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2015 Legislative Session: Week 7 updates from Tallahassee

April 29, 2015
By SEN. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Time is flying by and there are only two weeks remaining in the 2015 Legislative Session. This week in the Senate Appropriations Committee, I had the opportunity to vote for Senate Bill 1106 by Senator Flores, which creates stricter criminal penalties for individuals who are found guilty of human trafficking crimes. This is another step towards making sure that Florida remains a safe place for its' citizens to take pride in. This coming week, committee meetings will come to an end, however the Senate will be in session on the Senate Floor all day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Senate and House of Representatives will continue their work to find common ground on the State's budget as well as hearing the final slate of bills that have made it through their assigned committees.

As the session moves on, please contact my office with your thoughts and ideas. There is nothing I love more than hearing from the folks back home about what is truly important to them. Below are some updates on a couple of bills that I had the opportunity to pass through committee this week

SB 676: Working to end breast cancer

A bill I have sponsored this year to help fund research for Breast Cancer in the State of Florida passed the Florida Senate unanimously and will be voted on in the House of Representatives next week.

SB 676 adds a voluntary contribution check off to car registrations, new driver's license applications, and driver's license renewals of $1 or more per applicant to "End Breast Cancer." The contributions will be distributed by the department to the Florida Breast Cancer Coalition Research Foundation Inc, a not-for-profit, and must be used for breast cancer research and education.

The breast cancer plate remains among the top 25 best-selling specialty plates with more than 20,000 plates sold. Those sales have resulted in more than $3.5 million for breast cancer research and breast cancer education. All research and education grants are provided to Florida entities and all work is done in Florida.

Craft brewery legislation passes

As we have all seen the craft brewery industry in the state of Florida has taken off, providing economic stimulus across the state, including breweries in Lee and Charlotte Counties.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved with unanimous support Senate Bill 186, Alcoholic Beverages to revise the Beverage Laws related to the craft brewery industry in Florida. Currently breweries operate in Florida under an exemption in the law. SB 186 revises current law to make craft brewers eligible to receive a vendor license to manufacture and sell malt beverages. The legislation allows for beer tastings, limits the volume of beer made elsewhere that can be sold at a craft brewery, and allows craft brewers to sell 64-ounce growlers of beer which is the industry standard size.

SB 802: Vocational rehabilitation

This week the Senate approved Senate Bill 802, Vocational Rehabilitation, to elevate Florida's program to one of the best in the nation. This legislation establishes a performance improvement plan and reporting requirements for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to increase accountability, monitor progress and improve job placement for people with unique abilities.

Vocational Rehabilitation is a federal-state partnership that helps people with physical or mental disabilities find meaningful careers. Through a performance improvement plan, the bill requires an increase in the number of individuals receiving services, postsecondary workforce education, and Career and Professional Education certifications to increase employment outcomes among persons with disabilities.

The legislation identifies specific performance based measures, creates deadlines for meaningful progress, establishes reporting requirements, and encourages more partnerships with community organizations. The bill creates a performance-based pilot project that requires Vocational Rehabilitation to implement the Partnership for Employment of Persons with Unique Abilities in conjunction with local, nonprofit organizations to improve and promote the state Vocational Rehabilitation program.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto represents District 30, which covers parts of Lee and Charlotte counties, in the Florida Senate.



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