Legislative Update – February 19, 2022


On Thursday, the Florida Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of Senate Bill 2508 after amendments were made to clarify the intent of the legislation. In a 37-2 bipartisan vote, we sustained current funding for protection and restoration of the Florida Everglades and added an additional $875 million to the budget for restoration of the Everglades and protection of Lake Okeechobee. Importantly, this legislation holds agencies accountable to implement the water restoration projects and abide by current state law. We remain committed to protecting and restoring Florida’s water resources.
This week, the Florida Senate also passed our proposed state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The budget reflects a responsible and balanced approach to furthering investments in the state of Florida. It includes key investments in environmental and clean water resources, public safety and transportation infrastructure. The budget also invests in early literacy and PreK-12 education, and it makes major improvements to Florida’s Child Welfare system.
The budget includes salary increases for correction officers and expands investments to prison and prison hospitals to help reinforce facilities and improve safety for all Floridians.
In the next few weeks, we will begin budget conference meetings with the House to discuss and reconcile differences between the two chambers’ proposed budgets. Our shared goal is to make strategic investments in our state, while ensuring taxpayers get the value they deserve.

Senate Bill 2508 Passes Senate Floor in 37-2 Vote

This week, after the adoption of an amendment to help clarify the intent of Senate Bill 2508, the legislation passed the Senate floor with a 37-2 vote.
During the debate on Thursday, I took the opportunity to share my perspectives about this legislation and its impact on our state.
After last week’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, we heard from many constituents about concerns with the legislation. We appreciate the feedback we received. Public input was integral to getting the bill right.
I, along with my colleagues in the Senate, care deeply about our environment. Protecting our natural resources and preserving our state’s beauty is essential.
That’s why – through Senate Bill 2508 – we have sustained current funding for the Everglades and added an additional $875 million for water protection and restoration in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
If you would like to view the discussion on the Senate floor and hear my remarks, visit the Florida Channel at https://thefloridachannel.org/videos/2-17-22-senate-session/. Discussion on SB 2508 begins at the two-hour and 15-minute mark.

Senate Approves Balanced Budget with Tremendous Investments in Education, Environment

The Senate this week passed House Bill 5001, the General Appropriations Act, amended with the contents of the Senate’s proposed 2022-23 state budget, as well as the implementing and conforming bills associated with this balanced budget.
“First, I would like to thank President Simpson and his leadership, and each of the subcommittee chairs for spending an incredible amount of time and hard work on building this budget,” said Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel while presenting an overview of the proposed budget. “I am proud to state that the state has reserves at a record level and allows us to responsibly plan for Florida’s future.”
The Senate’s proposed budget continues our commitment to protecting and restoring Florida’s environment, investing almost $900 million for Everglades restoration funding, $50 million for springs restoration and over $20 million in funding to continue to combat harmful algal blooms and blue-green algae, among other critical environmental needs.
The budget also prioritizes early literacy and PreK-12 education, increasing the rate per child to the highest-ever level in Voluntary Prekindergarten program history and raising K-12 per-student funding to more than $8,000 for the first time in state history.
The budget continues our efforts to improve Florida’s Child Welfare System and ensure children are placed in loving, permanent homes earlier in life by enhancing benefits for foster families and caregivers who are relatives.
Our budget also makes a $1 billion investment to accelerate the minimum wage to $15 per hour for public servants. To provide more support to the brave Floridians who dedicate their careers to keeping our communities safe, the budget also makes significant investments to increase pay for our correctional officers, firefighters and juvenile justice officers.
In the coming days, Senators will begin preparing for a budget conference with the House of Representatives to reconcile the differences between the proposed budgets of each chamber.

Committee Advances Legislation Honoring Victims of Communism

This week, the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Doug Broxson, unanimously supported legislation to honor the more than 100 million people around the world who have fallen victim to communist regimes.
Senate Bill 268, Proclamation of “Victims of Communism Day,” by Senator Manny Diaz, Jr., establishes “Victims of Communism Day” as a legal holiday to be observed on November 7 in public schools, the Florida Capitol and any location designated by the governor.
Beginning the 2023-2024 academic year, high school students enrolled in the U.S. Government course will be required to receive at least 45 minutes of instruction on the failures and evils of communist regimes during the observance of “Victims of Communism Day.”

