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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #4March 31, 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: Budget Process Continues


House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their budget bills last week with strong bipartisan support, though some House Democrats objected to Leadership's decision not to expand Florida's Medicaid program, and to "insufficient" per-student funding for PreK-12 education.  This week HB 5001 and SB 2500 will go to the House and Senate floors, where amendments will be added before the bills are approved by the full bodies.  Finally, the budgets will be reconciled during the Budget Conference process before the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act is passed and sent to the Governor.

Quick Links
In Session: Report From Tallahassee:  This week's blog post: Child Welfare reform bill passes key House committee
ACTION ALERT:  Call members of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health & Human Services, and ask them to support KidCare bills HB 7 and SB 282 to remove the five-year waiting period for more than 25,000 Florida children.  Call the bill sponsors, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Sen. Rene Garcia, and co-sponsor Sen. Anitere Flores to thank them for their support.
'Booster Seat' Law Advances

The Legislature is once again considering a booster seat bill that will better protect the lives of Florida's children.  Last week, the House Transportation Committee passed CS/HB 225, and the Senate companion bill CS/SB 518 is also moving.  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, with incorrect use of child restraint systems a major risk factor.  Read more


Debt Collection: Consumer Protections Strengthened


Debt collection is nationally, in Florida, and among our military, the second highest consumer complaint, after identity theft.  The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, CS/CS/HB 413, protects consumers against unscrupulous debt collection practices.  It prohibits threats or use of force, using profane language, pretending to be an attorney, simulating a judicial process, or communicating with a consumer's employer, among others.  It also requires consumer notification when a debt is sold to a collection agency.  Read more.


Newborn Health Screening


CS/CS/SB 722 expands the list of health care practitioners who may receive the results of a newborn's hearing or metabolic tests or screenings from the State Public Health Laboratory to include physician, osteo-pathic physician or physician assistant, advanced registered nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, midwife, speech-language pathologist or audiologist, or a dietician or nutritionist.  The bill creates a new section of law directing an audiologist who diagnoses a child with hearing impairment to ask the child's parents or guardian if they would like to receive information about services directly from a qualified Early Steps provider.

Bills to Watch This Week: Child Welfare Reform (SB 1666, SB 1668 and SB 1670)


A trio of child welfare bills in the Senate: SB 1666, SB 1668 and SB 1670, which had been postponed to ensure that the bills addressed some of the issues raised by the recent Miami Herald investigative series, will be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee this week. The bills propose reforms to child protective investigations, professional training and qualification, and the needs of medically complex children in the system.  


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.