Florida Retail Federation backs Kathleen Passidomo for re-election

Florida Politics

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On Tuesday, the Florida Retail Federation announced its endorsement of Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo for a second term in Senate District 28.

“Senator Passidomo has been a true champion for retail by helping ensure Floridians are prepared in the event of a disaster, working towards tort reform, providing more than $150 million in tax relief for Florida families and having the best interests of the state’s businesses at heart,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re eager to continue working with Senator Passidomo on identifying ways to support retailers, families and our industry going forward.”

The retail trade group specifically lauded Passidomo for sponsoring the 2018 bill creating the recent disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, which cut the sales tax off items including batteries, flashlights, tarps, generators and other hurricane prep supplies.

Passidomo was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving three terms in the House. She faces Democrat Annisa Karim in fall 2018.

As of May 31, Passidomo had raised nearly $280,000 for her re-election campaign and had $211,563 cash on hand. She has another $325,000 banked in her affiliated political committee, Working Together for Florida.

Karim has raised $2,135 since entering the race on May 22. She has about $2,000 on hand.

SD 28 is a safe Republican. In 2016, Passidomo only faced a write-in challenger, and her district voted plus-23 for Donald Trump.

 

Passidomo, other lawmakers jump in after FHSAA won’t mandate ice tubs for heat stroke

News Press

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The Florida High School Athletic Association may get what it asked for after reiterating Tuesday that it will only mandate basic life-saving equipment in case of heat stroke if told to do so by lawmakers.

Florida Sen. Kathleen Passidomo of Naples said she’ll begin working on legislation to mandate access to ice tubs in cases of heat stroke after the state agency voted not to require the standard equipment or special thermometers that measure heat stress.

“I’m going to sit down over the summer and see if I can work with the association so that we can craft a bill that works for everyone and accomplishes our goal of making sure students aren’t going to die from heat stroke,” Passidomo said. “It’s important that we work together.”

June 6: FHSAA refusing to change stance on heat illness safety equipment

April 30: FHSAA mandates heatstroke training for coaches, athletes; tables ice tub vote

April 27: FHSAA draws medical rebuke, legislative attention for heat safety agenda

Passidomo may already have legislative help.

Robert Sefcik, a member of the FHSAA’s 15-person Sports Medicine Advisory Committee that first recommended in late January that the state agency mandate the safety items, said two other state senators also support mandating the equipment.

“We’re going to continue fighting,” said Sefcik, executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program. “I do feel we are more aligned than we were previously.”

Despite medical and public ridicule that has reached beyond state borders, the FHSAA held to its previous position at Tuesday’s board of directors meeting in Gainesville.

It voted, although not unanimously, only to “strongly recommend” the use of what are known as wet-bulb globe thermometers and ice tubs, which are already widely used for exercise recovery reasons.

After the board delayed its first vote in late April, FHSAA leadership reiterated Tuesday its original lines of thinking: that a mandate might expose the agency to greater legal liability, and that such a mandate is the domain of the state Legislature.

“It’s really a failure of responsibility,” said Douglas Casa, head of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on exertional heat stroke.

“How many deaths do we still have to have? The most ludicrous thing in the world is that a school can support the cost of all the things to have an athletic program. But we’re not going to make the suggestion that they should have an immersion tub if a person should happen to have heat stroke in Florida in August playing in football gear?”

Florida leads the nation in deaths of high school athletes from exertional heat stroke, according to the Stringer Institute, named for the late NFL offensive lineman killed by heat stroke in 2001.

Nationwide, an average of three football players die every year from heat stroke at all age levels, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

That’s despite a “100 percent” survival rate when a person suffering heat stroke – the most severe heat illness, when core temperatures hit 104 degrees – is immersed in cold water within 5-10 minutes.

Outgoing FHSAA board president Frank Prendergast, athletic director at Lake Highland Prep in Orlando, and FHSAA staff attorney Leonard Ireland spoke along similar lines from past meetings.

They have questioned how the FHSAA would enforce usage, wondered about costs and implementation for overburdended coaches and administrators and argued that a mandate would be akin to expecting coaches to serve as medical personnel.

But Casa and others cited the FHSAA’s reason for existence – overseeing high school sports – and the many safety and medical rules and training the agency already requires without any legislative mandate.

In late April in fact, the FHSAA mandated that 30-minute online courses on heat safety education be added to other instructional requirements in place for coaches and athletes, such as on concussions.

