It feels great to be home! The past few months in our State Capitol has again reminded me of the blessing and honor it is to be able to represent hardworking, salt of the earth people in Senate District 12. I thank you for the privilege of letting me work alongside of you to protect freedom and liberty. With the 2019 legislative session officially ending on May 4th, I felt that it might be good to share with you a few of the big highlights from our work in Tallahassee.
The first big accomplishment was that we killed a lot of bad bills! Out of the 2500+ bills that were filed, less than 200 actually made it all the way through the House and Senate, and Governor DeSantis has already vetoed a few of those. Did some good pieces of legislation die with those? Sure. We didn’t get everything that we wanted but it has been my experience that the more bills that pass, and the more government messes in our lives, the less freedom we have. So, I am very pleased to see that this process is working, and that every decision we make is met with careful inspection and reflection. This process isn’t always pretty, but our country’s great experiment is still the best in the world.
I was very proud of some of the work that the Florida Senate did with workforce education (SB 770, by Sen. Hutson). Recognizing the demand we have for a skilled workforce, we created a new high school graduation pathway that allows students to gain work experience and master a skill, through apprenticeships and other work related programs while gaining a conventional education. Your Senator was also able to fill a big need in District 12 by obtaining $500,000 in funding for the Elevate Lake program. This construction academy in Lake County will produce 140 high school students per year, who, upon program completion, will obtain industry certification, advanced trade school training and will prepare them for direct employment in high wage construction careers.
Florida continues to be strong financially. This year, we passed the 2019 Tax Package which delivers broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state. In total, the bill provides approximately $121 million in tax relief. All while increasing per student funding by $242, which will bring the per pupil funding up to a record high $7,672 per student. Overall, the Florida Senate invested nearly $35 billion in our state’s education system. This investment means that school districts now have an additional $364 million in flexible spending that can be used for teacher pay raises or other district needs.
As Chair of Ethics & Elections, I was very pleased of what we accomplished through SB 7066 in protecting the integrity of our elections process. We worked very closely with our Supervisors of Elections on correcting some things that will help them run more effectively and deliver timely results. As a father to blind son, I was very proud of the fact that we were able to implement voting machines for blind people to interface privately and personally with the ballot. This gives them more freedom and independence to exercise their voting rights at the polling places. That’s a major win for me, and for my son, Jeff.
We are very blessed, there are a lot of people in other states looking at Florida, wishing that they could be in our position. Again, thank you for letting me serve you in the Florida Senate.