Senator Kathleen Passidomo – Legislative Update – January 30, 2021

Friday was the last day for one of my top legislative aides, Trenton Muntz.  For the past four years, Trent has worked hard for our district, particularly Hendry County.  He managed a myriad of legislative issues, helped many of you navigate state agencies and ensured your voice was heard in the Capitol.  He has been an integral part of my team since he came on board after my election to the Senate in 2016.  Before that he was the mainstay of that first campaign.  Trent begins training this spring in the United States Navy’s Officer Candidate School.  Our loss is the Navy’s gain!  I hope you join me in wishing him well as he begins his service to this great nation.

I know this unprecedented time has been stressful for many.  As you are aware, there have been difficulties in signing up for the COVID-19 vaccine.  Yesterday, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) announced the creation of a statewide pre-registration for the vaccine.  Below is the release provide by DOH on how to register (either online or by phone):


Florida Launches Statewide Preregistration System for COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the state announced the launch of a statewide preregistration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for individuals 65 and older and frontline health care workers. Individuals can pre-register for vaccine appointments and be notified when appointments are available in their area by visiting

This website will allow individuals who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to be proactively contacted when vaccine appointments are available at state-supported vaccination sites. On the site, residents can select their county and submit their contact information. Once appointments are available, individuals will be contacted by phone call, text or email and will be assisted in scheduling an appointment.

Vaccine supply remains limited and appointments may not be available for several weeks in some counties.

Additionally, as part of the statewide registration system, each county has a designated phone number that individuals can call and pre-register if they do not have Internet access. Please find the complete list of numbers by county here. Whether a resident calls by phone or visits, their place in line will be reserved reliably using Sharecare software.

As outlined in Executive Order 20 – 315, individuals who are eligible for the vaccine in Florida are outlined below. If someone does not meet these eligibility requirements, they will not be able to pre-register.

·         Long-term care facility residents and staff;

·         Persons 65 years of age and older; and

·         Health care personnel with direct patient contact.

Hospital providers, however, also may vaccinate persons who they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.


In January, Florida only received about 266,000 first-does vaccines each week, far less that the state’s capacity to administer them. Florida is expected to receive 40,000 more COVID-19 vaccine doses next week than in recent weeks. With more vaccine doses expected, the state can open up more vaccination sites, including churches, Publix locations and other state-supported sites.

As of Friday morning, 1,605,995 people have been vaccinated in Florida, including 1,136,242 people 65 years and older.  Despite some slight delays, Florida has delivered a higher percentage of COVID-19 vaccine to its residents than New York and double the percentage of California.

Until all Floridians receive access to the vaccine, I ask that you continue to take safety precautions and remain in good health during this time.


  COVID-19 Update: Florida Case Data

As of January 29, there have been 1,687,594 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Florida, including 26,501 in Collier County, 3,986 in Hendry County and 50,163 in Lee County.

As of Thursday, January 28, the state’s positivity rate for new cases is 7.7%.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance, you can visit the Florida Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 webpage.

For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website.

If you are experiencing symptoms, please contact your local County Health Department.



  Florida COVID-19 Vaccine Update

On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida’s official reporting now reflects more than 1 million seniors 65 and older have been vaccinated in the state, leading the nation in vaccinations of seniors.

Florida is currently leading among all states in vaccinations of individuals 65 years of age and older.

Key efforts and actions in our state to put Seniors First include the following:

·         Florida was the first state in the nation to prioritize the vaccination of seniors.

·         More than 70 vaccination sites have been opened statewide in partnership with local communities and hospitals.

·         The Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) continues to administer vaccines in long-term care facilities across the state. These efforts are supplementing and accelerating the vaccinations being undertaken by CVS and Walgreens.

The state is expecting that staff and residents at all of Florida’s more than 4,000 long-term care facilities will be vaccinated by the end of the month.



  DOH Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Locator 

The Florida DOH recently launched a vaccine locator site.  The new website will allow Floridians to find vaccine sites by county or city and contains contact information for each location. Click here to view locations.

