Legislative Update – November 16, 2019

Personal Note

This week, I am pleased to share some news with my constituents.  I have been selected by my colleagues to lead as Senate President for the 2022-24 legislative term upon results of the 2020 and 2022 elections.

I’m humbled to have the support of my colleagues in the Florida Senate, and I will do everything I can to make them proud in service to this great state and to the people of Florida.

I will not lose sight of the current task at hand. Right now, my focus remains on supporting Senate President Bill Galvano and Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson while shepherding good policies this upcoming session.

Together, we will make Florida a better place to live, work and learn.

Holocaust Museum Opens in Naples

Over the weekend, I attended the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center of Southwest Florida at its new location at 975 Imperial Golf Course Blvd, Naples, FL 34110.

I had the honor of making a few remarks at the event saying “If we don’t take the time to learn our past, then how can we expect to learn from our past?  Every visitor who walks through the Center, be it seniors, adults or students, will gain a better understanding of what occurred during the Holocaust.  This facility will touch them like no textbook, novel or movie can.”

You can read more about the grand opening here: Remembering a tragedy: Survivors tour the new Southwest Florida Holocaust museum.

Commerce and Tourism Committee Passes Back-to-School and Disaster Preparedness Tax Relief Holidays

Senate Bill 542 by Senator Perry establishes a 10-day “Back-to-School” sales tax holiday, from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, August 9, 2020.

Passed this week, the holiday will exempt tax from certain clothing and school supplies, as well as a selection of personal computers and computer-related accessories.

In addition, the Senate committee passed Senate Bill 524 by Senator Gruters for a sales tax holiday on disaster preparedness supplies.

SB 524 establishes an 18-day period, from Friday, May 29, to Monday, June 15, 2020, during which the following items are exempt from the state sales tax and local discretionary sales surtaxes:

·        Portable self-powered light sources

·        Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios or weather-band radios

·        Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting

·        Items sold or advertised as ground anchor systems or tie-down kits

·        Gas or diesel fuel tanks

·        Packages of AA-cell, AAA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt or 9-volt batteries

·        Non-electric food storage coolers

·        Portable generators with purpose to provide light, communications or preserve food

·         Reusable ice

·        Impact-resistant windows

·        Impact-resistant doors

The duration of  both tax holidays may be amended in future committee meetings, depending on state revenue estimates.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force Presents Recommendations to Senate

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources met for a presentation from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and discussed recommendations.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect our state’s natural resources and enforce environmental laws.  Members of the task force are appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Some of the task force’s suggestions include:

·        Increased compliance, improved record keeping and data collection;

·        Broader regulatory oversight to ensure onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems are protect both environmental and human health;

·        Infrastructure improvements to minimize sanitary sewer overflow events;

·        Revise and update stormwater design criteria and implement an effective inspection and monitoring program;

·        Invest in a diverse portfolio of technologies to aid in the prevention, cleanup and mitigation of blue-green algae blooms;

·        Transparent and consistent communication regarding algal blooms and public health; and

·        Development and expansion of a comprehensive statewide water quality monitoring strategy.

Claims Data Bill Passes Banking and Insurance Committee

The Banking and Insurance committee passed Senate Bill 292 by Senator Broxson this week.  SB 292 would require an insurance carrier to provide a loss run statement to an insured within 15 days following receipt of a written request.

Insurance carriers would be required to notify the agent of record that the statement was provided electronically or made available through an electronic portal.

The statement must include a loss run history with the insurance carrier for the preceding five years or a complete loss run history if the history is less than five years.

The bill prohibits insurance carriers from charging a fee for preparing a one-loss run statement or for providing the insured on an annual basis.

This change is expected to help consumers with favorable claim histories to obtain insurance at a lower premium.

Bill Aimed at Suicide Prevention Proposed by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee

Senate Bill 7012 passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon.  This committee bill proposes the implementation of several measures related to suicide prevention.

SB 7012 broadens the scope and duties performed by both the statewide office of Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Coordinating Council.  The bill adds new requirements for various health care practitioners continuing suicide prevention related education.

