by Andrew Powell
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed all of the bills passed this week during the Florida Legislature’s special session.
The special session was called in response to several pressing issues, including communities in need of relief from recent Hurricane Idalia, increasing access to education funding for disabled children and violence that has erupted in the Middle East.
House Bill 1C sponsored by Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, provides disaster relief for the Big Bend region, which was affected by Category 3 Hurricane Idalia at the end of August.
The bill appropriates just over $416 million in total and provides a range of tax breaks and refunds sales tax on certain equipment like fencing supplies and building materials. My Safe Florida Home Program — the state’s initiative to provide roof hardening — will receive an additional $176.17 million in funding.
HB 3C sponsored by Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Auburndale, expands the number of disabled students who can access the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Beginning in the school year 2024-2025, the maximum number of students will increase annually by 3%.
The Legislature included provisions to address growing anti-Semitism in Florida after the terror group Hamas attacked Israel with terrorist raids and rockets, killing over 1,400 people.
Rep. John Snyder, R-Jupiter, sponsored HB 5C. It amends the Protecting Florida’s Investments Act, expanding the definition of a “scrutinized company” to include companies that are in business with the Iranian government and its petrochemical, energy, financial, construction, manufacturing, textile, mining, metals, shipping, shipbuilding and port sectors.
Previously, “scrutinized companies” included only oil-related and mineral-extraction activities.
The bill also forces the State Board of Administration to divest any current holdings in the Florida Retirement System’s portfolio from scrutinized companies and forbids any new investments.
HB 7C, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, amends provisions within the Nonprofit Security Grant Program which awards grants to increase security for nonprofit entities at high risk of violent attacks and hate crimes.
The bill provides $20 million in funds to implement the program, $15 million to the Department of Education to harden security measures at Jewish day schools, which will receive a further $10 million for security personnel and training.
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