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What Sarasota’s Representatives are Up To in Tallahassee

Written by on Thursday, February 29, 2024

Fighting communism and social media, growing childcare, touting the ‘new’ New College.

By Arianna Lockman

Original Air Date: Feb. 28, 2024

Host: You may know who represents us in the state legislature, but do you know what they’re up to in Tallahassee? As this year’s session nears its end, WSLR reporter Arianna Lockman has a summary of the most impactful bills sponsored and co-sponsored by the four legislators representing Sarasota County.

Arianna Lockman: With the upcoming closure of the legislative session, it’s important to stay up to date on what our Sarasota representatives are pursuing. The legislators currently representing Sarasota are Senator Joe Gruters and Representatives James Buchanan, Micheal Grant, and Fiona McFarland.

House Bill 635 would provide tax credits to businesses that operate child care facilities or contribute payments to childcare for employees. This bill is sponsored by Representative Fiona McFarland. Although the bill is still under consideration, it has already cleared the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill allows anyone opening a child care facility a credit for up to 50% of the startup costs. Limitations will depend on the size of the company. The bill will also allow up to $300 for every eligible child served for companies providing child care for employees. This proposal follows McFarland’s observations of the scarce and costly child care services offered in Sarasota. She is determined to provide aid and relief to families in this legislative session.

It is also important to note that McFarland was a co-sponsor for House Bill 1, the recently passed Online Protections for Minors legislation. This bill requires certain social media platforms to verify the ages of its users in order to ensure that minors under the age of 16 cannot make an account. This bill also requires that these platforms terminate the accounts made by children under the age of 16.

Representative James Buchanan is sponsoring House Bill 1117. This bill will include the incorporation of Star Village, a yet-to-be-built 3,100-home development in North Port. The bill would provide boundaries and a board of supervisors and election in order to make it a self-governing entity. The community will be located on a 2,086-acre site north of Interstate 75 and east of Toledo Blade Blvd. The North Port City Commission approved phase 1 of the plan in 2022 and has since pushed for more commercial property and entry-level housing within the plan.

Buchanan is also sponsoring House Bill 801, which will require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to implement a training component relating to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The bill requires that the training component be developed with the Department of Elder Affairs in order to better assist Law Enforcement responses to related situations. The proposal also specifies instruction requirements and authorizes that the completion of training will fulfill certain requirements. This bill will go into effect on October 1st of 2024.

Another bill sponsored by Buchanan is House Bill 1349, the History and Instruction of Political and Socio-economic Systems. This bill will require that students receive instruction on the history of Communism. The proposal also requires that recommendations will be provided by the Department of State relating to the creation of a museum of history of Communism. This bill will go into effect on July 1st of 2024.

Senator Joe Gruters has also proposed bills worthy of note. One of which is Senate Bill 680, Protection of Medical Freedom. This proposal will prohibit the Department of Health from requiring enrollment in Florida’s immunization registry. It will prohibit businesses requiring individuals to provide proof of vaccination in order to gain access to such businesses and entities. The bill will also prohibit employers from refusing employment on the basis of vaccination status. This proposal will also prohibit the Department of Health from requiring that children receive immunizations approved only for emergency use as a school-entry requirement.

Gruters has also proposed that February 7th be named New College Day in the state of Florida. Within the proposal, Gruters praises the current status of New College, stating that New College is “designated as the residential liberal arts honors college of this state and is the only public college or university in this state whose distinctive mission is to provide a liberal arts undergraduate education of the highest caliber to qualified students from around the world.” Gruters goes on to praise the newly implemented athletics program. Gruters concludes his proposal with the following statement: “That February 7, 2024, is designated as “New College Day” in Florida in recognition of New College’s contribution as an outstanding institution of higher education.”

This is your reminder to participate in the upcoming elections. It is important to note that the Florida House of Representatives will be up for election in this voting season. The Primary Election will be held on August 20th while the General Election will take place on November 5th. Stay up to date with the candidates running for election with WSLR’s new 2024 Elections Page which can be found under the News tab at wslr.org.

This has been Arianna Lockman, reporting for WSLR News.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.