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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #3March 24, 2014
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 Budget Proposals Released


House and Senate budget proposals released last week exceed Governor Scott's $74.2 billion recommendation, with good news for education, health, and human services, and also significant tax cuts. Both House and Senate proposals include large increases to the PreK-12 education budget (though less for Early Learning than the Governor's recommendation), as well as funding increases to support home visiting programs, child welfare reforms, and reduced waiting lists for home and community based services for the elderly and disabled.  Read more


Quick Links
In Session - Report From Tallahassee:  This week's blog post: 'KidCare bill starts to move in the Senate'
'Innocents Lost' Changes the Child Welfare Debate

The Miami Herald's Innocents Lost investigative series was first published a week ago and had an immediate effect on the child welfare debate in Tallahassee.  It reported on the deaths, over the past 6 years, of almost 500 children across Florida who had been touched by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  The series described how, as DCF focused its efforts on family preservation, the number of children in state care declined and the number of child deaths soared. Draft bills were revised, based on public testimony and renewed legislative will to enact meaningful reforms.  Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), Chair of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee stated, "the best interest of the child shall be the first priority and then keeping the family intact".  Read more



Nonprofits: Charity Fundraising Overhaul


Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam's proposed legislation could change the way Florida nonprofits operate by tightening charity fundraising regulations.  CS/SB 638 and CS/HB 629 would:

  • Place additional requirements on professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to report the percentage of contributions collected that will be provided to the charity;
  • Require charities that receive more than $500,000 in a year to submit an independently reviewed (or, if more than $1 million, an independently audited) financial statement or IRS Form 990; and
  • Require that a charity receiving more than $1 million, but spending less than 25 percent on its cause must provide information about board members and family relationships between board members and staff.

The House and Senate will vote on these bills in coming weeks.  Read more.


Why Children Die in Florida


The Florida Department of Children and Families Child Fatality Trend Analysis provides insight into why children die in Florida.  Findings include:

  • Each instance of a prior removal due to physical abuse, substance abuse or sexual abuse increases the odds of death by a multiple of 6 to 15 times.
  • The child having a physical disability increases the odds of death by a multiple of 17.
  • 75 percent of all child deaths occur between ages 0 and 2 years old.
  • Prior in-home services reduce the odds of death by 90 percent.

Best-practice home-visiting programs such as Healthy Families Florida do even better; 98 percent of children served by Healthy Families are free from abuse and neglect, and 95 percent are still free from abuse and neglect three years after completing the program.

Bills to Watch This Week: Needle Exchange; Homelessness Assistance


Infectious Disease Elimination Pilot Program: CS/SB 408 and CS/HB 491 create the "Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA)",  requiring the Department of Health to establish a sterile needle and syringe exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade County.  The bills provide that the distribution of needles and syringes under the pilot program is not a violation of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act or any other law.  This needle-exchange pilot, the first of its kind in Florida, is an evidence-based best practice for reducing HIV and other blood-born diseases.  Both bills will be heard in committee this week.


Homelessness:  SB 1090 and HB 979 require the
Department of Economic Opportunity to provide training and technical assistance to designated lead agencies of homeless assistance continuums of care; require that provision of such training and assistance be delegated to certain nonprofit entities.  Both bills will be heard in committee this week.


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, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.