Legislative Update – March 18, 2022


Monday marked Sine Die for Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session. The Florida Senate worked hard to create meaningful policy and produce a balanced budget for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year.
My colleagues and I remained steadfast in fighting for freedom and fostering economic success in Florida. We’ve strengthened protections for children, both born and unborn, safeguarded the rights of parents and individuals in Florida, invested in Florida’s environment, increased access to affordable housing, supported Florida business against overreaching government ordinances, enforced actions against illegal immigration, bolstered election integrity and invested in additional tax relief measures for Floridians.

Investing in Florida’s Future and Providing Tax Relief for Florida Families
Unlike other states, Florida remained free and open for business in the wake of the pandemic, and it shows. Our 2022-2023 balanced budget makes historic investments in education, our environment and public safety, including a historic increase in per-student funding and increased pay for corrections, probation, and juvenile detention officers.
With a responsible, balanced approach to funding critical needs while preparing for any future challenges that may come our way, we set aside historic state reserves while also cutting taxes.
In total, we set aside $8.9 billion in state reserves, plus a $1 billion state inflation fund, and provided $658 million in broad-based tax relief to Florida families.
Several tax holidays and long-term sales tax relief will help Floridians save money when stocking up on school supplies, hurricane supplies, diapers, children’s books, gas and more.

Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
The Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 544: Drug-Related Overdose Prevention by Senator Jim Boyd this session.
This bill increases access to life-saving emergency treatment for an opioid overdose. It also prioritizes prevention, increases emergency treatment access for opioid overdoses and raises awareness of treatment options.
Unfortunately, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid use disorder increased and overdose death rates increased. According to a study by Project Opioid, deaths from drug overdoses increased by 43 percent between 2019 and 2020.
With the passage of SB 544, the Florida Legislature continues our commitment to combat Florida’s opioid epidemic.

Key Investments in Florida’s Environment and Affordable Housing
The Florida Legislature continues to prioritize protecting and restoring our state’s world-renowned natural resources. We dedicated $885 million to Everglades restoration, safeguarded state taxpayer funds dedicated to clean water resources, and maintained the steady stream of funding established last year for wastewater, mitigating sea-level rise and affordable housing.
We have a long history of strongly supporting affordable housing, and this session was no different. We directed record-level funding of nearly $363 million in our budget to affordable housing programs, up from the $209 million in funding last year.
We also dedicated funding for down payment and closing cost assistance to our hometown heroes and authorized a constitutional amendment to increase homestead exemptions for those who protect and serve our state and nation, law enforcement, and teachers, which will appear on the November General Election ballot.

Ensuring Patients Have the Right to See their Loved Ones
Patients and vulnerable residents should have the support of their loved ones when they need it most. Unfortunately, many visitors have been locked out of seeing their loved ones in hospitals or nursing homes.
This session, we passed Senate Bill 988: The No Patient Left Alone Act, sponsored by Senator Ileana Garcia, to establish and protect a patient’s visitation rights.
The No Patient Left Alone Act ensures Floridians are provided the opportunity to care for and visit with their loved ones by requiring intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, developmental disability centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice facilities, and hospitals to allow visitation to the greatest extent possible while maintaining the overall health and safety of the facility.
To ensure Floridians have the support of their loved ones when they need it most, the legislation requires facilities to allow in-person visitation for those in end-of-life situations, during childbirth, including labor and delivery, and those experiencing specified serious medical and emotional challenges.
To further support residents, patients and clients are authorized to designate a family member, friend, guardian or other individual as an essential caregiver. In addition to any other visitation rights provided by facilities, essential caregivers will be allowed in-person visitation for at least two hours daily.

