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What didn't get done during Florida's latest special session and what comes next

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Posted at 5:28 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-28 00:55:55-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A lot did get done during this week’s special session in Tallahassee.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed substantive property insurance and condo reform into law.

But plenty of other things didn’t happen, despite lawmakers urging approval from the right and left.

Democrats, this week, tried to curb what they considered a rent crisis in Florida. Members of the minority party pushed rent stabilization and expansion of existing housing programs to curb prices that have jumped 20% or more in some areas.

“People are struggling,” said Rep. Andrew Learned (D-Riverview), Wednesday. “This is something that is within our power to do— not over time, but today.”

They called for a formal expansion of the special session’s focus and added amendments to the two property insurance bills under lawmaker consideration.

The GOP majority wasn’t interested. That was after passing new tax cuts this year and fully funding the now smaller state housing trust. Some also felt restrictions on the market would further exacerbate its problems.

It was unclear if views would soften by the next legislative session despite ongoing criticism from the left.

Senate Dems also wanted to vet Florida’s new Secretary of State Cord Byrd before the midterms. They urged the GOP majority to hold confirmation hearings in the upper chamber.

The governor has backed the former state representative and Conservative Republican as “an ally of freedom and democracy.” The minority caucus has been concerned Byrd is too partisan.

Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Plantation) got a “no” from the Senate President due to time constraints. It was something Book sounded understanding of when asked about it earlier his week.

“Quite frankly, we’ve got to be focused on this very large piece of policy that’s in front of us,” Book said. “But, it’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”

Confirmation will now happen during the next regular session, which begins in March. Byrd will hold his new post in the meantime.

Pro-life advocates also rallied for further abortion restrictions beyond the new 15-week ban. Their efforts didn’t seem likely to get traction this week. Leading up to the special session, the governor never offered the idea support when asked during press conferences.

“If you look at the protections I signed into law a couple of weeks ago— those were the strongest Florida has seen in decades,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said May 3rd.

Republicans have already vowed to try again next year. It’s the same with constitutional carry. It, too, did not get anywhere this week. Supporters believed the backing is there, however.

Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) said it’ll happen next March, despite the recent mass shooting in Texas.

“In discussions with my colleagues, I think it’s something we’re going to do,” said Fine. “Obviously, lots of other states have done it. Things seem to be going fine in those states. So, I do think we’re going to be doing it here in Florida.”

One thing to consider is how the election will factor into loosened gun laws and the other potential policy goals. Republicans passed a lot of polarizing bills this year. If voters reward them with more seats in November — expect more controversial policy in 2023.