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Majority Office — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 11, 2018

CONTACT: LaQuisha Persak, 850-487-5184


Senate Republicans Deliver on Key Priorities During the 2018 Legislative Session

Republican-led Senate focused on school safety, K-12 and higher education, tax relief, opioid crisis, and Veterans

Tallahassee – Senate Republicans today stood in strong support of a balanced budget and a broad-based tax relief package. House Bill 5001, the General Appropriations Act, prioritizes K-12 and higher education funding, and makes key investments in health care for vulnerable seniors, while setting aside $3.3 billion in reserves. This year’s tax relief package will deliver broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state, with a specific focus on families and communities impacted by the recent hurricanes.

Since February 14, legislators worked to develop a plan that addresses the issues presented by the horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The comprehensive plan passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott includes provisions for firearm safety and school safety, and community mental health resources, with the goal of helping prevent another tragedy like this from ever happening again.

The Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Act also saw final passage from the Legislature, which permanently secured the expansion of the Bright Futures Scholarship, helping Florida students who have earned the right to attend college achieve their goal. As Florida students and families plan for their investment in a college or university education, they deserve financial security and peace of mind throughout their academic journey. Just this week, U.S. News ranked Florida as the number one state for higher education. 

The following are a few accomplishments from the 2018 Legislative Session.

School Public Safety Act

Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, presented by President-Designate Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), is a comprehensive approach addressing the issues presented by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and includes significant changes in the areas of mental health, firearm safety, and school safety. The legislation makes significant changes to keep firearms out of the hands of those suffering from mental illness, and provides new provisions to ensure full and complete background checks for firearm purchases. The bill also improves school safety through a number of provisions, including creating a commission to investigate system failures in the Parkland shooting and other mass shootings, requiring each school district to designate school safety specialists and a threat assessment team at each school, and creates allocations to assist school districts in establishing or expanding school-based mental health care. The legislation appropriates $400 million to implement the bill provisions.

Permanent Expansion of Bright Futures Scholarship

Senate Bill 4, the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, sponsored by President-Designate Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), reinstates full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars award at 100 percent of tuition and fees for spring, summer and fall semesters, plus $300 in fall and spring semesters to cover instructional materials and other costs. The legislation also reinstates funding for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholars award at 75 percent of tuition and fees for spring, summer, and fall semesters, beginning in fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year. The bill also expands and enhances policy and funding tools state universities can leverage to recruit and retain the very best faculty, enrich professional and graduate school strength and viability, and bring aging infrastructure and research laboratories into the 21st century.

K-12 Education

House Bill 7055, Education, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12 Education, implements a wide range of comprehensive enhancements for our school system. The legislation expands state school choice scholarship programs by establishing the Hope Scholarship Program and Reading Scholarship Accounts, while increasing the flexibility of the Gardiner Scholarship and the way contributions are made to the current Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The bill also provides school districts flexibility in their operations, which includes creating innovation academies and zones, expanding the impact of highly effective principals, and having more discretion in their use of federal funds. Provisions in the bill also requires an additional hour of intensive reading instruction for students with lower English Language Arts scores in the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools, revises dual enrollment requirements relating to instructional materials for home education program students, modifies the Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, requires the state motto “In God We Trust” in all public schools, and exempts the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from taking the statewide standardized assessments for the current academic school year.

Broad-Based Tax Relief 

House Bill 7087, Taxation, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance and Tax, will deliver broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state, with a focus on tax relief for those Floridians recovering from the severe storms that impacted Florida during the 2017 Hurricane Season. In total, the bill provides $168.6 million in tax relief, consisting of $71.2 million in recurring tax cuts and $97.4 million in one-year tax cuts. The legislation creates a three-day “back-to-school” sales tax holiday from August 3-5, 2018, and a seven-day “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday from June 1-7, 2018. The legislation permanently lowers the sales tax charged on commercial leases.

