News from Senator Kathleen Passidomo

Legislative Update – March 8, 2020

Today marks Day 55 of the annual 60-day legislative session. The Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives have reached an agreement on budget allocations, and yesterday we began conference committees to negotiate differentiations between the two chambers’ budgets for Florida’s Fiscal Year 2020-2021.

I serve on the Senate Appropriations Conference Committee on Health and Human Services, and we are meeting through the weekend until we reach agreement. Once the budget is finalized, it must be printed and provided to each member of the House and Senate for review for a minimum of 72 hours before we can vote on the budget on the floor.

Once the budget is passed, which is likely to occur after Day 60 this Friday, we can declare Sine Die and officially end the 2020 legislative session.

March 3:  Celebrating 175 Years of Statehood

On Tuesday, March 3rd, we celebrated the anniversary of Florida’s statehood. This year marks 175 years since Florida joined the United States of America.

 ICYMI: Update on COVID-19

Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to activate to Level II to coordinate the state’s response to COVID-19 and provide critical support to the Florida Department of Health and county health departments.

DOH also announced yesterday a new presumptive positive case in Lee County.  The individual is isolated and receiving the necessary care. For the total case count, visit http://FloridaHealth.gov/COVID-19.

On Friday, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) released that two individuals have died and two new presumptive positive cases were confirmed in Broward County.

On March 1,  Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, declaring a public health emergency for the state of Florida following health officials learning of two presumptive (now confirmed) positive cases of COVID-19.

In conference calls with state officials, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) strongly recommended that citizens seeking testing should visit with their County Health Departments instead of going to the emergency room.

They urged individuals to call ahead to allow the facility to make the necessary preparations. This is an important step to prevent further spread of the virus among both the general public and the health care workers at the facility.

Below is a list of the local County Health Departments in District 28.

Local County Health Department Offices

Collier County

·         Immokalee Office: 239-252-7300

·         Naples Main Office: 239-252-8200

Hendry County

·         Clewiston: 863-983-1408

·         LaBelle: 863-674-4041

Lee County

·         Main Office-Michigan Clinic: 239-332-9501

·         Pondella Clinic: 239-461-6100 (for appointment)

·         WIC-Bonita Springs: 239-344-2000 (for appointment)

·          WIC-Lehigh Acres: 239-344-2000 (for appointment)

The Florida Department of Health has also opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121.  Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov.

Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

Click Here To Read My COVID-19 Newsletter

Guardianship Legislation Unanimously Passes Senate

On Thursday, the Senate voted unanimously in support of my guardianship reform legislation.

This legislation seeks to reform the state’s guardianship program to better protect elderly individuals who are no longer able to care for themselves.

SB 994 adds additional factors for a court to consider when appointing a guardian, revises the requirements for a petition for the appointment of a guardian and prohibits a guardian from consenting to or signing a “Do Not Resuscitate” order or taking other serious actions on behalf of a ward without court approval.

What happened last summer in Orlando is unforgivable.  The accused took advantage of a senior when he needed care and protection.

Because of cases like these, Representative Colleen Burton and I introduced the measure this session to protect the rights and lives of seniors under the care of professional guardians.  Our vulnerable seniors need to know they can find care and justice here in Florida.

The bill is expected to be considered in the House of Representatives next week.

Senate Approves “Clean Waterways Act”

The Florida Senate approved Senate Bill 712: Environmental Resource Management, by Senator Debbie Mayfield.

This bill, known as the “Clean Waterways Act,” takes action based on the recommendation of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force in order to stop excess pollution and restore our waterways.

This legislation fights many sources of environmental pollution by transforming policy related to septic tanks, biosolids, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and agriculture.  The Florida Senate is committed to improving Florida’s water quality in order to protect and preserve our unique environment for generations to come.

Senate Celebrates National Guard Day, Approves Legislation to Support Active Military and Veterans

The Florida Senate celebrated Florida National Guard Day at the Capitol by considering and approving several measures designed to solidify Florida’s reputation as the friendliest state in the nation for active-duty military, veterans and their families.

Senate Bill 294: Crimes Against Veterans

Senate Bill 294, by Senator Tom Wright, creates the “Florida Veterans Protection Act.”

This measure fights back against scammers who target our veterans by amending the “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act” to increase criminal penalties for persons who victimize 10 or more veterans in attempts to obtain or successfully obtain $50,000 or more through their criminal actions.

House Bill 171: Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel

House Bill 171, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tom Lee, promotes uniformity in the application of military training and education toward postsecondary credit or career education hours by public postsecondary educational institutions. Additionally,  it establishes a fee waiver for active-duty members and honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

Senate Bill 662: Education and the Military

Senate Bill 662, by Senator Tom Wright, gives greater flexibility to students from military families who are transitioning to new schools.

The legislation considers a student a resident of the school district at the point in time when the parent is transferred or pending transfer to a military installation within the state rather than within the district, for purposes of enrollment and preferential treatment in special programs.

House Joint Resolution 877: Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans

House Joint Resolution 877, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tom Wright, proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to allow the homestead property tax discount for disabled veterans to transfer to a veteran’s surviving spouse upon the death of the veteran.

This is provided that the veteran had received the discount.  The discount is available for veterans aged 65 or older who have permanent, combat-related disabilities.

HB 879, the implementing legislation for HJR 877, also passed the Florida Senate.

Senate Bill 7010: Open Government Sunset Review

Senate Bill 7010,  presented by Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Chair Tom Wright, saves from repeal the current exemption for the contact information of servicemembers and their families.

Specifically, the exemption would protect from public inspection and copying identification and location information of current or former active-duty servicemembers.

The bill stipulates they must have served after September 11, 2001, for the United States Armed Forces, a reserve component of the Armed Forces or the National Guard.

House Bill 197: Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

House Bill 197, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Aaron Bean, amends child welfare statutes to protect the rights of a parent, custodian or legal guardian who, because of his or her military service, must be absent from his or her child or from child-welfare-related court proceedings.

Ethics and Elections Committee Holds Final Confirmation Meeting of Session

On Monday, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee met for their final meeting of the 2020 Legislative Session for appointment confirmations.

The committee confirmed Mr. Ryan Petty to the State Board of Education and Drew Bartlett as the Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District.

Ryan Petty, of Parkland, is the senior vice president of business-to-business products for Cable & Wireless Communications. In honor of his daughter, Alaina – who was killed in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – he has worked to improve school safety in Broward County and across the country.

In 2018, Mr. Petty was appointed to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which was formed to analyze information from the school shooting and other mass violence incidents in the state. The commission addresses recommendations and system improvements.

Drew Bartlett was most recently the Deputy Secretary for Ecosystems Restoration at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) where he was responsible for:

·         Overseeing statewide water supply;

·         Restoring and protecting Florida’s aquatic ecosystems;

·         Managing aquatic research laboratory analysis;

·         Monitoring funding water and wastewater infrastructure; and

·         Governing coastal protection and resiliency.

Bill to Assist Public Guardians Passes Senate

Senate Bill 344, by Senator Rob Bradley, would make clarifications in current law to enable public guardians to meet the needs of their incapacitated wards.

The bill would also clarify that public guardians are exempt from paying any court-related fees or charges for accessing public records.  The legislation would also allow courts to waive court costs and filing fees in proceedings involving the appointment of a public guardian or the estate of a public guardian’s ward.

A public guardian is appointed to provide guardianship services to an incapacitated person if there is no family member, friend or person willing and qualified to serve.

Public guardians generally and primarily serve incapacitated people who have limited financial means.

Senate Passes Resolutions Condemning White Nationalism

On Friday, the Senate passed both Senate Resolutions 214 & 222 to reject and condemn any philosophy that incites one group of people against another on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability.

Accordingly, the resolution rejects and condemns the philosophies embraced by white nationalists and white supremacists.

The resolution affirms that these philosophies are contradictory to the values that define the people of Florida and the United States.

Bill to Prevent Emotional Support Animal Fraud Passes Senate

On Tuesday, March 3, Senate Bill 1084, by Senator Manny Diaz, passed the Senate unanimously.

Under Senate Bill 1084, a person who falsifies written documentation or knowingly misrepresents the use of an emotional support animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree. This charge could result in incarceration for 60 days, a fine of $500 or both.

The legislation would also allow a landlord to prohibit the animal if it poses a direct threat to the safety, health or property of others.

Landlords would be permitted to request certain written documentation prepared by a health care practitioner in a format prescribed in rule by the DOH.

If this bill is signed into law, the landlord could also require proof of compliance with state and local licensing and vaccination requirements.

The documentation for the support animal may not be prepared by a health care practitioner whose exclusive service is to prepare documentation in exchange for a fee.

