Dear friends,

In continuation of last month’s column, we will be bringing you some more highlights of the 2021 Legislative Session. Last month was our budget update, and this month will be a highlight of legislation that was sponsored and passed by your Senator of the 12th District. Overall, we passed thirteen bills, either as stand-alone bills or added to a larger policy package.

Our priority legislation was SB 90, relating to Election Administration was passed through both chambers and signed by Governor DeSantis shortly after Session ended. This bill addresses a number of issues related to election administration and vote-by-mail. One provision in SB 90 addresses ballot harvesting so that no person may possess a ballot other than his or her own, those of immediate family members and two other designated individuals. We have tightened up the security around drop boxes. Our bill requires that they only be used during early voting hours, and that they must be monitored, in person, at all times by staff or volunteers of our Supervisor of Elections. Also, the bill expands the timeframe for canvassing vote-by-mail ballots, providing that one vote-by-mail ballot request is good for all elections through the next regularly scheduled general election. Current law states that one request is good for all elections through the next two general elections. This change is necessary to provide voters with more flexibility to decide which method of voting they want to utilize, instead of being locked in for two cycles.

Another priority bill for us this year was HB 282, Moments of Silence in Public Schools. This legislation requires that every classroom in K-12 schools begin their day with a moment of silence. In a noisy, busy world, just think of the impact that one moment of silence might have for all of us. We want to give our young students this chance to pause and reflect, and maybe even say a prayer. Thank you to the rabbis who brought me this idea and for all the hard work they did in helping us get this passed in Florida.

One that hit home for me, personally, was the passage of SB 272, which establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council within our state. As the father of a daughter with a rare disease, I know how hard it can be to find the resources and support needed to deal with these issues. Rare diseases are defined as any disease with less than 200,000 cases nationwide. We hope that this council will be the springboard for research and ideas for families who may be struggling with rare diseases.

Finally, SB 280 requires school districts to provide basic training in first aid, including CPR, for all students in grade 9 and grade 11. Additionally, it encourages school districts to provide basic training in first aid, including CPR, for all students beginning in grade 6 and every two years thereafter to specify such instruction for students in grade 6 and grade 8. This is common sense legislation that will help save lives and we are very happy to have been able to work this through the process.

It’s honor to serve you in the Florida Senate and work on important issues like these. Thank you for sending me on your behalf.

Onward & Upward,

Senator Dennis Baxley

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