Fighting for Religious Freedom
One of the cornerstones of our great nation and state is religious freedom and the right to openly attend religious services. The Florida Legislature is committed to continuing to protect our freedoms, and that includes protecting the right of our residents to practice their religion.
Senate Bill 254: Religious Institutions, by Senator Jason Brodeur creates several safeguards to prohibit the state and all political subdivisions from singling out the closures of religious institutions in emergency orders. If gatherings can continue to be held safely in other environments, Floridians should be able to continue attending their religious services and engaging in religious activities. Under this legislation, religious institutions may not be forced to close through an emergency order unless the restrictions in the order apply uniformly to all entities in a certain jurisdiction and fulfills a compelling interest of the state.

Safeguarding Parental and Individual Rights
Following up on the pro-family Parent’s Bill of Rights and the pro-freedom Keep Florida Free agenda passed last year, the Florida Legislature stood with Florida’s parents and their fundamental right to make decisions about their children’s upbringing, from health care choices like vaccines and masking to determining the best environment and experience for education.
Children belong to families, not the state. Parents have a right to decide how and when to have important discussions with their children. For this reason, we passed a common-sense measure to make sure our children have an age-appropriate curriculum.

Protecting Florida Businesses
Florida businesses – not the government – create the jobs that support our thriving communities, and their investments in our state deserve a level of protection from governmental overreach.
Through the Local Business Protection Act, the Florida Legislature addressed the challenges many businesses face when local governments enact harmful ordinances while respecting the important role of local governments.
Additionally, we increased penalties for organized retail theft to send a clear message that these brazen crimes that target hardworking Floridians and destroy businesses and property will not be tolerated.

Protecting Florida’s Water Resources
Lake Okeechobee is a critical water resource for our state. The lake serves many purposes including agricultural and urban water supply, flood protection, fulfilling Seminole Tribe water rights, recreation, and fish and wildlife preservation and enhancement. Senate Bill 2508, Environmental Resources, protects state water rights for our people, communities and environment.
The Florida Legislature works with the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to appropriate funding for clean water and environmental restoration projects. This includes the state investing significant state funds to restore the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects communities south of Lake Okeechobee from deadly and devastating flooding.
To ensure important checks and balances are in place, the legislation requires the SFWMD to annually certify that its recommendations to the Corps are consistent with its current plans and programs.
To responsibly plan for droughts, the bill requires water shortages within the Lake Okeechobee Region to be managed pursuant to the SFWMD’s current rules.
This legislation does not, in any way, jeopardize funding for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir. To the contrary, it safeguards our investment and ensures funds for the EAA Reservoir as well as other water projects are released.

Improving Services and Protections for Florida’s Children, both Born and Unborn
This session we passed a comprehensive pro-life measure, increasing protections for unborn children while enhancing support and resources for mothers.
Thanks to tremendous scientific advancements in the decades since Roe v. Wade, we know so much more now than we did then about how a baby develops in a mother’s womb. Prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks safeguards the lives of innocent children with beating hearts, and I am proud that our state continues to protect the sanctity of life, and support the safety and wellbeing of mothers.
We also understand that being pro-life is about more than opposing abortion. Ensuring children have every opportunity to succeed begins with loving, permanent homes.
Building on reforms to Florida’s Child Welfare System passed last year, the Florida Legislature also increased benefits for foster families and family members who step up to take on the responsibility of raising children who can no longer live with their parents.

Enforcing Immigration Laws
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 here in Florida.
This session we prohibited government entities from participating in the Biden Administration’s scheme to move illegal immigrants around the country.

Bolstering Election Integrity
Florida leads the nation in election integrity because we have taken a proactive approach to addressing and anticipating any election issues.
To ensure Florida remains a national model for free and fair elections, we established a clear framework to investigate elections violations, improved voter roll maintenance, continued our commitment to securing vote-by-mail ballots, and increased and expanded penalties for those who illegally interfere in our elections.

In the News
Southwest Florida law enforcement ready to prevent scams amid invasion of Ukraine
Near-record heat for Southwest Florida
Labor force grows, jobless rates rise in Southwest Florida

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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