Governor Rick Scott has sealed the deal on many bills that will now affect Madison County.
From infancy to law, a bill must pass both the House and Senate (and all committees therein) before it can even land on the governor’s desk. Then, the governor must sign it to become law.
As of Monday, March 28, 238 bills had been presented to the governor, 173 of which had already been signed into law.
Veterans’ affairs were a large issue, with multiple bills in the category. This is unsurprising, considering that Florida is the state with the third-largest veteran population with 1.5 million veterans statewide. It is only behind California, with 1.8 million and Texas, with 1.6 million veterans. Madison County alone has roughly 3,000 veterans, according to Oliver Bradley, the Madison County Veterans Service Officer.
Veterans’ bills include HB 7023, HB 799 and HB 1219. All of these have been signed into law. HB-7023 allows active duty military personnel an exemption from ad valorem taxes while deployed; it was signed into law on Tuesday, March 8. HB 799 allows active duty service members who are stationed outside of Florida to receive university education at an in-state student rate; it was signed into law on Friday, March 25. HB 1219 requires state agencies to design and implement veteran recruitment plans, helping to encourage post-military jobs for veterans; it was signed into law on Thursday, March 24.
Religious freedom got a chance at a reevaluation this year, following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage. HB 43 allows pastors to refuse to serve people based on the pastor’s (and the church’s) religious beliefs. No doubt this is aimed at affirming the pastor’s right to freely practice their religion, which is already granted by the U.S. Constitution. The language is broader than just marriage, allowing a pastor to deny any and all services to any person whose beliefs are contrary to their own. While the judicial circuits may see some abuse of this broad language, many Floridians applaud the bill as a measure that helps to maintain the separation of church and state.
Social issues also got a facelift, as fresh as the produce welfare recipients can now buy. The law is HB 103, which allows Floridians to use food stamps at farmer’s markets and flea markets while purchasing local produce. This helps welfare recipients to have access to fresh, low-price produce. It also helps local farmers to sell more of their crops at market, finally putting them on equal footing with grocery stores in terms of servicing food stamps customers. This will bring money and commerce into our local economies. HB 103 was signed into law on Thursday, March 10.
Representative Halsey Beshears also won a victory in this session, getting his bill, HB 525 signed into law. HB 525 broadens the term “financially disadvantaged community” to include counties and special districts— not just municipalities. But how does this affect local citizens and communities? Before this change, Madison, Monticello, Lee and Greenville were able to apply for sewer assistance grants through this program. Now, both Jefferson County and Madison County can apply for these grants, too. HB 525 was signed into law on March 10.
For an entire list of bill actions, visit the Governor’s website at www.flgov.com, scroll down and click the gray banner labeled “2016 Bill Actions” on the right-hand side of the screen.