By Florida Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral
The 2018 Regular Session adjourned sine die on Sunday, March 11, after 62 days of diligent work on an ambitious policy agenda, including ethics reform, government accountability, healthcare and education reform, public safety, water quality, and tax cuts. We accomplished our singular constitutional responsibility in passing a responsible and balanced budget, and we enacted many good policy initiatives that will result in positive outcomes for all Floridians.
If you have any questions or would like more information about anything you read in this Session Recap, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. Thank you for entrusting me with the honor of serving you in the Florida House of Representatives.
The Legislature passed a constitutionally-required balanced budget for FY 2018-2019. Our budget continues our conservative approach of responsibly funding our state’s critical needs, including significant investments for funding hurricane response and preparedness, addressing agriculture and environmental needs, providing funds for important health care programs, and increasing total funds per student by $101.50. The House budget also continues our commitment to tax relief by buying back the value of property value growth in the K-12 funding formula to prevent property tax increases. Finally, the budget responsibly plans for the future by placing $3.3 billion in reserves to prepare for any unforeseen future economic uncertainty. Highlights include:
The PreK-12 Education budget totals $15.7 billion which is a $621.5 million (or 4.0 percent) increase over the base budget and a $438.9 million (or 2.9 percent) increase over the current year.
The Higher Education budget proposes an overall budget of $8 billion, an increase from the base budget of $237 million (3.1%); an increase from the current year appropriation of $167 million (2.1%), which includes Fixed Capital Outlay appropriations.
Addressing Mental Health:
$18.5 million for Mental Health Community Initiatives, including an array of behavioral health services offered through local, community-based settings;
Serving Those Who Served:
$2 million for maintenance, repair, and replacement needs at State Veterans’ Homes.
Protecting the Environment:
The Florida House is committed to protecting our state’s beautiful natural resources.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriation Subcommittee overall proposed budget totals $4.0 billion.Included is funding for the following initiatives:
• $111.1 million for Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
• $64 million for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir
• $32 million for Restoration Strategies Regional Water Quality Plan
• $31.0 million for Northern Everglades & Estuaries Protection
• $5.0 million for agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed
• $5 million for dispersed water storage.
• Springs Restoration Projects – $50 million for springs restoration, protection, and preservation
• Beach Restoration Projects – $61.2 million for financial assistance to local governments and special taxing authorities for beach and dune restoration, nourishment, and inlet management . Also provides $11.2 million for beach recovery projects for damages from Hurricane Irma ($13.3 million total in current year for Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine).
• Water Projects – $30.1 million for various stormwater, wastewater, and water supply projects in local communities. Including several projects in Southwest Florida.
Florida First Tax Package Proposal
The Legislature passed a bill to cut taxes for millions of Floridians. Under this tax package, families and students, business owners, farmers, military and service members, and others will receive a tax cut from the Florida Legislature. The following are some highlights of the omnibus tax package I am proud to support:
• Helps make education more affordable with a three-day Back-to-School Holiday
• Reduces the Business Rent Tax for businesses
• Provides relief to farmers with the Hurricane Irma or Citrus Greening Property Tax Reduction, Fuel Tax Exemption, Hurricane Reconstruction Tax Exemption (Building and Fencing Materials)
• Protects Florida’s families and homes from natural disasters with the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday and Generators for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities, and provides assistance related to the 2016 and 2017 storms with Homestead Property Relief
• Honors the 1.6 million veterans and their families in Florida with updates to Veteran-specific Ad Valorem Exemptions
Legislation to Protect Taxpayers
This session, your Florida Legislature passed HJR 7001, a proposed constitutional amendment that would protect taxpayers and Florida’s long-term economic future by requiring a super majority vote to impose any new state tax or fee or to raise any existing state tax or fee. I believe this effort compliments the good work your Florida House has achieved over the years by cutting taxes, cutting regulations, and cutting fees. Governor Scott has echoed these sentiments and is committed to working with the Legislature to continue to keep more money in the pockets of Floridians. Your Florida Legislature is dedicated to passing legislation that will prevent future tax hikes that would endanger our workforce and the livelihood of Florida families.
School District Accountability
The Legislature passed HB 1279, a comprehensive bill that brings a new level of financial transparency and accountability to Florida’s education spending, while also driving prouctivity improvements and parity between school districts.
