Gardiner Scholarship Education Bill Signed Into Law

Governor Rick Scott signed the Florida Chamber-backed Gardiner Scholarship into law, which empowers students with unique abilities to succeed by providing options for high-quality education programs.

The Florida Chamber thanks Senate President Andy Gardiner, Senator Don Gaetz (R-Destin) and Representative Erik Fresen (R-Miami), as well as Florida Chamber members, local chambers of commerce and members of the Florida Chamber’s coalition for their help in this success.

 

What Does This Law Mean for You?

Click here to read our one-pager, which outlines what this law will mean for your business, your employees and your community.

Florida Chamber-Backed Unique Abilities Bill Passes, Heads to Governor For Signature

The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Florida Legislature for today fully passing a Florida Chamber-backed unique abilities bill, The Gardiner Scholarship, that will empower students with intellectual disabilities to succeed by providing options for high quality education programs.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and which now heads to Governor Rick Scott for signature, increases flexibility for parents so they can provide an even more customized education plan for their children through a variety of services and therapies. It also allows more families to participate in this much-needed program by expanding eligibility requirements.

“For people with unique abilities and their families, Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts and Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Programs represent freedom from a one-size-fits-all system and the opportunity to pursue education and career choices suited to their own unique skills,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) in a release.

The Florida Chamber commends Senate President Andy Gardiner, Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Erik Fresen for continuing to secure Florida’s future for students of all abilities.

What’s Next for This Bill

The bill now heads to Governor Scott’s desk to await signature.

Florida Chamber-Backed Unique Abilities Bill Passes; Heads to Governor’s Desk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Edie Ousley
(850) 521-1231
eousley@flchamber.com

The Gardiner Scholarship Will Empower Students

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (January 14, 2016) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Florida Legislature for passing a Florida Chamber-backed unique abilities bill, The Gardiner Scholarship, that will empower students with disabilities to succeed by providing options for high quality education programs.

 

“At the Florida Chamber, we know that every child is different, and every child has unique needs,” said Brittney Hunt, Director of Talent, Education and Quality of Life Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “This bill increases flexibility for parents, so that they can provide an even more customized education plan for their children. We are grateful to the legislature for their continued support of a program which has truly become a model for the nation.”

 

As Florida continues on the path to become the number one job-creating state in the nation, Florida has an opportunity to help encourage underemployed Floridians — especially those with unique abilities — to reach their full employment potential.

In fact, a recent report released by the Florida Chamber Foundation shows that more than 700,000 Floridians with disabilities are currently not in the workforce. The results of the report show that not only is the unemployment rate for Floridians with unique abilities substantially higher than the overall unemployment rate, but also the variability of the rates across counties is extremely high.

 

“This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that students of all abilities are able to succeed and we commend Senate President Andy Gardiner, Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Erik Fresen for their continued support of this issue,” said Hunt.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

BREAKING: Supreme Court to Send Redistricting Back to Lower Court

By: Andrew Wiggins, Senior Director of Campaigns and Elections

Today, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a lower court to hold a hearing in the ongoing legal case involving Florida’s congressional redistricting conundrum.

The ruling came after a request from Leon Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis for the Florida Supreme Court to provide further direction after the Florida Legislature was unable to agree on a congressional district map during a special session last month. Upon the conclusion of that special session, both chambers sent their maps to Judge Lewis.

Under today’s ruling, the House and Senate will now present arguments in support of or in opposition to the proposed map plans. The burden remains on the House and Senate to justify their own configurations.  The trial court subsequently will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court by October 17, as to which map or portions of each map best meets the requirements set by the Supreme Court in its July 9, 2015 opinion ordering new maps to be drawn.

However, in today’s ruling, the Supreme Court offered the opportunity for lawmakers to reconvene and pass new congressional maps, which would then go to the lower court for approval.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merrit Island, said: “Today the court provided a measure of certainty for how we may go forward to adopt a constitutional congressional map, as the voters expect from us. We look forward to further reviewing the order to determine our next steps.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the Senate remains open to holding another special session on redistricting.

