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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE #6                                                                                               APRIL 12, 2013
old and new capitol 
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sessionSession Countdown
Four weeks remain in the 2013 Legislative Session.  It's budget time!


The House (HB 5001) is scheduled to pass its version of the state's 2013-2014 budget today, and the Senate (SB 1500)passed its version unanimously on Wednesday, setting the stage for conference committees to hammer out the differences beginning next week.  While the $74 billion proposals are close in terms of total dollars, many differences exist, the biggest being Medicaid.  Issues on which the conferees can't achieve compromise will be decided by the President and Speaker, with their key lieutenants.


Many issues remain for legislative consideration, large and small.  As with the budget, Medicaid expansion looms largest of all.


Senator Negron has proffered a private-sector-driven, federally-funded expansion focused on wellness and efficiency.  The House plan released on Thursday would allow disabled adults and parents to purchase bare-bones health insurance policies using a $2,000 annual subsidy fully funded by the state.


Given the deep divide in philosophy (take the federal money ... or not ...?), it is questionable whether the Medicaid issue will be resolved by session's regularly scheduled end at midnight on May 3 ... We'll know at sine die!

earlyEarly Learning Bill Launched

 

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee passed its major early learning bill, a proposed committee bill (PCB) that has since been filed as HB 7165.  The Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee will amend and pass its current bill (CS/SB 1722) to make it mirror the House bill next week.
Huge kudos to Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole for taking the time and having the patience and flexibility to successfully navigate myriad issues to a sound and solid landing.  The bill is a good one that addresses numerous issues intended to make the early learning system more transparent and accountable, and less susceptible to fraud.  Read more.
childChild Care Workers: No Raises in 20 Years!

 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau report  Who's Minding the Kids?  Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011, child care costs have nearly doubled in the last 25 years.


Families with an employed mother and children younger than 15 paid an average of $143 per week for child care in 2011, up from $84 in 1985 (in constant 2011 dollars).


But the report's most disturbing finding is that the median wage for a full-time child care worker has not increased over the last 20 years.  The median wage for a child care worker in 2011 was $19,098, no different from the $19,680 wage in 1990 (in constant 2011 dollars).  These are the professional caregivers/teachers to whom we entrust our most precious possessions.  They nurture the people who will be our future leaders during the most formative years of their lives.  How many of us haven't had a raise since 1993?  A sad commentary.

Political ideology can corrupt the mind, and science.

-- E. O. Wilson

homelessHomeless Funding - Unparalleled Yield

 

This year, as in the past, Legislators provided $3 million in funding to support homeless services.  That extremely small amount - in proportion to the $25 billion in available general revenue - is being used by local Homeless Coalitions to generate an additional $80 million in federal grants and community support, multiplying the Legislature's initial investment by more than twenty-fold!

With more than 54,000 people homeless in Florida on any given night, plus an additional 56,000 homeless school-aged children, there is no reason why the Legislature should not provide funding for this incredibly important purpose.

As Legislators head into Conference Committee meetings to hash out their differences, Senators should accept the House proposal to again appropriate $3 million for homeless services, and House members should stand strong in their commitment to provide those funds to generate an unparalleled yield, which constitutes the backbone of Florida's homeless system.

healthyHealthy Start - Saves Lives and Money

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Florida's infant mortality rate in 2010 was 6.4 per 1,000 live births.  While that may not seem like a lot, it means more than 26,000 babies died last year in Florida.  A hefty human toll; a loss of their right to life.

The health care costs associated with these deaths is also significant: The average medical costs for a preterm baby ($49,033) are more than 10 times higher than those for a healthy full-term baby ($4,551); a cost often born by taxpayers. 
 
Healthy Start successfully works with pregnant mothers to avoid the deaths, save the anguish, and defray the costs incurred when a baby doesn't have a Healthy Start.  Read more.

childrensChildren's Week Brightens Capitol

 

Thousands of children, parents, teachers, and caregivers and professionals of every thread converged on the State Capitol this week to celebrate the essence of our children; what they are and what they represent.  They also brought with them vivid personal descriptions of challenges and barriers they face.  And solutions! ... One example: Passage of the early learning bill out of committee reflects input from many who journeyed to the Capital City.

Children's Week 2013 was a grand success, primarily because of the phenomenal partners  who make the event possible in the first place, and to the many state leaders who lent their voices, their insights, and their support.  They walk the walk.  Special thanks to Chair David Wilkins, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, and members of the Children and Youth Cabinet  who participated in the Teens Only Town Hall Meeting and other events.

A highlight of the week was Senator John Thrasher's presentation of the Chiles Advocacy Award to Dr. Gerold Schiebler  and  Audrey Schiebler, a dynamic duo who have transformed the face of Florida's health and human services.
  
