State Senator Kathleen Passidom Update February 7

Friday concluded another interim committee week in Tallahassee.  During the week, Senate committees met to hear proposed legislative measures and review the Governor’s proposed budget for FY 2021-2022.   In March, we will start the 2021 legislative session and begin to pass legislative measures for the benefit of our state and to support our recovery from COVID-19.  To follow the process of any legislation or to review any committee materials go to the Florida Senate website and click on “Committees” or “Tracker.”

As you probably know, Florida will host Super Bowl LV this Sunday, February 7.  It is a real honor for our state to host this national championship, especially when Florida’s own Tampa Bay Buccaneers are competing for the title.  Stay safe and practice CDC guidelines if you plan to gather for the big game, and …Go BUCS!

Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis released his “Florida Leads” budget proposal for 2021-2022 fiscal year.  The “Florida Leads” $96 million budget proposal will require serious consideration by our lawmakers as we still continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects on our state and economy.  Like many businesses across the state, we have less general revenue than the previous year, and we will be forced to do more with less.  You can read more on the Governor’s budget proposal here.

While the state continues to experience delays in vaccine delivery and distribution, Florida leads the nation in the number of seniors who have received vaccinations.  More than 1 million seniors 65 and older have been vaccinated in Florida.  The state is also on track to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to every resident and staff member in Florida’s nursing homes and assist living facilities.


Florida COVID-19 Vaccine Update

As of Thursday, February 4, 2,209,641 vaccine doses have been distributed in Florida.  Despite slight delays, Florida has delivered a higher percentage of COVID-19 vaccine to its residents than New York and double the percentage of California.

Last week, Florida received about 307,000 first-dose vaccines.  The state’s capacity to administer vaccines significantly outnumbers the number of doses available in Florida.  As additional deliveries are received, the state will open up more vaccination sites.

Until all Floridians are able to access and receive the vaccine,  please continue to take safety precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus.


COVID-19 Update: Florida Case Data

As of February 5, there have been 1,752,330 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Florida, including 27,305 in Collier County, 5,061 in Hendry County and 51,858 in Lee County.

As of Thursday, February 4, the state’s positivity rate for new cases is 8.76%.

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.


Find A COVID-19 Vaccination Location Near You

Last month, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) launched a vaccine locator site.  The website helps 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.

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


Pre-Register for COVID-19 Vaccine

Last week, the Florida DOH launched a statewide preregistration system to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments for individuals 65 and older and frontline health care workers only.

Individuals can preregister for vaccine appointments and be notified when appointments are available in their area by visiting

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 preregister if they do not have internet access. Please find the complete list of numbers by county here.


Reminder: Sign Up for Text Alerts & Reports on Florida’s 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


Reminder: 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.


Florida DOH Prioritizes Mental Health During COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 has been stressful for most people.  Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.

DOH wants to remind Floridians, that taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress.  Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief and worry during an ongoing crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family. Self-care will help your long-term healing

If you or someone you care about is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 or TYY 1-800-846-8517 for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.  If it is an emergency, please dial 911.


Governor Ron DeSantis Announces $75 Million in Awards to Bolster Florida Communities’ Resilience to Future Storms

This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that $75 million has been awarded to 30 communities through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rebuild Florida Critical Facility Hardening Program.

The program, administered by DEO, allows local governments to increase the resiliency of critical facilities that serve a public safety purpose for local communities.

“While we continue to help communities recover from the impacts of major storms in recent years, we also need to prepare for future storms,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This funding will be central to that preparation and make these communities more resilient.”

Local recipients of program funding include:

·         Collier County ($2,123,100) – to harden the Immokalee Sports Complex by replacing the roof and HVAC systems, and upgrading to wind-resistant standards.

·         Collier County ($767,550) – to install a new roof, windows and doors, and install a permanent generator for the Immokalee Branch Library that serves as a disaster recovery center.