Zachary Martin Act on Student-Athlete Safety Passes Senate 

Senate Bill 1696, by Senator Keith Perry, would add requirements to protect student’s health while participating in extracurricular activities and athletics.

Specifically, the legislation would require each Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) member public school to make an automated external defibrillator (AED) available in a clear location for each athletic session.

Additionally, a school employee or volunteer with training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of an AED would be required to be present at each athletic session during and outside of the school year.

The bill would require the FHSAA to make training and resources related to monitoring heat stress available to each member school. It would also require athletic coaches and sponsors of outdoor extracurricular activities to complete annual exertional heat illness training.

The bill has been titled the “Zachary Martin Act” after the local student from Riverdale High School in Lee County who suffered a heat stroke in 2017.   

Legislation to Enhance Public Safety Infrastructure Passes Senate

The Florida Senate approved Senate Bill 7020: Emergency Staging Areas, presented by the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security Chairman, Senator Tom Lee.

This legislation provides for the plan, design and construction of permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies (SAFE) as part of Florida’s Turnpike System.

SB 7020 aims to create a reliable and consistent approach to emergency staging and ensure that nothing stands in the way of critical supplies and assistance reaching communities struck by a natural disaster or an emergency situation.

The staging areas created through this legislation would be designed to accommodate the staging of a significant amount of emergency-related supplies and equipment; provide space in support of emergency preparedness and evacuation activities, such as fuel reserve capacity; and could be used during non-emergency periods for commercial motor vehicle parking.

Measure to Deliver Broadband Internet Access to Rural Florida Sent to Governor’s Desk

The Florida Senate approved House Bill 969: Broadband Internet Service, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Ben Albritton.

This legislation aims to bring reliable broadband internet connectivity to rural areas throughout Florida.

Specifically, HB 969 creates the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity to lead efforts for high-speed internet installation within or adjacent to Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.

This legislation will ensure broadband internet is available in rural areas so first responders can quickly and accurately reach Floridians during times of need on and around these multi-use corridors.

Delivering high-speed internet to Florida’s Heartland will help to revitalize rural communities, improve regional connectivity, boost business and educational opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for Floridians throughout the state.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

The Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·         Florida National Guard

·         Florida Parent Educators Association

·         Florida Public Archaeology Network

It was wonderful to meet with State Attorney Amira Fox this week.

It was great to meet with members of the Salvation Army Area Command for Lee and Collier County. Major and Mrs. Carlyle Gargis, and Michael Welch of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Lehigh Acres stopped by the office this week.  Major Gargis gave the opening prayer in the Florida Senate this  Wednesday.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – February 22, 2020

Legislative Update – February 15, 2020

Senate Passes 2020-2021 Balanced Budget, Focusing Investments on Teachers, Environment and State Employees

The Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 2500: Appropriations, a proposed state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The proposed Senate budget, presented by Appropriations Committee Chair Rob Bradley, invests in Florida’s teachers, state employees, and environment, while maintaining $3.5 billion in total reserves.

The budget includes $500 million for a new teacher salary increase allocation and $325 million in increased flexible funding through the Base Student Allocation.  This provides funding for schools districts to increase the starting salary for classroom teachers while also investing in veteran teachers and other members of school district personnel who serve our children.

$643.6 million of the budget is appropriated to address Everglades restoration and protection of our water resources, and an additional $125 million will go toward Florida Forever for water and land conservation efforts.

The Senate budget also invests in hardworking state employees with $403 million to fund across-the-board salary increases for state employees, as well as health insurance and retirement benefits.

Other key investments include:

·         Full funding for affordable housing opportunities with $387 million from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds;

·         $110 million in new funding for the Department of Corrections;

·         Increased funding for home and community-based services for Floridians with unique abilities; and

·         A rate enhancement for the dedicated providers who serve Floridians living in nursing homes.

The Florida Senate’s budget continues to prioritize critical areas such as hurricane recovery, tax relief for Floridians, health and human services, transportation and elections security.

The House also passed its budget this past week, and the next step in the process is for the Senate and the House to convene in Conference to iron out the differences.

“We have a lot of challenges with explosive growth, a lot of challenges that come when you have to meet the needs of 21.8 million Floridians, and I think that this budget meets that challenge.” – Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley

Senate Committee Approves Tax Relief Legislation

The Senate Committee on Finance and Tax, chaired by Senator George Gainer, unanimously approved two bills establishing sales tax holidays that will save Florida families millions in tax dollars. 

Senate Bill 542, by Senator Keith Perry, creates a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday beginning July 31, 2020.

The legislation would eliminate taxes during the designated holiday on the following items:

·         Clothing;

·         Footwear;

·         Backpacks costing $60 or less;

·         School supplies costing $15 or less; and 

·         Personal computers or personal computer-related accessories costing $1,000 or less per item. 

This measure will help to ensure students have the tools and supplies necessary to be successful in the classroom.

Senate Bill 524, by Senator Joe Gruters, establishes an 18-day sales tax holiday beginning May 29, 2020, for disaster supplies.

Some examples of tax-free items include:

·         Flashlights and lanterns costing $20 or less;

·         Radios and tarps costing $50 or less;

·         Coolers and batteries costing $30 or less;

·         Generators costing $750 or less; and

·         Impact-resistant windows and doors.

This legislation allows Florida families to purchase critical disaster preparedness supplies tax-free so they are better prepared for the upcoming 2020 hurricane season.

Guardianship Reform Bill Heads to Senate Floor 

My guardianship bill, Senate Bill 994, passed out of the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday.  The bill will now to the Senate Floor for a vote.

In the Rules Committee, I offered an amendment to the legislation to clarify the procedure for an expedited judicial intervention if the Do-Not-Resuscitate court approval is requested due to exigent circumstances.  If this occurs, Rule 5.900 of the Florida Probate Rules would then apply, and the court must hold a hearing within 72 hours.

What happened recently in Orlando is unforgivable.  The accused was charged of taking advantage of a number of vulnerable seniors under her care when they most needed protection.  Because of cases like these, Rep. Burton and I introduced the measure this session to protect the rights and lives of seniors under the care of professional guardians.  Our vulnerable seniors need to know they can find care and justice here in Florida.

Senate Approves Measure to “Keep Our Graduates Working”

As student loan debt continues to climb, House Bill 115: Keep Our Graduates Working Act prevents any state authority, including the Department of Health, from denying the issuance of or refusing to renew an individual’s professional license, certificate, registration or permit solely on the basis of defaulting on a student loan payment.

The bill does not forgive any student debt or remove the ability to suspend or revoke a health care professional license based on violations specified in law.  Senator Travis Hutson has championed this legislation that will help graduates remain in Florida’s workforce.

The Keep Our Graduates Working Act passed the full Senate and will now be sent to the Governor’s desk.

Measures Benefitting Disabled Veterans Advance 

The Senate Committee on Rules, chaired by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, approved Senate Bill 936: Disability Retirement Benefits, by Senator George Gainer.

This legislation improves access to benefits for disabled veterans by easing proof of disability requirements for a veteran in the Florida Retirement System who is receiving care at a federal Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility.  Currently, a veteran is required to receive certification of proof of total and permanent disability from physicians licensed in Florida or the state in which the veteran works.

SB 936 would allow a veteran to obtain proof of disability from a VHA physician regardless of the state that physician is licensed in.

In the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, chaired by Senator Anitere Flores, senators voted to approve Senate Bill 1662: Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans, by Senator Ben Albritton.  This legislation expands the property tax exemption for a permanently disabled veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, to allow for a prorated refund of ad valorem taxes paid for newly acquired property.  Although current law provides a full property tax exemption for homestead property owned by disabled veterans, tax-exempt veterans may sustain some tax liabilities when moving homestead property.

SB 1662 resolves this issue by allowing a veteran or surviving spouse to keep their exempt status upon acquiring new homestead property through a rebate process.

These measures continue Florida’s efforts to remain the most-veteran friendly state in the nation.

Bill to Require E-Verify Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Both federal and Florida law prohibit a business from employing a person who is not authorized to work in the United States.

SB 664 would require a private or public employer, as well as a contractor or subcontractor of a public employer, to use an E-Verify system to confirm that a newly hired employee is authorized to work in the United States.  At least 19 other states require the use of E-Verify by public employers, contractors or subcontractors of public employers or private employers.

Bill to Promote Holocaust Education Passes Senate Committee on Education

Senate Bill 1628 by Senator Book would expand the required instruction associated with the history of the Holocaust.  The legislation would authorize the Department of Education (DOE) to work with the Florida Holocaust Museum and other Holocaust educational organizations to develop standards for curriculum, training and resources for the instruction on the history of the Holocaust.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on Monday and will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

Bill to Give Municipalities the Right to Ban Smoking in Parks Heads to Senate Floor

Senate Bill 630 by Senator Debbie Mayfield, which would allow counties and cities to restrict smoking in a park that they own, passed the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday.

