Florida lawmakers passed health care, social media restriction bills



(The Center Square) — The Florida Legislature wrapped up its 2024 session on Friday, passing various bills ranging from prohibiting identity politics in colleges to banning children from using social media.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, both had different priorities of focus this year, with Passidomo focused on health care issues and Renner focused on social media and the dangers of the internet.

House Bill 3 restricts the use of social media platforms for minors under the age of 16, completely banning children under age 14 from being able to create a social media account. Parents are able to opt in for their 14- and 15-year-old children.

Third-party age verification would also be required of websites that contain adult content or materials deemed harmful to minors, restricting these sites to age 18 and over.

Passidomo released her “Live Healthy” package of legislation, which included incentives designed to grow the health care workforce as Florida faces potential doctor shortages in coming years, which includes removing barriers to increase workforce mobility. The legislation would also increase access for underserved counties and incentivize innovation.

The state’s $117.4 billion budget was passed by lawmakers for the 2024-25 fiscal year, initially proposed to be $115 billion, and was $1 billion over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $114.4 billion budget recommendation. The budget includes pay raises for state employees, increased funding for public schools, and sales-tax “holidays” speckled throughout the year.

According to a news release from DeSantis’ Office, the budget includes $14.6 billion of surplus, and secured a further $500 million to pay down further Florida’s debt, with a total of $5.3 billion of debt has been paid since DeSantis took office in 2019.

Lawmakers also passed HB 1291 which would remove identity politics from teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities, including any lessons based on the theory that sexism, racism, oppression, and privilege “are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities.”

The state’s last-resort insurer Citizens Property Insurance Corporation underwent some minor changes as lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1716. The bill would merge all of Citizens accounts into one and limit the impact on Florida by making some second homes ineligible for coverage. Private insurers would also be able to do business in Florida under certain conditions.

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