on passing legislation that will help each Florida student find their own pathway to prosperity.

SB 48, important school choice legislation sponsored by Senator Manny Diaz, was voted out favorably by its final committee and is ready for the Senate floor. SB 48 modernizes and consolidates Florida’s five choice scholarships programs into two, thereby reducing the burden on parents and allowing them to help students take advantage of educational choice options. Additionally, Representative Erin Grall has refiled HB 419, Florida Chamber-backed early learning reform legislation that better aligns VPK evaluation standards with Florida’s K-20 educational system and establishes a timeline for phasing in a new VPK accountability system based on a performance metric that includes student outcomes, learning gains, and observations of child-teacher interactions. HB 419 passed out of its first committee stop with a unanimous 16-0 vote. Also, this week, the Florida Senate Education Committee heard SB 366 that is Sponsored by Senator Travis Huston. This bill broadens the scope of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and brings in state universities as partners. And finally, SB 586 / HB 435 that relates to Veterans Employment and Training passed a committee in both the Senate and House. This bill designates Veterans Florida as the state’s principal assistance organization under the United States Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program. 
After Unanimous Votes in Each Committee, Senate Online Sales Tax Reform Bill Ready for the Floor

A bill filed by Senator Joe Gruters to provide parity between main street businesses and internet retailers and ensure that Florida’s hometown businesses are no longer at a 6 percent tax disadvantage is ready for the Senate floor after unanimously passing its final committee. SB 50 modernizes Florida’s sales tax code to allow for the collection of sales taxes from online retailers that have a substantial economic nexus in Florida and marketplace facilitators. This is a tax already due, but because it has not been enforced, it will bring an additional $1.3 billion into state and local coffers. Florida and Missouri are the only two states in the country that collect sales tax but have not passed an economic nexus law. HB 15, the House companion by Representative Chuck Clemons, is awaiting its first hearing following a workshop during interim committee weeks that included testimony from Florida Chamber Board of Directors member and Ron Jon Surf Shop President Debbie Harvey.  
Below is a comprehensive review of legislative activity from Week 1 of the 2021 Legislative Session.
Improving Florida's Talent Pipeline for a Better Workforce
Educational Scholarship Programs
Consolidates student scholarship programs and provides parents with more flexibility to meet the educational needs of their child.
SB 48: Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr.
Passed Senate Appropriations, 11-8.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Apprenticeship and Preapprenticeship Programs
Develops detailed instructions on the process by which a local educational agency may partner with a private apprenticeship program sponsor to offer apprenticeship education and training services in the state.
SB 508: Sen. Jeff Brandes
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 175: Rep. Jason Shoaf
The House did not take action this week.
Apprenticeship and Preapprenticeship Programs
Encourages partnership among state university boards of trustees and apprenticeship program sponsors to cooperate in developing and establishing apprenticeship and preapprenticeship programs that include career instruction. 
SB 366: Sen. Travis Hutson
Passed Senate Appropriations, 10-0
HB 791: Rep. Joe Harding
The House did not take action this week.
Early Learning and Early Grade Success
Expands accountability and assessment requirements for VPK providers, while giving Florida parents better information about the quality of VPK providers.
SB 1282: Sen. Gayle Harrell
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 419: Rep. Erin Grall
Passed House Early Learning & Elementary Education Subcommittee, 16-0
Workforce and Postsecondary Education
Promotes apprenticeships in occupations throughout Florida industries by increased coordination between secondary and postsecondary education institutions and businesses. 
SB 1042: Sen. Jason Brodeur
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 791: Rep. Joe Harding
The House did not take action this week.
Creating Quality Jobs by Diversifying Florida's Economy
Entertainment Industry
Creates the Film, Television & Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program to encourage the production of family-friended movies and television in the state of Florida.
SB 704: Sen. Joe Gruters
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 757: Rep. Dana Trabulsy
The House did not take action this week.
Florida Tourism Marketing
Reauthorizes VISIT FLORIDA and allows them to use carry-over funds from the previous year.
SB 778: Sen. Ed Hooper
On Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development agenda for 3/10/21.
HB 675: Rep. Rene Plasencia
The House did not take action this week.
Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund Program
Reauthorizes the Qualified Targeted Industry Tax Refund Program, an important program in Florida’s economic development toolkit. This program expired on June 30, 2020.
SB 982: Sen. Joe Gruters
On Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee agenda for 3/9/21.
HB 6071: Rep. Chip Lamarca
The House did not take action this week.
Creating Quality Jobs by Diversifying Florida's Economy
Water Storage
Expands water storage solutions for Central and South Florida. 
SB 94: Sen. Jason Brodeur
Voted favorable by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, 5-0
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed

Electric Vehicle Fees and Charging Stations
Expands the charging network for electric vehicles while ensuring that electric vehicles pay their fair share of transportation usage fees. 
SB 140: Sen. Jeff Brandes
On Senate Transportation Committee agenda for 3/10/21.

SB 138: Sen. Jeff Brandes
On Senate Transportation Committee agenda for 3/10/21.
HB 819: Rep. Andrew Learned
The House did not take action this week.

HB 817: Rep. Rene Plasencia
The House did not take action this week.
Autonomous Vehicles
Expands the opportunities for the lawful deployment of low speed, autonomous shuttles on public roadways. 
SB 1620: Sen. Jeff Brandes
On Senate Transportation Committee agenda for 3/10/21.
HB 1289: Rep. Fiona McFarland
The House did not take action this week.
Repeal of the M-CORES Program
Repeals infrastructure and economic development investments.
SB 1030: Sen. Tina Scott Polsky
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 763: Rep. Ben Diamond
The House did not take action this week.
State Funds
Protects the Sadowski Housing Trust Funds from legislative sweeps.
SB 510: Sen. Ed Hooper
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 13: Rep. Sam Killebrew
The House did not take action this week.
Building the Perfect Climate for Business
COVID-19 Liability Protections
Provides liability protections from claims that arise due to COVID-19 for businesses and other entities that are substantially complying with government health and safety guidelines to keep employees and customers safe.
SB 72: Sen. Jeff Brandes
Passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, 7-4
HB 7: Rep. Lawrence McClure
Passed House 83-31
COVID-19 Liability Protections - Health Care
Provides liability protections from claims that arise due to COVID-19 for health care providers that are complying with government health and safety guidelines.
SB 74: Sen. Jeff Brandes
Passed the Senate Health Policy Committee, 5-4
HB 7005: Rep. Colleen Burton
Passed the House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, 12-6
Inflated Medical Damages
Improves Florida’s bottom-five legal climate by allowing the jury to see the amount generally accepted for a medical procedure and limiting inflated medical damages listed on Letters of Protection.
SB 846: Sen. Jeff Brandes
Placed on Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for 3/9/21
HB 561: Rep. Randall Maggard
The House did not take action this week.
Farming Operations
Modernizes Florida’s Right to Farm Act and provides liability protections for farming operations that are following environmental standards.
SB 88: Sen. Jason Brodeur
Voted favorable with CS by Senate Rules Committee, 14-2
HB 1601: Rep. Jayer Williamson
Bill was filed in the House 3/2/21
Matters of Great Governmental Concern
Allows the Attorney General to declare an issue a matter of “great governmental concern” and consolidate civil litigation on behalf of local governments.
SB 102: Sen. Danny Burgess
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 1053: Rep. Tobin Overdorf
The House did not take action this week.
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection
Protects consumers involved in litigation by creating transparency in litigation financing contracts, creates a state registration process for litigation financiers, and requires disclosure to the defendant that a litigation financing company has an interest in the outcome of the litigation.
SB 1750: Sen. Doug Broxson
The Senate referred to Committees 3/4/21
HB 1293: Rep. Tobin Overdorf
The House did not take action this week.
Medical Malpractice Damages
Drives up medical malpractice insurance rates by broadening the scope of who is allowed to collect damages in medical negligence claims.
SB 1112: Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 651: Rep. Spencer Roach
Passed the House Civil Rights & Justice Property Rights Subcommittee, 18-0
Solicitation of Nonmedical Services
Improves health safety by adding certain requirements and disclosures for advertisements that intend to solicit legal services from patients of medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
SB 1992: Sen. Gayle Harrell
The Senate referred to Committees 3/4/21.
HB 1483: Rep. Clay Yarborough
The House did not take action this week.
Property Insurance Claims
Addresses significant increases in property insurance rates by attempting to reduce litigation and cost drivers in the system.
SB 76: Sen. Jim Boyd
The Senate placed on Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for 3/9/21.
HB 305: Rep. Bob Rommel
The House did not take action this week.
Contingency Risk Multiplier
Returns the use of the contingency fee multiplier to rare and unusual circumstances to address out of control attorney fees in commonplace litigation.
SB 212: Sen. Jeff Brandes
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Auto Glass
Cracks down on auto glass assignment of benefits abuses by requiring a clear disclosure to the consumer that they are signing an AOB and requires notification to the insurer and customer before any litigation related to the assignment.
SB 906: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Public Emergencies and Assistance
Creates a presumption that if a person contracts COVID-19, is was during the course of employment and interferes in insurance contracts by specifying that a business’ compliance with a governmental order to close or reduce service counts as a business interruption for insurance purposes.
A Senate Bill Has Not Been Filed.
HB 1617: Rep. Evan Jenne
The House did not take action this week.
Discrimination in Labor and Employment
Interferes in employment practices by prohibiting a job creator from requesting or relying on previous wage or salary information to interview, hire, promote or employ an employee.
SB 256: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 107: Rep. Geraldine Thompson
The House did not take action this week.
Prohibited Discrimination Bases on Hairstyle
Creates a new cause of action by adding hairstyle to the list of protected classes under which it is unlawful to discriminate for housing or employment opportunities.
SB 476: Sen. Randolph Bracy
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 179: Rep. Kamia Brown
The House did not take action this week.
Unlawful Discrimination Against Pregnant Employees
Interferes in the employer-employee relationship by creating new requirements for employers of pregnant employees.
SB 384: Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 581: Rep. Dotie Joseph
The House did not take action this week.
Wage & Employment Benefits Requirements
Removes the statewide preemption for minimum wage and employment benefits, thereby creating a patchwork of regulations across Florida’s cities and counties.
SB 304: Sen. Annette Taddeo
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 6031: Rep. Carlos Smith
The House did not take action this week.
Family and Medical Leave
Creates a business and employee funded family leave state fund for parents who just gave birth, adopted or fostered a child and requires employers to maintain health coverage and allow up to 12 months leave from employment.
SB 1596: Sen. Janet Cruz
The Senate referred to committees 3/2/21.

