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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #8April 28, 2014
A weekly update during the Florida Legislative Session, highlighting how United Way is working to make our community a better place to live.
Budget Conference Woes


Differences in education and health care spending slowed budget negotiations between House and Senate.  The budget debate continued through the weekend, breaking down on Saturday, resuming late Sunday afternoon and continuing late into the night. To meet the 72-hour 'cooling-off period' before a vote can be taken, the budget agreement must be on legislators' desks for review by Tuesday (three days before 'Sine Die', the official end of the 2014 session).  Next week's Gazette will include a full report on the final budget for education, health and human services.

President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford address the Joint Budget Conference members.
Quick Links
Early Learning: Health and Safety Regulation
School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) programs in Florida are delivered by a diverse range of providers, including licensed and unlicensed childcare providers, public and nonpublic schools.  Health and safety inspections and enforcement vary widely.  Legislation was developed this Session by the House Education Committee, with strong leadership from Chair Marlene O'Toole and input from advocates, to require "substantial compliance" with health and safety standards and increased staff qualifications for early learning providers.  Last week, the House passed CS/CS/HB 7069 and it is in Messages; the Senate companion, CS/SB 1702, will be heard Tuesday on the Senate floor.  Read more.
Charity Regulation and Tax Exemption Bills on the Calendar


CS/CS/SB 638 Charities: provides increased oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) of charitable organizations and sponsors, professional fundraising consultants, and professional solicitors; requires additional financial disclosure for some charitable organizations; allows DACS to disqualify a charitable organization from receiving a sales tax exemption if the organization failed to spend at least 25 percent of total annual functional expenses on program costs for the three previous years. Action:  HOUSE Passed; SENATE Placed on Special Order Calendar 4/29/14.

CS/HB 587 Charitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation: allows property owned by a tax-exempt organization to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxes if "affirmative steps" have been taken to prepare the property for a charitable purpose.  If the property is not in use for an exempt purpose within five years, the property owner must pay back taxes owed plus 15 percent interest.  Action: HOUSE: Placed on Second Reading Calendar 4/21/14.
Child Welfare Reform


Mike Watkins, CEO of Big Bend Community Based Care lead agency, talks with reporters about the child welfare bill.

The Senate child protection/welfare bill CS/SB 1666 passed last week, after a last-minute attempt to substitute a weakened version of the bill failed. The bill is now in Messages and expected to be heard on the House floor later this week. It would make changes to the state's system of child protective investi-gations and case management of children at risk for abuse and neglect. Although both House and Senate added $47 million to the budget for child protective investigators, case managers and family support services, some advocates argue that the additional funds are not adequate to meet the anticipated increase in caseloads, and that the bill focuses too much on administration and not enough on underlying issues such as parent engagement, substance abuse and mental health.  Read more.


Bills to Watch this Week


CS/SB 1090 Homelessness: expands grant programs to Florida communities to help fund temporary and transitional housing and services for the homeless. The bill also provides training and technical support to qualified agencies serving Florida's homeless.  Action: SENATE: Placed on Special Order Calendar 4/28/14.

CS/SB 408 Infectious Disease Elimination Pilot Program: creating the "Miami-Dade Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA)"; requiring the Department of Health to establish a sterile needle and syringe exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade County.  Action: SENATE: Placed on Special Order Calendar; HOUSE: Placed on Special Order Calendar 4/28/14.

CS/CS/SB 518 Child Safety Devices in Motor Vehicles: revises child restraint requirements to include a child booster seat for children up to age five.  Action: HOUSE: Passed; SENATE: Placed on Special Order Calendar 4/28/14.

CS/SB 358 Volunteers for Organized Youth Sports and Recreational Programs: expands the current background screening requirements for coaches of youth athletic teams to also cover assistant coaches and referees.  Action:  Passed SENATE; in Messages.


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.