The bill produces greater financial transparency by requiring school districts to post on their websites summary financial data regarding the efficiency of dollars spent by the district, and it requires the Department of Education to create an online tool that identifies public schools that produce high academic achievement based on per pupil spending. It also requires school districts to post summary financial information, which includes detailed information regarding the amount spent per student for instructional staff and administrative staff. The results must be reported in an easy to use format and must allow the user to compare performance data among schools and districts.
In addition to requiring more data reporting, the bill also takes steps to increase the financial accountability of school districts to prevent financial emergencies. HB 1279 requires large school districts to employ an internal auditor, limits the amount that school board members are compensated to the amount no higher than that of first year teachers, withholds superintendent and school board salaries during a financial emergency and only until the financial emergency no longer exists, and allows for greater oversight from the Auditor General.
In order to give school districts and the Department of Education adequate time to prepare for the implementation of these policies, this bill goes into effect July 1, 2019.
I believe this bill ensures that our state’s public schools use your tax dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible. I am proud to support legislation that gives Florida’s taxpayers the transparency and accountability they deserve from their elected officials.
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
This session, your Florida Legislature passed HB 21 to target the opioid crisis affecting our nation and state. Drug overdoses now represent the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., the majority of which involve an opioid. In Florida, heroin caused 952 deaths, oxycodone caused 723 deaths, and hydrocodone caused 245 deaths in 2016.
HB 21 limits prescriptions for Schedule II opioids to alleviate acute pain to a three-day supply, or a seven-day supply if deemed medically necessary by the prescriber. The bill creates exceptions to the prescribing limits for cancer, terminal illness, palliative care, and serious traumatic injury, and requires co-prescribing of emergency opioid antagonists for the latter.
The bill authorizes DOH to share data in Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) with other states and permits DOH to integrate the PDMP with practitioners’ electronic health recordkeeping systems. The bill also requires practitioners to review a patient’s PDMP history prior to prescribing or dispensing certain controlled substances. Failure to do so results in a nondisciplinary citation the first time and potential licensure action each time thereafter.
Your Florida Legislature strongly supports policies that will bring a resolution to opioid addiction and suffering. This crisis requires all of us to take a stand and help our family, friends, and community. If you would like more information on this bill please contact our office. If you or someone you know is suffering with an opioid addiction please contact 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
School Safety in the Wake of Parkland Tragedy
What transpired in Parkland this year was a heartbreaking tragedy. In an effort to ensure this never happens again, the Florida Legislature passed SB 7026 that comprehensively addresses this issue.
The bill addresses firearm safety, school security, inter-agency information sharing and coordination, mental health, and victim’s privacy. This bill is the result of numerous conversations across the aisle and with constituents. Additionally, this bill includes a mandate for in-depth investigations into every facet of this issue in order to find out what went wrong and how it could have been prevented.
The main reason I supported this bill was for the Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Coach Aaron Feis, who died shielding students from gunfire. The Guardian Program will allow certain teachers and school personnel a path to become licensed to carry a firearm so they can protect themselves and others. Those who wish to become Guardians must undergo 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training, pass psychological evaluation, submit to and pass drug tests, and complete certified diversity training. I believe this is a significant step towards putting an end to school shootings once and for all.
In addition, the Florida House also voted to issue subpoenas to local agencies regarding any interactions those agencies had with the shooter, as well as information regarding the response by the agencies to the shooting incident. It is our duty to protect our citizens, and I promise that when it comes to keeping Florida’s children safe, no issue is too big or complex.
MY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
Following are the bills I sponsored for the 2018 Session. All of the bills I filed for 2018 align with my promise to make government more efficient and less burdensome.
HB 39, relating to weapons and firearms, will reduce the penalty imposed when a person who is duly licensed to carry a concealed firearm temporarily and openly displays the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person.
HB 39 was considered favorably in all committees of reference, but it was not brought to the floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
HB 751, relating to public assistance, makes several revisions to Florida’s welfare program to encourage work, focus aid to the truly needy, and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
HB 751 passed the full House of Representatives, but it was not taken up for consideration by the Florida Senate.
HB 1065, relating to criminal history records, provides that a person receiving a not guilty verdict for certain crimes is eligible to have his or her record expunged.
HB 1065 passed both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. The bill awaits action by the Governor.
HB 1375, relating to taxation, The Hurricane Irma Tax Relief Act allows property owners to apply for property tax abatement on homestead property rendered uninhabitable by Hurricane Irma.
The provisions of HB 1375 passed the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate as part of the omnibus tax package, HB 7087. The bill awaits action by the Governor.