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Capitol Report Nov. 22, 2019

CAPITOL NEWS

With five interim committee weeks behind us and one remaining before the new year, things remain relatively quiet in the Capitol.

This week, all eyes were fixed on Governor DeSantis as he revealed his budget proposal for FY 2020-2021, a Bolder, Brighter, Better Future – inclusive of key investments in Florida’s K-12 education system, environment and the well-being of Floridians, while recommending over $480 million in savings and over $300 million in tax relief.

The CAG team are closely monitoring priority legislation.

Interim Committee Meeting Schedule – In preparation for the 2020 Legislative Session, the schedule for remaining fall interim committee meeting (s) are as follows:

Monday, December 9 – Friday, December 13, 2019

The Sixty-Day 2020 Legislative Session will convene on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

KEY LEGISLATIVE ISSUES

  • Bolder, Brighter, Better Future Budget Highlights

Savings and Tax Relief

The total recommendation for the FY 2020-2021 budget is $91.4 billion. The budget recommends $480.5 million in savings – such as administrative efficiencies and elimination of earmarks.

The budget places $5.6 billion in total reserves, including $1.4 billion of General Revenue, which is more than 6 percent of the total budget and more than $200 million more than the current year budget.

The budget also includes more than $300 million in tax relief, including a $56 million 8-day Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, a 10-day Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday and property tax relief of over $247 million.

Education

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget makes historic investments in the state’s education system, including $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEDP), an increase of over $1 billion.

This includes over $900 million to recruit and retain the best classroom teachers and principals in Florida. Over $600 million is included to raise the minimum salary for full-time classroom teachers to $47,500, which would provide more than 101,000 teachers with a pay raise. Additionally, $300 million is recommended for the Florida Classroom Teacher and Principal Bonus programs.

The budget invests $25 million in key workforce development initiatives: $10 million for the Pathways to Careers Opportunities Grant Program, $10 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at State Colleges and $5 million for the Work Florida Student Success Incentive Fund at District Postsecondary Programs.

The budget recommends an increase of funding of more than $22 million for Florida college and nearly $24 million for Florida universities, all while maintaining no increase in tuition.

Environment

The budget continues Governor DeSantis’ focus on Florida’s environment and builds on the success of last year. The budget includes more than $625 million in recurring funding for Everglades restoration and the protection of vital water resources, positioning Florida to be able to reach the Governor’s goal of investing $2.5 billion over four years.

Included in the more than $625 million investment is more than $322 million for Everglades restoration projects, $150 million for water quality improvements, $50 million for springs restoration and more than $22 million to combat the harmful effects of algal blooms and red tide.

The budget also invests $50 million in beach nourishment to address Florida’s critically eroded shorelines, nearly $9 million in coral reef protection funding, as well as $154 million to protect Florida’s prized properties and water: $100 million for the Florida Forever Program and $54 million in new funding for state parks.

Health and Human Services

The budget makes significant investments in the well-being of Floridians and protecting the most vulnerable. Over $54 million is recommended to continue fighting the opioid epidemic, and $17 million is provided in new mental health and substance abuse funding.

In an effort to increase accountability, the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget invests over $97 million to provide funding for services to children and families through Florida’s child welfare system.

The budget provides $6.4 million in new funding to support the Office of Public and Professional Guardianship, as well as $10 million in funding to enrich the needs of seniors in Florida’s communities and enhance the quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and ending abuse, neglect and exploitation of seniors.

To ensure Florida’s veterans are receiving the care they deserve, the budget invests $18.2 million for the completion of the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home in St. Lucie County and the Lake Baldwin State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Orange County, as well as $6.7 million for capital improvements, equipment updates and additional nursing staff for Florida’s existing state veteran nursing homes.

Transportation and Economic Development

While Florida’s economy remains strong, finding affordable housing can still be a challenge. The budget provides $387 million to fully fund Workforce and Affordable Housing Programs: $119.8 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program and $267.2 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) Program.

As Florida’s population continues to increase, key investments must be made to handle this growth and ensure continued efficiency. The budget provides $8.8 billion for the State Transportation Work Program, including $2.8 billion for highway construction, $865.7 million in lane resurfacing and $436.2 million in scheduled repairs and replacement of bridges.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $50 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide funding for job training and public infrastructure projects that support growth and employment in Florida.

