Legislative Roundup Part 3
Seniority benefits Seminole Rep. David Smith’s leadership skills
If you read the previous article First-year Representatives Bankson, Plakon, and Plasencia dedicated to hard work and Republican values, then you got a taste of the amount of work first-year Representatives are expected to accomplish and that was just part of their legislative duties.
Senior Congressmen such as Rep. David Smith (Dist. 38) chair the committees with which the first-year Representatives are assigned. For instance, Smith, a retired Marine Colonel, is the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining, Vice-Chair of the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Republican Committee Whip on the Infrastructure Strategies Committee. A committee whip is responsible for counting heads and rounding up party members for votes and quorum calls and they assume leadership of the committee should the Chair be absent.
He also sits on the Transportation and Modals Subcommittee (a subcommittee of the Infrastructure Strategies Committee), the Rules Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and the Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Senior Congressmen also debate on the House Floor, participate in budgetary matters advocating for funding for their districts or for statewide initiatives, and, of course, sponsor and co-sponsor bills.
This past session Smith sponsored twelve bills, nine of which successfully passed and three that died in committee. Bills that passed include a bill that adds judicial assistants and their families to list of public records exemptions, a veterans’ services and recognition bill, expunction of criminal history records for certain people, a bill concerning offenses against certain animals, interstate education compacts, a public records and meetings exemption for the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact Commission, modification of a regulation concerning car dealer leasing and rental affiliates, a bill that revises regulations concerning Sanford Airport Authority and a bill which modifies regulations regarding the Florida Institutions Inmate Welfare Trust Fund.
Smith also co-sponsored 11 bills with six passing. Bills included the Catalytic Converter Anti-Theft Act, a bill to preserve abandoned and historic cemeteries, two bills to modify the Florida Retirement System, a bill modifying the public nuisance laws, and a bill that modifies the law concerning assault and battery on hospital personnel.
Besides providing constituent services, Rep. Smith also drafts, promotes, and helps shape legislation and provides oversight on relevant and critical issues as well as collaborates and negotiates with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and advance legislation in a bipartisan effort.
Barbara Haiss Martin is an award-winning journalist who has lived in Seminole County with her husband, John, since 1972.
New Laws Passed in 2023 | Legislative Roundup Part 3
Florida’s New Medical Freedom Laws
Gov. DeSantis signed four pieces of legislation into law in the 2023 Legislative session that provide strong protections of medical freedom for Floridians. The laws address medical mandates, empower doctors, and prohibit dangerous gain of function research. For a summary, click here to view a PDF created by the Governor’s Office.
Below is from the Governor’s Office news release issued May 11, 2023:
“The landmark legislative package signed today safeguards residents’ freedom by ensuring no patient is forced by a business, school, or government entity to undergo testing, wear a mask, or be vaccinated for COVID-19. The legislation also affords medical professionals the freedom to collaborate with patients in prescribing alternative treatments and protects physicians’ freedom of speech. Lastly, Florida is the first state to ban unsafe and unregulated gain-of-function research, like the research conducted in the Wuhan lab.”
The bills signed into law include the following:
Senate Bill 252– Most Comprehensive Medical Freedom Bill in the Nation:
- Prohibiting business and governmental entities from requiring individuals to provide proof of vaccination or post-infection recovery from any disease to gain access to, entry upon, or service from such entities.
- Prohibiting employers from refusing employment to or discharging, disciplining, demoting, or otherwise discriminating against an individual solely on the basis of vaccination or immunity status.
- Prevents discrimination against Floridians related to COVID-19 vaccination or immunity status, etc.
House Bill 1387 – Banning Gain of Function Research:
- Prohibiting “gain of function” research, also known as enhanced potential pandemic pathogen research.
Senate Bill 1580 – Physicians Freedom of Speech:
- Providing that health care providers and health care payors have the right to opt out of participation in or payment for certain health care services on the basis of conscience-based objections.
- Providing requirements for a health care provider’s notice and documentation of such objection.
- Providing whistle-blower protections for health care providers and health care payors that take certain actions or disclose certain information relating to the reporting of certain violations.
- Prohibiting boards, or the Department of Health if there is no board, from taking disciplinary action against or denying a license to an individual based solely on specified conduct, etc.
Senate Bill 238 – Public Records/Protection from Discrimination Based on Health Care Choices
- Providing an exemption from public records requirements for certain information relating to complaints or investigations regarding violations of provisions protecting from discrimination based on health care choices.
These laws make Florida a leader in medical freedom — something to remember as talk of mask mandates and new COVID variants increases, just in time for the Presidential primary season. The 2024 Iowa Republican presidential caucuses will be held on January 15, 2024. Florida’s Presidential primary is on March 19, 2024.
In case you missed reading the more than 200 laws passed during the 2023 Florida Legislative session, here are the links to the chapter PDFs: