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Senate passes bill promoting jobs for Floridians with disabilities


A plan to improve job opportunities for Floridians with disabilities is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott's desk after earning unanimous favor in the Florida Senate on Friday.

The legislation was the third and final bill House and Senate leaders aimed to get off their plates during the first week of the 2016 session. Scott plans to sign it Thursday, along with two others the Legislature sent over yesterday: a sweeping water policy bill and a bill promoting educational opportunities for people with disabilities.

The jobs bill, like the education bill, was a priority for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

Among the bill's highlights, it:

-- creates a financial literacy program to help people with developmental disabilities

-- requires state agencies to report annual progress toward increasing employment of women, minorities and people with disabilities

-- requires the state to develop workforce programs to enhance job training and work experience for people with disabilities

-- and, establishes the Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program to identify businesses that hire people with disabilities and encourage other businesses to do so.

"We need to lead by example so we’re going to do that, but we also need to recognize businesses that are doing it and track and make sure that individuals with unique abilities are getting jobs, which is obviously a priority for us and the governor," Gardiner told reporters.

He called the first week of the 2016 session "a really, really good week," and told senators to rest up over the long weekend for what's to come.

"It’s been a good week for the residents of the great state of Florida," he said during this morning's session. "These bills and the water bill and others, we’re changing lives with that. ... Next week and every week after is going to get a little tougher and there’s going to be a little more stress."

The Senate returns for session Tuesday afternoon, following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.