Legislative Update – October 25, 2019

Former Sheriff Scott Israel Removed from Office

In response to many actions and inactions of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

The Florida Senate Committee on Rules, chaired by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, met on Monday to consider whether the former sheriff should be reinstated or removed from office. After a 10-hour hearing, in which the committee questioned Special Master Dudley Goodlette regarding his advisory report and recommendation, heard from counsel representing Governor DeSantis and Mr. Israel’s counsel, and listened to hours of public testimony, including from family members of victims of last year’s horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the committee ultimately voted to recommend that the evidence supported the Executive Order of Suspension by the Governor and that Mr. Israel be removed from the office of Sheriff of Broward County pursuant to the State Constitution and the Florida law.

The matter was then brought to the full Senate body on Wednesday and senators had the opportunity to ask additional questions of the Special Master and fully debate the issue.  The Senate voted 25-15 to accept and adopt the recommendation by the Committee on Rules and removed Mr. Israel from office.

Southwest Florida Unemployment Rate Drops

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released a report last week on Florida’s employment figures.

In September 2019, Florida businesses created 8,700 new private-sector jobs statewide. Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate (2.8%) exceeded the nation’s rate (1.6%).

Florida’s current unemployment rate of 3.2% is down by 0.1 percentage point as of this year.  The report notes that 154,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, creating a growth of 1.5% in the state.

In Southwest Florida, the workforce has also received a boost in employment.

The Naples area added 5,100 new private sector jobs in the past year.  The region’s unemployment rate was 3.2% in September, down 0.3 percentage point from one year ago.

The Fort Myers region created 11,000 new private sector jobs in the past year.  The area’s unemployment rate was 2.9% in September, down 0.3 percentage point from one year ago.

View the September 2019 employment data here: www.floridajobs.org/labor-market-information/labor-market-information-press-releases/monthly-press-releases

Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee Passes Veteran Care Coordination Bill

The Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee passed Senate Bill 104 by Senator Harrell this week.  This bill establishes the creation of the Florida Veterans’ Care Coordination Program.

The program will provide veterans and their families dedicated behavioral health care referral services, primarily for mental health and substance abuse.

This includes access to a special veteran-dedicated support line to receive assistance and encouragement from fellow veterans. The veterans aiding in the program will receive training for support response.

The bill is modeled after a pilot program established in 2014 by the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties.

$28 Million in Federal Funds Spent to Combat State Opioid Crisis 

As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I observed a presentation this week held by the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) Director of Substance Abuse and Mental Health on State Opioid Response Grant implementation.

Over the last few years, $28 million in grant funding has been allocated to the program from the federal government.  The funding has been implemented across the state in a number of ways.  This includes evidence-based prevention programs in schools, medication-assisted treatment, access to recovery residences, veteran support and aid to local community organizations that help individuals in their recovery efforts.

To date, more than 14,000 individuals have received evidence-based prevention services, and the Veteran Support Line has fielded more than 6,000 calls.  

The subcommittee also heard from DCF Secretary Chad Poppell.  The secretary presented the department’s Community Based Care Funding Model Report and gave members an opportunity to ask questions.

Secretary Poppell also touched on some of the department’s goals for the upcoming legislative session.  This included a DCF accountability bill to improve transparency and create definitive points where the department can intervene and take action.

Health Policy Committee Briefed on Hepatitis A Outbreak

The Committee on Health Policy, chaired by Senator Gayle Harrell, received an update on the hepatitis A Outbreak from the Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees.  Hepatitis A was declared a Public Health Emergency in August, 2019. Fortunately, there has been an overall decline in new cases since August which indicates progress in controlling the outbreak.

The best way to prevent hepatitis A is through vaccination.  Dr. Rivkees called on the medical community, community partners, and the public to do their part to ensure high-risk and vulnerable populations receive the hepatitis A vaccination.  These high-risk and vulnerable populations include individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals with substance abuse issues, individuals over the age of 60 with a medical condition, or individuals with liver disease.

Hepatitis A is preventable but highly contagious, and is transmitted person-to-person, usually through contaminated food or water.  Dr. Rivkees expressed it is critical that all individuals practice good handwashing procedures to prevent further spread of hepatitis A. Additionally, Dr. Rivkees emphasized the importance of consistent sanitation practices for public and private facilities with restrooms and showers.