Currently, smoking is preempted to the State under the ‘Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.’  This bill would give counties and cities the ability to ban the practice for the purpose of protecting the environment.

Committee Approves Legislation to Save Florida ABLE, Inc. Program from Repeal

The Senate Committee on Rules unanimously voted to approve Senate Bill 828: Florida ABLE Program, by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto.

The bill saves Florida ABLE, Inc., the direct-support organization that administers the Florida ABLE Program, from repeal.

The Florida ABLE Program was created in 2015 to encourage and assist individuals and families with tax-free savings and an investment to support individuals with unique abilities in maintaining health, independence and quality of life.  The program serves over 4,000 Florida families and helps families with children with unique abilities to better prepare for the future.

Update on Vacation Rental Legislation

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 1128 by Senator Diaz passed in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.  The bill was amended after input from communities from across the state.

Specifically, some of the changes made in the Commerce and Tourism Committee include:

·         Requiring the advertising platform to verify  the validity and application of the vacation rental license number provided by the owner or operator before publishing the advertisement and at the end of each calendar quarter;

·         Requiring the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to maintain license information in an accessible electronic format to facilitate prompt compliance with the advertising requirements; and

·         Requiring advertising platforms to collect and remit sale and tourist development taxes if the guest pays for the rental on or through the advertising platform. This also permits advertising platforms to exclude service fees when calculating the taxes to be collected and remitted, and authorizes the DOR to adopt rules.

The amendment provides that the application of the act “shall not” supersede any current or former governing document of a community association.

The bill, most importantly, authorizes local governments to continue to pass zoning ordinances and regulate activities that arise when a property is used as a vacation rental so long as the regulation applies uniformly to all residential properties without regard to whether the property is used as a vacation rental or as a long-term rental.

Senate Bill 1128 still has to pass the Rules Committee before it can be heard on the Senate Floor.

Vulnerable Investors Bill Moves Forward

Senate Bill 1672, by Banking and Insurance Chair, Doug Broxson, would add additional protections for investors who are vulnerable adults who may be victims of suspected financial exploitation.

A vulnerable adult is a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired. This could be due to a mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction.  This also includes an individual living with brain damage or the infirmities of aging.

In Florida, an estimated 20 percent (or 4,129,854) of the population is age 65 or older.  Studies show that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and yet few incidents are reported.  It is estimated that annual losses to older adults have ranged from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion in the United States.

The bill would require securities dealers, investment advisers and associated persons to report knowledge or suspicion of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults to the Department of Children and Families’ central abuse hotline immediately.  The bill also allows securities dealers and investment advisers to delay disbursements or transaction of funds or securities from an account of a specified adult or a vulnerable adult if suspicious activity arises.

The bill unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee and will be heard next in the Senate Committee on Rules.

Honoring MSD Victims

On Thursday, we honored the victims whose lives were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.

We join the families, the survivors and the Parkland community as a whole, as they continue to mourn this devastating loss.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

The Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·         ABATE of Florida, Inc.

·         Boy Scouts of America

·         Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

·         Florida Building and Construction Trades Council

·         Florida Developmental Disabilities Council

·         Florida Professional Firefighters

·         Florida Public Transportation Association

·         Florida State University

·         Florida Undergraduate Research Association

·         Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

·         The Arc of Florida, Inc.

·         Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

I enjoyed meeting with Stacie Wiesenbaugh from Bonita Springs this week.  Stacie traveled to Tallahassee to take part in the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking Program.

Members of the Southwest Florida League of Cities paid a visit to my office earlier this week.

It was wonderful to meet with Fred Forbes and Daphne Saunders from the city of Bonita Springs.

I was pleased to have had the opportunity this week to sit down with visitors from the city of Fort Myers.

Randy Martin, City Manager for ‘America’s Sweetest Town,’ the city of Clewiston, also joined us in Tallahassee this week.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – February 7, 2020

Legislative Update – January 31, 2020

Senate Releases Proposed State Budget for 2020-2021: Invests in Florida’s Teachers & Environment

The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Rob Bradley, released Senate Proposed Bill 2500, a General Appropriations Act.

SB 2500 details a proposed state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.  The Senate’s proposed budget builds on a continued investment in elevating neighborhood public schools and ensuring our teachers are taken care.  This includes $500 million in a new “teacher salary increase allocation” and $325 million in increased flexible funding through the “base student allocation,” from which districts can invest in teachers and school district personnel.

Florida’s environment and water quality remains a priority to the Florida Senate.  With $643.6 million in funding for water quality and protection, the Florida Senate is working to restore and preserve Florida’s unique environment.  Funding would include storage and treatment projects North of Lake Okeechobee, Red Tide and toxic algae research, septic-to-sewer conversions and the development of coastal resiliency plans.

Guardianship Reform Bill Passes Judiciary Committee

My guardianship bill, Senate Bill 994, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.  This is the second committee of reference.

SB 994 is part of an effort to help restore public trust, improve transparency and prevent the exploitation of those under the care of a guardian.

Two small changes were made in the bill during the amendatory process.  First, we incorporated a timeline for the court to provide a ruling 72 hours after the filing of a verified petition.  The second change clarifies bill language to ensure that individuals seeking public guardian representation would always have petitioner services.

In case you missed it, my proposed legislation would:

·         Require a court considering the appointment of a guardian to inquire and evaluate potential conflicts of interest;

·         Prohibit a guardian from consenting to an order not to resuscitate on behalf of a ward without permission from a court;

·         Prohibit a professional guardian from petitioning for her or his own appointment unless the petitioner is a relative; and

·         Increase reporting requirements for guardians.

You can read more on the background surrounding the bill here: New Florida Legislation Aims to Toughen Guardianship Laws

Watch me discuss the bill on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/FLSenateGOP/status/1217485261619310592

Florida’s Unemployment Rate At All-Time Low

Last week, it was announced that Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to a record low of 3.0 percent in December 2019.  The labor force continued to increase with 220,000 Floridians entering the workforce over the course of the year.

Florida businesses created 198,200 private-sector jobs  and the state’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 2.5 percent continues to outpace the national job growth rate of 1.5 percent.

This is the lowest unemployment rate for Florida since the current estimating process started in 1976.

Committee Advances Legislation to Deliver Broadband Internet Access to Rural Florida

Senate Bill 1166: Broadband Internet Service, by Senator Ben Albritton, unanimously passed out of the Commerce and Tourism Committee.

This legislation aims to bring reliable broadband internet connectivity to rural areas throughout Florida.  The bill creates the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity to lead efforts for high-speed internet installation within or adjacent to Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.

Delivering high-speed internet to Florida’s Heartland will help to revitalize rural communities, improve regional connectivity, boost business and educational opportunities, and enhance the quality of life for Floridians throughout the state.

Measure to Create Permanent Emergency Staging Areas Advances

Senate Bill 7020: Emergency Staging Areas, by the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security, unanimously passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, chaired by Senator Travis Hutson.

The legislation provides for the plan, design and construction of permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies (SAFE) as part of Florida’s Turnpike System.

SB 7020 aims to create a reliable and consistent approach to emergency staging to ensure that critical supplies and assistance reach communities struck by a natural disaster or in an emergency situation.

The staging areas created through this legislation would be designed to accommodate a significant amount of emergency-related supplies and equipment; provide space in support of emergency preparedness and evacuation activities, such as fuel reserve capacity; and could be used during non-emergency periods for commercial motor vehicle parking.

Florida Veterans Protection Act Heads to Senate Floor

Senate Bill 294: Crimes Against Veterans, by Senator Tom Wright, passed the Rules Committee this week.

The bill would amend the “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act” to punish a person who obtains or attempts to obtain $50,000 or more by committing an aggravated white-collar crime that victimizes 10 or more veterans.

The commission of this act is a first-degree felony ranked as level 9 of the offense severity ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code.

In addition to a first-degree felony charge, a person who commits an aggravated white-collar crime may be required to pay up to a $500,000 fine or double the value of the pecuniary gain or loss, court costs, and restitution for each victim.

Bill to Create First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force Passes Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs

Senate Bill 1586, by Senator Ed Hooper, unanimously passed its first Senate Committee on Tuesday.

SB 1586 would create a First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force within the Department of Children and Families’ Statewide Office of Suicide Prevention.  The task force would include representatives of the Florida Professional Firefighters, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

The task force would develop training programs and materials to assist first responders with life and work stress and foster an organizational culture that supports first responders.

