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10 Big Issues in the 2024 Session

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By Jim Saunders

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers will start the annual 60-day legislative session on Jan. 9, with Gov. Ron DeSantis giving his State of the State address. Here are 10 issues to watch during the session:

— ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: As access to artificial intelligence continues to expand, lawmakers are expected to consider issues such as the use of the technology in political advertising. Bills would require disclaimers on political ads that include AI-generated content depicting people taking actions that did not really occur.

— BUDGET: Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a $114.4 billion budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, which will start July 1. DeSantis’ proposal is a starting point as lawmakers negotiate a final spending plan. Among other things, DeSantis’ proposal includes money to increase teacher salaries, continue Everglades restoration efforts and upgrade correctional facilities.

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— HEALTH CARE: Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has made a priority of passing two bills aimed at improving access to health care and spurring more health-care innovation. The wide-ranging proposals include expanding residency programs to try to keep doctors in the state and taking steps to divert patients from emergency rooms.

— HURRICANES: After Hurricane Idalia hit North Florida, lawmakers during a November special session took a series of steps to help communities that sustained damage. But lawmakers likely will continue to look at issues related to Idalia and 2022’s Hurricane Ian, including effects on local governments and the agriculture industry.

— INSURANCE: Lawmakers during the past two years have passed major legislation to try to shore up the troubled property-insurance industry. But they face pressure from homeowners who continue to see large rate increases or can’t find coverage. A series of bills could effectively allow more people to get coverage through the state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

— LABOR: Following the lead of other states, the House has started moving forward with a proposal that would loosen regulations about the numbers of hours that 16-year-old and 17-year-old youths can work. The proposal would roll back parts of a decades-old child labor law and prevent local governments from imposing restrictions.

— PUBLIC SCHOOLS: In another priority of Passidomo, the Senate could move quickly during the session to pass proposals about “deregulation” of public schools. Three bills deal with what Passidomo described as cutting “red tape” on issues such as testing and accountability, financial requirements and personnel decisions.

— SOCIAL MEDIA: Saying recently that social media is having a “devastating effect on kids,” House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, is expected to seek to place limits on children’s access to social-media sites. Renner indicated one possibility could be to require age verification in areas such as pornography. A Senate bill includes age-verification requirements.

— TAXES: Tied to his budget proposal, DeSantis has called for $1.1 billion in tax breaks, including holding six sales-tax “holidays” on such things as back-to-school items. The plan also would provide $409 million to give a one-year exemption on certain taxes, fees and assessments on property-insurance policies.

— UNIVERSITY AND COLLEGE STUDENTS: House and Senate Republicans have filed bills that could financially penalize state university and college students who back “foreign terrorist” organizations, such as Hamas. For example, the bills call for such students to be required to pay out-of-state tuition rates, which are higher than in-state rates.

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