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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE #1                                                                                              MARCH 8, 2013
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Greetings!  Welcome to your 2013 Legislative Link 

 

The Legislative Link will arrive in your inbox every Friday during Session, updating you on issues of interest to United Ways and our partners.  Highlighting legislative activities that took place during the week, the Legislative Link will focus on the spectrum of health, human service and non-profit issues.  We hope you enjoy it, learn from it, and have a great 2013 Session!

OutoftheGateOut of the Gate

As always! ... Session will be exciting, frustrating, invigorating, intriguing ... and so much more.

 

The 2013 Florida Legislative Session began on Tuesday with the normal pomp and circumstance - much minimized from decades past - and with Governor Scott delivering his State of the State address, proclaiming "It's Working!"

 

Florida is slowly getting back on track from the Great Recession.  We have our lowest unemployment rate in four years and the economy is generating a general revenue surplus for the first time in five years.  As a result, much of the turmoil and pain recently experienced by people, programs, and Legislators will be reduced this year.  Even so, the session won't be a smooth ride.

 

Huge funding issues remain; analysts project we won't reach 2005-2006 budget levels again until 2014-2015.  Billions of dollars in cuts to health and human services, education, and other social and commercial infrastructures during the last five years have left a devastating trail, a trail largely blazed by burgeoning recession-caused need and fewer resources with which to respond, much less excel.

 

Over the next two months as we continue struggling to break free of the Great Recession, Florida Legislators will decide issues that will impact each of us in a variety of ways, personally and professionally.   It is incumbent on all of us to help them make the wisest decisions.

Priority2013IssuesFlorida's United Ways: Priority 2013 Issues

 

Florida's 32 United Ways strive daily to solve the most pressing education, income, health, and safety net challenges facing in our communities.  Our work extends deep into the fabric of our communities and expands to embrace every opportunity to improve the lives of our neighbors and those we serve.

A key opportunity arose Tuesday, as the gavel sounded to begin the Florida Legislature's 2013 session.  During the session we will focus on our 2013 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda priority issues: Early Learning, Community Care for the Elderly and Home Care for the Elderly, Homelessness, and KidCare.

While we will focus on these critical issues, we will also join our community partners in their advocacy efforts to improve Florida's quality of life; pursuing issues that - with our Consensus issues - are fundamentally important to the improving the health and well being of our communities, today and tomorrow. 

Read more.

I don't make jokes.

I just watch the government and report the facts.

-- Will Rogers

PresSpkronSamePagePresident & Speaker on Same Page - On Some Issues

 

In late January, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford jointly released "Work Plan Florida", a 5-point agenda spelling out reform efforts they will take on during session: Legislative Ethics, Higher Education, Government Employee Pensions, Elections, and Campaign Finance.  While legislative leaders have in the past identified issues of mutual import, this formal, joint release of priority issues makes a very pointed statement; one that will be heard by all legislators and lobbyists.

BudgetSurplusBudget Surplus? ... Won't Go Far

 

The only bill the Florida Legislature is constitutionally required to pass each session is a state budget.  Unlike the federal budget, it must be balanced; we can't spend more than we bring in.

According to the most recent estimates released in December, general revenue will increase by $1.2 billion next fiscal year, giving the state a $400+ million surplus.  In addition, close to $2 billion of money unspent this year will "roll over" to next.  While advocates across the state have their sites on those funds, they could be mostly used up already on must-fund items. Read more.

Guns & Children Don't Mix

 

In its "Protect Children Not Gunsreport released last year, the Children's Defense Fund pointed out some horrifying facts:  
  • More children and teens died from gunfire in 2010 than the total number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan.
     
  • 82 children under five died from guns in 2010, compared to 58 law enforcement officers killed by guns in the line of duty.
     
    • 1 child or teen died or was injured every 30 minutes.
    • 50 children and teens died or were injured every day.
    • 351 children and teens died or were injured every week.
       
  • More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre.
GovsPropBudgetGovernor's Proposed 2013 - 2014 Budget

 

Each year the Governor submits a proposed budget for the next fiscal year to the Legislature.  Although it identifies the Governor's priorities for funding, it is just that, a proposal; the Legislature can use all or parts of it, or toss it in file 13.

On January 31, Governor Scott released his "Florida's Families First" proposed 2013-2014 budget.  The $74.2 billion budget is the largest in Florida's history, a $4+ billion (5.7 percent) increase over this year's $69.9 billion budget.  Read more.

EarlyLearningTumultEarly Learning Tumult ... Again?

 

The 2012 Legislative Session will be remembered by early learning advocates as one of the most difficult, contentious sessions in history.  Fortunately, it appears the experience may have finally taught us what we try to teach our pre-schoolers: Be nice and to play together. 


Following the 2012 debacle, the Partnership for Florida's Children and the Early Learning Advocacy Group were created to try to engage all of the early learning groups in the same sandbox.  At this point, it has worked fantastically, and Florida's children might benefit enormously if we can navigate the inevitable treacherous waters that will churn during session. Read more

Why We Must Address Summer Reading
  • Middle-income students typically experience slight gains in reading performance over the summer months, while low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of over two months. (John Hopkins University Center of Summer Learning; Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay and Greathouse, 1996)
     
  • Of even greater concern is the fact that these losses are cumulative, creating a wider gap each year between more proficient and less proficient students. By the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two-year lag in reading achievement. (Allington, 2007)
     
  • Summer setback explains approximately 80 percent of the reading achievement gap between poor and non-poor students at age 14. (Hayes and Grether, 1983; Alexander, Entwisle, and Olsen, 2007) 
HelpforFosterHelp for Foster Children and Foster Parents


Children in foster care have extraordinary challenges to overcome.  Yet, when they are taken from their homes and placed into foster care, the adults who care for them are hamstrung in their efforts to provide a normal lifestyle, and the children themselves must overcome even more challenges just to be like other kids.


