TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature is past the halfway point of its annual 60 day session and hasn't tackled any major issues.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been sent seven bills for his signature, most of them housekeeping items. But there was also a measure that, if the governor approves, will ban homeowners associations from prohibiting law enforcement officers from parking their assigned vehicles in their own driveways.
And another will prevent the state from denying or revoking a professional license if someone misses payments on student loans.
So what's left? A lot. Pretty much everything. But DeSantis might get the first major legislation on his wish list sent his way in the week ahead.
That would be the bill to require girls under the age of 18 to get their parents permission before having an abortion. It's an issue that has drawn dozens of abortion rights protesters to the Capitol to shout their disapproval outside lawmakers' chambers. But it's also a bill that DeSantis asked for in his State of the Union address when lawmakers began their session last month.
The Senate has already passed the bill, which expands a current law that requires girls' parents be notified if their daughters are having an abortion, and the full House will take up the Senate bill this week. Similar to current law, girls could petition a court for an exemption if they feel getting a parent's permission could put them in danger.
And now that the House and Senate have passed their budgets, they will begin the process of working out differences. The chambers are about $1.4 billion apart.
As Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva put it, “The fun doesn't start till next week.”
DeSantis, the Senate and House agree on some things with their respective budget proposals, like giving teachers raises and making environmental issues a priority. But working out the details will now be the focus. The House and Senate have until March 10 to agree on a budget if they want to go home on time.
Another DeSantis priority that will continue to move through Senate committees is a bill that would force companies to use E-Verify to make sure employees are legally able to work in the United States. The Senate bill was watered down in its first committee stop to exclude agriculture and small business.
The issue hasn't moved in the House, but Oliva said he recognizes the governor wants a bill sent to him, and he believes something can pass. But he wants to make sure the final product doesn't create burdens on businesses.
“How exactly we do that is not yet determined,” Oliva said.
But he said he doesn't agree that exemptions should be created for some businesses while placing new requirements on others.
One item where there's more agreement is legislation that would allow college athletes to make money off their name, image or likeness — a practice currently not allowed by the NCAA. Athletes still couldn’t be paid to play, but they could use their name and their fame to earn money for endorsements and similar deals. The idea is backed by Democrats and Republicans and has the support of DeSantis.
A Senate bill on the issue is making its second of three committee stops and a House bill is ready for consideration by the full chamber.