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Gaetz Highlights Week One Of Florida's 2014 Legislative Session

Office of Don Gaetz

During Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session, WUWF Public Media will provide highlights of action in the House and Senate.  Each week, we’ll conduct weekly interviews with Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).

In our Week One update, Senate President Gaetz touts passage of a series of Senate Bills 522, 524, 526, and 528, aimed at protecting the state’s most vulnerable residents, particularly those who are victims of sexually violent offenses.  In the first hour of the first day of the session, the Senate took up legislation that increases penalties for sexually violent predators in order to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend and increasing communication among law enforcement agencies. “Making sure that people who would come to Florida or be in Florida and try to do harm to our children, would find the most inhospitable, unfriendly, unwelcome environment in America for committing sexual offenses against children,” says Gaetz. The legislation is will be taken up this week (starting March 10) in the House of Representatives.

Conversely, the Legislature aims to establish Florida as the ‘most friendly and welcoming’ for members of the military and their families, with passage of the Florida GI Bill (SB 860) in the House. Part of the bill, to be taken up in the Senate this week, includes creation of a veteran tuition waiver program, which would waive out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans. “We think that will make it more likely that they’ll take a job here when they leave the service. And, that’s our goal, to have military families who come here and help build our communities and neighborhoods, stay here, and continue to build our economy and our state,” he says.

Another military-related measure, Senate Bill 608, will establish the POW-MIA Chair of Honor Memorial in the Capitol Complex.  The bill sponsored by Senator Dorothy L. Hukill’s (R-Port Orange), passed the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security committee with unanimous support during the first week of the session.

Credit Florida Senate
Florida Senate
Senate President Don Gaetz explaining his plans for the legislative session.

The chair will be constructed, placed, and maintained by the Rolling Thunder, Inc., without appropriation of state funds in the Capitol Complex. 

There also has been first-week action on continued ethics and election reform in the state, with passage a more restrictive Joint Residency Rule to ensure that local and state elected officials live in the district that they represent.

Looking to the second week of the session, Sen. President Gaetz says the Senate will take up legislation (CS/SB 248) to reform operation of the state’s Assisted Living Facilities (ALF reform).  Also, gaming and parasailing reform bills are being considered this week.

Niceville Sen. Don Gaetz is currently serving as President of the Florida Senate

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.