CS/HB 215 creates the "Quality Parenting for Children in Foster Care Act".  The bill recognizes the importance of normalizing the lives of children in out-of-home care, clarifies that those children are entitled to participate in age appropriate activities, and empowers caregivers to make decisions about their participation using their own assessments as caregivers based on a reasonable and prudent parent standard.  Read more

BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
TextingTexting While Driving


In
2011, 3,331 people in the U.S. were killed and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, a majority of whom were using a hand held cellular device.  Approximately 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
 

35 states and the District of Columbia have passed a ban on texting while driving.  In Florida, there are currently no prohibitions related to texting or talking on a communications device while driving, although there are prohibitions against vehicle operators wearing headsets, headphones, or other listening devices.


CS/SB 52 is the "Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law".  It prohibits operation of a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other text in a handheld wireless communication device, or while sending or reading data in the device.
 

Violation would be a secondary offense, $30 plus court costs.  A second violation committed within five years of the first would be a moving violation punishable by a $60 fine plus court costs.

 

Last Action:  03/06/13 SENATE Favorable with CS by Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities.

HomelessHomelessness

 

CS/HB 93 creates and revises multiple sections of Florida Statutes relating to homelessness.  Among others, the bill: 

  • authorizes collection of voluntary contributions of $1 added to motor vehicle registration and driver's license fees to aid the homeless;
  • replaces the Emergency Financial Assistance Program for Families with a homeless prevention grant program administered by local homeless continuums of care to provide emergency financial assistance to families facing the loss of their current homes due to financial or other crises; and
  • limits the amount a lead agency may spend on administrative costs under a Challenge Grant to eight percent.

The Department of Children and Families estimates a revenue increase of $20,000 per year to benefit the homeless from the collection of voluntary contributions.

 

Last Action:  03/05/13 HOUSE Favorable by Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
-- Pericles (430 B.C.)
NewbornHeartScreeningNewborn Heart Screening

 

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is a term that embraces a variety of defects that are present in the structure of the heart at birth.  These congenital defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart, leading to a range of conditions and symptoms.  CHD affects about 7 to 9 of every 1,000 live births in the United States and Europe and is the most common cause of death in the first year of life, with defects accounting for three percent of all infant deaths and more than 40 percent of all deaths due to congenital malformations.


CS/SB 124 requires the Department of Health (DOH) to adopt and enforce rules that require hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and birthing centers to screen newborns for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) within the first 24 hours of life or before the newborn is discharged.


Last Action: 03/07/13 SENATE Favorable by Banking and Insurance. 

InspectionChildCareFacInspection of Licensed Child Care Facilities

 

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) inspects licensed child care facilities three times a year, or more if a complaint is received.

 

SB 416 requires DCF or the local licensing agency to provide each parent of a child attending a licensed child care facility with a copy of the facility's inspection report within 72 hours after the report is completed and accepted.

 

To comply with the new requirement, DCF would need to develop a database that tracks demographic data, including contact information, for each of the 700,000 children attending inspected facilities.  DCF estimates the cost to develop the database at approximately $3.1 million.

 

Last Action:  03/06/13 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

-- Thomas Jefferson

FoodDonationFood Donation

 

Under current law, a donor of food apparently fit for human consumption may donate it without liability to a charity.  The term "donor" includes grocery stores and any place where food is regularly prepared for sale.  Public schools are not included in the list of donors protected by the law.


CS/HB 607 adds public schools that participate in school lunch and breakfast programs subsidized by the federal Government to the list of defined donors protected from civil and criminal liability if they donate food to charitable organizations.


Last Action:  03/06/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Civil Justice Subcommittee.

SummerCampsSummer Camps

 

In March 2012, the Palm Beach Post published a series of articles spotlighting harm that has occurred to children as a result of attending unlicensed summer camps where employees were either not screened or improperly screened. Among others, the Post found that summer camps are completely unregulated, nobody knows how many camps operate in the state, and Florida is only one of six states that do not license summer camps.

 

SB 630 requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to license summer day camps and summer 24 hour camps.

 

Costs to providers for implementing the bill are substantial, but indeterminable, and DCF estimates its costs would be approximately $22 million to implement it.  No data exits regarding the extent to which children are abused in Florida's summer camps.

 

Last Action:  03/07/13 SENATE On Committee agenda - Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, 03/12/13, 2:00 pm, 37 SOB. 

WHAT'S INSIDE

Out of the Gate

 

Florida's United Ways: Priority 2013 Issues

 

President & Speaker on Same Page - On Some Issues

 

Budget Surplus?...Won't Go Far

 

Governor's Proposed 2013-14 Budget

 

 

Help for Foster Children and Foster Parents 

 

BILLS HEARD THIS WEEK:

 

Texting While Driving

 

Homelessness

 

Newborn Heart Screening

 

Inspection of Licensed Child Care Facilities

 

Food Donation 

 

Summer Camps

 

 

United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.
  
Favorite Links

UNITED WAY OF FLORIDA

 

CHILDREN'S WEEK

  

ONLINE SUNSHINE

 

ADVOCACY 101

 

LOBBY LAW FOR NONPROFITS

 

FIND YOUR UNITED WAY

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The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.  The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

-- Winston Churchill

Important

Session Dates

March 5

- First day of the 2013 Florida Legislative Session 
   

April 8 & 9

- Children's Week
  

May 3

- Last day of Session 

 

 
United Way of Florida, 307 E. Seventh Avenue, Tallahassee, FL  32303  -  phone: 850.488.8287
  

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