We are particularly excited about the new 2013-2014 Florida Youth Commission that gathered for the first time.  The future is in good hands!

djjDJJ Gets Kudos 

 

It is most fitting that at the conclusion of Children's Week we are able to report on the extraordinary job Secretary Wansley Walters and her colleagues at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are doing.


Earlier this year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States" report, showing a 32 percent drop in the number of Florida youths sent to residential juvenile justice programs between 1997 and 2010.


According to DJJ, the state has seen a 34 percent drop in juvenile arrests over the last five years.  School-based delinquency dropped by 50 percent over the last eight years.  The number of Florida youths transferred to adult court has dropped by 44 percent since 2007-08.


Kudos to Secretary Walters for recognizing that prevention is the answer and for funneling DJJ funds to the greatest extent possible to keep children from entering the system in the first place.  Prevention! 

Man is by nature a political animal. -- Aristotle

govGov. Scott Signs 'Normalcy Bill' 

 

On Thursday, Governor Scott signed the "Quality Parenting for Children in Foster Care Act".  The Act promises to transform the lives of foster children, allowing them to live like regular kids by authorizing their foster parents to use common sense - rather than relying on circuitous and cumbersome bureaucracy to decide when they can engage in the normal activities of youth.  Read more.

keyKey Children's Health Bills Languish

 

Two barriers to accessing health care for Florida's children can be easily remedied by amending Florida's KidCare law to allow legally residing immigrant children to get into the program without having to wait five years, and allowing children to be presumptively eligible when they apply, so they don't have to wait to get health care they may need immediately.  Unfortunately, bills filed to eliminate these unnecessary barriers are unlikely to pass this session.  Read more.
History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.  Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.
BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

disabilityDisability Awareness

 

CS/SB 226 changes current law to require, rather than authorize, district school boards to provide disability history and awareness instruction in all K-12 public schools beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. The instruction must be integrated into the existing school curriculum and be augmented by presentations from individuals who have a disability and are approved by the school or school district and meet existing background screening requirements. The bill addresses other issues relating to curriculum, councils, and more.

 

Last Action: 04/08/13 SENATE Favorable by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

homelessnessHomelessness

  

CS/SB 402 authorizes motor vehicle drivers and owners to voluntarily contribute $1, added to registration and driver license fees to aid the homeless.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 SENATE Favorable with CS by Rules.

consumerConsumer Finance Charge

 

The Florida Consumer Finance Act (Act) sets maximum interest rates for consumer finance loans, which are "loan[s] of money, credit, goods, or a provision of a line of credit, in an amount or to a value of $25,000 or less at an interest rate greater than 18 percent per annum."


Consumer finance loans, made by lenders licensed by the State, may charge a maximum rate of:  

  • 30 percent a year, computed on the first $2,000 of the principal amount;
  • 24 percent a year on that part of principal exceeding $2,000 but not exceeding $3,000; and
  • 18 percent per year on that part of principal exceeding $3,000.

HB 425 would increase the amount of principle that can be charged the higher rate - raising the 30 percent level to $3,000 and the 24 percent level to $3,000 - $4,000.


Last Action:  04/08/13 SENATE Favorable by Commerce and Tourism.

exceptionalExceptional Student Education

 

CS/CS/HB 465 supports provisions and guidelines already codified under IDEA, state laws, and State Board of Education rule. The bill proposes additional regulations, including but not limited to, requiring:

  • Districts to obtain parental consent or obtain consent through a due process hearing before administering the Florida Alternate Assessment to a student, instructing the student in the state standard access points, or placing the student in an Exceptional Student Education Center.
  • DOE to develop and adopt in State Board Rule separate parental notifications for specific actions related to the development of an Individual Educational Plan (IEP).
  • Districts not to discourage parents from inviting a qualified individual to attend specific meetings.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Education Committee.

publicPublic School Instruction

 

HB 559  requires public schools to provide instruction on the events surrounding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the impact of those events on the nation.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable by Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

restitutionRestitution for Juvenile Offenses

 

Current law authorizes the court to order a child and the child's parent or legal guardian to pay restitution to cover damages resulting form the child's delinquent or criminal behavior. CS/CS/HB 785 requires the court to order both the child and the parent or legal guardian to also pay.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

literacyLiteracy Jump Start Pilot Project

 

CS/CS/CS/HB 803 required the Department of Education (DOE) to establish a 5-year Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project in St. Lucie County to assist low-income, at-risk children in developing emergent literacy skills.  The DOE, in consultation with the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County will select one or more municipalities to participate in the project.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Education Committee.