“The coaches are always going to be the first line of first-aid defense when there’s not an athletic trainer there,” said Casa, pointing to cardiac arrest or other medical events.

“The adult there is always the responsible party. I completely disagree that heat stroke is something a coach would not get involved with but a cardiac event they would.

“The bottom line is (Florida) eventually is going to get this, whether through legislation or a rash of deaths, and they approve it under pressure. Hopefully we don’t lose more kids this summer.”

Laurie Martin Giordano, whose son, Zach Martin Polsenberg, died of heat stroke after collapsing at Riverdale High School football practice almost a year ago, said she still has not gotten an answer on how enforcing heat stroke policies would be any different from enforcing countless other FHSAA policies.

“Why wouldn’t this be policed the same way the others are?” said Martin Giordano, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “The manual is over 100 pages long. How do they police all that? They don’t go to each school and talk to each coach.

Left completely untouched by the FHSAA in all of this is that almost none of its policies apply outside the school year, meaning there is no heat safety coverage in the summer.

The medical advisory committee in late January also recommended that the FHSAA apply its heat safety policies to summer months, which are left almost entirely in the hands of individual schools and districts.

“We know the primary months for heat stroke, especially in our region, are July, August and September,” Sefcik said. “That’s something we’re going to continue to be aggressive with and work together with the board and make sure that comes up with their language.”

Private beach in Naples? People went down that road before

Former Naples Police Chief Gary Young recalls writing a ticket to a fellow driving recklessly in a Jeep.

“We gave him a ticket for speeding on Gulf Street and it held up,” Young, now 81, recalled.

Not much of an anecdote, until Young explains that Gulf Street wasn’t really a street at all. It was the Naples beach.

Early plat maps of Naples dating back more than 80 years show a public street west of the homes on Gulf Shore Boulevard.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when Young was with the NPD, it was common for beachfront property owners to call the cops to have them chase sunbathers off “their” beach.

 

A 1938 plat map of Naples shows Gulf Street west of the properties abutting the beach. The existence of the street bolsters the case that the beach is Naples is open to the public.

It was just as common for the cops to point to the existence of Gulf Street, which was marked on a map that hung in the police station.

“Most of them had been told, when they bought their lots, their property ran all the way down to the water. They were very disappointed when it didn’t,” Young said.

Stories, maps and old photos may be the key to preserving public access to Naples’ and Collier County’s signature tourism draw.

On Wednesday, the City Council passed an ordinance intended to bolster public access to the beach, but even City Attorney Robert Pritt acknowledged it’s no guarantee a Gulf-front property owner won’t stake a claim to more of the beach.

At the root of the matter is the premise that waterfront owners own the sand down to the high tide line, which means at high tide there would be no public beach.

Offsetting that claim is the concept of “customary use.” If someone can show that the public has been using the dry sand portion of the beach over a period of years, it is considered public, under the customary-use doctrine.

Until now, a city council or county commission could declare an area to be in the customary-use category. A new state law to take effect July 1 says that only a court, not an elected council or commission, can make that determination.

State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples resident who sponsored the bill, argues that declaring part of the beach to be public under customary use is like declaring a piece of inland property is needed for a new road. The government might have a legitimate need for the property, but a judge, not a political body, should be the one weighing the evidence and making the determination, she wrote in an April guest editorial in the Naples Daily News.

Unlike the eminent domain process used for roads and other public needs, the government does not have to pay property owners for land taken through customary use.

That’s because, under English common law, the customary use is considered to date back to ancient times.

“It goes back to the Indians and the Spanish, who used the beach to traverse. It was the only way to get around,” Passidomo said.

Pritt said he’ll suggest the city begin compiling evidence of public use of as much as the beach as possible in case the city is ever taken to court over its customary-use stance.

“Maps, old photographs showing Grandma in the 1950s was out on the beach, aerials. I’ll propose we might want to start doing that inventory. Those are the types of things that will be helpful, you bet.” he said.

There could be as many court cases as there are beachfront properties, Pritt speculated, since customary use will vary from one parcel to the next.

An aggrieved person who feels they’ve been unfairly told to leave a beach could file suit. As could a landowner who believes the public is encroaching on private property. As could a municipality looking to secure access for people at large.

