The 2018 Legislative Session

The 2018 Legislative Session has come to an end! We have worked hard to secure good policy for our constituents and the people of Florida. During our time in Tallahassee this year, some big issues were addressed: protecting our schools and seniors, more clarity on our freedom of speech, permanent increase for bright futures funding, and increased focus on mental health and the opioid crisis.

As a result of the terrible tragedy that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th, the legislature was forced to take a very serious look at how our schools and students are protected. After weeks of talking with those on the front lines in education, law enforcement, our court system, and mental health experts, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act, a comprehensive plan to address mental health issues and implement safety measures to protect our students. This bill, SB 726, creates the Office of School Safety within in the Department of Education, permits a sheriff to establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, and creates the mental health assistance allocation to assist school districts in establishing or expanding school-based mental health care, among several other provisions.

The Florida Senate continues to prioritize the needs of our seniors so they are able to spend their golden years living healthy, active, and independent lives. This year, we increased funding to nursing homes across the state that provide care to our most vulnerable seniors who can no longer live independently. By this summer, all nursing homes will be required to have back-up generators capable of cooling the facility in the event of a power outage. The budget also includes increased funding for respite care for caregiver relief by $800,000 to provide 66 additional slots for patients. Many Alzheimer’s patients require care 24 hours a day and this additional funding will allow more caregivers of loved ones to receive respite relief while the patient continues to be cared for.

We worked hard on protecting Free Speech on our college and university campuses. Senate Bill 4 includes The “Campus Free Expression Act,” will ensure that our taxpayer-funded college and university campuses remain open for the free, safe, and respectful expression of differing points of view. We need to teach our youth to have respectful civil discourse and be able to interact with those of varying beliefs. This provision will prohibit public institutions of higher education from designating any physical area of campus as a “free speech zone”, and instead states that all outdoor areas shall be open for free speech.

In this year’s budget, The Florida Legislature reinstated 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. We are also funding 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.

This year, we worked toward the goal of preventing people from becoming addicted to opioids, and helping provide relief to those individuals and families who are already dealing with addiction. The opioid epidemic is impacting families across the state, on average claiming 16 lives per day. By investing more than $53 million for outpatient and residential treatment services, we will provide individuals and families the tools for recovery that they so desperately need.

We have worked hard this year for the people of Florida, to ensure our liberties and freedom remain protected. Our constituents are always our priority.