Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 7 of 34 - Florida Politics

Cocoa Democrat joins HD 51 race

House District 51 got its first Democratic candidate this past week, setting up an Election Day contest for the Brevard County seat held by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, leaving because of term limits.

Cocoa City Councilman Michael Blake joins Republican Cocoa Beach Commissioner Tim Timulty, who filed for the seat this past February, and HD 50 Rep. Tom Goodson, who’s looking to shift districts.

The former Cocoa mayor will likely have a hard time gaining traction in the district because it tilts heavily toward the GOP.  The Republican Party carries a sizable enough advantage in voter registrations that it isn’t likely to sway too much even in a presidential election year.

Crisafulli cruised into his third term without opposition when the seat was redrawn in 2012, and followed that performance by taking 67 percent of the vote against Democrat Joe Murray in the 2014 election.

Goodson shouldn’t have much of a problem in the Republican primary or the general election. In addition to sporting Crisafulli’s endorsement, the third-term representative passed $100,000 in cash on-hand heading into the new year.

Timulty is hovering at about the $1,500 mark, including $2,000 in loans.

Senate budget eliminates direct funding for youth mentoring

State Sen. Joe Negron, a former budget panel chief, told his colleagues last month in an acceptance speech for his upcoming Senate presidency that the state must do more for its troubled children and teens.

“We should not and we will not tolerate serious wrongdoing by young people but, at the same time, let’s not criminalize adolescence,” he said, according to the Senate Journal’s version.

Most experts agree that after-school mentoring programs, such as those offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters, are effective at helping kids, especially those at risk, to succeed in school and develop social skills.

But the Florida Senate, in its proposed $80.9 billion budget for next year, seemingly has gone to a “dog-eat-dog” approach, telling the state’s mentoring programs that to get funding, they’ll have to fight for it among themselves.

The Senate budget, released Friday afternoon, essentially zeroes out funding for individual providers and instead creates a $30 million “competitive grants” program where organizations will have to apply.

Under the Senate plan, money will be awarded by a committee of members appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and could include Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and other top officials.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican who chairs the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, was unavailable for an interview, his assistant said.

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta provided a statement from Gaetz: “The grant process is designed so worthy groups can be funded on the basis of their value to children and their results. Our committee is recommending more money in this fund than the total funded for these purposes in the past. (It is) a fairer process based on evaluation of results, not dependent on lobbyists, and (provides) more money for these worthy causes.”

In a Tuesday hearing, Gaetz warned the nonprofits that before they issue calls to “go to the Capitol and burn the place down,” they should realize their funding won’t be “on a line-item basis (but) they’re not being cut.”

When state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Margate Democrat, questioned the overall education spending plan, Gaetz told him, “The concrete is poured, and it’s hardening … Everything is a zero-sum game.”

Representatives of the state’s nonprofit children organizations say they’re flabbergasted — and feeling betrayed.

“We’ve been getting funding from the Legislature for 19 years,” said Daniel Lyons, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs. “We did everything we were asked to do, so this came out of nowhere.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs mentor about 6,000 children in over 200 facilities throughout the state.

Lyons said converting funding into grants for which each group will have to apply means organizations like his won’t get paid, if at all, until well after the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

“Talk about being bowled over and slapped in the face,” he said.

Jody Clifford, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida, said she didn’t immediately know how many youths are in her mentoring programs “but it’s a huge number.”

Having to compete and wait for funding “could have a huge negative impact on the already low-performing children we help,” she said. “We’re absolutely stunned.”

On the other hand, the House proposed budget, also released Friday, keeps a method of direct funding to specific groups with a $14.8 million pot of money.

From it, $2.2 million is slated for Big Brothers Big Sisters, $3 million goes to the Florida Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, and $6.2 million is for Take Stock in Children, a nonprofit led by Jillian Hasner, wife of former state Rep. Adam Hasner, the House Republican Leader in 2008-10.

Money for mentoring has been decreasing in recent years’ state budgets, going from $30.5 million in fiscal year 2014-15 to $18.4 million for 2015-16.


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Senator Gaetz’s “concrete” quote was in response to a question from Senator Ring. It also includes an updated comment on the Senate spending plan from Gaetz.

Brian Pitts suing Rick Scott, lawmakers over “invalid” state budget

Perennial gadfly and Capitol fixture Brian Pitts is suing Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature for “preliminary and perpetual relief” from what he calls an “invalid” state budget for this year.

Pitts, a trustee of his St. Petersburg-based Justice-2-Jesus church group, filed a 30-page complaint in Leon Circuit Civil Court last week, according to court records. The suit also names House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

He’s well known to observers of The Process, often speaking at committee hearings where he hectors lawmakers for what he considers flawed legislation. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In the sometimes rambling document, mystifyingly laid out in landscape format, Pitts said the 2015-16 state budget, passed in a Special Session last year, is both “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Pitts laid out a laundry list of offenses bolstering his argument, including a lack of itemizations and improperly defined line-items, though Pitts acknowledges “there are just too many (deficiencies) to number.”

Surprisingly for a plaintiff in a court action, Pitts seemingly apologizes for having to file suit.

“Plaintiff, truly, has learned to love … each unique and highly esteemed member of the Florida Legislature, but they cannot continue in their pattern of unbridle(d) discretion or abuse,” he wrote. “To be honest, in all sincerity, plaintiff never thought he would ever be filing such a massive relief application” but his “conscience will not allow ignoring this any longer.”

The case was assigned to Circuit Judge George Reynolds III, who recently presided over the state Senate redistricting challenge, finding for the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs, resulting in a redrawn district map.

Pitts also filed to pursue his action under indigent status, asking to be relieved of usual court costs. He seeks unspecified damages, costs and attorney fees; he filed the case “pro se,” meaning he is acting as his own attorney.

In 2003, Pitts spent nearly four months in the Pinellas County jail on a charge of practicing law without a license, which he said was a wrongful arrest. Claim bills have been subsequently filed in Tallahassee seeking to reimburse Pitts up to $350,000, records show.

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs priority legislation; court clerks highlight talk funding needs; fracking bill heads to House floor

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed several pieces of legislation deemed a priority for Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

One measure (SB 672) expand the personal learning scholarship account program and the Florida postsecondary comprehensive transition program for students with intellectual disabilities. It also renames the scholarship program to the Gardiner Scholarship Program, after the Gardiner family. A second (HB 7003) expands employment opportunities to people with disabilities

Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, said:

“It wasn’t all that long ago when students with disabilities were shunned in classrooms, their needs ignored, and their abilities dismissed. The world has changed much since then, and that change came about because of the tireless advocacy of parents who refused to accept less for their children. Every time I see a child with unique abilities, behind him or her I see a parent with unique passion and commitment.

“It was the passion of these parents who drove such rapid passage of the Gardiner Scholarship Program, chief among them a father named Andy Gardiner. Thanks to this legislation signed by Governor Rick Scott, parents can transition from advocates to activists, empowered with the freedom and resources to create pathways for their children’s success. And rest assured, this blessing bestowed on Florida families will spread to other states as well.

“We thank Governor Scott, President Gardiner, Senator Don Gaetz, and Representative Erik Fresen for their support of this important legislation.”

The governor also signed a comprehensive water policy package (SB 552), a top priority for Crisafulli.

Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, said:

“Florida has taken a monumental leap forward in addressing our water quality and quantity challenges by enacting this comprehensive water policy reform. Today’s bill signing is the culmination of many years of hard work and compromise from the business and environmental communities to develop a necessary water policy that will serve our state well in the coming decades. The result of these efforts was a bipartisan bill supported overwhelmingly by the Florida Legislature. On behalf of the Associated Industries of Florida and the H2O Coalition, we thank Governor Scott for signing this bill into law and for his commitment to creating a sustainable strategy that preserves and protects Florida’s most precious natural resource.”

