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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE #4                                                                                          MARCH 28, 2014
old and new capitol 
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WeekFourDownWeek 4 Down


Article III of the Florida Constitution provides that the "Legislature shall convene on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each odd-numbered year, and on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, or such other date as may be fixed by law, of each even-numbered year..." and that "A regular session of the legislature shall not exceed sixty consecutive days..."

This week marked two events: passage by the House of a bill that will move the start of the 60-day legislative session to January in even-numbered years (CS/HB 9) and the mid-way point in the 2014 Session (March 26).

Substantive committee work is beginning to wind down and appropriation committee and floor action is picking up.  The next four weeks will be marked by budget bickering and political gamesmanship as legislators head toward session's end and the campaign trail.

SenateUnveilsSenate Unveils Early Learning Bill

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee unveiled SPB 7114, its 2014 early learning bill.  The Committee passed the bill unanimously as a committee bill and it will now be referenced and move through the process.  For the most part, it mirrors the House early learning bill (CS/HB 7069) that focuses on health and safety issues.  As was the case last year, the House has taken the lead on early learning issues and it is anticipated at session's end the House bill will form the foundation for the bill that ultimately passes the Legislature.

KeystoIndependenceKeys to Independence


Imagine being a teen, old enough to drive, but unable to because you can't get your drivers license, a car, or insurance.  Imagine how it would impact your social life, your everyday getting-to-school-and-other-places life.  Your ability to get and hold a job, participate in extracurricular school activities, and more.  Imagine that the reason you can't is because your family is dysfunctional, has been torn apart and you have to live with strangers.  This was the essence of the testimony before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday.
In response, the Committee passed CS/SB 744 in hopes of helping children in foster care get their driver's licenses and prepare for independent living after they age out of foster care when they turn 18.  Read more.

The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad.  It might be worth it except they keep coming back. 

-- Will Rogers

MilitaryLeadersSupportMilitary Leaders Support Quality Early Learning


Mission: Readiness is a nonpartisan national security organization of senior retired military leaders calling for smart investments in America's children.  In 2009, it released a disturbing report, the findings of which still resonate and should compel public and private leaders and our communities to provide greater support to our children and their families.  Among others, Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve found that 75 percent of young people ages 17 - 24 are unable to enlist in the United States military.  The report cites three crucial reasons why young Americans cannot join the military.

Last year, Mission: Readiness released A Commitment to Pre-Kindergarten Is A Commitment to National Security documenting how research "demonstrates that high-quality early learning programs can help solve the serious problems - poor educational achievement, criminal behavior and obesity - that cause the majority of our young people to be ineligible for military service."  Like its predecessor, this report should be digested and heeded by all who care about the future of our country.

WillLegislaturePassWill Legislature (Finally) Pass Booster Seat Law?


According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fact Sheet, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.  A major risk factor is incorrect use of child restraint systems.  CDC research had found that:

  • Use of a car seat reduces the risk for death to infants (aged less than 1 year) by 71 percent; and to toddlers (aged 1-4 years) by 54 percent in passenger vehicles.
  • 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.
  • For older children and adults, use of a seat belt reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately 50 percent.

A handful of committed legislators and many child advocates have been working for years to get the Legislature to pass a booster seat bill that will better protect the lives of our children.  On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee passed CS/HB 225, and the Senate companion bill (CS/SB 518) is also moving.  Read more.

HouseMovesChildHouse Moves Child Protection Forward


This week, the House Healthy Families Committee passed what will ultimately be the House of Representative's primary 2014 child protection bill, one it has worked on and refined for months.  After delaying its vote for a week to make refinements based on the Miami Herald's extraordinary Innocents Lost investigative series, the Committee passed PCB HFS 14-03 on Tuesday.  Read more.

HealthCareforMoreChildrenHealth Care for More Children Around the Corner?


A huge barrier to accessing health care for immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida is state law that makes them wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare.  During those five years, many forego needed care that could not only improve their quality of life, but help them succeed in school.

SB 282 was passed by the Senate Health Policy Subcommittee on Tuesday.  The bill would remove the five year waiting period for more than 25,000 children.  Read more.

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.  Unless there are three other people.
-- Orson Welles

OralHealthOral Health Problems Result in Emergency Room Visits


According to the Florida Public Health Institute, 139,298 Floridians visited a hospital emergency room for preventable dental conditions at a cost of $141,125,994 in 2012.  More startling is that 7,234 children age five and younger visited a hospital emergency room for preventable dental conditions at a cost of almost $6 million that year.  Emergency Department Use for Preventable Dental Conditions: 2011 & 2012 includes fact sheets that list oral health emergency department visits and charges for all 67 counties in the state of Florida.

ProtectingOurChildrensProtecting Our Children's Identities


According to the Journal of Business Research, more than 50,000 Florida children annually are victims of identity theft and their identities are used to steal more than $100 million each year.

The loss to Florida's economy and the challenges faced by children as they age and begin to need and use credit are substantial.  That's why Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam crafted legislation now passing through both houses to protect children from this crime.  The Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act is contained in CS/CS/CS/SB 242, which passed out of the Senate on Wednesday.  Read more.

VictoryforFloridaConsumersVictory for Florida Consumers!