“The Supreme Court declined the plaintiffs’ request that it draw the congressional map and recognizes that the Legislature still has time to enact a unified congressional plan. This decision has not precluded the opportunity for the House and Senate to draw a map, and each chamber should take advantage of the ample time to address the differences between our respective plans. As we have expressed since the conclusion of the special session, the Senate is willing to reconvene to fulfill our constitutional obligation.”

Also today, the Supreme Court denied the League of Women Voters request to terminate the legislature’s role in redistricting and allow the court to draw its own map. The court ruled congressional redistricting falls first and foremost upon the legislature.

 

BACKGROUND:

In August, the Florida Legislature was tasked with redrawing Florida’s 27 Congressional Districts after the Florida Supreme Court ruled eight districts unconstitutional. A resulting base map made changes to 22 of Florida’s 27 districts – touching most of the state. The two-week session ended without agreement between the two chambers. With no map in hand, lawmakers went to lower court Judge Lewis who sought an opinion from the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Chamber will continue to keep you up to date with the latest.

Florida Chamber Applauds 9 Lawmakers But Mourns ‘Missed Opportunities’

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has released its annual report card, a list of which lawmakers have found favor with the business group and which fell short.

Eight Senators and one member of the House voted 100 percent in line with the Chamber’s agenda, including a tax cut package and some of the health care bills (though notably not the FHIX plan to subsidize health insurance for the poor).

Perhaps that’s one of the “missed opportunities” Chamber chairman Steve Knopik is referring to in a statement released with the rankings.

“Despite philosophical differences, lawmakers passed 20 Florida Chamber-backed measures during the two recent legislative sessions,” Knopik said. “Unfortunately, there were a number of missed opportunities, resulting in fewer votes taken on issues that could help make Florida more competitive.”

Here’s which lawmakers cracked the top of the charts with perfect scores:

  • Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne
  • Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker
  • Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah
  • Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando
  • Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville
  • Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who got an extra thumbs-up from the Chamber for his votes in the House before switching chambers in April
  • Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples
  • Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando
  • Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights

Still, there are others the Chamber wasn’t so pleased with. Like House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, who voted with the group just 33 percent of the time.

You can peruse the full list on the Chamber’s website, if that’s your thing.

Florida Chamber Unveils 2015 Legislative Report Card

Missed Opportunities and Philosophical Differences Lead to Fewer Votes
Cast On Issues That Could Have Made Florida More Competitive

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (July 7 , 2015) – Following the 2015 regular and special legislative sessions, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today is releasing actual grades earned by all members of the House and Senate on the Florida Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Report Card. The grades reflect fewer scored votes cast than previous years on issues that would have made Florida more competitive – especially in the areas of healthcare, water policy, lawsuit abuse reform and taxpayer funded pension reform. Although this year will be remembered as the year the legislative process missed major opportunities, the Florida Chamber thanks Senate President Andy Gardiner and Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli for not allowing new lawsuits, new taxes or more regulations.

After tabulating more than 3,384 votes cast during the 2015 regular and special legislative sessions, nearly 54 percent of state lawmakers earned an “A” (90-100) on the priority pro-jobs issues outlined in the Florida Chamber’s 2015 Business Agenda. 3,384 actual scored votes is approximately only half of the scored votes as in previous years.

The Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card is an annual opportunity to honor and recognize members of the Florida Legislature who placed making Florida more competitive through private-sector job creation above special interests attempts to protect the status quo.

“Despite philosophical differences, lawmakers passed 20 Florida Chamber-backed measures during the two recent legislative sessions,” said Steve Knopik, Chair of the Florida Chamber and CEO of Beall’s, Inc. “Unfortunately, there were a number of missed opportunities, resulting in fewer votes taken on issues that could help make Florida more competitive.”

The Florida Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Report Card is an online tool that illuminates grades legislators earned based on their support of pro-jobs, pro-business issues during the annual legislative session.

