Age for correctional officers reduced to 18

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill lowering the minimum age to work as a correctional officer in the state from 19 to 18. That means the Florida Department of Corrections and county jails will be able to start hiring younger guards starting July 1 to address a growing problem with staffing shortages. Mark Inch, secretary of the Department of Corrections, endorsed the bill during this year’s legislative session, arguing that changing the age eligibility would be a big help to his agency in filling vacancies. Michelle Glady, a department spokeswoman, said in March that the turnover rate for state correctional officers last year was 29 percent, and the year ended with 2,000 vacancies. The bill will also ban the use of drones over and near county, state and private correctional facilities as well as juvenile detention centers. That change is meant to help decrease the amount of contraband going into prisons and jails.

Changes for how public universities and colleges can fund projects, reductions in Bright Futures

DeSantis also signed into a law a higher-education package that changes how public universities and colleges will fund construction projects, a top priority of House Speaker Jose Oliva., R-Miami Lakes. The bill (SB 190) was prompted, in part, by a high-profile financial scandal at the University of Central Florida. The university was found to have misused millions of dollars in state funds for a construction project. Other changes approved by the governor in the bill include revised student eligibility requirements for the Bright Futures scholarship program. The revisions will make it harder for students to get the scholarships. A staff analysis said the initial year the changes affect incoming freshmen, “the Bright Futures program funding may be reduced by $40 million based on approximately 7,000 fewer total students receiving scholarships." In six years, when the changes to the scholarship program are fully implemented, the state is expected to save $111 million annually, the analysis says. The bill was one of 11 measures that DeSantis signed into law Tuesday from the legislative session that ended May 4.