TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Many bills that previously dominated the conversation at the Florida Capitol prior to the rapid spread of the coronavirus silently died as focus shifted to COVID-19, including a proposal to make schools safer.
That bill would have increased penalties on districts that fail to comply with school safety mandates. It would also have banned the arrest of young children except under extreme circumstances.
“In my district, we arrested 53 8-year-olds. This is standard operating procedure,” said Rep. Wendy Newton.
Mandatory moments of silence to start off the school day also failed. Democrats and even some Republicans in the House opposed the measure, arguing it would have equated to an additional school holiday.
“I don’t think it’s a critical need. Quite frankly, I think it’s going to be a waste of time,” said Rep. Spencer Roach.
Criminal justice reform efforts also failed, mostly due to opposition from law enforcement.
“The way that we’re going to push back is the data and the research and showing best practices,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes.
A proposal that would have put the regulation of short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb, under state control fizzled out after the governor expressed concerns.
“Probably that should be determined locally,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.
A proposed public records exemption for university presidential applicants fell short after nearly a week of protests.
“If this process is hid from the public, then political appointees will control the process,” said Rich Templin, with the Florida AFL-CIO.
And while all of these bills failed to pass, the Legislature approved many of the governor’s top priorities, including E-Verify, parental consent for abortions and teacher pay raises.
The governor has told reporters to expect to see a heavy hand of line item budget vetos that would have otherwise been approved except for the coronavirus.