Or, everyone could just keep on as they have been with a minimum of rancor. Pritt says he expects the former, rather than the latter.

“I fully expect an onslaught of private property owners trying to rope off their properties. You can imagine an inundation (of lawsuits),” he said.

In addition to the past use of the beach and its status as a public street in the city, the beach in Collier County also benefits from being the regular recipient of taxpayer-funded renourishment. With the exception of Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park and a stretch of beach north of Gordon Pass, nearly all of the Collier County beach has been renourished at one time or another over the past 20 years.

The private property line on a renourished beach changes from the mean high tide line to what is called the erosion control line. It’s difficult to plot, but Pritt said using the erosion control line as the standard generally results in more public beach.

Passidomo said regular renourishment means the law will have minimal impact here.

“This hasn’t been an issue in Collier County, which places a priority on beach renourishment to ensure there is an abundance of publicly owned property between the mean high tide line and private property,” she wrote.

Passidomo says the new law is widely misunderstood.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years. I would never, ever take away public access to the beach. I go to the beach,” she said.

Determining exactly where private property ends and public property begins has always been a challenge, dating back to at least Young’s time on the Naples police force — a time memorialized in his memoir, “I’m Peddlin’ As Fast As I Can.”

After explaining the rules to owners, “They’d say, ‘Show me where the line is.’

“I’d say, ‘Partner, I can’t do that,’ ” Young said.

Florida Chamber: Sen. Kathleen Passidomo Is 2018 Most Valuable Legislator

Sunshine State News

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce has named Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, the 2018 Most Valuable Legislator (MVL), for her commitment to securing Florida’s future. The announcement and presentation of the MVL was made during the Florida Chamber’s Board of Directors Thursday morning meeting taking place in Palm Bay.

The Florida Chamber’s Most Valuable Legislator award is the business community’s premier legislative award honoring a single lawmaker for his or her outstanding legislative leadership and willingness to take a stand for free enterprise.

“Early during the 2018 legislative process, the Florida Chamber encouraged lawmakers to lower the cost of living, lower the cost of doing business and move Florida forward by putting long-solutions ahead of short-term politics,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Chamber. “The Florida Chamber applauds Senator Kathleen Passidomo for her hard work and leadership on behalf of Florida’s families and businesses.”

A small-business woman, Sen. Passidomo has long been a fearless and effective partner in the Florida Chamber’s fight for free enterprise, says the Chamber in its press statement. As the torch bearer of multiple Florida Chamber-backed priorities this session, she attracted bipartisan support for pro-jobs legislation, took well-funded special interests head-on for Florida’s future job creators, and successfully sought to keep Florida’s dismal, bottom-five legal climate from getting worse. Florida needs more public servants who wake up every day thinking about how to make Florida more competitive—regardless of the opponent or political consequences.

“I am truly humbled to be recognized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as their 2018 Most Valuable Legislator,” said Passidomo in accepting the award. “It is an incredible honor to receive this prestigious award. Legislative change doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes hard work, perseverance and collaborative effort. Working together with the Florida Chamber team, we have been able to advance policies that will have a lasting positive effect on Florida’s families and our business community.”

Previous recipients of the Florida Chamber’s Most Valuable Legislator award include: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (2016), House Speaker Will Weatherford (2014), Rep. Larry Metz (2013), House Speaker Dean Cannon (2012), Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (2011), Sen. John Thrasher (2010), Sen. Garrett Richter (2009), Rep. Dennis Ross (2008), Rep. Stan Mayfield (2007), Rep. Don Brown (2006) and House Speaker Allan Bense (2005).

Also Thursday morning, the Florida Chamber released its annual publication How They Voted — which provides the grades for all 155 legislators so business leaders can see who voted for or against job creation and economic growth.

Legislators give low-down on last session at Naples Chamber breakfast

Naples Daily News

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State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, gave her take on the latest legislative session to her “peeps.”

She was joined by Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel, of Naples, who discussed some of the issues and results of the 2018 legislative session Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce at Hilton Naples.

The annual event drew a packed house of more than 100 business, government and community leaders.

The No. 1 issue in the session became recovery from Hurricane Irma, Passidomo said. The state, she said, doled out $600 million to deal with the powerful storm’s aftereffects.

“Hopefully, we’ll get that back from FEMA,” Passidomo said. “Nobody knows.”

