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President Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 14, 2016

CONTACT: Katie Betta, (850) 487-5229


President Gardiner Commends the Florida House for Passing Cradle to Career Pathway to Economic Independence for People with Unique Abilities

Tallahassee —

Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) today thanked and commended the Florida House of Representatives for passing Senate Bill (SB) 672, Education Options, by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville), and House Bill (HB) 7003, Individuals with Disabilities, by Representative Matt Caldwell (R-North Fort Myers). The legislation expands education and employment options for people with disabilities, establishing key components of a cradle to career pathway to economic independence for people with unique abilities.

“I am so grateful to Speaker Crisafulli and my colleagues in the House for making our cradle to career pathway to economic independence a reality for people with unique abilities and their families,” said President Gardiner. “There are so many Floridians with unique abilities who can benefit from the opportunity to personalize their education and to learn the skills needed to contribute to Florida’s workforce in a meaningful way. This comprehensive package will give people with unique abilities and their families a roadmap to education and employment opportunities that will help them on the path to economic independence.”

Cradle to Career Pathway to Economic Independence for People with Unique Abilities

Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) – Gardiner Scholarship Program

The PLSA Program was created during the 2014 Legislative Session to provide K-12 students, who are Florida residents and who have a disability, the option to apply for scholarship funds that can be used for authorized instructional materials, curriculum, specialized services, enrollment and tuition, assessment fees, Florida Prepaid College Program contributions, and contracted services by a public school or school district.

The program was expanded in the 2015-16 GAA, for one year only, to include additional students on the autism spectrum, students with muscular dystrophy, and three and four year old children who meet certain criteria. SB 672 codifies this expansion in state law, permanently expanding the pool of students eligible to apply for a PLSA. SB 672 also renames the program the “Gardiner Scholarship” in honor of Senate President Gardiner and his family.

Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program

SB 672 establishes a process through which postsecondary institutions in Florida can voluntarily seek approval to offer a Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) for students with intellectual disabilities. The bill creates a Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities for statewide coordination of information, and sets requirements for students to enroll in a FPCTP and receive state financial assistance in the form of a FPCTP Scholarship.

Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program

HB 7003 creates the Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program to recognize business entities that demonstrate a commitment, through employment or support, to the independence of individuals who have a disability. The bill requires the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to work with state agencies and CareerSource Florida, Inc. to develop a logo for the program, maintain a website that provides the list of businesses that have been designated as a Florida Unique Abilities Partner, and identify businesses with the designation on the Employ Florida Marketplace system. Additionally, VISIT Florida will be provided with a list of businesses that have been designated as a Florida Unique Abilities Partner for use in any marketing campaigns.

Financial Literacy Program

HB 7003 creates a Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities to provide education, outreach, and resources to include financial education, and information on financial and health benefit programs and services, job training and employment opportunities, and the impact of earnings and assets on eligibility for federal and state programs to individuals with unique abilities and their families.

State Employment Options for People with Unique Abilities

HB 7003 creates the Employment First Act requiring an interagency cooperative agreement, among specified state agencies and organizations, to ensure a long-term commitment to improve employment for individuals who have a disability. The bill directs the Department of Management Services (DMS) to develop and implement programs geared toward individuals who have a disability in consultation with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Division of Blind Services of the Department of Education, the Department of Economic Opportunity, and the Executive Office of the Governor. DMS is also directed to develop mandatory training programs for human resource personnel and hiring managers of executive agencies that support the employment of individuals who have a disability and assist executive agencies with implementing agency-specific plans and strategies for retaining employees who have a disability.

Senate Bill 672 was unanimously approved by the Senate on January 13 and will now be transmitted to Governor Scott. The Senate will take up House Bill 7003 tomorrow morning. For more information on this legislation and the Senate’s cradle to career pathway to economic independence for people with unique abilities, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.

 

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