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Newsletter - Issue No.19 - July 2019
Personal Message from Rep. Bob Rommel

The 4th of July celebrations are nothing but a memory. The fireworks have gone up in smoke followed by lightning displays in the skies that rivaled the best of the fireworks. Most of you have returned from the long holiday weekend to face the realities of  jobs and school. I hope that you took some time to reflect on the meaning of Independence Day.

It celebrates the Declaration of Independence, adopted on 4 July, 1776. The Thirteen Colonies of America declared themselves to be states and no longer part of the British Empire, though the revolutionary war continued for some time after.

These mainly agricultural colonies were run by the British - who had been present on the continent since 1587 - and exploited for their resources, in particular tobacco. 

While the relationship between the settlers and British was once amicable, tensions began to escalate over British laws and taxes, such as the Sugar Act, driven by British financial needs. There was also a growing sense of nationalism in the country.

From 1765, some settlers began to demand "no taxation without representation", calling for their voices to be heard in the British parliament. 

Further ill feeling was caused by the Coercive Acts – which became known as the "Intolerable Acts" to American Patriots – which were implemented in response to the Boston Tea Party. The laws took power away from semi-autonomous Massachusetts.

In response to these factors, Continental Congresses – a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies – were convened. At the second meeting, in 1775, a war of independence against Britain was declared. 

The next year, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 representatives of thirteen self-styled states (previously the Thirteen Colonies). The signatories included future president Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

The conflict continued until the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the war in favor of an independent America. 

The birth of America was not easy and cost thousands of lives.  However, the desire for freedom from British dominance and self rule overcame fear and uncertainty. 

Our freedoms are precious.  Our Founding Fathers and the early Americans sacrificed much to create a nation 243 years ago. It is up to today's Americans to ensure that our great nation continues to grow and prosper and that our freedoms are protected. 

I look forward to working for you to ensure that your freedoms are protected now and in the future.
Bob Rommel
State Representative - District 106
The Declaration of Independence
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the text of the Declaration of Independence–the “Dear George” letter, if you will, by which the colonists told the British “We are breaking from you and here’s why.”

But who were these men and what happened to them after they affixed their names to a document that led to a revolution and the start of a new nation?

Nine of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers and two were cousins. One was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate at 70. The youngest was Thomas Lynch Jr. of South Carolina at 27.

Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Twenty-two were lawyers - although William Hooper of North Carolina was "disbarred" when he spoke out against the king - and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been governor of Rhode Island. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures.

John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend. (Indeed, he wore his pontificals to the sessions.) Almost all were Protestants. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the lone Roman Catholic.

Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four at Yale, four at William & Mary, and three at Princeton. Witherspoon was the president of Princeton, and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary. His students included Declaration scribe Thomas Jefferson.

Seventeen signers fought in the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was a commanding officer in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a major general in the Delaware militia; John Hancock held the same rank in the Massachusetts militia.

The British captured five signers during the war. Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton were captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780. George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration at the hands of British Loyalists. He died in 1781.

Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was "hunted like a fox by the enemy - compelled to remove my family five times in a few months." Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war.

Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis's New York home was razed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson, both of Virginia, lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort but were never repaid.

Fifteen of the signers participated in their states' constitutional conventions, and six - Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, and George Reed - signed the U.S. Constitution.

After the Revolution, 13 signers went on to become governors. Eighteen served in their state legislatures. Sixteen became state and federal judges. Seven became members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Six became U.S. senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Supreme Court justices. Jefferson, Adams, and Elbridge Gerry each became vice president. Adams and Jefferson later became president.

Five signers played major roles in the establishment of colleges and universities: Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; Jefferson and the University of Virginia; Benjamin Rush and Dickinson College; Lewis Morris and New York University; and George Walton and the University of Georgia.

Adams, Jefferson, and Carroll were the longest surviving signers. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll was the last signer to die in 1832 at the age of 95.

Sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Brattleboro Typographical Company, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of the Declaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).

Post-Legislative Update
The 2019 Legislative Session was arduous, but very productive. Below is a brief summary of some the issues addressed during this Legislative Session.
Legislature Passed Balanced Budget

The Legislature passed a constitutional-required balanced budget in the amount of $91.1 billion for fiscal year 2019-2020 beginning October 1, 2019.  The budget includes $22.2 billion on education of which $21.1 relief and recovery.will used to fund the Education Finance Program, or an increase of $243 per student.  The budget includes $682.6 million for environmental needs and $1.86 billion for Hurricane Michael relief and recovery.  The budget also includes $28 Million to increase wages to those who care for adults with developmental disabilities, assigned about $200 million to address affordable housing issue, and 490 million for a tax relief package.  Visit Florida received $50 million and the toll road project received $45 million.  Finally, the budget responsibly plans for the future by placing $3.3 billion in reserves for any unforeseen future economic uncertainty.
 
