The 2023 Florida legislative session summarized: Here are 10 big issues that passed

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Aerial photo of downtown Tallahassee, Florida and the State Capitol
Aerial photo of downtown Tallahassee, Florida and the State Capitol. By felixmizioznikov via iStock for WMNF.

By Jim Saunders ©2023 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers ended the 2023 legislative session Friday. During the 60-day session, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed numerous high-profile bills that lined up with the priorities of Gov. Ron DeSantis. But Democrats have vowed to fight back. Here are snapshots of 10 big issues:

ABORTION

After passing a 15-week abortion limit in 2022, lawmakers and DeSantis went further this year and approved a plan (SB 300) to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week limit would take effect if the Florida Supreme Court rules that a privacy clause in the state Constitution does not protect abortion rights. A new group is trying to add a constitutional amendment that would specifically protect medical decisions in Florida.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

In a priority of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, lawmakers passed a plan (SB 102) aimed at making housing more affordable for workers. The bill, signed by DeSantis, includes providing incentives for investments in affordable housing and encouraging mixed-use developments in commercial areas.

BUDGET

The House and Senate on Friday passed a record $117 billion budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which will start July 1. The plan will go to DeSantis, who has line-item veto power. Lawmakers on Friday also passed a wide-ranging tax package (HB 7063) that includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” and trimming a commercial-lease tax.

DEATH PENALTY

Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 450) that eliminated a requirement for unanimous jury recommendations before judges can impose death sentences. The bill lowered the threshold to recommendations of eight of 12 jurors. Lawmakers also approved a bill (HB 1297) aimed at allowing death sentences for people who rape children under age 12.

ELECTIONS

In the latest round of partisan battles about elections laws, Republican legislators passed a bill (SB 7050) that would place additional restrictions on voter registration groups, ease campaign-finance reporting requirements and change a “resign to run” law to help clear the way for DeSantis to potentially run for president in 2024.

GUNS

Lawmakers and DeSantis approved a measure (HB 543) that will allow Floridians to carry guns without concealed-weapons licenses. Called “constitutional carry” by supporters, it will do away with a decades-old licensing process. The House also unsuccessfully sought to undo a 2018 law that prevents people under age 21 from buying rifles and other long guns.

IMMIGRATION

Taking aim at federal border policies, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 1718) that includes stepping up requirements on businesses to check the immigration status of workers, cracking down on people who bring undocumented immigrants into Florida and collecting data about whether hospital patients are in the country legally.

LAWSUIT LIMITS

In a major win for business groups, lawmakers and DeSantis approved a bill (HB 837) aimed at helping shield businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits. The bill, which drew opposition from plaintiffs’ attorneys, includes changes such as shortening the time to file negligence lawsuits and largely eliminating “one-way” attorney fees.

LGBTQ ISSUES

Lawmakers passed a series of bills targeting LGBTQ issues. That included a bill (SB 254) that would bar doctors from providing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to transgender minors. Also, they approved expanding a prohibition on instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools (HB 1069).

SCHOOL VOUCHERS

In a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, lawmakers and DeSantis approved a bill (HB 1) that will make every student eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers, which could be used for private-school tuition and other expenses. The bill includes ending income requirements in current voucher programs.

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