Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Below is a high-level update on the five most significant bills and issues that occurred during the 2023 Florida Legislative session’s second week, March 13-17.
Governor Signs Last Two Bills from Special Session
Governor Ron DeSantis signed the last two bills approved during a special session last month into law. HB 11B ratifies and confirms the continued existence of the Sunshine Water Control District in Broward County and HB 13B ratifies and confirms the continued existence of the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District in Franklin County. The two districts were in jeopardy of being dissolved on June 1.
Tort Reform Final Vote in House
HB 837, the House’s tort reform bill, will be considered by the full House today and is expected to pass. The bill is a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner and would limit lawsuits against insurance companies and businesses. The Senate companion, SB 236, was reported favorably by the Senate Fiscal Policy committee this week and is ready for consideration by the full Senate.
Ban on Foreign Property Ownership Advances
SB 264 was reported favorably by Senate Judiciary Committee this week. The bill prohibits foreign entities from buying Florida farmland or owning land near military bases or critical infrastructure, as well as prohibits the storage of electronic health information on any servers outside of the continental United States. The bill also specifically targets the Chinese government and Chinese nationals, who would be barred from owning any real property–regardless of whether it is agricultural or near critical infrastructure or not–in Florida. China and other countries of concern would also be prohibited from receiving economic development grants or having access to any state resident's personal information. The House companion, HB 1355, has not yet been heard by its first House committee.
Defamation Bill Passes First House Committee
The House Civil Justice Committee approved HB 991, making it easier to file a defamation lawsuit. The bill narrows the circumstances in which someone would be considered a public figure, expands the situations in which plaintiffs would have a lower standard of proof and allows attorney fees for prevailing plaintiffs. The Senate companion, SB 1220, is awaiting its first committee hearing.
Senate Immigration Measures Moving
SB 1718, a wide ranging immigration bill, was approved by the Senate Rules Committee. Among several provisions related to immigration the bill requires an employer using either the I-9 Form or E-Verify to retain the documentation used for at least 5 years, alters the defenses for employers using I-9 Form or E-Verify, amends penalties for noncompliance with the employment verification law and increases fines associated with the employment of unauthorized aliens. HB 1617, the companion bill, has not yet been heard by its first committee.
I would be happy to speak with you regarding issues this session that could impact your business. For more information, please contact me.