Dental for Vets, the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority, Breaking Leases for Military Personnel, and More – Here’s a look at the bills your state house rep proposed this session
Patt Maney is a lawyer, general, judge, and now a politician. He proved himself very effective as a politician -building coalitions to pass many bills during his freshman term in the state house. Many freshman members don’t get bills signed into law – he got five in his first year – all the more impressive when you learn house members can only introduce six bills in a year.
This year’s bills range from subsidized dental care for veterans to a bill to sever ties between the Mid Bay Bridge Authority and the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners.
House Bill 71 aims to extend protections and punishments for attacks on defense attorneys and public defenders during Florida court proceedings. Currently, attacking a judge, prosecutor, or witness carries an increase in charge, but not attacking one’s own defense attorney. The bill hopes to ensure equal justice under the law and protect those most vulnerable due to their physical proximity to defendants.
This bill allows service members in Florida to terminate their rental agreement if they need to move because of military orders. They can terminate the deal if they need to drive 35 miles or more from the rental property due to a permanent change of station, if discharged or released from active duty, or if they receive orders to move into government quarters. Government quarters include any military housing option, including privatized military housing owned by a private sector company.
This bill is about what happens to someone accused of a crime who can’t understand what’s happening because of a mental illness. If the person is found incompetent to go through the trial process, they may be sent to a special place for treatment. If it’s determined that they are unlikely to get better, a new evaluation will be done to see if they meet the criteria for involuntary civil commitment. This means they may be kept in a hospital or treatment center against their will. The Department of Children and Families will be responsible for doing this evaluation.
This bill is about creating a new Veterans Dental Care Grant Program. The purpose of this program is to provide routine dental care to veterans who live in Florida. Typically, after their term of service ends, the military does not give dental care to individuals unless they are 100% disabled or have a service-connected issue requiring dental care. The bill would establish the program within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the department will contract with an organization with experience developing and implementing dental service programs for veterans. This organization will be responsible for distributing grants to eligible non-profits that have experience in providing dental care to veterans. The bill also says that the funding for the program will need to be approved by the Legislature. Overall, this bill is designed to make it easier for veterans to get the dental care they need after finishing their service.
This Florida House of Representatives bill amends an existing law related to the Ocean City-Wright Fire Control District in Okaloosa County. It allows for the future annexation of certain unincorporated territories by municipalities. After annexation, the area gets treated as part of the municipality and is not subject to the ad valorem tax authorized by the act. The bill also states that if a city annexes any unincorporated territory within the district, the district will continue to provide fire, rescue, and emergency medical services for the annexed area. The municipality will be allowed to levy applicable taxes, assessments, or fees on the annexed territory but must pay the district for its services using the millage rate in effect on the effective date of the act or any lower rate that the fire control district may levy. Such payments will continue for 15 years unless the fire control district is relieved of all fire, rescue, or emergency medical service responsibility in the annexed territory. If litigation is required to enforce the provisions of this act, the prevailing party shall be entitled to an award of attorney fees and costs.
HB 1643 is about a group called the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority. They are in charge of building and caring for a bridge over a big body of water called Choctawhatchee Bay. This bill would change some of the rules about how the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority works. One of the changes is that they will now be an independent special group instead of being part of the county. They are also changing how they make their budget and when they have public meetings. You can read more about the changes to the authority that are proposed here.