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Politics

It's Done! 2019 Legislature Affects 10 Big Issues

May 4, 2019 - 5:00pm
Early afternoon Saturday: Senate President Bill Galvano thanks a weary Legislature
Early afternoon Saturday: Senate President Bill Galvano thanks a weary Legislature

Florida lawmakers finished the 2019 legislative session Saturday by passing a budget for the upcoming year.

During the two-month session, lawmakers considered hundreds of bills and made $91.1 billion in spending decisions. It also was the first session for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and began the two-year terms of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.

Here are 10 big issues from the 2019 session:

BUDGET: Lawmakers passed a $91.1 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, slightly smaller than the $91.3 billion plan proposed by DeSantis. Republican leaders touted issues such as a $242-per-student increase in school funding and an infusion of money for Everglades restoration and water-quality projects. The House and Senate also agreed on a tax package that includes back-to-school and disaster-preparedness tax “holidays.”

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS: In one of the most-controversial issues of the session, lawmakers passed a plan that would carry out a constitutional amendment designed to restore the voting rights of felons who have fulfilled their sentences. Critics argued the legislation was too restrictive and would prevent many felons from voting. In the final hours of the session, lawmakers also passed a bill that would make it harder to get citizens’ initiatives on the ballot.

ENVIRONMENT: After massive problems last year with red tide and toxic algae in Southwest Florida and Southeast Florida, DeSantis made a top priority of water-related issues. Lawmakers included about $682 million in the budget for water-quality efforts and Everglades restoration. One of the highest-profile environmental issues of the session --- a proposed ban on the oil- and gas-drilling technique known as “fracking” --- did not pass.

HEALTH CARE: Oliva came into the session with a focus on overhauling health-care regulations and largely was successful. In part, he pushed through elimination of the long-controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for new hospitals and services. Also, Oliva played a key role in passing a plan that could lead to importing lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, an issue that DeSantis has championed.

HURRICANE MICHAEL: As lawmakers met in the Capitol, Northwest Florida residents, businesses and local governments continued struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The House and Senate received hundreds of millions of dollars in requests for assistance and put about $220 million in the new budget for recovery efforts. Also, a tax package includes measures to help farmers hammered by the October storm.

INSURANCE: In a big win for the insurance industry, lawmakers approved an overhaul of the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.” The longstanding practice involves policyholders signing over benefits to contractors, and insurers contend that abuses and litigation are driving up insurance premiums. Lawmakers took steps such as limiting attorney fees in so-called AOB cases.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Going into the session, DeSantis essentially gave lawmakers an offer they couldn’t refuse as he sought to eliminate a ban on smokable medical marijuana. If lawmakers didn’t act, DeSantis threatened to drop an appeal of a court ruling that said the smoking ban, included in a 2017 law, was unconstitutional. Lawmakers quickly went along with DeSantis’ request and eliminated the ban in March.

SCHOOL CHOICE: The Republican-dominated Legislature continued expanding school choice, including passing a new vouchers program known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Under the program, state money will be used to send as many as 18,000 students to private schools next year. Critics contend the plan is unconstitutional, citing a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar vouchers program.

SCHOOL SAFETY: Pointing to recommendations by a commission created after last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bill designed to bolster school safety. The bill included issues such as improving mental-health services, but almost all of the debate focused on a controversial provision that would expand the school “guardian” program to allow armed classroom teachers.

TRANSPORTATION: In a top priority for Galvano, lawmakers approved a plan aimed at expanding or building three toll roads. The plan, which drew opposition from environmentalists, would extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay region to the Georgia border; extend the Florida Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway; and create a multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.

Comments

"Critics contend the SCHOOL CHOICE plan is unconstitutional, citing a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar vouchers program." Critics? Nice try, but the correct phrase is: Democrat Party, not critics. More importantly, three hard-core activist left-wingers on the previous Supreme Court have been replaced with moderates. If this new school choice plan gets challenged in the courts, the Supreme court will NOT find it unconstitutional. Don't believe me? Sit back and watch (if the dems even bother wasting their time in a court challenge).

The Republican legislature of this state doesn't give one damn about the needs, preferences, and wishes of the majority of the citizens of this state ... and that's been the case for the past 22 legislative sessions. It's always about monied special interests and outright boondoggles like 'Galvano's Highways'. Florida Republicans don't give a damn about governing - all they care about is ruling! It's past the time for a B-I-G change!

The Democrats in this state and in DC don't give a damn about any of us that actually fund this country. All they do is spend their time representing those who aren't citizens. "Representation without taxation". They have also spent the last two years utilizing a fake dossier to conduct an investigation without any evidence whatsoever. Say what you want about Trump. No sitting American President should have been subjected to an illegal witch hunt. These actions are simply treasonous.

Mostly more smoke and mirrors. The school funding formula includes money for teacher bonuses and school safety in the per student formula, the transportation changes are designed to help wealthy land owners in FL, and not one school district is stepping up to allow teachers to be armed, very smart. The worst of all of this, is the legislatures restrictions on voter initiatives. This is a slap in the face for voters having a say in the law making process. This legislature is so beholden to special interests, they'll be damned if the people have a say in their Gov't, sad day for FL voters

Wow! Looks like you received your reply straight from the CNN script.

more like straight from the facts Frankie boy. Tell me one thing about my post that is not an absolute fact, and I'll prove you wrong using more, her it comes, something you are not used to...facts.

Quote: "Tell me one thing about my post that is not an absolute fact". Let's start with your very first phrase: "smoke and mirrors". Since you asked for it, you got it.

re: School Safety bill: "Bolster school safety" ??? The legislature is still in the pockets of the NRA and gun manufacturers. What did New Zealand do: They asked for return of all assault weapons to the authorities. That is how we make our schools safe ! Not arming teachers who are there to teach not fire a gun !

Return? How could return something which was never the Govt property? You have good intentions, but focus on the wrong answer. A few months ago there was a similar attack in Brazil, where the perpetrator used gasoline. Yes, he killed all his intended targets. Ban gas?

Define ‘assault weapons,’ why would I give up my hunting rifle because it looks scary. My AR-15 has never escaped my safe and gone at ‘assault’ anyone.

Some 'sportswoman', sweetie! You need a semi-automatic assault rifle to hunt turkeys and pigs? Ha, ha, ha!

It's not about the left-wing's determination of "need" sweet pea. In the US, nearly one child daily dies in a home swimming pool. Since the owner doesn't "need" the swimming pool, your ideology says the pool's existence isn't justified.

I am in total agreement.

We love you, FLORIDA!

No OPEN CARRY again. No throttling of abusive administrative agencies.

Cowards all. Should have passed two years ago

Well said !!! Next session we must work on this one.

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