The Florida Legislature is beginning the third week of the 2014 regular session. During the session, WUWF is checking in with Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).
Recapping week two, Sen. Gaetz says the center piece of their work was unanimous passage by the Senate of the Florida GI Bill, HB 7015. The House passed the bill during the first week of the Legislative Session.
The bill increases funding for the Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) program to cover career certification and continuing education for maintaining licensure and provides for out-of-state student veterans to receive in-state tuition rates via the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program.
The Florida GI Bill gives more preferences to veterans in hiring. As an example, Gaetz says military doctors and other health care practitioners who are leaving the military with an honorable discharge will be able to “practice their professions in our state quickly, without going through a lot of red tape and hoops and scoops, without taking additional examinations or paying fees.”
Additionally, the GI bill funds a national campaign aimed at attracting military families to retire to Florida and begin their second careers here. It completes renovation of all National Guard Armories in Florida and provides funding to buffer military bases from residential and other incompatible development.
The measure is now on the way to Governor Rick Scott, where Senate President Gaetz says he hopes it will be signed in the next few days.
The Subcommittee on Education Appropriations a series of bills aimed at expanding economic opportunity through education. Senate Bill 790 provides a dedicated source of funding for school district technology purchases and activities to improve student performance. Senate Bill 1148 would hold the line on university and college tuition, while SB 1642 reforms the secondary school grading system.
During the second week of the session, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), unanimously approved Senate Bill 156, Motor Vehicle License Taxes. The bill, sponsored by Chair Negron, would reduce certain annual vehicle registration fees by nearly $400 million. “I think when government has more money than it needs to maintain critical services of the state, politicians should not be looking for new ways to spend money. But we ought to be looking for ways to restore taxpayers’ money back to their cash registers and billfolds,” Gaetz says.
The full Senate is scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday, March 18.
The Senate President says he and House Speaker Will Weatherford have pledged to help Gov. Scott find up to $500 million in tax cuts. Lawmakers have not yet identified where the other $100 million in tax cuts will come from. Gaetz says he’s not in favor of additional business cuts, but instead prefers broad-based tax cuts such as tax free holidays for school supplies.
Also during week three of the session, lawmakers are slated to consider legislation to reform the state’s child welfare system. “We have a bi-partisan coalition of senators working to professionalize our child welfare system, (Florida Department of Children and Families) to hire more social workers, to bring more resources in to protect these children who are in foster care or child protective services,” says Gaetz.