State lawmakers approve last bills as 2023 legislative session comes to close

Florida lawmakers will approve the last bills of the 2023 legislative session Friday after spending months debating over what to make into laws. 

Just some of the bills heading to Governor Ron DeSantis include those related to schools, immigration, prescription drugs and the transgender community.

"Normally, the last week of session, it’s frantic. I’m on the phone haggling. We’re not having to do that. We’re all on the same page. Everything’s kind of been locked and loaded, and it’s just bringing everything in for a nice smooth landing," said Governor Ron DeSantis, R-Florida.

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On Friday lawmakers passed later start times for high school students, pushing back to 8:30 a.m. by 2026. The bill would also prevent middle schools from beginning the instructional day earlier than 8 a.m.

File: Florida legislature

File: Florida legislature 

Faster changes are on the books for immigration.

"We’ve got a huge bill coming to my desk to crack down on illegal immigration, and that’s really, I think, setting the standard for many places in this country as well," said DeSantis.

Part of the immigration bill requires employers to verify the status of new employees and mandates hospitals to ask patients about their legal status.

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"There are a lot of mixed emotions, because nobody knows what is going to happen. Nobody knows how it’s going to be implemented. That’s the problem," said Ana Lamb, a community activist for immigrants in Hillsborough County.

File: Florida Capitol Building

Lamb said families she’s in touch with are telling their children to be prepared.

"This is not just about politics. This is about real life. People are going to be affected even emotionally. Right now, some people are leaving the state," said Lamb.

The legislature also approved bills affecting transgender people, such as restricting pronoun use in schools, bathroom use in government buildings and schools, and changing healthcare rules.

Florida Capitol Building

LGBTQ advocates said the bills will force some families to decide whether to leave the state.

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"We're talking about young people whose doctors will face prison time for offering them medically necessary care that is supported by every major medical organization in this country," said Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida.

File: Florida legislator

File: Florida legislators

Then there’s big pharma with a new law, aiming to empower consumers. 

"Yesterday, we were able to sign legislation to bring transparency to this prescription drug racket and especially these pharmacy benefit managers. They’re middlemen, and they really cause the costs to go up," said DeSantis.

On Friday, lawmakers are expected to approve tax breaks for shoppers along with the state’s budget. The tax package would expand tax holidays and get more breaks on things like back-to-school and hurricane supplies.