2017 Legislative Insider Updates & Lobby Days Recap!

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Posted on March 27, 2017 - 10:35am by Brittany.


We are approaching the halfway mark of the 2017 Legislative Session, and Equality Florida has been hard at work advocating for full LGBTQ equality in Florida.

Last week, I was thrilled to be joined by over 75 volunteer lobbyists at our annual Lobby Days! Our volunteer lobbyists took the Capitol by storm, meeting with dozens of lawmakers to discuss Equality Florida’s legislative priorities. Our team recruited ten co-sponsors for the statewide nondiscrimination bill, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, in just two days. In addition to lobbying for LGBTQ protections, our volunteers also shared their ideas and connections to reproductive justice and gun violence prevention with legislators, two issues that are deeply connected to our community. Overall, 2017 Lobby Days was a huge success thanks to those who committed the time and the resources to travel many hours to Tallahassee and use their voices in support of fairness for all.

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Take a look below for the same insider update our volunteer lobbyists received in the Capitol last week. We still have a lot of work to do - here’s where things stand for Equality Florida’s legislative priorities this year:

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SUPPORTED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
Florida Competitive Workforce Act,
SB 666 by Clemens & HB 623 by Diamond and Plasencia

 

 

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) is our top priority - this bill will finally prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians and will ensure that Florida is a safe place to live, work, and play for all people, including those who are LGBTQ.

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INSIDER’S REPORT: We have achieved UNPRECEDENTED support for the FCWA already! A record 52 cosponsors have signed on to this bipartisan legislation. The support for this common sense legislation is broad AND deep - 16 Republicans are confirmed as cosponsors, including the Senate President Pro Tempore, the former House Majority Leader, and 7 out of 15 members of the first committee of reference in the House of Representatives.

During Lobby Days, our volunteer lobbyists’ chief mission was to share their stories about why the FCWA is urgently needed by the LGBTQ community in Florida, and to remind all legislators that we will hold them accountable to defending the rights of ALL Floridians.

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OPPOSED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
Sweeping Local Preemptions,
SB 1158 by Passidomo & HB 17 by Fine

 

 

 

These bills are thematically similar, though functionally very different. Both seek to remove the authority of local governments to regulate businesses, which puts local LGBTQ protections at risk along with a whole host of other policies. Under the broad definition of regulation in HB 17 and SB 1158, all 42 Human Rights Ordinances which protect 60% of Floridians across the state would be considered a business regulation and would be pre-empted entirely, opening the door for statewide discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

INSIDER’S REPORT: These bills are monstrous in scope. Luckily, Equality Florida is joined by MANY other forces who also oppose these bills - local municipal governments, environmental groups, workers unions, and even organizations like the Humane Society, making these bills very unpopular in the legislature. HB 17 has already passed its first committee in the House and may move quickly, though SB 1158 has a more difficult path ahead. These bills are NOT identical, which also makes it very unlikely that either will become law as written.

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MONITORED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
Religious Expression In Schools,
SB 436 by Baxley and HB 33 by Daniels

 

 

 

This legislation is an overly broad bill that could open the door for discrimination in Florida’s schools. The freedom of religion is fundamental to our values, but this bill goes far beyond the First Amendment protections afforded to all students and teachers, and creates unintended consequences for students who are religious minorities, who identify as LGBTQ, or who are non-religious.

INSIDER’S REPORT: We are proud to have worked with our partners at the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU of Florida on an amendment that removed overly broad language from the House version of the bill. The neutralized version does not expand religious expression in schools, but rather just re-states existing religious protections that already exist under the First Amendment. This amendment has already been adopted with unanimous bipartisan support in the House. We have withdrawn our opposition to HB 303, but remain opposed to SB 436. We are hopeful that it will later be amended to match the neutralized House version.

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SUPPORTED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
HIV Criminalization Reform,
SB 628 by Garcia & HB 605 by Jones

 

 

 

This bill is designed to reduce criminal penalties that unreasonably target persons living with HIV. Laws that ignore science and are based on stigma towards people living with HIV discourage testing, and therefore contribute to the spread of HIV.

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INSIDER’S REPORT: This historic legislation passed unanimously out of its first committee in the Senate last week! We are so proud to be part of the HIV Justice Coalition working to pass this crucial bill to modernize statutes that impact people living with HIV. Thank you to Senator Rene Garcia and Representative Shevrin Jones for introducing this important legislation.

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SUPPORTED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
Repeal Unconstitutional TRAP bill, HB 6025 by Berman & SB 1114 by Clemens
FACE Act, SB 1740 by Stewart & HB 1139 by Mercado

 

 

 

This is the first year that these proactive, pro-reproductive justice bills have been introduced. It is so important to remind legislators that they can NOT turn lies into laws, and that we must protect access to reproductive health services for all Floridians. This is why we are proud to support the repeal of the unconstitutional TRAP Bill. TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers) are bills that unfairly and unconstitutionally target clinics that provide abortion services in an attempt to shut them down. TRAP bills have been ruled unconstitutional in courts across the country, including by a Federal district court here in Florida last year.

Reproductive justice means ensuring access to safe and legal abortion, but it also means combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS and supporting access to basic healthcare in our state. These bills have not yet been heard in committee, but they provide an important counter argument to the narrative that abortion is shameful and dangerous, or that discredits our partners at Planned Parenthood and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

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SUPPORTED BY EQUALITY FLORIDA
Expanded Background Checks, SB 1334 by Farmer & HB 1113 by Antone
Assault Weapons Ban, SB 254 by Stewart & HB 167 by Smith

 

 

 

After the Pulse massacre in Orlando claimed 49 lives, injured 53 people, and traumatized thousands more, we committed to advocating for common sense policies to prevent gun violence in combination with our work to move equality forward for LGBTQ people. We know that discrimination against our community can be lethal, and we know that gun violence is a civil rights issue that unequally impacts all minority communities. As a founding member of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, we have joined forces with our allies to advocate for policies that will keep all of our families safer.

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As you can see, there has been unprecedented progress for our community already, and yet so much unfinished business in Tallahassee to ensure fairness and equality for LGBTQ Floridians. Our community’s visibility has created a seismic shift in support for full equality, and it is so important for legislators to hear the stories of LGBTQ people and our allies. Your support of Equality Florida keeps us on the front lines in Tallahassee and ensures our community will always have an advocate in the hallways of the Capitol.

Click here to read more about our 2017 Legislative Priorities.

 

 

 

 

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