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Florida ABLE act moves swiftly through House, Senate panels

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A slate of proposals to create a new statewide framework for assisting people with intellectual disabilities made progress in both chambers of the Legislature Wednesday. SB 7030 and HB 935, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Ray Rodrigues respectively were unanimously passed by House Children, Families & Seniors and Senate Education Appropriations.

“Establishing the Florida ABLE Act is part of a larger effort by the Legislature this session to support a path to economic independence for individuals with unique abilities,” said Rodrigues in a statement. “With these bills, we are hoping to allow individuals with disabilities to have the same opportunity as everyone else: to work, to maximize their earnings, to save their earnings and to improve their quality of life, without losing eligibility for their state and federal benefits.”

The proposals would create the Florida ABLE Act, a package of programs that would create a not-for-profit organization that would allow people with significant disabilities which occurred before age 26 to establish education savings accounts, under the oversight of the State Board of Administration.

Sen. Don Gaetz is also taking an active part of this coordinated effort, sponsoring SB 602, which provides for similar savings accounts, but at the K-12 level. The House companion is sponsored by Rep. Michael Bileca, HB 723, which also passed a committee panel this afternoon.

This K-20 approach is also met with a workforce component. Sen. Jeremy Ring – the lone Democrat involved in the expansive legislative effort – passed his SB 7022 through the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. That bill seeks to improve employment options for disabled people within state government by requiring each state agency to set an annual goal towards doing so.

The wide-ranging program was set out in the 2015 Work Plan presented by Speaker Steve Crisafulli and President Andy Gardiner, and is almost certain of passage.S

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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