Lawmakers Navigate Policy Landmines in Sessions's Last Days

Todays News

Photo courtesy Florida House: State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton

As the final week of the legislative session winds down, lawmakers in Sarasota are navigating careful waters on issues like social media use, mental health and development rights.

State Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, will handle key negotiations with the House on a “Live Healthy” package that’s been a priority of Senate leadership. He’s trying to secure funding for important local projects, including pursing money for Mote Marina Laboratory for aquaculture and education needs. But in addition, he is talking to the House about the “Live Healthy” initiative, a public health effort championed by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

A top demand in final days, he said, is to “finalize Behavioral Health component of ‘Live Healthy’ with the House.”

State Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, has carried a top House priority with a social media ban restricting online access for children. Having carried a digital privacy law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, McFarland handled personal data elements this year of a social media bill that had been priority of Speaker Paul Renner. The bill originally prohibited anyone under age 16 from opening or maintaining a social media account, but DeSantis vetoed the bill this week.

But immediately, lawmakers set about preparing a replacement bill that addressed the governor’s concerns on parental consent. The new language would allow a legal guardian to grant permission to 14- and 15-year-olds to have accounts — federal law already prohibits anyone 13 and younger from having internet accounts — while preserving McFarland’s prohibitions on tech companies keeping data and digital profiles on children.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Will Robinson is carefully trying to usher an easement bill that have a rider on real estate sales in China that DeSantis has criticized. Robinson has worked with concerned parties about creating an ability to give property owners to create certain easements on their land. But a Senate version also would roll back parts of a law signed by DeSantis last year prohibiting Chinese nationals from buying certain land in Florida. Robinson’s bill, which will be voted on by the House, has none of that language.

“Assuming that passes we will ship it to the Senate,” Robinson said. “Conversations may accelerate from there, and if they do I want to be looped in.” His big concern, though, is making sure whatever version of the bill passes meets muster with DeSantis.

Photo courtesy Florida House: State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton

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