·         Collier County ($2,819,107) – to replace the roof, windows and doors; elevate electrical and mechanical equipment; and install a new generator at the Collier County Golden Gate Senior Center, which operates as a disaster recovery center for vulnerable populations.

·         Collier County ($216,552) – to harden the windows and doors at Collier County’s Marion E. Fether Medical Center.

·         Lee County ($4,560,000) – to install new roll-down shutters, replace and harden the roof, and replace seals and windows of the Hertz Arena, which serves as a public shelter during a disaster.

·         Lee County ($2,786,415) – to harden and upgrade the roof structure for the Alico Arena at Florida Gulf Coast University, which serves as a public shelter during a disaster.

·         Lee County ($2,820,983) – to harden several roofing systems, and secure the HVAC systems of Lee County’s Waste to Energy facility.

·         Hendry County ($350,400) – to harden the building by replacing the roof, windows, and doors at the Hendry County Montura Flaghole Fire Station.


Senate Seeks to Maximize School Choice and Expand Scholarship Eligibility

Florida is a large and diverse state, and education should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Senate Bill 48: Educational Scholarship Programs, by Senator Manny Diaz, Jr., further empowers families to design the academic experience that best fits their needs.  The legislation passed the Senate Committee on Education, chaired by Senator Joe Gruters, and aims to streamline existing school choice scholarships and expand program eligibility for lower-income families and students with unique abilities.

Senate Bill 48 merges the McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities and the Gardiner Scholarship, which both serve students with unique abilities, into the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship.  The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) is expanded to incorporate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) and the Hope Scholarship to serve students from lower-income families and victims of bullying and harassment. The consolidated scholarship programs will operate as Education Savings Accounts to provide families with even more flexibility to foster the most beneficial situation for their child’s education.

This legislation increases access to a McKay-Gardiner Scholarship or FES, gives priority to support Florida’s students who are most in need, enhances accommodations for virtual school students, and allows tax credit contributions to be deposited directly into a designated fund for K-12 education to be dispersed through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).

“Parents of all children, regardless of income, should be empowered to choose the educational environment that is best for their child,” said Senator Diaz.  “Using funds Florida taxpayers have already dedicated to education, this legislation consolidates our scholarship programs to make it clear what options are available to parents and expands eligibility to provide more options to more low-income families and families with a child with unique abilities.”


Florida Senate Reaffirms Commitment to Support and Honor Our Veterans

Two pro-veteran bills unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security, chaired by Senator Tom Wright.

Senate Bill 260: Services for Veterans and Their Families, by Senator Gayle Harrell, creates the Florida Veterans’ Care Coordination Program to provide both veterans and their families with dedicated behavioral health care referral services, primarily for mental health and substance abuse.

Through the program, a veteran may call a separate veteran-dedicated support line to receive assistance and support from a fellow veteran who is trained to respond to the calls for assistance.

Senate Bill 416: POW-MIA Veterans Bracelet Memorial, by Senator Danny Burgess, establishes the POW-MIA Vietnam Veterans Bracelet Memorial to memorialize the sacrifices and experiences of those captured or missing in combat during the Vietnam War.

The memorial will be funded and administered by the Big Bend Chapter 96, Vietnam Veterans of America, and will be placed on or near the Florida Capitol Complex.

The Florida Senate is committed to ensuring Florida remains the number one state in the nation for our military and veteran communities and their families.


Legislation to Modernize Right to Farm Protections Passes First Committee

Florida’s legacy farming communities contribute to our nation’s food supply and billions of dollars to our state’s economy.  Senate Bill 88: Farming Operations, by Senator Jason Brodeur, increases protections for our farmers by modernizing Florida’s Right to Farm Act.  Our state has experienced tremendous growth since Florida’s Right to Farm Act was originally passed in 1979.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Senator Jeff Brandes, approved the legislation which seeks to update this important law so existing farm work and complimentary agritourism activities are protected.

“Farms that conform to generally accepted agricultural and management practices should not face frivolous or nuisance lawsuits,” said Senator Brodeur.  “By modernizing the Right to Farm Act, we are striking the correct balance between residential development and critical farm work and agritourism activities.”


Property Insurance Reform Bill Passes Its First Committee

With the rising cost of property insurance in Florida, Senate Bill 76, aims to provide fair and reasonable guidelines for both the insurer and the insured during the claims process.

SB 76, introduced by Senator Jim Boyd, ensures Floridians’ access to property insurance that is affordable and reliable while stabilizing Florida’s property insurance market.

This bill seeks to reduce fraudulent claims by attorneys, public adjusters and contractors who take advantage of areas that were affected by hurricanes.  Currently, Florida property insurance rates are increasing along with an extraordinary number of roofing claims.

If passed, the bill will reduce frivolous property insurance claims and litigation.

The legislation also ensures there is a clear understanding between homeowners and their insurance companies regarding roof replacement coverage.


New COVID-19 Liability Protections Bill Introduced for Health Care Providers

This week, Senator Jeff Brandes, filed Senate Bill 74 that would provide protections for health care providers from COVID-19 related claims and lawsuits.

The bill would provide immunity from liability for COVID-19-related claims under certain circumstances; requiring claims to commence within a specified timeframe.

The immunity would be applicable in situations where supplies, materials, equipment, or personnel necessary to comply with government-issued health standards or guidance were not readily available or were not available at a reasonable cost.

The bill will be heard next week in the Committee on Judiciary.


Legislation Advances to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

Gaining unanimous support in the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, Senate Bill 68: Public Records/Staff and Volunteers of Domestic Violence Centers and Senate Bill 70: Domestic Violence Centers, by Senator Ileana Garcia, will enhance protections for victims of domestic violence as well as staff and volunteers of domestic violence shelters.

Senate Bill 70 provides a new criminal offense to further protect the locations of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) certified domestic violence centers.  Senate Bill 68 exempts from public record the personal information and addresses of a DCF domestic violence shelter’s current or former staff, volunteers, and their families.

“When victims of domestic violence seek refuge it is imperative that, for their safety, their location remains confidential,” Senator Garcia said.  “We must do everything in our power to protect these survivors from their abusers.  I am proud to sponsor legislation that heightens protections for survivors of domestic abuse as well as the volunteers, staff, and their families, who serve this vulnerable population.”


Pandemic Committee Reviews COVID-19 Response in Elder Care Facilities

Ensuring quality care for Florida’s senior citizens is a priority in the Florida Senate.

The Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, chaired by Senator Danny Burgess, received presentations from Agency for Health Care Administration Acting Secretary Shevaun Harris, and Florida Health Care Association CEO and Executive Director Emmett Reed.  Both presentations focused on the challenges and strategy of COVID-19 mitigation efforts for residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities during the ongoing pandemic.

Committee members analyzed how these long-term care facilities addressed rapid response efforts, vaccination administration, personal protective equipment s, and changing guidelines.  The Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response will review all components of the state’s response to the pandemic, and identify areas where the Legislature can make improvements to benefit our state, including Florida’s seniors.


Florida Receives Funding to Strengthen the Fight Against Opioids

According to court documents, Florida will receive $40 million as part of a $573 million settlement between McKinsey & Company because of the global consulting giant’s role in the opioid epidemic.

The settlement between McKinsey and 47 states and five territories says that $558.9 million “will be used, to the extent practicable, to remediate the harms caused to the settling states and their citizens by the opioid epidemic within each state and to recover the costs incurred by the settling state in investigating and pursuing these claims.”


Bill on New State Retirement Plan Scheduled for Senate Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability

Next week, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will consider Senate 84, by Senator Ray Rodrigues.  The bill would require new state employees to enroll in a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

This legislation would replace traditional pensions.

Currently, employees can choose whether to enroll in a traditional pension plan or what is known as an “investment” plan, which is similar to a 401(k).

Republican leaders have long discussed moving away from the traditional pension plan, as many private employers have done.


In the News

Collier Library to receive 1.5 million in repairs

Lee County acquires 427 acres for preservation program

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