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Nearly 100 Bills Passed In FL Legislature Remain In Limbo

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a committee meeting
Andrew Harnik

Even though the this year's regular legislative session was not especially productive in terms of the number of bills passed, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet acted on more than a third of them.

Two months after the regular session ended, the governor still must decide the fate of 97 of 275 bills that passed. Eleven are on his desk, and 86 more remain in control of the legislature, with the start of a new fiscal year just days away.

The bills in political purgatory include Senate Bill 54, ending no-fault car insurance and replacing it with mandatory bodily injury coverage. The state itself warns that the change could drive up premiums next year — not an appealing prospect for DeSantis when he’s running for re-election.

Another controversial bill, Senate Bill 1194, would retroactively wipe out a Key West referendum that banned large cruise ships from docking in the southernmost city. Republicans said the vote was bad for commerce. Arlo Haskell leads an effort in the Keys to get a veto from DeSantis.

“If this bill is signed, it’s overthrowing the results of a free and fair election,” Haskell said. “And it would be inviting a water quality disaster to return to the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary.”

Haskell is an author and Key West native who made the long, 10-hour drive to Tallahassee late in the session to testify on the bill, only to be marginalized by senators who allowed him, and his neighbors, just 30 seconds of remote testimony each to make their case.

“It was something else,” Haskell said. “We had 17 of us up there, a big, big trip, and to be shut down like that again and again … They don’t like a lot of public input in Tallahassee. That was my takeaway, for sure.”

It is unheard of for lawmakers to reach back in time and wipe out a vote of the people. Democratic Senator Lori Berman of Boynton Beach argued on the Senate floor in April that it would be a mistake.

“I just want everyone to realize that we just put the amendment on having to do with Key West, and it basically says it’s going to apply to every single port. So, if you have a port in your district, know that the people in your district are not going to have their voices heard on some of these issues. I urge you to consider that very strongly as you vote on this bill today.”

Other bills still in limbo would require child safety alarms in day care transport vehicles; shift the licensing of most occupations from cities and counties to the state; and require the state to hire a vendor to create a new digital driver’s license, which would be on your phone, not in your wallet.

DeSantis has used his veto pen sparingly so far this year. The only bill he's vetoed would have created a new emergency response fund in the governor’s office.

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.