Drugs, Communism, Confederacy: Update on Seven Big Florida Bills

Drugs, Communism, Confederacy: Update on Seven Big Florida Bills

As the Legislative Session draws closer to the end, lawmakers are hitting on issues like defamation, parental rights, and much more...

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
February 19, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—As the 9-week Legislative Session nears its end on March 8, Lawmakers are scrambling to get their bills passed, including a series of controversial measures involving revamped defamation lawsuits, social media bans, and an anti-communism curriculum in classrooms. Here are updates on seven big bills this session:

Defamation Lawsuits: For the second year in a row, Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur is sponsoring a bill making it easier to sue journalists for defamation. The measure presumes that if a reporter published a false statement by an anonymous source, they acted with “actual malice” — which is the standard in a defamation lawsuit. Last year, the defamation bill died before its final committee stop. Brodeur's SB 1780, along with its House companion HB 757, both have just one committee stop left before their respective Senate and House Floor destinations.

Social Media Ban: The House has already passed a blanket ban on children under 16 using social media. In an interesting twist, the bill has united both Florida Democrats and Gov. DeSantis in criticisms of the bill's lack of parental rights provisions, with both camps upset that parents won't be allowed to make decisions on their children's online activities. The Senate Floor will take up HB 1 on Wednesday—creating a make-or-break decision for the bill. Will Senators side with DeSantis and the Democrats? Or will Florida prevent minors on these platforms, ultimately ignoring the Governor's call?

Communism: A Republican-led initiative would create a Governor-appointed communism task force within the Department of Education, assigned to develop an anti-communism curriculum taught from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. The bill would instruct students on the "growing threat" of communism, alleging that Communism continues to be viewed positively by a significant portion of the U.S. population. SB 1264 will see its final committee stop on Tuesday, while its House companion, HB 1349, must also complete its final committee stop, though it has yet to be scheduled.

Kratom: In the past few years, the Florida Legislature has cracked down on Kratom, a popular herbal substance used throughout the state to combat opioid addiction. SB 842 and HB 861 would ban processors from preparing, selling, or distributing adulterated Kratom, prohibit labels claiming the product is intended to treat or cure medical conditions and require these processors to include directions for safe use of the product. Last year, DeSantis signed into law a bill banning Kratom use for individuals under 21. SB 842 has two committee stops left before the Floor, while HB 861 has yet to see committee.

Confederate Monuments: A highly contested bill that would ban the removal, destruction, or damaging of Confederate monuments or memorials faced dramatic debate in its last Senate appearance, in which a Democratic Senator was cussed out, causing all Democrats to leave the bill hearing before a vote could be called. SB 1122 has just one committee stop left before the Senate Floor, but Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo voiced her concerns on the conversations surrounding the measure—leaving many to wonder if it will make it to the Floor. Its House companion, HB 395, has two committee stops left.

Child Labor Laws: Florida Republicans would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work more than eight hours a day, or more than 30 hours a week—even when school is in session. The broader House version, HB 49, would also require teens to be entitled to the same number of breaks as adult employees, which could mean no breaks. While Republicans say this will help boost the economy, Democrats worry about the potential exploitation of children. While SB 1596 has two more committee stops before the Senate Floor, HB 49 need only be scheduled for the House Floor.

Marijuana: Regulations for nonmedical marijuana use are on the way, with new caps for THC being introduced for cannabis users. HB 1269 and SB 7050 would go into effect 30 days after an amendment passes allowing recreational usage, preventing levels of THC higher than 30% in smokable products, 60% for marijuana extracts, and a cap of 200 milligrams of THC in edible cannabis products. Both bills are awaiting scheduling on the respective House and Senate Floors.


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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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