Legislative Week 4 Personal Message from Bob Rommel

February 9, 2022
Legislative Week 4
Personal Message from Bob
Week 4 of the Legislative Session has ended, which means we are almost at the halfway point.

I had a lot of positive feedback with the new format that included a YouTube video, so I’m going to continue this format. This week, my conversation is with Representative Andrew Learned, District 59, part of Hillsborough County. Unlike Washington D.C., the Legislators in Tallahassee have a strong working relationship between the parties. We may not agree on everything, but we can and do come together on matters that benefit out constituents. I hope you enjoy this informal conversation and find it informative.

Click HERE to view.

Representative Bob Rommel
District 106

Key Takeaways from Tallahassee
The Florida House continued to work on important issues facing Floridians during the fourth week of the 2022 Legislative Session.

The Florida House passed legislation to increase nursing home transparency and improve accountability for nonprofit organizations.

In committees, state lawmakers approved a wide range of bills, including those that uphold individual freedom, maintain Florida as a leader in election security and integrity, improve child welfare, support law enforcement, enhance school board accountability, enforce immigration laws, help provide affordable housing, stand against foreign interference in our elections, and improve cybersecurity.
Bills that Passed the House
Florida House Votes for Nursing Home Transparency

Better information helps policymakers make better decisions. HB 539 is a great step forward to help the Legislature manage the state’s resources.

HB 539 strengthens nursing home transparency by requiring them to report audited financial information just like hospitals, protects nursing home residents by increasing transparency, and positions the state to keep taxpayer dollars secure by improving the information nursing homes report.

HB 539 passed the House 114-0 on Wednesday, February 2.

Florida House Votes for Accountability

Nonprofit organizations that receive the majority of their funds from government need to be accountable to taxpayers. Increasing oversight and transparency for these nongovernmental entities will ensure public funds are used responsibly.

HB 1079 protects taxpayer dollars by ensuring that nongovernmental entities that receive the majority of their funds from the government use those funds in accordance with their stated purpose and for the benefit of the public. The bill prohibits these entities from using state funds to loan or donate to any other entity, pay for bonuses or severance payments, and lobby the government. It also holds these entities accountable by requiring an audit after five years if the entity receives at least $500,000 each year for five consecutive years, and beginning in September 2023, requiring an annual report be submitted to the state agency source of state funds with information such as executive salaries.

HB 1079 passed the House, 115-0, on Wednesday, February 2.

Education & Employment

Appropriations Committee Votes for School Board Accountability.

As elected officials, school board members need to be kept accountable to their communities, and public input is vital to do so.

HB 1467 promotes public participation by ensuring that any district school board meeting held to rank, eliminate, or select instructional materials is advertised and open to the public. The bill requires training for school board members involved in selecting library materials and protects students by putting assigned school materials through a rigorous vetting process to ensure that they are age-appropriate, support state academic standards, and allow parental contribution.
The bill also aligns school board member salaries with the majority of board members nationally who currently serve without compensation and provides a $200 stipend per school board meeting to each school board member who does not receive a salary, with an annual cap of $4800.

HB 1467 passed its final committee stop on Monday, January 31, and is now ready for the House Floor.

State Affairs Committee Votes to Uphold Principles of Individual Freedom

The Florida House is committed to the belief that every Floridian, regardless of their race, sex, religion, or any other quality is entitled to their dignity as an individual.

HB 7 upholds the American principle that all people are created equal by identifying principles of individual freedom to guide instruction and curriculum: The bill requires that education materials in Florida’s schools are consistent with these shared values and prohibits employers from requiring workplace trainings that compel workers to believe concepts contradictory to principles of individual freedom.

HB 7 passed its second committee stop on Tuesday, February 1, and is now headed to the Education & Employment Committee.
No individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex.
No race is inherently superior to another race.
No individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, or sex.

Post-secondary & Lifelong Learning Subcommittee Votes for Higher Education Accountability

Colleges and universities should set students on a track for success, and to do so, they need to be transparent, accountable, and affordable.

HB 7051 promotes transparency by requiring state colleges and universities to post course syllabi information for general education core courses and increases accountability in accreditation by not allowing public state colleges and universities to be accredited by the same accrediting agency or association for consecutive cycles. It also improves affordability by requiring state colleges and universities to clearly communicate tuition and fees; any proposed changes, including the necessity for such change; and how revenue is expended.

HB 7051 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3.

Health & Human Services

Children & Families Subcommittee Votes to Improve Child Welfare

We can do more to encourage responsible fatherhood, alleviate the crisis of at-risk boys, and support foster children – especially those who age out of care.
PCB CFS 22-01 recognizes the foundational importance of fatherhood and encourages father involvement by, among other things, establishing grants for fatherhood programs to address comprehensive needs of fathers and to provide evidence-based parenting education specifically for fathers. The bill alleviates the crisis of at-risk boys by, among other initiatives, strengthening and developing nonprofits that serve them.

The bill also supports foster children by improving the college support and services program for foster youth who age out of care and eliminating bureaucratic obstacles that make it harder for them to successfully complete their education, and by increasing monthly payments up to $200 for foster parents and relative or nonrelative caregivers to go toward early learning or child care.

PCB CFS 22-01 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3.


Appropriations Committee Votes to Support Law Enforcement

We owe it to our law enforcement officers to express our appreciation not only in word, but in action.

HB 3 creates a culture of appreciation of our law enforcement, assists law enforcement agencies in retaining officers, and incentivizes individuals to enter the profession in our state. The bill supports law enforcement with new health and wellness training, Family Empowerment Scholarships for their children, and college credit for training and experience acquired while serving. It also assists recruitment by authorizing bonus payments to new officers and relocation assistance for out-of-state applicants.

HB 3 passed its second committee stop on Monday, January 31, and is now headed to the Judiciary Committee.

Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee Votes to
Uphold the Importance of Family

The Florida House will always uphold the importance of family by standing up for our most vulnerable, children and grandparents.

HB 1119 recognizes the importance of family in a child’s upbringing by ensuring grandparents’ visitation rights if a court finds one parent criminally or civilly liable for the death of the other parent for the parents of the deceased and allows a court to block visitation if deemed not in the best interest of the child.

HB 1119 passed its first committee stop on Wednesday, February 2, and is now headed to the Judiciary Committee.

Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee Votes to
Enforce Federal Immigration Laws

We need to ensure that Florida governmental entities and law enforcement agencies are working together, alongside the federal government, to enforce federal immigration laws.

HB 1355 enhances cooperation between law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also prevents governmental entities from contracting with “common carriers” – such as entities like airlines that provide transportation – that willfully contribute to transporting an unauthorized alien into Florida knowing that the person entered into or remains in the United States unlawfully.

HB 1355 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3, and is now headed to the State Affairs Committee.

Justice Appropriations Subcommittee Votes for
More Options in Juvenile Justice

It’s important that our juvenile justice system balances the need to keep the public safe with ensuring fairness for children accused of an offense.

HB 7029 creates more tools for our juvenile justice system by removing current limitations on a court’s ability to require a child to be appropriately supervised during the pendency of his or her case. The bill authorizes a court to place a child on supervised release for any time period until his or her case is adjudicated. In cases in which a child is charged with a specified felony, which may include a crime of violence, the bill authorizes a court to order a child to be held in secure detention beyond the current 21-day time limit. The bill also creates more opportunities for children to be out of secure detention by authorizing, but not requiring, law enforcement agencies to supervise any court-ordered electronic monitoring.

HB 7029 passed its second committee stop on Thursday, February 3, and is now headed to the Judiciary Committee.

Pandemics & Public Emergencies

Appropriations Committee Votes to Prepare for Any Emergency

Florida needs to be prepared for threats posed by any emergency and act quickly to mitigate negative effects.

HB 7023 & 7025 create the Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Fund for the Governor to use exclusively during emergencies; ensure that funding for disaster relief or response comes first from state and local agency funds, then from the EPR Fund if demands on those funds are too great; and allow the Governor to request additional funds from the Legislative Budget Commission if necessary.

HB 7023 & 7025 passed their final committee stop on Monday, January 31, and are scheduled for hearing on the House Floor on Wednesday, February 9.

Public Integrity & Elections

Public Integrity & Elections Committee Votes to Maintain Florida as a Leader in Election Security and Integrity

PCB PIE 22-03 advances election security and integrity to secure trust in our elections.
The bill strengthens election security by creating the Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State staffed with non-sworn investigators. Additionally, the bill provides for sworn-special FDLE officers to investigate election crimes and increases criminal penalties for crimes such as illegal ballot harvesting and petition circulating.

PCB PIE 22-03 improves integrity of voter rolls and vote by mail (VBM) ballots by requiring stronger action to confirm a voter’s eligibility and current address and ensuring verification of both a voter’s identification number and signature when a VBM ballot is cast.

PCB PIE 22-03 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3.

Public Integrity & Elections Committee Votes to
Stands Against Foreign Interference in Our Elections

We must protect our elections and our constitution from hostile countries and out-of-state interests that seek to exploit our institutions and undermine our constitution.

