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Keeping up with the Congressmen

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A look at what bills lawmakers have recently sponsored

Congressman Gus Bilirakis
On Nov. 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Dade City $1.75 million as part of US Congressman Gus Bilirakis’ Community Budget Request to assist in the funding of the relocation and upgrading of the city’s current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This relocation is crucial as the city’s current WWTP, which was built within the Mickens-Harper community in the 1950s, is nearing capacity. Congressman Bilirakis secured the funding through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which funded 483 water infrastructure projects in communities nationwide. This relocation will provide environmental benefits for nearby waterways and improve conditions for the Mickens-Harper neighborhood, and economic benefits by creating 150 new jobs during the construction of the plant.

“While I am no proponent of big government spending, and I am actively working to rein in Washington’s reckless behavior, I do have a duty to ensure my community receives its fair share of allocated federal resources,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “It is important for me to be transparent about my efforts to prioritize important community needs and provide targeted support. I am proud to have secured this funding for a project Dade City and the residents of Mickens-Harper have hoped for since 2011, and I’ll keep working to address water quality issues throughout Florida’s 12th Congressional District.”

Congressman Bilirakis also co-authored a trio of bills in a Nov. 15 Health Subcommittee markup: the Cutting Copays Act, the Expanding Access to Diabetes Self-Management Training Act, and the Ensuring Access to Critical Breakthrough Products Act of 2023. The first of these aims to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for the most vulnerable seniors by eliminating the cost-sharing of generic medications for enrollees in Medicare Part D’s Low Income Subsidy Program. The second bill’s goal is to improve patient outcomes and to help avoid costly complications that can stem from diabetes by improving access in Medicare to education and diabetes self-management training services that have proven helpful. The third of these will provide Medicare coverage for medical devices that are approved under the FDA’s Breakthrough Devices Program, thereby guaranteeing those who are beneficiaries of Medicare access to cutting-edge technologies.

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“There are more than 600 medical device companies in our state working to develop innovative and effective products,” the Congressman said. “I’ve heard from many of these businesses about how these lengthy and unnecessary Medicare coverage delays create a significant barrier in bringing new products to market. This bill is about connecting patients with important devices and technologies quicker. Additionally, it is about encouraging innovation rather than stifling it.”

On Nov. 17, the release by the congressman’s office detailed Bilirakis and Congressman Matt Cartwright’s (D-PA-08) efforts to improve seniors’ access to hearing services. In a similar vein to Bilirakis’s other endeavors, the Medicare Audiology Access Improvement Act will expand the number of options available to Medicare patients and fix barriers that once hindered seniors and audiologists. This enhancement will include allowing independent audiologists to bill Medicare directly for services that are covered, and it will remove the pre-treatment order requirement.

“Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Left untreated, it can lead to other health risks, including dementia and falls,” said Congressman Cartwright. “Outdated Medicare rules make it difficult for seniors with hearing loss to get the care they need. That’s why I’m glad to be working with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure seniors can access a full range of hearing and balance healthcare services provided by licensed audiologists.”

State Senator Blaise Ingoglia
On Nov. 20, State Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) and Representative Tom Fabricio (R-Miami Lakes) filed SB 524/HB 533 DNA Samples from Inmates. This bill, which will take effect upon becoming law, will require the Department of Corrections to collect DNA samples from the inmates serving their sentences who have not previously provided one. The law aims to close a loophole regarding DNA samples for inmates.

“Capturing these DNA samples will allow law enforcement to potentially close decades-long cold cases and bring the families much-needed closure they deserve,” said Senator Ingoglia. “Victims have rights, too, and that includes the right to know who committed atrocious crimes against their loved ones.”

Senator Ingoglia also filed a bill on Nov. 16 to combat antisemitism at Florida universities. Representative John Temple (R-Wildwood) filed a twin bill in the House (HB 465). The law designated SB 470/HB 465 establishes that students who promote a foreign terrorist organization at such colleges will be ineligible for scholarships, state grants, financial aid, or tuition assistance. According to the senator, the universities will also be required to inform the Department of Homeland Security if such students are attending the institution on a student visa.