Poll after poll shows that Floridians are concerned about the job the Congress and the Florida Legislature are doing. The latest Florida Chamber voter poll shows 41 percent of voters disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing, while 40 percent approve, compared to 70 percent of Florida voters who disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

“The Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card lets Florida’s families and small businesses know if legislators voted in favor of job creation and a stronger economy, and provides them with valuable information as they begin to consider the 2016 election cycle,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber.

Building on the Florida Chamber’s multi-year competitiveness agenda, this year the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott approved more than $400 million in targeted tax relief, championed education reforms for a globally competitive workforce, invested in infrastructure and transportation, strengthened Florida’s economic development efforts, implemented Amendment 1 and made strides to address Florida’s forthcoming doctor shortage.

Analytics From the Florida Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Report Card Reveal:

  • 20 Senators earned an “A” – remaining steady from 2013 and 2014,
  • 61 Representatives earned an “A” – down from 71 last year, and
  • Grade Point Average for Representatives was 83 percent and 89 percent for Senators – down from 87 percent and up from 88.7 percent respectively last year.

The Florida Chamber entered the 2015 Legislative Session by encouraging lawmakers to focus on making Florida’s business climate more competitive and lowering the cost of living for Florida’s families and small businesses. The Florida Chamber’s agenda for jobs, Where We Stand, served as an important roadmap to educate lawmakers on the business community’s priorities.

Lawmakers were also notified prior to each vote impacting the Florida Chamber’s agenda for jobs that their vote would be counted. The tabulated results of each of those votes result in the Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card.

While 1,795 bills were filed, and 232 of them passed both chambers, the Florida Chamber has a focused agenda and the actual votes used to calculate the report card are those votes that tie directly to the Florida Chamber’s agenda for jobs. In the past four years, Governor Scott has had a perfect batting average in signing all 104 Florida Chamber-backed bills into law.

“While I wish the regulations process would have allowed more courageous votes, I’m extremely proud of the great work of the Florida Chamber’s Board of Directors, local chambers and the more than 30 lobbyists that have worked aggressively in support of free enterprise and job creation,” Hart said.

Moving forward, the Florida Chamber is already developing its 2016 Business Agenda, and the Florida Chamber’s Political Operations team, under the direction of Senior Vice President of Political Operations Marian Johnson, is actively enlisting pro-jobs, pro-business candidates to run in the 2016 election cycle.

The Florida Chamber will soon release How They Voted 2015, a detailed annual report summarizing the priorities of the recent legislative sessions and incorporating the 2015 Legislative Report Card.

 

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida Chamber Applauds Passage of Students with Unique Abilities Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

 

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (April 1, 2015) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today applauds Senate President Andy Gardiner and Senator Don Gaetz on the passage of a bill empowering students with unique abilities to pursue their dreams.

As Florida continues on the path to become the number one job creating state in the nation, Florida has an opportunity to help encourage individuals with unique abilities to reach their full potential. The Florida Chamber has long-championed education reforms for a globally competitive workforce, and SB 602, sponsored by Senator Gaetz (R-Destin) is a top priority for the Florida Chamber.

The Florida Chamber believes that businesses can help unlock talents of individuals with unique abilities. Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber, in an editorial published in newspapers in Florida said:

“Right now, an encouraging conversation is taking place in Tallahassee to help empower individuals with unique abilities to pursue their dreams, and thus provide job creators with a greater ability to unlock an untapped talent pool. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Over the next 15 years, Florida will add six million new residents and need to fill two million new jobs.

“Finding and keeping a talented workforce is among the chief concerns of Florida Chamber member businesses. Broadening the scope from which employees are hired can help expand our existing workforce and provide even greater diversity and access to necessary skills and experience.”

The Florida Chamber Foundation is currently partnering on a research project to learn more about the best practices of hiring persons with unique abilities. Initial findings will be released during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2015 Education Summit scheduled for June 9. If your company would like to provide input, please email Tracey Lowe at tlowe@flfoundation.org.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.