On Tuesday, the Florida Legislature convened to mark to the start of the 2023 Legislative Session.
We wasted no time to pass bills that strengthen our state. On Wednesday, we passed Senate Bill 102, the Live Local Act, sponsored by Senator Alexis Calatayud. This measure will expand attainable housing for Florida’s workforce.
We also passed Senate Bill 106, by Senator Jason Brodeur, this week. This bill expands access to Florida’s iconic Wildlife Corridor by connecting the corridor to Florida’s Greenways and Trails System and the SUN Trail Network, as well as recreational pathways to heritage small towns across Florida. All Floridians will have the opportunity to enjoy the precious natural landscape of Florida’s heartland.
During his State of the State Address in a joint session, Governor Ron DeSantis detailed Florida’s success in protecting individual freedoms, rebuilding from recent natural disasters, and defending the rights of parents to be involved in their children’s education.
While we accomplished a great deal this first week of session, there is more work to do:
- We will make school choice a reality for every child in every family across our great state. We must invest in the education of every Florida student, no matter where they choose to go to school.
- We will cut red tape on traditional public schools. These institutions – which have served our communities for generations – will have a meaningful opportunity to compete right alongside other school choice options.
- We will enhance public safety by codifying the constitutional right of citizens to keep and bear arms. At the same time, we will expand tools available to law enforcement and educators working to keep our communities and schools safe.
- We will promote career and technical education with a focus on work-based learning opportunities linked to local employment.
- We will work to secure our borders because the federal government has failed to do so.
- We are going to cut taxes on more essential items so Florida families can keep more of their hard-earned dollars where they belong – in their pockets.
- And we’re going to pass meaningful tort reform to curb the practices of those attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits which increase the cost of living in our state.
Expanding Access to Florida’s Wildlife Corridor
Senate Bill 106, which passed with unanimous support on the Senate floor this week, will connect the corridor to Florida’s Greenways and Trails System and the SUN Trail Network, as well as recreational pathways to heritage small towns across Florida.
Our wildlife corridor provides a unique opportunity to experience the wonder and beauty of Florida’s heartland. We have the chance not only to preserve this natural resource for future generations, but to expand access so more Floridians can walk, run, and bike from trail town to trail town, taking in all our great state has to offer. I envision Florida’s Wildlife Corridor as a top destination for recreational tourists from across the country and around the world. As I have said before, I believe this will be Florida’s Central Park – a legacy we can be proud to leave for future generations of Floridians and visitors to enjoy.
Florida’s Wildlife Corridor encompasses approximately 17.7 million acres, including almost 10 million acres of conservation lands. The corridor is being created through the state’s purchase of development rights of farmers, ranchers, and other landowners who will be able to continue their operations in perpetuity and the lands will never be developed.
Creating Workforce Housing
Senate Bill 102, Housing, by Senator Alexis Calatayud, also earned unanimous support from the Florida Senate this week. The legislation contains the comprehensive, statewide workforce housing strategy and is designed to increase the availability of attainable housing options for Florida workers who seek to live in the communities they serve.
Floridians are ready to live local, and to spend less time commuting and more time building their lives and raising their families in the heart of the communities they serve. With this comprehensive legislation, we are shutting down affordable housing stereotypes and creating attainable housing options needed by the majority of our workforce, the backbone of Florida’s economy.
Expanding School Choice in Florida
Senator Corey Simon presented Senate Bill 202 to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Education which passed with strong committee support. Senate Bill 202 expands Florida’s educational voucher program and implements universal school vouchers across the state.
Senate Bill 202 ensures that educational funding in Florida follows students, not systems. Florida’s students will now be able to receive an education in a setting that best fits their unique needs, abilities, and goals. Whether a student and their family wish to attend a public, charter, private, or home school, this legislation will give every Florida student the opportunity to excel and thrive through their educational journey regardless of their zip code.
This legislation also removes burdensome regulations on teachers that unnecessarily overcomplicate the recertification process.
With Senate Bill 202, Florida will offer dynamic educational opportunities that will improve educational outcomes for every student.
Protecting Students’ Privacy
This week, Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) presented Senate Bill 662 to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it passed with strong committee support. Senate Bill 662, cited as the “Student Online Personal Information Protection Act,” establishes a secure shelter of students’ personal information.
This legislation will prohibit operators of websites, online services, or online applications from collecting, disclosing, or selling student data. Under this legislation, operators will only be able to collect information that is necessary for the operation of educational technology and will be prohibited from using student data to engage in targeted advertising.
Given the increased reliance upon the internet and other software programs in educational settings due to the pandemic, it is important that the personal information of Florida students is protected in a comprehensive manner. Senate Bill 662 ensures that when Florida students enter the classroom, the educational technology they operate is utilized solely for education, and not as a tool for third-party companies to profit off of a student’s personal data.