State Senate Presidents Opening Session Kick-off

The 2024 Legislative Session Begins 

The Florida Legislature convened on Tuesday to mark the Opening Day of the 2024 Legislative Session. As outlined in the Florida Statute, the Legislature is in session for 60 consecutive days each year.  During this time, we will hear a number of proposals on the chamber floor that impact our communities in many ways.  We will consider bills that strengthen health care, improve education, protect our natural resources and invest in our infrastructure, among other issues.  We will also pass a balanced budget to fund the needs of our citizens for the upcoming fiscal year.

One of my top priorities this session is to help our state’s health care system grow and innovate to better serve all Floridians.  Our state population has grown exponentially in recent years, as has the demand for quality care.  We’re working to grow our health care workforce with new opportunities for education, training and retention.  We are funding provider increases that incentivize health care workers to continue serving in needed fields like mental health, labor and delivery, and helping Floridians with disabilities.  In addition, we will establish the Live Healthy Innovation Council to examine innovative solutions that can improve the delivery and quality of health care in our state, and develop a loan program to support implementation, with a focus on underserved areas.

Another effort we’re spearheading in the Florida Senate is the deregulation of public schools.  This is a first-in-the-nation effort to cut the red tape and reduce bureaucracy in our neighborhood public schools while maintaining high academic standards and school safety.  With universal school choice now a reality for Florida families, reducing bureaucratic red tape will give neighborhood public schools – that have served our communities and families for generations – a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options.

Finally, I am very proud of the work we have undertaken on our Wildlife Corridor – starting under President Wilton Simpson’s leadership, we have made historic, once-in-a-generation investments that will preserve the natural beauty of our state – what makes our state so special – for future Floridians to enjoy.  This year, we will take that commitment to the next level with a dedicated stream of revenue to support the acquisition and management of our public lands.  We know conservation and preservation of Florida’s land and water resources is essential to maintaining the quality of life enjoyed by Floridians, as well as sustaining and growing a thriving economy, including legacy industries like tourism and agriculture.

On Opening Day this week, the Legislature also gathered for a Joint Session of the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives, during which Governor Ron DeSantis delivered the State of the State Address.

During the course of the 2024 legislative session, we welcome input and feedback from our constituents on the issues that face our state.  We are in the state Capitol to represent you, and the best interests of our communities and our state.  When we work together, we can accomplish great things.


Governor Ron DeSantis Delivers State of the State

As President of the Senate, I had the opportunity to preside over the joint session of the Florida Legislature as we welcomed Governor Ron DeSantis to deliver his annual State of the State Address.

During his remarks, the Governor reminded us of the value of freedom in our state. He said: “Here in the Sunshine State, we have delivered good government that protects liberty and maintains order. We have won the unprecedented backing of a populace reflective of our country at large. And we have put forth a blueprint for America’s revival that has instilled hope into the hearts of millions that a new birth of freedom can emanate from this land once more.”

“Together, we will keep Florida free and provide hope for a revival of the American spirit throughout these United States,” he concluded.

We look forward to working with him again this session to defend freedom in Florida and continue our state’s great success as a model for the nation.


Live Healthy Legislative Package Moves to Senate Floor

Thursday, the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy passed the Live Healthy Legislative Package with unanimous support.  This robust policy proposal addresses key shortages in Florida’s health care workforce and stimulates innovation in health care.  The legislation also combines targeted policy enhancements and critical investments to increase Florida’s health care workforce and efficiency across the health care sector.

Senate Bill 7016, presented by Senator Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Policy, seeks to enhance Florida’s healthcare workforce by addressing key shortages of physicians, nurses, technicians, and other health care professionals.

This legislation expands opportunities for education, training, and retention to ensure that Florida’s health care workforce is able to grow and meet the needs of a booming state. Senate Bill 7016 also increases the number of residency slots available at Florida hospitals.  It establishes incentive programs that encourage physicians to remain in Florida beyond their residencies, empowering them to build their careers right here at home.  This legislation also incentivizes health care workers to continue serving in areas of critical need such as mental health, labor and delivery, and Floridians with disabilities.

Further, Senate Bill 7016 removes outdated and burdensome regulations on health care practitioners, streamlining certification processes while maintaining firm accountability standards to ensure Floridians receive the highest standard of care.

Senate Bill 7018, presented by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services, funds strategic investments in health care innovation through a revolving loan program.

