WMNF’s daily digest of news headlines for Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

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Abortion rights

Pointing to “long-established fundamental rights,” attorneys for abortion clinics and a physician argued in a brief Monday that the Florida Supreme Court should block a law that prevents abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The brief was an opening step as the Supreme Court considers a case that could determine whether a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution will continue to protect abortion rights. Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has asked justices to reverse more than three decades of legal precedents and find that the privacy clause does not apply to abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis last year approved the 15-week limit amid a national debate about abortion rights. Seven abortion clinics and a physician filed the challenge in June, arguing that the law violated the Constitution’s privacy clause. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed with the plaintiffs and issued a temporary injunction against the law. A decision by the Florida court is months away.

Higher education restrictions

Florida’s Republican-led legislature is planning more restrictions on public higher education in the state—specifically, around what professors can and cannot teach. A plan in the House seeks to eliminate certain majors and minors if they teach anything tangentially related to critical race theory.

Expansion of “don’t say gay”

A House Republican filed a proposal yesterday that would bar instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade. This bill expands on the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed last year would prevent school employees from telling students their preferred pronouns if those pronouns “do not correspond to his or her sex” or asking students about their preferred pronouns. Republican Representative Adam Anderson, of Palm Harbor, filed the bill for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 7. The law passed last year prohibited instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and required it to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in higher grades. Under Anderson’s bill, the “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” test would continue to apply through high school grades up to 12th Equality Florida’s public policy director Jon Harris Maurer, said in a statement saying quote “The DeSantis regime isn’t satisfied with a hostile takeover of traditional public schools. They envision a future where LGBTQ families have no school choice to find dignity or respect.”

Hillsborough boundary changes

Boundary changes for Hillsborough County schools are still in limbo. Hillsborough School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday against the latest proposal.

Water quality legislation

A new bill before the Florida Legislature would prohibit local regulations on water quality and instead hand that authority over to the state. Conservation groups say the bill is one reason why they are describing the upcoming legislative session as, “the session of sprawl.”

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