Eyeing the Upcoming Legislative Sessions

Florida Legislature

As the Florida Legislature gears up for a special session in December, they have yet to announce a coalesced legislative agenda for their regular session beginning in March. Republicans control supermajorities in both houses so they will set the legislative agenda next year.

The December special session, scheduled to take place from the 12th to the 16th, looks to focus on the state’s property insurance industry but might also look at property tax rebates for the areas affected by Hurricane Ian. This will be the fourth special session this year and the second dealing with property insurance. Governor DeSantis has not yet stated what specifically he wants to get done during the session, but he is optimistic that the Legislature will pass meaningful changes. “There were things we wanted to do [during the May special session] that the Legislature was not willing to do. I think we will be able to do that in this special session.” The new House Speaker Paul Renner also did not give specifics, but did state his overall goal of strengthening the private insurance market and reduce the number of policies Citizens holds. He believes that while the outcome(s) of the special session will help reduce homeowners insurance premiums, a reduction in rates will not be seen immediately. “It’s important to know [the changes] will not result in an overnight drop in insurance rates. We have to see probably two, three years as those policies turn over.” Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis provided a list of specific reforms he would like to see enacted, including banning homeowners from letting contractors directly bill insurers and creating a special prosecutor who only deals with property insurance fraud.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo alluded to her legislative priorities in a press release published last week. Her number one priority is making housing and rent more affordable for Floridians. She also wants the State Senate to focus on expanding parental rights and increasing environmental protections.

Incoming Speaker of the House Paul Renner echoed Passidomo’s call to address affordable housing and to expand parental rights. He wants to quash ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in Florida, calling it “an ideological sham that hurts all of us.” He also wants to address long-term infrastructure and improve Florida’s water quality.

The State House has not discussed specific legislation yet, but they did make a few parliamentary changes. One new rule in HR-10 punishes legislators who engage in protests inside the legislative chambers. This rule seeks to prevent a future incident similar to the one that occurred in April, when elected Democrats staged an hour-long sit-in while trying to prevent the passage of a new Congressional map. Another rule change concerns “repealer bills”, which moving forward will be treated as a general bill and will count toward a State Representative’s limit of bills they can bring to the floor. House members are allowed to introduce only seven general bills during each session.

Lobbying and special interest groups have already reached out to the leaders in both houses of the Legislature, asking them to address their concerns. The most vocal groups are asking the Legislature to include abortion rights and environmental protections to the session. Florida Conservation Voters are calling for the Legislature to create a Joint Select Committee on the “climate crisis.” Earlier this year Governor DeSantis signed a bill creating the position of Chief Resiliency Officer within the Governor’s Executive Office, along with other resiliency efforts.