Sunshine State News: Impactful Bills Await Gov. Rick Scott’s Approval
By Allison Nielsen, Sunshine State News // March 22, 2016
15 days to sign the bills when they reach his desk
(SunshineStateNews) – The 2016 legislative session has come and gone, with most state lawmakers taking it easy after spending 60 days working in Tallahassee.
Now that the hustle and bustle is over in the Florida Capitol, the legislation Florida lawmakers passed heads to its final stop, Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. Once Scott gives a bill a thumbs up, it can officially become law.
This year’s session wrapped up earlier this month with a total of 245 general bills passed by both chambers. State lawmakers passed 27 local bills which will also need Scott’s seal of approval to become law.
While the governor has already approved some bills, several more still have yet to be approved. The governor has 15 days to sign the bills from the time they are delivered to his office — if the governor doesn’t approve or reject a bill within 15 days, it automatically becomes law.
Senate President Andy Gardiner’s Chief of Staff, Katie Betta, told Sunshine State News all bills passed by state lawmakers will be sent to Gov. Scott by the end of the month.
Here are a few of the bills still waiting for their time in the sun to be approved or rejected by Gov. Scott.
HB 307-Medical Marijuana
Perhaps one of the biggest bills of this year’s legislative session revolved around expanding the registry for medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State.
HB 307, sponsored by Sen. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and several other state lawmakers, would revise the requirements for physicians prescribing medical marijuana in Florida. Under the new law, Florida would expand its “Right to Try” act for terminally ill patients.
HB 307 would require patients wishing to receive medical marijuana to get approval from two doctors to verify their “terminally ill” status and would also establish regulations for the five dispensaries statewide to continue in the process of getting non-smokable marijuana to patients.
The bill also establishes that once the registry reaches 250,000 patients, more licenses to grow the plant will be distributed statewide, one of which will be designated for black farmers.
The bill was presented to Scott March 10 and will need to be approved or rejected by Friday.
HB 1411-Abortion Clinic Regulation
This legislation was one of the more controversial bills to pass through the Florida Legislature this year. If the bill passes, it would have several implications for reproductive issues in the Sunshine State.
Part of the bill would require Florida to redefine when a first trimester abortion begins and ends. The bill would also require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and would prohibit state-funded organizations from working with health centers providing abortions in other cases than rape, incest or any conditions threatening the mother’s life. The bill would essentially defund certain organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Supporters of the legislation say it’s a positive step since they believe abortion clinics need to be regulated more closely, but opponents of the bill decried the legislation, saying it will severely limit women’s reproductive rights.
Scott is expected to sign the legislation, but has until Saturday to sign it.
Up until 2016, cohabitation by unmarried men and women had been illegal, but SB 498, sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, would abolish that prohibition.
Gov. Scott has until Thursday to approve or reject the measure.
SB 636-Rape Kits
This legislation was one of the more heavily-pushed items during this year’s legislative session. Sponsored by Sen. Liz Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, it would require local law enforcement agencies to submit sexual assault evidence kits (“rape kits”) within 30 days of beginning their investigation.
The legislation would also require the Florida Department of Law enforcement to do forensic testing on the evidence within 120 days of submission.
Supporters of the legislation say it will help catch rapists and prevent future rapes. Until now, Florida has not required local law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits for testing.
The massive school choice bill, which would change the eligibility for capital funding for charter schools.
The bill would also give high school athletes the ability to transfer schools and have immediate eligibility and would also give public school students the ability to attend any school in the state as long as there is space for them.
This measure was passed by both chambers in the eleventh hour and is still awaiting Gov. Scott’s approval.