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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE #5                                                                                               APRIL 4, 2014
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BudgetsGoBudgets Go to Conference

 

The House version is $75.3 billion, slightly larger than the $74.9 billion Senate plan.

On Thursday, the House and Senate considered numerous amendments to their 2014-2015 budget bills and then passed them.  The House immediately sent its $75.3 billion plan to the Senate.  The Senate refused to replace its $74.9 billion budget with the House plan and President Gaetz appointed Senate conferees.  Speaker Weatherford asked House members to submit their requests to serve on conference committees by 5:00 PM today.  It is likely the Speaker will appoint conferees ASAP, possibly tonight or over the weekend.

Conferees will start meeting next week to hammer out the differences between the House bill (HB 5001) and the Senate bill (SB 2500).  While there are major differences in some areas, particularly in education spending, the difference in total proposed spending is less than $500 million; less than one percent of the $75 billion budget that will ultimately be passed.

The speed with which Senate conferees were named reaffirms the intent of legislative leaders to get the final budget up-and-out and end session on time.  At this point, they are a full week ahead of the regular budget schedule.

HouseToutsBudgetHouse Touts Budget


Shortly after the 2014-2015 budget passed off the House floor, the Majority Office released a statement highlighting what will be big campaign issues in coming months: tax relief and education.  The "Florida House Passes Balanced Budget with Substantial Tax Relief and an Increased Commitment to Education" statement provides an overview of the highlights in the House budget.

SpeakingofTaxCutsSpeaking of Tax Cuts

 

At the beginning of session, state economists reported the state would have about $1.2 billion dollars in "new" money to spend next year.  The (slowly) rebounding economy is beginning to pick up steam and as it does state coffers are growing faster than they have in several years.  That means tax cuts are back on the table in a big way.

Two weeks into session, tax cut bills totaling over $1 billion had been filed, indicating a strong desire by legislators to show voters going to the polls in November that reducing taxes is a key priority.  Governor Scott's 2014-2015 budget proposed over $500 million in cuts, and on Wednesday he signed a $395 million cut to vehicle registration fees (CS/SB 156).  Both Chambers have committed to reach the half-billion-dollar tax cut mark and, with numerous bills to accomplish that goal heading to the finish line, it appears they will easily reach it.

Men don't care what's on TV.  They only care what else is on TV.  -- Jerry Seinfeld

PredictingAutismPredicting Autism

 

Researchers have found new evidence that autism begins during pregnancy and affects brain development.  Published last month, the NIH-funded study shows a disruption of the layering process during brain development.  The study was published the same day as a CDC report finding there has been a huge surge in Autism diagnoses for children over just the last two years.  During that short amount of time, the number of diagnoses has increased from 1 in 88 children to 1 in 68, a 30 percent increase.

SenateSupportsAffordableSenate Supports Affordable Housing - And Jobs

 

More than 20 years ago, the Legislature made a promise to Floridians:  They pledged a portion of ad valorem taxes paid to the state to be used for affordable housing, and they created trust funds to hold the money.  If the $226 million in those trust funds are used for affordable housing next year, they will create nearly 123,000 jobs and $2.3 billion in positive economic impact in Florida.  The Senate is proposing to do just that, but the House has proposed to use only $89 million for affordable housing, leaving the remaining $137 million on the table to be used for other things.  Read more.

EarlyStepsEarly Steps, The Most Important Steps

 

The earlier we detect and address developmental issues in our children, the better it is for them and for society.  Short and long term.


Florida's Early Steps System serves children birth to 36 months who have medical conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, hearing/vision impairment, as well as children with significant developmental delays.  Each year, Early Steps helps these children achieve critical developmental milestones, starting them on a path toward success at home and at school.


Yet Florida Early Steps workers carry a caseload almost double their counterparts across the country (1:65 vs. 1:38), and Florida only provides a fraction of Pennsylvania's budget of $5,268 per child.


For next year, Governor Scott, the House and the Senate have included $3.6 million to maintain current services.  An additional infusion of $1.7 million is needed to lower caseloads to 1:55 - still far above the national average.

Technology is just a tool.  In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.  -- Bill Gates

AprilNationalApril is National 9-1-1 Education Month

 

April is "National 9-1-1 Education Month" and a great time to reach out to your community and educate them about Smart911 and 9-1-1 safety.  Smart911 is a free service where individuals can create a safety profile that includes any information they want 9-1-1 to have in the event of a household emergency.  Should an emergency occur and 9-1-1 is dialed from a phone associated with their household safety profile, their profile is immediately displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker, providing additional information that can be used to facilitate the proper response to the correct location.

