Saturday, October 23, 2021

Legislators Upbeat on 2018 Session

Photo by John Fernandez Photography
From left: Representative Bob Rommel (District 106) Senator Kathleen Passidomo (District 28) and Representative Byron Donalds (District 80) provided an update on their 2018 Legislative Session.

Senator Kathleen Passidomo (District 28), Representatives Bob Rommel (District 106) and Byron Donalds (District 80) were guest speakers at the recent luncheon for the Women’s Republican Club of Naples Federated held at the Tiburon Golf Club.

Representative Bob Rommel worked the hardest on HB 249, which mandates that EMTs and paramedics report overdoses to the Florida Department of Health. He reported that in our country last year, more than 60,000 people died from drug overdoses. “Fortunately, now we are paying attention and hopefully we can get a grip on it,” Rommel said.

For the 2018 legislative session, Rommel is most proud of his contribution to the passage of SB 4, which Governor Scott signed into law. It is a broad higher education bill, which was amended to include free speech protections at the State’s public colleges and universities. The new law prohibits Florida’s public colleges and universities from quarantining student expression into small “free speech zones.” Rommel commented that, “Our public campuses were restricting free speech for conservative messages.”

For Representative Byron Donalds, 2018 was a crazy year for everybody. It started with Hurricane Irma and ended up with the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Governor Scott signed the historic “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” which raised the age to buy all firearms to 21; imposes a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases; allowed trained school workers to carry handguns; provides new mental health programs for schools; and restricts access to guns for people who show signs of mental illness or violence.

Donalds was most proud of the Hope Scholarship Program, which creates a pathway for students to transfer to a different school system or to qualify for scholarship with a private school. This will provide students who are victims of bullying, harassment and other types of violence with more choices for their education.

He expressed disappointment with the Collier County School Board’s decision to join an appeal lawsuit against the Florida House because of the School of Hope Program. Collier County School Board had already spent $50,000 in the first challenge and they lost and now have agreed to spend an additional $50,000. There is only one school in Collier County that is subject to the School of Hope Program, and that is Village Oaks Elementary School in Immokalee. Village Oaks has received a D grade the last three years, which qualifies it as a chronically failing school.

“Get involved” was Senator Kathleen Passidomo’s message, and she urged everyone to think beyond Collier County and help others who are running for office around the state. Right now the House and Senate have a republican majority but if we lose the majority in the Senate, “you guys may have to be thinking of State income taxes,” she said.

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