Legislative Update – February 26, 2022

One of my greatest joys this week was meeting with the Senate Pages. The Senate Page Program offers participants the opportunity to learn about the legislative process in Florida through a hands-on approach to civic learning.
Also this week, the Florida Senate approved legislation that will provide greater benefits for Florida foster families and relatives willing to take on the responsibility of caring for a child. This is part of the Senate’s commitment to improving Florida’s child welfare system.
In Senate committee hearings, Senators advanced legislation to protect the lives of the unborn. HB 5 will prohibit abortions after 15 weeks. We also advanced legislation to strengthen border security and improve the integrity of elections. In my Committee on Rules, Senators voted unanimously in support of a measure to increase the structural integrity of condominiums and prevent another tragedy like what occurred in Surfside last year.
Importantly, the state of Florida announced emergency assistance for Floridians in Southwest Florida who suffered damage or harm from the tornadoes last month. Find more information on how to get relief below if you are in need.

The Senate Page Program Offers an Opportunity to Learn About the Process
It was an absolute pleasure to meet with Senate Pages this week.
The Senate Page Program offers participants the opportunity to learn about the legislative process in Florida through a hands-on approach to civic learning. Pages will role-play as Senators, develop ideas for new laws, draft legislation, and file bills. The week culminates with a mock session in which bills are debated and voted on by Senate Pages.
Additionally, Senate Pages will assist members of the Florida Senate by distributing legislative materials and correspondence in the Senate Chamber while observing the Senators as they discuss and debate legislation. Many Pages also get the opportunity to lead the Pledge of Allegiance during session, enjoy guest speakers, and participate in educational tours and activities.
Learn more at: https://senatepages.flsenate.gov/

Senate Passes Legislation Further Supporting Foster Families and Caregivers who are Relatives
The Florida Senate this week unanimously passed Senate Bill 7034, Child Welfare, by the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, chaired by Senator Ileana Garcia. The legislation builds on the Senate’s commitment to improve Florida’s Child Welfare System and expands benefits for foster families and relatives willing to take on the responsibility of raising children who cannot live with their parents.
SB 7034 ensures caregivers who are relatives receive the same level of support from the state as foster families. When children can no longer live safely with their parents, placement with relatives or nonrelatives the child has a close, family-like relationship with is preferred over foster care with nonrelatives.
The legislation also increases the child care subsidy to help defray the costs of early learning or a childcare program. To increase child visibility and help minimize further abuse or neglect, the Rilya Wilson Act requires children in the foster care system to enroll in an early education or childcare program and attend at least five days per week.
Additionally, SB 7034 expands eligibility for tuition and fee waivers at a Florida college, university or workforce education program for certain students in out-of-home care.
The expansion was in response to a concerned grandmother who notified President Simpson that because she decided to take on the responsibility of raising her grandkids, rather than seeing them raised in foster care, they were not eligible for the existing fee exemption.
Florida was one of the first states to offer assistance with higher education to students leaving foster care, and has continued to expand tuition and fee waivers to meet the evolving needs of children who are or were in out-of-home care.

Senate Committee Advances Legislation to Protect Lives of Innocent Children
The Florida Senate continues to prioritize the lives of innocent unborn children, and the health and safety of mothers.
This week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Kelli Stargel, advanced legislation to increase protections and improve outcomes for unborn children.
House Bill 5, Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality, by Chair Stargel, enhances efforts to improve infant mortality rates across Florida, prohibits abortions after the unborn baby has reached 15 weeks of gestational age, and increases health care and educational resources available to pregnant mothers.
Science has come a long way in the decades since previous court rulings related to viability. We know so much more now than we did back then about how a baby develops inside the mother’s womb and have made tremendous medical advances to expand fetal viability.
With regard to the prohibition on abortion following 15 weeks of gestation, HB 5 provides the same exceptions under current law for the prohibition on third trimester abortions to protect the health and safety of the mother.
Specifically, exceptions are maintained for a mother who is advised by two physicians that an abortion is necessary to save her life or avoid serious permanent physical impairment, or if an emergency abortion is necessary because such harms are imminent and a second physician is not available.
The legislation adds an exception for a “fatal fetal abnormality,” which is defined as a terminal condition that, in reasonable medical judgment, is incompatible with life outside the womb and will result in death upon birth or imminently thereafter. In these horrible circumstances, an abortion may be performed if two physicians certify in writing that a fatal fetal abnormality is present.
To improve infant mortality rates across our state, HB 5 expands and funds fetal and infant mortality review committees (FIMRs) in our communities. Additionally, the legislation directs the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to target counter-marketing advertising campaigns under the Comprehensive Statewide Tobacco Education and Use Prevention Program specific to pregnant women and women who may become pregnant to inform them about the potential risks and harm of tobacco use.

Prohibiting Government Agencies from Facilitating Illegal Immigration
Each year, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants deliberately violate our nation’s laws by unlawfully crossing U.S. borders.
The Biden administration has continued to ignore its sworn duty to secure our border, to enforce immigration laws, and to put the safety of Americans first. While the federal government may believe that taxpayers should accept and fund illegal immigration, protecting the safety and hard-earned money of our residents remains a top priority in Florida.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Kelli Stargel, approved SB 1808, Immigration Enforcement, by Senator Aaron Bean. The legislation prohibits governmental entities from contracting with individuals or companies that willingly and knowingly provide services to help transport unauthorized aliens into Florida. Protecting our citizens is not only a top priority — it is one of the primary responsibilities of government.
Allowing safe havens for dangerous criminals puts everyone at risk. For this reason, SB 1808 prohibits any law or policy that blocks our law enforcement agencies from providing information on the immigration status of inmates and detainees to state entities.
Additionally, this legislation requires Florida sheriffs to enroll in a partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that trains and authorizes county-level officers as an extension of their duties to perform limited functions of federal immigration authorities.
Florida has a storied history of welcoming legal immigrants and asylum-seekers fleeing oppressive political systems of their home countries. As neighbors, business owners and taxpayers, legal immigrants are an integral part of Florida’s diverse and thriving communities.
This legislation does not affect anyone who has entered this country legally. SB 1808 aims to send a message to the federal government that the state of Florida will not participate in their scheme to ignore immigration laws and border security.

