(The Center Square) — The Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee approved three bills that are designed to reform the Sunshine State’s civil litigation system.
House Bill 1035, also known as the “Teachers Bill of Rights,” was presented by state Rep. Karen Gonzalez-Pittman, R-Tampa, who stated that education is a fundamental value of the people of Florida.
“We must fulfill Florida’s constitutional responsibility to its citizens and provide the correct structure to secure and maintain high quality teachers.” Gonzalez-Pittman said.
The bill increases the rights of a teacher to have control over their classroom by providing the teacher with two avenues of relief if a teacher is directed by their school or school district to violate Florida law.
Teachers will be able to request a special magistrate to be appointed by the Commissioner of Education to mitigate any issues and provide a resolution.
Teachers will also be able to seek damages through the court system. Teachers will incur a cost if they choose to seek help from a magistrate. Gonzalez-Pittman said this will prevent people from filing frivolous claims.
The bill was reported favorably 16-2.
HB 213 will provide a limitation of actions involving real estate appraisers and appraisal management companies and was presented by state Rep. David Borrero, R-Doral.
An amendment to the bill seeks to limit the causes of action that can be filed against property appraisers for doing appraisals on properties. The amendment requires any legal action against an appraiser to be filed in seven years or less after an actionable incident.
“Right now, we are seeing a situation where property appraisers are being sued years, even decades after having completed an appraisal on a property,” Borrero said, adding that this causes insurance rates for appraisers to go up.
HB 213 was reported favorably as amended by the committee 18-0.
HB 991 deals with defamation, false light, and unauthorized publication of name or likenesses and was authored by state Rep. Robert Andrade, R-Pensacola,
“House Bill 991 in short provides some clarity, certainty, removes vagueness and subjectiveness from the private cause of action in court known as defamation. Also reconstitutes cause of action for false light and basically amends certain standards.” Andrade said.
State Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, asked if this was just another measure to silence the press.
In response, Andrade said that it does not silence the press because people still have to prove malice in court, which is historically hard to do.
“This bill only addresses the circumstances where someone has made a false statement of fact about someone else, and it has caused that person harm.” Andrade said, adding, “The one accusing someone of discrimination needs to show the discrimination.”
Proponents worry that discrimination will be carried out against the LGBTQ community and other minority groups. This was echoed by conservatives who worry that the bill will decrease public discourse and not encourage it.
HB 991 was reported favorably 14-4.