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.

Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:

3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112

LaBelle Office:

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

Tallahassee Office:

330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339

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