News from Senator Kathleen Passidomo

Legislative Update – September 20, 2019

Friday concludes the first of the Legislature’s Interim Committee Weeks ahead of the 2020 Legislative Session. This first week gives committees the opportunity to meet with various state agencies and departments to review the implementation of recently passed legislation, and discuss topics of interest to the Legislature, as well as upcoming budget items. The Florida House of Representatives also designated their next Speaker of the House, Representative Chris Sprowls.
While in Tallahassee, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of our state agency heads, including Secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs Richard Prudom and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew.

Leader Kathleen Passidomo Meets with First Lady Casey DeSantis
Senator Gayle Harrell and I met with Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis to discuss ways we can work together to tackle the growing mental health crisis in Florida.

ICYMI: Governor DeSantis Rolls Out Environmental Agenda in Naples
Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis came to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to announce his request to the Florida Legislature of $625 million in recurring funding for the next three years for Everglades restoration. The Governor also announced his support for legislation to increase fines for environmental crimes by 50 percent. This will empower DEP to assess daily fines until the environmental harm has been remedied or a plan has been developed in partnership with DEP to address the issue.
The proposal includes:
· At least $300 million for Everglades Restoration and the EAA Reservoir Project.
· $50 million for springs restoration.
· $50 million for Total Maximum Daily Load projects (TMDLs) to ensure water bodies throughout the state have appropriate nutrient levels.
· $15 million for projects within the St. Johns River, Suwannee River and Apalachicola River watersheds.
· $10 million for Coral Reef protection and restoration.
The remainder of the $625 million will be appropriated for other water quality, alternative water supply and water conservation projects, including innovative technologies for nutrient reduction and harmful algal bloom prevention and mitigation.

Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears Joins Leader Passidomo for Listening Session in Collier County
On September 10, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Halsey Beshears came to Collier County for a public discussion on the Department’s license and complaint processes. Secretary Beshears and I both served together as members of the Florida House. When Governor DeSantis appointed him to lead DBPR, I contacted him immediately to share what the residents in Southwest Florida have experienced when it comes to the department’s actions in response to complaints. I am grateful that Secretary Beshears made the time to come to Collier County to hear directly from my constituents and listen to their ideas on how the Department can better serve Floridians.

U.S. and Florida Chamber of Commerce Host Press Conference on Florida’s Legal Climate
On Wednesday, I joined Governor DeSantis and the U.S. and Florida Chambers at a press conference to present the results of their Florida’s Lawsuit Climate study. According to the study, Florida ranks 46th out of the 50 States in favorable business climates for lawsuit abuse. The overwhelming majority of practicing attorneys in our state are honorable and do great work advocating for their clients, but there are a few bad actors that can profit off of unnecessary and ongoing litigation. Florida made a dent in their rating by passing Assignments of Benefits Reform last session but there is more work to be done to simplify our legal climate for businesses and consumers.

Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee Hosts Public Safety Workshop
On Monday, Chair Lee and the Infrastructure and Security Committee met for a Public Safety Workshop with presentations and a panel discussion related to mass attacks and targeted violence. Dr. Jillian Turanovic and Dr. Brendan Lantz from the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University both presented to the committee on their ongoing research efforts. The criminologists discussed the growing topic of mass violence and hate crimes and the data methods that they use as scientists to measure and analyze their findings.

Senate Education Committee Focuses on Mental Health
The Senate Education Committee met on Monday to discuss mental health and school safety with the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. The Department briefed the Senators on the implementation of recently passed legislation to keep students safe at school. One of the items on the agenda was the mental health training for school faculty. Due to Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act passed in 2018 (Senate Bill 7026), there is a training requirement for all school personnel on evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance to help these adults identify and understand the signs of mental health and substance abuse problems in students. Currently, over 16,000 school employees are now trained as Mental Health First Aiders.
Additionally, the Department briefed Senators on the Florida Schools Safety Portal, which is available to threat assessment teams for schools across the state of Florida to improve access to timely, complete and accurate information by authorizing school threat assessment teams to swiftly identify, assess and provide intervention services for individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to themselves or others.

