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Disaster relief, security at Jewish temples & more: What to expect in Florida’s special session

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State lawmakers will meet next week for a special legislative session to take up several bills that would provide hurricane relief, help homeowners trying to lower their insurance premiums, and address school vouchers.

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A House bill and its Senate companion want to provide about $416 million to people impacted by Hurricane Idalia. It would provide sales tax exemptions for certain purchases like building materials and fence repairs. It also authorizes emergency management to enter into agreements with local governments for FEMA dollars and implements the “My Safe Florida Home Program,” which would give grant dollars to improve homes. In turn, the hope is it would help lower property insurance premiums.

“Hurricane relief is going to be important. I think we all know homeowners’ insurance is a big problem here in our state,” said Rep. Elizabeth Waldron.

Read: Rep. Randy Fine files bill to expand Florida’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program

Waldron, who represents Palm Beach County, is behind a bill condemning the Hamas attacks.

“We wanted to kind of put it down on paper and show solidarity as a state, the state of Florida, which has the second largest population of Jewish people and up in the country, and we have strong ties to Israel. So we just wanted to show our support for Israel,” Waldron said.

Rep. Randy Fine is fighting against antisemitism in the state.

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“Jews in Florida pay to pray,” Fine said.

As the only Jewish Republican in the house, Fine is asking to expand Florida’s nonprofit security grant program. His bill would use $35 million as emergency funding to pay for security to protect Jewish institutions from synagogues to schools and community centers.

“Parents are very scared about sending their children to Jewish day schools when you have these monsters out celebrating the death of children,” Fine said. “It’s a scary thing. And so this will make sure our Jewish day schools are basically all of the kids are Jewish, are protected.”

Read: Israel-Hamas War: House approves over $14 billion Israel aid package

Lawmakers will also consider a bill called “Scrutinized Companies,” which would cut ties with state investments tied to Iran and restrict local governments from contracting with them.

Lawmakers will hear proposals on expanding the school voucher program that helps families afford private education for their children. They will decide if more students with disabilities can receive scholarships through the family empowerment scholarship. Right now, there is a limit on the number of students who can enroll. The maximum number of students who can participate in the program could increase annually by 3 percent, beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.

This upcoming special session kicks off Monday, Nov. 6. Then, the next regular session starts Jan. 9.

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