Lawmakers Leave Much Work Undone In Wake Of 2018 Legislative Session
It was one of the least productive legislative sessions in recent times—at least when it comes to the number of bills Florida lawmakers approved. In addition to big issues such as sexual harassment and human trafficking, there were a bevy of other issues legislators decided to pass on for the time being.
Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto says in the end, lawmakers ran out of time when it came to passing new laws to curb sexual harassment in the workplace.
“The desire of myself, Senator Book and many folks in leadership and beyond are focused on that as well. It's just that, we’ve been hyper focused on making sure we do all we can for the communities that have been affected [by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting]."
This year’s lawmaking session began in the wake of two senators who resigned—one for an affair with a lobbyist, the other for sexually harassing a Senate aid and propositioning another lobbyist for sex. Two other senators also confessed to an affair with each other. Also among the pieces of dead legislation—another measure that would have allowed victims of human trafficking to sue hotels and businesses that enable it. Democratic Senator Lauren Book ended up having to defend her decision to pull her own bill:
“If my record and the things I’ve done in the space of protecting victims of sexual assault wasn’t so long and personal to me, it’s laughable. So some of the ire I’ve received from some individuals is misplaced," Book said when asked why she pulled the human trafficking measure from its final committee hearing.
Meanwhile, Representative Lori Slosberg, whose twin sister died in a car accident by a distracted driver, saw her efforts to make texting while driving a primary offense go down—despite last minute efforts by fellow Representative Jackie Toledo to save it.
“We’ve given the senate ample time to act on issues that are important to women," Toledo said during a last-minute meeting of the women's caucus as session neared its end.
"You’ve given me feedback on what’s important to us and they failed us. They have not heard us and we’re not going to give up. We will not be silent and we will fight back because these issues are important to all of us.”
Those are just a few of the hundreds of measures that didn’t go anywhere, as the 2018 legislative session ground to a halt in the wake of the Parkland Florida high school shooting. Plans to reform the state’s insurance laws and crack down on contractors failed, to the chagrin of… But there were other failures that were celebrated. 1000 Friends of Florida’s Thomas Hawkins was sounding the alarm over a bill he says could have endangered local growth management rules.
“We’ve been focused on Orange County, where there’s environmentally sensitive land near the Econlockhatchee River within three miles of the University of Central Florida’s campus. HB 883 says it doesn't matter what th eland looks like or what the local government says, if its within three miles of a university, it's open to urban development. We think that’s bad policy.”
And many other proposals threatening the power of local governments, also failed, to the pleasure of groups like the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.
"Sometimes its not about what passed, but what didn't pass," said interim City of Tallahassee Manager, Reese Goad.
Still, as with most issues, those that didn’t get through eventually make their way back.