Senate Appropriations Committee
In the Senate Appropriations Committee on which I serve, Ms. Amy Baker (Coordinator for the office of Economic and Demographic Research for the State of Florida) gave the committee a presentation on the State’s Long-Range Financial Outlook. This was the thirteenth long-range financial outlook prepared for the Legislature since becoming a constitutional requirement. The work of over 100 analysts went into the preparation of this briefing for the Legislature.
According to Ms. Baker, the first quarter results for the 2019 calendar year indicated that Florida ranked 4th in the country with a 5.1% growth over the prior quarter. Florida ranked higher than the United States, which experienced 3.4% in growth. Healthcare and social assistance was the leading contributor to the earnings increase, and the increase in transfer receipts was greater than the overall net earnings change. Ms. Baker also touched on the impact of tourism as a stabilizer of our economy and one that is important to monitor due to external events such as natural disasters impacting tourism on a basis that is difficult to plan for.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services
In the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) presented to the Senators on the ongoing efforts of State Mental Health teams and briefed the Committee on Federal Changes to the Child Welfare System and how they can impact the State’s functions.
Types of Mental Health Teams
· Community Action Treatment (CAT) Teams: Use an integrated delivery approach to assist young people to successfully remain with their families and connected to their community.
· Mobile Response Teams: Provide readily available crisis care in communities for individuals 25 and younger to improve coordination of behavioral health services, decrease unnecessary hospitalizations and provide behavioral health interventions 24/7, 365 days per year.
· Florida Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) Teams: Serves adults with a serious mental illness who are at high risk of repeated psychiatric admissions. FACT teams serve those that typically experience prolonged inpatient psychiatric hospitalization or repeated admissions to crisis stabilization units.
· Forensic Multidisciplinary Teams (FMTs): Directly provides or coordinates the majority of treatment, rehabilitation, and support services with the goal of diverting individuals from the commitment to Forensic State Mental Health Treatment Facilities (SMHTFs) and other residential forensic programs.
· Family Intensive Treatment (FIT) Teams: Designed to provide intensive community-based services to families with parental/caregiver substance misuse in the child welfare system-focus on parents with the goal of increasing parental protective capacity and child safety and decrease parental substance abuse and child re-abuse and neglect.
· Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) Teams: Team of specialists who work with the participant to create an individualized treatment plan to intervene when symptoms first appear, decrease the likelihood of future episodes of psychosis and reduce long-term disability.

Representative Chris Sprowls Designated as Speaker-Designate
On Tuesday, Representative Chris Sprowls was voted Speaker-designate of the Florida House of Representatives by his colleagues for the 2020-21 Legislative Term. Speaker-designate Sprowls represents the 65th District in the Florida House and currently serves as the Chairman of the House Rules Committee. At his designation ceremony, Speaker-designate Sprowls touched on his priorities when assuming the Speakership, including the need to increase budget reserves and create a state fund for disaster recovery.

Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program
Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 7068 to create the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program within the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The purpose of the program is to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety and protecting the environment and natural resources. The objective of the program is for three task forces to research three regional corridors that are intended to accommodate multiple modes of transportation and multiple types of infrastructure.
The intended benefits include, but are not limited to, addressing issues such as:
· Hurricane evacuation
· Congestion mitigation
· Trade and logistics
· Broadband, water and sewer connectivity
· Energy distribution
· Autonomous, connected, shared and electric vehicle technology
· Other transportation modes, such as shared-use non-motorized trails, freight and passenger rail, and public transit
· Mobility as a service
· Availability of a trained workforce skilled in traditional and emerging technologies
· Protection or enhancement of wildlife corridors or environmentally sensitive areas
· Protection or enhancement of primary springs protection zones and farmland preservation areas
The study includes three corridors in the state of Florida:
· The Suncoast Connector, extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County
· The Northern Turnpike Connector, extending from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway
· The Southwest-Central Florida Connector, extending from Collier County to Polk County
· Study areas are defined at the county level and do not identify specific route. The three task forces held their first meeting on August 27, 2019.
The task force will summarize the results of its analysis in a final report by October 1, 2020. For public input, FDOT has set up an interactive website, https://floridamcores.com/, where Floridians can go to view an interactive map, leave comments, see future events of the task forces, and sign up to receive updates. You can also email the Department at FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us

Welcome to the Florida Senate

This week, I was able to meet with a former colleague of mine from the Hialeah area, Senator Rene Garcia. Senator Garcia was in town serving on a panel before the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee as they held a workshop on early intervention strategies and mental health. During his time in the Legislature, Senator Garcia was a leader on this issue and passed Senate Bill 12 in 2016, which was a landmark bill in reforming and expanding our state’s mental health system.

City of Naples Vice-Mayor Gary Price and City Manager Charles Chapman stopped by the office this week.

Ave Maria University President Jim Towey visited the office while at the Capitol this week.

I was delighted to be recognized as part of the Florida Chamber 2019 Honor Roll.

I was honored to receive a Legislative Appreciation Award from the Florida Small County Coalition.

Immokalee Fire Chief Michael Choate joined me in Tallahassee this week.

In the News
FGCU ranked as one of the South’s most innovative schools
Wounded Warriors of Collier County takes up the cause of combat veterans at home

A Look Ahead
Each County has a local Legislative Delegation Meeting that gives local governments, nonprofit organizations and members of the public to appear before their local Legislators and present on issues important to them before the upcoming Legislative Session. Please consider attending if there is an issue important to you that may be addressed in Tallahassee.
Collier County
· Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019
· Location: North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Rd. Naples, FL 34109
· Time: 9:00 a.m. until completion of the agenda. Note: the Delegation will recess at 11:30 a.m. and reconvene at 2 p.m. at the same location.
Hendry County
· Date: Thursday, September 26, 2019
· Location: Clewiston City Hall, 115 West Ventura Ave, Clewiston, FL
· Time: 12:00-2:00 p.m.
Lee County
· Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019
· Location: Nursing Building (Room AA-177) at Florida Southwestern State College, 8099 College Pkwy, Fort Myers, FL 33919
· Time: The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude upon completion of the agenda and public comment.

