Legislative Update – February 5, 2022

We’ve completed the fourth week of Florida’s Legislative Session. This week, the Florida Senate released a proposed balanced budget for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year. We are focused on making continued investments in education, the state child welfare system, state infrastructure, conservation efforts for Florida’s natural resources and wildlife habitats, and more.
As Senate Committees continued to meet, we discussed policies to protect the unborn, bolster child welfare support, increase condominium safety, safeguard Florida elections and expand Florida’s state tourism marketing efforts.

Senate Releases 2022-2023 Proposed Budget
This week, the Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Kelli Stargel, released the proposed budget for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year, as well as the implementing bill and conforming bills associated with a balanced budget. Senate Proposed Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act (GAA), contains historic funding for education, infrastructure and bolstering state reserves.
The GAA focuses on early literacy and PreK-12 education to ensure every Florida student is able to read by the third grade. The Florida Senate increases K-12 funding by $1.4 billion over last year, the second-largest total increase in funding in the last 30 years, and brings the Pre-K rate per-child funding to $3,294, its highest level ever. To continue strengthening Florida’s Child Welfare System, the proposed budget enhances benefits for foster families and caregivers who are relatives.
The Senate invests $1 billion to raise the minimum wage of many public servants to $15 per hour. To improve Florida’s prison system, the GAA raises officer salaries to $20 per hour and sets aside funds for two new prisons and two prison hospitals. The Senate continues to prioritize the protection and preservation of our world-renowned natural resources, and this budget makes significant investments in clean water and Everglades restoration, including northern storage ASR wells, as well as preservation and expansion of Florida’s wildlife corridor.
Earlier this week, each of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees reviewed and discussed the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget issues relating to their specific policy areas. The subcommittee chairs highlighted several key investments prioritized by their respective committee.

The Florida Senate is Committed to Protecting Innocent Unborn Children
The Florida Senate continues to prioritize the life of the innocent unborn child. This week, the Senate Committee on Health Policy voted to advance legislation that increases protections for unborn children and supports parents who choose life. Senate Bill 146, Fetal and Infant Mortality Reduction, by Senator Kelli Stargel, prohibits abortions after 15 weeks and expands programs to prevent fetal and infant deaths.
When Roe v. Wade was decided almost 50 years ago, scientific knowledge of fetal development was extremely limited. We know so much more now than we did back then about how a baby develops inside the mother’s womb as well as making significant medical advances expanding fetal viability. With advanced medical and scientific information in hand, now is the appropriate time to consider whether or not terminating a pregnancy at 24 weeks is the appropriate benchmark.
With regard to the prohibition on abortion following 15 weeks of gestation, SB 146 provides the same exceptions under current law for the prohibition on third-trimester abortions to protect the health and safety of the mother. The legislation adds an exception for a “fatal fetal abnormality,” 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 fatal fetal abnormalities are present.
This comprehensive pro-life measure also expands and funds fetal and infant mortality review committees (FIMRs) in areas of the state that do not currently have a program to reduce fetal and infant mortality and morbidity.
Currently, less than half of Florida’s counties do not have a FIMR to address the reduction of mortality rates in these areas. SB 146 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.

Legislation to Improve Florida’s Child Welfare System Passes Second Committee
Ensuring every child in Florida has the opportunity to build a successful life begins with a safe, permanent home. This week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Senator Aaron Bean, unanimously approved legislation that builds on the Senate’s efforts to improve services and support for children in out-of-home care.
Senate Bill 7034, by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Ileana Garcia, enhances benefits for caregivers who are relatives, increases the childcare subsidy and expands eligibility for college tuition waivers.
When children cannot live with their parents, placement with relatives is preferred over nonrelatives to provide more permanency for children and help maintain family connections. This legislation ensures relatives who step up and take on the responsibility of child-rearing receive the same level of support from the state as foster families. The legislation also provides a $200 per-month subsidy to foster parents and relative and nonrelative caregivers to help close the gap between the funding currently available and the actual cost of early education and child care programs required under the Rilya Wilson Act.
Additionally, SB 7034 expands eligibility for tuition and fee exemptions at a workforce education program, or a Florida college or university. Florida was one of the original states in the 1980s that began offering assistance with higher education to students leaving foster care, and the Florida Legislature has continued to expand tuition and fee exemptions to meet the evolving needs of students who are or were placed in out-of-home care. This legislation further expands the scope of eligibility for tuition and fee exemptions to include students placed in a permanent guardianship, who were in an out-of-home placement at the time they reached 18 years of age and those who after age 14 spent at least 18 months in out-of-home care and were then reunited with a parent.