If passed, certain health insurance plans will be required to comply with federal statutes relating to mental health and substance abuse coverage.  This is to ensure that who Floridians are privately insured have adequate coverage to help prevent suicides.

The committee proposal would also provide civil immunity to persons who help or attempt to help others at imminent risk of suicide.

In addition it adds new training and staffing requirements for personnel at both public and charter schools.

The bill would require Baker Act receiving facilities to provide information and resources to minors on suicide prevention.

Ethics and Elections Committee Proposes Bill to Implement Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Abuse of Public Office

Last November, Amendment 12 was passed by the voters with 78.92% support.

The amendment prohibits a public officer or public employee from abusing his or her public position in order to obtain a ‘disproportionate’ benefit.

Penalties for violation may include:

·        Impeachment and removal from office;

·        Public censure;

·        Civil penalties; and

·        Restitution, among others.

Once a constitutional amendment is passed, it is now required the legislature to enact implementing legislation.

Passed on Wednesday, Senate Bill 7006 is the Ethics and Elections Committee bill to implement Amendment 12 by placing these penalties and violations into state statutes.

Legislation Supporting First Responders Unanimously Approved

Senate Bill 160: Peer-to-Peer Support for First Responders, by Senator Keith Perry, unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

It is estimated that nationwide, 84 percent of first responders have experienced a traumatic event on the job, while 34 percent receive a formal diagnosis for a mental health disorder.

SB 160 allows for confidentiality between first responders who seek personal and professional support from their peers. The legislation aims to build a support system within the first responder community and address mental health among first responders.

State of Florida Launches New Travel Website for Military

Governor Ron DeSantis, in partnership with VISIT Florida and the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs, announced the launch of a new military-friendly travel section on VISIT FLORIDA’s website.

This new section offers a consolidated source of Florida travel information for service members, veterans and their families.

The page provides information for military members and their families about available discounts and experiences, monuments and memorials, military-related events, museums and more.

You can visit the new military travel section here: www.visitflorida.com/military.

Florida Veterans Protection Act

Senate Bill 294 by Senator Wright creates the Florida Veterans Protection Act.

Passed by the Senate Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee on Wednesday, SB 294 adds in the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act.

This act provides an enhanced sentence for any person who commits aggravated white-collar crimes against 10 or more veterans.

A person who engages in the crime and commits a first-degree felony shall be ranked within the offense severity ranking chart at offense severity level 9.

In addition to penalties for the commission of a first-degree felony, a person who commits an aggravated white-collar crime may be required to pay up to the greater of a $500,000 fine or double the value of the pecuniary gain or loss, court costs and restitution for each victim.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Advances Veterans Adoption Benefits Bill

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed Senate Bill 136 by Senator Bean this week.

The bill allows for veterans and service members living in the state of Florida who adopt a child from the state child welfare system on or after July 1, 2020 may be qualified to receive the monetary benefit.

Veterans and service members who adopt a child on or after July 1, 2020 are eligible to apply for certain monetary benefits to be paid to qualified adoptive employees.

This allows for the monetary benefit regardless of whether the applicant is a qualifying adoptive employee under statute.

Senate Hosts Holiday Food Drive

Senators and staff of the Florida Senate joined President Bill Galvano for the Senate’s annual Holiday Food Drive and Picnic on the Portico.

President Galvano announced that the food items collected would be donated to ECHO Outreach Ministries, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend, and Salvation Army – Tallahassee in time for Thanksgiving.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

Thank you to Hendry County Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti and the Heartland Educational Consortium for paying me a visit in my office.

Thankful to have had an opportunity to meet with Lauren Branson, the Community Impact & Grants Manager for United Way of Collier County.

Ita Neymotin from the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel 2nd District paid a visit to my office this week while in Tallahassee.

I was glad to have had the opportunity to meet with University of Florida President Kent Fuchs during his visit to Florida’s capitol.

Thank you to Dr. Kamela Patton and all the staff from the Collier County Public School System for meeting with me this week.

On Thursday, I was delighted to meet with students from Florida Southwestern College. They were in Tallahassee serving as members of the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA).  This association involves students from different schools from around the state.

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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