Erica Fish, Public Policy Intern
“We passed 285 bills this year, and all but seven were bi-partisan bills,” said Rommel.
Among those bills passed with bipartisan support was the $112 billion budget, which Passidomo said included $37 million for Southwest Florida projects, including water quality projects, mental health funding and workforce housing initiatives.
The budget also includes $362.7 million for affordable housing programs, as home prices and rents continue to skyrocket in the state. These funds will assist in down-payment assistance for homebuyers and help developers build affordable rental housing.
“We fully funded the affordable housing program and allocated $100 million as down payment assistance for first responders,” said Passidomo. “But we keep talking about down-payment assistance, but people still cannot afford buying a house on either coast, so we have to revamp our whole system.
Melo said the 2022 legislative session provided substantial funding towards affordable housing than past legislative sessions. Both Melo and Passidomo said they plan to evaluate housing programs further to better serve Floridians over the summer.
“We as the state try to be a leader but we make decisions for the entire state and not just Collier County,” said Melo.
Legislators also discussed rising homeowner and property insurance rates.
“The insurance industry is extremely regulated,” said Rommel. “We represent 76% of all suits for property insurance in the nation. So, we have a problem attracting capital.”
Speakers also discussed what state leaders have done for mental health. Passidomo, Melo and Rommel shared the legislature is committed to mental health funding by putting dollars to tele mental health and allocating over $100 million to the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health.