As members of the Florida House and Senate gather in Tallahassee for the 2017 legislative session, Florida Baptists will find several items of particular interest.
Alcohol will be front and center once again as the debate over whether grocery stores should be allowed to sell hard liquor within their primary storefronts continues to rage on. Those opposed to the legislation, which has failed in past years, think the bill makes it too convenient for minors to get their hands on spirits.
Several gun issues also will be debated, chief among them a revision of the “Stand Your Ground” law that would shift the burden of proof to the prosecution to prove why a defendant should not be able to use the defense in court.
Another gun measure being considered would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry their firearms openly on college and university campuses, and another would extend gun-carrying rights to airports, which are currently considered gun-free zones.
Abortion should remain a contentious topic in Tallahassee as a bill mandating that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals also will be debated. Another measure would open the door for women to sue abortion providers for emotional duress up to 10 years after the procedure was performed.
While gambling is still technically illegal in Florida, those who are inclined can find betting opportunities at two Hard Rock Café casinos operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida or at one of the dozen dog tracks around the state. And then there’s the lottery.
This year, lawmakers will consider a bill that will expand the industry further, adding slot machines in counties where they have been approved by referendum. Another measure would restructure the state’s current gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe.
Despite the expanded medical marijuana legislation that passed in the November election, the logistics of implementing the bill are still being debated by lawmakers. Eliminating waiting periods, increasing access for patients and maintaining the competitiveness of the market are all issues that will be considered during this session.
Florida Baptists were among those officially against the approved legislation, fearing that it will provide easy access to minors and others who want the drug for recreational purposes.
The House and Senate also will consider a bill that would require a jury to be unanimous in its recommendation of the death penalty. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional.
To stay in the know about issues like these and others that are impacting our state, be sure to catch Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty President Bill Bunkley’s “Church and State” column in every issue of the Florida Baptist Witness. Go here for the FERLC website: https://www.ferlc.org/who-we-are/
Nicole Kalil is the Jacksonville-based reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, which is the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention.