Despite a flurry that saw a number of projects defunded, vetoed, resurrected, and refunded, State Senator Kathleen Passidomo said she was happy to see the special session, which ended last Friday, address so many outstanding issues.
“I’m pleased that we can come together on the major issues, and get it done in a timely manner,” Passidomo said.
Governor Rick Scott initially vetoed the funding for a slate of higher education building projects that would have provided FGCU with the funds to begin construction of a facility for its new Integrated Watershed and Coastal Studies program. The $60 million, which will fund 17 projects, was restored to the budget as part of an economic development bill. Passidomo said that restoring the $12.7 million portion that would go to FGCU was one of her priorities heading into the special session.
“When the governor initially vetoed the projects I thought that was it, none of those would come back,” said Passidomo. “Once he called the special session we were able to talk through some of these issues. I was just glad that we were able to sit down, work it out, and come up with something that was acceptable to everybody.”
The senator also said that she was glad to have a compromise on the issue of medical marijuana before the special session was out. The House and Senate both took up the issue after Floridians approved the measure with 71 percent of the vote in 2016 but disagreed significantly on how many locations a distributor should be allowed to operate with the Senate wanting 15 and the house wanting 100. Passidomo said the compromise of 25 locations would not have been possible if the two houses had not been so close together on other aspects of the issue.
“I think the House and the Senate were always on the same page with the philosophy of vertical integration and non-smoking,” said Passidomo. “That was huge in the beginning because if we had been different in that regard I don’t know if we would have ever been able to work it out.”
The smoking of marijuana as a delivery method for treatment is not approved by the new bill.
Finally, despite the governor receiving the $100 per student spending increase he requested, many school districts and activist derided education bill HB7069 for its requirements regarding charter schools and teacher bonuses. According to Passidomo, the bill was introduced near the very end of the session and rapidly expanded from six pages to more than 270 pages.The senator said that she thought the bill contained mostly positive measures but that the issue that had most people concerned was the manner in which the bill was crafted.
“The controversy was mostly surrounding the process used to create it,” said Passidomo. “Because it was just kind of sprung on everyone many people were just misinterpreting it, and then we were off to the races.”
Passidomo says she does not expect the governor to veto the bill.
© 2017 Naples Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Image: courtesy of Senator Kathleen Passidomo