Appointments may be required and vaccine availability will vary from day to day and week to week as we work to provide vaccines to the most vulnerable first.

Florida has many sites that are providing COVID-19 vaccines, but supplies are limited and appointments may not be available at many of these sites. The state is prioritizing:

·         Persons 65 years of age and older

·         Health care personnel with direct patient contact

·         Residents and staff of long-term care facilities

·         Persons deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers

Please be aware that some locations are only serving very specific populations, such as frontline health care workers.



  Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees Issues Public Health Advisory to Prioritize Florida Residents for COVID-19 Vaccinations

The Public Health Advisory outlines eligibility and proof-of residency requirements for persons receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in Florida.

The advisory directs vaccine providers to ensure a recipient of a vaccine is a resident of the State of Florida by presenting a valid Florida driver’s license or identification card or is an adult seasonal resident who can show proof of a residential address. View the Public Health Advisory here.



  Text Alerts & Reports on Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

You can sign up to receive state alerts regarding vaccine distribution directly to your phone by texting FLCOVID19 to 888777.

The Florida DEM vaccine reports can be viewed here. See below for a list of other vaccine resources:

·         Florida Department of Health Vaccine Rollout FAQs

·         Lee Health FAQs on COVID-19 Vaccine

·         Lee County Vaccine Webpage

·         Moderna Fact Sheet For Recipients And Caregivers

·         Moderna Fact Sheet For Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine

·         Pfizer Fact Sheet For Recipients And Caregivers

·         Pfizer Fact Sheet For Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine



  Publix COVID-19 Vaccine Locations

After recent expansions on Wednesday, there are currently 261 Publix locations in Florida assisting in providing vaccines to local seniors.

There is tremendous demand for the vaccine and a limited supply.  As of now, all available COVID-19 vaccine appointments have been claimed.

Vaccination appointments are scheduled online only. Appointments cannot be made by calling Publix or the Publix Pharmacy.

You can continue to check for updates on Publix’s vaccine website here.



  Legislation Advances to Protect Businesses Safely Reopening During the Pandemic

Florida business owners and their employees have suffered significant losses for nearly a year due to COVID-19.  The vast majority of these businesses have worked tirelessly making their best effort to adhere to changing safety guidelines and regulations.  The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed Senate Bill 72: Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19, by Senator Jeff Brandes, which aims to shield businesses from fraudulent or opportunistic lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When a business makes a good faith effort to adhere to safety guidelines to reopen during a period of extreme uncertainty, our laws should protect them.  Our legal system should not be a place where they face frivolous and costly litigation.  Senate Bill 72 works to separate the serious and merited claims from the fraudulent and unfair claims brought against a Florida business.  The legislation requires an affidavit from a physician attesting that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.  It also requires the plaintiff to prove the defendant failed to make a good faith effort to adhere to safety guidelines and that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent.

“Frivolous lawsuits should not interfere with the ability of business owners and employees to earn a living and support their families,” said Senator Brandes. “This legislation will create a safe harbor for Florida businesses who are struggling every day to keep their doors open during this unprecedented time.”

Senate legislation to ensure protections for the health care providers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic is forthcoming.



  Emergency Management Director, Florida National Guard Brief Committee on Pandemic Response

DEM Director Jared Moskowitz updated the Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, chaired by Senator Danny Burgess, on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.  Director Moskowitz provided a week-by-week review of Florida’s vaccine distribution and administration progress.   Although Florida leads the nation in vaccinations of seniors 65 years of age and older, there remains a critical need for increased vaccine supply from the federal government.   The lack of vaccine supply from the federal government is currently the major impediment to vaccinating more Floridians, according to Director Moskowitz.

The Florida National Guard’s Director of Military Support, Col. John L. Steele, also briefed the Select Committee on their response to COVID-19.  The Florida National Guard continues to support the state’s COVID-19 response through operational support of Community Based Testing Sites, Community Vaccination Sites, Mobile Testing Teams, augmentation to airport screening, statewide logistics support, coordination, food distribution, planning and operational mission sets.



