14 Mar 2022 Legislative Session Summary
The 2022 State Legislative Session concluded today just a few minutes after 1:00 p.m. after a final vote on the agreed upon record $112 billion FY 2023 Budget. Florida’s fiscal year begins July 1 and concludes on June 30. While there were numerous policy issues that dominated media reports over the last several months, there were also notable budget and policy wins throughout the state. Although faring similar to years past, Central Florida did not achieve as much as other regions. Nevertheless, the budget has several Central Florida wins worth noting. Just keep in mind, all items are subject to the Governor’s approval or veto in the months to come and nothing is final until then.
Starting with the budget. There are many allocations not mentioned here. Below are the highlights:
University of Central Florida Receives $20M in Operational Support – The leadership at UCF is successfully changing perceptions and gaining influence with the Florida Legislature. Just two years after he took the helm at UCF, Dr. Cartwright and his talented advocacy team, with the support of community partners like the Orlando Economic Partnership, successfully secured dollars that were lost in the previous administration. Beyond providing a bump in funding, the Legislature made it recurring, meaning it will be part of UCF’s base budget moving forward. Other successes for UCF this session include $6.9M for a nursing initiative and $29M toward a nursing facility to be located next to UCF’s College of Medicine in Lake Nona.
IDignity Receives $1.5M for Statewide Operational Headquarters – IDignity was started in Florida and has gained national recognition for their success in getting necessary documentation and records (identification) for people without housing, allowing them to access services and employment. These dollars will have a tremendous impact on the most vulnerable in our community.
$1M for Documentary Film on the Ocoee Massacre – Championed by Senator Randolph Bracey for a second consecutive year, the project received $600K in 2021 that was vetoed by Governor DeSantis. It will hopefully survive the Governor’s veto pen this year.
Valencia Receives 6 Percent Allocation Bump – Efforts to ensure that growth and performance measures factor into new (non-sprinkle) money the state college system receives led Valencia College to receive a more than 6 percent bump in its allocation this session. Seven years ago, Valencia was the least-funded state college in the system. In the years since, it has received more money than any other Florida state college. Despite that, Valencia’s current funding is still less on a per-student basis than other state college. An effort to look at reworking the funding formula next year to make sure it is more equitable moving forward is underway. Keep up the good work, Valencia!
Numerous Successes for Embrace Families, (Central Florida’s Community Based Care Lead Agency) – This session, the legislature allocated a historic $1,181,272,155 for Community Based Care lead agencies and child welfare programs in Florida. Additionally, legislation passed that now allows children who are in a permanent guardianship to access the Child Welfare Specialty Plan that provides medical, dental, mental health and therapeutic treatments, among other benefits. Approximately 4,000 children in permanent guardianship will now be eligible for these benefits. Other wins for Embrace Families include a $488,074 allocation to Pathways to Home, a program providing wrap-around services for families at risk of becoming homeless in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties.
Embrace Families also will be receiving allocated funding for new and existing programs including:
- $16,123,032 recurring board rate parity relative/nonrelative caregivers, foster parents of Level I ‐ Level V placements
- $24,880,800 recurring $200 monthly childcare subsidy for licensed foster parents, relative and nonrelative caregivers. (Governor’s Priority)
- $2,855,376 father engagement specialists to enhance services to fathers of children involved, or at‐risk of child welfare. (Speaker Priority)
- $8,352,000 increase the financial assistance stipend provided to post secondary youth.
- $5,710,752 Community Based Care lead agencies post secondary Education Services and Support (PESS) program
- $2,000,000 recurring to community‐based care lead agencies to support early childhood courts
Visit Florida Receives $50M in Recurring Funding – The legislature agreed to allocate $50M and to extend the state tourism agency’s funding for a period of five years, a change to the annual funding amounts that they have become accustomed to fighting for year after year. This funding will provide certainty to the agency and allow them to work on long-term strategies that support tourism in Florida.
Other Central Florida Budget Wins
- $8M to City of Minneola for a transportation improvement for Citrus Grove Rd.
