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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #8April 29, 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: Health Care Up in the Air
The biggest unanswered question of the Session concerns whether or not Florida will accept federal dollars to cover more of the state's uninsured residents.  The Governor, House and Senate appear to be on a collision course regarding that question, and possibly heading for a special session to resolve it.  Read more.
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United Way Priority Agenda Issues: Early Learning and KidCare

Heading into the final week of the 2013 Session, United Way's key policy issues are down to the wire.  House and Senate early learning bills are on track, with a Senate vote expected Monday.  A Florida TaxWatch brief highlights the proposed changes to the state's early learning system.  But bills that would have expanded eligibility for KidCare, Florida's health insurance program for children, were stalled in committees.  As the session concludes, attempts to amend other health care bills to include KidCare expansion have been unsuccessful.



Disabilities Waiver Funding Increased


The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) 'waiver' program provides home and community based services for people with developmental disabilities.  The HHS Budget Conference Committee agreed to spend $36 million to reduce APD's 20,000+ waitlist and serve up to 1,000 new clients.  However, the committee also added budget language requiring the state to study developing a managed care plan.  Some advocates are concerned: "Once you get a study like this, you pave the way for a system that will end up costing patients more," said Debra Dowds, executive director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council.  Late-breaking news:  On Sunday night, the Budget Committee deleted the managed care language.  Read more.

Budget Conference Wraps Up


The Budget Conference continued through the weekend. The big-ticket Health and Education items were closed out.  Money was added to local mental health, child protection and some homeless programs; Community Care for the Elderly saw an increase of $750,000; the Early Steps program received an additional $3 million; and $5.1 million was restored to local Early Learning Coalitions that lost funds last year.  The final budget must be ready by Tuesday to meet the constitutional requirement for a 72-hour 'cooling-off period' before legislators can vote on it and end the Session on schedule Friday.


Bills to Watch This Week:


Bullying in the Public School SystemCS/SB 626 by Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay. The bill redefines 'bullying' to include actions that cause emotional pain and discomfort to another person, and defines 'cyberbullying' as harassment through the use of computers, technology or electronic communications.  It broadens the authority of a public K-12 school to discipline students for cyberbullying activities using any computer located on school grounds, on a school bus or at a school-related program.  Placed on Special Order Calendar, 04/30/2013.

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.