The First Responders Suicide Deterrence Task Force would be required to report its findings and recommendations on suicide prevention to the Governor and Legislature each July.

Bill to Re-Design Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver is Amended & Passed

Senate Bill 82, by Senator Aaron Bean, was amended and passed this week in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  The bill would make operational changes to improve the fiscal stability of the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver.

This waiver provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to allow them to reside in their homes and communities rather than stay within an institution.  The waiver would also provided employment assistance, adult day care and personal support services.

SB 82 would require the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to competitively procure qualified organizations to provide waiver support coordination services for HCBS waiver clients.  The bill was amended by Chair Bean in committee after input from both clients and providers from around the state.

Currently, Senate Bill 82 will help control costs of the waiver program without reducing services to existing clients.  The bill aims to provide a better assessment of a change in client services, as well as,  a more uniform support coordination.  The amendment also removed obsolete language and clarified criteria for qualified organizations.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

The Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·         AMI Kids

·         Autism Society of Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities

·         Big Brothers Big Sisters

·         Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists

·         Florida Association of School Administrators

·         Florida Coalition for Children & Department of Children and Families

·         Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

·         Florida Dental Hygienists’ Association

·         Florida Division of Emergency Management

·         Florida Division of Historical Resources

·         Florida Gulf Coast University

·         Florida Sheriffs Association

·         National Association of Social Workers – Florida Chapter

·         PACE Center for Girls, Inc.

·         Polk County

·         United Way of Florida (Children’s Week and Florida Senior Day)

·         University of Florida/IFAS 4-H Youth Development and Florida 4-H Foundation

·         University of North Florida

I was honored to speak to our local business leaders during Southwest Florida Day at the Capitol.

It was exciting to see a new record in attendance of business leaders who traveled to Tallahassee for Southwest Florida Day.

It was wonderful to speak to so many students during the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Day legislative breakfast.  FGCU students traveled to our Capitol to meet and engage with legislators on behalf of the student body population and school.

Great to see FGCU’s mascot, Azul the Eagle, who made it up for the day!

Thank you to Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner, Legislative Coordinator Emily Hunter and County Commissioner Mike Swindle for meeting with me while in Tallahassee this week.

What a wonderful opportunity it was to meet with leaders from the Diocese of Venice and so many students from the Donahue Academy in Ave Maria who attended Catholic Days at the Capitol.

I am grateful for the opportunity to sit down with the leaders of LeadingAge of Florida.  There are more than 80,000 seniors currently living in LeadingAge Florida member communities.  LeadingAge Florida serves thousands through home health services, adult day care centers and other community outreach programs.

This week, I visited with Hendry County School Superintendent Paul Puletti.

Thank you to the members of the Southwest Florida Apartment Association who stopped by the office.

I absolutely enjoyed hosting these members of the Collier and Lee County PACE Center for Girls.  These ladies were in Tallahassee for PACE Day at the Capitol. (They asked very tough questions!)

A Look Ahead

Next week, the Senate will hear from the Appropriations Committee Sub-Chairs in the full Appropriations Committee on the specifics of each budget-silo and Chairman Rob Bradley will present the Senate’s Proposed Budget(Senate Bill 2500) on the Senate Floor. The House of Representatives has also released budget recommendations, which are different from the Senate recommendations. Be sure to stay engaged as Session progresses and the Chambers continue to work on balancing our State’s budget.  

You can follow along on the Florida Channel at: https://thefloridachannel.org/

 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – January 24, 2020

Governor DeSantis Announces New Standards to Replace Common Core

Today, I joined Governor Ron DeSantis in Naples, where he announced completion of a new set of Florida education standards, which will be published next week.

The Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking  (BEST) will replace Common Core standards.  The changes include requirements for students to learn cursive, study the Constitution in grade school and meet several measures in literacy based on grade level.

“It really goes beyond Common Core to embrace common sense,” Governor DeSantis said.

Tourism Day at the Capitol

Wednesday, January 22, was Florida Tourism Day at the Capitol.  I was pleased to join with Lieutenant Governor Janet Nunez, President-Designate Wilton Simpson, Visit Florida CEO Dana Young, Representative Mel Ponder and 500 business leaders from across the state to rally in support of the tourism industry and the continuing authorization of Visit Florida.

More than 126 million visitors come to the Sunshine State every year, and they have an incredible impact on our economy, supporting big and small businesses throughout Florida.

Clean Waterways Act Passes Second Committee

Senate Bill 712: Water Quality Improvements by Senator Mayfield is a comprehensive environmental policy bill that addresses numerous environmental preservation efforts.

If passed, this bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health (DOH) to submit a report to the Legislature detailing the impacts of a type two transfer of DOH’s onsite sewage program to DEP.  SB 712 would require local governments with impaired water bodies or springs to adopt, implement and enforce Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Ordinances, while also educating and informing residents.

Through this bill, a wastewater grant program would be established within DEP for septic system retrofits, nutrient-reducing septic systems, septic to sewer hookups and advanced waste treatment.

If passed, Senate Bill 712 would also move oversight of septic tanks from the state DOH to the DEP and would direct DEP to adopt rules for septic tanks locations.

Department of Children and Families (DCF) Accountability Act Passes Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee

Senate Bill 1326 by President-Designate Simpson would make a number of changes to child welfare and behavioral health programs administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to improve performance and funding.

SB 1326 creates an Office of Quality Assurance and Improvement within the Department to measure and monitor program performance.   The bill would revise the current child welfare and behavioral health accountability and reporting requirements.

The program would provide a letter grade to contracted entities based on whether they meet performance standards. Contracted entities that receive poor grades will be offered technical assistance for improvement.  DCF would be able to terminate those low performing contracted entities if no improvements are made.

Senate Bill 1326 would also allow the department to investigate certain child abuse reports within 24 hours as opposed to the current requirement of 72 hours based on certain safety factors and would create a new funding formula for community-based care lead agencies.

Parental Consent Bill Heads to Senate Floor

Senate Bill 404 by Senator Kelli Stargel passed the Senate Committee on Rules on Wednesday.

This legislation would require a parent or guardian to give consent before a physician can terminate a pregnancy of a minor, with the exception of medical emergencies.

SB 404 would allow a minor to petition any circuit court in the area where she resides for a waiver of consent in order to obtain an abortion.  This process would be confidential.

This legislation also would increase the penalty from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if a health care practitioner fails to provide an infant born alive after an attempted abortion with the same quality and level or care as any other newborn.

This bill aims to strengthen family units and ensure parental or guardian involvement and guidance in major decisions of their minor daughter during unplanned pregnancies.

Senate Bill 406, accompanying legislation that exempts the name of minors using the court waiver process from being disclosed in public records, also passed the Committee on Rules.

Legislation to Provide Girls and Young Women A Better Future

Senate Bill 1056 by President-Designate Simpson passed unanimously in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.  The bill would authorize the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to contract with PACE Center for Girls, to provide services including, but not limited to, education, counseling, training and advocacy as an alternative to the commitment and institutionalization of girls and young women.

The PACE Center for Girls (PACE) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.

PACE has 21 centers in Florida, which serve over 3,000 girls and young women per year.  PACE is recognized as a national model for reducing recidivism and improving school success, employment and self-sufficiency among girls by multiple agencies, including the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and delinquency Prevention.

Occupational Licensing Reform Bill Passes Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee

On Tuesday, the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee approved Senate Bill 474 by Senator Albritton.

SB 474 would make a number of changes to state occupational license and fee requirements for the purpose of helping create alternative pathways to traditional education.

Governor DeSantis mentioned this initiative as one of his legislative priorities in his State of the State address on the first day of the legislative session.

This proposal is one that has been brought up for several years, and the sponsor has been working with various groups in hopes of addressing their concerns to get this reform passed.

Health Policy Committee Passes Bill to Direct Cigarette Tax Revenue to Cancer Research

Senate Bill 494 would increase the percentage of the state’s cigarette tax revenue that is directed each month to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.  The bill would increase the percentage from 4.04 percent to 7 percent, beginning on July 1 and again to 10 percent beginning in 2023.

The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center (Moffitt) was established by the Legislature in 1981.  Moffitt began its research on cancer in 1993 and became a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center in 1998.

Currently, Moffitt is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida.

Florida Senate Passes Measure Urging Congress to Improve Veteran Health Care Access

The Florida Senate unanimously voted to send Senate Memorial 420: VA MISSION Act of 2018, by Senator Manny Diaz, Jr., to the United States Congress.  This memorial urges Congress and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the implementation of the VA MISSION Act of 2018.