HB 921 strengthens our campaign finance laws to combat foreign interference in our elections and out-of-state influence in citizen ballot initiatives.
Federal law prohibits contributions by foreign entities to candidates, political parties, and electioneering communications; however, it does not prohibit them from contributing to ballot initiatives.

HB 921 makes clear that no foreign national may contribute or make any expenditure in connection with any election in the state. Additionally, the bill caps out-of-state contributions for petition circulation of citizen ballot initiatives.

HB 921 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3, and is now headed to the State Affairs Committee.

State Affairs

State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee
Votes to Improve Cybersecurity

It’s no secret that cyber-attacks and ransomware attacks are on the rise. Improving cybersecurity is vital to ensuring the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of agency and local government data and IT resources.

HB 7055 improves incident prevention and response by requiring training, reporting, and the adoption of cybersecurity standards by local government. It also requires local governments to notify the County Sheriff and the State Watch Office about a cybersecurity incident as soon as possible and any ransomware incident within 12 hours.

The bill improves incident response at the state level by requiring state agencies to notify the Legislature, Florida Digital Service, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Cybercrime Office about cybersecurity incidents after the agency discovers the incident.

The bill creates a new crime for persons conducting a ransomware attack against a government entity with enhanced penalties that are designed to deter ransomware attacks in the future.

HB 7055 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3.

Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee Votes for
Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience

With 1,350 miles of coastline and relatively low elevations, Florida is particularly vulnerable to impacts from flooding and sea level rise – in both coastal and inland communities.

HB 7053 creates the Statewide Office of Resilience within the Executive Office of the Governor. It also authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to provide grants to small cities and counties to fund preconstruction activities for projects they submit for the annual Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan (Plan), which we directed the department develop when we passed SB 1954 last year.

The bill builds on last year’s bill by requiring DEP to rank and include in the Plan all eligible projects that are submitted and expanding the types of entities that can submit projects for the Plan. It also directs the Department of Transportation to develop a resilience action plan for the State Highway System.

HB 7053 passed its first committee stop on Thursday, February 3.

Ways & Means

Ways & Means Committee Votes for Affordable Housing
for Critical Public Employees

Home values and property taxes are on the increase, and Florida’s critical public employees deserve a break. They shouldn’t worry about whether they have a home to return to while they are out protecting ours.

HB 1 & HB 1563 build on our commitment to affordable housing for Floridians by proposing a constitutional amendment for property tax relief – an additional $50,000 homestead exemption – for law enforcement officers, members of the Florida National Guard, K-12 classroom teachers, firefighters, active duty military, correctional officers, and child welfare service professionals. The bill lessens the financial burden for key members of the public workforce and their families with a significant and historic tax break.

HB 1 & HB 1563 passed their first committee stop on Monday, January 31, and are now headed to the Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.
Proposed 2022-2023 Budget
On February 4, 2022, the Florida House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Representative Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, today released the House Proposed Committee Bill APC 22-01, the General Appropriations Act, a proposed state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year along with the associated implementing bill and conforming bills for the upcoming year.

Statement from House Speaker Chris Sprowls:

“This year’s Florida House budget proposal builds on last year’s vision to prepare Florida today for long-term success by directing state dollars in a strategic, intentional way. We’ve made new, historic investments in our people, including valued law enforcement, corrections officers and teachers, and we’ve restored purchasing power to our state workforce amid a national inflation crisis. We’re shining a spotlight on issues like fatherlessness and at-risk boys, cybersecurity needs and the nursing shortage in our state and pairing smart policy proposals with an infusion of funds to address these pressing needs. From water quality to infrastructure, health care, higher education, and beyond, the Florida House is committed to making wise investments in a balanced budget for the promise of an even better tomorrow.”

Statement from House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull:

“The budget presented today by the Florida House reflects the unique needs and challenges posed by rapid growth, a robust economy and protection of our natural resources. We provide record funding for our state parks and students and strategic investments in state worker pay. In addressing today’s challenges, we continue our focus on preparing for the future with over $11 billion in reserves. Like the people of Florida, this budget is bold and resilient. We look forward to working with our Senate partners to present a final budget to the Governor that reflects the values and meets the needs of our growing state.”

The House Proposed Committee Bill APC 22-01 will be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, February 9.

For a budget overview, click here.

Additional details on the proposed 2022-2023 Budget will be in the next newsletter.

Florida has no income tax and a balanced budget.
Let’s keep it that way!
Copyright © 2022 State Representative Bob Rommel, All rights reserved.

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