A Senate committee OK’d a bill Thursday that would refine emergency powers during a declared state of emergency.
The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced the bill (SB 2006) unanimously without questions or debate. Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills is the bill sponsor.
The bill, known as the Emergency Management Act, contains a slew of provisions that aim to improve the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies.
“We’re really building off of what we’ve learned and hopefully we’re better for what we’re doing here,” Burgess told members.
Most notably, the bill would establish that the Legislative Budget Commission may convene to transfer unappropriated funds to the up-and-coming Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund.
The fund, pioneered by Republican Sen. Manny Diaz of Hialeah, would allow the Governor to use his own pot of money during emergencies rather than scramble for funds elsewhere.
The bill would also allow the Governor to issue a 60-day executive order during a state of emergency rather than a 30-day order.
According to the bill, the 60-day order could be renewed as long as the emergency persists.
Additionally, the bill would create a presumption within the Legislature that business and schools should remain open during an extended public health emergency.
Other provisions include mandating the Division of Emergency Management to inventory personal protective equipment and requiring the state to adopt shelter plans during a pandemic.
“We’re building this plane as we’re flying it,” Burgess told panelists. “This is obviously unprecedented.”
Burgess said the new pandemic committee worked with lawmakers, state agencies and the Governor’s office to craft the proposal.
The bill moves next to the Senate Rules Committee for a final stop.
If signed into law, the measure would take effect July 1.
Three similar bills (HB 1353, HB 7047, SB 1760), meanwhile, are also moving through the Legislature.