As a result of the storm, the way nursing homes and other senior facilities prepare for hurricanes and deal with their aftermath became a “big deal,” she said. Nursing home residents died following power outages that knocked out air-conditioning for days in sweltering heat in South Florida.

Another top issue heading into the session was the opioid crisis. Then there was the school shooting at a Florida high school in Parkland on Feb. 14, which brought school safety to the forefront, Passidomo said.

“Everything else went through the window,” she said.

The No. 1 success of the session was passing a $400 million bipartisan school safety bill, signed by the governor, Passidomo said.

“I will never apologize for voting for that bill,” she said.

Passidomo said she and other legislators took a lot of heat for the bill. She said she received volumes of letters and emails, criticizing her, insulting her and calling her names for supporting it.

“I know that was a very good bill because nobody likes it,” Passidomo said.

The measure — dubbed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” — made significant changes to gun laws and school security and increased funding for mental health treatment. It was vehemently opposed by the National Rifle Association, which filed a lawsuit the same day the governor signed it into action.

Fewer than 200 bills passed both chambers last session. Normally, the count is closer to 250, but this year was different because of the big issues on the table, such as school safety and the opioid epidemic, Passidomo said.

“It was a very good session,” she said. “I’m proud of what we did.”

Donalds said it was “great to be home,” although he missed getting anywhere he needed to be in 5 to 10 minutes like he does in Tallahassee. The second-term lawmaker took more of a leadership role this year on issues such as education and health quality.

Donalds served as vice chairman of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, putting him in the media spotlight and requiring him to work more closely with legislative staff on crafting bills.

One of Donalds’ priorities was House Bill 1, which he proposed to provide state scholarships, or vouchers, to private schools for students bullied in public schools. The “Hope Scholarship” program became part of a major K-12 education bill, which passed both houses and was signed by the governor.

“It’s a tremendous honor to run a top priority,” he said.

Donalds touched on the importance of building relationships in the Legislature to get work done for all Floridians.

Southwest Florida has strong leaders in Tallahassee, Rommel said, including Passidomo, who he said could be the “future Senate president.”

Rommel served as vice chairman of the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee, as well as serving on several other committees. He said he hoped to make headway on such issues as workers’ compensation reform and tort reform, but like others got caught up in dealing with the opioid and school safety concerns.

Rommel discussed a bill he championed in the 2017 session that changed the law to allow college and university officials to meet privately to discuss plans to deal with potential terrorist attacks, public safety crisis, and other campus emergencies — and the importance of that legislation after the Parkland shooting.

The state’s budget for next year totals more than $88 billion. It includes $97 million in one-time tax cuts — mostly sales tax holidays — which Rommel said he was “pretty proud of.”

While the state’s budget seems huge, Passidomo said it’s half the size of New York’s. Most of the budget in Florida goes toward education and health care, she said, with about 25 percent of it steered toward public safety, infrastructure, environmental spending and government operations.

The number of state employees per capita in Florida is among the lowest in the country, Passidomo said.

“We really don’t have a lot of discretionary funds to use,” she said.

Donalds said the state’s growing budget has much to do with a growing population, which means higher costs for health care and a greater number of students in public schools.

In closing Passidomo briefly addressed another controversial issue involving beach access and property rights.

A bill that passed both houses and was signed into law by the governor restricts local government’s ability to pass customary-use ordinances designed to ensure public access to private beaches. A judge now will decide whether the public can walk or sun themselves on privately owned sand.

The sand below the high tide line always is open to walking, fishing and other beach activities. Anything landward could be private property.

In passing the law, Passidomo said the legislature was “just trying to do the right thing.”

The new law won’t have as much of an impact in Collier County as it will on Walton County, between Pensacola and Panama City in the Panhandle, which enacted a customary-use ordinance allowing visitors to walk, sunbathe and picnic on private beaches a year ago.

“We renourish our beaches,” Passidomo said. “So you definitely have a lot of space to walk on.”

Passidomo: We are not restricting your access to beaches

News Press

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While I worked on many complex bills during the recently concluded legislative session, few seem to be as misunderstood as House Bill 631/Senate Bill 804: Possession of Real Property (commonly known as customary use) signed by Gov. Rick Scott on March 23.

Some people have been led to believe that this bill restricts access to Florida’s beaches. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Florida Constitution provides that all land seaward of the mean high-tide line belongs to the public. No private individual or governmental entity can deny access to it.
In many cases, additional land above the mean high-tide line is also public, providing the wide public beaches that many of us enjoy.

