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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE #2                                                                                           MARCH 14, 2014
old and new capitol 
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WeekTwoDownWeek Two Down

 

Week two of the 2014 Florida Legislative Session saw major child welfare, juvenile justice, and nonprofit legislation pass out of committee.

The good fiscal news also continued.  As legislative leaders huddled behind closed doors to decide committee allocations (i.e., the amount of money each appropriations subcommittee will receive to fund the programs and services under its domain), legislative economists reported that we will have an additional $170.7 million next year to fund services or tax cuts.  This was the final fiscal forecast before the House and Senate craft their respective budget bills and brings the total "new" money over-and-above this year's budget to $1.4 billion.
  
On Thursday, committee allocations were made in both the House and Senate, so both houses will begin in earnest next week to craft their proposed 2014-2015 budgets.

ChildWelfareBillsRollChild Welfare Bills Roll


Florida's child welfare system has been in tumult since last year's revelation that more than 20 children who were in the sights of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) had died.  During interim meetings last month, it was reported that 432 children died of child abuse in 2012, 176 of whom had already been involved with the DCF.

As a result, legislators are resolved to try to address the fundamental flaws that led to those horrendous numbers.

This week, the House Healthy Families Subcommittee work-shopped its child welfare bill, HFS 3, which it will vote on next Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee voted out three child welfare bills: SB 1666, SB 1668, and SB 1670.  Totaling 112 pages, these three bills are intended to work together to address the major problems facing the troubled child welfare system.  Read more.

GovScottIncreaseELGovernor Scott:  Increase Early Learning $$$

 

In his proposed 2014-2015 It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget, Governor Scott proposes $1.1 billion in state funding for early childhood education and care.  This is an increase of $59.4 million (5.6%) over last year and is the largest boost for the School Readiness Program in a decade.  Among others, the Governor's budget recommends an additional:
  • $30 million to serve additional children in Florida's School Readiness Program;
  • $7 million to develop and implement an early learning data system;
  • $1.5 million for early childhood teacher scholarships through T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps);
  • $5 million to improve school readiness teacher effectiveness; and
  • $100 per child in the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Program.
For more on the Governor's proposed education budget, click here.

Only the mediocre are always at their best. 

-- Jean Giraudoux

LeanonStateEmployeesFlorida:  Lean on State Employees

 

In January, the Florida Department of Management Services updated its Annual Workforce Report.


The report shows what previous reports have shown: Florida's state government is the leanest in the country.  For example:

  • Taxpayers spent just $37 per resident, half the 2012 national average of $75.
  • Florida employs fewer state workers per resident than any other state.
  • The average Career-Service state worker earns $34,384, while in 2012, Florida's average wage for all industries was $43,210.
DJJEdBillHouse Passes Major DJJ Education Bill

 

During the 2011-12 school year, juvenile justice education programs served more than 32,000 students.  On Tuesday, the House passed CS/CS/HB 173, a comprehensive bill substantially revising to whom and how these education programs are provided.


The bill makes changes to laws governing accountability, deliverance, and review of education programs that provide educational services to students within the Department of Juvenile Justice.  Read more.

FoodDesertFood Desert Bills Languish

 

"Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.   Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options ...  According to a power point presentation before the Agriculture Committee on January 8, 2014, the USDA has identified 1,192 tracts in Florida as food deserts."


USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts nationwide, more than half of whom (13.5 million) are low-income.


SB 426 and HB 441 would provide an income tax credit for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts.  The House bill has not yet been heard in committee, while the Senate bill awaits hearing in its second committee.

VeteransBilltoGovLegislature Sends Veterans Bill to Governor

 

Florida is home to more than 1 million veterans and more than 60,000 active duty military personnel.


On Tuesday, the day Florida celebrated Military Day, the Senate unanimously passed CS/CS/HB 7015 and sent it to Governor Scott for his signature.  Intended to make Florida the number one destination for veterans, the bill relaxes college residency requirements for veterans and active military personnel, and allows for preference in hiring veterans by public and private employers.  Read more.

I have a lifetime contract. That means I can't be fired during the third quarter if we're ahead and moving the ball.
-- Lou Holtz, Arkansas football coach

CharityOverhaulCharity Fundraising Overhaul

 

Last summer, the Tampa Bay Times ran a series of investigative articles about America's Worst Charities, charities that annually receive more than $1 billion dollars in contributions from unsuspecting contributors.


In response, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam crafted comprehensive legislation further regulating charity fundraising that is making its way through the legislative process.  Read more.

Clawback2Clawback 2 Moving

 

Last year, the Florida Legislature passed good legislation protecting charities from having to give back contributions they received in good faith from contributors who got the money illegally.  Millions of dollars in such contributions were made by Bernie Madoff and others of his ilk during the last decade, and some charities have been forced to give it back.


This year, SB 856 has been filed to close the remaining loophole that could allow a bankruptcy court to compel a charity that received such contributions to give the money back to the court to be distributed to creditors.  The bill passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday.  Read more.

FloridaMeantoHomelessFlorida Mean to the Homeless

 

Florida is the most dangerous state in the nation for the homeless to live, according to National Coalition for the Homeless.  Its Senseless Violence: A Survey of Hate Crimes/Violence against the Homeless in 2012 reports that Florida had 15 reported attacks against the homeless in 2012, more than double the incidents in second-ranked California.  Two of the 15 attacks resulted in death.


