Florida Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) today released the following statement regarding the successes of the 2020 Florida Legislative Session.
“With the start of a new decade, Florida has been presented with both new opportunities to build on the successes in our state as well as novel challenges. The Senate Republican Caucus took action to respond to the critical issues facing our state while remaining committed to advancing policy and funding priorities important to our constituents. Our Caucus put forth a balanced budget, including a significant enhancement to our state reserves in order to prepare for impacts of COVID-19 and other potential challenges our state may face. 2020 will be known as “The Year of the Teacher” as we deliver meaningful pay raises to our hardworking classroom teachers, including veteran teachers, and other instructional personnel. We also invested in pay raises, including retention bonuses, for our overworked and underpaid correctional officers, in addition to a 3-percent pay raise for all state employees. Republicans ensured another historic year of water quality and protection funding to preserve our environment for generations to come, fully funded affordable housing and delivered broad-based tax relief to benefit Florida families.
“We made great strides in conservative policy this year, including securing parental consent for abortions and mandating greater protections for infants born alive. We passed several measures to protect Florida’s vulnerable populations including victims of domestic violence, senior citizens, children in our foster care system and individuals with unique abilities. Recognizing our state infrastructure is at the core of ensuring public safety, we championed for legislation to provide innovative resources and improvements to and along Florida’s highways so nothing stands in the way of critical supplies and assistance reaching communities struck by a natural disaster or an emergency situation.
“Working alongside my Senate colleagues, as well as with the House of Representatives and Governor Ron DeSantis, we were able to achieve our shared goal of securing a stronger, brighter future for Floridians.”
2020-2021 Balanced Budget
The balanced budget (House Bill 5001) prioritizes investments in Florida’s teachers, state employees, affordable housing and the environment while enhancing our state reserves to nearly $4 billion, which can be used to prepare and respond to COVID-19 impacts.
The 2020-21 budget includes $500 million for school districts to work towards the Governor’s goal of increasing minimum salaries of classroom teachers to $47,500 and to increase salaries for other instructional personnel. The budget also invests $690 million toward protecting the environment and improving water quality, $100 million in Florida Forever, $370 million to fully fund the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and significant funding toward pay raises for correctional officers, in addition to a 3-percent pay raise for all state employees.
The Florida Senate worked diligently with the Florida House of Representatives and Governor Ron DeSantis to ensure the Florida Department of Health and Florida Division of Emergency Management have the funding and resources necessary to address COVID-19 in Florida. Our state budget directs $52.5 million in state and federal dollars to purchase necessities related to COVID-19. The 2020-21 budget also directs an additional $300 million into state reserves. State reserve funds can be utilized when the Governor has declared a state of emergency in order to provide immediate resources to combat the economic fallout of a natural disaster, health epidemic, or any other state emergency. This additional enhancement brings our total state reserves to nearly $4 billion, a state record.
Recognizing that Florida’s schools would not be what they are without the dedicated work of our teachers, House Bill 641: Funds for the Operation of Schools, provides $500 million to increase teacher salaries. Of these funds, $400 million must be used to increase the minimum salaries of classroom teachers to at least $47,500, or to the maximum amount achievable, and $100 million is allocated to increase salaries for other instructional personnel who also play a pivotal role in our students’ success.
We increased access to school choice options for both low and middle-income families by raising the cap on total enrollment growth for the Family Empowerment Scholarship, through House Bill 7067: K-12 Scholarship Programs. This gives parents the opportunity to receive a voucher to enroll their child in the school that best fits their needs.
Our 2020-21 state budget provides record levels of funding to protect and restore one of our most valuable assets, Florida’s environment. This legislative session, we passed comprehensive and transformative policy that addresses pollution sources, water quality and infrastructure. To further advance the efforts made in water quality and protection, the legislature invested a remarkable $690 million this year. Restoring and preserving the Everglades continues to be a top priority and we have provided $318.6 million in funding to key Everglades restoration projects. Florida’s beaches and springs are important for a healthy environment and a crucial piece of our tourism and economy. With $100 million dedicated to beaches and springs restoration, we will continue to preserve our unique environment. Through a $100 million investment in the Florida Forever Program, the Senate is proud to conserve and acquire strategic lands that will help preserve the environment and protect our infrastructure.
Securing Parental Consent for Abortions, Protecting Infants Born Alive
Senate Bill 404: Abortion requires a parent or guardian give consent before a physician can perform an abortion on a minor, with the exception of medical emergencies. SB 404 allows a minor to petition any circuit court in the area where she resides for a waiver of consent in order to obtain an abortion. This legislation also increases the penalty from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if a health care practitioner fails to provide an infant born alive after an attempted abortion with the same quality and level or care as any other newborn. SB 404 aims to strengthen family units and ensure parental or guardian involvement and guidance in the serious and permanent decision of a minor child considering terminating a pregnancy. SB 406, accompanying legislation, exempts the name of minors using the court waiver process from being disclosed in public records.
Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable Populations
House Bill 1087: Domestic Violence Services, removes the express statutory requirement for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and shifts the duties and responsibilities currently required of the coalition to the DCF including, but not limited to, implementing, administering, and evaluating all domestic violence services provided by Florida’s 42 state certified domestic violence centers. This legislation ensures that taxpayer dollars dedicated to victims of domestic violence are protected from fraud and abuse and that there is no interruption of services to victims of domestic violence.
Senate Bill 994: Guardianship, reforms the state’s guardianship program to better protect elderly individuals no longer able to care for themselves. SB 994 adds additional factors for a court to consider when appointing a guardian, revises the requirements for a petition for the appointment of a guardian, and prohibits a guardian from consenting to or signing a Do Not Resuscitate order or taking other serious actions on behalf of a ward without court approval.
Senate Bill 1326: Child Welfare, known as the State of Hope Act, makes wide-ranging changes to the child welfare programs administered by the DCF, including the creation of the Office of Quality within the DCF, in order to promote accountability and improve program performance.
Senate Bill 82: Individuals with Disabilities helps reduce the waitlist, improve the quality of services, and better predict costs of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver program by introducing new efficiencies into the program, while not reducing services to existing clients. APD is responsible for the delivery of services to individuals with developmental disabilities and for administering the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waiver, known as the iBudget. The waiver program provides services such as employment assistance, adult day care, and personal support services. The 2020-21 budget provides funding for additional slots to allow more Floridians with unique abilities to access home and community-based services.
Enhancing Public Safety Infrastructure
Senate Bill 7018: Essential State Infrastructure, includes provisions for the design and construction of permanent Staging Areas for Emergencies (SAFE) as part of Florida’s Turnpike System. The staging areas created through this legislation will be designed 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 could be used during non-emergency periods for commercial motor vehicle parking.
House Bill 969: Broadband Internet Service, creates the Florida Office of Broadband within the Department of Economic Opportunity to lead efforts for high-speed internet installation within or adjacent to Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance. This legislation will help ensure broadband internet is available in rural areas so that first responders can quickly and accurately reach Floridians during times of need on and around these multi-use corridors.
House Bill 7097: Taxation establishes several tax saving measures, including the creation of two sales tax holidays, which will save Florida families millions in tax dollars. The Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday creates a sales tax holiday from August 7 through August 9, 2020. The Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday creates a sales tax holiday from May 29 through June 4, 2020 for disaster supplies.