TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – As Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Florida have had a contentious debate on issues including abortion and immigration this year, the two sides came together to swiftly pass 20 bills on Thursday, nearly all of them unanimously. .
The legislation included approving new state legislative districts, allowing schools to stockpile and use medication for an opioid overdose, and requiring insurance companies to provide hearing aid coverage for children.
The Senate unanimously adopted the redrawn maps for the 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts the day after they were approved by the House in a party vote. The governor does not need to approve new districts.
Democrats and Republicans have welcomed a bill that would expand the use of anti-overdose drugs, including allowing schools to stockpile naloxone, which could be administered by staff trained to recognize an opioid overdose. A physician would be required to develop protocols for the use of the drug.
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“Children are dying in schools from overdoses. It’s sad, but it’s true,” said Republican Senator Jim Boyd, sponsor of the bill. “It will be a big step forward in saving lives.”
The bill would also allow pharmacists, child protection investigators and law enforcement personnel to administer the drugs in emergency situations to help overdose victims. A similar House bill is ready for a vote by the full House.
The Senate also passed a bill that would require insurance companies to provide hearing aids to children under 18. A similar bill has not been heard by a committee in the House, but Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson said it’s an issue that should be a priority for the state and could be addressed in the budget.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he told reporters. “These are kids who, if you do it early enough, will develop a vocabulary, grow in school, and grow as human beings.”
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The Senate also passed a bill that would make it easier for people with addictions or mental health issues to provide peer-to-peer services to others trying to overcome similar issues.
“The therapeutic value of one addict in helping another is unparalleled. This bill makes the process of peer certification as specialists easier and easier,” said Democratic Senator Darryl Rouson, sponsor of the bill.
A similar bill is ready for a vote by the full House.