The 2023C special session was officially Sine Die today at 11:59 p.m. upon expiration of the Call. Below is a summary of the legislation passed.
The Governor is expected to approve all of the Special Session C legislation. We will continue to monitor closely and provide any necessary updates.
Hurricane Idalia Relief:
HB 1C - provides $416 million in relief to those affected by Hurricane Idalia is on its way to the governor after receiving bipartisan support on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The legislation focuses on providing recovery assistance to counties impacted by the Category 3 storm, which made landfall on the Big Bend Gulf coast near Keaton Beach in Taylor County on Aug. 30. The storm caused over $447 million in estimated agricultural losses for Florida's producers across various sectors, including crops, infrastructure, fruits, tree nuts, greenhouses, animals, vegetables and forestry, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bill allocates $75 million for a program offering agriculture and aquaculture producers low-interest or interest-free loans and provides $37.5 million in aid to impacted timber owners for tree replanting. The proposal also offers tax incentives for agricultural equipment that was unusable during the two months following the storm, as well as tax breaks for re-fencing, construction materials for post-Idalia repairs and fuel utilized in agricultural shipments and debris removal. The legislation also includes $176 million to harden homes against future storms through the My Safe Florida Home Program, focusing on addressing the current backlog of applications. County and municipal governments impacted by Idalia would also get $75 million for hurricane recovery assistance. In addition to the relief funding, the measure would give local governments more time to pay back emergency bridge loans and extend a moratorium on development restrictions in 10 southwest Florida counties affected by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in 2022. The moratorium on development restrictions is set to end Oct. 1 of next year, but language in the new measure would extend that to Oct. 1, 2026. Senators also emphasized during debate that Georgia Pacific, which closed its paper mill in Taylor County within days of the landfall of Hurricane Idalia nearby, can't get a tax break under the legislation. The initiative was supported by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson. The proposal unanimously passed the House on Wednesday and cleared the full Senate on a 39-0 vote on Thursday. It now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his approval.
Voucher Expansion for Special Needs Students Heads to Governor
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed and sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis HB 3C. This legislation makes millions of dollars from education reserve funds available to expand access to private school tuition vouchers for students with special needs and eliminates a cap on how many students can participate. The measure will clear a waiting list of nearly 9,000 students who had sought the scholarships but couldn't get one this year because of the cap on the number available. The measure had passed the House unanimously a day earlier.
Also Related to Education, Lawmakers Begin Discussions of School 'Deregulation' Ideas
Members of the Senate this week discussed possible education deregulation proposals, including allowing students 16 and older to test for high school equivalency degrees with only parental permission. "If parents sign off, the student (could) go get their GED and then enter into the workforce or workforce training," suggested Sen. Corey Simon - R -Tallahassee, who chairs the Senate Committee on PreK-12 Education. The Committee held a workshop on deregulation ideas from committee Republicans and the state's Department of Education on Tuesday. Those ideas came in the dozens, floated for the regular legislative session that starts in January. The workshop was spurred by a 2023 law that expanded access to private school vouchers. Part of that new law was a provision requiring the state to develop and recommend laws to reduce public school regulation by Nov. 1.
The Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a measure providing $45 million in grants to secure Jewish schools, synagogues, and institutions. HB 7C allocates state funding to increase security at places considered "high risk for violent attacks" following last month's Hamas attack on Israel and a reported rise in antisemitic incidents. The proposal would allow flexibility in awarding grants to institutions like Edward Waters University, a Historically Black College or University, or HBCU, that was the initial target of a recent shooting in Jacksonville. The funding provided in the measure would support various initiatives, including $25 million in Department of Education grants for Jewish day schools and preschools. The money would be used to help hire and train security personnel, provide threat awareness training, implement emergency procedures, and provide first aid training for school staff, among other things. Another $20 million would be used to expand the Nonprofit Security Grant Program within the Division of Emergency Management that institutions at high risk for violent attacks could apply for. In addition to the new funds, $9 million was included in the current state budget to enhance safety, and of that, $5 million was designated for security upgrades at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. Additionally, already allocated funds include $4 million to hire full-time guards to protect Jewish day schools. The proposal now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk.
Legislature Broadens State Iran Sanctions
Restrictions on state investments will apply to more businesses with ties to Iran under HB 5C which passed unanimously passed Wednesday by the Senate and sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had pushed for the measure. The bill had passed the House a day earlier. The bill expands a 2007 requirement that the State Board of Administration divest from "scrutinized" companies with links to Iran's petroleum industry. The legislation will now require the state to stop doing business with companies in other sectors including the construction, manufacturing, and financial industries.
Resolutions Supporting Israel:
The full Senate gave unanimous approval to a special session resolution (SR 8C), sponsored by Lantana Democrat Sen. Lori Berman that condemns the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and supports the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign and independent nation. It also supports Israel's right to defend itself and protect its citizens, demands the end of any financial support to Iranian-backed Hamas or other entities that support such terrorist organizations and condemns threats against Jewish people, institutions, and communities in Florida and throughout the world. Similarly, the House overwhelmingly agreed to adopt two similar resolutions supporting Israel in the wake of the Hamas attack and war in the Middle East. The first measure (HR 9C), sponsored by Greenacres Democrat Rep. Katherine Waldron, says Florida has unwavering support for Israel and condemns the terrorist organization Hamas.. It passed the House 108-0. The other successful resolution HR 11C was brought by Palm Bay Republican Rep. Randy Fine that called for the U.S. to halt funding for Palestinian-affiliated organizations. It also condemned anti-semitic rhetoric heard among protestors on college campuses and elsewhere. Fine's bill passed on a 103-3 vote, with three Democrats in opposition. At least one Democrat raised a question about whether the measure's call against funding would include stopping "humanitarian aid" going to Gaza and Fine forcefully said it would, arguing such aid is being diverted to Hamas fighters. Another resolution, calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and "occupied Palestine," was rejected by House members on Tuesday. The resolution, HR 31C, brought by Jacksonville Democrat Rep. Angie Nixon, garnered criticism from both Republicans and some Democrats and failed with only two votes in favor.