Florida Legislature – Interesting Bills Continued

I must say I find some new and interesting legislation each time I check the House and Senate websites to see if they are updated.  There are quite a few today:
SB 620Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami)
This bill would make it illegal to use your cell phone while driving, no matter how you are using the phone.   It would be a noncriminal moving violation, but doesn’t spell out the specific penalty.  Whatever the penalty is, using a phone in a school zone would be double.

SB 536Sen. Mike Benett (R-Bradenton)
This bill has received some press, and even a mention on another blog.  The bill would require drivers to move to the right, unless passing another vehicle or making a left turn.  What a great idea!  A Miami area blog, Stuck on the Palmetto, first posted about this after a St. Petersburg Times article.
Similar bills have been filed for the past several years, but former Governor Jeb Bush vetoed them.  Hopefully, Governor Crist will see that this bill can reduce the number of accidents on state highways, because inconsiderate and oblivious drivers will be moved out of the way.

HB 309Rep. Joe Gibbons (D-Pembroke Park)
I’m sure Kate at Out in Left Field will get a kick out of this bill (as she commented on one of my earlier posts on this subject) — this bill would force restaurants to disclose that they use trans fats in their food preparation.  The actual disclosure from the bill is:  “Some foods served here contain trans fats. Eating foods with trans fats can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.”  It will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere, the Restaurant Association is quite powerful in Tallahassee, but since this is only a disclosure bill – it might pass.

SJR 408Sen. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge)
With a hat tip to Mark Lane at Flablog, this bill proposes an amendment to Florida Constitution to increase the Florida Supreme Court from seven members to fifteen.  Much like when President Franklin Roosevelt proposed expanding the U.S. Supreme Court to nine members, so he could pack the court with friendly nominees, this seems to be a ruse to allow a Republican governor to appoint eight “conservative” justices.

Truthfully, I am not a big fan of tweaking with the judicial system.  Legislators decry “activist judges” who interpret laws differently than they prefer.  However, to simply attempt and end run like this is not right.  It’s like the guy who loses a game, then says “best two out of three?”, then loses and says “best three out of five?”.

SB 734Sen. Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersburg)

This bill would prohibit local government from spending tax dollars to support or oppose an issue, referendum, or amendment that will be on the ballot.  They are still allowed to “factually and objectively describe the purpose” of a measure.

HB 383Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota)
This bill would allow counties to conduct elections by mail.  Oregon has conducted elections by mail for several cycles; however, having up to 10 million ballots hand counted would be a significant problem.  Also, there were a lot of problems with absentee ballots this year, which are discarded if the signature on the ballot doesn’t match the signature on file.

HB 415Rep. Elane Schwartz (D-Hollywood)

This bill would change the order in which candidates’ names appear on the ballot.  Currently, the party who won the last governor’s race (in this case Republican) would have its nominee appear first, followed by the other parties.  This bill would have the names randomly assigned within each precinct.

Campaign consultants will tell you that being first on the ballot can be worth as much as 5% in an election – especially for down-ticket races.  Research has proven this to be the case (NPR did a decent story about this.)  Of course, Democrats would sponsor this to give their 2008 presidential nominee a better chance of winning Florida.  Don’t expect this bill to see the light of day.

HB 513Rep. Ed Homan (R-Temple Terrace)

This bill changes the makeup of the Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, allowing for the local governments in Hillsborough County to appoint a majority of the members.  Currently, a majority are appointed by the Governor.  This is a controversial subject, and I’ve posted about this twice before (here and here).

HB 531Rep. Kevin Ambler (R-Lutz)

This bill would require online dating services to provide members with a notification including a list and description of safety measures reasonably designed to increase awareness of safer dating practices as determined by the provider.  The bill includes some examples.

(Disclosure: I used to work as a Legislative Assistant to Rep. Ambler)

NOTE: There are a lot of bills that deal with property taxes, or the just valuation of property.  So many that I will have to outline them in a separate post.  I had been including them among these lists previously.

It will also be interesting to see what, if any, new property insurance bills come out for the regular session.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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