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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE #8                                                                                             APRIL 25, 2014
old and new capitol 
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ShowMetheMoneyShow Me the Money!

 

Legislators returned from the Passover/Easter holiday geared-to-go on next year's budget.  And they went!  In a controlled sprint, conference committees began meeting on Monday evening and completed their work on Wednesday evening.  48 hours.  Issues the conferees couldn't reconcile were bumped to the Appropriations Committee Chairs Wednesday evening.

This weekend, issues the Appropriations Chairs are unable to reconcile will be bumped to the Senate President and House Speaker to resolve.  The final appropriations bill has to be completed and available for review no later than next Tuesday at midnight, to comply with the required 72-hour review period mandated by the Florida Constitution, if the Legislature hopes to adjourn on time next Friday no later than midnight.

Next week's Legislative Link will provide an update on important funding issues that will be included in the final appropriations bill.

EducationConferenceEducation Conference Blows Up


The Education Appropriations Conference Committee came to a sudden, uncomfortable halt on Wednesday evening as House and Senate negotiators hit an impasse on how to proceed.  The underlying reasons for the situation are not known, but tensions between Representatives and Senators remained palpable the remainder of the week.

Because of the impasse, all education funding issues were bumped to the Appropriations Committee Chairs, Senator Joe Negron and Representative Seth McKeel, to decide.  Those two legislators started the negotiations process from scratch.  As this Legislative Link went to press, any agreements they might have made had not been made public.

SomeInterestingBillsSome Interesting Bills

 

All-in-all, Legislators have done a good job on issues of interest to United Way.

In addition to the budget, legislators picked up the pace this week on passing bills.  Some interesting bills that moved this week (see also Bills Heard this Week below) include:
  • Medical Marijuana - CS/SB 1030 was approved Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee and CS/CS/HB 843 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
  • Anti-Discrimination Gun Bill - CS/CS/SB 424 is going to the Governor.  The bill makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage or increase rates if a customer owns a gun.
  • Abortion - CS/SB 918, already passed by the House, would require that physicians conduct examinations before performing abortions to determine if fetuses are viable.  It passed the Senate Rules Committee 6-5 along party lines.
  • Marrying Minors - HB 1279 was passed by the House, making it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to get married.

If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. 

-- Milton Berle

MoreStayatHomeMomsMore Stay at Home Moms

 

A recent study by the Pew Research Center finds that close to three in 10 mothers with children younger than 18 years old are staying home since the recession ended, but a growing number of them say that's primarily because they can't find a job.


In 2000, just one percent of stay-at-home mothers said they were home because they couldn't find a job, that share leapt to six percent in 2014.  One of the most striking demographic differences between stay-at-home mothers and working mothers relates to their economic well-being.  Fully a third (34 percent) of stay-at-home mothers are living in poverty, compared with 12 percent of working mothers.

ChildWelfareBillsMovingChild Welfare Bills Moving

 

The House child protection/welfare bill (CS/HB 7169) is ready for floor action, and the Senate bill (CS/SB 1666) was on the Special Order Calendar as this Legislative Link went to press.


While there are differences between the bills, they both, as reported by Margie Menzell, News Service of Florida:

 

  • require more transparency from the state Department of Children and Families about child deaths;
  • require more accountability from the lead community-based care agencies, which oversee adoption, foster care and other services;
  • require child-protective investigators to execute safety plans that focus on risks to children rather than relying on parents' promises to stop drinking or allowing abusive boyfriends in the family homes;
  • create rapid-response teams to conduct immediate investigations of child deaths, establish the Florida Institute for Child Welfare to conduct policy research and create the position of assistant secretary for child welfare at DCF; and
  • will keep siblings together and medically fragile children in their communities whenever possible.

While child advocates applaud the Legislature for taking definitive action to address the scourge of child abuse and neglect that plagues our state - 400+ deaths in the last six years - Mike Watkins, Chief Executive Officer of Big Bend Community Based Care, said it best when he testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the bill focuses too much on administration and that - if we are truly going to address abuse and neglect - we must address the fundamental underlying issues of parent engagement and support, substance abuse, and mental health.

