Florida’s budget exceeds $100 billion for the first time


On Tuesday, legislators finalized their changes to the 2021 -2022 fiscal year budget. This keeps lawmakers on track to enhance the bill before the end of the session.

More than $101.5 billion bolstered by billions in federal aid Florida is expected to receive this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers set the budget bill on the desk at 12:06 p.m., meaning they could vote on it beginning that time Friday. Friday marks the 60th and final day of the 2021 Legislative Session.

President Joe Biden signed in March. Florida looks like it will receive $10.2 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Lawmakers agreed to spend $6.7 billion of that while saving the rest for reserves.

Before considering the federal aid, the Senate’s proposed budget hit $97 billion. Meanwhile, the House outlined a $97 billion budget while the Senate outlined a $95 billion budget.

With a mid-Session revision to the state’s general revenue projections that gave lawmakers $2 billion more to play with for the current and coming fiscal year, Senate President Wilton Simpson said Florida is in a better place than it looked in August. Back then, the state was looking at a $5.4 billion shortfall over the two-year period because of the pandemic.

“I do believe we will continue to see some fluctuation and some uncertainty as to our economy recovers,” he said in a statement.

“With this reality in mind, our budget utilizes available federal funding to makes some significant nonrecurring investments in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s recovering economy.”

Before the budget conference began, chief negotiators Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull anticipated the final budget would top $100 billion. But the federal aid is a one-time award.

“That’s probably not going to be an expectation for future generations that they’re going to be able to maintain a $100 billion budget,” Stargel said.

2020 budget totaled $93.2 billion before Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $1 billion of it to brace for the pandemic.

Governor Ron proposed a $96.6 billion budget before the federal government rolled out the American Rescue Plan this year/.

Among his top priorities was an additional $50 million to continue raising teacher salaries to a base minimum salary of $47,500 annually. Lawmakers wrote that additional allocation into their budget.

Lawmakers also look primed to approve $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund to support local infrastructure and job training projects targeted toward economic recovery and development, another of DeSantis’ priorities.

After the federal government finalized its stimulus plan, DeSantis outlined proposals to give teachers and first responders $1,000 bonus checks for their work during the pandemic. Lawmakers agreed to that spending in the final stages of the budget conference.

The budget will put Florida on a path toward full economic recovery, Stargel said in a statement.

“This budget ensures we live within our means and fund the ongoing, key functions of government with recurring state funds,” she said.

Online sales tax signed by Governor Ron


The online sales tax bill has been signed by Governor Ron DeSantis into law. This answers the question of whether he would act on the bill or not.

Earlier this month, legislators finalized the Republican legislative leadership’s plan to require online retailers to collect sales tax.

An estimated $1 billion in revenue would come from the new enforcement of sales taxes technically already owed on purchases Floridians make from out-of-state sellers, but which few Floridians pay.

DeSantis had until midnight to sign or veto the bill into law or else it would have gone into effect without his signature. Lawmakers sent him the bill on April 12. He waited until one hour left in the day Monday to send the alert that he had signed the measure.

The Governor’s budget recommendations for the 2021-22 fiscal year did not include e-fairness legislation.

When asked in January about fully implementing the online sales tax, the Governor told reporters, “There are no tax increases in our budget. We’re not going to do that.”

When DeSantis did sign the bill, it was announced at 11:23 p.m. 37 minutes before the bill would have become law without his signature. The Republican announced his action in a news release about signing five different and unrelated bills and offering no comment on the legislation.

While the proposal was widely supported by business groups, DeSantis’ signature came with far less fanfare than when he appeared Monday morning in Polk County to sign a controversial bill cracking down on violent protests.

State revenue estimators predict collecting sales tax online at the point of sale will generate a $973.6-million boost in general revenue funds in the 2021-2022 fiscal year and a $1.08 billion boost each year afterward.

Yet supporters contend the bill is not a tax increase since people technically owe the state the money already. Consumers are currently supposed to send sales taxes directly to the Department of Financial Services in a separate check. Under the new plan, out-of-state sellers would begin collecting those taxes for consumers, as in a conventional purchase.