Butch Calhoun, director of government relations at Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, said:

“On behalf of Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, our growers applaud Governor Scott for approving this landmark water bill, which takes a long-term, comprehensive approach to water management and the protection of our natural resources. Our growers are stewards of the land we serve and we understand the importance of having access to an abundant water supply. By adopting this legislation, Governor Scott and the Legislature have ensured the practices employed by our growers are aligned to help our state find science-based, economically feasible solutions to water quality and quantity issues which work to protect Florida’s unique and diverse ecosystems.”

Barbara Miedema, vice president for public affairs and communications at Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, said:

“We applaud Governor Scott for his quick action in signing this most important piece of legislation. The bipartisan work of the Legislature represents the most comprehensive rewrite of Florida water law since the 1970s. It signals that the process is working in Tallahassee and things are getting done for the benefit of all Floridians.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said:

“In a state as diverse as Florida, water is our common identity. I thank Governor Scott for signing this water policy legislation that will protect the quality and quantity of our water for future generations.

“Florida is the third largest state in the country and our growth rate recently surpassed that of California. Just as every person needs water, so too does every sector of our economy. In order to accommodate our explosive growth and ensure that our state, residents and visitors thrive, we need this long-term, science-based and comprehensive approach to water policy. This legislation will help provide the resources to meet the needs of our growing population, while protecting our environment.

“This water policy legislation has been in the works for years, and I thank Speaker Steve Crisafulli, President Andy Gardiner, Senator Charlie Dean, Chairman Matt Caldwell, Senator David Simmons and the countless others who worked together on this comprehensive water policy.”

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The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers on Wednesday outlined a need for a funding boost during the Senate appropriations subcommittee on criminal and civil justice. The group said a report found the state’s clerks have been confronted with a diminished budget because of a reduction of new cases filed. The report also showed that although the case filings decrease, the workload for the clerks has increased.

Karen Rushing, Sarasota Clerk of Court and legislative chairwoman of Florida’s Court Clerks & Comptrollers, said:

“We thank the committee for allowing us to demonstrate the financial burden that this deficit has placed on our operations statewide. This study concluded that due to revenue reductions, combined with increased costs, Florida’s Clerks are significantly understaffed to continue to perform the court-related duties of the office at the levels required by statute and expected by our judicial partners and public we serve.

“Year after year, this deficit has continued to force layoffs and branch office closures, and has been detrimental to the quality and timeliness of our services on a statewide level. We ask the Florida Legislature and Governor to support the funding for the current year deficit, as well as enact a long-term solution to the Clerk funding process. These short- and long-term funding solutions will allow our offices across the Sunshine State to avoid future deficits and continue to operate efficiently on a daily basis for the people of Florida.”

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A bill aimed at regulating hydraulic fracturing is heading to the House floor, after it passed the House state affairs committee on Wednesday. The measure (HB 191) is sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican.

Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, said:

“Representative Rodrigues, who is unparalleled in his knowledge and commitment to properly regulating the onshore oil and gas industry, has worked in good faith with all third parties to produce sound legislation that, we feel, strikes the appropriate balance to protect and preserve Florida’s environment, while also allowing a responsible industry to continue to explore and produce oil and gas here in the Sunshine State.

“We do continue to have reservations about the inclusion of a study, as this industry has been a responsible producer of oil and gas for more than seven decades, which has led to jobs, diversification of our energy portfolio and a reduced reliance on foreign sources of energy; but, overall, we believe this good bill will bring needed regulatory clarity to this industry.

We thank Representative Rodrigues, as well as members of the House State Affairs Committee for carefully considering and passing this legislation today.”

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The Florida Property & Casualty Association commended Citizens Insurance for its depopulation efforts.

William Stander, executive director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association, said:

“Citizens was created to make home insurance available in Florida’s hurricane-prone regions after the national companies retreated from writing home insurance in the state. Citizens was designed to be the insurance company of last resort, but quickly grew out of control.