ChildWelfareFundingChild Welfare Funding

 

On Tuesday, the House and Senate Health Care Appropriations Conference Committee agreed to provide $47 million in additional revenue to the child welfare/protection system.  Here's how the funding breaks down: 

  • $13.1 million for 191 child protective investigators
  • $2.8 million for the child protection teams
  • $5 million for healthy families
  • $5 million for the family intensive treatment programs
  • $10 million for community-based care organizations
  • $3 million for human trafficking
  • $8.1 for sheriffs who work with child protective services

Advocates were generally very pleased with the agreement.  Particularly since it exceeds the funding recommended by Governor Scott ($39 million), the House ($44.5 million) and the Senate ($33.5 million).

You can observe a lot by just watching.
-- Yogi Berra

TaxCutsTax Cuts

 

Before session, Governor Scott proposed in his It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget that $500 million in tax cuts should be made in next year's budget.  House Speaker Weatherford and Senate President Gaetz echoed the sentiment.


The Legislature has passed and Governor Rick Scott has already signed, a $395 million reduction in vehicle registration fees (CS/SB 156) that will result in a $25 cut to the average vehicle registration cost.


That leaves about $100 million in tax cuts to be made if the three leaders are to accomplish their goal.  The goal is in sight.


While there are differences between the House and Senate in how to reach the $500 million mark, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday passed an amended HB 5601 to increase next year's tax cut  from $105 million $109 million.

FloridaFacesFlorida Faces Difficult Future

 

In February, the LeRoy Collins Institute released Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida's Future.  The report concludes that Florida is at or near the bottom of state rankings in important economic development related issues.  The 120-page report "examines the past and predicts a future in state revenues, demographics, the Florida Retirement System, K-12 education, higher education and infrastructure."  Key findings include:

  • Florida's younger generation is less likely to have a college degree than their older cohorts and college degree attainment is far below those of the same age living in other states.
  • Like the rest of the country, Florida has seen a "hollowing out" of its middle-wage jobs, but the decline has been stronger than in other states.  Compared to the rest of the country, Florida has relatively fewer high-skill, high-wage jobs and relatively more low-skill, low-wage jobs.
  • Congestion in Florida's urban areas is among the worst in the country.  The state has less than its share of roads, a shortage particularly acute for major roads in urban areas.
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.
-- Mark Twain
BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

CannedFoodCanned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

Current law protects donors who give food to a charitable organization from civil and criminal liability related to injury caused by such donated food.  HB 23 adds public schools to the definition of "donors" protected by the law.


Last Action:  Passed HOUSE and SENATE. 4/24/14 Enrolled.

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:  Passed HOUSE. 4/21/14 SENATE In Messages.

IdentityTheftIdentity Theft

 

A 2012 study by AllClear ID found, based on a review of the credit files of 27,000 American children, that more than 10 percent of children are victims of identity theft.  Similarly, a 2011 study estimated that 140,000 instances of identity fraud are perpetrated on minors in the United States each year.  A recent, Florida-specific analysis of identity theft against minors estimated that approximately 52,000 children in Florida will be victims of identity theft.


CS/CS/CS/SB 242 creates the "Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act" authorizing representatives of minors younger than 16 years of age to place a security freeze on the minor's consumer credit report.  The purpose is to thwart criminals from stealing the personal information of the minor (i.e., "stealing their identities") to defraud businesses and individuals, thereby destroying the minor's credit.


Last Action:  Passed HOUSE. 4/22/14 SENATE Enrolled.

UnaccompaniedYouthUnaccompanied Homeless Youth

 

CS/SB 260 establishes the legal authority for an unaccompanied youth who is also a certified homeless youth, to consent to certain medical procedures and care or consent to a forensic medical examination without a parent's permission.
 

The unaccompanied youth must be at least 16 years old and determined by a school district's liaison for homeless children and youths to be an unaccompanied homeless youth.  Once so identified, the youth 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:  Passed HOUSE. 4/22/14 SENATE Enrolled.

