By Jeff Childers
Good morning, C&C, it’s Friday! The roundup today focuses almost entirely on the overheated controversy over an initially-awful bill that has been amended into what reliable conservative media outlets in Florida call the strongest medical freedom bill in the country. Even still, some folks are trying to weaponize the bill against Florida’s governor, and there’s a lot we can learn from all the Florida falderal.
🗞💬 *WORLD NEWS AND COMMENTARY* 💬🗞
🔥 There’s a fracas in Florida. It’s at one a hopeful but cautionary story, illustrating the perils of combining political naïveté with political intransigency, and highlights some important inside political baseball that helps us all learn how to be more effective advocates in a system of politics at least as old as the Civil War, if not much, much older.
Depending on who you listen to, the story is either about the best medical freedom bill in history, a law that could permanently install Governor DeSantis as the most effective health leader ever, or it’s the absolute worst legislation of all time and exposes Florida’s governor as a RINO sell-out Pharma-boot-licking traitor.
Apparently, there’s no middle ground. None!
The Florida Senate, which after a wobbly start has been a steadfast, if slow, ally of medical freedom during the pandemic, somehow yesterday passed second vote (out of three) on a controversial bill that will literally turn citizens into subjugated slaves. Or at least, that’s what the folks down at the totally-legit, 100% purely-motivated Civil Rights Florida say:
They also suggested Governor DeSantis is wholly owned by Big Pharma:
Slavery! Governor DeSantis cuddling up with Big Pharma! That sounded alarming. I was hastily throwing whatever clothes I could grab into the suitcase, yelling at Michelle to back the van up to the garage door, and debating how to fit in my favorite unicorn pool float, when I happened to glance down at a couple headlines on my phone from reliable sources that made me stop in my tracks.
The headlines from my trusted sources didn’t match the random memes I was seeing on social media. (Keep track of that name, Civil Rights Florida, we’ll return to it later.)
The terrific Alachua Chronicle’s editor in chief was an original, if not founding member of Team Reality, the group of thought ninjas including professionals and scientists who fought tirelessly against all odds during the pandemic to reverse mask and vaccine mandates and expose mRNA risks. Her credentials are impeccable. Oddly, the Chronicle’s headline about SB 252 didn’t mention slavery at all:
Similarly, both the Floridian and its reporter Chris Nelson have been tireless advocates for medical freedom in Florida. For instance, they broke the story of my client, Dr. Littell, being arrested while speaking at a Sarasota Memorial Hospital board meeting. The Floridian didn’t mention slavery either, and called SB 252 the “Strongest Medical Freedom Law in the Nation.”
I checked in with The Blaze’s senior editor and hilarious, fast-talking podcast/radio host Daniel Horowitz, who has been a tireless advocate for medical freedom, and he seemed to like SB 252 too:
Then I glanced at what some other in-the-trenches local medical freedom activist types were saying about the bill, such as Justin Robert, with We Are Change Orlando. He seemed okay with it:
Weird! So then I called two good friends in Florida’s medical freedom community who oppose SB 252 and pressed them for juicy details. Both admitted they hadn’t read the bill. But they both believed that SB 252 practically invites the W.H.O. to use the Florida House chamber as a local mass-quarantine-coordination office or something.
But they did describe one specific problem with it: SB 252 wasn’t SB 222, a similar-but-better bill that was originally drafted by the medical freedom community, but went nowhere because some medical freedom activists didn’t tee it up well enough, and just sat back waiting for the Governor and the Legislature to take their political football and run with it.
Now they are madder than a henhouse full of chickens whose favorite rooster was just turned into nuggets.
And sneaky anti-DeSantis democrats are taking the opportunity to pile on, inflaming Florida’s medical freedom community with ridiculous claims of slavery and memes of Governor DeSantis spooning with pharma companies, as noted above.
🔥 But what does SB 252 actually do? Does it turn Floridians into brainless pharma slaves? No, according to the Alachua Chronicle’s article, it’s actually a groundbreaking medical freedom bill expanding into whole new territories.
I covered SB 252 back on March 9th, when the controversy first broke out. At the time, the bill was incredibly weak and had a lot of holes, and I called it out. But to the process’ credit, several amendments have since strengthened the bill. I’m not saying I’ve been working tirelessly behind the scenes to fix it, but believe me, that effort occurred. And I can confirm that the Governor’s office WAS responsive to feedback.