Brick-and-mortar retailers, who have complained about the inequity of online sellers evading tax collection, cheered the legislation.

“Through the passage of SB 50, Gov. DeSantis and legislative leaders have acknowledged the pivotal role that the retail industry plays in supporting Florida’s families,” said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

“With this measure signed into law, all businesses can compete on a level playing field and continue to support the 2.7 million Floridians who work in the retail industry. Thank you, Governor Ron DeSantis, for your leadership and for providing meaningful relief to Florida retail businesses.”

Regardless, Republican critics like Rep. Anthony Sabatini and Anthony Rodriguez and a slim majority of Democrats who had backed the measure until it got tied to restocking the unemployment trust fund have tried to portray the bill as a tax increase.

However, Democratic Leader Gary Farmer raised an objection, arguing it was a tax increase that required a supermajority vote but was overruled.

Moreover, as the bill was written in January, the additional revenue would have gone into general revenue, but the plan is now “revenue neutral.” Republican legislative leadership’s latest deal includes using the additional revenue to replenish the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund to prevent a tax hike on businesses.

With the trust depleted last year, unemployment taxes on employees jumped from $7 per employee last year to $49 this year. If nothing changes, that rate could jump to $87 next year.

Furthermore, a measure added in an amendment approved this month would use the additional revenue to lower commercial rent taxes once the unemployment trust fund is refilled. Once the trust is restored to $4.07 billion, the statute now calls for the rent tax to drop from 5.5% to 2%, which will cut taxes by approximately $1 billion annually.

“This basically makes the bill revenue-neutral forever,” said bill sponsor Sen. Joe Gruters.

Proponents for e-fairness legislation, including the bill’s House sponsors, Reps. Chuck Clemons and Chip LaMarca, argue it will level the playing field for local and brick-and-mortar businesses, who compete against online businesses who don’t list the tax in their final sale total.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce lauded the measure. Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson thanked the Governor for his leadership in relieving Florida’s businesses.

“Gov. DeSantis’ signature reiterates his commitment to relaunching Florida’s economy and helping Florida job creators recover from a once in a century pandemic,” he said.

Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley said the bill the pivotal role Florida’s retail industry plays.

“With this measure signed into law, all businesses can compete on a level playing field and continue to support the 2.7 million Floridians who work in the retail industry,” he said.

Florida TaxWatch has been pushing for e-fairness legislation for years. TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro called the measure a “Taxpayer Penalty Relief Endeavor” that also would alleviate the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.

“The combination of each of these provisions will certainly have significant and lasting benefits on Florida’s fiscal landscape, leading to a more prosperous future for all,” he said.

Florida League of Cities President Tony Ortiz, an Orlando city commissioner, said the bill addresses statewide issues but argued the positive impacts at the local level “can’t be understated.”

“No longer will out-of-state retailers, who don’t contribute anything to the betterment of our communities, have an unfair advantage over our local businesses who are not only part of our local communities but who have a vested interest in them and their success,” he said.

Democrats support the underlying e-fairness legislation but opposed directing those funds to help businesses, arguing it would lower taxes on businesses on the backs of consumers. They instead supported using the revenue to increase unemployment benefits.

If DeSantis had vetoed the bill, the Legislature in theory would have had the votes to overturn his decision. It passed the House by a 93-24 vote, and the Senate by a 27-12, indicating enough support in both chambers to reach the two-thirds threshold to overturn a veto.

Of the 45 states that charge sales taxes, only Florida and Missouri haven’t forced them on online sales since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared that path. Florida will join the rest when the law goes into effect in July.

Nikki Fried speaks about ‘DeSantis 2024’


The idea of DeSantis for four more years does not sit right with Nikki Fried

A Democrat looking at running for Governor urges caution when considering whether the incumbent would serve a full second term if reelected.

Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried suggested Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis may not actually be interested in serving the full four years should voters reelect him in November.