The purpose of the VA MISSION Act of 2018 is to overhaul existing law on veteran health care to improve access to care for veterans, consolidate many community care programs and expand eligibility for comprehensive assistance for family caregivers of veterans.

This memorial sends a message to Congress that Florida is committed to supporting and protecting the more than 1.5 million veterans living in Florida.

SB 290 Strengthens Safety for Students on School Buses

Senate Bill 290 passed in the Infrastructure and Security Committee on Tuesday.  This bill would increase the minimum civil penalty for failure to stop for a school bus.

For a subsequent offense within five years, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) would suspend the driver’s license of the driver for no less than 180 days and no more than one year. The current suspension is a minimum of 90 days to a maximum of six months.

Senate Bill 290 would also raise the minimum civil penalty for passing a school bus on the side that children enter and exit, from $200 to $400.

Senate Education Committee Passes Committee Bill to Implement Proposed Recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission

Senate Bill 7040 would provide additional safeguards for Florida’s students and schools.  The bill builds upon the school safety and security foundation established in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act and the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

The bill would require:

·        Each district school board to adopt a school district emergency event family reunification plan to reunite students and employees with their families in the event of an emergency;

·        Comprehensive participation from all members of a school threat assessment team;

·        Direct involvement of law enforcement officers in response to the school in the event of an emergency to be on campus and to perform the execution of emergency drills; and

·        Alignment of school-based diversion programs with local judicial circuit diversion programs.

Senate Bill 7040 would enhance the safe school officer position and the role of the county sheriff by:

·        Requiring school safety officers to complete mental health crisis intervention training; and

·        Making the sheriff responsible for the provision of Feis guardian training and clarifying the training requirements applicable to such training.

SB 7040 would also strengthen school mental health coordination and implementation and require:

·        A workgroup to provide guidance on the implementation of mental health-related recommendations of the commission;

·        Reporting requirements for mental health assistance allocation; and

·        Individualized Education Plans to include additional provisions related to post-high school transition.

Senate Bill 918 to Promote Civics Education Passes Education Committee

Senate Bill 918 by Senator Brandes would authorize the development and integration of a nonpartisan civic literacy practicum and create designations of public schools providing high-quality civic learning as a Freedom School.

Senate Bill 918 would require the Commissioner of Education to develop minimum criteria for a nonpartisan civic literacy practicum that may be incorporated into a school’s curriculum for a high school United States government course.

The bill would also require the Commissioner of Education to develop a process for district school boards to verify student completion of the practicum.

Appropriations Committee Reviews Governor’s Budget

The Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Rob Bradley, received a presentation on Governor Ron DeSantis’ Budget Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2020-2021.

The Governor’s $91.4 billion budget proposal includes significant funding for priority areas of: education, hurricane recovery, tax relief for Floridians, Everglades restoration, protection for valuable water resources, health and human services, transportation and elections security.

Currently, the Florida Senate is putting together budget recommendations and will consider the recommendations presented during this committee by the Governor’s budget chief. The Senate will work with the House of Representatives and Governor DeSantis to pass a balanced budget that best serves the citizens of Florida.

Bill to Provide Insurance Coverage for Children in Need of Hearing Aids Advances

Senate Bill 1006: Coverage for Hearing Aids for Children by Senator Dennis Baxley unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, chaired by Senator Doug Broxson.

This legislation requires individual health insurance plans to provide coverage for hearing aids for children and young adults ages 21 and younger.

SB 1006 requires policies to provide a minimum coverage limit of $3,500 per ear within a 24-month period.  It is estimated that approximately 1,700 children who have been diagnosed with hearing loss will benefit from this legislation.

Committee Approves Bill to Help Save Lives of Police Canines

The Senate Committee on Health Policy, chaired by Senator Gayle Harrell, unanimously approved Senate Bill 842: Injured Police Canines by Senator Tom Wright.

This bill allows for a canine injured in the line of duty to be transported in an emergency vehicle to a veterinary clinic or hospital if no person requires medical attention or transport when the canine needs it.  SB 842 also authorizes Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics to provide emergency medical care to the injured police canine at the scene of the emergency or while being transported.

Legislation Increasing Penalties for Crimes Against Firefighters Passes Committee

Senate Bill 1142: Offenses Against Firefighters by Senator Ed Hooper unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, chaired by Senator Keith Perry.

This legislation increases the penalty for an individual, who commits first, second, or third degree murder or attempted murder against a firefighter, to life imprisonment without eligibility for release.  Similar penalties are currently in place for murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and other specified officers.

Florida’s firefighters put their lives on the line each day to protect our communities, and the Florida Senate is proud to support legislation in order to protect them.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

The Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·        Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated

·        Brevard County

·        Citrus County Chamber of Commerce

·        Florida Cattlemen’s Association

·        Florida Coalition of Advanced Practice Nurses

·        Florida Conference of Black State Legislators

·        Florida Occupational Therapy Association

·        Florida Trucking Association

·        Florida Women’s Political Network

·        Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando

·        Junior League of Florida

·        Marion County

·        Space Florida (Florida Space Day)

·        Step Up For Students

·        University of West Florida

·        Visit Florida (Tourism Day)

Thank you to Stephanie Lucarelli of the Collier County School Board Member for stopping by the office this week.

It was great to meet with Clint Raulerson, who was in Tallahassee for Florida Cattleman’s Day at the Capitol.

It was wonderful to see so many members of the Southwest Florida Food and Restaurant Association. Many members traveled to Tallahassee this week for Florida Tourism Days at the Capitol.

It was a pleasure to meet with the staff of the Glades Electric Cooperative.  Their organization provides power to parts of Hendry County.

I was glad to have the chance to visit with members of the Lee County School Board.

What a wonderful opportunity it was to meet with so many pharmacy students. These students traveled to the Capitol this week to speak with legislators.

I received a visit from Patti Spears, who is the Administrator at Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center in LaBelle.

Thank you to the members of the Associated Builders & Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter for sitting down with me this week.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – January 17, 2020

Legislative Update – December 14, 2019

Senator Kathleen Passidomo's Weekly Update

Friday marked the end of our final interim committee meetings in Tallahassee before the 2020 Legislative Session.  This week, bills were presented and Appropriations Subcommittee hearings were held on the Governor’s budget recommendations for the 2020-21 fiscal year.  Senators on the budget subcommittees had the opportunity to review and ask questions of the Governor’s budget staff as we prepare to make decisions on the state budget during session.

Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable Adults From Abuse and Exploitation

In November, I filed Senate Bill 994 to create protections for Florida’s most vulnerable adults against guardians who could abuse and exploit them without proper protection.

Professional guardians are entrusted with an immense responsibility when they are appointed to care for someone else.  Most of the court-appointed guardians in this state are caring, dedicated individuals.

However, there are a few bad actors who have used their position to prey on the vulnerable, resulting in severe consequences on Florida families.

This bill would increase protections for individuals under a guardian’s care by:

·        Eliminating conflicts of interest;

·        Ensuring the vulnerable adults’ finances are protected; and

·        Prohibiting the guardian from signing “do not resuscitate” orders for a ward without permission from the court.

 Specifically, the proposed legislation:

·        Requires a court considering the appointment of a guardian to inquire and evaluate potential conflicts of interest;

·        Prohibits a guardian from consenting to an order not to resuscitate on behalf of a ward without permission from a court;

·        Prohibits a professional guardian from petitioning for her or his own appointment unless the petitioner is a relative; and

·        Increases reporting requirements for guardians.

This legislation was created in collaboration with State Representative Colleen Burton, Secretary Richard Prudom of the Department of Elder Affairs and active participants in the guardian program.  These participants included attorneys, Clerk of Courts, professional and public guardians and advocates for wards under guardianship.

SB 994 includes important changes for Florida’s guardianship program to help restore public trust, improve transparency and prevent the exploitation of those under the care of a guardian.

Governor Promotes Civics Education in Naples 

On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis visited Naples to make an announcement on education.  He detailed his efforts to promote more civics-based curriculum in Florida public schools.

Under the Governor’s plan, all high school seniors would be required to take a civics exam.

Similar to an exam required by naturalized citizens, the test would measure civic literacy of graduating seniors.

A decision has not yet been made on whether this will become a graduation requirement.

You can read more on the Governor’s announcement here:  https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/regional/florida/governor-desantis-wants-florida-students-to-take-a-civics-test/67-562968e0-c18d-4f67-8634-3c57bae7c179

“Clean Waterways Act” Passes the Senate Community Affairs Committee

Senate Bill 712 by Senator Mayfield is a comprehensive environmental policy bill that addresses numerous environmental preservation efforts.