  Committee Approves Bill Ensuring College Tuition Exemptions for Students in DCF Care

Young Floridians who enter the child welfare system deserve all the support that we can give.  The Senate Committee on Education, chaired by Senator Joe Gruters, advanced Senate Bill 52: Postsecondary Education, by Senator Ray Rodrigues.  This legislation clarifies state laws to ensure students who turn 18 while in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or a specified guardian are exempt from tuition and fees at Florida’s postsecondary institutions.

Senate Bill 52 also increases access to dual enrollment for all students by creating the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program to bolster state funding of dual enrollment tuition and instructional material costs.  The bill also authorizes universities to create a bonus program to reward exceptional university staff.

“Dual enrollment helps our students make the most of their high school experience with a head start towards earning higher education credentials.  This legislation increases access to dual enrollment opportunities for students in public, private, or virtual education settings,” said Senator Rodrigues.  “Additionally, our universities should be able to reward exceptional employees without being required to consider across-the-board bonuses.  This legislation authorizes universities to create individualized bonus structures for their best employees.”



  Internet Sales and Use Tax Bill Passes First Committee of Reference

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused many Florida consumers to make more purchases online, instead of in person. Unlike brick-and-mortar businesses here in Florida, out-of-state retailers or marketplaces that sell products online do not always remit to our state the sales tax for each purchase.

Senate Bill 50 by Senator Gruters would require marketplaces and out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax at the point of sale for remote purchases, and remit these taxes to the state, just like in-state retailers.

This legislation seeks to create a fair climate and level playing field for businesses, where everyone plays by the same rules.

Last year, the Revenue Estimating Conference determined that by requiring marketplace providers and out-of-state-retailers to collect sales tax on purchases by Florida consumers, the state would see a recurring increase in General Revenue Fund receipts by $479.0 million.

This legislation would only apply to marketplace providers or out-of-state retailers whose annual sales in Florida exceed $100,000.



  Legislation to Repeal Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law Advances​

Senate Bill 54: Motor Vehicle Insurance, by Senator Danny Burgess, aims to lower the number of uninsured and underinsured drivers and provide a greater safety net for Floridians in the event of an accident.  The Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, chaired by Senator Jim Boyd, approved the legislation.

Senate Bill 54 repeals Florida’s current Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, which requires drivers to carry personal injury protection coverage, instead of requiring that drivers carry bodily injury liability coverage.  The bill also creates best practice standards for handling motor vehicle insurance claims and requires insurers to offer medical payments coverage (MedPay) with limits of $5,000 or $10,000 to cover medical expenses of the insured.

“Senate Bill 54 transforms this ineffective and outdated insurance structure, which we believe will lead to a more stable insurance market and better outcomes for insured Floridians when they face the unfortunate and, in some cases, tragic circumstance of being involved in a serious vehicle accident,” said Senator Burgess.



  Florida Department of Education (DOE) Announces Reading Scholarship Accounts for Struggling Readers

The Florida DOE recently announced that the Reading Scholarship Accounts (RSA) application process is open. The scholarship program focuses on helping students struggling to read by offering aid for tutoring and other services. Statistics show that 90% of students who fail to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade.

To learn more about RSA and apply for the scholarship visit the website.



  Legislation Passes Committee Meeting to Promote Transparency in Government

The Florida Constitution provides that the public has the right to inspect or copy records made or received in connection with official governmental business.

Senate Bill 400, by Senator Ray Rodrigues, which passed the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability this week, would strengthen public record laws to prohibit an agency that receives a public record request from filing an action for declaratory relief against the requester.

This applies to the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, including all three branches of state government, local governmental entities, and any person acting on behalf of the government.



  Legislation Filed to Stabilize Florida’s Property Insurance Market

This week, Senator Jim Boyd, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, filed Senate Bill 76, an act relating to residential property insurance.  The bill addresses several issues surrounding the rising cost of property insurance in Florida.

Senate Bill 76 would allow property insurers to only offer homeowner’s policies that adjust roof claims to actual cash value if the roof is older than 10 years.  If passed, a homeowner who is offered such a policy would receive a disclosure that their insurance policy does not provide replacement cost coverage insurance for the roof.

