- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed four bills focusing on hurricane relief, school vouchers, and international and local security concerns amid global geopolitical tensions.
- The legislation includes a $176.17 million allocation to the My Safe Florida Home program for hurricane hardening and relief efforts.
- A new law, HB 5C, expands state sanctions against Iran, reflecting Florida’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
- The package also dedicates funds for enhancing security at Jewish day schools and broadens the availability of school vouchers for students with disabilities.
Capping a special legislative session underscored by global geopolitical tensions, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed four bills into law on Monday. The session, influenced by the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, led to the enactment of measures including an expansion of state sanctions against Iran, recognized as a major supporter of Hamas. This action reflects Florida’s stance in the international arena, particularly in the wake of the recent attacks by Hamas on Israel. Domestically, the legislative package, with a cumulative financial commitment of $462 million, focuses on providing substantial hurricane relief, enhancing security at Jewish day schools, and broadening the scope of school vouchers.
Here’s a rundown of the four newly signed bills:
Hurricane Relief and Home Hardening Initiatives
A comprehensive storm hardening bill, HB 1C, which also aims to provide extensive assistance to areas impacted by Hurricane Idalia, allocates $176.17 million to the My Safe Florida Home program. The money is primarily designed to aid homeowners in reinforcing their homes against hurricanes. The program provides matching grants up to $10,000 for improvements like strengthening roof-to-wall connections and upgrading and strengthening roofing, doors and windows. Additionally, the bill includes $75 million for low or interest-free loans to agriculture and aquaculture producers, $37.5 million to assist timber owners, and $50 million for hurricane repair in federally designated disaster areas. There’s also $25 million earmarked for the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program and tax breaks for agricultural equipment, fencing, building materials, and fuel used for debris removal and agricultural shipments.
Expansion of School Vouchers for Students with Disabilities
School vouchers also garnered some additional attention during the session in the form of HB 3C, which addresses the soaring demand for school vouchers for students with disabilities. This bill temporarily lifts the cap on the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, which had been set at just under 41,000 students. The Florida Department of Education and associated organizations will now determine the maximum number of available vouchers. The cap will be re-evaluated next academic year based on a specific formula.
Support for Israel and Measures Against Iran
The legislature, amidst the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict, passed HB 5C to expand state sanctions against Iran, a significant supporter of Hamas. This bill builds on a 2007 law, extending divestment requirements from companies linked to Iran’s petroleum industry to those in financial, construction, manufacturing, and textile sectors. Lawmakers stressed the importance of Florida not supporting Iran financially, though the exact number of affected companies remains unclear.
Enhancing Security at Jewish Institutions
The final signed bill, HB 7C, allocates $25 million to enhance security at Jewish day schools and preschools. Additionally, $20 million is provided for a nonprofit security grant program targeting organizations at high risk of violent attacks or hate crimes. This measure responds to the rising anti-Semitism concerns. The House Minority Leader also highlighted the necessity for historically Black colleges and universities to be considered for similar security funding.