Super Majority Vote for Tax Increases 

House Joint Resolution (HJR) 7001, Supermajority Vote for State Taxes or Fees, was presented in the Senate by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The legislation proposes an amendment to Florida’s Constitution to require that a state tax or fee imposed, authorized, or raised by the Legislature, be approved by two-thirds of the membership of each house of the Legislature. The amendment proposed in HJR 7001 will take effect on January 8, 2019, if approved by sixty percent of the voters.                                              

Protecting Florida’s Seniors

House Bill 7099 (Senate Bill 7030), Ratification of Agency for Health Care Administration Rules, sponsored by Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa), ratifies the Agency for Health Care Administration Rule entitled “Emergency Environmental Control for Nursing Homes.” The rule requires that by June 1, 2018, each nursing home must acquire an alternative power source, such as a generator, to ensure that safe temperatures are maintained, in a sufficient portion of the facility to accommodate all of the facility’s residents. The rule also requires each facility to implement certain policies and procedures to ensure that residents do not suffer complications from heat exposure.

Fighting Florida’s Opioid Crisis

House Bill 21 (Senate Bill 8), Controlled Substances, sponsored by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) and cosponsored by Senators Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), and Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), makes a number of changes to Florida law with the goal of preventing people from becoming addicted to opioids, and helping to provide relief to individuals and families already coping with addiction. The comprehensive legislation establishes limits on opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a 3-day or 7-day supply limit, guards against multiple opioid prescriptions, and increases funding for addiction treatment.

Commitment to Military, Veterans, and their Families

Senate Bill 100, Identification Card and Driver License Fees for Veterans, sponsored by Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota), creates an exemption from local business taxes for honorably discharged Veterans, certain military dependents, and low-income persons who engage in or manage a business, profession, or occupation. Additionally, the bill removes the $1 or $2 fee a Veteran must pay to have the word “Veteran” displayed on an identification card or driver license and prevents a tax collector from charging a $6.25 service fee to Veterans for driver’s license services.

House Bill 75 (Senate Bill 460), Postsecondary Fee Waivers, sponsored by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) and cosponsored by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), authorizes a Florida College System institution to waive certain fees for a person who is an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces and using military tuition assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

House Bill 29 (Senate Bill 1884), Military and Veterans Affairs, sponsored by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) and cosponsored by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), along with several bipartisan cosponsors, eases certain fees and regulations for military members, Veterans, and their spouses for professions regulated by the Department of Health, Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Office of Financial Regulation, the Department of Financial Services, and the Department of Education. The bill also designates a “Medal of Honor Day” and allows classroom instruction related to the values of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor to meet certain instructional requirements on character development and the contributions of Veterans to our country.

Protecting Consumers from Telephone Scammers

Senate Bill 568, Telephone Solicitation, sponsored by Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa), expands the Florida Do Not Call Act to prohibit the unsolicited ringless delivery of voicemail messages into consumers’ voicemail boxes, in addition to phone calls and text messages. The bill also requires a telephone sales call solicitor to provide on the recipient’s caller ID, a telephone number that is capable of receiving calls and that can connect the call recipient to the telephone solicitor. 

House Bill 1267 (Senate Bill 962), the “Florida Call-Blocking Act”, sponsored by Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), permits telecommunication carriers to offer call-blocking software intended to filter out the persistent robocalls that tend to originate from overseas and ignore longstanding restrictions on telephone solicitations. This bill gives state-level authorization for the same call-blocking criteria the Federal Communications Commission approved by rule in November of 2017.  

Child Marriage Ban

Senate Bill 140, Marriage Licenses, sponsored by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) and cosponsored by Leader Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), along with several bipartisan cosponsors, makes it illegal to issue a marriage certificate to anyone under the age of 18 in the state of Florida. Girls as young as 11 years old have been forced to marry adults who have taken advantage of them. The legislation repeals the current exceptions that allow for a minor to marry with or without parental consent, when the couple has a child or is expecting a child. The bill does, however, allow for 17 years olds to marry someone up to two years older, under certain conditions.

Strengthening Florida’s Support of Israel

House Bill 545 (Senate Bill 780), Prohibition Against Contracting with Scrutinized Companies, sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), strengthens Florida’s support of Israel. The bill prohibits a company that is on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List, or that is engaged in a boycott of Israel, from bidding on, submitting a proposal for, or entering into or renewing a contract with an agency or local government entity for goods or services of any amount.

For more information, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.