Insider Updates: 2017 FL Legislative Session Recap

The whirlwind of the 2017 legislative session is officially behind us, and I wanted to share with you the historic progress we made this year, the bad bills we defeated, and the unfinished business still ahead of us.


Your support of Equality Florida keeps us on the front lines in Tallahassee and ensures our community will always have an advocate in the hallways of the Capitol. Check out our insider updates below:





Florida Competitive Workforce Act,

SB 666 by Clemens & HB 623 by Diamond and Plasencia

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) is our top priority. This bill would finally prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians and ensure that Florida is a safe place to live, work, and play for all people, including those who are LGBTQ.


INSIDER’S REPORT: We have achieved UNPRECEDENTED support for the FCWA! A record 70 legislators have signed on as cosponsors of this bipartisan legislation - that’s nearly HALF of all 160 legislators in the Florida House and Senate!


With 44% of the legislature co-sponsoring the bill and enough support to pass if it reached the floor, Florida is poised to be a breakthrough state on LGBTQ equality. Unfortunately House and Senate leadership is still blocking its path and continues to prevent the bill from getting a single hearing in either Chamber. We must continue to push House and Senate leadership to move Florida in the direction of protecting all Floridians from discrimination of any kind.


Their inaction is not neutral. Our impatience is justified. And this year more than ever, I am so grateful to have you behind me pushing the legislature to defend and affirm the rights of LGBTQ Floridians.





Sweeping Local Preemptions,

SB 1158 by Passidomo & HB 17 by Fine

Both of these bills, though slightly different from each other, would have gutted the ability of local governments to pass policies that benefit their constituents, and would have put all local LGBTQ protections at risk along with a whole host of other policies. Thankfully, these extreme bills were rejected by the Florida legislature, thanks to a diverse chorus of advocacy organizations, local governments, and the LGBTQ community.


INSIDER’S REPORT: After only ONE hearing in the House and ZERO hearings in the Senate, these bills are DEAD! HB 17 and SB 1158 were both monstrous in scope and would have undone decades of progress in banning LGBTQ discrimination in Florida. We know that preemption bills are one of the newest and most terrifying ways our opponents are seeking to roll back our progress on LGBTQ issues - we’re grateful to have defeated these bills this year and we will be ready to fight back at every turn.




Religious Expression In Schools,

SB 436 by Baxley and HB 303 by Daniels

We will be monitoring the implementation of the legislation closely to ensure it does not open the door to discrimination in Florida’s schools. The freedom of religion is fundamental to our values, but we are very concerned that this bill went beyond the First Amendment protections afforded to all students and teachers and could create unintended consequences for students who are religious minorities, those who identify as LGBTQ, or who are non-religious.


INSIDER’S REPORT: We worked with our partners at the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU of Florida to amend the bill in the House of Representatives, removing the overly broad language that we feared could create unsafe situations for LGBTQ and religious minority students. However, after EQFL withdrew our opposition to the amended House bill, Senate sponsor Dennis Baxley failed to take up the House language and the original SB 436 passed both chambers. The bill now heads to Governor Rick Scott for his signature or veto.


This bill may be far-right political posturing without teeth, nonetheless, we will be closely monitoring the implementation of this legislation and remain concerned that it could be used to harm vulnerable communities in our schools. We are prepared to challenge in court any law that creates a license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.




HIV Criminalization Reform,

SB 628 by Garcia & HB 605 by Jones

Florida is the state with the highest rate of new HIV infections in the country, and this bill is designed to reduce criminal penalties that unreasonably target persons living with HIV. Laws that criminalize HIV status disregard recent medical breakthroughs and are motivated by unfair stigma towards people living with HIV. What's more, these laws actually discourage folks from getting tested, therefore contributing to the spread of HIV in our state.


INSIDER’S REPORT: This historic bipartisan legislation passed unanimously out of its first committee in the Senate this year! We are so proud to be part of the HIV Justice Coalition working to pass this crucial bill to modernize statutes that impact people living with HIV, and we will be back next year to continue advocating for legislation that combats the spread of HIV.





Repeal Unconstitutional TRAP bill, HB 6025 by Berman & SB 1114 by Clemens

FACE Act, SB 1740 by Stewart & HB 1139 by Mercado

INSIDER'S REPORT: We worked with our partners at Planned Parenthood, Florida NOW, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health to advocate for these proactive, pro-reproductive justice bills - the very first year they’ve ever been introduced! It is so important to remind legislators that they can NOT turn lies into laws, and that we must protect access to reproductive health services for all Floridians. Even though these bills were not heard in committee this year, we helped gather support from 10 cosponsors on the Repeal bill and 9 cosponsors on the FACE Act and helped provide a counter narrative to the extreme right.





Abortion Liability bill,

HB 19 by Grall & SB 1140 by Stargel

INSIDER'S REPORT: This bill saw a similar fate as HB 17. This legislation looked like a classic attack on abortion rights, but instead drew major opposition from a whole host of groups: insurance companies, attorneys, Florida Medical Association, AND reproductive justice organizations like Planned Parenthood. The bills died in committee and never reached the floor of either chamber for a full vote, thanks to so many of YOU who called your legislator and voiced your opposition. Abortion should be safe, legal, and accessible, and we’ll always support full reproductive justice for all of us.




Expanded Background Checks, SB 1334 by Farmer & HB 1113 by Antone

Assault Weapons Ban, SB 254 by Stewart & HB 167 by Smith

After the Pulse massacre in Orlando claimed 49 lives, injured 53 people, and traumatized thousands more, we committed to advocating for common sense policies to prevent gun violence in our state. As a founding member of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, we have joined forces with our allies to advocate for policies that will keep all of our families safer.


INSIDER'S REPORT: Along with a coalition of over 100 nonpartisan organizations, we advocated for new restrictions on military-style assault weapons like the weapon used in the attack at Pulse, and a law that would require universal background checks on all gun purchases. Even though these bills were not heard in committee this year, we helped provide a counter narrative to the irresponsible gun lobby and gathered support from 4 cosponsors for Universal Background Checks and 7 cosponsors on the Assault Weapons Ban.



The landscape in Tallahassee has shifted dramatically for Equality Florida. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, our consistent and persistent presence in the Florida Capitol over the last two decades has earned our community a deep respect, even from our opponents. Our strategy has always been built on bipartisan support, carving out victories in a hostile climate, and finding common ground with our opponents to move equality forward against all odds.


The landscape in our country has shifted too, Brittany. Now more than ever, our communities understand we must stand in solidarity together. An attack on one of us is truly an attack on ALL of us, and we know that we must have an intersectional approach in order to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ community. I’m proud to say we forged deeper partnerships with our allies, spoke up on a range of issues that impact our entire community, and are intentionally shaping our legislative priorities through an intersectional lens. I’m proud to walk these halls for you and grateful for everyone who came to Lobby Days, responded to an action alert, or contacted a legislator. Your voice matters and and I look forward to continuing the work of advocating for full equality for ALL of us.


NOTE: Our session is over but our friends in Texas need our help! Sign up now to make calls from home with NEAT - the National Equality Action Team - and help defeat over 20 anti-LGBTQ bills currently working their way through the Texas Legislature.












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