HolocaustHolocaust Victims Assistance Act

 

In 1998, the Florida Legislature enacted the Holocaust Victims Insurance Act to provide several forms of relief for Holocaust survivors and their families.  The legislation authorized the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) to assist Holocaust survivors and their families to recover proceeds from insurance policies issued to victims of the Holocaust.

 

HB 913 permits DFS to expand its assistance to Holocaust survivors beyond recovery of insurance claims to include seeking restitution for Nazi-confiscated bank accounts, art, and other property or assets.  This change permits DFS to explore several new sources of restitution for Holocaust survivors whose property was seized by Nazi governments or collaborators.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable by Regulatory Affairs Committee.

humanHuman Trafficking

 

SB 974 addresses several human trafficking issues. Among others, it:

  • creates a privilege for a victim of human trafficking in the Evidence Code that provides for him or her to keep communication between the victim and a human-trafficking counselor confidential and not admissible in evidence unless the privilege is waived;
  • provides for punitive damages in a civil cause of action based on criminal acts;
  • clarifies the defense of duress or coercion specifically for victims of human trafficking who are charged with trafficking themselves; and
  • relieves a human trafficking victim of criminal liability for certain sexual conduct if the acts are committed as a result of being trafficked.
Last Action: 04/08/13 SENATE Favorable by Criminal Justice.

backgroundBackground Screening

 

In 2012, the Legislature created the Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse) to create a single program of screening individuals for criminal background checks prior to employment in certain health related service positions.  The Clearinghouse is being implemented by six state agencies and final implementation is required to be completed by October 1, 2013.  Designated agencies include the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education.  CS/HB 1021 clarifies and addresses several issues relating to screening and implementation of the Clearinghouse.  The Senate companion, SB 1112 also passed out of committee this week.

 

Last Actions:

04/09/13 HB 1021 Favorable with CS by Judiciary Committee;

04/09/13 SB 1112 Favorable with CS by Health Policy.

indeIndependent Living

 

CS/CS/HB 1315 is a comprehensive independent living bill that, among others: 

  • extends foster care to age 21 to allow youth to finish high school, earn a GED, pursue a post-secondary education, or begin a career;
  • provides eligibility requirements for the extension of foster care and provides a method for young adults who have left foster care to reapply for extended foster care;
  • changes the requirements related to foster parents, to align their requirements with the quality parenting initiative; creating the reasonable and prudent parent standard to be used by foster parents when deciding whether to allow a child to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities;
  • allows a supplemental monthly payment to foster parents to provide independent life skills to foster children; and
  • restructures the Road-to-Independence Program to accommodate the differing needs of young adults.

Last Action: 04/10/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

chChildren's Initiatives

 

SB 1322 codifies two Florida children's initiatives that are currently in existence and that have been designated by the Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce) as a Florida children's initiative pursuant to section 409.147, Florida Statutes:

  • The "New Town Success Zone" in Jacksonville; and
  • The "Parramore Kidz Zone" in Orlando.  

This bill provides that the initiatives are subject to Florida public records laws, public meeting laws, and procurement laws, and that the initiatives are designed to encompass an area large enough to include all necessary components of community life, but small enough to reach every member of each neighborhood who is willing to participate.

 

This bill also requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF or department) and the Miami Children's Initiative (MCI) to contract with a not-for-profit corporation to work in collaboration with the governing body to adopt the resolution, establish the planning team, and adopt the strategic community plan required by law to be designated as a children's initiative.

 

Last Action: 04/09/13 SENATE Favorable by Community Affairs.

victimsVictims of Human Trafficking

 

CS/HB 1325  addresses numerous human trafficking issues. Among others, it: 

  • provides legislative intent that "victims of trafficking be protected and assisted by this state and its agencies"; and
  • authorizes a victim of human trafficking to petition the court for expunction of any conviction for an offense committed while he or she was a victim of human trafficking, and provides the parameters for petition usage.

 Last Action: 04/09/13 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

SessionWHAT'S INSIDE
   

Session Countdown

 

Early Learning Bill Launched

 

Child Care Workers: No Raises in 20 Years

 

Homeless Funding - Unparalleled Yield 

 

 

Children's Week Brightens Capitol

 

DJJ Gets Kudos

 

Gov. Scott Signs 'Normalcy Bill'

  

Key Children's Health Bills Languish

   

 

BILLS HEARD THIS WEEK:

 

Disability Awareness

 

Homelessness

 

Consumer Finance Charge

 

Exceptional Student Education

 

Public School Instruction

 

Restitution for Juvenile Offenses

 

Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project

 

Holocaust Victims Assistance Act 

 

Human Trafficking

 

Background Screening

 

Independent Living

 

  Children's Initiatives

 

Victims of Human Trafficking

 

 

 

United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.
  
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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 

 

In politics, an organized minority is a political majority. -- Jesse Jackson

 
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