FLORIDA — Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has a lot on her plate as she works to repair her Naples home that was damaged by Hurricane Ian last fall, and joins her fellow senators with a full schedule of bills making their way through both chambers.
Passidomo has her own priorities top of mind, but she’s also working very closely with House Speaker Paul Renner on issues of prime concern for lawmakers. In addition, the senate president is working with Governor Ron DeSantis’ office on multiple pieces of key legislation proposed by the governor.
“We’re working hand and glove with the governor and his staff on issues from paycheck protection to protecting children and a myriad of other issues, including the immigration issue that he is so steady on,” Kathleen Passidomo told The Florida Standard.
The state of Florida has struggled with workforce housing, especially along the coast, for decades. “The overarching concern of businesses is finding workers,” says Passidomo.
But many workers earning a decent wage have struggled to find affordable housing in the vicinity of their jobs.
“A family of four making a decent wage of $96,000 per year cannot afford to live along the coast anymore,” said Passidomo. “We’re looking for ways to incentivize local governments and developers to create housing that is affordable for the ‘missing middle’ – a term we created.”
The “Live Local” legislation making its way through committee would open up new, creative ways to supply housing for workers making a decent wage, including a plan to use now-defunct strip mall properties in local municipalities to develop rental apartments.
EXPANSION OF THE WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
Protecting Florida’s natural resources is something that Passidomo says she’s passionate about because it’s a responsibility we all share, regardless of political party affiliation. Millions of acres have been protected through the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and essential farmland will remain fruitful and protected from development under the expansion.
“There is no downside to the preservation of Florida’s natural beauty and natural resources the way we are contemplating it,” says Passidomo.
The center of the state has always been where farming and ranching take place, providing Floridians with fresh fruit and vegetables year-round due to the tropical climate. Passidomo says Florida farmers also produce vegetables for the entire eastern seaboard during the winter months. She said she fully supports the governor’s plan to protect those wild acres for future generations.
While DeSantis has proposed a substantial budget that totals $114.8 billion, including a healthy reserve exceeding $15 billion, lawmakers in both chambers are drafting their own budgets and looking closely at the governor’s priorities.
Tax holidays and permanent relief on certain state sales tax is something Passidomo says comes at the right time for Floridians, who are facing the highest inflation in more than two decades. Some are struggling to pay for basic necessities.
“While we are taking in all this money, we can give it back to Floridians. But we can’t keep giving back what we don’t take in, so it was smart of the governor to make some of this temporary,” says Passidomo.
Investing in education, keeping our communities safe, and protecting Florida’s natural beauty are also top priorities from the executive branch Passidomo says she supports.
A very simple concept that Passidomo says is embedded in Speaker Paul Renner’s universal school choice bill (HB 1) is that “the money follows the student.” Passidomo agrees with Renner that parents should have a right to decide where their children should be educated.
Critics of the bill argue that local public schools will lose funding. Passidomo says that schools have always received funding based on the number of students in attendance.
“I’ve heard that public schools have regulatory burdens placed on them that private and charter schools do not, especially regarding building requirements,” says Passidomo. “We’re looking into deregulating some of that so that public schools have less of that burden placed on them and they can focus on teaching core subjects like reading and math.”
Conservative groups have been calling for stricter abortion laws now that both the House and Senate have supermajorities. Passidomo says she’s been on record that she is comfortable with a 12-week abortion ban with certain exceptions, such as rape and incest.
The only current legislation filed on abortion is by Democrats who want to make access to abortion even easier. But Passidomo says we’ll likely see legislation introduced by Republicans this session in both the House and Senate.
Passidomo says she supports the tort reforms making their way through the legislature because consumers need to be able to file valid lawsuits when necessary, but it should not be easy for unscrupulous attorneys to take advantage of injured individuals.
“A lot of these lawsuits are filed solely for the purpose of generating attorneys fees,” Passidomo tells The Florida Standard. The Senate filed its version (SB 837) on tort reform Thursday.
Lawmakers held a special session late last year to address the feeble property insurance market. When asked if consumers will find relief from skyrocketing property insurance premiums and whether legislative measures went far enough, Passidomo says we’ll know in time.
“It was a robust piece of legislation. The devil will now be in the details. We’ve put tools in the toolbox for the industry to utilize to come back into the state and write affordable policies,” Passidomo told The Florida Standard.
“If the insurance companies do not reduce their rates after these provisions take effect, I will be here, and there will be hell to pay,” says Passidomo.