Lawmakers move homelessness bills through committees 1 - Florida Independent

State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

Even though the Florida House just eliminated some state funds for homeless coalitions in its budget proposal, lawmakers in the state House and Senate passed bills in committee today that would help the growing number of Floridians that are homeless.

Today a House health committee passed a bill that would make it easier for homeless youth to obtain their birth certificate and another that provides a way for Floridians to donate a dollar for programs to help the homeless when registering vehicles and renewing their driver’s licenses.

Estimates suggest the legislation could raise roughly $1.5 million a year, according to the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa.

The same bill sailed through a state Senate judiciary committee today. The Senate sponsor is Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. She and Reed introduced the bills in an effort to launch a bipartisan effort “to raise awareness and funding to help combat homelessness.”

During the House committee meeting, state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said that the “timing is impecable” for Reed’s bill. Pafford mentioned that the bill is being considered as the House eliminated state money for homeless coalitions.

As I reported earlier today, the House appropriations bill currently eliminates $2,377,083 in Homeless Coalition and Challenge Grants.

The cut was made as Florida faces a growing problem with homelessness. Late last year, the state’s homelessness epidemic received national attention when 60 Minutes took a hard look at a county in Florida that reported 1,100 homeless students in its K-12 schools. The program also reported that “of all the families without shelter in America, one third are in Florida.”

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed  $12 million last year from the state’s general revenue fund that was earmarked for the National Veterans’ Homeless Support Group for “homeless housing assistance grants.”

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