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

Passidomo – Legislative Update, Sine Die

Senate President Bill Galvano strikes the gavel to adjourn the Senate “sine die.”

Governor Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez joined Senate President Bill Galvano and Speaker of the House Jose Oliva for a press conference following the Legislature adjourning “sine die.”

House Sergeant-at-Arms Russell Hosford and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Hay performing the ceremonial “sine die” drop of the hanky.

 

The 2019 Legislative Session concluded Saturday, May 4th, with the traditional “Sine Die” ceremonies after the final passage of the budget.

At the end of each legislative session, each chamber adjourns sine die (latin for “without day”), which means “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.”

In the Florida Legislature, there is an adjournment ceremony, where the respective sergeant-at-arms from both the Senate and the House step outside their chambers holding up a handkerchief. When they meet in between the chambers, they both drop the handkerchiefs, signifying the end of the legislative session.

Each year, the Legislature is required by the Florida Constitution to develop and pass a balanced state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.  This year’s budget process came to a close this past week when the budget passed 38-0 in the Florida Senate.  The Legislature adjourned, and the budget now heads to Governor DeSantis for his review and signature.

This year’s budget prioritizes Florida’s PreK-12 education system, while still giving $121 million to Florida’s citizens in tax relief, investing $1.85 billion for Hurricane Michael relief, and devoting more than $680 million to water quality and protection projects.

Environment

We dedicated more than $6.1 billion to the protection and restoration of our environment in Florida. The funding supports a wide range of programs, including:

·         $23 million to the Department of Citrus, with more than $16 million devoted to addressing Citrus Health and Crop Decline

·         $367.2 million for Everglades projects

·         $149.1 million for Water Quality improvement, including Septic-to-Sewer/Wastewater Treatment

·         $10.8 million for the Blue Green Algae Task Force

·         $4.2 million for Red Tide Research

·         $10 million for Innovative Technology Grants for Harmful Algal Blooms

·         $50 million for Beach Management Funding Assistance

Education

There is more than $34.7 billion in total funding for education in Florida, which includes an increase in funding for Florida’s PreK-12 public education system of $783 million, or the equivalent of an additional $242 per student.  Within this funding increase is $363.9 million in flexible spending, which can be used for teacher pay raises, and $285 million for merit-based bonuses.

I’m particularly proud of the additional $5.7 million that has been devoted to the Mental Health Assistance Allocation, which brings the total Mental Health allocation for 2019-2020 to $75 million.

Additional highlights in the Education budget are:

·         Safe Schools Allocation of $180 million (an $18 million increase from last year’s budget)

·         $54.2 million additional funds for school districts that receive less than the statewide average total funds per student

·         Family Empowerment Scholarships, a new program for up to 18,000 students

·         $14.2 million to provide financial stability to Hurricane Michael-affected school districts

·         No tuition increases in both the Florida College System and State University System

·         $595.1 million Bright Futures funding

·         $9 million in Public Education Capital Outlay Funding for FGCU’s Integrated Watershed and Coastal Studies

·         $500,000 for FGCU’s Academic and Career Attainment Initiative

District Projects

Of the budget projects I sponsored this year, Collier, Hendry, and Lee County received about $8.6 million in funding in this year’s budget. These projects include:

·         $1.2 million for Naples Bay Red Tide/Septic Tank Mitigation

·         $381,000 for City of Clewiston Storm Spill Prevention

·         $500,000 for the Marco Island South Barfield Drive Drainage Project

·         $1 million to connect Airglades Airport to the City of Clewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant

·         $2 million for the City of Clewiston C-21 Bridge Canal Crossing

·         $110,000 for City of LaBelle Emergency Generators

·         $312,500 for Plantation Island Hurricane Irma Waterway Recovery

·         $87,000 for Lehigh Acres Caloosahatchee River & Estuary Storage & Treatment

·         $100,000 for Caloosahatchee River Aqua Vegetation

·         $500,000 for Marco Island-Barrier Island Emergency Fire Services

·          $75,000 for Jewish Family and Community Services of SWFL – Dementia Respite & Support

·         $650,000 for Auditory Oral Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss

·         $279,000 for the David Lawrence Center Wraparound Collier Program

·         $85,000 for Lighthouse for the Blind – Collier County

·         $250,000 for Florida Network: Stop Now and Plan for Children

·         $500,000 for Destination Graduation

·         $250,000 for Learning for Life (Boy Scouts Program)

In addition to finalizing and debating the budget, the Florida Senate heard and voted on over 150 bills, and more than 40 executive appointments.