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.
· 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.
· Date: Thursday, September 26, 2019
· Location: Clewiston City Hall, 115 West Ventura Ave, Clewiston, FL
· Time: 12:00-2:00 p.m.
· 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.
Kathleen C. Passidomo
Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28