“He’s looking at 2024,” Fried told Duval County Democrats during a meeting Monday evening.

“If you think that he’s spending one day in his second administration, you are wrong. He is trying to use the people of our state for his own political power and future,” Fried added.

“If he’s running for President, he will have to declare, you know, right before or right after the November election. This means the first two years, he’s campaigning all over the country. And his last two years, he’s going to be President. So who gets duped? The people of the state of Florida.”

Fried continues to say that DeSantis “needs to be a one-term Governor,” and as Florida’s “only statewide Democrat,” she is getting asked to run by more and more people all the time. The Commissioner has said publicly she has been “looking at” the race since last summer.

Florida Politics reached out to DeSantis spokesperson Meredith Beatrice Tuesday morning for comment on Fried’s claim that DeSantis is just looking to run for President and are awaiting a response.

The Fried/DeSantis intrigue is nothing new for Florida political watchers, with the Agriculture Commissioner and the Governor on opposite sides of numerous issues for more than a year now.

The Commissioner also attacked DeSantis for his assertion that corporations shouldn’t “stick their beaks” into political issues, as happened in Georgia over voting law changes.

“He went on to Fox News yesterday, and he yelled at the corporations — ‘if you stick your beak in our issues, we’re going to stick our beak into yours’ — and (tried) to scare and intimidate the corporations from getting involved,” Fried fumed.

“Hey, Governor? Return all of your corporate checks. Because the corporations are the most powerful people in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.”

A contest between the Governor and the Commissioner could be competitive. Florida Politics commissioned a poll earlier this year showing a race between Fried and DeSantis as a dead heat.

Senate transgender sports bill in committee


On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee moved to temporarily postpone a bill that would restrict transgender women’s ability to play in women’s sports.

The bill (SB 2012), sponsored by Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, would create a limited pathway for someone transitioning from male to female to compete in women’s sports.

First, a student must declare a female identity to the school. Next, they would need to maintain a specified testosterone level for at least 12 months before their first competition and throughout their period of eligibility.

The bill calls on the Board of Governors to adopt regulations regarding the provision and tasks the State Board of Education with resolving disputes.

Proponents argue the bill will ensure a level playing field within women’s sports.

Moreover, they note that men generally create more testosterone than women and possess physical attributes that contribute to enhanced athletic performance.

Those genetic differences, proponents warn, can be harmful.

Opponents, meanwhile, dispute the genetic differences, to a degree, and question whether there’s a need for the legislation.

They also argue the bill is discriminatory and harmful.

The Senate postponement comes a week after the House passed similar legislation.

The legislation has been among the most controversial of the Session, generating hours of debate over amendments. House Republicans voted down 18 amendments offered by Democrats on the floor.

Those included changes that would have carved out elementary and middle school children from the bill, prohibited genital inspections, or codified the current Florida High School Athletic Association guidelines into law.

The Florida High School Athletic Association since 2013 has had guidelines in place that allow transgender students to request to play on the team aligned with their gender identity. To do so requires the affirmation of gender identity and testimony that athletes live their entire lives as a gender different than that assigned at birth.

Since then, only 11 students in Florida have asked to be allowed to compete in sports differing from the gender assigned to them at birth.

Anti-riot bill passed


On Thursday, Florida Senate approved an “anti-riot” bill championed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, sending it to him for signature into law over the objections of Democrats and civil rights groups who say the measure infringes on the fundamental First Amendment right to protest.

Moreover, the parts of the bill (HB 1 ) that most upset Democrats grant civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road; prevent people arrested for rioting or offenses committed during a riot from bailing out of jail until their first court appearance; and impose a six-month mandatory sentence for battery on a police officer during a riot.

Governor Ron DeSantis, when he unveiled the proposal, emphasized the need to prevent bail for rioters, so they aren’t able to rejoin the unrest. During an emotional debate, Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, called the bill a “mail piece for reelection for a specific base who wants it. … We have to [instead] pass legislation for all Floridians.”

Senator Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, who read the First Amendment on the Senate floor, added, “We know the governor wants this piece of legislation. We don’t have to do everything the governor wants.”

However Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the bill wasn’t about politics, race or peaceful protests. Instead, it was meant to prevent riots that hurt or kill people and destroy property, she said.

“This bill is about preventing violence,” said Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, sponsor of the Senate version of the measure.

Burgess and his fellow Republicans fended off 16 amendments from Democrats in a Wednesday session as they attempted to water down the bill. Burgess was questioned by Senator Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, about whether James Fields, a white supremacist who killed Heather Heyer during protests at Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, would have been granted civil immunity for her death under the bill.

Burgess noted the bill wouldn’t prevent criminal charges and the provision would only apply to people defending themselves from protesters, not those deliberately targeting them. Fields was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2019.

“That person rammed a vehicle into those people to hurt them … he wasn’t defending himself,” Burgess said. “That is in no way protected in this bill.”

The bill passed House 76-39 with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed on March 26. It will become effective immediately when DeSantis signs it, which he said Thursday he would do.

Governor Ron DeSantis began to push for an anti-riot bill in September, in response to the protests against police bias and brutality that took place throughout the country last summer, some of which turned violent, with rioting and looting. The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police.

One of the officers charged in the killing, Derek Chauvin, shown in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, is currently on trial. Chauvin has a second home in Windermere.

During a conference call with reporters, Black Voters Matter co-founder and executive director Cliff Albright said the legislation is a backlash against the passion expressed by young people in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

“And in response to that, for the state to say, we’re going to criminalize your activity. We’re going to criminalize your passion. We’re going to criminalize your protest. That’s not what democracy looks like,” Albright said.

Much of the bill addresses the reaction of protesters and rioters in the wake of the Floyd killing. The “defund the police” slogan of some protesters led to a provision of the bill requiring municipal budget plans that would cut police budgets to be approved by the state.

Cities and counties would also be civilly liable for damages caused during a riot if they don’t restrain police from quelling the disturbance.

A new crime of “mob intimidation,” defined as three or more people “acting with a common intent” forcing or threatening to force another person from taking a viewpoint against their will, is created by the bill. It is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor, and bail is denied until the first court appearance for anyone charged with the crime.

That provision is in response to videos last summer of protestors of police violence menacing people eating at outdoor restaurants.

Memorials, statutes, and historic property, including Confederate monuments, a target of some protesters last year, would be protected under the bill since it would require restitution for repairs. The bill also increases penalties for assault, battery, burglary, and theft during a riot.

After the vote, Farmer and several other Democratic senators donned black shirts to mourn what they called the death of the First Amendment.

YouTube removes DeSantis’ video


According to a YouTube spokeswoman, Elena Hernandez, the video was removed because the content violated its standards about “COVID-19 medical misinformation. Governor Ron DeSantis’s office blasted the decision. The spokeswoman said that the YouTube policies apply to everyone.

The Governor’s video was shot at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. It got removed on Wednesday due to a violation of social media platform standards.

The removal of the video was flagged by the American Institute for Economic Research.

“YouTube has clear policies around Covid-19 medical misinformation to support the health and safety of our users,” Ella Hernandez said in a statement.

The spokeswoman also said, “We removed AIER’s video because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

Moreover, Ella Hernandez also said YouTube only allows videos “that otherwise violate our policies to remain on the platform if they contain sufficient educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context.”

“Our policies apply to everyone and focus on content regardless of the speaker or channel,” Hernandez said.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s press secretary Cody McCloud called YouTube’s move “another blatant example of Big Tech attempting to silence those who disagree with their woke corporate agenda.”

“YouTube claimed they removed the video because ‘it contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities,’ yet this roundtable was led by world-renowned doctors and epidemiologists from Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, all of whom are eminently qualified to speak on the global health crisis,” McCloud said.

“Good public health policy should include a variety of scientific and technical expertise, and YouTube’s decision to remove this video suppresses productive dialogue of these complex issues.”