SB 1586: Sen. Janet Cruz
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 1245: Rep. Angela Nixon
The House did not take action this week.

HB 1247: Rep. Felicia Robinson
The House did not take action this week.
Background Screen (Ban the Box)
Prohibits job creators from requesting information about an applicant’s criminal history prior to an initial job interview.
SB 1646: Sen. Bobby Powell
The Senate referred to committees 3/4/21.
HB 1331: Rep. Joseph Casello
The House did not take action this week.
Internet Sales Tax
Modernizes Florida’s tax code and levels the playing field for main street businesses by allowing for the collection of sales tax from internet retailers. Florida and Missouri are the only two states in the country that have not adopted an economic nexus to collect online sales tax after the Wayfair Supreme Court decision.
SB 50: Sen. Joe Gruters
Passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, 18-0.
HB 15: Rep. Chuck Clemons
The House did not take action this week.
Corporate Income Tax Increase
Increases Florida’s Corporate Income Tax Rate to pay for a new “Teach to Lead” program.
SB 1222: Sen. Shevrin Jones
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 129: Rep. Yvonne Hinson
The House did not take action this week.
Small Business Saturday
Supports shopping at local small businesses by eliminating the sales tax on purchases on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
SB 302: Sen. Annette Taddeo
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 637: Rep. Allison Tant
The House did not take action this week.
Hospitals' Community Benefit Reporting
Removes duplicative reporting requirements for non-profit hospitals to qualify for property tax exemptions.
SB 58: Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez
Passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, 18-0
HB 6087: Rep. John Snyder
The House did not take action this week.