“The rising disruptions, growing antisemitic sentiments and hate speech across college and university campuses in this nation are a terrible tragedy,” Representative Temple said. “Our learning institutions are meant for just that, learning— not a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination. Florida’s commitment is to stand with Israel and not be complicit to foreign terrorist organizations making postsecondary institutions a place for activism.”

Ingoglia and also filed similar bills (SB 394/ HB 399) dealing with employer notification of risk protection orders on employees. Per the description of HB 399, “Requires risk protection orders include whether respondent is serving as district school board member or employed as instructional personnel; requires court issuing risk protection order to require petitioner to immediately notify respondent’s employer of issuance of order if respondent meets specified criteria; requires instructional personnel to disclose to employer any prior arrests & any criminal records that were expunged.”

Senator Ingoglia filed another bill, this time alongside Representative Michelle Salzman (R-Pensacola). SB 438/HB 57 establishes eight-year term limits for county commissioners and disallows them from seeking certain offices after a specified timeframe. “Term limits at all levels of government have been favored for years,” Representative Salzman said. “Floridians want elected officials to be proactive. Term limits ensure fresh perspectives and accountability for our highest offices in the state, and we need that at the county level where seats can remain stagnant for decades.”

Senator Ingoglia and Representative Dean Black (R-Jacksonville) also filed SB 542/HB 543 on Nov. 21. This bill will disqualify individuals who have served on the board of directors of banks that have become insolvent from serving on another such board for five years after that insolvency took place. “Florida consumers deserve competent, fiscally responsible oversight over our banks and financial institutions,” Representative Black said. “Under this bill, we will ban executives who have been party to any bank failure from serving on the board of a Florida bank.”

Representative Jeff Holcomb
Representative Jeff Holcomb (R-Florida-District 53) has sponsored six different bills during the 2024 session, with three being filed and the other three now in subcommittees. HB 273 deals with animal fostering or adoption. This law “provides exemption from public records requirements for records containing information pertaining to persons with legal custody of animal from animal shelter or animal control agency operate by local government,” according to the Florida House of Representatives website. The bill will go into effect on July 1, 2024, and is now in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs, and Special Districts Subcommittee.

HB 319, which is a general bill by Holcomb and Dr. Joel Rudman (R-Florida-District 3), concerns military personnel and their families. Under this act, certain current and former military personnel and their spouses and dependents are exempted from public records requirements for identification. This becomes effective upon becoming law and is currently in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs, and Special Districts Subcommittee.

A general bill sponsored by Holcomb and co-sponsored by Representatives Adam Anderson (R-Florida-District 57) and Kevin Chambliss (D-Florida-District 117), HB 357, is regarding special observances. This bill designates every November as “Veteran Appreciation Month” and it authorizes the governor to issue the proclamation. The law will take effect on July 1, 2024, and was in the Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law, and Government Operations Subcommittee on Nov. 22.

The three remaining bills are also sponsored by Representative Holcomb. HB 511 becomes effective on July 1, 2024, and requires institutions like colleges to waive certain examination requirements for servicemembers who apply for admission to graduate programs that require such tests. HB 7003 is a general bill by the Ethics, Elections and Open Government Subcommittee and Holcomb and takes effect October 1, 2024. The law “removes scheduled repeal of exemption from public record requirements for information concerning preregistered voter registration applicants who are minors,” according to the Florida House of Representatives website. Lastly, HB 7005 is a general bill by the same committee as the prior act and becomes effective on October 1, 2024 as well. It “removes scheduled repeal of exemptions from public record requirements for secure login credentials held by Commission on Ethics and certain information entered into electronic filing system for financial disclosure. More bills will continue to be worked on daily as our local lawmakers serve and represent their constituents in a variety of matters.

Rep. John Temple
In addition to sponsoring HB 465, Postsecondary Education Students and HB 399, School Employees, Temple is sponsoring a bill called Placement of Surrendered Newborn Infants HB 327. The bill deals with registry requirements for community-based care lead agencies and prohibits them from transferring certain costs to prospective adoptive parents.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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