VolsforOrganizedYouthVolunteers for Organized Youth Sports and Recreational Programs

 

CS/SB 358 expands the current background screening requirements for coaches of youth athletic teams to also cover assistant coaches and referees.


Last Action:  Passed SENATE. 4/23/14 HOUSE In Messages.

BoosterSeatsBooster Seats

 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 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.  A recent study of five states that increased the age requirement to 7 or 8 years for car seat/booster seat use found that the rate of children using car seats and booster seats increased nearly three times and the rate of children who sustained fatal or incapacitating injuries decreased by 17 percent.


CS/CS/SB 518 revises the ages of children who are required to use child restraint devices when being transported in a motor vehicle from 4 through 5 years to 4 through 6 years of age.  The bill also removes a provision allowing a seat belt to be used in lieu of a specialized device for children between 4 and 5 years of age; however, a seat belt may be used for children between 4 and 6 years of age when the motor vehicle operator is not a member of the child's immediate family and the child is being transported gratuitously, in the case of an emergency, or when a medical condition necessitates an exception as evidenced by appropriate documentation from a health professional.


Last Action:  4/24/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.

CharitableExemptionfromAdValoremCharitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation

 

CS/HB 587 allows property owned by a tax exempt organization to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxes for educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes if the institution has taken "affirmative steps" to prepare the property for a charitable purpose.  If the property is not in actual use for an exempt purpose within five years, the property owner must pay back taxes owed plus 15 percent interest.


Last Action:  4/21/14 HOUSE Favorable by Appropriations Committee.

NewbornHealthScreeningNewborn Health Screening

 

Newborn screening is a preventive public health program that is provided in every state in the United States to identify, diagnose, and manage newborns at risk for selected disorders that, without detection and treatment, can lead to permanent developmental and physical damage or death.  The Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for administering the statewide Newborn Screening Program, which conducts screenings for 37 disorders.


CS/HB 591 allows the State Public Health Laboratory to release the results of a newborn's hearing and metabolic tests or screenings to the newborn's health care practitioner.


The bill also requires an audiologist, upon diagnosing an infant or toddler with a permanent hearing impairment, to offer the parent or guardian an opportunity to receive information about services directly from qualified Early Steps providers who offer early intervention services and specialize in serving children with hearing loss.


Last Action:  Passed HOUSE and SENATE.

CharityFundraisingOverhaulCharity Fundraising Overhaul

 

Last summer, the Tampa Bay Times ran a series of investigative articles about America's Worst Charities, charities that annually receive more than $1 billion dollars in contributions from unsuspecting contributors.


In response, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam crafted comprehensive legislation further regulating charity fundraising that is making its way through the legislative process.


CS/CS/SB 638 updates the Solicitation of Contributions Act to provide increased oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) of charitable organizations and sponsors, professional fundraising consultants, and professional solicitors.  It requires additional financial disclosure for a charitable organization that had more than $1 million in total revenue and devoted less than a specified proportion of its spending to program service costs in the preceding year, and allows DACS to disqualify a charitable organization from receiving a sales tax exemption certificate if the organization failed to spend at least 25 percent of total annual functional expenses on program costs for the three previous years.


Last Action:  4/22/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.

JuvenileJusticeJuvenile Justice

 

CS/CS/SB 700 amends juvenile justice statutes to enhance the state's focus on serious juvenile offenders, adopt measures to reduce recidivism, and increase care of juvenile offenders in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).


To provide an increased focus on serious cases and public safety, the bill, among others: 

  • Requires DJJ to notify a law enforcement agency and the victim of a juvenile offender who has escaped or absconded while in custody during commitment;
  • Authorizes the court to order juvenile offenders who commit technical violations of probation into a diversion program; and
  • Waives fingerprinting requirements for children committing offenses that may only result in a civil citation. 

To reduce recidivism through recognizing the special needs of children and the need for transitional services, the bill, among others: 

  • Authorizes intake personnel to incorporate mental health, substance abuse, and psychosexual evaluations as part of the intake process;
  • Establishes trauma-informed care as part of the DJJ model;
  • Encourages placement of children in their home communities to facilitate family and community support;
  • Enhances the transition-to-adult services offered and lifts the age restriction of youth clients eligible for service; and
  • Requires DJJ to focus on prevention services through providing academic and community support for at-risk youth. 