To address the proliferation of litigation that has driven up the cost of Florida property insurance, the bill requires detailed notice of property insurance claims prior to litigation and changes how attorney fees are awarded.

Currently, an insurer must pay a reasonable attorney fee to the insured’s attorney, even if the insured only recovers a small amount in the litigation.  Under this legislation, the insurers’ obligation to pay the insured’s attorney fees will be directly related to how successful the insured was in recovering the amount demanded in the litigation.



  Resolution to Denounce Democratic Socialism Passes Committee

Since before our nation’s founding, the American spirit has embraced the ideals of democracy and freedom.  The Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability, chaired by Senator Ray Rodrigues, voted to approve Senate Resolution 150: Individual Liberty and Democracy by Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.  The resolution rejects democratic socialism in favor of our true American values of individual liberty and democracy.  The Florida Senate will continue to protect our freedom, which unites us as a nation and is the cornerstone of America.



  Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Presents on Guardianship Program Improvements

In the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, Secretary Richard Prudom of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA), issued an update on staffing issues within the Office of Public and Professional Guardians and any backlog of disciplinary cases.

In 2016, the Legislature expanded DOEA’s authority on guardianship and created the Office of Public and Professional Guardians (OPPG).  With their authority, DOEA is tasked with regulating over 550 professional guardians, investigating complaints against guardians and enacting any needed discipline.

OPPG has been focused on operational improvements including addressing the backlog of complaints, revising the investigative process and implementing new processes to improve transparency and responsiveness.

Secretary Prudom reported that DOEA is focused on continuous improvements in the complaint process, professional guardian training, education courses and overall department efficiency.



  Pro-Consumer Legislation Passes First Committee

Senate Bill 56: Community Association Assessment Notices, by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez, unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries, chaired by Senator Travis Hutson.  Senate Bill 56 provides additional notice requirements for condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations relating to the collection of assessments by these community associations.

This legislation ensures condominium owners are informed of assessment changes enacted by their associations and will help to reduce late-fees caused by the inconsistent delivery of assessments.  These changes will keep unit owners, especially seniors, properly informed if the delivery method of a statement of account transitions to e-mail delivery.

The bill also increases the payment deadline for a condominium or cooperative unit owner from 30 days to 45 days after receiving an association’s Notice of Intent to Record a Claim of Lien in order to avoid the filing of a claim of lien.



  Lee County Updates National Guard Testing Location

Due to spring training, the Curative testing site at Centurylink Sports Complex will be moving its operation to another location within the stadium complex site. The site entrance will be on Crown Pointe Parkway, and signs on site will direct people to the correct area.

Other than the location change, all other operations will remain the same.  Click here to view the changes.




  Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Nearly $100 Million in Infrastructure Awards to Communities Impacted by Hurricane Irma

Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that nearly $100 million has been awarded to 24 communities statewide who were impacted by Hurricane Irma through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program.

Rebuild Florida uses federal funding for Florida’s long-term recovery efforts from the devastating impacts of natural disasters.  The program provides local governments the opportunity to restore and improve infrastructure in areas damaged by Hurricane Irma.

Local recipients of the program include:

·         City of Bonita Springs ($2,958,297) – to increase storage pond drainage capacity.

·         Collier County ($602,786.32) – to improve drainage systems to mitigate future flooding.

·         Hendry County ($1,635,610) – to improve conveyance and pumping capacity to move stormwater to a larger detention area.

·         Lee County ($2,718,577) – to replace sidewalks and roadside drainage systems damaged by the storm.

·         Lee County ($732,540) – to clear five canals of vegetation debris and sediment.

·         Lee County ($678,566) – to replace the pedestrian bridge and Richmond Avenue over Able Canal and Lehigh Acres.

For more information, you can visit



In the News

Lee County ahead of the curve with ambulance disinfection technology

Collier, Lee schools start vaccinating older employees, school nurses


I hope you continue to take appropriate measures to protect the health of you and your loved ones.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.


Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate Majority Leader
State Senator, District 28

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