“Since then, our state’s insurance market has become much healthier, more competitive and homegrown with 67 Florida-based companies writing 72 percent of all homes. Much of the credit can be given to these entrepreneurs and Commissioner (Kevin) McCarty for encouraging the depopulation efforts and formation of new, financially secure Florida-based insurance companies.”

Rick Scott on Seminole Compact: “I did my job”

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday continued to sound lukewarm on the prospects of his renegotiated deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would let them keep blackjack at their casinos.

Scott took questions after an afternoon bill-signing ceremony with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

“Well, I did my job. We took the time; we have a good Compact … but I respect the leadership of the House, President Gardiner. Now it’s up to them; they’ll decide how we go forward with this,” he said.

Jeff Woodburn, Scott’s policy director, fielded a series of tough questions about the Seminole Compact at a Senate Regulated Industries Committee meeting Wednesday. The House has yet to hold a hearing.

It’s unclear at best whether the Legislature will approve the deal this session; committee Chairman Rob Bradley said changes to the Compact would likely be offered and considered “one by one.” It also has to be OK’d by federal Indian gambling regulators.

The deal would continue to allow blackjack exclusively in tribal casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, in return for a $3 billion cut of the take over seven years.

But it would also let the Seminoles add craps and roulette tables, as well as permit the Legislature to OK slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and allow blackjack at certain South Florida racetracks. That has critics, including gambling opponents in the Legislature, down on the deal.

When asked whether he would lobby lawmakers for votes, Scott repeated, “I did my job (to get) a negotiated Compact. That’s the way it was supposed to work. It’s up to them. I respect whatever decision they make.”

Scott also didn’t bite at a question about whether he needs revenue from the Compact to ensure he gets his $1 billion tax cut package, his signature proposal for this year.

“Revenues are growing … I’m confident we’re going to see a billion dollars in tax cuts,” he said.

“The money is there?” he was asked. “Absolutely,” Scott said.

Rick Scott signs Legislature’s priority bills

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed into law three bills that were priorities of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Scott approved SB 552, which “implements policies to protect and restore water and natural resources statewide, with a focus on meeting water quality and supply needs.” Crisafulli wanted the measure passed before he leaves the Legislature; this is his last year in office.

Scott also OK’d HB 7003, which “expands employment opportunities and creates a financial literacy program for individuals with disabilities,” and SB 672, which “increases educational opportunities for students with unique abilities, expands the Personal Learning Scholarship Account Program, and provides funding for school uniforms.”

They were backed by Gardiner, an advocate for people with disabilities. He has a son with Down syndrome.

“This is a great start to Session,” Scott said after the signings. “What we’ve signed today is going to help (people with disabilities) get jobs. Our weakest, our poorest, our most disadvantaged, what do you want to do? Give them a job.”

He added on the water bill, “we’re going to continue to protect the Everglades, but this is going to go further, and include our springs.”

The legislative leaders released statements afterward.

“These new laws will help us utilize responsible, science-based solutions to address our state’s water-quality and water-supply challenges; expand educational options for students and schools; and, give those with disabilities the tools they need to become more independent,” Crisafulli said. “These laws affect the lives of all Floridians and will create a stronger future for our state.”

“The complete cradle to career pathway to economic independence will make a significant impact on the lives of individuals with unique abilities and their families for generations to come,” Gardiner said. “We are blessed to have Gov. Scott and Speaker Crisafulli as partners in promoting Florida as the state where all people have access to an education suited to their own unique needs and the opportunity to achieve their career goals.”

“I am also pleased to see our statewide water and natural resources policy become law today,” Gardiner said. “This legislation will protect Florida’s unique environment for the next generation of Floridians to enjoy. The new law will increase public access to conservation lands for recreational purposes and ensure Floridians have quality water for future use through restoration and conservation efforts of our water bodies.”

