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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE #6                                                                                               APRIL 11, 2014
old and new capitol 
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ChildrensWeekChildren's Week Brightens Capitol


Thousands of children, parents, teachers, caregivers and professionals of every thread converged on the State Capitol this week to celebrate the essence of our children; what they are and what they represent.  They also brought with them vivid personal descriptions of challenges and barriers they face.

Children's Week 2014 was a grand success, primarily because of the phenomenal partners who make the event possible in the first place, and to the many state leaders who lent their voices, their insights, and support.

The Week's main event - the Children's Week Reception and Dinner - was highlighted by the presentation of the Chiles Advocacy Award by last year's winners, Dr. Gerold and Audrey Schiebler, to Drs. Louis and Julia St. Petery.  Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente provided a powerful keynote speech, and children and young adults introduced all of the speakers.  Zero To Three Executive Director Matthew Melmed also joined in many of the festivities and met with legislators to discuss quality early learning.

ReduceChildDeathsReduce Child Deaths by 90%!

Earlier this year, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) released a Child Fatality Trend Analysis Report.  The comprehensive study identifies major factors contributing to child deaths from abuse and neglect in Florida and concludes that "prior in-home services reduce a child's odds of death by 90%".

A rigorous third party evaluation has found that 98 percent of children in families served by Healthy Families Florida (HFF) were free from abuse and neglect one year after program completion, and last year DCF found that 95 percent of children completing the program were still free from abuse and neglect three years later.  Read more about this voluntary home visiting program.

Legislative Conferees are in the process of determining whether to accept the House proposal to increase funding for HFF by $4.5 million, or to maintain current year funding as proposed by the Senate.

A priority of the 2014 Legislature is to address the failures of Florida's child protection system.  The United Way of Florida urges the legislature to accept the House position to increase funding for HFF, so potential abuse and neglect is avoided before children ever have to be touched by that system.

FloridaChamberFlorida Chamber Announces Business Alliance for Children


At the inaugural Children's Week Business Leaders Luncheon, Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced that the Chamber Foundation is creating a Florida Business Alliance on Early Education that will focus on issues surrounding early childhood.  Governor Scott and other business leaders attending the luncheon applauded the Chamber for recognizing that the first years of life are the foundation for a strong economy, and for taking action to help strengthen that foundation through creation of the Alliance.

I always wanted somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.  -- Lily Tomlin

CerealBoxEyesCereal Box Mascots' Eyes Recruit Children


In a recent report entitled, Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap'n Crunch Looking Down at My Child?, Cornell University researchers speculate that the eyes of cereal box mascots are likely drawn to make contact with children.

Researchers looked at 65 cereals across 10 different grocery stores to examine how they are being marketed to children.  They found that the mascot's eyes have a "downward gaze at an angle of 9.67 degrees."  The report confirms long held parental suspicions and previously researched findings that kid-friendly cartoonish cereal boxes are strategically placed on the bottom two shelves to reach its targeted demographic.  The study postulates that eye contact creates "increased feelings of trust and connection," which will make children and adults more likely to buy them.

HomelessChallengeGrantsHomeless Challenge Grants Revised


The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that, in January 2013, 610,042 people were homeless on a given night in the United States.  Five states: California (22 percent/136,826 people), New York (13 percent/77,430 people), Florida (8 percent/47,862 people), Texas (5 percent/29,615 people), and Massachusetts (3 percent/19,029 people) counted for more than half of the homeless population in the United States.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee passed CS/CS/HB 979.  The bill is intended to funnel  much-needed funding to support comprehensive initiatives to not only provide temporary shelter to the homeless, but to try and address the underlying issues contributing to them becoming homeless.

The bill amends the Affordable Housing Planning and Community Assistance Act (Act), to:

  • expand the Act's application to include meeting the needs of the homeless; and
  • authorize training and technical assistance under the Act for designated lead agencies of homeless assistance Continuums of Care (CoC) to provide or secure housing and other services for the homeless.

The bill also requires DCF to establish varying levels of Challenge Grant awards of up to $500,000 for CoC lead agencies, with the award levels being based on the total population within the CoC catchment area and differing degrees of homelessness in the catchment planning areas.

HowtoCareforTraumatizedHow to Care for Traumatized Children


When young children are abused or neglected and taken away from their families to protect them, should they be kept with their siblings in group homes that likely won't address their other social and emotional needs, or should they be separated from their siblings and placed with foster parents, who can provide a more nurturing and supportive environment?

When children have been victims of human trafficking and know nothing else but the street life and the pimps who "protected" them, should they be locked in a facility to keep them from running away; running back to the men responsible for victimizing them?

These two issues dominated legislative discussions this week on two separate bills.  Read more.

The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.  -- Yogi Berra
TwoMiddleClassTwo Middle-Class Incomes Don't Add Up to a Home


A recent analysis of affordability based upon list prices and median incomes concludes that only 41 percent of homes currently for sale across 40 metropolitan U.S. cities are within the means of a family earning two median incomes.  An affordable home is defined as a home with a monthly payment that is 28 percent or less of gross monthly income.  It is anticipated that home prices, which have seen two straight years of 13 percent increases, will continue their upward trend this spring.  In contrast, median household income - when adjusted for inflation - is almost unchanged from 25 years ago.

You can explore the housing profile for a defined geographic area in Florida through the Florida Housing Data Clearinghouse databank.  The Clearinghouse also created and maintains an "Affordable Housing Needs Summary" by geographic location - county and jurisdiction.

(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

UnaccompaniedHomelessYouthUnaccompanied Homeless Youth


CS/SB 260 establishes the legal authority for an unaccompanied homeless youth to consent to certain medical procedures and care without a parent's permission.
The unaccompanied homeless youth must be at least 16 years old and may consent to medical, dental, psychological, substance abuse, and surgical diagnosis and treatment, including preventative care.  The youth may consent for himself or herself, or his or her child if the youth is unmarried, the parent of the child, and has actual custody of the child.

Last Action: 04/03/14 SENATE passed as amended.

CharitableExemptionCharitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation


CS/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: 4/8/14 HOUSE Favorable by Local & Federal Affairs Committee.

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: 4/9/14 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

NewbornHealthScreeningNewborn Health Screening


CS/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.  Additionally, if an audiologist diagnoses an infant or toddler with hearing loss, the bill requires that the audiologist or his or her designee ask the parent or guardian if he or she would like to receive information about services directly from Early Steps providers.  The bill also makes two technical corrections, deleting an obsolete date and updating a cross-reference to federal law.

Last Action: 4/8/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Judiciary 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:Last Action:  4/9/14 HOUSE On Judiciary Committee agenda for 4/11/14.

  • 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:  4/9/14 HOUSE On Judiciary Committee agenda for 4/11/14.

ChildProtectChild Protection


SB 1666 is 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:  4/10/14 SENATE Appropriations Committee Temporarily Postponed.


Children's Week Brightens Capitol


Reduce Child Deaths by 90%


Florida Chamber Announces Business Alliance for Children


Cereal Box Mascots' Eyes Recruit Children


Homeless Challenge Grants Revised


How to Care for Traumatized Children


Two Middle-Class Incomes Don't Add Up to a Home 





Unaccompanied Homeless Youth


Charitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation


Juvenile Justice Education Programs


Newborn Health Screening


Human Trafficking


Child Protection


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 


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