Here’s how the Chronicle summarized the current version of the bills’ effects:
— It stops ALL vaccines passports and discrimination for any of three types of vaccines. Businesses, governmental entities, or schools may not require proof of covid, mRNA, or EUA vaccines for entry or services, or discriminate against people, including hiring and firing decisions. (The mRNA ban sunsets in two years unless extended. But we’ll know even more in two years.)
The bill would be groundbreaking. Needless to say, no other state in the country has anything like this.
— It also requires businesses, governmental entities, and schools to grant exemptions and accommodations for ALL other vaccines, including traditional vaccines.
In other words, SB 252 essentially outlaws ALL vaccine mandates: flu, RSV, measles, you name it. You’d think team medical freedom would be happy, but believe me, right now they want this bill DEAD. They’re calling everyone they can, right now, trying to stop it.
— It bans mandates on all masks, face shields, or any other device covering the old breathing apparatus except in medical, industrial and educational settings. In medical settings, starting August 1st, healthcare providers won’t be able to require masks without prominent public notices on their websites and places of business. And they have to comply with Florida DOH rules.
— It preserves freedom of choice for covid treatment. Hospitals may not interfere with a patient’s right to choose covid treatment alternatives, if recommended by a doctor with hospital privileges. This one could be improved, a lot, but it’s still a great start.
— Maybe even better, it requires doctors to obtain FULL informed consent before administering any covid treatment, and makes doctors explain alternative treatments and their advantages, disadvantages, and risks, including both approved treatments and any treatment the doctor thinks could possibly help the patient.
— It protects pharmacies from being punished for dispensing alternative covid medicines like ivermectin.
— It bans government entities like school boards from adopting or enforcing international health organization policies or guidelines (like from the W.H.O., say), unless expressly authorized by state law, rule, or an executive order issued by the governor.
SB 252 is currently headed toward a third and final vote in the Senate. It is scheduled for second reading (out of three) in the House, where it hasn’t had a vote yet. It could use some support.
🔥 What happened? How did this debate get sideways? It can’t ONLY be DeSantis’ political enemies, and it isn’t. Florida’s medical freedom community put a TON of work into a really terrific bill, SB 222, and found a sponsor to file it. SB 222 was exciting because it used an innovation that I was circulating in 2021: it would make vaccine status a protected civil rights category in Florida. That would be GREAT.
Unfortunately, I discovered in 2021 that a lot of lawmakers aren’t willing — not yet — to compare vaccine status with race, sex, age, religious beliefs, and other historically-protected classes. That’s the sad but true bottom line.
To help understand why SB 252 surged past SB 222, I’m going to give you a quick lesson on how state laws are formed and pass. I am NOT a world expert on this, I only started paying attention three years ago. But I am a quick study and these issues have become painfully important.
As you may already know, bills are filed, then sequentially sent to two or more committees. They are read three times on each floor, pass interim votes, and then a final vote in each chamber to pass them into law. An identical bill must pass both House and Senate, and lawmakers can offer amendments along the way, which themselves pass or fail by a vote. During this process, bills can “die” for lots of reasons, such as never being passed out of committee, being poisoned with an obnoxious amendment, not being scheduled for a vote until it’s too late, or if the House and Senate bill don’t match.
More bills die than get passed. That’s how it works.
So far, so good. But here’s what I didn’t know, and you probably don’t know either. The House Speaker and the Senate President are incredibly powerful positions. They control the schedule of votes and can kill a bill by ignoring it — never scheduling it for a vote. And — this is the really important part — the Speaker and the Senate President each have their own legislative agendas and serve as ringmasters or shepherds for the most important bills of each session.
By some kind of tradition, governors are given the courtesy of a certain number of bills, let’s say two dozen, that the Senate President and the House Speaker agree to schedule for a final vote each session. Those are “governor’s priority bills,” are usually drafted by the governor’s office, and are delivered to the Speaker and the Senate President.
The Speaker and Senate President then “assign” the governor’s priority bills to reliable lawmakers, who agree to sponsor and file them.
Similarly, the Speaker and President pass out their own bills, the ones in their own legislative strategy, which are also sponsored and filed by reliable party members. With me so far?
And here’s where things get really interesting.
The governor depends on the Speaker and the Senate President to advance his bills, so he’s constantly negotiating with them. The Speaker and the Senate President also depend on each other to pass their own priority bills, since bills ultimately must match and be passed in both chambers. So they are also constantly negotiating with each other. Since they need the governor to sign their priority bills, they’re always negotiating with him too.
It’s a three-way. Just not THAT kind of three-way.