Legislation Strengthening Condominium Safety Passes Final Committee
In June 2021, 98 lives were tragically lost when a beachfront condominium collapsed in Surfside. The Committee on Rules, on which I serve as chair, unanimously passed legislation to help ensure and verify the structural integrity of Florida’s condominiums, in response to the horrific collapse in Surfside.
Senate Bill 1702, Mandatory Building Inspections, by Senator Jennifer Bradley, establishes a mandatory milestone inspection program for residential condominiums and cooperative buildings.
The legislation defines milestone inspections as a structural inspection performed by a licensed architect or engineer to determine the life safety and structural integrity of the building. Under the legislation, milestone inspections are required for condominiums and co-op buildings that are at least three stories to be conducted once the building reaches 30 years in age and every 10 years thereafter.
If the building is within three miles of the coastline, required milestone inspections are increased to once the building reaches 20 years of age and then every seven years. The milestone inspections, which will be submitted to the building owner or board, include a phase-one visual inspection and, if the visual test identifies structural distress, a phase-two structural inspection. Additionally, the bill directs the Florida Building Commission to establish structural and safety standards beyond the bill’s requirements for local governments to adopt at their discretion.
To ensure adequate funds are available to address building maintenance and safety issues, SB 1702 requires condominium and cooperative associations to conduct a reserve study at least once every three years. The legislation also increases transparency by expanding unit owners’ access to records and provides additional disclosures relating to reserve funding. SB 1702 authorizes unit owners to petition the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes to arbitrate or mediate disputes when the governing body fails to perform safety or structural inspections, conduct a reserve study, fund reserves, or provide necessary maintenance and repairs.

Committee Supports Legislation Safeguarding Florida’s Election Process
Florida leads the nation in election integrity because the Florida Legislature has taken a proactive approach to address any election issues. The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved legislation to ensure Florida remains a national model for free and fair elections.
Senate Bill 524, Election Administration, by Senator Travis Hutson, establishes a clear framework for investigating elections violations, improves accuracy in Florida’s voter rolls, continues our commitment to protecting vote-by-mail ballots, and increases penalties for anyone who illegally interferes with our elections.
With more and more people moving into and around the state every day, it is more important now than ever to ensure voters’ personal information is protected, voter rolls are up-to-date, and every legal vote continues to be counted. This legislation creates a framework, with dedicated resources, for investigating allegations of elections fraud that is far more streamlined than current law, because when people and organizations interfere with Florida elections, there are consequences.

Committee Votes to Create Internship Program for Children in Foster Care
Children who enter the foster care system experience unique challenges and face a multitude of barriers, with only approximately four percent nationally graduating from college by the time they turn 26.
The Florida Senate is committed to providing these children the tools they need to build successful lives as they transition out of foster care. This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Senator Aaron Bean, advanced legislation to give children in foster care the opportunity to gain meaningful workforce experience and develop professional skills at Florida’s state agencies with employee mentors.
Senate Bill 764, Step Into Success Internship Program, by Senator Ben Albritton, establishes the Step Into Success internship program for foster youths between the ages of 17 and 25.
The program will be administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide children in foster care an opportunity to develop essential professional skills and prepare them to successfully transition into economic self-sufficiency. Additionally, work performed under the internship program may count toward college credit at the discretion of the postsecondary institution.

Southwest Florida Tornado Assistance Now Available
Following the federal government’s denial of Florida’s request to provide assistance to individuals impacted by the tornadoes that touched down in Charlotte and Lee counties on January 16, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) launched a donation portal to provide immediate relief for disaster survivors impacted by the tornadoes.
“These donations are going to directly provide assistance to our disaster survivors who need it most,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “The Division is working around the clock to connect disaster survivors with this vital resource, which will help them recover faster and begin to rebuild after experiencing extensive devastation.”
Residents affected by the tornadoes in Charlotte and Lee counties may seek assistance. Other residents may also make a donation to support the community.
The State of Florida is partnering with the Charlotte Community Foundation to collect and disburse donations for disaster survivors. All donations made through the FloridaDisaster.org/Assistance portal are tax-deductible.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

Lee Moffitt, Dr. Patrick Hwu, Dr. Dana Rollison and Chip Fletcher of the Moffitt Cancer Center came by my office this week as part of Moffitt Day at the Capitol.

Sierra Khan and Santana Khan are students from District 28 who served as Senate Pages this week.

In the News
March to a Million Meals: Teen volunteers at Grace Place Food Pantry that helps his family
A photo tour through Florida’s natural springs
Here’s the latest on Cape Coral’s Seven Islands project

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.

Kathleen C. Passidomo
Senate Rules Chair
State Senator, District 28

Naples Office:
3299 East Tamiami Trail
Suite 203
Naples, FL 34112
LaBelle Office:
25 East Hickpochee Avenue
Room J-101
LaBelle, FL 33935
Tallahassee Office:
330 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32339

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

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