Protecting Taxpayer Dollars
Kathleen knows that government must live within its means just like everyone else, which is why she has voted to cut over $6 billion in spending to balance Florida’s budget each year. She has voted to cut taxes by over $1 billion and return that money to Florida taxpayers while putting over $9 billion in reserves. That commitment to fiscal responsibility has resulted in Florida being upgraded to the highest-possible AAA bond rating.
This past session, Kathleen continued to fight for broad-based tax relief to families and businesses across the state, resulting in $168.6 million in tax relief. She sponsored a “disaster preparedness” tax-free holiday to give Floridians tax relief when purchasing hurricane supplies vital to ensuring the safety of Floridians and their property (SB 620, HB 7087).
Reducing Regulations & Creating Jobs
As State Senator, Kathleen has worked hard to get our friends and neighbors back to work. She has successfully fought to protect businesses and professionals from frivolous lawsuits, allowing them to grow and hire more Floridians. In 2013, Kathleen successfully sponsored HB 575, protecting design professionals from being personally sued while working as employees of a company. She has voted to cut over 270 burdensome regulations and get government out of the way, and it has worked. Since December 2010, Florida businesses have created 1,397,400 private-sector jobs, and Florida’s job growth has outpaced the Nation’s for nearly five and a half years.
In 2018, Kathleen received the “Most Valuable Legislator Award” from the Florida Chamber of Commerce to honor her outstanding legislative leadership and continued support of free enterprise. Kathleen was also named a 2018 Champion for Business by the Associated Industries of Florida.
Safeguarding Our Seniors
Kathleen has been an effective and tireless advocate for Florida’s seniors. She has successfully sponsored legislation cracking down on fraud against seniors and holding their guardians accountable (2014, HB 409). Because of Kathleen’s efforts, scammers can no longer hide behind loopholes in the law, and Clerks of Court may audit adult guardianship accounts to ensure that legal guardians do not take advantage of those they’ve sworn to protect (2014, HB 635). For many seniors, transitioning into a retirement community isn’t as simple as selling their home and moving.
In 2018, Kathleen sponsored and passed legislation in the State Senate to further improve protections against elder abuse by providing a quick, inexpensive mechanism for the temporary freezing of the assets of a vulnerable adult to prevent exploiters from emptying the bank accounts of our most vulnerable citizens (2018, SB 1562). Kathleen also advocated for legislation to require nursing homes to acquire an alternative power source to ensure safe temperatures are maintained for all of the facility’s residents and to require facilities to implement policies to ensure residents do not suffer from heat exposure (2018, HB 7099).
Kathleen has been a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and has stood up for the rights of lawful firearm owners. Kathleen voted to ban local governments from infringing on 2nd Amendment rights (2011, HB 45), and voted to protect the rights of gun owners complying with mandatory evacuations (2015, SB90). In 2018, Kathleen helped pass the School Safety Act to make it harder for mentally ill individuals to purchase a firearm.
Kathleen is committed to ensuring access to quality and affordable healthcare for all Floridians, but not by expanding broken systems such as Medicaid and Obamacare that rely on borrowed Federal dollars. Kathleen voted against expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, favoring a Florida-based solution that protects future generations of taxpayers from being on the hook for billions of dollars.
Kathleen co-sponsored legislation in 2018 that will confront the opioid crisis by increasing regulation, training and reporting currently required when prescribing and dispensing controlled substances (2018, HB 21). Kathleen also sponsored legislation to allow Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC) centers to provide inpatient, 24-hour a day treatment to infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, providing a community-based care option, rather than hospitalization, after an infant has been stabilized (2018, SB 434).
During Florida’s foreclosure crisis, Kathleen used her expertise in real estate law to reform foreclosure laws and get Florida’s real estate market back on track. She successfully sponsored legislation reducing fraud and expediting the judicial process so that borrowers in foreclosure can resolve their debts and begin to rebuild their finances (2013, HB 87). Her bill also implemented safeguards for purchasers of foreclosed homes, reducing stagnant inventory and improving the values of surrounding homes.
Preserving Our Environment
Kathleen knows that Florida’s economy is inextricably linked to our environment. Investments to ensure that our environment is protected for current and future generations to come, along with statewide comprehensive water policies, transform the way we conserve our most valuable natural resources. As a State Representative, Kathleen co-sponsored the Legacy Florida initiative to create an annual dedicated funding source to protect Florida’s environment by setting aside up to $200 million a year for Everglades restoration, $50 million for Florida springs, and $5 million for Lake Apopka (2016, HB 989).
As a State Senator in 2018, Kathleen supported reforms to establish a systematic and transparent process to ensure taxpayer dollars are allocated to meaningful water quality and restoration projects and to implement best management practices to increase our clean water supply. For the last three years, the Legislature has successfully implemented minimum levels of annual funding for crucial areas of need, such as the Everglades and Florida springs. Kathleen knows there is no silver bullet, and a successful strategy must look both north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Fighting Fraud Against Businesses & Residents
The rise in identity theft has harmed not only individuals but businesses as well. Kathleen has lead the fight to modernize Florida’s laws and give victims the tools they need to restore their rights. 2015’s HB 157 creates a streamlined process that provides victims proof of fraud and allows courts to issue orders to correct public records containing false information. The bill makes it a crime to steal the identity of a business. It also increases penalties for medical fraud and makes it a crime to knowingly provide false information to the public record. In 2018, Kathleen sponsored the Identity Theft and Fraud Protection Act which would require agencies to appropriately review information susceptible to identity theft before posting as a public record.
Keeping Our Streets Safe
A 40-year resident of Southwest Florida, keeping our community safe is one of Kathleen’s top priorities. Kathleen has cracked down on crime, voting for 50-year mandatory minimum sentences for certain sexually violent offenders (2014, HB 7027). Kathleen co-sponsored the Timely Justice Act to expedite the execution of prisoners on Death Row, bringing closure to victims and their families and saving taxpayer dollars (2013, HB 7083).
Kathleen has worked hard to make sure that elected officials are held to the highest ethical standards. Kathleen voted for historic ethics reforms that strengthened the prohibition on former legislators becoming lobbyists and gave the Commission on Ethics greater authority to punish those that abuse the public’s trust (2013, SB 2). During the 2017 Legislative Session, Kathleen served as chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, and she continues to be dedicated to ensuring elected officials are accountable to us, not special interests.
As a mother of 3 daughters that graduated from Collier County Public Schools, Kathleen knows that parents and local school boards, not bureaucrats, know what’s best for students. That’s why she lead the 2013 effort to give school districts more flexibility to choose the most effective strategies to close student achievement gaps. Kathleen believes in empowering parents through choice in their child’s education, including the option to attend charter or parochial schools. She opposes federal overreach into our education system and any attempt to implement a “one-size fits all” model. Kathleen has voted to place caps on student testing, roll back statewide testing, and eliminate duplicative final exams.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, Kathleen served as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre K-12 Education and sponsored legislation to appropriate $6,000,000 in funding to our state’s Early Learning programs. Kathleen has also fought to drastically increase mental health funding in schools and improve access to mental health counseling for every Florida student. As a co-sponsor of the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018, Kathleen supported reinstating full funding of the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars award and the Medallion Scholars award at 75 percent (2018, SB4). This legislation also provides policy and funding tools state universities can leverage to recruit and retain the best faculty, continue to grow professional and graduate school viability, and modernize aging infrastructure and research laboratories.