Bills on Israel sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis in concluding special session

The Florida Senate unanimously passed all four bills and a resolution in support of the State of Israel on Wednesday in a decisive move. The session concluded just before noon, with much of the discussion focused on the ongoing war in Israel. The senators emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of Floridians who may be targeted by terror groups or hate crimes, and allocated $45 million through Senate Bill 6-C for various institutions to apply for grants from the Florida Department of Emergency Management. It should be noted that these funds are not exclusively for the Jewish community, but rather for any group facing violence or threats of danger.

State Senator Lauren Book, representing District 35, expressed that the resources provided through the grants are meant to safeguard individuals and their families who are experiencing violence or fear. In addition to synagogues and schools, other organizations, including Historically Black Colleges or Universities, can also apply for these grants to protect their communities. The racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville, which resulted in the tragic loss of three lives, remains a significant concern, making it crucial to extend the application of the grants beyond religious institutions.

Moreover, companies engaged in business with Iran may face sanctions if the bill is signed into law by the governor. The Scrutinized Companies bill aims to redefine the term “scrutinized company” and requires the State Board of Administration to identify and maintain a list of companies involved in activities related to Iran’s terrorism sectors. It further prohibits certain entities from bidding on contracts or entering into agreements with the state if they are on the list. Currently, the list includes 75 companies, as reported by State Senator Bryan Avila of District 39-R. Avila emphasized that Iran’s financing of terror groups poses a threat not only to Israel but also to US assets in the region.

In a positive development, a disaster relief bill for Hurricane Idalia has been sent to the governor for approval. State Senator Corey Simon, the sponsor of the bill, stated that it would address the backlog in the My Safe Florida Home Program. This program aims to provide homeowners with up to $10,000 for hurricane hardening and mitigation, potentially leading to lower insurance premiums. Legislators have also requested the inclusion of condos in the program during the upcoming legislative session. Furthermore, the bill has allocated funds to support the recovery efforts of farmers in aquaculture and agriculture industries.

Another significant achievement is the approval of funding for children with special needs. The bill designates $350 million to cover the costs of new vouchers, aiming to address the current waitlist of approximately 8,900 children. On average, parents receive a scholarship of around $9,700 to assist with the expenses associated with their children’s special needs. State Senator Jay Collins, representing District 14-R, is the sponsor of this bill and expressed his personal connection to the cause as a parent of an autistic child. Collins emphasized the importance of ensuring that no one is left behind through this legislation.

In conclusion, the Florida Senate’s unanimous approval of bills supporting Israel, providing funding for various institutions, imposing sanctions on companies doing business with Iran, and addressing hurricane relief and support for children with special needs signifies a proactive and comprehensive legislative agenda. The senators have demonstrated their commitment to protecting the citizens of Florida and addressing the diverse needs of the community.

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