Legislative Update – November 8, 2019

 

Interim Committee Weeks Continue

This Friday concludes another week of interim committee meetings in Tallahassee.

The Legislature will meet in Tallahassee again next week before heading home and returning back to our Capitol the week of December 9th. As always, please contact my office if you have any issues or input on legislation or to set up a time to visit if you are up in Tallahassee.

To follow the process of any legislation or to review any committee materials go to the Florida Senate website:  www.flsenate.gov and click on “Committees” or “Tracker”.

Governor DeSantis Announces Protecting Florida Together Initiative in Lee County

On Tuesday, November 5, Governor and First Lady DeSantis traveled to Fort Myers Beach to announce the Protecting Florida Together Initiative.

It will be an online resource for Floridians to receive and review information on ongoing water quality efforts in the state.  The website is a collaborative effort of state agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Department of Health (DOH).

Floridians may sign up to receive email updates and monitor water levels of lakes and rivers across the state on the Protecting Florida Together website.

Visit Protecting Florida Together: protectingfloridatogether.gov

Senate Committee Approves Authorization of Visit Florida

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee advanced Senate Bill 362 by Senator Hooper to extend the authorization of Visit Florida to July of 2028.

Before Senate Bill 362 passed this week, Visit Florida’s state authorization was set to expire in July of 2020.  Although SB 362 does not provide funding to Visit Florida, the bill does provide the agency an opportunity to continue their operations without the previous year-to-year uncertainty. Funding for Visit Florida will be taken up in the Appropriations Committee as we craft the 2020 budget.

Visit Florida is the state’s tourism marketing agency, promoting all that Florida has to offer to potential tourists throughout the nation and around the world.

Everglades Restoration and Water Resources Discussed in Appropriations Committee

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on Thursday for a presentation on Everglades Restoration and Protection of Water Resources from the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Florida Senate approved more than $625 million for Everglades and water quality funding.  The allocation provides $413 million in Everglades restoration, $100 million for the protection and restoration of springs and $10.8 million toward the environmental accountability and transparency efforts.

The DEP is also investing significant resources provided by the Legislature in targeted water quality improvements, alternative water supply and innovative technologies and research.

Members of the committee had the opportunity to ask questions of DEP’s ongoing initiatives and permitting timelines.

The committee also received an update from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) on their medical marijuana pilot program designed to conduct new research and educate the public.

Canadian Drug Importation Program Implementation

At the Senate Health Policy Committee, senators received an update from Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew on the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program that passed last legislative session.

The legislation gives the state the ability to negotiate and seek participation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and improve access for Floridians.  The program requires separate federal approval before being enacted.

Secretary Mayhew is hopeful that the approval from the federal government will occur in the next 18 months and expects the program to save the state more than $100 million a year.

Health Policy Committee Approves KidCare Bill

Senate Bill 348 by Senator Bean was reported favorably this week in the Health Policy committee.  The bill removes the lifetime maximum cap of $1 million on covered expenses for a child enrolled in the Florida Healthy Kids Program.

The Florida KidCare Program is The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that offers health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families either through a Medicaid delivery system, a separate children’s health program or a combination of both.  This bill will ensure needed access to care for children and protect them from disenrollement from the Healthy Kids program if he or she has reached the lifetime maximum of $1 million.

Single-Subject Amendment Proposal Passes Judiciary Committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 176, which would limit any amendment to the Florida Constitution proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission to “one subject and matter connected therewith.”

Currently, the Commission has the capacity to embrace multiple subjects in each proposal and is able to propose a singular revision of the entire Constitution.  This Joint Resolution was sponsored by Senator Rodriguez and passed the committee with bi-partisan support.

Water Reuse Presentation in Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee

This week, the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee received a presentation from the Potable Reuse Commission (PRC) Chair, Lynn Spivey.

Potable reuse is an emerging alternative water supply option that may be able to help to safely meet Florida’s future water needs and provide resiliency during natural drought cycles for decades to come.

A consensus-based partnership between water professionals and a diverse stakeholder group, the PRC identifies and addresses technical, regulatory and implementation barriers to potable reuse in Florida.

The purpose of the PRC is to develop a framework document for potable reuse implementation in Florida to augment future water supply and support water quality initiatives.

Measure Providing Tax Relief to Florida Property Owners Passes Committee

This week the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, chaired by Senator Anitere Flores, unanimously voted to approve Senate Joint Resolution 146: Homestead Property Tax Assessments/Increased Portability Period by Senator Jeff Brandes. This legislation aims to save Florida property owners millions in tax dollars statewide.