Adjacent to this public land there may be privately owned property, and while it may appear indistinguishable as just more sand, that land may have been privately owned for years. Development and building permit approvals, collection of impact fees and real estate taxes all serve as documentation local governments have acknowledged private ownership and the recorded boundaries of these private properties adjacent to the public beach.

Nevertheless, in certain instances, such as when the beach has eroded to the point that there is no publicly owned “dry sand” left for the public to enjoy, it may be necessary to enlarge the public beach into adjacent private property (this hasn’t been an issue in Collier County, which places a priority on beach renourishment to ensure there is an abundance of publicly owned property between the mean high-tide line and private property).

Unfortunately, some local governments have appropriated portions of private property adjacent to the public beach by merely passing a local “customary use” ordinance. Customary use is a common law judicial doctrine that provides for the recreational use of privately owned land by the public if the recreational use has been “ancient, reasonable, without interruption, and free from dispute.”

Even when a public benefit results, private property should never be “taken” through the creation of a local ordinance, nor should the state be allowed to make such a determination by statute.

State and local governments are both political bodies that are subject to political pressures and aren’t held to the same due process standards as the courts when making decisions about private property rights.

The courts are nonpolitical, nonpartisan objective bodies that are required to take testimony, listen to expert witnesses, and weigh that testimony to make impartial decisions based on legal precedent of what portions of private property adjacent to our beaches should be open to the public under the judicial doctrine of “customary use.”

We wouldn’t find it acceptable for a local government to merely pass a local ordinance allowing for the “taking” of private property to build a road. Instead, we require the local government to prove in a court of law that the taking is necessary and in the public interest.

Additionally, the owner of that property has an opportunity to present evidence and testimony to back up any opposing positions. After hearing the testimony of all parties and weighing the evidence, the court, as the neutral third party, makes the decision.

By the same token, a local government should also be required to establish through the courts the necessity of taking private property adjacent to the beach for public recreational use.

This bill only serves to establish a simple and equitable process by which local governments may seek a judicial determination of customary use that certain private property adjacent to the public beach should be open to the public.

Dorothy Hukill, Kathleen Passidomo recognized for roles in insurance debate

Florida Politics

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Sens. Dorothy Hukill and Kathleen Passidomo are the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida’s Legislative Champions for 2018.

The organization recognized the pair “for work on issues impacting Florida insurance consumers” during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“The consumer protections that did occur this year would not have been possible without the initiative of these lawmakers,” PIFF President Michael Carlson said in a written statement.

“Sen. Passidomo worked to protect a competitive auto market in Florida by thwarting attempts to throw all auto crash claims into courthouses,” he said.

“Sen. Hukill acted on behalf of consumers, working to protect them from paying higher rates driven by inflated property insurance claims involving water and roofing losses. We are grateful for their support in tackling problems taking place in the insurance market, and have seen the prevention of further harm with their leadership.”

The PIFF Policy Group, comprising representatives of Allstate Insurance Cos., Farmers Insurance, the Progressive Group of Insurance Cos., and State Farm Insurance Co., voted to bestow the honor.

PIFF cited Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange, for supporting the priorities of the Consumer Protection Coalition — a Florida Chamber of Commerce-led business coalition in which PIFF participates, including assignment of benefits reform.

“Although her bill, SB 62, was never heard in committee, it served as a vehicle for real ‘silver bullet’ solutions to stop the rampant AOB abuse in Florida. While a solution is still needed, no further harm was done this year,” the federation said.

“I am honored to be recognized for consumer-focused efforts, and consider it my duty to advocate for policies that protect Floridians,” Hukill said. “I will continue to work toward a solution that ensures when families are in an auto or home crisis they are protected, and the AOB process is transparent and held accountable.”

Passidomo, a Naples Republican, sponsored amendments the federation credited with helping to sink legislation (SB 150) that would have repealed Florida’s personal injury protection auto-insurance mandate. Her proposals would have made it tougher to sue insurers for bad faith.

“I am humbled to be recognized with my good friend, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, for our shared concerns of constituents and consumers throughout the State of Florida,” Passidomo said.

PIFF identified eight legislators in 2017, the first year it recognized Legislative Champions.