Ken Detzner reports online voter registration on track to begin October 2017

This past May, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation to require Florida to adopt online voter registration by October 2017, though he said he did it with “some hesitation.”

Democrats were unhappy the state couldn’t enact the new system in time for this fall’s general election, but if it were up to Secretary of State Ken Detzner it wouldn’t happen at all. Detzner vehemently expressed opposition to the bill last year, but he told a Senate committee Wednesday that the system will be working by next year.

“Last year I made a promise that I would commit 110 percent to the online voter registration development,” Detzner told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections. “Our team and I have followed through on that promise.”

Detzner said the timeline for online voter registration system is still on schedule to begin in October 2017. He reminded lawmakers that security remains his top priority: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that Florida voters have a reliable and secure network, and our consulting cyber security experts.”

Detzner’s office issued a progress report on to Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Dec. 31. It noted that once the system is launched, Florida would join 26 other states, including California and New York, in operating online voter-registration systems. Florida’s system is being built by the Department of State, the 67 county supervisors of election, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Scott referred to his fear of cyber attacks when he signed the bill last year. Election officials noted Wednesday that as part of their concurrent voter-registration modernization effort, the state has installed new hardware with “the latest state-of-the art equipment reflecting the choice of major data centers in the public and private sectors.”

Officials said there are now nearly 12 million registered voters in the state. Detzner said that while working on online voter registration and the voter-registration modernization effort, his office is working hard on being prepared for the presidential primary election taking place March 15.

Big-name groups, leaders trumpet progress on legislative priorities

A major trio of political players at the Florida Capitol are happy with the progress made Thursday on big-ticket priorities in the Legislature.

The H2O Coalition, a water policy consortium affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, applauded the further progress of what it calls comprehensive water reform in the Legislature.

The praise comes after the House gave final approval to SB 552 by Sen. Charlie Dean, which is identical to HB 7005 by Rep. Matt Caldwell, who led the House’s efforts to update state water policy after voters’ overwhelming approval of Amendment 1 in 2014.

“Today is a historic day for Florida. Floridians should be proud of the leadership demonstrated by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, Representative Matt Caldwell, Senator Charlie Dean and Commissioner Adam Putnam in passing a comprehensive water policy that should serve as a model for other states,” AIF Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs Brewster Bevis said in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

“If enacted, the impact of this comprehensive water policy will be far-reaching and felt long after the members of this body are in office,” Bevis said. “Future generations of Floridians will remember the 2016 Legislative Session as the time when lawmakers upgraded our water policy with higher water quality standards, stronger protections for our springs, and a forward-thinking approach that integrates water planning into economic development.”

The AIF executive and policy advocate concluded his remarks with a clarion call to the governor, who must sign the legislation for it to go into effect.

“As this bill goes to Governor Scott’s desk for his consideration, I join representatives from Florida’s business, environmental and agricultural communities in urging him to sign it,” Bevis said. “The future of Florida’s water supply depends on it.”

Foundation for Florida’s Future, for its part, celebrated the approval of greater educational funding and support for children with unique abilities.

“I am particularly grateful to the Legislature, which today expanded the Gardiner Scholarship Account Program to include 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as students with muscular dystrophy and autism spectrum disorder,” FFF Executive Director Patricia Levesque said after the passage of SB 672. “This measure will give parents more options and resources to ensure brighter futures for their children. Thank you to Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Erik Fresen for sponsoring this measure, and to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli for supporting and leading the House to support.

“But my deepest appreciation goes to Senate President Andy Gardiner. His passion and drive has turned a personal crusade into a state priority. The impact of his advocacy will make a profound difference in the lives of children – with unique abilities – for generations to come. It is an outstanding legacy and one that will be long remembered.”

Finally, the Senate President himself took a victory lap after securing the relatively easy passage of a raft of priorities, chiefly the aforementioned support for children with disabilities.