The individual lawmakers who sponsor these priority bills usually DO NOT CARE about the bill’s contents. They could care less. It’s just a duty. They may not even read the bills; it doesn’t matter. It’s just part of their job to sponsor priority bills when asked. Lawmakers may file their own bills, but when they do come up with something on their own, their non-priority bills face a much more difficult and creative path to becoming law than do the priority bills of the governor, Senate President, or Speaker.
The reality is that there is an absolute limit to how many bills the legislature can possibly debate and pass in any particular session. Priority bills come first. Many good bills die just because the legislative session ran out before the good, non-priority bills could be read, debated, and voted on.
That’s also why filibustering works so effectively. Filibustering consumes valuable time for passing other bills, not just the one being filibustered.
So here is the first important take-away: calling or lobbying a bill’s sponsor might not make any difference at all, especially if it’s a priority bill. They don’t care. Second, it’s not good enough to just find a friendly lawmaker to file a bill for you. If you REALLY want to pass a bill, you’d better start with the Governor, Senate President or the House Speaker.
That’s what lobbyists for businesses and organizations like the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce do. They organize support for bills, either doing it the easy way, starting at the top and getting a priority bill filed, or by building up lots of grassroots lawmaker support to stitch together an artificial priority, which is obviously much harder and more time-consuming.
But it gets even weirder. Because of all the inter-branch negotiating, the three branches conceal which bills are their most important priorities, so that the other branches won’t use that knowledge to get negotiating leverage. So until pretty late in the session, nobody is ever entirely sure which are the most important bills, the priority bills, the ones that will definitely get passed during the session.
So it’s all very murky and hush-hush. Loose lips sink ships and all that rot. Trying to figure out which bills are the priority ones is like trying to figure out what Joe Biden meant to say. You can never really be sure.
I’m not saying this is a “good” process or a “bad” process. It’s just how it works. The best you can say about it is that it creates TONS of checks and balances. As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Democracy is like a raft; it won’t sink, but your feet are always wet.”
Even worse, our party can sometimes be a little dysfunctional. Like Mark Twain, I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Republican.
🔥 So the activists who organized SB 222 — the bill that failed — were ultimately disappointed because they didn’t understand how to make it a priority. Worse, they incorrectly assumed the Governor’s bill, SB 252, intentionally targeted their bill. The truth is, SB 252 was part of the Governor’s priority package and had nothing at all to do with SB 222. It was just a predictable coincidence the two were similar.
For the record, I am 100% in favor of SB 222. Team medical freedom makes some good points and has some valid concerns about the current bill. I hope the bill’s organizers will regroup and try again harder next session. But in the meantime, we MUST pass the strongest medical freedom bill in the country, SB 252.
And while we’re talking about it, Florida medical freedom types need to stop falling for fake memes like the Civil Rights Florida slavery one that started this post.
🔥 Speaking of Civil Rights Florida, I took seven seconds and searched for it in Florida’s Division of Corporations. It doesn’t exist.
I then searched for the “Medical Freedom Coalition,” also named on Civil Rights Florida website, and that one doesn’t exist in Florida either. Even out-of-state entities are required to register with the Division of Corporations to do business in Florida.
What does it tell you when political messengers refuse to disclose who they are?
It’s a head fake, meant to hurt DeSantis and the medical freedom movement. Learn how to search for organizations like Civil Rights Florida in your state. It’s super easy. Don’t fall for messaging from anonymous groups. That’s playing right into the marxists’ chocolate-stained hands.
And for Heaven’s sake, READ THE BILL before you complaint. And the amendments.
All in all, SB 252 is not perfect, far from it, but right now it’s the best thing we’ve seen so far. If it passes, it will be a terrific example for other states and even the federal government (at some future post-Biden point).
While our feet are still cold and wet, like Roosevelt said, we’re floating. That’s democracy.
🔥 Finally, to help kick off your Friday right, after all that dry legislative mumbo-jumbo, the New York Post ran a story Wednesday headlined, “Transgender Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr Barred From House Floor for Rest of 2023 Session Over Protests.”
Say it isn’t so. Oops — it is so!
After being barred from speaking on the Montana house floor two weeks ago for running his mouth and his inflammatory comments, the silenced, salaciously-self-named, stylishly cross-dressing representative apparently organized a disruptive protest by trans activists chanting, “let her speak” during a recent legislative session this week.
So now Representative Zephyr won’t be attending the legislature at all this session.
Have a fabulous Friday! I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow for a traditional, action-packed C&C roundup.
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© 2022, Jeff Childers, all rights reserved
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.