Florida Senator Travis Hutson (Rep Dist 7) reported to Historic City News in St Augustine that Tuesday, March 5th marked the Opening Day of Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session. The Senate, House of Representatives, and Cabinet joined together for the State of the State address delivered by Governor Ron DeSantis.
Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Olivia also delivered addresses on day one of Florida’s 60-day Legislative Session. During the nine-week session, the Senate will work to pass legislation responsive to the needs of our communities and a fiscally responsible budget that continues our commitment to strengthening and investing in our great state.
Senate Bill 7070, K-12 Education, was introduced in and passed out of the Senate Committee on Education. Senate Bill 7070 expands educational choice and opportunity for families and elevates neighborhood public schools. The bill creates a new scholarship program, the Family Empowerment Scholarship, designed to serve our low-income families and would reduce the Florida Tax Scholarship waitlist.
This legislation also restructures the current Best and Brightest Teacher’s Program by eliminating SAT/ACT requirements, and instead focuses the financial incentive program on recruitment, retention, and recognition of Florida’s top teachers and principals. Other components of the bill include expanding access to teacher certification exams, enhancing support for the Center for Community Schools program to support neighborhood public schools with unique community needs, and providing school districts with greater flexibility when it comes to locally funded facility construction.
Senate Committee Advances Legislation to Improve Florida’s Infrastructure
- Senate Bill 7068, Transportation, introduced by the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security and presented by Chairman Tom Lee, passed unanimously out of its first committee. The bill creates the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program dedicated to infrastructure expansion to encourage growth in Florida’s rural communities.
- Senate Bill 7068 aims to extend the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia state line, extend Florida’s Northern Turnpike to a juncture with the Suncoast Parkway, and to create a new expressway, the Southwest-Central Florida Connector, from Polk County to Collier County. The bill also requires the Florida Department of Transportation to identify opportunities within these corridors for turnpike expansion; broadband connectivity; potable water, sewer and energy distribution; and alternative modes of transportation and rural transit.
- Infrastructure improvements in rural communities will serve not only to grow rural economies, but to create business opportunities and jobs, provide additional hurricane evacuation routes, and to make Florida more accessible to alternate transportation modes. This legislation would also authorize the use of funds for the Transportation Disadvantaged (TD) Program. The TD Program coordinates a network of local and state programs providing transportation services for elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens.
Panhandle Senators Announce Bipartisan Legislation Delivering Relief to Hurricane Michael Victims
- Senator George Gainer, Senator Doug Broxson, President Pro Tempore David Simmons and Senator Bill Montford held a press conference to announce the filing of Senate Bill 1610, Emergency Mitigation and Response, and discuss other ongoing Senate efforts to provide necessary relief to the Florida Panhandle struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael which struck in October 2018.
- Senate Bill 1610 focuses on both immediate assistance for Hurricane Michael victims, and hurricane preparedness to mitigate the impacts of future storms. This bill creates a loan program to fund rebuilding efforts, creates the Hurricane Michael Recovery Task Force, expands the Agricultural Economic Development Program to include timber as an eligible crop for the emergency loan program, and addresses affordable housing needs for Hurricane Michael victims. In addition, Senators Broxson, Gainer and Montford are working with Senate Appropriations Subcommittees to include vital funding investments for hurricane recovery across all areas of the state budget.
Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Prioritize Educational Success for Military Students
- Senate Bill 212, Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, unanimously passed off the Senate Floor. The bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Wright, will renew Florida’s membership in an Interstate Compact committed to prioritizing educational success as for military students.
- The compact provides common-sense solutions for many of the problems military families face as they frequently move around the country. It allows for grade level transfers, course credit reciprocity, and placement in specialized programs such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and career and technical programs. The agreement helps ensure that students are not inhibited from graduating on time due to a military-required move and is a pragmatic approach to education transitions between sending and receiving states. Florida has been a member of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children since 2008.