“I am so grateful to Speaker Crisafulli and my colleagues in the House for making our cradle-to-career pathway to economic independence a reality for people with unique abilities and their families,” Gardiner said.

“There are so many Floridians with unique abilities who can benefit from the opportunity to personalize their education and to learn the skills needed to contribute to Florida’s workforce in a meaningful way. This comprehensive package will give people with unique abilities and their families a road map to education and employment opportunities that will help them on the path to economic independence.”

House OKs priorities for Steve Crisafulli, Andy Gardiner

The state House of Representatives knocked out three pieces of priority legislation Thursday, sending two measures — a wide-ranging water policy bill and an education bill expanding scholarships to students with disabilities — to the governor.

“I think this just sets the tone,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said after the House adjourned Thursday. “I think you’re going to see us work together quite a bit on all this stuff. This has just been a really good week.”

The water bill (SB 552) was a top priority for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican. The bill, according to the Associated Press, “modifies dozens of areas of Florida law, including controlling pollution and restoring natural flow in springs and rivers.”

“This is what working together can do, and obviously this is us finishing off a work plan we started together,” Crisafulli said during a joint news conference with Gardiner. “Obviously there is a lot left to do, with the budget to pass and some great things we can do for the state of Florida over the next several weeks.”

The House shot down several amendments proposed by Minority Leader Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat.

The water package passed the Senate 37-0 on Wednesday. The House voted 110-2 on Thursday to approve it.

“The Florida Chamber has long supported science-backed efforts that will ensure our state can meet the demands of today and of the future,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy at the Florida Chamber, in a prepared statement. “This bill is a meaningful step in the right direction to help ensure Florida’s water future doesn’t go the way of California. This bipartisan effort is a fantastic start to Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session.”

The House also approved an education bill (SB 672) that a top priority for Gardiner. Among other things, the bill expands scholarship opportunities for students with disabilities and provides incentives for school districts to adopt dress codes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The measure also renames the scholarship program — formerly known as Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, or PLSAs —  the Gardiner Scholarships, after the Senate President.

The state Senate voted 39-0 to approve the measure Wednesday; while the House supported it 109-1. Republican state Rep. John Tobia was the only”no” vote.

The House also approved another Gardiner priority bill. That measure (HB 7003) addresses economic independence of individuals with disabilities. Among other things, it creates a Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Development Disabilities to promote economic independence and employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. That measure passed 110-0. It now heads to the Senate.

Senate passes disabled children bill; now it moves to House

The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed legislation expanding aid for students with intellectual disabilities and named the program for Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has made what he calls “people with unique abilities” the signature issue of his tenure as president.

The bill (SB 672) increases funding from $55 million to $73 million for $10,000-per-year scholarships for children with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, starting as early as age 3.

The program was expanded last year to add categories of disabilities, increasing recipients to about 4,300. The new bill makes the expansion permanent, likely increasing recipients to 8,000.

Gardiner says he expects the House to pass a companion bill, HB 7011, by Friday, sending the legislation to Gov. Rick Scott.

Gardiner has a son with Down syndrome, and his wife has been active on the issue.

He initially rejected an amendment by sponsor Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, naming the program “Gardiner Scholarships” in honor of his family. Gardiner said he had promised House backers the Senate would pass a bill with no amendments, to match the House bill.

But he accepted the honor, and was overcome with emotion at the podium, when House Speaker Steve Crisafulli called during the deliberations to say the House would accept the amendment.

“I didn’t see that coming. It’s a moment I won’t forget,” Gardiner said afterward.

“This is a bill that people come up to us with tears in the eye and talk about how it’s changed their lives,” he said from the podium.

The bill passed despite objections by Democrats that it included $14 million for financial incentives for school districts that require students to wear uniforms. The districts would get an extra $10 per student per year.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, called the incentives “a giveaway to the school uniform industry,” but withdrew an amendment to remove them.

Gardiner said the uniform measure was included because, “It was a priority of the House.”

The Senate also passed bills creating employment incentives and a financial literacy program for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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