TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With 11 days left in Florida's annual legislative session, the state House and Senate are spending long hours debating and voting on some of the year's most contentious issues.
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Here's what happened Tuesday:
1. Guardian Program Expansion
The Senate approved SB 7030, which aims to expand the post-Parkland Guardian Program to arm non-instructional personnel by making classroom teachers eligible to carry guns on campus, as well.
The program would remain voluntary for school districts to enact, and participants would still need to receive specialized training. But Democrats voted against expansion, arguing that expansion would increase the risk of miscalculation during school shootings.
The legislation is expected to pass the more conservative House, perhaps by the end of this week.
2. Texting While Driving
The House signed off on a measure to make texting while driving a primary offense. Current law allows motorists who text behind the wheel to be ticketed only if they've been pulled over for another offense, like speeding.
Some black legislators notably voted against the bill, warning of the potential for increased racial profiling.
"In the district that we serve, the skin that we are in, we think about this every day," Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Lauderdale Lakes) said in debate.
The bill's sponsors maintain it has adequate safeguards against racial profiling.
3. Sanctuary Cities
The House opened debate on a controversial Republican measure (HB 527) to penalize so-called “sanctuary cities” that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities in arresting and detaining known undocumented immigrants.
Sponsors argue such cities and counties are endangering public safety, allowing violent undocumented immigrants to perpetrate crimes. But opponents say the legislation is grounded in hate and would tear hard-working immigrant families apart.
Democrats filed nearly four dozen amendments, most of which were derided by supporters as “poison pills” designed to weaken the bill.
4. Firefighter Cancer Benefits
The Senate voted in favor of a bill to grant firefighters expanded cancer treatment benefits.
The legislation, a priority for Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis, is billed by supporters as an act of fairness for first responders who are often objected to chemical-laced smoke.
The Florida League of Cities has expressed concerns about the measure, warning it could force an unfunded mandate on local governments.
5. Scott Israel Suspension
During the course of Tuesday's floor sessions, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling rejecting ex-Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel's appeal of his removal from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The court wrote that "the Constitution itself has set up its own special court to try the matter, namely the state Senate," indicating the upper chamber's leaders will soon need to decide how to proceed with a likely trial of the governor's action.