It is clear that the private sector can innovate in ways that the government simply isn’t able or sometimes willing to do.  Senate Bill 7018 facilitates and stimulates private sector innovation through targeted investments in health care technology, empowering Florida’s health care providers to utilize the most advanced technology available.  Through this legislation, health care providers will be able to deliver more efficient health care services and improve patient outcomes.  Further, Senate Bill 7018 establishes a Health Care Innovation Council, convening experts from across the state to examine solutions to health care delivery challenges currently facing the State of Florida.

This legislative package will now move to the Senate floor for a vote before the full Senate.


Measure Supporting Neighborhood Public Schools Passes the Florida Senate 

Wednesday, the Florida Senate passed a critical deregulation package that enhances our public schools and empowers them to deliver an educational experience fit to the needs of their local community.  Senate Bill 7000, presented by Senator Alexis Calatayud (R-Miami), enhances the authority of local school districts to recruit and retain the very best teachers.

Specifically, this legislation provides flexibility to districts in setting salaries for instructional personnel, offering multiyear contracts, and in personnel evaluation systems.  Further, Senate Bill 7000 empowers teachers in collective bargaining negotiations to ensure the self-serving interests of unions do not negatively impact the teachers.

This legislation also places a specific emphasis on teacher recruitment through expanded eligibility for the teacher apprentice program, recruiting Florida’s next generation of world-class educators.

Senate Bill 7002, presented by Senator Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine), removes burdensome administrative guidelines on local school districts that have hindered the operational success of Florida’s neighborhood public schools for far too long.  This legislation provides flexibility to schools regarding communications, finances, construction, and administration.  By removing onerous guidelines that bog down administrators in bureaucratic red tape, our public school administrators will be able to better serve students and teachers.  While making significant cuts to burdensome guidelines, Senate Bill 7002 maintains strict standards of accountability, transparency, and safety.

Senate Bill 7004, presented by Senator Corey Simon (R-Tallahassee), directly improves the educational experience for students and families.  This legislation enhances progress monitoring processes to allow for early intervention, ensuring that students get the support they need before retention is necessary. Senate Bill 7004 also reduces high-stakes testing and revises graduation requirements, allowing students to be evaluated holistically.  A student’s success should not come down to one high-stakes test, and this legislation ensures that students will be evaluated in a more thorough and commonsense manner.

This legislative package will now be sent to the Florida House of Representatives for their consideration.


Opioid Overdose Awareness Legislation Moves to Senate Floor 

On Tuesday, Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) presented Senate Bill 66 in the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability, passing unanimously.  Senate Bill 66 establishes “Victoria’s Law” and seeks to raise awareness for life-saving medical treatments for opioid overdose and the dangers posed by opioid addiction.

The opioid epidemic has touched every corner of our state and nation and has devastated families and communities.  This issue has only worsened as a result of the crisis at America’s southern border, which allows fentanyl to flow freely into communities across the country.

Senate Bill 66 continues to raise awareness of this epidemic and encourages the Florida Department of Health to educate Floridians on how to administer Naloxone, a medical treatment that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. Further, this legislation permits the Governor to officially designate June 6 as Revive Awareness Day.


After a long, productive week in Tallahassee, today I am back home with my former colleague and friend, Southwest Florida’s own Ray Rodrigues, Chancellor of our State University System, to celebrate the installation of Dr. Ayesegul Timur as President of Florida Gulf Coast University.

I have known Aysegul for almost 20 years. She is a talented economist and a visionary leader with a passion for helping students link educational achievements to real jobs in communities across our state.

So often, we hear of students who graduate buried in debt, with degrees that leave little to no hope of gainful employment that justifies the significant investment of time and money that it takes to earn a college or university degree.

This is such a tragedy. FGCU has long been a leader in linking degrees to workforce needs, and with President Timur at the helm, I am confident this alignment with continue.

In fact, when I worked with Senator Travis Hutson on our most recent workforce education bill, we looked to the FGCU’s micro-credentialing and digital badges initiative, as a guide. That legislation, now being implemented in schools across Florida, brings workforce education into 6-8 grades, tying career and technical education opportunities to local and regional business consortia.

As you can see, President Timur’s initiative and influence are already extending far beyond FGCU, and she is just getting started.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office any time that I can be of assistance.


Kathleen C. Passidomo

Senate President
State Senator, District 28

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