Legislative Update – Funding Secured for District 28 – Kathleen C. Passidomo

One of our most important responsibilities is to develop and pass a balanced state budget that funds the priorities of our state for the year ahead.
Some of the key priorities funded in this year’s budget are:
· State highway projects;
· Bonuses to first responders, teachers and childcare providers;
· Reimbursements to health care employees and emergency responders for childcare expenses incurred during the pandemic;
· Funding to modernize Florida’s antiquated reemployment assistance program, CONNECT;
· Ensuring affordable housing, reducing wastewater and mitigating sea-level rise;
· Expediting water quality improvements and supporting environmental restoration.
On a more local level, I am proud to report that I helped secure $21 million in state funding for District 28, which includes Collier and Hendry counties and part of Lee County. Projects funded include:
· Auditory Oral Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss Program — $875,000
· Bonita Springs Home Elevation and Buyout Program — $300,000
· C-21 Bridge/Lake Okeechobee Access, City of Clewiston — $3,652,000
· Collier County Golden Gate Senior Center — $250,000
· Collier County Lake Park Boulevard Capital Improvements and Water Quality Flow-way — $250,000
· David Lawrence Center Wraparound Collier Program — $279,112
· Everglades City Wastewater Treatment Facility Replacement — $4,340,160
· Fort Myers Salvation Army Co-Occurring Residential Treatment Program — $300,000
· Hendry County Airglades Airport & Clewiston Utilities Connection — $1,000,000
· Hendry County Port LaBelle Utility System Gravity Sewer Repairs — $200,000
· LaBelle Water Transmission Line — $1,298,931
· Lighthouse for the Blind, Collier County — $90,000
· Marco Island San Marco Road Tide Leveling/Canal Flushing — $370,000
· Naples Botanical Garden — $750,000
· Naples Senior Center at JFCS — $75,000
This newsletter summarizes the many projects in our region that will receive funding during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. First, Governor Ron DeSantis must sign the budget before it can be implemented.
Next week, Senators and Representatives head back to Tallahassee for a special session on gaming. On April 23, 2021, Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida executed a historic new 30-year gaming Compact that restores the state’s relationship with the Tribe, preserves and offers new opportunities for Florida’s legacy pari-mutuel industry, and provides substantial new revenues for the State of Florida.
During the special session, we will evaluate legislation proposed to comprehensively address gaming issues, ratify the 2021 Compact, update Florida law to better reflect the current gaming climate, combat illegal gambling through a new Gaming Control Commission and offer additional games allowable under Florida’s Constitution.
The proposed gaming legislation seeks to balance the requirements of federal Indian gaming law, the complex pari-mutuel regulatory structure established over decades, and the need to better enforce restrictions against illegal gaming, all while adhering to the new constitutional restrictions on casino-style gaming.

Auditory Oral Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss Receives $875,000
Every child deserves the opportunity to learn, listen and talk, most especially those with hearing loss. The funding of the Auditory Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss Program is crucial for children with hearing loss to receive access to care.
$875,000 will help facilitate hearing screenings and evaluations. The program will also provide listening and spoken language services to children with hearing loss from their birth to the age of three.
The program serves multiple counties and reaches the underserved and rural areas of our region to increase access to audiology services and screenings for children.

Bonita Springs Home Elevation & Buy-Out Program
The budget invests $300,000 to assist in elevating or purchasing homes in Bonita Springs that currently suffer from frequent flooding.
With this funding, the City of Bonita Springs will be able to move families to another area of the city that does not flood. The project will also provide an opportunity to elevate homes thus allowing families and residents to remain safely in their homes. It will also reduce the need for additional funds for the National Flood Insurance Program.

C-21 Bridge will Grant Hendry County Access to Lake Okeechobee
An investment of $3,652,000 will help replace a bridge connection inside the Herbert Hoover Dike to the Lake Okeechobee recreational area. This bridge will provide access for Hendry County law enforcement, emergency vehicles, citizen’s vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian traffic, to Lake Okeechobee.
The existing bridge was lost when the South Florida Water Management Districts removed and relocated the S-169 Structure as part of ongoing repairs and upgrades to the canal system and Herbert Hoover Dike.
The new bridge will meet all up-to-date Florida Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers safety standards.

Collier County Golden Gate Senior Center Construction & Expansion
The provides $250,000 to expand the Collier County Senior Center. The funding will support the design, construction and expansion of the current Golden Gate Senior Center to better serve community seniors.
The expansion will provide additional space for programming and would provide the community access to aid after natural disasters and other large-scale community emergencies.

