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ICYMI: The 2019 Florida legislative session ends in typically distressing and angering fashion, plus other news 

Controversial plan to make former Florida felons pay fees before restoring voting rights heads to Gov. DeSantis' desk: Seemingly yearning for the days of poll taxes, the Florida Senate last Thursday, followed closely by the House the following day – coincidentally the last of the 2019 legislative session – passed SB 7066, a measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons' voting rights could be restored. The measure passed both houses along strict party-line votes and is now headed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has 15 days to decide whether to pass or veto the plan. Florida voters overwhelmingly voted yes on Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to former felons who have served their time, in November's elections.

Florida House passes 'sanctuary city' ban: Joining their colleagues in the Florida Senate, the House passed legislation that would enact strict laws in Florida against so-called sanctuary cities. The ban is now headed to Gov. DeSantis, giving him the chance to fulfill a key campaign promise. The governor praised the final passage of the bill last Thursday by the House and Senate after emotional debate in both chambers during the final days of the legislative session. Democrats argued the bill does not actually fix any problem, but rather is focused on feeding the Republicans' conservative political base. In Florida, no cities or counties have sanctuary policies.

Activists dragged out of Florida House chambers for protesting ban on 'sanctuary cities': Before an already contentious vote on a controversial ban on sanctuary cities in the Florida house last Wednesday, protesters in the House gallery began shouting and unfurled a large white banner with the slogan "Strong heart fight back" printed on it. "This is the most hateful legislation ever," Carlos Naranjo shouted at lawmakers before the Capitol police and members of the House sergeant's office dragged him out of the gallery and put him in handcuffs. The commotion prompted police to close the doors to the public gallery and sent dozens of activists down to the governor's office to protest. Despite the protests, the measure passed.

Florida lawmakers vote to ban cities from banning plastic straws: The Florida Senate last Tuesday passed an environmental bill that includes prohibiting local governments from enforcing regulations on plastic straws for the next five years. On a 24-15 vote, the Senate imposed a moratorium on plastic-straw bans. The decision to pass the bill follows numerous failed attempts by lawmakers over the years to prevent plastic-straw bans. The House passed the bill (HB 771) as well, meaning it is now ready to head to Gov. DeSantis. If he signs the bill, local governments would not be able to enforce any ordinance banning plastic straws until July 2024.

Florida toll road expansion plan advances despite environmental fears: With the passage of SB 7068, the Florida House voted to put the state on a path toward three new or expanded toll roads in mostly rural regions, despite fears from environmental groups and Democrats about sprawling development and damage to wetlands. The projects would extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area north to the Georgia border; link the Florida Turnpike west to the Suncoast Parkway; and build a new transportation corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County. The proposal calls for construction to begin by the end of 2022 and the roads to open to traffic before Dec. 31, 2030.

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