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, one of the scientists on the panel, said this “was a policy forum, in which it is appropriate to consider both the benefits and costs of a policy (child masking) when making judgments and recommendations.”

“YouTube’s censorship of our discussion is contrary to American democratic norms of free expression,” the professor said in an email. “It is also a violation of basic standards of scientific conduct, which stand in opposition to unreasoned silencing of contrary views and require the free exchange of ideas.”

Prior, AIER article chief Jeffrey A. Exhaust insisted in an article Wednesday on the research organization’s site that YouTube blue-penciled DeSantis and the researchers and called it “the most recent assault on general wellbeing data.”

Numerous general wellbeing specialists, in any case, have denounced Bhattacharya and different researchers on the board with DeSantis — previous Trump White House Covid consultant Dr. Scott Atlas; disease transmission specialist Sunetra Gupta; and Dr. Martin Kulldorff — of spreading general wellbeing deception. NBC News has likewise connected with Tucker, Atlas, Gupta and Kulldorff for input.

NBC News didn’t see the video before it was taken out. Exhaust initially detailed its evacuation.

Be that as it may, in view of a record given by YouTube, it seems the members crossed paths with the stage’s guidelines when DeSantis found out if youngsters in school ought to be wearing veils and Kulldorff answered,“Uh, children should not wear face masks, no. They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people either.”

“There’s no scientific rationale or logic to have children wear masks in school,” Atlas said six minutes later.

The World Health Organization recommendations are somewhat looser for more youthful youngsters, however kids over the age of 12 “should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults.”

Every one of the researchers in the video however Atlas is signatories to The Great Barrington Declaration, which was sponsored by AIER and which went against lockdowns and contended that society would fabricate crowd insusceptibility against Covid-19 assuming everything except individuals over age 70 “continue life as ordinary.”

Chart book, who is a radiologist, not a disease transmission specialist, was especially critical of cover wearing to forestall the spread of Covid-19.

Large numbers of the world’s driving researchers reviled The Great Barrington Declaration as a “hazardous fallacy unsupported by logical proof.” And later, at that point President Donald Trump’s CDC boss, Dr. Robert Redfield, was overhead by NBC saying of Atlas, “All that he says is bogus.”

The Trump administration embraced that intuition, as did DeSantis, who was censured by general wellbeing specialists for being slow to close the state down and for returning the state too early. The vast majority of the Covid-19 passings and cases were recorded in Florida after DeSantis visited Trump in the White House last April and rashly, as it ended up, declared victory over the infection.

As of Friday, Florida had revealed in excess of 2 million Covid-19 diseases and almost 35,000 passings since the beginning of the pandemic, agreeing to the most recent NBC News numbers. It likewise has the 10th most elevated Covid-19 contamination rate in the nation, agreeing to Becker’s Hospital Review.

DeSantis in the AIER record concurred with his specialists that lockdowns were inadequate at halting the pandemic, saying “there’s really not a lot of positive to balance it out when you compare the severe lockdown states to other states which weren’t locked down or other countries like Sweden, which had adopted a different approach.”

Sweden initially went against lockdowns but started forcing limitations around a half year prior after the quantity of Covid-19 cases and passings soared, especially in correlation with its Scandinavian neighbors.

Anti-riot bill hit Senate floor


As political tension is building, a GOP-drove Senate board on Friday cast a ballot to send a Governor Ron DeSantis-sponsored ‘anti riot’ bill to the full Senate floor subsequent to dismissing each Democratic endeavor to limit the extent of the enactment.

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee were unable to stop the bill, but they did manage to get support for a study that will look at the racial impact of the proposed law.

The bill (HB 1) would enhance penalties for a host of crimes committed during protests that turn violent, and opponents have argued its broad definition could lead to racial disparity if the bill ultimately becomes law.

“The people across the state of Florida are worried about the chilling effect of this bill,” said Senator Darryl Rouson, R-St. Petersburg.

“This is going to lead to a misapplication of the law, and we know Black and brown people will suffer disproportionately because we have seen it.”

In addition to that Senator Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, tried to ease those concerns by proposing language that would have required the state to collect data and study the racial and ethnic impact of the proposed law.

“I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should look at this,” Burgess told Powell.

“That’s my honest and good faith commitment because where there is disparity, where this is happening, it should be studied and it should be stopped.”

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Simpson will be directing the research arm of the Florida Legislature to conduct the study, but specifics have yet to be determined.

The battle about DeSantis’ main concern has driven quite a bit of the behind-the-scenes jockeying during the primary portion of the administrative meeting. With three weeks left in meeting, the strains were currently in full view during an eight-hour meeting before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Jason Pizzo, a Miami Democrat who refused to hear the bill in his committee, told Burgess he believes the bill is nothing “more than perhaps a bullet point in a 2022 or 2024 campaign mailer for somebody else.”

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, argued the bill is a problem because it is overly broad and as currently written would make arrests and convictions subjective. Burgess, however, says the legislative intent of the bill should stand up in court.

“You have much greater faith in legislative intent versus textualism,” Pizzo said. “I have a greater concern that the courts will see the text of the bill and not what we discussed here today.”

“I don’t fault you for not knowing the nuances of criminal law and their application,” Pizzo said. “But I do fault the premise that you don’t understand and appreciate what this means in the application for Black and brown teenagers.”

Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, appeared to be walking a fine line between a yes or a no while debating the bill. He shared personal anecdotes about his youth and witnessing a “racist society” first hand.

“I grew up, and I have vivid childhood memories of water fountains, restrooms, cafe entrances, buses, schools that were not integrated, not one time,” Hooper said. “I grew up in a racist society. I admit that and I don’t like it. I heard the n-word 5 million times in my youth.”

Hooper voted yes on the bill in the end, because he said he believes “something needs to be done” about the violence seen during the Jan. 6 assault of the U.S. Capitol.

“I think something needs to be done,” Hooper said. “I don’t know where the balance is, I do not.”

Florida’s data privacy laws stired up


A mysterious group is a reason behind sweeping legislation that would beef up Florida’s data privacy laws. It has hired a Tallahassee-based lobbying team and spent $300,000 in political contributions, but almost no one — including the sponsors of the bills — has any idea who is behind the group.

The organization, Propel Florida, is a nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors, lists a UPS box in Lithia as its only address, and was incorporated last April. But over the first half of the 2021 legislative session, the group has flexed its political muscle.

It’s so far steamrolling the state’s powerful business lobby, which almost universally opposes the legislation because it would allow consumers to sue companies over data privacy violations, provision supporters say is a needed enforcement mechanism to protect consumer rights.

“I am aware of a group identified as Propel Florida, and have met with their lobbyists as well as many other lobbyists across the state on my data privacy bill,” state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, said in an interview. “I don’t have any knowledge about the specifics of the group.”

Bradley said it does not concern her that a group she knows nothing about is a main lobbying force behind a bill she is sponsoring because “I support the policy.”

House sponsor, state Rep. Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota), is also in the dark. She said she has met with lobbyist Derek Whitis, a Tallahassee-based contract lobbyist hired by Propel Florida, to discuss the bill, but has no idea who the organization is or who is funding its efforts.

“I have worked with lots of companies and industries on this bill,” she said in an interview. “Propel Florida was introduced to me through their lobbyists as a proponent of data privacy.”

In a text message, Whitis said Propel Florida is a “social advocacy group looking to support the data privacy protection legislation.” He did not respond to follow up questions about who is behind the group. The group is not violating any state laws, which allow organizations and nonprofits to lobby the Legislature without identifying donors.

Both Bradley and McFarland said they have spoken with dozens of lobbyists about the bill when asked about Propel Florida, but among those lobbying on the bill, an overwhelming majority are in opposition. Opponents include some of the biggest business groups in the state including the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Associated Industries of Florida. Propel Florida is the only outside group that expressed support in each of the bill’s three committees, which it has passed with just one “no” vote among the three. California-based software and cloud company Oracle also expressed support in its first House committee stop. Oracle is among the companies that helps with privacy law compliance. Many such firms emerged after passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, a bill that resembles the Florida legislation, but differences exist.

