Senator Kathleen Passidomo Week 6 Update

2017 Legislative Session Update: Week 6

This past week both the Senate and the House focused on our respective budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. We are now in a position to go to budget conference to hammer out the differences in our proposed budgets. I also presented four of my sponsored bills in committee and passed my Guardianship bill off the Senate floor.

Sponsored Bills:

SB 172: Guardianship

This bill passed unanimously last week. The bill makes several changes to the guardianship statute to streamline the process and improve protections for wards. Specifically, the bill:

  • Creates a notice-and-demand procedure for hearsay and other objections to the examining committee reports in guardianship/incapacity proceedings;
  • Clarifies the time for submission of the annual guardianship report;
  • Preserves a ward’s right to access to the courts by removing the requirement that a ward’s spouse consent to dissolution of marriage before authorizing a guardian to seek dissolution; and
  • Removes the current arbitrary statutory cap on the amount a guardian may expend on funeral expenses for a ward.

CS/SB 172 is supported by the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar, The Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar and The Florida Public Guardian Coalition. The companion bill to SB 172 has already passed the House so this bill is now on its way to Governor Scott’s desk!

SB 446: Underground Facilities

I presented this bill to the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday afternoon. This bill amends ch. 556, F.S., the “Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act” by requiring an excavator that causes contact with or damage to any pipe or other underground facility to immediately report the contact or damage by calling 911 if any natural gas or other hazardous substance or hazardous material regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has escaped. It requires a member operator to file a report with the Sunshine State One-Call of Florida (SSOCF) system of all events it has received notice of through the system which have resulted in damages to its underground facilities. This bill also requires the Sunshine State One-Call of Florida (SSOCF) Board of Director’s annual progress report to the Legislature and the Governor on the participation by municipalities and counties in the one-call notification system to include a summary of the damage, reporting data received by the system for the preceding year and any analysis of the data by the board. The bill passed favorably.

SB 716: Real Estate Appraisers

I presented this bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning. The bill revises Florida law to implement registration and supervision systems for appraisal management companies to meet minimum requirements for such companies established by federal rule. An appraisal management company is an entity that serves as an intermediary and provides certain prescribed services to creditors. Implementation of a registration system for appraisal management companies satisfying federal requirements will allow eligible persons and appraisal management companies licensed in Florida to continue to perform appraisal services for federally related transactions. The bill passed favorably. For the full list of the specific changes made in this bill, please visit its Senate Web page:

SB 724: Estates

I presented this bill to the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday afternoon. This bill modifies several sections of the Florida Probate Code relating to the “elective share”—that is, the 30 percent portion of a decedent’s estate that a surviving spouse may elect to take regardless of what is provided to him or her in the decedent’s testamentary plan. Current law does not include homestead property in the elective estate, the part of the property from which the surviving spouse can take is 30 percent. The bill expressly includes the decedent’s protected homestead in the elective estate. For the purpose of this calculation, homestead is valued differently depending on the interest that the surviving spouse would have in the homestead. The bill provides that if the surviving spouse receives a full, outright (“fee simple”) interest, the homestead is valued at its fair market value as of the decedent’s death. Current law allows the surviving spouse to take a life estate in the homestead or take undivided one-half interest in the homestead. The bill provides that if the surviving spouse elects to take a life estate in the homestead or if the surviving spouse elects to take a one-half interest in the homestead, the homestead is valued at one-half of its fair market value on the decedent’s date of death. Current law authorizes an award of attorneys’ fees and costs only where an election is made or attempted in bad faith. The bill expands the prospect of recovering these fees and costs in two ways. First, the bill expands the types of actions in which fees and costs may be granted. Second, an award of fees and costs no longer must be predicated on bad faith. The bill extends the time in which a surviving spouse may move for an extension to choose the elective share, expands the application of interest penalties for late payment by those who are liable to contribute to the elective share, and adds a clause designed to “save” trusts that would qualify as “elective share trusts” if not for a particular deficiency. The bill passed favorably.

SB 730: Insurer Insolvency

The Department of Financial Services serves as the receiver of any insurer placed into receivership in Florida.  The Division of Rehab and Liquidation plans coordinates and directs the receivership processes on behalf of the Department.

SB 730 incorporates national model acts on receivership from the NAIC, fixes inconsistent judicial rulings and streamlines Chapter 631.  This bill will provide efficiencies in the receivership processes so that the Division can efficiently liquidate the insurer and use the proceeds to equitably pay claims, including those of policyholders, creditors and employees.

This consumer-centric legislation:

  • Ensures that policy holders will receive continuity of care during an HMO insolvency by moving health care providers up in the priority of claims payments – which provides parity to consumers in a PPO liquidation;
  • Closes a loophole that allows for Directors and Offices of the liquidated insurance company to gain access to funds through a third party;
  • Limits the amount of time between an order to show cause and the return hearing, requiring that the return hearing be held within 60 days of the entry of an order to show cause to ensure the liquidators ability to quickly act to protect consumers.
  • Requires Directors and Officers of the liquidated insurance company to cooperate with the receiver;
  • Allows the Division to refund unearned premium to a consumer without a burdensome claims process;
  • Clarifies that the Office of Insurance Regulation can continue to pursue regulatory remedies against insolvent entities during the automatic stay required in receivership proceedings; and
  • Eliminates unnecessary notices and updates outdated statutes to provide efficiency and correct conflicts.

