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.”

Staff Reports


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