Among many others, this comprehensive bill also requires DJJ to adopt a system to measure performance, based on recidivism rates of providers and programs, and to annually report findings to the Legislature. 

 

Last Action:  4/22/14 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.

MotorVehicleInsuranceMotor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care

 

CS/SB 744: 

  • adds removal of the disability of nonage for children in licensed out-of-home care for the purposes of obtaining motor vehicle insurance to the matters to be considered at the special judicial review scheduled at the time a child becomes 17 years of age;
  • directs the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to establish a three-year pilot program to pay the costs of driver education, licensure, and other costs incidental to licensure and motor vehicle insurance for children in licensed out-of-home care who have successfully completed a driver education program, to the extent that funding is available;
  • directs DCF to contract with a not-for-profit entity whose mission is to support youth aging out of foster care to develop procedures for operating and administering the pilot program;
  • authorizes the court to remove the disability of nonage for minors obtaining motor vehicle insurance if the child has reached 16 years of age, has been adjudicated dependent, is residing in an out-of-home placement, and has completed a driver education program; and
  • requires secondary schools offering driver's education courses to grant preferential enrollment to students in the custody of the DCF if the student maintains appropriate progress as required by the school. 

Last Action:  4/22/14 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Committee.

UniformFraudulentUniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

 

SB 856 amends the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act to expand the protection against a creditor's clawback action for charitable contributions received in good faith by qualified religious or charitable organizations.  The bill protects charitable contributions made by a debtor who makes such a contribution without receiving equivalent value in exchange for the contribution while the debtor was insolvent or became insolvent as a result of making the contribution.  The bill aligns this exemption with similar provisions in the Federal Bankruptcy Code.


Last Action:  Passed SENATE. 4/23/14 HOUSE In Messages.

HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking

 

CS/HB 1017 amends a variety of statutes to prevent human trafficking, enhances penalties related to human trafficking, and provides 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:  Passed HOUSE. 4/23/14 SENATE In Messages.

EarlyLearning2Early Learning

 

Currently, the School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) programs are delivered by a diverse range of providers, including licensed and unlicensed child care providers and public and nonpublic schools.   The child health and safety standards applicable to each provider type and the degree to which minimum levels of health and safety are inspected and enforced vary widely.


Among many others, CS/CS/HB 7069 increases provider health and safety requirements and personnel quality by requiring: 

  • unlicensed private providers to substantially comply with specified health and safety standards and submit to inspections by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or local licensing agency;
  • providers to notify parents of health and safety violations and prominently post citations that result in disciplinary action and inspection reports on the premises;
  • providers with Class I violations in the previous year be denied program eligibility, with exceptions;
  • by January 1, 2016, personnel to be at least 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma (or equivalent), with exceptions;
  • by January 1, 2015, personnel to be trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with exceptions;
  • personnel to be trained in developmentally appropriate practices aligned to the age and needs of children served by the personnel; and
  • the Office of Early Learning (OEL) to develop online training on the School Readiness Program performance standards and provider personnel to complete the training.

Last Action:  Passed HOUSE.  4/22/14 SENATE In Messages.

WHAT'S INSIDE
     

Show Me the Money!

 

Education Conference Blows Up

 

Some Interesting Bills

 

More Stay at Home Moms

 

Child Welfare Bills Moving

 

Child Welfare Funding

 

Tax Cuts

 

Florida Faces Difficult Future

 

 

BILLS HEARD THIS WEEK:

 

Canned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

Literacy Jump Start

 

Identify Theft

 

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

 

Volunteers for Organized Youth Sports and Recreational Programs

 

Booster Seats

 

Charitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation

 

Newborn Health Screening

 

Charity Fundraising Overhaul

 

Juvenile Justice

 

Motor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care

 

Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

 

Human Trafficking

 

Early Learning

 

 

 

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 

 

Everything in moderation, including moderation. 

-- Oscar Wilde

 
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