By Florida Senator Baxley
Keeping Each Other Safe: This week in the Florida Senate, we will be presenting a bill called The Church Protection Bill. Every week across our great state small and large communities of faith, meet to share their faith walk. As they open their arms wide to receive the troubled souls and receive offerings for their mission, they also bear responsibility for each other’s safety. We have seen these safe havens become targets for violence. This bill will empower concealed permit holders to be part of a safety team in their community of faith to prevent acts of violence becoming massacres, as we have witnessed across the nation in incidents such as Sulphur Springs, Texas and Charleston, SC. What we have learned is that if we empower law-abiding citizens to stop violent acts, they can, they will, and they have. Let us strengthen this right of Self Defense for communities of faith across Florida.
By Florida Senator Baxley
“Wreaths Across America” provided a highlight of inspiration this week as hundreds of volunteers and veterans spread out over Highland Memorial Park to place a wreath with a salute and gratitude for each fallen soldier. This is spreading all across the country at the Christmas season as we honor all those who have selflessly served, and remember them with honor and dignity.
We believe in remembering. America is strong and the world is safer when America is strong. All of these dedicated men and women, who took the oath of sacrifice for others, must be remembered. They were not policy makers. They were simply ordinary people ready to protect and serve in defense of others. Continue reading
Without a doubt, the massacre in Sutherland Springs has captured our awareness that good people trying to worship are now among those vulnerable to violence.
Churches are a safe place for the lonely and vulnerable and welcome all those who enter their doors. Yet, they have a new awareness to the responsibility they have to protect those among their congregations. We owe parishioners security and safety while they worship.
In that spirit, we intend to file the Church Protection bill which is now in drafting. This bill will allow concealed weapons permit holders to be utilized by their church officials to provide security in the event anything should happen. Many churches can’t afford elaborate professional security staff, but this bill will allow trained citizens, law enforcement officers, veterans, and sportsman to accept responsibility for the safety of themselves and others should such instances occur. Continue reading
By Senator Baxley
Floridians are finally starting to return to life as normal after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in our state for almost two weeks. Irma delivered a blow to millions of people throughout the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, leaving many left to piece their lives back together in its wake. Hurricane Irma’s furious march through Florida not only darkened millions of homes, it also flooded roads and piled them with debris, blocking off access to neighborhoods. This has presented more problems for local governments to figure out the best way to clean up and begin recovery efforts. Yet Florida, undoubtedly, has proven its resilience after Irma. Tap water is drinkable. Trash has been picked up. Public transit has slowly come back online. At airports, flights are regularly taking off. We must be grateful for the careful leadership and preparation that Governor Rick Scott and all our elected officials provided before and after the storm. Florida has never seen such widespread effects from a hurricane like this before, and were it not for the tireless efforts of so many, it could have been much worse. Continue reading
Hurricane Irma has had an unprecedented impact on our state. She has tested our emergency systems, our state leadership, our utility companies, and our commitment to our communities. The preparation engulfed the news cycle for weeks, and now the recovery will do the same. This storm has revealed character within our local and state officials and reminded many Floridians why it is so important to listen to their direction. She tested our ability to prepare and obstructed power supply and fuel supplies in a way that many had forgotten a hurricane could. She caused the cancellation of a committee week of the Florida Legislature and of school in many areas. And yet she also forced us together in amazing ways; reminding us of all those things that matter most like life, health, safety, home, family, community, service, and liberty to go meet challenges with one another. As we begin to recover in our own communities and as a state, we must remember to continue to engage in our community and help those around us that are in need. Continue reading
This is a short summer for the legislature as we will already be starting Committee Meetings next month. Already we are starting to look at new legislation and beginning to plan delegation meetings so we may hear from our constituents on their issues and ideas. Marion County will be having their Legislative Delegation Meeting on October 19th.
I have traveled a lot this summer and attended many conferences from Miami to Boston. I attended the National Conference of State Legislatures in Boston and was able to hear from Frank Luntz, one of the nation’s foremost political commentators and pollsters, about how many American’s trust their local and state officials much more than their federal counterparts. My office is always open and available to constituents for help or comment. Please do not hesitate to reach out. Continue reading
It’s a good time to be in the Sunshine State! Last month George Mason University released an evaluation they completed “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition”, and Florida came out on top! Florida’s No. 1 ranking ends Alaska’s three-year reign atop the leaderboard.
We work hard in the Legislature to ensure that Florida remains fiscally sound. That is our first responsibility to our constituents and all Floridians. If our state is not fiscally sound, all the rest of our goals and endeavors in Florida are put in jeopardy.
The group ranked Florida as the state with the strongest fiscal condition based on data collected from each state’s most recent audited comprehensive annual financial report. For the ranking, each state was evaluated on the amount of cash it had on hand as well as its budget solvency, long-run solvency, service-level solvency and trust-fund solvency. Continue reading
Florida lawmakers filed more than 3,000 bills in 2017 and fewer than 250 passed both chambers of the Legislature before it adjourned its annual session. I filed 39 bills this session. Of those, 8 passed both chambers in their entirety, a few others were passed with language in other larger bills.
We passed SB 312 this year which will require state, county, municipal, or other law enforcement agencies that conduct lineups to follow specified procedures. This provision will minimize cases of misidentification and strengthen cases that have used best practices. The Governor signed this into law on June 14th.
I was able to pass SB 436 this year, which will protect all students and school personnel in their choice of religious expression. This legislation makes it clear that the Legislature supports the constitutional rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion for everyone associated with our public school system. This bill protects the expression of all religious beliefs, and protects a student’s decision not to express any religion. The Governor signed this bill into law on June 9th. Continue reading
The 2017 Legislative Session has come to an end! We have worked hard to secure good policy for our constituents and the people of Florida. During our time in Tallahassee this year, some big issues were addressed: tax cuts, increased homestead exemption, more clarity on our self-defense and religious freedom rights, and increased funding for bright futures and higher education institutions.
This year, the legislature passed $180 million in broad based tax-cuts for Floridians. This includes a three day back to school sales tax holiday, a reduction to the business rent tax, a disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, and the elimination of sales tax on feminine products.
A bill was also passed that will provide significant tax savings for homeowners across Florida. The increased homestead exemption bill will proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to provide an additional homestead exemption of $25,000. Homestead property owners will receive an exemption from ad valorem taxes, except levies by school districts, for the assessed valuation greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000. If approved by Florida voters in November 2018, the amendment will take effect January 1, 2019. Continue reading
We are closing in on the finish line of the 2017 Legislative Session. We have worked this session to better our state and its residents, and to protect faith, family, freedom, and opportunity.
This session, The Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 10, authorizing a significant increase in southern water storage to further the goal of reducing, and eventually eliminating, harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee. This bill dramatically expands southern storage by leveraging existing water infrastructure, and utilizing a combination of state, local, and private land, in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private landowners.
We also passed Senate Bill 374, the College Competitiveness Act of 2017. This legislation will further elevate Florida’s nationally ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission, which is promoting on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state. Continue reading