Consumer debt covers non-business debt such as mortgages, credit cards, medical debts, and other debts mainly for personal, family, or household purposes.  If a borrower defaults on a consumer debt, the lender will initiate collection efforts, often through sale or assignment of the asset to a third-party debt collector.  State and federal debt collection laws provide consumer protection against deceptive, unfair, or abusive collection practices that can occur before the debtor is sued, as well as during the litigation process.

CS/CS/HB 413 strengthens Florida's debt collection laws, but as originally filed would have significantly weakened them.  Thanks to the bill sponsor, Representative David Santiago, the offending provisions were removed.  Read more.

IsYourCountyHealthyIs Your County Healthy?


St. John's County is the healthiest county in Florida and Union County is the least healthy, according to the fifth annual County Health Rankings released earlier this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.  The study uses 29 factors to gauge a county's health including smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, physical activity and access to healthy foods.  How healthy is your county?

I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places.  He told me to quit going to those places.
-- Henny Youngman
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

LiteracyJumpStartLiteracy Jump Start


CS/HB 85 requires the Office of Early Learning (OEL) to establish a five-year Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project in St. Lucie County to assist low-income, at-risk children develop emergent literacy skills. The bill requires OEL to select a local organization to implement the pilot project and, in consultation with the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County, to select one or more municipalities to participate in the project.

To be eligible to participate in the pilot project a child must be:

  • 2 or 3 years of age;
  • eligible for a federally subsidized child care program; and
  • a member of a family that is economically disadvantaged and reside in locally or federally subsidized housing. 

Last Action: 3/27/14 HOUSE Favorable by Education Committee.

CharitableExemptionCharitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation


HB 587 allows property owned by an exempt organization to receive a charitable purpose exemption from ad valorem taxation if the institution has taken affirmative steps to prepare the property for a charitable purpose.

Last Action: 3/26/14 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Finance and Tax Subcommittee. 

JuvenileJusticeEdJuvenile Justice Education Programs


CS/SB 598 makes substantial changes to accountability, deliverance, and review of juvenile justice education programs that provide educational services to students within the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  Among many others, the bill amends current law by:

  • requiring the Department of Education (DOE) in partnership with DJJ to develop a comprehensive accountability and school improvement process;
  • requiring DOE in collaboration with DJJ to monitor and report on the educational performance of students in commitment, day treatment, prevention, and detention programs;
  • requiring DOE in consultation with DJJ, district school boards, and providers to adopt rules for objective and measurable student performance measures and program performance ratings for the delivery of educational services by prevention, day treatment, and residential programs; and
  • requiring DJJ in consultation with DOE to publish by March 1 of each year a report on program costs and effectiveness, educational performance of students, and recommendations for modification or elimination of programs or program activities.

The bill revises provisions related to juvenile justice programs by:

  • requiring the State Board of Education to adopt rules for student assessment that determine the areas of academic need and strategies for appropriate intervention and instruction for students in detention facilities and requires a research-based assessment be administered that will assist students in determining educational and career options and goals;
  • requiring DOE and DJJ to provide oversight and guidance on how to implement effective educational transition planning and services; and
  • requiring prevention and day treatment programs to provide career readiness and exploration opportunities, as well as truancy and dropout prevention intervention services.

Last Action: 3/24/14 SENATE  Favorable with CS by Criminal Justice Committee.

NewbornHealthScreeningNewborn Health Screening


CS/CS/SB 722 expands the list of health care providers who may receive the results of a newborn's hearing or metabolic tests or screenings from the State Public Health Laboratory, and revises the definition of "hearing impairment" to conform to national standards.  The bill creates a new section of law directing an audiologist who diagnoses a child with hearing loss to ask the parent or guardian if they would like to receive information about services directly from specified providers.

Last Action: 3/25/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.



CS/HB 979 amends local housing distributions that come from the State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP) to direct the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to distribute four percent of the total amount distributed each fiscal year from the Local Government Housing Trust Fund to DCF and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).  Of the four percent distribution, 95 percent will be distributed to DCF to provide operating expenses and other support to local homeless coalitions.  The remaining five percent will be distributed to DEO to fund a nonprofit entity that will provide training and technical assistance to the coalitions.  The Senate companion bill is CS/SB 1090.

CS/HB 979 Last Action: 3/25/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Economic Development & Tourism.

CS/SB 1090 Last Action: 3/25/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

EarlyLearningEarly Learning


This week the House early learning bill (CS/HB 7069) passed its second committee of reference.  The lengthy bill makes myriad changes to the health and safety standards applicable to providers of early learning services.  Read more.


Last Action: 3/24/14 HOUSE Favorable with CS by the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.


Week 4 Down


Senate Unveils Early Learning Bill


Keys to Independence


Military Leaders Support Quality Early Learning


Will Legislature (Finally) Pass Booster Seat Law?


House Moves Child Protection Forward


Health Care for More Children Around the Corner?


Oral Health Problems Result in Emergency Room Visits


Protecting Our Children's Identities


Victory for Florida Consumers!


Is Your County Healthy?





Literacy Jump Start


Charitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation


Juvenile Justice Education Programs


Newborn Health Screening




Early Learning



United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.

















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Session Dates

March 4

- First day of the 2014 Florida Legislative Session 

April 6-11

- Children's Week

May 2

- Last day of Session 


Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.  -- Mark Twain

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