HB 6093: Rep. Joe Harding
The House did not take action this week.
Mandatory Unitary Combined Reporting
Requires a “water’s edge reporting method” to determine taxable profits for Florida income tax purposes, requires a unitary tax filing, and requires disclosure of corporate income, taxes and apportionment determinations for each state.
A Senate Bill Has Not Been Filed
HB 999: Rep. Fred Hawkins
The House did not take action this week.
Tax Exemptions
Exempts federal emergency loans from documentary stamp tax collections and provides for a disaster preparedness sales tax holiday.
SB 734: Sen. Joe Gruters
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Reemployment Assistance
Increases the maximum weekly benefit amount and the number of weeks for reemployment assistance. HB 207 and SB 466 also revises eligibility requirements for benefits and revises what constitutes a “good cause” for leaving employment to still be eligible for benefits.
SB 466: Sen. Randolph Bracy
The Senate did not take action this week.

SB 592: Sen. Bobby Powell
The Senate did not take action this week.

SB 644: Sen. Annette Taddeo
The Senate did not take action this week.

SB 910: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 207: Rep. Anna Eskamani
The House did not take action this week.
Motor Vehicle Insurance
Repeals Florida’s motor vehicle no-fault law (personal injury protection insurance) and creates mandatory a bodily injury coverage requirement.
SB 54: Sen. Danny Burgess
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 719: Rep. Erin Grall
The House did not take action this week.
Data Privacy
Creates a new cause of action related to companies that collect, sell or use consumer data and creates new disclosure requirement for these companies.
SB 1734: Sen. Jennifer Bradley
The Senate referred to committees 3/4/21.
HB 969: Rep. Fiona McFarland
The House did not take action this week.
Making Government and Civics more Efficient and Effective
Dues and Uniform Protections
Adds transparency and accountability to the collection of union dues from the paychecks of state workers.
SB 78: Sen. Ray Rodrigues
Not considered by Senate Rules Committee.
HB 947: Rep. Scott Plakon
Place on House Government Operations Subcommittee agenda for 3/8/21.
Retirement
Reforms the state's pension system.
SB 84: Sen. Ray Rodrigues
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Supermajority for Legislative Preemption
Increases the threshold needed for legislation ensuring the furtherance of statewide regulatory certainty for businesses to pass in the Legislature.
SB 540: Sen. Gary M. Farmer
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Removal of Union Transparency
Repeals a Chamber-backed transparency bill for public sector unions. 
SB 610: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Rights of Nature
Repeals a Chamber-backed provision that outlaws the “rights of nature” legal doctrine in Florida. 
A Senate Bill Has Not Been Filed
HB 6045: Rep. Anna Eskamani
The House did not take action this week.
Employee Organizations
Protects public sector employees by enforcing the Chamber-backed transparency efforts from the 2019 Legislative Session.
SB 1014: Sen. Dennis Baxley
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 835: Rep. Cord Byrd
Placed on House Government Operations Subcommittee agenda for 3/8/21.
Removal of Sunscreen Preemption
Repeals a Chamber-backed preemption on regulations for sunscreen and other over the counter drugs and cosmetics. 
SB 1174: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 6041: Rep. Anna Eskamani
The House did not take action this week.
E-Verify Mandate
Removes a Chamber-backed protection for employers that allows certain businesses to use existing systems to verify eligible employment.
A Senate Bill Has Not Been Filed
HB 6013: Rep. Anthony Sabatini
The House did not take action this week.
Removal of Polystyrene Preemption
Removes a Chamber-backed preemption on local ordinances relating to polystyrene products.
SB 594: Sen. Linda Stewart
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 6027: Rep. Michael Grieco
The House did not take action this week.
Constitutional Amendment Reform
Increases the threshold for a constitutional amendment to be adopted.
SB 1238: Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez
Placed on the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee agenda for 3/9/21.
HB 61: Rep. Rick Roth
The House did not take action this week.
Constitutional Amendment Finance Reform
Brings transparency and parity to the constitutional amendment fundraising system.
SB 1890: Sen. Ray Rodriguez
The Senate referred to committees 3/4/21.
A House Bill Has Not Been Filed
Championing Florida's Quality of Life
Autonomous Practice by an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Expands allowed general functions of APRNs to acts that are within their specialty.
SB 424: Sen. Jeff Brandes
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 111: Rep. Randall Maggard
The House did not take action this week.
Economic Self-Sufficiency
Requires the Auditor General to conduct, at least every three years, performance audits of certain economic assistance and health care programs.

SB 414: Sen. Keith Perry
The Senate did not take action this week.
HB 1349: Rep. Vance Aloupis
The House did not take action this week.