The bill passed favorably.

Elsewhere In The Florida Senate

Senate Unanimously Passes Budget Focused on Education with Unprecedented K-12 Per Student Funding, Key Investments in Higher Education, and State Employee Pay Raises

The Florida Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2500, the 2017-18 General Appropriations Act. The budget prioritizes funding for Florida’s Pre-K–20 public education system, while setting aside more than $3 billion in total reserves, and making critical investments in Florida’s state workforce with salary increases for state employees.


Additionally, the budget makes critical investments in Florida’s state workforce with salary increases for state employees. For far too long, the honorable and dedicated state employees who guard prisons, protect our highways, and provide many other critical government services, have gone without an increase in their pay. The most significant investment is in occupations where the state is seeing trouble with employee retention.

Consequently, the Senate’s budget significantly increases the starting salary for corrections officers, includes a five percent pay increase for all sworn law enforcement officers, and includes targeted pay increases throughout the judicial branch for judges, assistant public defenders, and our statewide Guardian Ad Litem offices. The Senate budget makes it clear to our state employees that their hard work and contributions to our state are appreciated.



Senate Passes Plan to Significantly Increase Southern Water Storage with Support for Our Agricultural Communities

The Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 10, authorizing a significant increase in southern water storage to further the goal of reducing, and eventually eliminating, harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

This bill dramatically expands southern storage by leveraging existing water infrastructure, and utilizing a combination of state, local, and private land, in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private landowners. This legislation establishes a concrete plan to achieve this critical component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in a reasonable amount of time.

Senate Bill 10 expressly prohibits the use of eminent domain, leveraging land already owned by the State of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District, land swaps, and purchases, to minimize impacts on agricultural workers while achieving 240,000 to 360,000 acre feet of storage. The legislation also provides grants to establish training programs for agricultural workers.

Nearly half way through the original timeline of CERP, less than 20 percent of the estimated total cost has been funded. It is time to invest in additional projects needed to complete the plan and that is exactly what the voters conveyed in passing Amendment 1.

This legislation provides a clear plan to address the plague of toxic blue-green algae in a manner that benefits communities across South Florida. These algal blooms will continue to occur unless the high volume of discharges from Lake Okeechobee are stopped and pollution in the Lake Okeechobee basin is abated.

Senate Bill 10 will make a significant difference for families, communities, and the economy East and West of the Lake, as well as for southern communities who have waited too long for additional investments in meaningful economic development to expand workforce training and job opportunities.
Senate Passes the College Competitiveness Act

The Senate passed Senate Bill 374, the College Competitiveness Act of 2017, which is a component of the Florida Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education agenda, and further clarifies the mission of Florida’s community colleges.

This legislation will further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission, which is promoting on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state.

The bill reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System, tightens the community college bachelor degree approval process, expands 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, and clarifies responsibilities within Florida’s taxpayer-funded K-20 education system to maximize programmatic offerings and resources already available at state universities, community colleges, and school district technical centers.

Senate Bill 374 was amended this week to include the Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Agenda (Senate Bill 2), which passed the Senate during the first week of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Legislation to Reduce Criminalization of Adolescence
This week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed Senate Bill 196, Juvenile Civil Citation and Similar Diversion Programs. The legislation reforms requirements regarding the issuance of civil citations, rather than criminal charges, for certain non-violent youthful offenses.

When young people commit serious, violent crimes, there needs to be an appropriate legal penalty. However, there are many other situations where young people are displaying a lack of judgement and maturity, rather than serious criminal behavior. This legislation ensures that we utilize other avenues that correct inappropriate behavior without stigmatizing our youth with a criminal record that could impact their future education and career opportunities. Senate Bill 196 requires a law enforcement officer to issue a civil citation, or require the juvenile’s participation in a diversion program when the juvenile admits to committing certain first-time misdemeanor offenses including: possession of alcoholic beverages, criminal mischief, trespass, and disorderly conduct, among others.

Under this legislation, a law enforcement officer must provide written documentation articulating why an arrest is warranted when he or she has the discretion to issue a civil citation, but instead chooses to arrest the juvenile. Additionally, the bill specifies that the option of the issuance of a civil citation or referral to a similar diversion program, does not apply to juveniles in certain circumstances. Specifically, it would not apply to a juvenile who is alleged to have committed, has plead guilty to, or has been convicted of a felony, or a misdemeanor offense, arising out of an episode in which the juvenile is also alleged to have committed another felony. Over time, the bill may have a positive fiscal impact to state and local governments because an increase in civil citations and similar diversion programs may result in young people being diverted from the Department of Juvenile Justice’s more costly residential program. It also may reduce the cost to state and local governments for housing youth in juvenile detention.

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