The Save Our Homes amendment contained in our state’s constitution limits the amount that the assessed value of a homestead property may increase annually.

SJR 146 proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to extend from two to three years the “portability” period during which a person may transfer up to $500,000 of accumulated Save Our Homes benefit from a prior homestead property to a new homestead property.

If adopted by the Legislature, this proposed amendment would appear on the November 2020 ballot for Florida voters consideration.

Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts Continue Over One Year Later

Director of the Florida Forest Service (FFS) Jim Karels joined the Senate Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Senator Ben Albritton, to provide an update on Hurricane Michael recovery efforts pertaining to timber and tree loss.

The Category 5 storm devastated Florida’s Panhandle in October of last year and caused an estimated $1.3 billion in damages to Florida’s timber industry and significantly increased the threat of wildfires.

Director Karels reported that within the first year of recovery FFS has cleared 1,094 miles of roads and fire lines, assisted over 780 forest landowners with documenting damage, distributed over 12,000 native trees to residents, suppressed 275 wildfires and approved more than $500,000 in grants through the Volunteer Fire Assistance program.

Director Karels also informed the committee that the FFS is working diligently with other state agencies and the Governor’s office to request Federal Disaster Supplemental Aid.  The request includes $370 million dollars to offset timber production losses from Hurricane Michael and an additional $230 million in reforestation money from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Subcommittee Receives Updates on Key Environmental and Agricultural Issues

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, chaired by Senator Debbie Mayfield, received updates on some of the critical environmental and agricultural issues facing Florida.

South Florida Water Management District  (SFWMD) Executive Director Drew Bartlett briefed the subcommittee on the status of several priority water projects, including expediting projects to restore Florida’s Everglades and restore water quality.

Mike Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual provided an update on the state’s citrus industry and the Citrus Research and Field Trials (CRAFT) Program.

The citrus industry has faced serious challenges including combatting invasive pests and diseases as well as suffering damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017.  However, through CRAFT, industry leaders are hopeful that by moving research to the field, Florida’s citrus will be able to transform and regrow.

The subcommittee also heard from Holly Bell, Director of Cannabis at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, on the status of the state hemp program.

During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1020 by Senator Rob Bradley, creating the state hemp program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The state hemp program is now focused on continued research and education, effective collaboration with other state agencies and development of best management practices.

ICYMI: State Breaks Ground on Embankments and Canals to Complete Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis visited the site of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir to break ground on the embankments and canals to complete an important Everglades restoration project.

The Governor was joined by members of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as conservation groups, local community leaders and other environmental stakeholders.

The C-43 Reservoir will reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary during the wet season that can lead to harmful algal blooms.  It will also allow water managers to deliver critical freshwater to the Caloosahatchee River and estuary during the dry season.  The reservoir is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

The SFWMD is working to build approximately 19 miles of embankments, allowing the two-cell reservoir to hold 170,000 acre-feet of water (approximately 55.4 billion gallons).  An additional 15 miles of perimeter canals, 14 water control structures and public recreational features will all be incorporated into the completed site.

To learn more about the efforts to expedite these projects, please visit: www.SFWMD.gov/AchieveMoreNow

Make your Voice Heard on FWC’s Revised Bear Management Plan

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is currently seeking public comment on their newly-drafted Bear Management Plan, as they are in the process of reviewing and updating it for the first time since 2012.  It will be discussed by the Commission at their December meeting.

Bear Management is a topic I have heard from a number of constituents on in the Eastern Part of Collier and Lee Counties, in the Livingston Road and Imperial Parkway area.

Review the draft management plan here: https://indd.adobe.com/view/ba5d4202-3cb0-4056-9a54-5ab4c5765951

Newest Lawyer in Florida

On Monday, my youngest daughter, Gabriella, was sworn into the Florida Bar by the Honorable Charles T. Canady, Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.  It was a special moment for her two lawyer parents!

Welcome to the Florida Senate

This week, the Florida Senate welcomed the following groups to the Capitol:

·        American Advertising Federation

·        Florida Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation

·        Florida Clerk and Comptroller Day

·        Florida Renal Association

·        Osteopathic Medical Association

·        Students from the University of Central Florida (UCF)

·        Tampa General Hospital Patient and Family Coalition

I received a visit this week from local leaders of Hendry County, the City of LaBelle, and the City of Clewiston.  This group traveled to Florida’s capitol to advocate for the Heartland on a unified front.

On Wednesday, I met many future osteopathic physicians from across Florida.

Honoring All Who Have Served

To all the men and women who have worn the uniform to defend our freedoms, we salute you. Happy Veteran’s Day!

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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