Florida has led the nation all but once between 2005 and 2012.

 
One positive trend:  Nationwide, deadly attacks against the homeless were down from 32 to 18, or 10 percent between 2011 and 2012.

BallotInitiativesBallot Initiatives: Never Enough

 

Twenty potential constitutional amendments are pending for possible inclusion on the November ballot.  While  most are old-timers very unlikely to get the number of signatures needed, their topics range from billboards to abortion and fracking to firearms, running the gamut of high profile and emotionally-charged issues.


It takes signatures from eight percent of the number of voters voting in the last presidential election to place a citizen initiative on the general election ballot.  Eight percent of the number of voters voting in the 2012 presidential election was 683,149.  That number must come from at least 14 of the 27 Congressional districts.


At this point, only two proposed amendments have received the requisite number of signatures to be included on the November ballot.  They address water and land conservation and medical marijuana.


Visit the Florida Secretary of State's website to find out more about these initiatives that could fundamentally change our state's constitution.

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
-- William Shakespeare
BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

CannedCanned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

When food is apparently fit for human consumption and donated to a bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization, the donor is not subject to criminal penalties or civil damages arising from the condition of the food unless an injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the donor.


HB 23 expressly includes "public schools" within the statutory definition of "donor" as it relates to protection from criminal and civil liability for injuries caused by donated food.


Last Action: 3/13/14 HOUSE Favorable by Judiciary Committee.

BoosterSeatsBooster Seats

 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, use of a booster seat reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children aged 4 - 8 years when compared with seat belt use alone.  A recent study of five states that increased the age requirement to 7 or 8 years for car seat/booster seat use found that the rate of children using car seats and booster seats increased nearly three times and the rate of children who sustained fatal or incapacitating injuries decreased by 17 percent.


CS/SB 518 requires an operator of a motor vehicle, who is transporting a child 6 years of age or younger, to provide for the protection of the child by properly using a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device.  The device must be a separate carrier, an integrated child seat, or a booster seat.  Under the bill, motorists will no longer be permitted to transport children aged 4 through 5 with only a seat belt used as protection.
 

Last Action: 03/12/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.

NewbornHealthNewborn Health Screening

 

Newborn screening (NBS) is a preventive public health program that provides early identification of rare genetic, metabolic, hormonal, and functional disorders among infants and follow-up care for those affected.  Babies with these conditions appear healthy at birth, but can develop serious medical problems later in infancy or childhood.  Without treatment, the screened-for disorders can result in significant health consequences and in some cases death.


The 2000 Legislature created the Newborn and Infant Hearing Screening Program with the goal of screening "all newborns for hearing impairment in order to alleviate the adverse effects of hearing loss on speech and language development, academic performance, and cognitive development."  The program is implemented as a component of the NBS program.

 

CS/SB 722 authorizes the lab to release the results of a newborn's hearing and metabolic tests or screenings to the newborn's health care practitioner.  It also directs health care practitioners to offer parents and legal guardians of children who are diagnosed as having a permanent hearing impairment the opportunity to receive information from providers or institutions that offer speech and language pathology services, auditory-oral education, instruction with American Sign Language, or other services as approved by rule of the Department of Health.
  

Last Action: 3/11/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Health Policy Committee.

MotorVehicleEdMotor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care

 

CS/SB 744 removes the disability of nonage of minors for foster children for the purpose of obtaining motor vehicle insurance upon issuance of a court order.  The bill also directs the Department of Children and Families to establish a statewide pilot program to pay specified costs of driver education, licensure and costs incidental to licensure, and motor vehicle insurance for a foster child who meets certain qualifications.
 

Last Action: 3/13/14 SENATE Favorable by Transportation Committee.

ClawbackClawback

 

SB 856 amends the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act to expand the protection against a creditor's clawback action for charitable contributions received in good faith by qualified religious or charitable organizations.


Last Action: 3/11/14 SENATE Favorable by Banking and Insurance Committee.

InformationTechnologyInformation Technology Governance

 

Some have likened Florida to a $70 billion corporation without an IT director.  That would end under HB 7073, which creates the Agency for State Technology (AST) within the Department of Management Services (DMS) and establishes an executive director of the agency who serves as the state's chief information officer and is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.


Last Action: 3/12/14 HOUSE Passed as amended.

WHAT'S INSIDE
    

Week Two Down

 

Child Welfare Bills Roll

 

Governor Scott: Increase Early Learning $$$

 

Florida: Lean on State Employees

 

House Passes Major DJJ Education Bill

 

Food Desert Bills Languish

 

Legislature Sends Veterans Bill to Governor

 

Charity Fundraising Overhaul

 

Clawback 2 Moving

 

Florida Mean to the Homeless

 

Ballot Initiatives: Never Enough

 

 

BILLS HEARD THIS WEEK:

 

Canned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

Booster Seats

 

Newborn Health Screening

 

Motor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care 

 

Clawback

 

Information Technology Governance

 

United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.
  
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Important

Session Dates

March 4

- First day of the 2014 Florida Legislative Session 
   

April 6-11

- Children's Week
  

May 2

- Last day of Session 

 

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.

-- Helen Keller

 
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