Interesting Florida bills to keep an eye on as lawmakers get back to work

It’s the holiday season, and for those fortunate enough to take some time off of work, it’s an opportunity to rest, relax and spend time with loved ones before the new working year begins.

fl legislatureLawmakers are no different. Come January, Florida’s state legislators are back to work as legislative committee meetings commence. Committee meetings, of course, are a critical part of the sausage-making process that produces oodles of new laws every year.

In total, five weeks of committee meetings are scheduled to occur before the actual state legislative session begins March 3, 2015. One week before is the bill filing deadline.

That might be three months away, but lawmakers aren’t exactly waiting around sipping eggnog, pinky-up.

According to the Florida Senate’s bill registry, 97 bills have already been filed. Representatives in the state House have filed 168 bills. Some address important issues such as pension reform, anti-discrimination and taxes. Others, are more obscure — though no less important to their respective special interests.

On the heels of a record $77 billion state budget, and a projected $628 million general revenue increase on the horizon, the race is on to file legislation.

Last year’s session saw 2,827 total bills filed. Not all of them became laws, of course, but that doesn’t mean lawmakers weren’t trying. Here at Watchdog, we’re trying to do our part to shed light on a few bills that may be overlooked for the bigger ticket items. Here’s a look at a few interesting ones currently in the taxpayer queue:

Greyhound racing injuries: Before you start thinking this in a politically motivated bleeding-heart animal rights bill, consider it’s dubbed the “Victoria Q. Gaetz Racing Greyhound Protection Act.” Gaetz is the wife of former Senate President Don Gaetz, a conservative Republican from the Florida panhandle. The bill would require dog tracks to report racing greyhound injuries.

Sexual orientation change efforts: Licensed counselors and therapists, listen up. Trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation could land you in hot water with the Florida Department of Health. State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Palm Beach, wants to abolish any attempts by licensed professionals to dissuade young people from pursuing same-sex relationships. The bill does, however, allow for professional support for minors seeking “gender transition” and “identity exploration.” But actively trying to change “gender identity” or “gender expression” is a no-go. Confused? It’s probably safe to assume some members of the Legislature will be, too.

Medical tourism: Without question, Florida’s top industry is tourism. With countless beautiful beaches, a mild winter and Disney World, how could it not be? In 2013, more than 94 million people visited the Sunshine State, generating $76 billion in economic activity and accounting for 23-percent of the state’s sales tax revenues, according to Visit Florida. So why not use taxpayer money to build on that success? That’s at the heart of a new plan to market Florida’s health care facilities as tourism destinations. Because, if you have to have surgery, why not make a vacation out of it?

Read more at Watchdog.org

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

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