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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #5April 8, 2013
A weekly update during the Florida Legislative Session, highlighting how United Way is working to make our community a better place to live.
Top News: House and Senate Ready to Pass Their Budgets
The budget is the only bill the Legislature is required by the Florida Constitution to pass each year.  Last week, House and Senate appropriations committees approved their proposed 2013-14 budgets and sent HB 5001 and SB 1500 to their respective chambers.  There are important differences between them, which must be negotiated in budget Conferences, so that a final bill can be sent to the Governor before the 2013 Legislative Session ends on May 3rd.  Read more.
Quick Links
United Way Priority Agenda Issue: House Early Learning Bill Filed

The House Education Committee filed its much-anticipated proposed early learning bill  late Friday afternoon.  The bill addresses issues of quality, accountability, transparency, fraud reduction and governance for Florida's School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten programs.  It consolidates authority for both programs in the Office of Early Learning (OEL), under the Department of Education.  The OEL Executive Director will now report to the Commissioner of Education; however, the bill creates significant 'firewalls' to ensure OEL retains rulemaking authority.  Read more.


Use Affordable Housing Money for Affordable Housing


In 1991, the Legislature passed a bill requiring a portion of ad valorem taxes paid to the State to be used for affordable housing, and they created trust funds to hold the money.  This year, Florida's improving economy has generated $204 million in those trust funds, which, if used for affordable housing, would create nearly 16,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in positive economic impact in Florida.  But both the House and Senate proposed budget plans 'sweep' the funds for other issues. Read more.
Early Steps Program:  Early Intervention Helps Children Succeed

Florida's Early Steps program serves children birth to 36 months who have autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, hearing/ vision impairment or significant developmental delays.  Early Steps helps these children achieve critical developmental milestones toward success at home and at school.  Florida's program needs improvement and the Governor recommended a $5.6 million increase in state funding to better serve more than 46,000 children next year, but House and Senate budgets maintain current funding for Early Steps.  United Way of Florida supports the Governor's recommended increase.  Read more.


Bills to Watch This Week:


CS/SB 472 Developmental Disabilities: This bill creates the Developmental Disabilities Savings Program, intended to assist families in paying for services for children with developmental disabilities who will become ineligible for services due to age; and establishes the Developmental Disabilities Savings Program Board to administer the savings program.


Last Action: Now in Senate Banking and Insurance.

Questions or Comments?
If you have questions or comments regarding the United Gazette and how United Way is working in Tallahassee to support your community, contact Ted Granger or Jess Scher.