Surgeon General Presents to Senate Health Policy Committee on Health Risks of ‘Vaping’ and E-Cigarette Use

The Health Policy Committee met for a presentation by our State’s Surgeon General, Dr. Scott Rivkees, on E-Cigarette and Vaping.

According to the Surgeon General’s testimony, the role of the department on this issue is to collect, manage and analyze vital statistics and other health data, inform the public of their findings, and formulate public health policy and planning from their results.

The recent outbreak of vaping-related lung disease and deaths is a national problem. According to CDC data, there are 1,479 cases and 33 Deaths nationwide, with 68 cases and one death reported in Florida.

As current topic of public conversation, the Department of Health has taken a vested interest into the matter.  Our Attorney General Ashley Moody has traveled the state to hear from local law enforcement officials about how this is impacting our youth in school.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Launches Mobile App to Assist Consumers

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has recently updated its app to better assist consumers.

This app provides the ability to submit complaints and photos in real-time to the department.  It also supplies search records for businesses and professionals licensed by DBPR. Users can verify licenses by name or license number, search for inspection reports of Florida food and lodging establishments, as well as submit unlicensed activity complaints.

First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Florida’s First Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator Deployed to Northwest Florida

First Lady Casey DeSantis announced that the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) has hired Darcy Abbott as the first Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator in Florida’s history.  Darcy Abbott holds 30 years of experience in the field of social work, is a Florida Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has proven her capability to support disaster victims in need of mental health counseling.

Abbott will be on-boarded at the division and deployed to Bay County to assist with coordinating mental health services for those impacted by Hurricane Michael.  This announcement is part of the First Lady’s Hope for Healing Florida campaign, which strives to combine the resources and efforts of both public and private sectors to better serve Floridians struggling with mental health and substance abuse.

Senate Committee Passes Legislation to Improve Reporting on Child Abuse and Neglect

The Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs voted unanimously to approve Senate Proposed Bill 7000: Reporting Abuse, Abandonment, and Neglect.  The legislation provides stricter penalties for failures to report suspected or known child abuse, abandonment or neglect to the central abuse hotline within the school system.  The legislation also empowers the State Board of Education with the ability to enforce compliance if a school policy for reporting child abuse, abandonment or neglect does not comply with state law.  The Florida Senate remains committed to ensuring our most vulnerable populations are protected.

ICYMI: Brendon Leslie Interview

In case you missed it, I recently spoke with Brendon Leslie on collaborative work of the Southwest Florida Delegation. Many may not realize that both myself and Representative Dane Eagle serve our respective chambers as Senate and House Majority Leader.

Other Southwest Florida members include Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and Representative Ray Rodrigues, who have both previously served as majority leaders and currently hold leadership positions in the Florida Legislature.

You can watch my interview with Brendon Leslie here: https://www.facebook.com/BrendonLeslie5793/videos/1144173365776056/

Welcome to the Florida Senate

I had the opportunity to sit down with Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) President Mike Martin on Wednesday to discuss the university’s legislative priorities for the upcoming legislative session, as well as the upcoming grand opening of the FGCU Water School.

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

·        Florida Atlantic University (October 22)

·        University Of South Florida (October 23)

·        Alzheimer’s Community Care (October 23)

A Look Ahead

Each County has a local Legislative Delegation Meeting that gives local governments, nonprofit organizations and members of the public to appear before their local Legislators and present on issues important to them before the upcoming Legislative Session.  Please consider attending if there is an issue important to you that may be addressed in Tallahassee.

Collier County

·        Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

·        Location: North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Rd. Naples, FL 34109

·        Time:  9:00 a.m. until completion of the agenda.  Note: the Delegation will recess at 11:30 a.m. and reconvene at 2 p.m. at the same location.   

Lee County

·        Date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

·        Location:  Nursing Building (Room AA-177) at Florida Southwestern State   College, 8099 College Pkwy, Fort Myers, FL 33919

·        Time:  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude upon completion of the agenda and public comment.

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

Not paid for at taxpayer expense.

Paid political advertisement paid for by Working Together for Florida P.C., 133 South Harbor Drive, Venice, FL 34285.

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