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What to expect in Florida’s special session this week

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Lawmakers are all getting together Monday for one more chance to pass important legislation this year.

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They will focus on five topics: disaster relief, the state of Israel, anti-semitism, Iran sanctions and school voucher funding.

“Just kind of get some of these important bills out there and done instead of waiting until January so they can have more of a positive impact on our residents here in Florida,” said State Representative Katherine Waldron.

Waldron is the only Florida House Democrat sponsoring a bill this special session. The bill is mostly symbolic---it condemns the Hamas attacks.

“We wanted to kind of put it down on paper and show solidarity as a state,” said Representative Waldron.

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

The war is one reason Representative Randy Fine says he’s seen a rise in antisemitism as the only Jewish Republican in the state House; he’s asking to expand Florida’s nonprofit security grant program.

His bill would use 35 million dollars 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 mean when you have these monsters out celebrating the death of children,” said Representative Fine. “It’s a scary thing.”

Read: Florida lawmakers will hear proposals to boost Hurricane Idalia, home improvement aid

Lawmakers will also look to expand the school voucher program that helps families afford private education for their children. They will consider whether more students with disabilities should receive help through the Family Empowerment scholarship.  Right now, there is a limit on the number of students who can enroll.

Disaster relief is also top of mind.

Another bill looks to provide about 416 million dollars to people impacted by Hurricane Idalia, providing 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 make improvements to homes and is expected to lower property insurance premiums.

The program helped harden homes against hurricanes in the past but recently ran out of money.

Read: Florida lawmakers eye school voucher demand

As for the Iran sanction bill, it involves blacklisting businesses linked to the country, bans public entities in Florida from making contracts over one million dollars, and prevents state pension funds from being invested with said companies.

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