 

Sen. Passidomo proposes mental health assistance bill for public schools

Tallahassee Democrat

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Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is pushing for a system that would help Florida school districts spot and treat mental illness in students early on.

The senator has been working on the proposal, included in SB 1434, since last fall. It comes amid a national dialogue about the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High tragedy and what could have been done to prevent it.

“Different districts have different responses to students that are either acting out or having issues,” she said, “but we don’t really have a statewide policy.”

Introduced by Passidomo and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K through 12 Education, it would require school districts to establish partnerships with local mental health providers and train school staff to recognize symptoms in troubled kids.

Passidomo held workshops with school superintendents from around the state and discussed what social issues are of concern in their districts; substance abuse and mental health were among the top concerns.

She explained the program is meant to help divert kids from going down a dangerous path by recognizing symptoms early on and getting them help.

“We don’t have a mechanism to divert them from that path,” she said. “Teachers know who these kids are, but they’re powerless to do anything because we don’t have a structure in place.”

This week, she heard from student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre who came to the Capitol to press legislators for stiffer gun restrictions.

“I don’t think there’s anyone that would dispute that someone (who) has a mental illness or mental health issues should be able to purchase any gun,” Passidomo said, replying to one student’s question.

Sen. Passidomo Pushes For More Funding of Schools’ Mental Health Initiative

WGCU

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As South Florida reels from Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school, State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is working to secure funding for Florida school districts to better identify and address mental health concerns in students early on.

Unbeknownst to Sen. Passidomo, as she was presenting her bill (SB 1434) to members of the chamber’s K through 12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Wednesday, the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland was occurring.

The proposal calls for districts to create a plan or framework for identifying and addressing mental health concerns in students ranging from bullying to gang activity.  Those plans would also involve partnerships between schools and local mental health providers.  The idea was born out of workshops Passidomo held with education stakeholders including Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie.  Sen. Passidomo said it’s about providing the kind of proactive early intervention that could help prevent tragedies like Wednesday’s mass shooting.

“We need to address these issues early on,” said Sen. Passidomo.  “I can’t say anymore.  The thing that’s most troubling to me is that Florida is one of the worst states in the country for funding for mental health and so these kinds of things have happened and if we could intervene early on in the lives of these people they won’t become monsters that they are today.  It’s reprehensible if we don’t do something soon.”

Currently, the Florida Senate’s approved $87.3 billion budget proposal includes $40 million for the initiative.  Passidomo said that is not enough.  She said she’s working to convince her Senate colleagues and the House to allocate more money for the effort in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

Panel OKs bill requiring extra power sources for nursing homes

Sun Sentinel

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Nursing homes would have to have alternative power sources to keep on the air conditioning, under a bill approved by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The bill would put into law the emergency rules ordered by Gov. Rick Scott after 12 elderly residents in Hollywood died of heat after Hurricane Irma knocked out power at their nursing home.

Scott’s rules initially required generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that could power air conditioning in the event of a loss of power. But they were rewritten after threats of legal action from trade groups representing nursing homes and ALFs. They argued that many small assisted living facilities could not afford the industrial generators required.

The new, rewritten rules — and the bill approved Wednesday — do not require a generator. Instead, they require some alternative power source to run air conditioning in emergency situations.

“You can call it a generator bill, but it may not be a generator. It could be natural gas or it could be some other power source,” said state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, the bill sponsor. “And that makes sense — 10 years from now, generators may be passé and we may be solar or whatever.”

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed the bill unanimously. It still has to be heard by two committees before it reaches the Senate floor. Although there are a dozen bills relating to nursing home generators filed in the Florida Legislature, none has had a committee hearing in the House.

“I think his committee bill is going to be much broader and take into consideration a lot more than just the nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Passidomo said.

The bill differs in one important aspect from Scott’s rules, in that it requires nursing homes and ALFs to keep at least four days of fuel for an emergency power source. Scott’s rules only require four days of fuel for facilities that are in an area where a state of emergency has been declared. In ordinary circumstances, under Scott’s rules, the facilities only need two or three days, depending on the size of the facility.

If the House produces a broader bill, the two chambers will have to agree on a single version of the bill before they can pass it and send it to Scott to be signed into law. Regardless of what else winds up in the bill, Passidomo said the bottom line is preventing more deaths.

“It shouldn’t have happened then, and we certainly don’t want it to happen in the future,” she said. “If these power sources work, then we won’t have any deaths.”