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Majority Office — Press Release


May 8, 2017

CONTACT: LaQuisha Persak, 850-487-5184

Senate Republicans Deliver on Key Priorities During the 2017 Legislative Session

Republican-led Senate focused on fidelity to the Constitution, tax relief, education

For Immediate Release

May 8, 2017

Contact: LaQuisha Persak

(850) 487-5184


Senate Republicans Deliver on Key Priorities During the 2017 Legislative Session

Republican-led Senate focused on fidelity to the Constitution, tax relief, education

Tallahassee– Today, the Florida Legislature concluded the 2017 Legislation Session with a vote on the General Appropriations Act and the 2017 Tax Relief Package. Over the past several months, the Republican Caucus has worked diligently to pass comprehensive and meaningful legislation to address concerns expressed by constituents from all across the state. Achieving bipartisan support on many key issues, the Republican-led Senate focused on priorities that will continue to protect the personal freedoms guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions.

“This session, Republican leaders spearheaded legislation to provide significant tax relief for Florida’s families and businesses, including a proposed constitutional amendment to provide an additional homestead exemption. If approved by voters next November, this amendment will create significant annual savings for homeowners across our state,” said Majority Leader Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), regarding the accomplishments of the Senate Republican Caucus during the 2017 Regular Session.

“The link between education and our economy is clear, and this session we continued our effort to make certain all Florida students have access to a great education beginning with voluntary pre-kindergarten, all the way through our excellent institutions of higher learning,” continued Leader Simpson. “We also believe parents should have a greater say in how their children are educated. From legislation requiring mandatory recess for elementary school students, to comprehensive education reforms that reduce the number of standardized tests, to bipartisan legislation that clarifies how private school students can participate on public school sports teams, incorporating input from parents continues to be a top priority for our caucus and the entire Senate.”  

The following are a few accomplishments from the 2017 Legislative Session.

Broad-Based Tax Relief

House Bill 7109, Taxation, sponsored by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and Tax, provides broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across Florida. The legislation creates a three-day “back-to-school” sales tax holiday from August 4-6, 2017, and a three-day “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday from June 2-4, 2017. The bill also creates a permanent sales tax exemption for essential hygienic products for women, and permanently lowers the sales tax charged on commercial leases.

Property Tax Relief

House Joint Resolution (HJR) 7105, Homestead Property Tax Relief, sponsored by former Senate President Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa), proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to provide an additional homestead exemption of $25,000. The amendment will take effect January 1, 2019, if approved by Florida voters. Homestead property owners will receive an exemption from ad valorem taxes, except levies by school districts, for the assessed valuation greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000.

Keeping BP Oil Funds in Northwest Florida

House Bill 7077, Gulf Coast Economic Corridor, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City), Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), and Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), will ensure funds received in the settlement of the state’s economic damage claims caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill remain in Northwest Florida’s eight disproportionately affected counties. 

Right to Self-Defense

Senate Bill 128, Self-defense Immunity, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), protects the right of self-defense for all Floridians by changing the burden of proof and who must bear it during pretrial hearings to evaluate a defendant’s claim of immunity based on a justifiable use of force. The bill places the burden of proof on the state and requires the state to overcome the immunity claim by offering evidence meeting the standard of clear and convincing evidence.

Statewide Standards for Rideshare Services

House Bill 221, Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s), sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), establishes a statewide set of standards for TNC’s and the ridesharing services they perform. The bill protects consumers by outlining specific insurance requirements for drivers, and requires background screenings for those drivers. The bill also requires drivers to disclose the fare for a ride before the trip begins and provide riders with a detailed electronic receipt.

Foster Families Receive Free Annual Admission to State Parks

House Bill 185, sponsored by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), allows Florida’s foster families free admission to our state parks, and a 50 percent discount on state park base campsite fees. Families who adopt children with special needs from the Department of Children and Families receive a free annual state park entrance pass at the time of adoption.

Comprehensive K-12 Education Reforms and Enhancements

House Bill 7069 makes several comprehensive reforms and enhancements to the K-12 education system.

Among other reforms, the bill includes two key priorities advocated by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (R-Miami, Monroe). The bill modifies the statewide assessment program by eliminating certain standardized tests, requires the administration of certain tests for specified grades in paper-pencil format, specifies timeframes for reporting results, and requires results to be provided to teachers within a specified timeframe.

The bill also requires each district school board to provide at least 20 consecutive minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess per day for students in kindergarten through 5th grade.

Additionally, the bill authorizes high-performing charter schools to replicate in the area of persistently low-performing schools, and expands current authority for charter schools to form cooperatives to further educational, operational, and administrative initiatives.

Religious Liberty in Public Schools

Senate Bill 436, Religious Expression in Public Schools, sponsored by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake), creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.

Student Loan Debt Information

Senate Bill 396, Student Loan Debt, sponsored by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) and Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), requires colleges and universities to provide students information regarding their student loans on an annual basis. The bill ensures students will be provided with up-to-date information about the debt they are incurring via their student loans.  The information provided will help students be better prepared regarding their financial future and help with decision making concerning their post-graduation goals.

Public Notification of Pollution Act

Senate Bill 1018, sponsored by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) and Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), creates the “Public Notice of Pollution Act.” This legislation holds both the government and private sector to a higher standard, ensuring the public is notified in a timely manner when a potentially health threatening contamination occurs. The bill requires the operator to notify the Department of Environmental Protection within the first 24 hours after a spill occurs, providing pertinent information such as the location and cause of the release, as well as other facts important to determining the extent of risk to the public.