Watch CBS News

Senators Back Jobs Bill For Disabled Floridians

Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – A bill that would expand job opportunities in state government for Floridians with disabilities sailed through its first legislative committee Tuesday, buoyed by the support of Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The measure (SPB 7022) unanimously passed the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee after being introduced by committee Chairman Jeremy Ring, D-Margate.

Currently, the state's employment policy encourages the hiring of women and members of minority groups, but not people with disabilities. The bill --- part of Gardiner's legislative agenda to help disabled Floridians achieve economic independence --- would require each executive agency to set annual goals "that ensure full utilization of underrepresented groups in (the) agency's workforce, including individuals who have a disability."

"We tell our kids all the time that when they're students, they can grow up to be anything they want to be," Susan Goldstein, a former lawmaker with an autistic daughter, told the committee. "We just want to thank you for walking the walk, because you are opening a lot of doors."

The bill would direct the Department of Management Services --- working with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Executive Office of the Governor --- to create programs geared toward promoting job opportunities for disabled Floridians.

"When it comes to promoting and enhancing options for individuals with disabilities to utilize their own unique abilities in the job market, our state government should lead the way," Gardiner, R- Orlando, said in a prepared statement. "This legislation will help establish our state as a model employer for people with unique abilities and is a critical component of our ongoing effort to establish a pathway for people with unique abilities to achieve economic independence."

The Senate president, whose son Andrew was born with Down syndrome, presented a six-point plan last week to promote educational and vocational opportunities for Floridians with --- as Gardiner likes to call them --- "unique abilities." The plan would establish a statewide postsecondary designation for such students, expand scholarships, teach financial literacy and honor businesses that hire workers with disabilities.

Senate Bill 7022 would require the Department of Management Services to develop mandatory training programs for human-resources officials and managers who make hiring decisions to support the goal of employing more people with disabilities.

It would also require the Department of Management Services to compile data on the hiring practices of executive agencies regarding people with disabilities and to post the data online. Additionally, an annual progress report would be due starting Jan. 1.

Goldstein, who lobbies for a number of groups that serve disabled Floridians, said the bill would give many of them the chance to show their mettle.

"Just because their legs may not work, or they may be a little bit socially different, they may excel in other areas," she said. "Many of them are very productive, and they really do want to work."

The News Service of Florida's Margie Menzel contributed to this report.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.