Committee Approves Measures to Increase Condominium Safety
This week, the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries, chaired by Senator Travis Hutson, advanced important measures to increase the safety and structural integrity of Florida’s condominiums in response to the building 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.
SB 1702 requires a milestone inspection for such 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 increases records transparency and directs the Florida Building Commission to establish structural and safety standards beyond the bill’s requirements.
Senate Bill 7042, proposed by the Regulated Industries Committee, includes some of the provisions contained in SB 1702 while increasing records transparency and adding additional safety measures. SB 7042 requires condominium and cooperative associations to conduct a reserve study at least once every three years to ensure adequate funds to address maintenance and safety issues. Additionally, the legislation 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.

Safeguarding the Integrity of Florida’s Elections
Confidence in our elections is essential to maintaining a democratic form of government, and we must continue to safeguard our free and fair elections – a cornerstone of our nation’s democracy. Voters expect the voter rolls to be accurate, their personal information to be protected, and they want a clear process in place for investigating allegations of irregularities so that every legal vote is counted. Florida leads the nation in election reforms because the Florida Legislature has taken a proactive approach to address any election issues.
This week, Senate Bill 524, Election Administration, by Senator Travis Hutson, passed the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections, chaired by Senator Dennis Baxley. SB 524 establishes a clear framework for investigating elections violations, protects vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots, improves accuracy in Florida’s voting rolls, and increases and expands penalties when individuals and organizations illegally interfere in our elections.

Senate Votes to Extend Record-Breaking Tourism Marketing Efforts
During this week’s sitting, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 434, Florida Tourism Marketing, by Senator Ed Hooper, extending the scheduled repeal of VISIT FLORIDA from October 2023 to October 2031. VISIT FLORIDA is Florida’s official tourism and marketing corporation that promotes our state around the country and internationally as a premier destination.
Unlike other states, Florida remained open for business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it shows. Through aggressive and well-timed marketing, VISIT FLORIDA has played an integral role in our state’s robust tourism industry, especially in the wake of natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a significant dip in visitors during the 2020 pandemic year, Florida earned a return on investment (ROI) of $3.27 for every dollar invested in VISIT FLORIDA—the highest ROI ever calculated for VISIT FLORIDA.

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces $89 Million for Workforce Education Initiatives, Bringing Total Investment to Greater Than $3.5 Billion Since 2019
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced $89 million in funding for workforce education initiatives, including a first-of-its-kind Career and Technical Education (CTE) charter schools initiative. Funding also includes high school CTE dual enrollment programs, apprenticeships, and cybersecurity and IT training.
“I set a goal to make big improvements to workforce education opportunities in Florida, and we are making great strides,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Today’s announcement will expand technical education opportunities across Florida, especially for high school students. These initiatives will also help businesses in Florida recruit highly-skilled workers to fill needed positions, thereby strengthening Florida’s economic base.”
For more information about this announcement, click here.

Governor DeSantis Issues Executive Order Related to Agriculture in Response to Freezing Temperatures
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-27 (Emergency Management – Freezing Temperatures, Harm to Agriculture).
Since Friday, January 28, the Florida Division of Emergency Management has been working closely with each of the county emergency management offices, the Florida Department of Citrus, and other agricultural industry partners to respond to and recover from the recent freezing temperatures, and will continue to provide support to the impacted areas.
You may view the full Executive Order 22-27 here.

Florida Department of Management Services Launches its Annual ‘Art in the Capitol’ Competition
This session, the Florida Department of Management Services is sharing new pieces online for the 2022 Art in the Capitol Competition. Every year, DMS hangs art created by students throughout Florida on the second and third floors of the Capitol Rotunda.
If you pay a visit to the Capitol this session, be sure to check out the display!
Learn more about the program at https://www.floridacapitol.myflorida.com/the_capitol/art.
You can view the art virtually here.

In the News
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In the Know: SWFL Hall of Famers show success in business can help communities and children

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

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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