President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2018
President Negron Discusses Priority Legislation Passed During the 2018 Legislative Session
Permanent expansion of Bright Futures, continued implementation of southern water storage, juvenile justice reform, enhanced protection of constitutional rights
Florida Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart) today discussed progress made on several key priorities. The Senate began the final week of the Legislative Session by passing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was signed into law by Governor Scott on Friday. The Senate’s Excellence in Higher Education Act saw final passage in both the House and Senate this week and was signed into law by Governor Scott earlier today. A proposed constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote for future tax or fee increases saw final passage this week, as did legislation to combat the opioid epidemic facing communities across the state. The 2018-19 General Appropriations Act, passed earlier today, includes funding to implement President Negron’s plan for a major expansion of water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. Among other priorities, the Senate also advanced key juvenile justice reforms, as well as legislation to protect freedoms guaranteed by our state and federal Constitutions.
“I was pleased to begin the final week of our Legislative Session by passing critical public safety legislation. We can never replace the 17 lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. However, we listened to the concerns of those impacted and took swift action to help prevent a senseless tragedy like this from ever happening again,” said President Negron. “This week we also passed legislation that will help combat the opioid epidemic in our state through prevention and treatment, as well as a proposed amendment that will give voters a chance to make it harder for future Legislatures to raise taxes.”
“Today we reconvened to pass a balanced budget that includes: unprecedented K-12 per student funding; targeted pay raises for state law enforcement, state firefighters, Department of Juvenile Justice probation and detention officers, state attorneys, and public defenders; an increase in the personal needs allowance for vulnerable Floridians living in nursing homes; and, $100 million for Florida Forever, while setting aside $3 billion in reserves. We also passed a broad-based tax relief package that specifically addresses preparation and recovery from the recent hurricanes,” said President Negron.
“Additionally, more than two years ago when I was designated by my Senate colleagues to serve as the Senate President for the 2016-2018 term, I discussed four key priorities. This session, we had significant movement in each of these policy and budget areas. This would not have been possible without the support and advocacy of my fellow Senators, our colleagues in the Florida House, Governor Scott, and thousands of constituents in my district and across the state who have played a role in developing this legislation,” said President Negron.
Excellence in Higher Education Act and the Permanent Expansion of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship
Senate Bill 4, by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), signed into law by Governor Scott earlier today, 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 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. Senate Bill 4 also ensures universities remain accountable to Florida taxpayers by refining university performance expectations to incentivize and reward state university performance excellence.
“Senate Bill 4 secures the permanent expansion of Bright Futures for the nearly 100,000 students who have earned this scholarship,” said President Negron. “Through this legislation, the Legislature and Governor Scott are telling Florida students and families that they can count on the Bright Futures Scholarship as they plan their investment in an education at one of our excellent colleges or universities.”
“In addition to the historic investments in need-based and merit-based student financial aid accounted for in both Senate Bill 4 and in our state budget, this comprehensive legislation will boost the strength and competitiveness of our state’s higher education system as our primary economic engine to drive vibrant, sustainable economic development and growth in high-paying jobs,” continued President Negron. “This new law gives the universities tools they need to better serve students and increase their accountability to the taxpayers. Through these policy enhancements and funding investments, I believe Florida taxpayers will see a return worthy of their investment as more Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on-time, and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities.”
Implementation of Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, Major Expansion of Southern Water Storage
Senate Bill 10, Water Resources, sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) last year, and signed into law by Governor Scott on May 9, 2017, authorizes a significant increase in southern water storage to further the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating, harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Over the last year, the State of Florida has worked in partnership with the federal government to implement the legislation. The project remains fully funded and ahead of schedule. The 2018-19 General Appropriations Act includes $64 million in recurring funds which may be used for bonding to continue implementation.
“I am grateful that the District is keeping up the momentum and meeting deadlines in a timely manner. The reservoir plan selected by the South Florida Water Management District will provide an average annual flow of 370,000 acre-feet or 120 billion gallons to the greater Everglades, which is well above and beyond the original goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan,” said President Negron.
“For too long toxic blue-green algae has been harming the health of our citizens, the environment, and our economy. We now have a clear plan to address this plague in a manner that benefits communities across South Florida. I promised my constituents that we would dramatically expand southern storage by leveraging existing water infrastructure, and utilizing a combination of state, local, and private land, in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners. After twenty years of talking about southern storage, we are aggressively implementing a concrete plan to achieve this critical component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan,” continued President Negron.
Juvenile Justice Reform
Senate Bill 1392, Prearrest Diversion Programs, by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), requires the creation of a prearrest diversion program in each judicial circuit. Among other requirements, each judicial circuit’s prearrest and civil citation or similar prearrest diversion program must specify the misdemeanor offenses that qualify an offender for participation in the program as well as the program’s requirements, including, but not limited to: the completion of community service hours; payment of restitution, if applicable; and intervention services indicated by a needs assessment of the offender. Additionally, the bill requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to adopt rules to provide for the expunction of a non-judicial record of the arrest of a juvenile who has successfully completed a diversion program for a misdemeanor offense.
“In too many cases, we have become a society where law enforcement officers are brought in to referee the day-to-day challenges that come with raising children. Instead of helping our youth to learn positively from their mistakes like we once did, they could be put in the juvenile justice system, creating a criminal record that could potentially follow them for their rest of their lives,” said President Negron. “There needs to be a delicate balance here. We should not, and we will not, tolerate serious wrongdoing committed by young people. At the same time, we need workable solutions that move away from the criminalization of adolescence. We need to find an appropriate balance between public safety and decriminalizing the youthful mistakes of adolescents. I appreciate Senator Brandes’ strong and ongoing commitment to this key area of public policy.”
Fidelity to the Constitution, Right to Free Speech
Senate Bill 4, discussed above, also creates The Campus Free Expression Act and establishes definitions and codifies right to free-speech activities. The bill prohibits public institutions of higher education from designating any area of campus as a free-speech zone, but authorizes them to create and enforce restrictions that are reasonable and content-neutral on time, place, and manner of expression, and that are narrowly tailored to a significant institutional interest.
“Last year, we passed key legislation to protect religious liberty, due process, and self-defense. Senate Bill 4 builds on our commitment to fidelity to the Constitution by strengthening the protection of free speech. This legislation ensures that our taxpayer-funded college and university campuses remain open for the free, safe, and respectful expression of differing points of view,” said President Negron. “Dating back to antiquity, institutions of higher education have served as a forum for free speech and the open exchange of ideas. No one has a right to shut down speech simply because it makes someone feel uncomfortable. Florida’s universities will continue to achieve national distinction because they are training our students to articulate and defend their ideas in an open, responsible way that prepares them for the real world.”