Solidifying the Legacy of the Governor’s Medal of Freedom

The Governor’s Medal of Freedom honors outstanding Floridians who make especially meritorious contributions to our state and is presented by the Governor.
This week, the Senate Committee on Rules, chaired by Senator Kathleen Passidomo, unanimously approved legislation to solidify the legacy of this prestigious honor.
SB 1360, Governor’s Medal of Freedom, by Senator Tom Wright, saves from repealing the Governor’s Medal of Freedom, which was enacted in Florida in 2020.
In April 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis awarded the inaugural Medal of Freedom to legendary FSU head football coach Bobby Bowden. In presenting this medal, Governor DeSantis recognized Coach Bowden’s achievement in building FSU’s formidable, national championship-winning football program, and his positive and enduring influence on thousands of student-athletes and Floridians.
The second Medal of Freedom was presented to Felix Rodriguez, a former paramilitary officer in the CIA who served during the Bay of Pigs Invasion and an Army Colonel in the Vietnam War. Governor DeSantis recognized Colonel Rodriguez’s dedication to fighting communism in the name of freedom and liberty.

The Senate Takes Action to Combat Organized Retail Theft
Organized retail theft is on the rise nationwide, and the effects are being felt here in Florida.
According to the National Retail Security Survey 2021, approximately 70 percent of retailers reported seeing an increase in organized crime over the last year. This week, the Senate passed legislation aimed at combatting these organized crime rings that specialize in stealing multiple items from multiple stores within a short period of time.
Senate Bill 1534, Retail Theft, by Senator Jim Boyd, creates a third-degree felony for anyone who commits five or more retail thefts in at least two locations and steals 10 or more items within a 30-day period. The legislation increases the charges to a second degree felony if the person steals at least 20 items under the same conditions. SB 1534 sends a clear message that these brazen acts targeting hardworking Floridians and their businesses will not be tolerated, and if these crimes do occur, the consequences will be stern.

Senate Passes Measure Supporting the Mental Health of Students
Over a 15-year period, the number of children subject to involuntary commitments under the Baker Act have increased faster than any other age group. This week, the Senate passed legislation to build on our efforts to help our state better understand and address this upward trend.
Senate Bill 1240, Mental Health of Students, by Senator Gayle Harrell, improves data reporting requirements when a student is removed from school, including school-sponsored activities, for an involuntary mental health examination. The legislation ensures the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) receives information from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) on the Baker Acts of students at all public schools, including charter schools.
SB 1240 requires DCF to use this information in its biannual reports on the involuntary examinations of minors. The reports identify trends in Baker Acts involving students, and makes recommendations to encourage the use of alternatives to Baker Acts. In addition, after a student’s assessment, parents of students receiving services must be provided with information regarding other services available through the student’s school or community to help improve the well-being of the student.

Formally Recognizing the United States Space Force as Newest Branch of the U.S. Armed Forces
Last week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted to advance legislation formally recognizing Space Force as a member of the United States Armed Forces in Florida Statute.
Senate Bill 438, Space Force, by Senator Danny Burgess, adds the United States Space Force to existing lists of armed forces branches throughout Florida Statute.
The United States Space Force was established as an independent branch of the uniformed services on December 20, 2019, the first new Armed Force since the United States Air Force was authorized in 1947.
The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act organized Space Force under the Department of the Air Force. The Space Force trains and equips Guardians to protect the United States’ freedom to operate in space.

Welcome to the Florida Senate

Collier County Commissioners Rick LoCastro, Burt Saunders and William McDaniel, Jr., visited me in Tallahassee this week.

Thankful to have received a visit from LaBelle Mayor Julie Wilkins, LaBelle Commissioners Jackie Ratica and Bobbie Spratt and more.

Angel Teng, a University of Florida student and Minority Office intern, stopped by the office last week. It is wonderful to visit with a fellow Naples resident.

In the News
Into the wild: Inspiring Collier County students to become environmental stewards
Five Southwest Florida hospitals among nation’s top 100.
South Fort Myers golf tournament raises money for the Harry Chapin Food Bank

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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