March 31 Legislative Update – Senate President Kathleen Passidomo
This week, I had the honor and privilege of joining Governor Ron DeSantis as he signed the Live Local Act into law. This legislation implements a comprehensive strategy to increase housing options and make housing more attainable for Florida workers, families and retirees.
It is clear that the broad appeal of the free state of Florida has impacted our population and our housing needs. Countless families and business owners have fled high-tax, lockdown states in search of a better life in Florida.
As our state continues to grow, our Live Local Act will make sure Floridians can live close to good jobs, schools, hospitals, and other critical centers of our communities, while fitting comfortably in their household budgets, no matter the stage of life or income.
Also this week, the Governor signed House Bill 1, Education, which expands school choice to every student in Florida.
It was an incredible week for Florida. Because of these and many other priorities we’re working to pass this session, the Sunshine State will remain the best state in the greatest nation in the world.
Live Local Act Signed into Florida Statute by Governor Ron DeSantis this Week
Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 102, the Live Local Act, representing the largest investment for housing efforts in state history.
“This legislation provides record support for Florida’s workforce and their families to help them live where they work, while also providing historic support for our military communities and the families living near military bases,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I applaud Senator Passidomo for leading on this legislation and look forward to the support it will provide to Florida families.”
The Live Local Act invests a record $711 million for housing projects and assistance through the Florida Housing and Finance Corporation (FHFC) to create or build upon housing programs. This includes:
- $259 million for the SAIL program to provide low interest loans to developers building workforce housing. $150 million of these funds are recurring for certain specified uses such as redevelopment of underused property and projects near military installations.
- $252 million for the SHIP program to provide local governments with incentives to build partnerships with developers who are preserving available housing or producing more housing.
- $100 million for the Florida Hometown Heroes Housing Programto provide down payment and closing cost assistance to first-time home buyers with a focus on law enforcement, first responders, teachers, active duty military, and military veterans.
- $100 million for FHFC to implement a loan program to alleviate inflation-related cost increases for FHFC-approved housing projects.
Additionally, this bill builds upon efforts to help Floridians afford to purchase their first home by codifying the Hometown Heroes program and increasing the borrowing limit per loan to $35,000 or 5% of the purchase price of a home. This bill will also broaden FHFC’s ability to invest in affordable housing for those that are currently in the foster care system or who are aging out of the system and expands eligibility for the Job Growth Grant Fund to authorize public infrastructure projects that support expanding housing opportunities.
This legislation also creates a new tax donation program to allow corporate taxpayers to direct certain tax payments to the FHFC, up to $100 million annually, to help fund the SAIL program and increases the amount of tax credits available through the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program from $14.5 million to $25 million annually. Additionally, the bill provides a sales tax refund of up to $5,000 on building materials for housing units funded through FHFC.
Historic Legislation Signed into Law to Expand School Choice Options to All Florida Students
House Bill 1, Education, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Corey Simon, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education Pre-K-12, was signed into law earlier this week by Governor Ron DeSantis.
HB 1 contains a comprehensive package of innovations that promote parental involvement and customized K-12 education in Florida. The legislation empowers parents to guide their children’s education by providing for an Education Savings Account for every student in the K-12 system. Incorporating recommendations from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, the bill also takes the first step towards reducing onerous and excessive regulations on public schools.
The goal of making school choice a reality for every child across our great state has been a long time coming, and with the steadfast resolve and leadership of Governor DeSantis, Speaker Renner, Senator Simon, Rep. Tuck, and many others, today is the day school choice is here for every Florida family.
Additionally, this bill reduces some of the outdated, unnecessary, and quite frankly, burdensome regulations public schools have to abide by. By reducing red tape that burdens our traditional public schools, these institutions, which have served our communities for generations, will have a meaningful chance to compete right alongside other school choice options.
Yesterday, I stepped down from the President’s rostrum for the chance to debate in support of HB 543, specifically the Safe School Canine Program. I worked with Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods on this innovative program. This is just one component of the bill that will improve school and community safety. I also worked on this bill with Pinellas County Sherriff Bob Gualtieri, Chair of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, and we included many recommendations of the commission to improve school safety.
HB 543 will help keep our schools safe by making sure we swiftly identify threats and get more kids the services they need to live a safe and successful life. Sheriff Gualtieri has shared with me that threat management is hands down the greatest opportunity we have in the State of Florida at prevention and keeping violent incidents from happening. Threat prevention is all about identifying behaviors, getting people help and keeping them off the pathway to violence. Silos create a void that adversely impacts public safety. With this bill, we are breaking down the silos and improving the flow on information. You can’t help what you don’t know about. When a behavior is identified, we want to make sure if the child relocates, the new school district knows about it so the student can stay on the right track.
We are also adding to the threat management team someone with personal familiarity with the child. Someone who actually knows the child can provide valuable information that helps differentiate behaviors, which is critical to separating minor challenges that require correction from serious issues that require intervention. Most importantly, we are creating a consistent, statewide operational process for threat assessments so they are done in the same way in every county.
Measure Protecting Innocent Life Presented on the Senate Floor
Thursday, Senator Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) presented Senate Bill 300 on the Senate Floor where she answered questions from fellow senators on her legislation. SB 300 builds upon previous pro-life legislation passed into law and provides further protections for unborn children.
With an unprecedented opportunity as lawmakers to protect innocent life, and to stand with the brave moms who choose life for their babies, this legislation provides for robust protections of innocent life by prohibiting abortions after six-weeks gestation.
As amended on the Senate floor, SB 300 maintains current law exceptions to the six-week abortion prohibition, which protects the life and health of the mother and for the devastating diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality. This legislation also expands exceptions and includes a 15-week exception for women who are victims of rape, incest, or human trafficking. In instances of any known or suspected human trafficking, the physician must report this to local law enforcement if the woman is 18 years old or older or to the Florida Department of Children and Families if she is a minor.
This legislation also promotes healthy families and supports parents who chose life for their babies by providing additional counseling or mentoring services as well as providing millions of dollars for nonmedical material assistance to families such as car seats, cribs, clothing, formula, and diapers.
This legislation will make Florida a beacon of hope for those who understand that life is sacred and must be protected.
Florida Senate Works to Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs
Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) presented Senate Bill 1550 in the Senate Committee on Health Policy where it passed with unanimous committee support. Cited as the “Prescription Drug Reform Act”, SB 1550 institutes comprehensive reforms of Florida’s prescription drug policy to increase transparency, eliminate predatory practices, and protect consumers.
This legislation requires that prescription drug manufacturers publish information on price increases in a public manner in order to address the transparency issue regarding prescription drug pricing. Provisions in this policy put a stop to predatory practices such as spread pricing and pharmacy clawbacks that increase costs for patients.
Further, this legislation holds pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) accountable under the Florida Insurance Code and requires disclosures regarding certain business activities. SB 1550 also prevents Pharmacy Benefit Managers from steering patients to certain pharmacies in order to increase profit.
These measures will lead to greatly improved transparency in the prescription drug marketplace and increased accountability for manufacturers and distributors. Florida’s health care consumers deserve the ability to obtain their critical medications without the shell game that the pharmacy benefit managers and drug manufacturers have created to profit off of Florida’s patients
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