Hurricane Recovery

For the two most recent hurricanes to strike Florida, Irma and Michael, the State of Florida is projected to spend over $1.9 billion on hurricane-related expenses – $627.8 million for Hurricane Irma and $1.3 billion so far for Hurricane Michael.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $25 million through the Hurricane Michael Recovery Grant Program for the repair and replacement of critical infrastructure and to improve the capacity of emergency services.

Public Safety

Early in his term, Governor DeSantis directed Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Rick Swearingen to develop a threat assessment strategy to identify and prevent threats of mass violence. Building on this, the budget includes over $4.5 million to implement the first Statewide Behavior Threat Assessment strategy in the country.

The budget also invests more than $14.5 million to expand and enhance FDLE’s crime databases that the department uses daily to investigate crimes and apprehend criminals.

Governor DeSantis is recommending over $89.7 million and additional staffing at the Florida Department of Corrections for needed improvements, including retention bonuses and a pilot program to transition correctional officers from a 12-hour shift to an 8.5-hour shift.

Elections Security

With the 2020 elections getting closer, the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends $6.6 million for state-level election oversight activities, with a focus on cybersecurity enhancements to Florida’s election system.

Includes in this funding is $1.3 million for ten positions dedicated to cyber security who will provide local Supervisors of Elections with support and recommendations to combat cyber threats. Also included is $1.4 million for voter registration list maintenance services and voter outreach through the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC).

  • Teacher Pay A Center of DeSantis Budget

Governor DeSantis is proposing a $1 billion injection into Florida’s public education system in the upcoming fiscal year, money that would largely supplement pay increases as the state deals with a teacher shortage.

DeSantis has made two major teacher-compensation packages the centerpiece of his education spending plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The governor’s overall $26.99 billion proposed education budget — the second biggest slice of his $91.4 billion spending plan — also includes funding issues such as school security and mental-health services. The $26.99 billion total includes public schools and higher education.

The proposal is an initial step as lawmakers prepare to negotiate a 2020-2021 budget during the legislative session that starts Jan. 14.

The governor’s biggest teacher-pay proposal would require the Legislature to set aside $603 million to raise minimum salaries of classroom teachers to $47,500 a year.

Also, the governor is pitching a new $300 million bonus program for classroom teachers and principals – long opposed by the Florida Education Association.

DeSantis wants the program to replace the controversial “Best and Brightest” bonus program, which the Legislature created in 2015.

The governor says the proposed bonus program aims to provide incentives for classroom teachers and principals to work at schools in low-income areas.

  • NRA Renews Fight Over Gun Age Restriction

A Second Amendment lawsuit the National Rifle Association filed against Florida over a gun-control law the state enacted after the painfully horrific Parkland massacre is back on track after an 18-month delay.

The NRA sued last year after Florida’s Republican-led legislature raised the age for buying so-called long guns to 21 from 18 in response to Parkland.

The case had been on hold since the NRA appealed an early ruling that denied its attempt to let two 19-year-old Florida residents participate in the lawsuit under pseudonyms. This week the NRA dropped the appeal, without explanation, and on Wednesday Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee lifted a stay on the case.

On Tuesday, the NRA filed an amended complaint that dropped the two plaintiffs and added Radford Fant, an NRA member between 18 and 21 who wants to buy a handgun and a long gun “for self-defense and other lawful purposes.”

  • Lagoa Confirmation Creates Two Supreme Court Vacancies

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Lagoa’s appointment to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, setting the stage for Gov. Ron DeSantis to make two appointments to the state’s highest court.

Wednesday’s 80-15 vote in favor of Lagoa’s confirmation came a day after the Senate approved the appointment of her Supreme Court bench mate, Robert Luck, to the same federal court.

In September, President Trump nominated Luck and Lagoa to fill vacancies on the Atlanta-based appellate court, which hears cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

Governor DeSantis appointed Luck, Lagoa and Justice Carlos Muñiz to the Florida Supreme Court shortly after he took office in January. The appointments filled three vacancies created when justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince were forced to step down after reaching a mandatory retirement age.

The openings provide Governor DeSantis with an opportunity to add some diversity onto Florida’s seven-member Supreme Court.

Provided by Capitol Alliance Group:

Dr. Jeffrey Sharkey
Taylor Patrick Biehl
Capitol Alliance Group
106 E. College Ave. Suite 640
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 224-1660

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