Hutson: State investment in Hurricane Michael recovery to top $1.8 Billion

Today, Florida Senator Travis Hutson (Rep Dist 7) updated Historic City News in St Augustine on accomplishments made this week as Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session continues.

Senate Budget Prioritizes Education, Hurricane Recovery and Environmental Funding

  • The Florida Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Rob Bradley, filed Senate Proposed Bill 2500, the Florida Senate’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The balanced budget prioritizes Florida’s K-12 education system, increasing funding for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) by $1.1 Billion over the current year budget, a 4.71 percent increase in total funds per student. The K-12 budget also includes $600 million in flexible funding that school districts can use for teacher pay increases and other issues important to their teachers and schools.
  • The budget also increases the total state investment in Hurricane Michael Recovery to more than $1.8 billion, invests in protecting the environment by including $656 million in water quality and protection, and replenishes state reserves to more than $3.4 billion which can be used in future times of need in our state.

Legislation to Create Statewide Task Force on Opioid Drug Abuse Advances

The Committee on Health Policy unanimously voted to advance Senate Bill 1658, Statewide Task Force on Opioid Drug Abuse, by Senator Wilton Simpson. The bill creates a task force to study the opioid epidemic in Florida, measure the financial impact the epidemic has on state and local governments, and identify successful strategies for treatment and decreasing demand.

According to Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody, the opioid epidemic claims 17 lives a day in Florida. The creation of this task force is a step toward finding solutions to end Florida’s opioid crisis.

Senate Passes Legislation to Deregulate Vegetable Gardens

  • The Senate voted to approve Senate Bill 82, Vegetable Gardens, by Senator Rob Bradley. The bill largely prohibits counties and municipalities from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties and further voids and makes unenforceable any such local ordinance or regulation regarding vegetable gardens, but not restrictions set by homeowners associations. Senate Bill 82 still allows local governments to adopt ordinances or regulations of a general nature, without specifically regulating vegetable gardens for instances such as water use during drought conditions, fertilizer use, or control of invasive species.

Agriculture Committee Receives Update on the State of the Florida Citrus Industry

The Senate Committee on Agriculture received a presentation on the State of the Florida Citrus Industry by Michael W. Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual. Sparks detailed the difficulties that the industry has experienced over the past decade due to hurricanes, citrus greening, and other invasive pests and diseases which have caused significant production loss. Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB, is the insect-borne disease that, since 2008, has been the biggest contributor to the decline in citrus production.

Although citrus greening has severely impacted the industry, Sparks reminded the Committee that the citrus industry provides more than 50,000 jobs and has a total annual economic impact of $7.2 billion. Sparks urged the committee to continue investing in the citrus industry, specifically in research, so that Florida’s iconic citrus industry can transform and regrow.

Senate Committees Pass Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Legislation

  • The Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism passed two bills aimed at hurricane preparedness and recovery. Senate Bill 1412, Sales Tax Holiday for Disaster Preparedness Supplies, by Senator Joe Gruters provides a two-week tax-free holiday for disaster preparedness supplies. The tax holiday would begin June 1, and would apply to portable radios, diesel fuel tanks, batteries, portable generators and other necessary items.
  • Senate Bill 1162, Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund, by Senator George Gainer, creates a program to assist inland counties hit by Hurricane Michael. The bill would direct five percent of any future settlement money the state receives from the 2010 BP oil spill be given to the Recovery Fund.
  • In the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senate Bill 1804, Emergency Loans for Agricultural Producers, by Senator Ben Albritton passed unanimously. This bill would provide low-interest loans for farmers who experienced losses due to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

In addition to the passage of these critical pieces of legislation, the Florida Senate’s proposed budget includes comprehensive long-term recovery funding that brings the total state investment in Hurricane Michael Recovery to $1.8 Billion.

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