Ken Glueck, who heads Oracle’s government affairs team, said that outside of a strong federal consumer data protection law, the company has been encouraging states to institute bills as data increasingly becomes a tool for “surveillance.”

“Let’s keep pushing the rock up the hill,” Glueck said. “We are encouraging states to go it alone, and Florida has an important economy.”

He said his company has no idea who Propel Florida is.

“We are supporting this bill out in the open under our company logo,” he said.

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis’ office has also supported the bill in committee. Frank Collins, a spokesperson for Patronis, said the CFO is “concerned about consumer protection issues,” and that he had heard from Propel Florida, but did not return follow-up questions about whether he knew who was behind the group.

Propel Florida has also hired contract lobbyists, Cameron Yarbrough and Paul Hawkes, records show. Neither returned a request seeking comment.

The group has also given $300,000 in political contributions, according to campaign finance records. That includes $50,000 to both the Republican Party of Florida and the main Republican Senate campaign committee in October, and $100,000 last month to both a political committee chaired by Dave Ramba, whose lobbying firm employs Yarbrough and a separate committee chaired by lobbyist Bill Helmich.

In December, Ramba told POLITICO that Propel Florida was led by someone named Shaun Keck, who at the time identified himself to POLITICO as Propel Florida’s director.

“The fact of the matter is Floridians can’t trust Big Tech,” Keck said in a December email. “For years, virtual platforms have been collecting personal, private information from all of us. After which they capitalize by renting and selling this private information.”

Keck did not respond to follow up questions at the time and did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.

The bills in the House and Senate are not identical, but both have core provisions that would allow consumers the right to access personal information a business collects on them, the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal data, and allows them to request a business delete the personal data they have on them. The provisions would apply to companies that have $25 million or more in global annual revenue, annually buy data of more than 50,000 consumers for commercial purposes, or get 50 percent of their annual revenues from selling data.

The provisions specific to data privacy are largely non-controversial. What has sparked a clash between supporters of the bill and nearly every major Florida business lobbying group is a separate provision that would allow consumers to sue over violations of the new data privacy laws, which supporters have said is a needed enforcement mechanism to give the new data privacy provisions legal teeth.

“It will be a litigation magnet,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, which regularly spars with state trial lawyers over lawsuit reform issues.

Each violation could come with a $100 to $750 fine, and because when a large company is impacted by something like a widespread data breach, thousands of consumers could be involved, opponents like Large have argued in committee that could lead to class action lawsuits.

During a meeting of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee last month, state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) filed an amendment to remove the lawsuit provisions. She acknowledged the oddity of a Democrat sponsoring amendments to help the state’s generally Republican-leaning businesses lobby but said she thought the lawsuit provisions were too large.

“If any businesses violate any provision of this bill, then they could be liable, and I believe it is too broad,” Taddeo said before her amendment was defeated.

Bradley defended the clause but said she would work with opponents moving forward.

“This cause of action I believe is very important for enforcement … and to be able to protect our consumers’ rights,” she said. “A lot of companies that operate in this space have the economic ability of some world nations.”

“These subtle differences combine with more serious ones — like who enforces the law — to add complexity to an already confusing regulatory landscape,” Anthony Prestia, head of privacy for TerraTrue, a data privacy firm.

He said one difference in the Florida bill is that it would become effective Jan. 1, 2022, which is a much quicker timeline for companies to comply with than in other states.

“This is a full year before already-passed legislation (like California’s CPRA and Virginia’s VCDPA) come into effect, which gives companies a little time to come into compliance,” he said.

Bradley said during the Senate committee meeting she is considering moving back her bill’s effective date.

McFarland said during the last House hearing that lawsuits and legal fights are not the points, but rather it is to make sure consumer data is protected.

“In society, the amount of power we have handed companies through the use of our data I believe has resulted in an erosion of our right to privacy and even how we think about ownership over our own data,” she said.