It’s report card time now that the Florida legislature has adjourned sine die. Florida Senator Travis Hutson reported to Historic City News this weekend on his accomplishments and issues important to constituents in Florida’s 7th District.
The Senate prioritized improvements to school safety, expanding Florida’s commitment to parent-directed educational choice, and elevating the traditional neighborhood public schools that have been the backbone of the state’s education system.
“This legislative session, Senators worked to address the ongoing recovery needs of our Panhandle communities devastated by Hurricane Michael and strategically planned for future population growth by investing in our state’s infrastructure,” Hutson added.
The Florida Legislature passed a balanced budget that funds a number of critical environmental priorities, including $686.8 million for water quality and protection, while still providing Florida families and businesses with $121 million in broad-based tax relief.
Transformative workforce education legislation approved by legislature
House Bill 7071 (Senate Bill 770 by Senator Travis Hutson), Workforce Education, passed unanimously of out of the House and Senate. This legislation promotes alternative education paths for career development. The bill creates an 18-credit high school graduation pathway with a focus on vocational, technical, and career training. This will allow high school students to pursue more vocational and technical education rather than a traditional, college-prep curriculum.
Legislature sends balanced budget to governor’s desk
The Florida Senate and House of Representatives voted to approve Senate Bill 2500, the state budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The balanced budget prioritizes education, hurricane recovery and Florida’s environment while replenishing state reserves to more than $3.4 billion which can be used in future times of need in our state. The 2019-20 budget increases funding for k-12 Education by $783 million. The budget also increases the total state investment in Hurricane Michael Recovery to more than $1.8 billion and invests $686.8 million toward protecting the environment and improving water quality.
Senate approves legislation to lower costs of prescription drugs
House Bill 19 (Senate Bill 1528 by Senator Aaron Bean), Prescription Drug Importation Programs, was approved by the Florida House and Senate. Americans pay the highest prescription drug costs in the world, and costs are rising four times as fast as overall inflation. This legislation would allow Floridians to take advantage of the lower prescription drug prices paid in other countries. The bill provides authority for certain state agencies to shop for lower priced drugs on the Canadian and International market, and to import those drugs for use in state programs, if approved by the federal government. House Bill 19 establishes two programs to safely import Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription drugs into the state: The Canadian Drug Importation Program and the International Drug Importation Program. This legislation will bring safe, affordable prescription drugs to Floridians.
2019 education budget highlights
- Education is essential to our state’s success. It is the foundation on which we build our economic success, which is why the Florida Senate invested nearly $35 billion in our state’s education system.
- This investment means that school districts now have an additional $364 million in flexible spending that can be used for teacher pay raises or other district needs.
- On top of this, the Florida Senate includes an additional $285 million to recruit, retain, and recognize our state’s best teacher. Together, these investment will help attract teachers into our schools while keeping our best performing teachers in the classroom.
- Overall, our schools will receive an additional $242 per student bringing the total per pupil funding up to a record high $7,672 per student – giving our schools the tools and resources needed to prepare our students for success.
- The Florida Senate continues to invest in protecting our students. We invested an additional $18 million in this year’s Safe School budget, bringing our total investment to $180 million so that each school has a school safety officer prepared to protect our students.
- In our budget we are providing an additional $5.7 million in funding for our school mental health budget, which now totals $75 million to help ensure that Florida students have access to the resources and treatment they need.
- Getting Florida’s youngest pupils off to a great start is critical to their success, which is why we invested $1.2 billion in our Voluntary Prekindergarten Program and our School Readiness Programs.
- The Florida Senate also devoted over $550 million for school district workforce programs, over $2 billion in our colleges and over $5 billion in our state’s universities – while spending nearly $1 billion on financial aid all without raising tuition.
Senate passes broad-based tax relief package
The Florida Senate and House passed House Bill 7123, Taxation. The legislation will deliver broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state, with a focus on sales tax holidays that offer a tax savings for Florida families preparing for the upcoming 2019 Hurricane Season and the 2019-2020 school year, as well as several tax relief benefits related to hurricane response and recovery. In total, the bill provides approximately $121 million in tax relief. Additionally, while providing unprecedented overall and per-student funding for K-12 Education, provisions of Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations Act, lower the property rate that supports funding for public schools.
Innovative telehealth legislation passes
House Bill 23 (Senate Bill 1526 by Senator Gayle Harrell), Telehealth, was approved by the Florida House and Senate. This legislation authorizes Florida licensed health care professionals to use telehealth, the treatment of patients using electronic communications. The bill also authorizes out-of-state health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver health care services to Florida patients if they register with the Department of Health (DOH) or the applicable board, meet certain eligibility requirements, and pay a fee. The bill establishes standards of practice for services provided using telehealth, including patient examination, record-keeping, and a prohibition on prescribing controlled substances for chronic malignant pain. This innovative legislation will improve access to care for Floridians, reduce overall healthcare expenses, and ease burdens on families and senior citizens who can now conveniently consult with a doctor from the comfort of their homes.
Legislation to assist state colleges with hurricane recovery passes
House Bill 593 (Senate Bill 1164 by Senator George Gainer), Postsecondary Fee Waivers, passed unanimously out of the House and Senate. This legislation authorizes state colleges in Florida’s Panhandle that experienced a 10% or more enrollment decrease after Hurricane Michael to waive out-of-state tuition fees for up to three years. House Bill 593 is critical for retaining students who may have left the state after Hurricane Michael and would have to pay out-of-state tuition if they return more than 12 months later. This legislation will help our state colleges and Panhandle communities in returning to a state of normalcy post-Hurricane Michael.