If passed, this bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health (DOH) to submit a report to the Legislature.  This report would detail the impacts of a type two transfer of DOH’s onsite sewage program to DEP.

SB 712 would additionally require local governments with impaired water bodies or springs to adopt, implement and enforce Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Ordinances while also educating and informing residents.

Through this bill, a wastewater grant program would be established within DEP for septic system retrofits, nutrient-reducing septic systems, septic to sewer hookups and advanced waste treatment.

Parental Consent Bill Passes Senate Health Policy Committee

Senate Bill 404 would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on a minor without proof of consent from the minor’s mother, father or legal guardian.

This requirement would not apply if the procedure is performed during a medical emergency where there would be insufficient time to obtain consent.

Under SB 404, in the event a minor is unable to obtain such consent, the minor would still have the ability to petition the circuit court for an order authorizing the procedure.

The bill would also establish criminal penalties for:

·        A physician who knowingly or recklessly performs this act on a minor without parental consent;

·        Any person who provides consent who is not authorized to do so; and

·        Any person that fails to obtain consent.

Legislation to Benefit First Responders Advances

Two bills aimed at benefiting first responders were unanimously approved in Senate committees.  Senate Bill 476: Law Enforcement Vehicles, by Senator Ed Hooper, passed the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology, chaired by Senator Wilton Simpson.

This legislation ensures law enforcement officers have the ability to park their patrol cars at their homes without fear of penalties or fines from homeowners or condominium associations.

SB 476 targets a problem that arose after a Clearwater police officer was threatened with daily fines by her homeowners’ association for parking her squad car outside of her home.

In the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, chaired by Senator Anitere Flores, Senators voted to approve Senate Bill 484: First Responder Property Tax Exemption, by Senator David Simmons.

This legislation expands the First Responder Property Tax Exemption to include a law enforcement officer or firefighter who, prior to residing in Florida, was employed in another state and sustained a permanent disability while serving in the line of duty.  Currently, the First Responder Property Tax Exemption is only afforded to first responders who sustain a disability in the line of duty while in Florida.

The Florida Senate stands with our first responders and will fight for legislation that ensures our first responders feel welcome in our communities and neighborhoods throughout the Sunshine State.

Infrastructure and Security Committee Proposes Bill to Establish Statewide Resiliency Office

The Infrastructure and Security Senate Committee introduced Senate Proposed Bill (SPB) 7016 this week.

The bill would establish a Statewide Office of Resiliency (SOR) within the Executive Office of the Governor.  The SOR would be headed by a Chief Resilience Officer, a position appointed by the Governor.

SPB 7016 creates a statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force with the purpose to obtain consensus projections of the anticipated sea-level rise and flooding impacts along the state’s coastline. These projections would be utilized for the purpose of developing future state projects, plans, and programs.

The task force would be required to submit its recommended projections to the Environmental Regulation Commission for adoption or rejection by January 1, 2021.

Legislation to Create Permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies Passes First Senate Committee

SPB 7020: Emergency Staging Areas passed the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security, chaired by Senator Tom Lee.

The legislation provides for the plan, design and construction of permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies (SAFE) as part of Florida’s Turnpike System.

SPB 7020 aims to create a reliable and consistent approach to emergency staging and ensure that nothing stands in the way of critical supplies and assistance reaching communities struck by a natural disaster or an emergency situation.

The staging areas created through this legislation would need to be large enough to accommodate:

·        Staging of a significant amount of emergency-related supplies and equipment;

·        Space in support of emergency preparedness and evacuation activities, such as fuel reserve capacity; and

·        Available for use during non-emergency periods for commercial motor vehicle parking.

Bill to Combat Animal Abuse Passes Committee

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, chaired by Senator Keith Perry, unanimously approved Senate Bill 522: Cruelty to Dogs, by Senator Joe Gruters.

SB 522 prohibits a person from restraining a dog outside and unattended during a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, and defines this offense as a first degree misdemeanor.

It is reported that a startling number of dog deaths occurred during Hurricanes Irma and Michael.

This legislation intends to ensure dogs are not neglected in times of a natural disaster.

Committee Approves Legislation to Save Florida ABLE Program from Repeal

The Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs unanimously voted to approve Senate Bill 828: Florida ABLE Program, by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto.

The bill saves Florida ABLE Inc., the direct-support organization that administers the Florida ABLE Program, from repeal.

The Florida ABLE Program was created in 2015 to encourage and assist individuals and families with tax-free savings and investment to support individuals with unique abilities in maintaining health, independence and quality of life.

The program serves more 4,000 Florida families and helps families with children with unique abilities to better prepare for the future.

Committee Approves Bill to “Keep Our Graduates Working”

As student loan debt continues to climb, legislation proposed this session aims to protect workers in the health care industry who are not able to pay student loans. Senate Bill 356: Keep Our Graduates Working Act, by Senator Travis Hutson, prevents a healthcare practitioner or other individual from losing their professional license, certificate, registration, or permit solely on the basis of defaulting on a student loan payment.

The bill does not forgive any student debt or remove the ability to suspend or revoke a health care practitioner’s license for other violations specified in law.

The Keep Our Graduates Working Act passed unanimously in the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology, chaired by Senator Wilton Simpson.

Proposed Health Care Budget Recommendations

On Wednesday, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services met for a presentation on the Governor’s Budget recommendations in the health care silo.

The Committee heard presentations from the following agencies:

·        Agency for Health Care Administration;

·        Agency for Persons with Disabilities;

·        Department of Children and Families;

·        Department of Elderly Affairs;

·        Department of Health; and

·        Department of Veteran Affairs.

The Health and Human Services silo represents the largest portion of the total state budget.

The highlights of the healthcare budget recommendations include:

·        $20,427,019 for the implementation of the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program;

·        $6,492,378 for guardianship services; and

·        $18,271,959 for the operations of two new state veteran nursing homes.

Proposed Environment and Natural Resource Budget Recommendations

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Natural Resources, and General Government met for a presentation to review the Governor’s environmental budget recommendations.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein presented some details of the Governor’s recommended budget, which totaled over $4 billion dollars.

This includes $625 million in recurring funding for Everglades and Protecting Water Resources and $22.7 million for blue-green algae and red tide research and mitigation.

In addition to the environmental highlights, the Governor’s presentation included $19.8 million to protect and promote Florida’s citrus industry.

Proposed Education Budget Recommendations

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education met for a presentation on Governor DeSantis’ education budget recommendations.

While health care represents the largest portion of our total state budget, education represents the largest portion of the general revenue budget.

The recommended education budget includes an increase of $1 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).

Within this budget increase, there are recommended increases for teacher salaries and mental health and safe school assistance allocations for school districts.

Governor DeSantis Announces 2020 ‘Python Bowl’

Last week, Governor DeSantis announced that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) are teaming up with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to host the “2020 Python Bowl.”

The 2020 Python Bowl begins January 10th.  Those who sign up for training will be eligible to compete to remove as many invasive pythons as possible from the wild.

“The protection of our environment and natural resources is critical,” said Governor DeSantis. “Invasive Burmese pythons have decimated local wildlife and pose a massive threat to natural food chains and flora and fauna.  The 2020 Python Bowl is sure to be a great success, and I look forward to the positive effects it will have on preserving and protecting the Everglades ecosystem.”

You can read more and sign up to participate here:  https://flpythonchallenge.org/.

First Lady Casey DeSantis and Attorney General Ashely Moody Launch “The Facts. Your Future.” Campaign to Prevent Substance Abuse

Last week, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced a new, multi-faceted initiative titled “The Facts. Your Future.” to increase youth awareness of the toxic effects of substance abuse.

The First Lady was joined by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell and local law enforcement in announcing this effort.

“The Facts. Your Future.” campaign is part of First Lady DeSantis’ Hope for Healing Florida initiative that will incorporate school assemblies focused on substance abuse prevention.

“Too many children are losing sight of their dreams and goals – and even losing their lives – because of drug abuse and addiction,” said First Lady DeSantis. “It is imperative that students get the facts about drug abuse and how it can infiltrate and compromise every aspect of their lives.”

Welcome to the Florida Senate

I had an opportunity this week to speak to members of the Associated Industries of Florida at their Pre-Session Briefing about water quality and our state’s legal climate.

Fort Myers Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown, Estero Mayor Bill Ribble and Bonita Springs City Councilman Fred Forbes honored me with a visit to my office this week. They traveled to Tallahassee to advocate on behalf of the Southwest Florida League of Cities.

Thankful to spend time with James Winegar from Hope Club House in Lee County and members of the Statewide Florida Clubhouse Coalition.  Florida Clubhouses provide a long-term solution and support of people with mental illness.

