Two press conferences held this week in the Capitol Rotunda addressed controversial issues facing the legislature.
One concerned the use of Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars in the House and Senate budgets. As it has for the past 11 years, the House budget “sweeps” more than $195M, more than half of these trust funds, out of affordable housing and into the General Revenue. By contrast, the Senate budget, in a break from past years, uses the entire amount of the Sadowski trust funds (currently $322M) for affordable housing. Workforce housing for low and moderate income families, housing for seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless and those with “urgent housing needs” such as hurricane-impacted Florida residents and Puerto Rican evacuees are among the Senate’s priorities. At the press conference, state legislators, local elected officials, representatives of the Small County Coalition and others urged the House to join the Senate in prioritizing funding for affordable housing to match local investments and provide working families with affordable housing options.
The second press conference preceded a floor debate on House Bill 7055. This omnibus education bill includes the contents of more than two dozen other education policy bills and is tied directly to the budget (the K-12 education budget will not be funded unless HB 7055 passes). A key feature of HB 7055 is the “Hope Scholarship”, a voucher program for bullied students. Rep. Richardson (D-Miami) expressed concerns with both the content and process of the bill, saying it set a “dangerous legislative precedent”.