Legislative Roundup: HB 1, SB 50, and CS/SB 72

Since our last update, 68 more bills have been filed, bringing the total to over 3,089 Bills currently filed for the 2021 Florida Legislative Session. This edition will discuss a number of developments on major bills already discussed and due to the late period of the Session (one week remaining on the same), we will address some that have actually become law. The regular legislative session convened on Tuesday, March 2 and runs through Friday, April 30.

April 22, 2021

HB 1

You might recall a significant amount of passionate language opposing this bill coming from these articles as well as from various democratic organizations. This bill is often touted as the “anti-riot bill” which is simply marketing by the GOP. Destroying property is already illegal. Perpetrating violence upon others is already illegal. The only think this bill makes illegal is the ability for people to protest injustice and organize for change. It limits the ability of people to make their voices heard in the ways that have history been the only ways to bring about equitable change. It also sanctions the running over of protestors by eliminating civil liability for doing so in certain situations.

This, as noted numerous times, is a significant restriction on our civil liberties and has been pushed by the state GOP at the behest of Governor DeSantis who signed this bill on April 19, 2021 and is now a law. There have already been legal challenges against this bill which this author certainly hopes prevails. Though our legislature and state executive have greatly let us down and trampled on our constitutional rights, there is still hope through the judiciary for this bill to be tossed as it should have been long ago.

All Floridians should remember this attack on their liberties once it is time to go to the ballot box. The record of the votes in both houses are presented for posterity at the following sites. The Senate Floor vote can be found here and the House floor vote can be found here.

SB 50

This bill was originally introduced as a bipartisan measure intended to tax sales by online retailers in the state of Florida in order to level the playing field for our local small businesses who were forced to compete with massive online retailers on unequal footing as, on top of their overhead benefitting our local communities such as employment, business taxes, etc., also had to charge sales tax while their online competitors did not. It is also worth noting that this bill passed a number of committees on a unanimous, bipartisan basis.

In the end, however, the GOP took this opportunity to help mom and pop local businesses combat unfair competition and instead turn it into an entirely different bill. Senator Gruters, on March 24, substantially amended the bill adding entire sections to the bill, removing the brackets originally included in the bipartisan bill along with whole other sections, diverting funds, etc. This bill was adopted the very next day on March 25 on a 30-10 vote. The bill’s vote history can be found here and it was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on April 19, 2021.

CS/SB 72

This bill was signed into law by the governor on March 29, 2021 after narrowly passing through the committees on a 7-4 vote in the Judiciary Committee, a 7-4 vote in the Commerce and Tourism committee, and a 10-5 vote in the Rules committee. Ultimately the bill passed the Senate with a 24-15 vote and the House by an 83-31 vote.

This bill creates limitations on civil liability as a result of COVID-19. It forces a potential plaintiff to obtain an affidavit from a licensed Doctor attesting to that Doctor’s belief that the COVID-19-related damages were as a result of the defendant’s acts or omissions (typically evidence at a trial but not dispositive, as fact-finding is often a duty of the Jury not an expert witness.

This bill also allows the court to decide if the defendant made a “good faith effort” to comply with government-issued health standards or guidance at the time of the action and, if so, confers the defendant with immunity from liability.

This is just one example of the ways that this bill shields individuals with extraordinary levels of immunity from liability due to damages caused by exposing individuals to COVID-19. The full text of this bill can be found here.

Written by

David Puentes