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Some Florida lawmakers hopeful property insurance session stays near topic

'I would hate to see them dragging in data privacy, or, you know, paycheck protection,' Sen. Jeff Brandes says
Posted at 5:30 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 17:30:55-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In two weeks, state lawmakers return to the Capitol to tackle property insurance reform, but the governor has said to expect more than that.

Other policies, he said, could be on the table. We just don't know which, yet.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the special session last month. He also said negotiations were ongoing to expand its focus.

"We may also address other issues that came close to getting across the finish line that maybe we can tweak and get there," DeSantis said at a press event in Jacksonville. "Once we have an agreement on that, I will be announcing that as an addition as well."

We haven't heard anything since, though several bills have a chance of popping up.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes
State Sen. Jeff Brandes hopes Florida lawmakers stay focused on the property insurance problems facing residents during the upcoming special session.

Condo reform following the Surfside collapse is likely chief among them. A bill requiring regular and comprehensive building inspections for high-rises failed to get through the Florida House this year. That's despite bipartisan support in both chambers.

"We were very close before on that issue," said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

Brandes thinks the inspections bill is a vital policy that gels with property insurance legislation. Anything beyond that, he worried, would be a distraction.

"I would hate to see them dragging in data privacy, or, you know, paycheck protection, or any of the more controversial issues," Brandes said. "That is really going to divide us when we all need to be working together to solve the property insurance crisis and the condo issues."

Far-right Republicans, meanwhile, are not shying away from controversy.

Some have started urging the governor to take up further abortion restrictions or a constitutional carry bill.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini
Rep. Anthony Sabatini speaks about his support for changing Florida's open carry laws.

Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Clermont, is one of the most vocal on the gun rights issue.

"Weak and spineless Republicans are too afraid of controversial issues to push it," Sabatini said. "But, with [DeSantis'] support, we'll get it through."

Constitutional carry could allow Floridians to carry guns without training or a permit. DeSantis recently vowed to sign it if it arrives on his desk.

"I can't tell you if it's going to be next week — six months," DeSantis said. "I can tell you that before I am done as governor, we will have a signature on that bill."

Then there is a slew of Democrats calling on and calling out DeSantis to act on high rent.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, has joined 27 other Democratic lawmakers in sending a letter to the governor, seeking to reduce costs that have jumped 20% or more in some areas.

"At this point, Floridians cannot afford to live in Florida," she said.

To date, the governor has not given an indication he is interested in rent-related policy, only saying that inflation remains the largest economic issue.

The special session begins May 23 and runs through May 27.

While time appears to be running out for an expanded focus, DeSantis made a last-minute surprise expansion during April's special session on redistricting. He broadened the call on the first day to include controversial bills limiting Disney's special privileges.