Here in Florida, as we count down to the New Year, we're also counting down to the 2018 legislative session. The Florida Legislature is expected to convene on January 9th and, if all goes as planned, adjourn on March 9th.
The annual sixty-day period is marked by much negotiating over issues to ensure the best public policy passes on behalf of Florida’s citizens. This time around, it will be complicated by the once-every-20-year deliberations of the Constitution Revision Commission, the fact 2018 is an election year, and wrapped up in an atmosphere charged by sexual harassment allegations against a prominent legislator.
Against all these influencing factors, any of which may impede a group’s legislative agenda, the AHA will work on five issues, two of which we hope will be resolved through administrative action by agencies that report to the Governor.
The two administrative issues are 1) increasing the proportion of healthy snacks in vending machines located in state-owned/leased buildings, and 2) enhancing the CPR training of EMS dispatchers.
We hope to convince the Division of Blind Services to require operators stocking the vending machines to have a minimum of 75 percent healthy snacks and 50 percent healthy beverages. Additionally, we want to ensure EMS dispatchers have enhanced training that will enable them to walk a 911 caller through the need for, and technique of, CPR. We have been discussing the administrative issues with legislators because if we are unsuccessful in convincing the agency staffers to make the requested changes, a legislative “fix” will be needed that forces the agency staff to make the changes.
In the legislative arena, there are three issues on which we will expend time, energy and resources.
The first issue is guaranteed to be a “heavy lift;” passing legislation that will increase the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco (and “vaping”) products to 21 years.
The next issue, which we hope will not be as difficult, is to create a STEMI Registry. STEMI is an acronym for ST-Elevated Myocardial Infraction, known as the “widow maker” heart attack. We want to follow up on the momentum from last year’s Stroke Registry which passed unanimously and create the STEMI Registry. We have a bill sponsor for SB 1032, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who is a funeral director by profession. We also had a House sponsor, Rep. Neil Combee, but he was appointed to a federal job by President Trump and had to resign his seat to accept. We continue to seek a House sponsor and are working diligently to find someone.
The third issue is related to transportation appropriations. Two federal programs, “Complete Streets” and “Safe Routes to Schools” provide funding that flows through the Florida Department of Transportation to local cities and counties. Each legislator is eligible to request those funds be spent in his/her district. For House members to request the funds, they need to file a bill requesting those funds. Depending on the content of the bill, AHA will support the legislation if it increases opportunities for physical activity.
We're excited by the challenge in moving these issues forward to a successful result. We will need your help to “make it happen,” so please stay tuned for requests to contact your legislators and act when you receive a request from your advocacy colleagues.
Thanks, and happy holidays!!