House passes bills on Idalia recovery, Iran, special needs vouchers, Jewish Day school security
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/9/23-House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, during Session, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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'Special Sessions are limited in focus.'

The House passed a series of bills during a Special Session to expand security grants for Jewish day schools, put more restrictions on investments in businesses connected to Iran, increase financial boost storm recovery funds for areas affected by Hurricane vestments Idalia and remove a cap on vouchers for special needs students.

The bills garnered widespread bipartisan support, but Democrats continued to bemoan the Republican majority’s refusal to address other outstanding issues they deem as equally urgent: affordable housing, Medicaid and stopping hikes in property insurance premiums.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa alleged the Session was designed to boost Gov. Ron DeSantis’ run for the GOP presidential nomination. The Senate is expected to pass the bills that cleared the House on Wednesday and DeSantis is set to appear at a debate with GOP contestants in Miami later that evening.

“All of these other bills were window dressing to do what the Governor wanted to do, which is have that bill pass on Iran sanctions so he can stand on the debate stage tomorrow and say that he did something,” Driskell told reporters. “We have wasted a committee week trying to further this man’s ambitions. We have actual bills and real policies that need to be discussed.”

House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, said the Regular Session will be used to address other outstanding issues and the Special Session wasn’t designed to tackle them.

“Special Sessions are limited in focus,” Renner told reporters after the votes Tuesday. “I know there was some theatrics about, ‘Why aren’t you talking about affordable housing and Medicaid?’ That wasn’t what we were working on today.”

Although the bills received nearly unanimous votes, some Democrats raised concerns about parts of the measures.

The hurricane recovery measure (HB 1C) has $417 million for programs to boost rebuilding efforts in the Panhandle areas hit by Hurricane Idalia in August, as well as a tax break for the agriculture industry. Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, raised the specter of Georgia-Pacific, which announced it would close a paper mill in Taylor County shortly after Idalia passed, taking advantage of the tax cut.

Rep. Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican who sponsored the bill, said he didn’t think the tax break would apply to Georgia Pacific because it’s only for machinery equipment that was out of use for 60 days after the storm and the paper mill was up and running within that time frame.

Eskamani was also one of two votes against HB 5C, which expands the list of companies government entities in Florida can invest in and do business with to include companies involved in any sector of Iran’s economy. Eskamani, an Iranian-American whose parents fled Iran called that country’s government an “evil entity” but didn’t want small businesses to be affected by the new policy. Republican backers of the measure said it was designed to prevent taxpayer funds from supporting Iran, which has supported Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

Democrats also criticized HB 3C for not going further to fix problems with the state’s new universal voucher program. Lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation to expand the voucher program to give parents of K-12 students taxpayer funds to attend private schools. Some parents and schools have reported trouble receiving the funds, affecting the ability to pay rent and other costs.

The bill removes the cap on vouchers for special needs students, as more than 8,000 students were put on a waiting list this year.

“This money needs to get to the students and it needs to get to the parents,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Boca Raton Democrat. “As we go forward please remember that you have more work to do to fix this program so that it works for everyone.”

Renner said he plans to do exactly that during the Regular Session, which begins Jan. 9.

“We are absolutely going to look at how do we make this more efficient, how do we get the money out faster for people,” Renner said.

Gray Rohrer


6 comments

  • Michael K

    November 7, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    All theatrics, in service to the governors failing presidential campaign, and at taxpayer expense.

    • Earl Pitts "Making Politics Better for Minoritys" American

      November 7, 2023 at 6:55 pm

      Good evening America,
      I’m still working with select minority leadership in both the Florida House and Senate to help them transition from their old habits of being slaves to National Democratic priorities and pressures. Same thing in regards to the Florida State Democratic pressures. When the gospel truth is that their constituents have left the Democratic Party on both the National and state level.
      The reasoning many minority Democratic Florida Lawmakers are marching lockstep with the Democratic Plantation … uhh … I ment to say “Party” I don’t know why Google inserted that “Other” word. But sometimes Google knows best so we are marching forward.
      …oh yeah back to these lawmakers reasoning:
      It’s akin to the high school freshman going out for the football team with dreams of making it to the NFL. Only about one tenth of one percent ever make it to the big time as NFL Players.
      Same with our Florida Democratic Lawmakers. Times have changed with the Biden WWIII, Inflation, Jacked Up Rent, Unemployment, Our County becoming an international disgrace, Crime is up, B on B killings are so off the charts to the point we no longer keep records of the B on B slaughter. And these are just some of the reasons our Lawmakers Black constitutes have abandoned the Democratic Party.
      Anyway I, Earl Pitts American, am trying to help Fentrice and the others to understand that percentage wise they need to hitch their political wagons to what their constituents want while at the same time un-hitching their political wagons from the long-shot dream of becoming a big-time National Minority Political player … odds are that will never happen and due to slapping their constituents in the face they all will soon be unemployed and find themselves running for some small time local School Board or low pay Water Management District member.
      Anyway this is the hard work I, Earl Pitts American, am doing to make the wishes and political needs of regular hard working minority citizens voices heard and addressed by their current and future lawmakers up in Tallahassee heard and legislated upon by their typically minority lawmakers.
      Thank you Fentrise and the other lower on the totem pole minority lawmakers for working with me, Earl Pitts American, to not only get you re-elected but more importantly to address your constituents real and dire needs while putting aside your selfish desires to become a big time National minority Political player.
      EPA

      • Rick Whitaker

        November 7, 2023 at 7:06 pm

        WARNING ⚠ TROLL COMMENT FROM EARL SPHINCTER

  • Scott

    November 7, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    How so? Even Democrats participated, and many voted in favor. Last legislative session, the top Democrat in the Florida Senate not only publicly supported one of Governor DeSantis’ key pieces of legislation but was a cosponsor — Democratic minority leader, Senator Lauren Book. The truth is stranger than fiction.

    • Earl Pitts "Making Politics Better for Minoritys" American

      November 7, 2023 at 7:04 pm

      Dang Scott that was such a deep reach up your “where the sun don’t shine” to pull out those 1 & 1/2 irrelevant and unimportant and unimpressive “Questionable Factoids” that I can smell your 8utt-stink all the way from my home in Jacksonville.
      Anyway Scott all comments are important so keep trying to be relevant my man Scott.
      EPA

      • Rick Whitaker

        November 7, 2023 at 7:11 pm

        CAUTION ⚠ TROLL COMMENT BY EARL SHITTS

Comments are closed.


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