MentalHealthFirstAidMental Health First Aid Moving

 

Developed in Australia in 2001, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an eight hour interactive program that trains people to understand and recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental illness and substance abuse.  Bills making their way through the Legislature would make this training available to educators, first responders and the public in order to help people facing those challenges.  Read more.

TargetedAfterschoolTargeted Afterschool

 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that students who do not read well by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.  Yet, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that only 35 percent of fourth graders across the country are proficient in reading, and two years ago, 44 percent of Florida's third graders were not reading at grade level.


Research also shows that children participating in quality afterschool programs perform better on standardized reading and math assessments at grade level, have greater overall academic achievement, have higher grades and academic test scores, and are more engaged in school.  Although many of them want to, 20 percent of Florida's K-12 students do not participate in afterschool programs.


Recognizing that quality afterschool programs not only help kids stay safe, do better in school, enhance their social and emotional growth, and have fun, some legislative leaders are supporting increased state funding in 2014-2015 for at-risk youth in targeted areas to participate in academically oriented afterschool programs.  Research shows that this would be a good deal for those children, their working parents, and taxpayers.


Florida's afterschool system is supported by the Florida Afterschool Network, which has created a fact sheet containing compelling information on the benefits of investing in afterschool programs for our children.

EarlyEducationEarly Education: Long-Term Health Benefits

 

In the 1970s, the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill launched a landmark early childhood intervention study known as the Carolina Abecedarian Project, and it is one of the longest running studies on the benefits of early childhood education for low-income children.  The original study revealed that early educational intervention, along with nutritional supplements, basic social services, and access to health care, produced better outcomes than interventions that took place in older, school-age children.


Recently, researchers discovered that the physical health of those who received high-quality, intensive intervention in the early years from the Abecedarian Project is more robust compared with other adults.  According to the findings, early education intervention may be effective in preventing, or at least delaying, the onset of adult disease.  The study, published in the journal Science on March 27, 2014, is part of a growing body of scientific evidence that hardship in early childhood has lifelong health implications.

Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house.
-- Rod Stewart
BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

VeteransVeterans

 

Florida is home to more than 1 million veterans and more than 60,000 active duty military personnel.  On Monday, March 31, 2014, Governor Scott signed CS/CS/HB 7015.  Intended to make support veterans and make Florida the number one veteran destination, the bill relaxes college residency requirements for veterans and active military personnel, and allows for preference in hiring veterans by public and private employers.
 

Last Action: 4/1/14 Signed by the Governor, Chapter No. 2014-1.

EarlyLearnEarly Learning

 

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee passed CS/CS/HB 7069.  The lengthy bill makes myriad changes to the health and safety standards applicable to providers of early learning services.  It will next be heard by the full House.


Last Action: 4/1/14 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.

HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking

 

CS/HB 1017 amends a variety of statutes to prevent human trafficking, enhance penalties related to human trafficking, and provide protections to human trafficking victims.  Specifically, the bill:

  • prohibits minors from working in adult theaters;
  • requires an adult theater to verify the age of each of its employees or independent contractors, and maintain such records;
  • removes the statute of limitations for human trafficking violations;
  • increases penalties relating to the trafficking of children;
  • creates a new penalty if traffickers permanently brand their victims;
  • increases penalties for those who derive support from the proceeds of prostitution; and
  • expands provisions relating to expunction of criminal history records for victims of human trafficking. 

Last Action:  4/2/14 HOUSE Favorable by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

ChildProtectionChild Protection

 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 1666 as a committee substitute, containing not only the original content of SB 1666, but including the content, as amended, of the other two major Senate child protection bills (1668 and 1670).  The comprehensive 140+ page bill emphasizes that safety of the child is the paramount concern of the state, focuses on improving the quality of state workers on the front lines of our child abuse system, and improves how the state will care for medically complex and severely disabled children.


Last Action: 4/2/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

WHAT'S INSIDE
     

Budgets Go to Conference

 

House Touts Budget

 

Speaking of Tax Cuts

 

Predicting Autism

 

Senate Supports Affordable Housing - And Jobs

 

Early Steps, The Most Important Steps

 

April is National 9-1-1 Education Month

 

Mental Health First Aid Moving

 

Targeted Afterschool

 

Early Education: Long-Term Health Benefits

 

 

BILLS HEARD THIS WEEK:

 

Veterans

 

Early Learning

 

Human Trafficking

 

Child Protection

 

 

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 

 

Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

-- Dave Berry

 
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