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It's Done! 2019 Legislature Affects 10 Big Issues

May 4, 2019 - 5:00pm
Early afternoon Saturday: Senate President Bill Galvano thanks a weary Legislature

Florida lawmakers finished the 2019 legislative session Saturday by passing a budget for the upcoming year.

During the two-month session, lawmakers considered hundreds of bills and made $91.1 billion in spending decisions. It also was the first session for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and began the two-year terms of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.

Here are 10 big issues from the 2019 session:

Finally, AOB Reform Bill Heads to an Eager DeSantis

April 24, 2019 - 5:45pm
Bob Rommel

After a fierce lobbying battle that included arguments about insurance rates and “bad actors,” the Florida Senate on Wednesday approved an overhaul of the insurance practice known as assignment of benefits.

The 25-14 vote sends the measure (HB 7065) to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who quickly issued a statement saying he will sign it. Passage of the bill was a major victory for insurers and business groups, which have argued that “AOB” abuses and excessive litigation have driven up homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Reversals Show New Day on the Supreme Court

April 20, 2019 - 7:30am
Florida Supreme Court

On Jan. 4, just days before the start of a makeover of the Florida Supreme Court, justices issued two 4-3 decisions.

The cases drew relatively little attention across the state --- one dealt with Orange County elections, the other with attorney fees in a foreclosure battle. But on the losing end of the decisions were Chief Justice Charles Canady and his frequent allies Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson.

AOB Reform: Bob Rommel Gets It Done in the House

April 12, 2019 - 9:00am
Bob Rommel

With the sponsor saying the bill targets “bad actors,” the House on Thursday passed a controversial bill that would revamp the insurance practice known as assignment of benefits.

The 96-20 vote came on an issue that the insurance industry and business groups have made a top priority as they contend changes are needed to hold down insurance premiums. But the House and Senate have not been able to agree on the issue in past years and still need to reach a compromise before the annual legislative session ends May 3.

Shoaf, Maggard Pick up Primary Wins

April 10, 2019 - 9:00am
Jason Shoaf and Randy Maggard

Jason Shoaf and Randy Maggard could be halfway to the Florida House.

Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican, and Maggard, a Dade City Republican, easily won GOP special primary elections Tuesday as they seek to replace former Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, and former Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills.

Bring on the Horse Trading: House Passes an $89.9 Billion Budget

Plan Could Spur More Underground Power Lines

April 3, 2019 - 7:00am
Randy Fine

After hurricanes during the past three years knocked out electricity for millions of Floridians, lawmakers are moving forward with regulatory changes that could lead to more underground power lines.

But it would come at a cost.

A House panel this week approved a bill (HB 797) that would create a new process that would allow utilities to pass along costs to customers for storm-protection projects, including installing underground power lines. A similar bill (SB 796) has received unanimous approval from two committees.

Lawmakers Getting Behind Hemp Industry

March 26, 2019 - 7:15am
Hemp production

Looking at a potentially lucrative new industry, lawmakers are working on rules for farmers and businesses to grow and sell industrial hemp in Florida.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday approved a bill (SB 1020) that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, which is emerging after a federal law last year legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product. In doing so, Congress effectively separated industrial hemp, a type of cannabis, from marijuana that can get users high.

Judge Sides with Charter Schools in Safety Fight

March 13, 2019 - 9:00am

In a decision that could have statewide implications, an administrative law judge Tuesday ruled that the Palm Beach County School Board is required to assign safety officers to charter schools under a law passed last year.

Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the School Board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle.

Justices Delve into Stand Your Ground Change

March 8, 2019 - 10:30am

Two years after lawmakers approved a controversial change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments about whether the change should apply to a woman charged in a shooting incident outside a Miami-Dade County nightclub.

The defendant, Tashara Love, was charged in 2015, but her case remained pending when lawmakers changed the “stand your ground” law in 2017. The issue before the Supreme Court centers on whether the revised law should apply to Love’s case --- and potentially other cases that began before 2017.

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