Florida lawmakers pass bills, negotiate budget before legislative session ends Friday

Time is winding down on Florida's legislative session. It ends on Friday but before then, lawmakers have a pile of bills still on the table.

The most pressing issue is the near $100-billion state budget, which must be decided by Tuesday so it can go through a required 72-hour "cooling off" period before a final vote Friday.

MORE: Florida Senate passes controversial bill on vote-by-mail changes

Vote-by-mail in Florida could come with tighter restrictions. Monday, the Senate passed an elections package that would limit Supervisors of Elections' use of mail-in ballot drop boxes, require voters to request ballots every two years instead of four, and make it harder for those who don't have state-issued ID to register.

"This does nothing to suppress the vote," said State Sen. Joe Gruters. "It does nothing to restrict the vote. What we are trying to do is make sure we preserve our sacred duty and right of having every vote count."

"These changes in this legislation are inefficient, unnecessary, unasked for, and simply serve no purpose other than to keep people from voting," said State Sen. Loranne Ausley,

A stronger version of the bill is still under consideration in the House.

MORE: ‘No-fault’ auto insurance repeal bill advances in Florida legislature

Meanwhile, the House voted Monday to repeal the state's "no-fault" auto insurance laws, ending requirements to buy Personal Injury Protection or PIP. Drivers would have to buy minimum levels of bodily injury coverage.

They also passed a police reform bill that would limit the use of chokeholds and require officers to intervene if they witness other officers using excessive force.

MORE: Florida Senate passes bill to prohibit social media companies from removing political candidates

The Senate passed a bill to crackdown on social media companies. Senate Bill 7072 would bar companies from removing political candidates from platforms with threats of fines. It would require companies to publish standards about issues like blocking users and apply standards consistently.

"I think this bill is trying to strike that right balance by allowing free speech, and at the same time, trying to make sure the business is not arbitrarily setting up that speech and blocking out people that they don’t want in," said State Sen. Kelli Stargel.

"This is a big-government bill," said State Sen. Jeff Brandes. "This is a bill you would see in countries that we don’t want to talk about, some that are 90 miles south of here and some that are a little farther south. It makes me uncomfortable that we have to have this conversation."

And a major expansion of school vouchers is now headed to the Governor's desk. The Senate passed House Bill 7045, widening eligibility for taxpayer-funded aid to send kids to private schools.

With the exception of the school voucher bill, the other bills passed today by the Senate will now head to the House. Those passed by the House head to the Senate.

The Senate also passed bills banning local governments from requiring electric vehicle chargers at gas stations and another to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Both are expected to pass in the House.


Florida gains congressional seat due to population growth

Florida is getting an additional congressional seat next year due to the Sunshine State's population growth, while other states like California and New York are losing seats in Congress.