- $4.3M to City of Orlando for their Urban Area Security Initiative
- $3.8M to Lake-Sumter College for its Emerging Media and Fine Arts Center implementation and renovation, and another $2.5 million for operational enhancement
- $2.5M to Polk State College for operations
- $1.25M to City of Oakland for the South Lake Apopka alternative water project
- $1M to Seminole County for Williamson Rd. Trail Connection Project
- $750,000 to City of Sanford for a parking facility
- $500,000 to the Zebra Coalition for a youth transitional housing project
- $500,000 to Seminole County for Little Wekiva River Maintenance
- $500,000 to Seminole County for Wekiva Springs Road Intersection Improvements
- $400,000 to Seminole County Sheriff’s Office for Opioid/Addiction Recovery
- $475,000 to AdventHealth’s Advanced Genomics for Critically Ill Newborns unit
- $417,000 to the Orlando Science Center for implementation of a Neighborhood Science Center at the Grand Avenue Neighborhood Center in partnership with the City of Orlando Neighborhood Centers
- $400,000 to Osceola County for a Water Quality Study on North Lake Toho
- $300,000 to the City of Kissimmee for an annex for the public safety training center
- $175,000 to the House of Hope for a safe-haven residential program for teens
- $250,000 to and Osceola Recovery Project
- $250,000 to City of Oviedo for its percolation pond decommissioning
- $150,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando for public safety support
- $103,835 for City of Mount Dora for drainage improvements & flood mitigation
- $100,427 to Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for hematology/oncology center
Other Budget Allocations that will Impact Central Florida
- $100M for water storage north of Lake Okeechobee
- $64.4M for schools and higher-ed construction projects
- $50M for the Governor’s Job Growth Grand Fund
- $1B Inflation Fund
- $8M to the Department of Education for a Workforce Development Funding Model
- Teacher starting salaries in public schools will be raised to $47,500
Local Ballot Referendum – Through an amendment that was added to HB921 in the final weeks of the legislative session, local government will now be prohibited from sending communications concerning an issue, referendum or amendment that is subject to a vote of the electors. A local government will still be able to post information and report on official actions of the local government’s governing body, but it must remain impartial. With numerous ballot initiatives taking place throughout the state, including school millage renewals and various proposed sales tax initiatives (including a proposed sales tax increase for much needed transportation improvements in Orange County), there will no doubt be many questions and legal reviews to ensure local governments conform with this new legislation.
Redistricting – This is a topic that probably warrants a separate summary. However, the highlights are that the legislature has redrawn the district maps for state house, state senate and congressional districts. Though the pandemic delayed the U.S. Census Bureau’s delivery of population and demographic data, the legislature was able to complete its redistricting process within the required timeframe. We can expect to see further debate and discussion in the months ahead as multiple lawsuits have already been filed in state and federal court challenging these maps. Additionally, the Governor has promised a veto of the congressional map. More to come on this topic.
Apprenticeship Tax Credit – Intended to encourage the expansion of apprenticeship programs and make them more attractive to business owners in Florida, HB 1447 would have created a tax incentive for Florida businesses who employ apprentices. Unfortunately, it failed to gain the needed support and never made it through committee.
Net Metering – This bill (SB 1024/HB741) requires customers who invest in renewable energy for their property pay the full cost of electric service in exchange for a 25 percent credit. The bill “grandfathers” those who already own renewable energy generation for the next 20 years and also applies to customers of investor-owned utilities.
Residential Projects for Affordable Housing – SB 962/ HB 981 allows cities and counties to approve affordable housing projects on any commercial or industrial property regardless of the underlying zoning or comprehensive plan restrictions.
Local Business Protection Act – This bill (SB620/HB569) allows businesses to sue local governments when they believe a city ordinance or charter provision has done damage to their business.
Public/Legal Notices – This bill (HB7049) allows governments to publish public notices online and in free newspapers instead of using traditional print media. Governments are still free to pay newspapers to publish public notices. While this legislation could save valuable tax payor dollars, newspapers around the state have objected as it will likely have a negative impact on revenue generated for these types of notices at a time when newspapers are struggling to stay relevant.
Private College & University Students – Florida’s Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) voucher program, designed to provide tuition assistance to Florida students attending independent colleges, took a hit this year, as the amount was reduced to $2,000 per-student. This was an unusual move for a state that touts school choice and had more budget dollars to allocate than ever before.
Organized Retail Theft – This bill (SB1534) stiffens penalties for those who steal multiple items from multiple stores in a short period of time. This trend in organized theft through shoplifting rings is being experienced across the country. This bill would make such theft a third-degree felony.
There is no question that this was a hyper-political legislative session given redistricting and the fact that we are in an election year. These factors led to more partisan proposals than past years. Here are a few examples of bills that dominated the headlines:
- HB5 – Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality (also known as “The Abortion Ban”) Bill
- SB524 – Election Administration (also known as the “Elections Fraud”) Bill
- HB7 – Individual Freedom (also known as “Woke Ideology”) Bill
- HB1557 – The “Parental Rights” (also known as “Don’t Say Gay”) Bill
Businesses and community leaders are being asked to take sides, weigh-in and advocate on proposed legislation more than ever. Often, they may not see a direct correlation between proposed legislation and their respective businesses or communities. Decisions on how to navigate through these debates are difficult and take time.
To read the bills that were debated this year in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, you can go to these websites and enter the bill numbers:
The narratives you hear in the news or social media are not always consistent with the reality of what is being proposed and public sound bites from both sides of the aisle often distract us from what is actually being debated and, more importantly, why.
I hope the information provided was useful. Please feel free to respond with any questions or suggestions to improve this content.
Central Florida Public Affairs