I was glad to sit down with constituents from Collier County and the Florida Federation of Fairs.

A Look Ahead

Legislators will be back in Tallahassee in January when the Legislative Session convenes on January 14 and continues for sixty days through Friday, March 13. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – November 16, 2019

Personal Note

This week, I am pleased to share some news with my constituents.  I have been selected by my colleagues to lead as Senate President for the 2022-24 legislative term upon results of the 2020 and 2022 elections.

I’m humbled to have the support of my colleagues in the Florida Senate, and I will do everything I can to make them proud in service to this great state and to the people of Florida.

I will not lose sight of the current task at hand. Right now, my focus remains on supporting Senate President Bill Galvano and Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson while shepherding good policies this upcoming session.

Together, we will make Florida a better place to live, work and learn.

Holocaust Museum Opens in Naples

Over the weekend, I attended the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center of Southwest Florida at its new location at 975 Imperial Golf Course Blvd, Naples, FL 34110.

I had the honor of making a few remarks at the event saying “If we don’t take the time to learn our past, then how can we expect to learn from our past?  Every visitor who walks through the Center, be it seniors, adults or students, will gain a better understanding of what occurred during the Holocaust.  This facility will touch them like no textbook, novel or movie can.”

You can read more about the grand opening here: Remembering a tragedy: Survivors tour the new Southwest Florida Holocaust museum.

Commerce and Tourism Committee Passes Back-to-School and Disaster Preparedness Tax Relief Holidays

Senate Bill 542 by Senator Perry establishes a 10-day “Back-to-School” sales tax holiday, from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, August 9, 2020.

Passed this week, the holiday will exempt tax from certain clothing and school supplies, as well as a selection of personal computers and computer-related accessories.

In addition, the Senate committee passed Senate Bill 524 by Senator Gruters for a sales tax holiday on disaster preparedness supplies.

SB 524 establishes an 18-day period, from Friday, May 29, to Monday, June 15, 2020, during which the following items are exempt from the state sales tax and local discretionary sales surtaxes:

·        Portable self-powered light sources

·        Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios or weather-band radios

·        Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting

·        Items sold or advertised as ground anchor systems or tie-down kits

·        Gas or diesel fuel tanks

·        Packages of AA-cell, AAA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt or 9-volt batteries

·        Non-electric food storage coolers

·        Portable generators with purpose to provide light, communications or preserve food

·         Reusable ice

·        Impact-resistant windows

·        Impact-resistant doors

The duration of  both tax holidays may be amended in future committee meetings, depending on state revenue estimates.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force Presents Recommendations to Senate

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources met for a presentation from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and discussed recommendations.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect our state’s natural resources and enforce environmental laws.  Members of the task force are appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Some of the task force’s suggestions include:

·        Increased compliance, improved record keeping and data collection;

·        Broader regulatory oversight to ensure onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems are protect both environmental and human health;

·        Infrastructure improvements to minimize sanitary sewer overflow events;

·        Revise and update stormwater design criteria and implement an effective inspection and monitoring program;

·        Invest in a diverse portfolio of technologies to aid in the prevention, cleanup and mitigation of blue-green algae blooms;

·        Transparent and consistent communication regarding algal blooms and public health; and

·        Development and expansion of a comprehensive statewide water quality monitoring strategy.

Claims Data Bill Passes Banking and Insurance Committee

The Banking and Insurance committee passed Senate Bill 292 by Senator Broxson this week.  SB 292 would require an insurance carrier to provide a loss run statement to an insured within 15 days following receipt of a written request.

Insurance carriers would be required to notify the agent of record that the statement was provided electronically or made available through an electronic portal.

The statement must include a loss run history with the insurance carrier for the preceding five years or a complete loss run history if the history is less than five years.

The bill prohibits insurance carriers from charging a fee for preparing a one-loss run statement or for providing the insured on an annual basis.

This change is expected to help consumers with favorable claim histories to obtain insurance at a lower premium.

Bill Aimed at Suicide Prevention Proposed by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee

Senate Bill 7012 passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon.  This committee bill proposes the implementation of several measures related to suicide prevention.

SB 7012 broadens the scope and duties performed by both the statewide office of Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council.  The bill adds new requirements for various health care practitioners continuing suicide prevention related education.

If passed, certain health insurance plans will be required to comply with federal statutes relating to mental health and substance abuse coverage.  This is to ensure that who Floridians are privately insured have adequate coverage to help prevent suicides.

The committee proposal would also provide civil immunity to persons who help or attempt to help others at imminent risk of suicide.

In addition it adds new training and staffing requirements for personnel at both public and charter schools.

The bill would require Baker Act receiving facilities to provide information and resources to minors on suicide prevention.

Ethics and Elections Committee Proposes Bill to Implement Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Abuse of Public Office

Last November, Amendment 12 was passed by the voters with 78.92% support.

The amendment prohibits a public officer or public employee from abusing his or her public position in order to obtain a ‘disproportionate’ benefit.

Penalties for violation may include:

·        Impeachment and removal from office;

·        Public censure;

·        Civil penalties; and

·        Restitution, among others.

Once a constitutional amendment is passed, it is now required the legislature to enact implementing legislation.

Passed on Wednesday, Senate Bill 7006 is the Ethics and Elections Committee bill to implement Amendment 12 by placing these penalties and violations into state statutes.

Legislation Supporting First Responders Unanimously Approved

Senate Bill 160: Peer-to-Peer Support for First Responders, by Senator Keith Perry, unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

It is estimated that nationwide, 84 percent of first responders have experienced a traumatic event on the job, while 34 percent receive a formal diagnosis for a mental health disorder.

SB 160 allows for confidentiality between first responders who seek personal and professional support from their peers. The legislation aims to build a support system within the first responder community and address mental health among first responders.

State of Florida Launches New Travel Website for Military

Governor Ron DeSantis, in partnership with VISIT Florida and the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs, announced the launch of a new military-friendly travel section on VISIT FLORIDA’s website.

This new section offers a consolidated source of Florida travel information for service members, veterans and their families.

The page provides information for military members and their families about available discounts and experiences, monuments and memorials, military-related events, museums and more.

You can visit the new military travel section here: www.visitflorida.com/military.

Florida Veterans Protection Act

Senate Bill 294 by Senator Wright creates the Florida Veterans Protection Act.

Passed by the Senate Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee on Wednesday, SB 294 adds in the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act.

This act provides an enhanced sentence for any person who commits aggravated white-collar crimes against 10 or more veterans.

A person who engages in the crime and commits a first-degree felony shall be ranked within the offense severity ranking chart at offense severity level 9.

In addition to penalties for the commission of a first-degree felony, a person who commits an aggravated white-collar crime may be required to pay up to the greater of a $500,000 fine or double the value of the pecuniary gain or loss, court costs and restitution for each victim.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Advances Veterans Adoption Benefits Bill

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed Senate Bill 136 by Senator Bean this week.

The bill allows for veterans and service members living in the state of Florida who adopt a child from the state child welfare system on or after July 1, 2020 may be qualified to receive the monetary benefit.

Veterans and service members who adopt a child on or after July 1, 2020 are eligible to apply for certain monetary benefits to be paid to qualified adoptive employees.

This allows for the monetary benefit regardless of whether the applicant is a qualifying adoptive employee under statute.

Senate Hosts Holiday Food Drive

Senators and staff of the Florida Senate joined President Bill Galvano for the Senate’s annual Holiday Food Drive and Picnic on the Portico.

President Galvano announced that the food items collected would be donated to ECHO Outreach Ministries, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend, and Salvation Army – Tallahassee in time for Thanksgiving.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

Thank you to Hendry County Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti and the Heartland Educational Consortium for paying me a visit in my office.

Thankful to have had an opportunity to meet with Lauren Branson, the Community Impact & Grants Manager for United Way of Collier County.

Ita Neymotin from the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel 2nd District paid a visit to my office this week while in Tallahassee.

I was glad to have had the opportunity to meet with University of Florida President Kent Fuchs during his visit to Florida’s capitol.

Thank you to Dr. Kamela Patton and all the staff from the Collier County Public School System for meeting with me this week.

On Thursday, I was delighted to meet with students from Florida Southwestern College. They were in Tallahassee serving as members of the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA).  This association involves students from different schools from around the state.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Legislative Update – November 8, 2019

 

Interim Committee Weeks Continue

This Friday concludes another week of interim committee meetings in Tallahassee.

The Legislature will meet in Tallahassee again next week before heading home and returning back to our Capitol the week of December 9th. As always, please contact my office if you have any issues or input on legislation or to set up a time to visit if you are up in Tallahassee.

