Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) today offered the following statement on the 2022 Legislative Session. The Senate completed its work on policy bills today and will return Monday, March 14, to vote on the 2022-23 General Appropriations Act and bills related to the state budget, following the conclusion of the constitutionally required cooling off period.
“As Senate President, my goal was to seize our days like a farmer, with long-term vision, knowing that what we plant today is for a future harvest. With the leadership of our Governor Ron DeSantis, our Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls, and my fellow legislators, over the last two years, despite the unanticipated challenges of a global pandemic, we accomplished that goal with key structural changes that will benefit the people of Florida for generations to come.
“With critical reforms and increased funding for our child welfare system, vulnerable children who cannot live with their parents now have a better chance to find a safe, permanent home. More parents than ever before have the opportunity to send their children to a school of their choice, and we have unprecedented funding for our neighborhood public schools and increased wages for public school employees from teachers to bus drivers.
“Florida has a job for everyone who wants one, and we remain the envy of the nation as a beacon of freedom, hope, and opportunity. When you work for our state, or for any company that provides a state service, you are going to make a decent wage. We also want to make sure private sector businesses have the certainty they need to create jobs in our communities. We brought fairness for local businesses to the online marketplace; prevented an unexpected pandemic tax hike on businesses; replenished the unemployment compensation trust fund Florida families count on during tough times; set in place a permanent reduction of the business rent tax; and, passed the Local Business Protection Act to guard against unreasonable local ordinances that hurt local businesses and kill local jobs.
“Over the last two years, we have made historic investments in Florida’s environment and clean water infrastructure, from septic to sewer conversions, to Everglades Restoration, to critical water storage north of Lake Okeechobee, to making our communities more resilient to flooding. We responsibly invested nonrecurring federal pandemic funds in key infrastructure priorities that will create jobs and further bolster Florida’s economy. Floridians can be very proud of the fact that our state government lives within its means and set aside historic reserves, while at the same time cutting taxes on the goods Florida families need – like diapers and school clothes. The free state of Florida has come out of the pandemic strong and growing, and I am confident our best days are ahead.”
President Simpson further commented below on just a handful of the many successful initiatives championed by the Florida Legislature during the 2022 Legislative Session.
Improving Benefits for Foster Families, Caregivers Who Are Relatives
Building on reforms passed during the 2021 Legislative Session to increase protections and consistency for children in out-of-home care and address critical gaps in investigations and information transparency, Senate Bill 7034, by Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami), expands benefits for foster families and relatives willing to take on the responsibility of raising children who cannot live with their parents.
“The earlier in life we can give children a safe, permanent home, the better opportunities those children will have for the rest of their lives,” said President Simpson. “Improving the level of benefits for family members and foster parents could mean all the difference when these folks are considering whether they can take in a vulnerable child. Government is a horrible parent, but we can, and we will continue to make foster children a priority by identifying and supporting caring families for them.”
The bill modifies monthly payment amounts for relatives and nonrelatives who have children placed with them in out-of-home care to the same rate as licensed foster parents. To help defray the cost of an early learning or childcare program, the bill provides a $200 per month subsidy to any foster parents and relative and nonrelative caregivers who have a child placed in their home between the ages of birth to school entry. The bill also expands the scope of students eligible for a tuition and fee exemption at a workforce education program, or a Florida college or university.
Supporting Local Florida Businesses
The Local Business Protection Act, Senate Bill 620, by Senator Travis Hutson (R-St. Augustine) creates a process by which an established business can recover losses caused by new ordinances imposed by local governments.
“Private sector businesses, not the government, create the jobs and provide the goods and services our communities need to thrive,” said President Simpson. “We want to make sure our communities, and in particular our business owners, have the chance to understand the impact of local ordinances before new regulations are put in place. In the event a local ordinance causes an existing business owner to lose profits, it is important that we have a fair process for that business owner to recover damages.”
Affordable Housing for Military, First Responders, Teachers
“Florida cannot independently fix or outrun all of the problems leading to the cost increases that are wreaking havoc on families, but we can do more to make sure housing is affordable so that those who provide critical services can live in the communities they serve,” said President Simpson.
House Bill 1, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to authorize an additional homestead exemption for a classroom teacher, law enforcement officer, correctional officer, firefighter, child welfare services professional, active duty member of the United States Armed Forces, or a member of the Florida National Guard. Property maintained as a homestead by the owner for a person dependent upon the owner is eligible for the exemption.
Additionally, HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, provides more than $350 million for affordable housing, with $100 million to focus on down payment assistance for our hometown heroes – teachers, health care workers, law enforcement, and others.
Increasing Protections for Unborn Children
Taking into account modern medical and scientific knowledge that confirms significant developmental milestones of an unborn child, House Bill 5, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) prohibits abortion after the unborn baby has reached 15 weeks of gestational age. The legislation also increases health care and education resources available to pregnant mothers and women who may become pregnant with a focus on the prevention of fetal and infant death in Florida.
“Abortion kills children and forever changes the life of the mother, the father, and the entire extended family. As an adoptive child myself, it has always been important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion,” said President Simpson. “Every unborn child is a special and unique human being deserving of protection from harm and the chance to grow up in a loving family. Coupled with major investments in child welfare programs, the legislation continues our efforts to keep Florida a state where we support parents and protect children.”
HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, also includes funding for low cost Hormonal Long Acting Reversible Contraception, which prevents unplanned pregnancies that lead to abortions.
“Providing approaches like HLARC give young people the opportunity to delay parenting without the trauma and carnage brought on by abortion. Likewise, investments in child welfare programs create an environment in our state where young parents can feel confident there are options other than abortion and supported in their decision to choose life for their babies,” said President Simpson.
More information on HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, can be found here.
More information on the broad-based tax relief measures to be considered for final passage on Monday can be found here.