Florida Legislature Voted for Tax Relief
 
The Florida Legislature passed CS/HB 7123 to reduce taxes for Floridians. The bill included several tax reductions and other tax-related policy changes that impact both families and businesses. Below are some highlights of the bill:
  • Creates a five-day Back-to-School Tax Holiday.
  • Reduces the Business Rent Tax for businesses.
  • Authorizes a seven-day Disaster Preparedness Tax Holiday.
  • Modifies several local property tax provisions to provide clarity and accountability to Floridians. 
Assignment of Benefits
 
The Florida Legislature passed CS/CS/HB 7065 relating to assignment of benefits.  An assignment of benefits (AOB) is a legal tool that allows a contractor, repair person, or other vendor to “stand in the shoes” of a property owner and receive the benefits under a property insurance policy for repairs to the covered property. For example, when homeowners experience water damage and contact a repair person for assistance, the repair person may have the homeowner execute an AOB so work can begin immediately and the repair person can seek payment directly from the insurance company. Since 2006, the number of lawsuits involving AOBs has skyrocketed, generally resulting in higher payouts and litigation costs. These increased costs are ultimately paid for by consumers as higher insurance premiums. The bill addresses the abuses involving AOBs and aims to protect consumers from the impact of increased litigation costs.
 
Criminal Justice Reform

The Florida Legislature passed CS/HB 7125 in an effort to reform the criminal justice system.  Some of the provisions include:
  • Allowing a court to sentence a defendant to administrative probation, a form of non-reporting supervision that is available to low-risk offenders currently only by transfer of the Department of Corrections (DOC), and to transfer a defendant to administrative probation upon successful completion of half their probationary term.
  • Authorizing each judicial circuit to create a community court, a type of problem solving court that addresses misdemeanor crimes affecting a particular community.
  • Reforming probation violations and standardizing a system for alternative sanctioning to respond to technical probation violations.
  • Requiring each clerk of court to create a Driver License Reinstatement Days program to facilitate reinstatement for those who have had their license suspended or revoked.
  • Expanding reentry services for recently released inmates by providing greater job training and career planning opportunities for inmates and authorizing DOC to expand the use of job assignment credentialing and industry certifications.
  • Authorizing DOC to develop a Prison Entrepreneurship Program and adopt procedures for inmate admission.
  • Increasing the threshold values for specified theft offenses including petit theft, retail theft, and grand theft.
  • Expanding eligibility for veterans’ treatment programs to individuals who are current or former U.S. Department of Defense contractors or military members of a foreign allied country.
  • Authorizing a court to sentence a person meeting all other criteria as a youthful offender if he or she was 21 or younger at the time of the offense, regardless of age at the time of sentence.
  • Repealing all mandatory direct file provisions and allowing, but not requiring, a state attorney to direct file an information against a child meeting discretionary direct file criteria.
"Sanctuary Cities" Banned in Florida
 
The law bans so-called sanctuary cities in Florida.  The law requires police agencies to work with federal immigration  officials by forcing local law enforcement to honor federal immigration requests for an "immigration detainer."  A detainer is a request that another law enforcement agency detain a person based on probable cause to believe that the person is a "removable alien" under federal immigration law.

The law also gives power to the governor to remove local officials from office when they violate the ban.  It also gives the attorney general the power to bring civil actions against local governments.
 
School Safety Bill
 
The Florida Legislature passed SB 7030 to improve safety and security in Florida schools.
 
In 2018, the Florida Legislature passed SB 7026 in response to the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. SB 7030 enacts recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission and stakeholders who are responsible for the safety of our children. The bill creates a safer environment for students, while giving school districts the flexibility to address their needs.
 
SB 7030 increases access to the Guardian Program, penalizes school superintendents for failing to implement school safety strategies, increases information sharing between districts, and utilizes FortifyFL and other data to respond to threats. The bill also increases coordination between schools and law enforcement to address school safety threats. The bill increases student access to mental and behavioral interventions by providing funding for school-based mental health personnel and services and providing timeframes for referral and beginning services.
 
This bill maintains the option for school districts and charter schools to utilize the Guardian program as an option to maximize school safety and does not require a teacher to be armed. 
 
Florida Empowerment Scholarship Program
 
The Florida Legislature passed CS/SB 7070, which is a comprehensive package of reforms to further the goal of providing a world-class education to all children in Florida.

The bill incorporates HB 7075, which creates the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program to provide parents the opportunity to choose what is best for their child’s education.  The Program provides scholarships to eligible kindergarten students and public school students in grades 1-12.  The bill establishes the income eligibility criteria beginning with the 2019-20 school year.  A family of four earning an annual income of up to $77,250 is eligible to participate.

Priority is given to students whose families earn less than $47,638 to help alleviate the waitlist for the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program and to ensure the scholarship will go to students who need it the most.
 The amount a student will receive is based on the school district where the student resides and will be 95 percent of what the student earns in the public school based upon grade level. The Empowerment Scholarship will be funded by the state through the Florida Education Finance Program. 

The bill incorporates provisions from HB 7095, which allows Schools of Hope to open in “Florida Opportunity Zones” to provide quality educational options for students in low-income communities. The bill also establishes an allocation in the FEFP, rather than through the schools of hope grant program, to provide wrap-around services to students in turnaround schools and establishes a community schools grant program to help school districts implement the community partnership school model, prioritize awards to expand the model into new districts, and encourage self-sustaining programs.

The bill incorporates provisions from HB 7061, which addresses certification requirements by giving teachers more time to pass the General Knowledge Test (GKT), reduces the financial burden associated with retaking the GK test and improves the content used to prepare first-time teachers for the realities of the classroom.

The bill also modifies the Best and Brightest Scholarship Programs for teachers program by removing a teacher’s performance on the SAT or ACT as a factor in determining eligibility for the award and establishes a separate allocation within the FEFP to provide recruitment, retention, and recognition awards. Funding for awards is subject to annual appropriation.
 
No Texting While Driving
 
Texting while driving is now a primary offense.  This means that law enforcement can now pull someone over if seen texting while operating a vehicle, even if the driver isn't speeding or breaking other rules of the road. 

In Collier County, the first violation for drivers is a non-moving offense with no points assessed to the driver's record.  Court costs and fine will total $113.

Under the new law, phones can still be used for calls and navigation as well as to read emergency messages such weather alerts.  Also, drivers cannot be cited for texting while their vehicle is stopped at a traffic signal.

Transportation

 This bill establishes three regional task forces to study Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Programs within the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), which will be the state’s most significant infrastructure-building project since the 1950’s.  Task forces will study extending the Suncoast Parkway to Georgia, extending Florida's Turnpike to the Suncoast, and building a new toll road from the Naples area toward Interstate 4 near Orlando.  In addition to road construction, water, sewer and broadband internet infrastructure will be added.
Out 'n About
The 2019 Session officially ended on Saturday, May 4th at 2:03pm.  However, post legislative updates to the community kept this office very busy.  It's always a pleasure to speak to members of the community about what the Legislature accomplished this Session.  Here are some of the highlights.
Wake-Up Naples breakfast hosted by Collier Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber's Youth Leadership was also recognized.
Post-legislative updates to the Chamber of SW Florida
and the NAACP.
Governor Ron DeSantis came to Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to share news of the State and Federal funding designated for Florida's environment including restoring the Everglades, raising the Tamiami Trail to allow water to flow South, studying Red Tide and Blue/Green Algae, protecting our natural springs and more!
Rep. Bob Rommel, State Attorney Amira Fox and Women's Republican Club of Naples Federated President Mary Waller following a post legislative update. 
NABOR hosted a Post Legislative Update with all of Collier's Legislators:  Senator Kathleen Passidomo, Representatives Bob Rommel, Byron Donalds and Ana Maria Rodriguez.
Accolades
Representative Bob Rommel was recognized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as the Most Valuable Legislator for 2019. for his commitment to making Florida more competitive.

The billboard is located at US 41 East and Collier Blvd.
July Fun!
Although Independence Day is July's most spectacular holiday with BBQs, parades and fireworks, the rest of the month offers plenty of other opportunities to celebrate:

*     July 6:     National Fried Chicken Day
*     July 10:   National Pick Blueberries Day
*     July 11:   National Cheer Up the Lonely Day
*     July 12:   Nation Pecan Pie Day
*     July 17:   National Peach Ice Cream Day
                      National Hot Dog Day
                      World Emoji Day
*     July 22:   National Hammock Day
*     July 30:   International Day of Friendship
Copyright © 2019 State Representative Bob Rommel, All rights reserved.


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