The state House of Representatives knocked out three pieces of priority legislation Thursday, sending two measures — a wide-ranging water policy bill and an education bill expanding scholarships to students with disabilities — to the governor.
“I think this just sets the tone,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said after the House adjourned Thursday. “I think you’re going to see us work together quite a bit on all this stuff. This has just been a really good week.”
The water bill (SB 552) was a top priority for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican. The bill, according to the Associated Press, “modifies dozens of areas of Florida law, including controlling pollution and restoring natural flow in springs and rivers.”
“This is what working together can do, and obviously this is us finishing off a work plan we started together,” Crisafulli said during a joint news conference with Gardiner. “Obviously there is a lot left to do, with the budget to pass and some great things we can do for the state of Florida over the next several weeks.”
The House shot down several amendments proposed by Minority Leader Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat.
The water package passed the Senate 37-0 on Wednesday. The House voted 110-2 on Thursday to approve it.
“The Florida Chamber has long supported science-backed efforts that will ensure our state can meet the demands of today and of the future,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy at the Florida Chamber, in a prepared statement. “This bill is a meaningful step in the right direction to help ensure Florida’s water future doesn’t go the way of California. This bipartisan effort is a fantastic start to Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session.”
The House also approved an education bill (SB 672) that a top priority for Gardiner. Among other things, the bill expands scholarship opportunities for students with disabilities and provides incentives for school districts to adopt dress codes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The measure also renames the scholarship program — formerly known as Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, or PLSAs — the Gardiner Scholarships, after the Senate President.
The state Senate voted 39-0 to approve the measure Wednesday; while the House supported it 109-1. Republican state Rep. John Tobia was the only”no” vote.
The House also approved another Gardiner priority bill. That measure (HB 7003) addresses economic independence of individuals with disabilities. Among other things, it creates a Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Development Disabilities to promote economic independence and employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. That measure passed 110-0. It now heads to the Senate.