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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE #9                                                                                                MAY 2, 2014
old and new capitol 
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TheEndisNearThe End Is Near!

 

Legislators are on track to end the 60 day Legislative session tonight.  As this Legislative Link went to press, bills were flying through both chambers in a mad rush to get priority issues off the table.  This much-abbreviated Legislative Link will be followed in the near future - after the dust settles from the last day of frenetic lawmaking - with a comprehensive Wrap-Up Edition, highlighting key issues addressed and not addressed by the 2014 Legislature and the 2014-2015 state budget.

HeadingtotheFinishLineHeading to the Finish Line


For eight weeks, the 2014 Florida Legislature was on cruise control, smoothly riding toward the checkered flag.  Then, late last week, budget negotiators from the House and Senate hit a brick wall, tempers flared, accusations flew, and a breakdown on the budget - the only bill the Legislature is constitutionally mandated to pass - appeared quite possible.  Questions started to fly: Will session end on time this Friday?

But early this week, legislative leaders pulled it together, found compromise on issues on which they had been dead-locked, and put a final $77.1 billion 2014-2015 state budget on the table at 8:35 Tuesday evening.  That started the constitutionally-mandated 72-hour cooling-off period, meaning the Legislature can sine die on time tonight at 8:35, or any time thereafter.

EarlyLearningBillEarly Learning Bill - Last Again?

 

It wasn't until the final hour of last year's legislative session that the omnibus early learning bill addressing governance, transparency, and accountability passed and was sent to the Governor.

On the final day of the 2014 Session and as this Legislative Link went to press, this year's early learning bill addressing health and safety issues (CS/CS/HB 7069) awaits final hearing by the Senate.  Because the Senate has already amended it, the bill will have to go back to the House today for final consideration.  Advocates will be working to try to make sure that happens.  If it doesn't, the health and safety issues addressed in the bill will be revisited next year, possibly delaying until 2016 a comprehensive focus on how to improve quality in our early learning programs.
EarlyLearningQualityEarly Learning Quality Incentive in Budget

 

For years, advocates have attempted to find ways to incentivize quality in Florida's early learning programs.  Thanks to Representative Eric Fresen, Senator Bill Galvano, and Representative Marlene O'Toole, next year's budget contains proviso language creating a pilot project that incorporates a new and exciting way forward.  Read more.

Modesty is my best quality.  -- Jack Benny

MarriageFindingsMarriage Findings

 

According to Dr. David Popenoe, The National Marriage Project, Rutgers University, some of the most important research findings on marriage include:

  • Marrying as a teenager is the highest known risk factor for divorce.
  • People are most likely to find a future marriage partner through an introduction by family, friends, or acquaintances.
  • Women have a significantly better chance of marrying if they do not become single parents before marrying.
  • Women and men who are college-educated are more likely to marry, and less likely to divorce, than people with lower levels of education.
  • Living together before marriage has not proved useful as a "trial marriage".
BoosterSeatBillBooster Seat Bill (Finally) Passes

 

After years of hard work and education, the Legislature finally passed a booster seat bill that will save lives and prevent many Florida children from needlessly suffering serious injuries in car accidents.


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.  Florida has the weakest child passenger safety law in the country.  It only requires children up to four years old to be secured in a car seat.


This week, the Legislature passed CS/HB 225 and sent it to Governor Scott.  The bill increases the age for children required to be secured in a child safety device (car seat or booster seat) from age four to age five.  While the bill is a positive step forward for child safety, hopefully future legislatures will do more to prevent needless child deaths and injury by upping the age, which research definitively shows will save many more lives and prevent untold numbers of injuries.

CharitableSolicitationCharitable Solicitation

 

Yesterday, the House passed and sent to Governor Scott CS/CS/HB 629, which 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.  Among others, the bill:

  • bans organizations that have violated certain laws in other states from soliciting funds in Florida;
  • prohibits felons from soliciting funds for charity;
  • requires professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks if they collect sensitive financial information, submit scripts used to conduct solicitations and report the percentage of contributions collected that will be provided to the charity;
  • requires a charity that receives more than $1 million, but spends less than 25 percent on its cause, to provide detailed information, including board members and family relationships between board members and staff; and
  • increases fines for fraudulent or deceptive acts in violation of the law.

When I'm on the road, my greatest ambition is to get a standing boo.  -- Al Hrabosky, major league relief pitcher

HomelessHomeless

 

Each year, the Office of Homelessness in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) awards targeted state grants to support implementation of local homeless service continuum of care (CoC) plans.  On Thursday, the Legislature sent to Governor Scott CS/CS/HB 979 which, among others, modifies the parameters for awarding these Challenge Grants by providing the following: 

  • Local homeless coalitions, municipal or county government, or other public agencies, or private not-for-profit corporations are no longer explicitly authorized to act as a lead agency.
  • DCF must establish varying levels of grant awards up to $500,000 per lead agency.  The award levels must be based upon the total population within the CoC catchment area and reflect the differing degrees of homelessness in the catchment planning areas.
  • DCF, in consultation with the Homeless Council, must specify a grant award level in the notice of the solicitation of grant applications.
  • The CoC plan must implement a coordinated assessment or central intake system to screen, assess, and refer persons seeking assistance to the appropriate service provider.
CannedPerishableFoodCanned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

When food is apparently fit for human consumption and donated to a bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization, the donor is not subject to criminal penalties or civil damages arising from the condition of the food unless an injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the donor.


The Legislature has passed and sent to Governor Scott HB 23, which expressly includes "public schools" within the statutory definition of "donor" as it relates to protection from criminal and civil liability for injuries caused by donated food.

FosterChildrenDrivingFoster Children Driving

 

Young people in the foster care system often face barriers to participating in everyday life experiences common to others their age.  These life experiences are important because they are a part of how all children are prepared for the responsibilities they will assume as adults.


On January 31, 2014, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) reported that there were 385 15-year-olds, 458 16-year-olds, and 517 17-year-olds in foster care.  A survey of these youth found that only nine percent of the total number of children surveyed (88 of 930 surveyed) had learner's permits, and only three percent (20 of 687 surveyed) had driver's licenses.


Failure to have a driver's license results in foster youth having greater difficulties finding and keeping jobs, engaging socially with their peers, and much more.


Today, the Senate is poised to pass and send to the Governor CS/HB 977, which removes the disability of nonage of minors for foster children for the purpose of obtaining motor vehicle insurance.  The foster child must be 16 years of age, been adjudicated dependent, be residing in an out-of-home placement, and have completed a driver education course.  The disability of nonage for a minor may also be removed pursuant to a court order.  The bill also provides for preferential enrollment in driver education for specified children in foster care.

A cannibal is a guy who goes into a restaurant and orders the waiter.  -- Jack Benny
WHAT'S INSIDE
     

The End Is Near!

 

Heading to the Finish Line

 

Early Learning Bill - Last Again?

 

Early Learning Quality Incentive in Budget

 

Marriage Findings

 

Booster Seat Bill (Finally) Passes

 

Charitable Solicitation

 

Homeless

 

Canned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

Foster Children Driving

 

United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.
  
QUICK LINKS

UNITED WAY OF FLORIDA

 

CHILDREN'S WEEK

 

CHILDREN'S MOVEMENT OF FLORIDA

  

FLORIDA CHILDREN'S COUNCIL

 

ONLINE SUNSHINE

 

ADVOCACY 101

 

LOBBY LAW FOR NONPROFITS

 

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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 

 

Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don't believe the kids should be given homework.

-- Bill Cosby

 
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