Collier County Lake Park Boulevard Capital Improvements and Water Quality Flow-way
The Lake Park Boulevard Capital Improvement and Water Quality Flow-way project is the first critical step in a multimillion-dollar series of infrastructure improvement projects.
The $250,000 allocated for the project will support the conversion of septic to sewer, the rehabilitation of the stormwater system, roadway improvements and other related site improvements to promote functionality, health and safety.
The surrounding region includes the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve; therefore. it is critical we safeguard our natural resources and residents.

David Lawrence Center (DLC) Wraparound Collier Program Support
The David Lawrence Center (DLC) Wraparound Collier Program (WRAP) will receive $279,112 in funding for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year.
The program provides specialty mental health services to hundreds of high-risk uninsured children and adolescents in Collier County who have severe to moderate problems in functioning across settings and for whom funding for an appropriate level of care does not otherwise exist.

Everglades City Wastewater Treatment Facility Replacement
As you may be aware, Everglades City’s existing wastewater treatment facility is in very poor condition. That is why I allocated $4,340,160 to fund the replacement of all systems and update the facility to be in compliance with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The facility is located in an environmentally sensitive region that reached the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. The funding will allow for the existing facility to be demolished and a new facility to be constructed.
I am committed to protecting our water quality while safeguarding Florida’s natural resources and landscape in a practical and effective manner.

Fort Myers Salvation Army Co-Occurring Residential Treatment Program
To help those seeking rehabilitation and recovery in Southwest Florida, the Fort Myers Salvation Army Residential Treatment Program will receive $300,000 to support its efforts.
The program provides treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
The program hosts 12 felony probation beds to serve approximately 22 persons annually. The cost of the program is $75/day per patient.
Patients will receive medical services including an initial assessment and diagnosis by a psychiatrist and ongoing medication management.
A Mental Health Clinician (licensed or registered intern) will offer weekly in-person counseling, mental health therapy groups, medication and blood work services, and more for successful substance abuse treatment.

Connecting Airglades Airport Industrial Park with Clewiston Utilities will Create Economic Opportunities
The Airglades Airport Industrial Park is located west of Clewiston in Hendry County, on the south side of US 27. The park is shovel-ready for new tenants; however, the development of the property has been hindered by a lack of wastewater capacity.
Increasing wastewater capacity is critical in order to receive additional tenants at Airglades and create much-needed jobs for the region. That is why I requested an investment of $1,000,000 to support the construction, engineering inspection services and the installation of a wastewater force main from Airglades to the city of Clewiston’s existing wastewater treatment plant and utilities.
This project would complete the last piece of a multi-year, multi-agency, multi-million dollar investment and provide economic development opportunities to the surrounding area. The completion of this project is critical in order to sustain the economic environment in Hendry County as a whole and for the entire region.

Funding to Repair Hendry County Port LaBelle Utility System
Port LaBelle is one of the fastest-growing areas in Hendry County. In the past two years, more than 343 homes have been built. With the influx of residents and due to its aging infrastructure, the Port LaBelle Utility System wastewater collection system is in need of repairs.
Funding of $250,000 will help to update and replace the gravity mains and pipes. This project will reduce the infiltration of groundwater, the exfiltration of wastewater, and increase the plant’s capacity.
The project would provide both economic and environmental improvements for Hendry and Glades County.

LaBelle Water Transmission Line
The $1,298,931 funding for the LaBelle Water Transmission Loop project provides a greater degree of safety and consistency for the City of LaBelle water plant and its residents.
The current transmission pipeline serves approximately 7,500 residents. The project will mitigate any water line damage from ongoing construction projects, including the expansion of SR293. This will ultimately help prevent any water shortages for the residents of LaBelle.

Lighthouse of Collier Receives $90,000 to Support Blind Residents
The Lighthouse of Collier provides serves 14,000 area residents by fostering independence and enhancing the quality of life for the blind, visually impaired and their caregivers.
An allocation of $90,000 will help serve 30 or more clients with blindness or vision loss who want to maintain independence in their homes. Clients will benefit from receiving 1:1 instruction in ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) from a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT), Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) or OT with Low Vision Rehabilitation certification, to enable independent living.

Marco Island Improvements with Tide Leveling & Canal Flushing
We secured $270,000 in funding for the San Marco Road Tide Leveling and Canal Flushing Improvement.
The project will install two (2) 48-inch diameter pipe culverts as well as stormwater inlet structures between two (2) canal basins under the San Marco roadway and through existing drainage easements.
Tide leveling and canal flushing are an integral part of the City of Marco Island’s Master Plan for Stormwater pollution control.

Naples Botanical Gardens Receive Funding for Horticulture Campus
Naples Botanical Garden will receive $750,000 in funding to develop a 75,000-square-foot Horticulture Campus.
This campus will enable the gardens to better meet Southwest Florida’s environmental challenges while contributing to global conservation efforts and enhancing its 170-acre property.
This is another win for Southwest Florida as the gardens are a major tourism draw for Collier County.

