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

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