To follow the process of any legislation or to review any committee materials go to the Florida Senate website:  www.flsenate.gov and click on “Committees” or “Tracker”.

Governor DeSantis Announces Protecting Florida Together Initiative in Lee County

On Tuesday, November 5, Governor and First Lady DeSantis traveled to Fort Myers Beach to announce the Protecting Florida Together Initiative.

It will be an online resource for Floridians to receive and review information on ongoing water quality efforts in the state.  The website is a collaborative effort of state agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Department of Health (DOH).

Floridians may sign up to receive email updates and monitor water levels of lakes and rivers across the state on the Protecting Florida Together website.

Visit Protecting Florida Together: protectingfloridatogether.gov

Senate Committee Approves Authorization of Visit Florida

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced Senate Bill 362 by Senator Hooper to extend the authorization of Visit Florida to July of 2028.

Before Senate Bill 362 passed this week, Visit Florida’s state authorization was set to expire in July of 2020.  Although SB 362 does not provide funding to Visit Florida, the bill does provide the agency an opportunity to continue their operations without the previous year-to-year uncertainty. Funding for Visit Florida will be taken up in the Appropriations Committee as we craft the 2020 budget.

Visit Florida is the state’s tourism marketing agency, promoting all that Florida has to offer to potential tourists throughout the nation and around the world.

Everglades Restoration and Water Resources Discussed in Appropriations Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on Thursday for a presentation on Everglades Restoration and Protection of Water Resources from the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Florida Senate approved more than $625 million for Everglades and water quality funding.  The allocation provides $413 million in Everglades restoration, $100 million for the protection and restoration of springs and $10.8 million toward the environmental accountability and transparency efforts.

The DEP is also investing significant resources provided by the Legislature in targeted water quality improvements, alternative water supply and innovative technologies and research.

Members of the committee had the opportunity to ask questions of DEP’s ongoing initiatives and permitting timelines.

The committee also received an update from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) on their medical marijuana pilot program designed to conduct new research and educate the public.

Canadian Drug Importation Program Implementation

At the Senate Health Policy Committee, senators received an update from Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew on the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program that passed last legislative session.

The legislation gives the state the ability to negotiate and seek participation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve access for Floridians.  The program requires separate federal approval before being enacted.

Secretary Mayhew is hopeful that the approval from the federal government will occur in the next 18 months and expects the program to save the state more than $100 million a year.

Health Policy Committee Approves KidCare Bill

Senate Bill 348 by Senator Bean was reported favorably this week in the Health Policy committee.  The bill removes the lifetime maximum cap of $1 million on covered expenses for a child enrolled in the Florida Healthy Kids Program.

The Florida KidCare Program is The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that offers health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families either through a Medicaid delivery system, a separate children’s health program or a combination of both.  This bill will ensure needed access to care for children and protect them from disenrollement from the Healthy Kids program if he or she has reached the lifetime maximum of $1 million.

Single-Subject Amendment Proposal Passes Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 176, which would limit any amendment to the Florida Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.”

Currently, the Commission has the capacity to embrace multiple subjects in each proposal and is able to propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution.  This Joint Resolution was sponsored by Senator Rodriguez and passed the committee with bi-partisan support.

Water Reuse Presentation in Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee

This week, the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee received a presentation from the Potable Reuse Commission (PRC) Chair, Lynn Spivey.

Potable reuse is an emerging alternative water supply option that may be able to help to safely meet Florida’s future water needs and provide resiliency during natural drought cycles for decades to come.

A consensus-based partnership between water professionals and a diverse stakeholder group, the PRC identifies and addresses technical, regulatory and implementation barriers to potable reuse in Florida.

The purpose of the PRC is to develop a framework document for potable reuse implementation in Florida to augment future water supply and support water quality initiatives.

Measure Providing Tax Relief to Florida Property Owners Passes Committee

This week the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, chaired by Senator Anitere Flores, unanimously voted to approve Senate Joint Resolution 146: Homestead Property Tax Assessments/Increased Portability Period by Senator Jeff Brandes. This legislation aims to save Florida property owners millions in tax dollars statewide.

The Save Our Homes amendment contained in our state’s constitution limits the amount that the assessed value of a homestead property may increase annually.

SJR 146 proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to extend from two to three years the “portability” period during which a person may transfer up to $500,000 of accumulated Save Our Homes benefit from a prior homestead property to a new homestead property.

If adopted by the Legislature, this proposed amendment would appear on the November 2020 ballot for Florida voters consideration.

Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Continue Over One Year Later

Director of the Florida Forest Service (FFS) Jim Karels joined the Senate Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Senator Ben Albritton, to provide an update on Hurricane Michael recovery efforts pertaining to timber and tree loss.

The Category 5 storm devastated Florida’s Panhandle in October of last year and caused an estimated $1.3 billion in damages to Florida’s timber industry and significantly increased the threat of wildfires.

Director Karels reported that within the first year of recovery FFS has cleared 1,094 miles of roads and fire lines, assisted over 780 forest landowners with documenting damage, distributed over 12,000 native trees to residents, suppressed 275 wildfires and approved more than $500,000 in grants through the Volunteer Fire Assistance program.

Director Karels also informed the committee that the FFS is working diligently with other state agencies and the Governor’s office to request Federal Disaster Supplemental Aid.  The request includes $370 million dollars to offset timber production losses from Hurricane Michael and an additional $230 million in reforestation money from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Subcommittee Receives Updates on Key Environmental and Agricultural Issues

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, chaired by Senator Debbie Mayfield, received updates on some of the critical environmental and agricultural issues facing Florida.

South Florida Water Management District  (SFWMD) Executive Director Drew Bartlett briefed the subcommittee on the status of several priority water projects, including expediting projects to restore Florida’s Everglades and restore water quality.

Mike Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual provided an update on the state’s citrus industry and the Citrus Research and Field Trials (CRAFT) Program.

The citrus industry has faced serious challenges including combatting invasive pests and diseases as well as suffering damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.  However, through CRAFT, industry leaders are hopeful that by moving research to the field, Florida’s citrus will be able to transform and regrow.

The subcommittee also heard from Holly Bell, Director of Cannabis at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, on the status of the state hemp program.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1020 by Senator Rob Bradley, creating the state hemp program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The state hemp program is now focused on continued research and education, effective collaboration with other state agencies and development of best management practices.

ICYMI: State Breaks Ground on Embankments and Canals to Complete Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis visited the site of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir to break ground on the embankments and canals to complete an important Everglades restoration project.

The Governor was joined by members of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as conservation groups, local community leaders and other environmental stakeholders.

The C-43 Reservoir will reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary during the wet season that can lead to harmful algal blooms.  It will also allow water managers to deliver critical freshwater to the Caloosahatchee River and estuary during the dry season.  The reservoir is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

The SFWMD is working to build approximately 19 miles of embankments, allowing the two-cell reservoir to hold 170,000 acre-feet of water (approximately 55.4 billion gallons).  An additional 15 miles of perimeter canals, 14 water control structures and public recreational features will all be incorporated into the completed site.

To learn more about the efforts to expedite these projects, please visit: www.SFWMD.gov/AchieveMoreNow

Make your Voice Heard on FWC’s Revised Bear Management Plan

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently seeking public comment on their newly-drafted Bear Management Plan, as they are in the process of reviewing and updating it for the first time since 2012.  It will be discussed by the Commission at their December meeting.

Bear Management is a topic I have heard from a number of constituents on in the Eastern Part of Collier and Lee Counties, in the Livingston Road and Imperial Parkway area.

Review the draft management plan here: https://indd.adobe.com/view/ba5d4202-3cb0-4056-9a54-5ab4c5765951

Newest Lawyer in Florida

On Monday, my youngest daughter, Gabriella, was sworn into the Florida Bar by the Honorable Charles T. Canady, Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.  It was a special moment for her two lawyer parents!

Welcome to the Florida Senate

This week, the Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·        American Advertising Federation

·        Florida Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation

·        Florida Clerk and Comptroller Day

·        Florida Renal Association

·        Osteopathic Medical Association

·        Students from the University of Central Florida (UCF)

·        Tampa General Hospital Patient and Family Coalition

I received a visit this week from local leaders of Hendry County, the City of LaBelle, and the City of Clewiston.  This group traveled to Florida’s capitol to advocate for the Heartland on a unified front.

On Wednesday, I met many future osteopathic physicians from across Florida.

Honoring All Who Have Served

To all the men and women who have worn the uniform to defend our freedoms, we salute you. Happy Veteran’s Day!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.
 
Sincerely,

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
239-417-6205

LaBelle Office:

25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
863-674-7122

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339
850-487-5028

Not paid for at taxpayer expense.

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