A House committee on Tuesday approved a key change to a proposal that could impose fees on people who file numerous objections to school-library books and other learning materials, with the issue now ready to go to the full House.
An earlier version of the bill (HB 7025) proposed a $100 “processing” fee for people who file more than five book objections in a calendar year if the people do not have students enrolled in the schools where the books are challenged.
But under the change approved Tuesday by the House Education & Employment Committee, the fees would only be assessed if book challenges are unsuccessful. The House panel unanimously approved the revised bill.
The change would mean that, so long as school districts uphold people’s objections to library books, the people essentially would not be limited in how many challenges they could file.
“A school district may assess a $100 processing fee for each objection submitted by a parent or resident who does not have a student enrolled in the school where the material is located if the parent or resident has unsuccessfully objected to five materials during the calendar year,” the revised bill says.
The conservative group Florida Citizens Alliance has opposed the proposed fees but supported the change Tuesday — with some reservations.
“Our area that we’re concerned about is this idea of an unsuccessful objection. Many parents and school-district residents have objected to a book and asked it to be removed completely. Some school districts have found through their processes that they’ve outlined that the book is not age-appropriate for lower grade levels but is for higher grade levels. Would that be considered a successful objection or an unsuccessful objection?” Ryan Kennedy, a program manager with the Florida Citizens Alliance, asked.
The issue of people objecting to library books has become a political battleground in Florida, with the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis in recent years approving measures that increased scrutiny of such materials.
The state had 1,218 book objections during the 2022-2023 fiscal year that resulted in the removal of 386 books, with the vast majority coming in two counties.
“Over half of the objections came from two school districts, Clay and Escambia,” a House staff analysis of the bill said.
The book-challenge issue is part of a broader bill about removing regulations on public schools. House Education and Employment Chairman Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, touted the measure as “exactly what we are tasked to do, to make the job of our teachers, of our districts and of our students more effective and more efficient.”
The book-objection fee is a significant difference between the House bill and three Senate “deregulation” bills that were approved by senators during the first week of the legislative session. The Senate bills (SB 7000, SB 7002, SB 7004) do not contain a similar fee proposal.
–Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida