State Budget Invests in Florida’s Teachers, State Employees, Affordable Housing
and Environment, Enhances State Reserves to Prepare for COVID-19 Impacts
Florida Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) today released the following series of statements regarding the 2020 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature. The Senate convened briefly this afternoon for a final vote on House Bill (HB) 5001, the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and related bills. Action on all other legislation concluded Friday.
“Two months ago, when I had the opportunity to address the Senate on Opening Day, I mentioned that this session – the first of a new decade – will be forever unique in history. We have the responsibility to set the bar for the 2020’s. In my view, together with the Florida House and Governor DeSantis, we have set that bar extremely high by putting forward a balanced budget that funds critical priorities of our constituents, setting aside a significant rainy day fund to prepare for and respond to potential impacts of COVID-19 and other challenges the state may face in the coming year, and advancing a series of forward-looking initiatives across various areas of public policy that will keep our growing state on solid footing as we head into this new decade,” said President Galvano.
THE 2020-21 STATE BUDGET
Statement by Senate President Bill Galvano
“Our final budget is a work product the people of Florida can be proud of. We fund several important commitments the Senate made in its initial budget, from fully funding affordable housing, to a meaningful pay raise for state employees, to critical funds that will preserve our environment for future generations of Floridians. We also join with our House colleagues to build on a $783 million increase in K-12 education funding approved by the Legislature and Governor
DeSantis last year, with specific funding dedicated to the Governor’s priority of increasing the starting salary for Florida’s teachers as well as funding to reward Florida’s hardworking veteran teachers.”
“Continued investment in protection of our environment and water quality, including storage and treatment projects North of Lake Okeechobee, Red Tide and toxic algae research, and septic-to-sewer conversions, as well as funds for coastal resiliency planning are all critical components of a long-term strategy to restore and protect Florida’s unique natural environment and the quality of life we as Floridians enjoy.
“Our budget also expands funding for resources for vulnerable Floridians, including increased funding for home and community-based services for Floridians with unique abilities and a rate enhancement for the dedicated providers who serve Floridians living in nursing homes. Among other critical health care priorities, our budget appropriates significant funding that will enable Governor DeSantis and our executive branch agencies to continue aggressive planning and response to the coronavirus. Additionally, by enhancing our already healthy rainy day fund to a total of nearly $4 billion in total reserves, we have set aside funds Governor DeSantis can continue to access through his executive order, ensuring our state has the resources needed to address this evolving public health emergency.”
Statement by Senator Rob Bradley, Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
“This is an unprecedented time in our state’s history. The good news is that the people of our state are united, and we are fighters. We will overcome the challenges before us. This budget does two things. First, it gives our State the tools and resources it needs to fight the coronavirus. Second, it contains robust reserves so that our government can continue to operate at full capacity if revenues decline as a result of the virus. This is a responsible budget. We have prepared for this moment with prudent financial decisions over the past several years.
“Our budget makes tremendous investments the areas most important to the Floridians we serve. Fully funding affordable housing, across the board salary increases for our state employees, and significant funding for Florida Forever were top commitments the Senate made from the onset of our budget planning.
“Our final budget appropriates $500 million in a new Teacher Salary Increase Allocation, along with a $40 per student, over $300 million, increase in flexible funding through the Base Student Allocation. These significant increases allow us to focus on Governor DeSantis’ priority of increasing the minimum classroom teacher salary, while also providing opportunities for districts to invest in veteran teachers.
“We also join with Governor DeSantis to continue significant investments in Everglades Restoration and protection of our water resources by dedicating approximately $690 million to these important efforts. Additionally, our $100 million investment in Florida Forever continues our commitment to faithfully implement the Water and Land Conservation Amendment passed by voters.
“We continue our state investment in maintaining and building the national prominence of Florida’s higher education system by appropriating key funding for Florida’s State Colleges and State University System. Our budget also fully funds affordable housing opportunities, appropriating $370 million from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Funds. Additionally, we are increasing investments in the Department of Corrections, as well as other key investments in our court system.”
BROAD-BASED TAX RELIEF PACKAGE
“Our 2020 Tax Relief Package offers Florida families a tax savings when they purchase critical supplies in advance of the upcoming hurricane season and as they manage the costs associated with preparing children for the new school year,” said President Galvano. “Over the last few days, my colleagues have worked diligently to ensure that we can provide the broad-based tax relief opportunities Florida families count on, while still responsibly increasing state reserves to approximately $4 billion to account for impacts associated with the ongoing public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 virus. This legislation strikes an appropriate balance between those important goals.”
Establishes the 2020 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday
HB 7097, Taxation, creates a three-day “back-to-school” sales tax holiday from August 7 to August 9, 2020, for clothing, footwear, and backpacks costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less, and the first $1000 of the sales tax price of personal computers or personal computer-related accessories.
Establishes the 2020 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday
The legislation also creates a seven-day “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday from May 29 to June 4, 2020, for disaster preparedness supplies. Some examples of tax-free items include: flashlights and lanterns costing $20 or less; radios and tarps costing $50 or less; coolers and batteries costing $30 or less; and, generators costing $750 or less.
Additionally, HB 5001, increases the state’s share of funding to support local public schools, thereby reducing local property tax rates to help offset portions of the impact of rising property taxes have on Florida’s families.
RESOURCES FOR FLORIDIANS WITH UNIQUE ABILITIES
“In my view, one of the core functions and responsibilities of government is to ensure that our laws protect the most vulnerable among us. The Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver program ensures that individuals with unique abilities can receive care in their homes and communities, rather than an institution. While the waiver has worked well for so many, recurring deficits have created a situation where some individuals with unique abilities, who have been on the waitlist for several years, cannot be served. This legislation will help ensure the long-term viability of this important program by taking a first step towards more predictability of costs, without a reduction in services. Coupled with increased funding in our budget, this legislation reinforces our strong and unwavering commitment to our fellow Floridians with unique abilities,” said President Galvano.
The Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver program provides services, including employment assistance, adult day care, and personal support services, among others, to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. SB 82, Individuals with Disabilities, by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), will help the state better predict costs associated with the waiver program, while not reducing any existing services. The legislation outlines protocols the Agency for Person with Disabilities can utilize to provide a better assessment of changes in situations that would necessitate additional services for a person with unique abilities, and provides more uniform support coordination for families. The 2020-21 GAA provides funding for additional slots to allow more Floridians with unique abilities to access home and community-based services.
PARENTAL CONSENT FOR ABORTION, PROTECTION INFANTS BORN ALIVE
“The serious and irrevocable decision to end a pregnancy involves undergoing a significant medical procedure that results, in many cases, in lifelong emotional and physical impacts. The parents of a minor child considering an abortion must be involved in such a substantial and permanent decision. For those who are in a situation of abuse or where parental consent is not in the child’s best interest, the bill provides a judicial waiver process that still involves the intervention of an adult,” said President Galvano.
“This bill sends a clear message that here in Florida, we will do everything we can to prevent the abomination of infanticide in our state. When a child miraculously survives this brutal medical procedure, that child’s life must be preserved and treated with great respect and care. The penalty for refusing to provide medical care to an infant struggling for life should be significant,” continued President Galvano.
Senate Bill (SB) 404, Abortion, by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), requires parental consent for abortion and enhances protections for infants born alive. The consent requirement does not apply if the abortion is performed during a medical emergency when there is insufficient time to obtain consent, or if the minor petitions the circuit court where she resides and receives a judicial waiver of parental consent. Current law requires any health care practitioner present when an infant is born alive during an attempted abortion to preserve the health and life of the newborn baby. The baby must be immediately transported and admitted to a hospital. SB 404 increases the penalty for violating these requirements from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
ENHANCING PUBLIC SAFETY
“No function of government is more important than the safety of the people we serve, and this session we passed a number of critical pieces of legislation focused on wide-ranging aspects of public safety and security designed to enhance the health and safety of Florida’s residents and visitors,” said President Galvano. “The establishment of a statewide strategy for targeted violence prevention will ensure law enforcement officers have the tools and training needed to better-identify individuals on the pathway to violence,” said President Galvano. “We are also building on the public safety efforts enacted in 2018 and 2019 with legislation specifically designed to enhance the safety of our students, teachers and school personnel.”
“Strengthening reporting requirements for child abuse and improving educational and training opportunities on mental health and suicide prevention for education, law enforcement, and medical personnel who serve at-risk Floridians will help improve the ability of these professionals to recognize and respond to vulnerable Floridians in need of help,” said President Galvano.
Condemning Philosophies that Espouse Superiority
Senate Resolution (SR) 214, Philosophies that Espouse Superiority, by Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), rejects and condemns any philosophy that incites one group of people against another on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or disability. Accordingly, the resolution rejects and condemns the philosophies embraced by white nationalists and white supremacists, and affirms that these philosophies are contradictory to the values that define the people of Florida and the United States.
Statewide Strategy for Targeted Violence Prevention
HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, provides funding for the statewide development of a Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM) tool by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A BTAM is a structured group process used to evaluate the risk posed by an individual, typically as a response to an actual or perceived threat or concerning behavior. The threat assessment tool will enable law enforcement to identify individuals on a pathway to violence.
Alyssa’s Law: Alert Systems in Public Schools
SB 70, Alert Systems in Public Schools, by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation), creates “Alyssa’s Law,” requiring each public school to implement an interoperable mobile panic alert system, known as “Alyssa’s Alert”, capable of connecting diverse emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple first responders. The bill is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who was among the 17 killed on February 14, 2018.
Jordan’s Law: Child Welfare
HB 43, Child Welfare, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), creates Jordan’s Law, which makes a number of changes to the laws related to the child welfare system in an attempt to address issues that were identified in the case of Jordan Belliveau, a two-year old boy who was killed by his mother in Pinellas County. The bill requires specified child welfare professionals, Guardian ad Litem program staff, and law enforcement officers to receive training on the recognition of and response to head trauma and brain injury in children under six years old.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
“Our state infrastructure is at the core of government’s responsibility regarding public safety. Expanding fixed broadband in rural areas of our state will help our first responders quickly and accurately reach Floridians in need, while the development of permanent staging areas for emergencies will improve the efficiency of emergency response, expediting the dissemination of crucial emergency supplies, including food, water, and fuel. Together, these initiatives build on the critical public safety components of the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program passed last year,” continued President Galvano.
Expansion of Fixed Broadband Service
HB 969, Broadband Internet Service, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Wauchula), transfers the broadband policy implementation from the Department of Management Services (DMS) to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Specifically, the bill creates the Florida Office of Broadband within the DEO’s Division of Community Development, including specific duties regarding the development, marketing, and promotion of broadband. The bill authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to use up to $5 million annually from the State Transportation Trust Fund Allocation to the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (MCORES) Program for projects that assist in the development of broadband infrastructure within or adjacent to a multiuse corridor.
Permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies
SB 7018, Essential State Infrastructure, by the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security, chaired by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), provides for the plan, design, and construction of permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies (SAFE) as part of Florida’s Turnpike System to facilitate prompt emergency assistance in response to a declared state of emergency. The bill directs the FDOT, in consultation with the Florida Department of Emergency Management, to consider several factors when selecting proposed sites for SAFE locations. SAFE locations must be created in geographic areas that best facilitate wide dissemination of emergency-related supplies and equipment; provide ease of access to major highways and other transportation facilities; be large enough to accommodate the staging of a significant amount of emergency-related supplies and equipment; provide space in support of emergency preparedness and evacuation activities, such as fuel reserve capacity; and, can be used during non-emergency periods for commercial motor vehicle parking.
Tobacco and Nicotine Products, Vaping Regulations
“In my view, vaping started out in large part as a tool to aide with smoking cessation, but quickly ballooned into a huge industry before health care experts really had a chance to study the long-term impacts of using vaping devices, particularly with regard to flavored products,” said President Galvano. Within the last generation, we have seen tremendous success with reducing the number of people who begin smoking in their youth, yet it seems that within the last couple of years, vaping has become pervasive on college and university campuses and even K-12 schools.”
“This legislation has two important components,” continued President Galvano. “First, it restricts children and young adults under 21 from purchasing nicotine products, including vaping liquids and devices. Second, it ensures we take a pause on the sale of flavored vaping liquids, other than tobacco and menthol, until the FDA can appropriately analyze these products.”
SB 810, by Senate President Pro Tempore David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs), increases the minimum age to lawfully purchase and possess tobacco products or nicotine dispensing devices (used for Vaping) from 18 years of age to 21 years of age. The legislation also prohibits the sale of flavored liquid nicotine products (other than tobacco or menthol flavors) until the Federal Drug Administration issues a marketing order to permit the product to be sold.