Funding for the Naples Senior Center at Jewish Family and Community Services
The Naples Senior Center, formerly known as the Jewish Family and Community Services of Naples, manages the only dementia-respite support program in Collier and Southern Lee County.
This cutting-edge, innovative support program provides the highest standard of care to clients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). It is designed for seniors who have been diagnosed with early to mid-stage ADRD.
This session, I worked to ensure the Naples Senior Center received $75,000 in appropriations to help support the program.
The program provides a holistic approach to socialization and wellness in everyday living.

Governor DeSantis Implements Ban on Vaccine Passports
On Tuesday, May 4, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 2006, sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess. This legislation prohibits the use of vaccine passports and gives the Governor the authority to invalidate COVID-19 local emergency orders.
His leadership on this issue gives Floridians the freedom to go about their lives without some of the unnecessary burdens that local governments have been forcing on residents and businesses.
If you still choose to wear a mask, you are welcome to!

Support Given to Florida’s First Responders with New Bonus Allocation
On Wednesday, May 5, the Governor announced first responders can expect to receive $1,000 bonuses this year. This includes police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
We are grateful for the protection and support our first responders have provided during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve our support.

Voter Reform Bill Signed into Florida Statute Last Week To Protect Floridians
On Thursday, May 6, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 90, Election Administration, by Senator Dennis Baxley into law.
This legislation aims to ensure every eligible and authentic vote cast in the state of Florida is properly counted. It establishes protections against voter fraud, increases the security of mail-in and drop-off ballots, and improves transparency around the voter process.
Our democracy is only as strong as the integrity of our elections. As our world evolves, new threats emerge and new technologies become available, it is important to modernize and enhance our voting processes to protect the integrity of each vote and that of the election’s outcome.

Governor Signs Transformational Legislation to Expand School Choice Options
On Tuesday, May 11, Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 7045 that will provide more education opportunities for children from low-income families and students with unique abilities. The bill expands eligibility for low-income students, and prioritizes military, foster, and adopted students.
“This legislation creates historical levels of flexibility in both schooling and educational services for millions of low-income families and families of students with unique abilities,” said Governor DeSantis. “As we have seen for more than 20 years now, these scholarship programs have elevated so many children and families. I am thankful to Senator Manny Diaz and Representatives Randy Fine and Jason Fischer for sponsoring this inclusive legislation to ensure that all of Florida’s students have the best chance for success.”

Florida Invests in Resiliency
On Wednesday, May 12, Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1954. This comprehensive legislation will ensure a coordinated approach to Florida’s coastal and inland resiliency. The new program will enhance Florida’s efforts to protect our inland waterways, coastlines, shores and coral reefs, which serve as invaluable natural defenses against sea level rise.
Additionally, this bill and the 2021-2022 budget are part of the largest investment in the state’s history – over $640 million – to support efforts to ensure state and local communities are prepared to deal with the impacts of sea level rise, intensified storms and flooding.   
· $12.5 million for the Resilient Coastlines Initiative for resilience projects and coral reef protection.   
· $29 million for establishment and planning efforts of the Resilient Florida Grant Program.   
· $500 million in federal funding for implementation of statewide resilience projects through the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan.
· $100 million for Resilient Florida Grant Program projects in partnership with local communities, beginning in 2022.   

Governor Signs 15 Additional Bills into Florida Statute Friday, Including CONNECT Website Updates
Last Friday, the Governor signed 15 bills into law including House Bill 1463, Department of Economic Opportunity, by Representative Chip LaMarca.
This legislation will modernize Florida’s unemployment system, specifically the CONNECT website system that suffered major issues during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The measure will make the application process for programs much easier and streamlined for those looking to recover and rebuild beyond the public health emergency.
Other bills signed by Governor DeSantis include:
· SB 530 – Nonopioid Alternatives
· SB 602 – Business Organizations
· SB 1080 – Tobacco and Nicotine Products
· SB 1884 – Preemption of Firearms and Ammunition Regulation
· SB 1890 – Campaign Financing
· HB 35 – Legal Notices
· HB 67 – Public Defender Duties
· HB 327 – Public Records
· HB 353 – Bicycle Operation Regulations
· HB 363 – Privileged Communications Made to Crime Stoppers Organizations
· HB 369 – Construction Contracting Regulation Exemption
· HB 379 – Public Records
· HB 1239 – Broadband Internet Infrastructure
· HB 7037 – Review under the Open Government Sunset Review Act
Other bills signed this week are:
· SB 148 – Allowing To-Go Sales of Alcoholic Beverages

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-126
LaBelle, FL 33935
Tallahassee Office:
400 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Not paid for at taxpayer expense.

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