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.

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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