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WRAP-UP ISSUE                                                                                     MAY 14, 2014
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SessionDone2014 Session.  Done.

 

The 2014 Florida Legislative Session is now in the rearview mirror.  Each session has a personality and character all its own.  But the 2014 Session will fade into memory as one that had no historic moments, only a hiccup of a political breach between the houses as the appropriations process peaked, and all 120 House members and 20 of the 40 Senators eyeing their reelection prospects in November.


That's not to say nothing of importance was considered or passed.  Quite the contrary.  Critically important child protection and juvenile justice legislation passed, bills allowing virtually anyone to bring a gun to a disaster shelter died, and the Legislature completed its only constitutionally-mandated responsibility by passing a $77.1 billion budget, the largest spending plan in state history.


Read on to find out more about important budget items, bills that passed, and bills that died that were interesting and/or of interest to United Ways and our partners.

Nothing in life is to be feared, only to be understood.

-- Marie Curie

BillsThatPassedBILLS THAT PASSED
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

Legislators were not as prolific filing or passing bills during the 2014 Session as they have been in the past.  Before and during Session, legislators filed 23 percent fewer bills (1,812) and passed 22 percent fewer bills (264) than they averaged during the last 10 years.  Below are some bills of import that passed.

LegisSendsVetBillLegislature Sends Veterans Bill to Governor

  

Florida is home to more than 1 million veterans and more than 60,000 active duty military personnel.


On Military Day, the Senate unanimously passed CS/CS/HB 7015 and sent it to Governor Scott for his signature.  Intended to make Florida the number one destination for veterans, the bill relaxes college residency requirements for veterans and active military personnel, and allows for preference in hiring veterans by public and private employers.  Read more.

AlzheimersDiseaseAlzheimer's Disease

  

CS/CS/HB 709, as passed by the 2014 Legislature, establishes a dedicated Alzheimer's Disease Research Program within the Department of Health to provide grants and other funding for
Alzheimer's research.  The bill also requires a performance funding model for memory disorder clinics and requires the Department of Emergency Management to address
special needs shelter registration and staffing to care for individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia.

ProtectingOurChildrensIDsProtecting Our Children's Identities

  

According to the Journal of Business Research, more than 50,000 Florida children annually are victims of identity theft and their identities are used to steal more than $100 million each year.


The loss to Florida's economy and the challenges faced by children as they age and begin to need and use credit are substantial.  That's why Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam crafted legislation that was passed by the 2014 Legislature protecting children from this crime.  The Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act is contained in CS/CS/CS/SB 242, which the Legislature passed on April 22.  Read more.

KeystoIndependenceKeys to Independence

  

Imagine being a teen, old enough to drive, but unable to because you can't get your driver's license, a car, or insurance.  Imagine how it would impact your social life, your everyday getting-to-school-and-other-places life.  Your ability to get and hold a job, participate in extracurricular school activities, and more.  Imagine that the reason you can't is because your family is dysfunctional, has been torn apart, and you have to live with strangers.  This was the essence of the testimony before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee this session.


In response, the Legislature passed CS/HB 977 in hopes of helping children in foster care get their driver's licenses and prepare for independent living after they age out of foster care when they turn 18.  Read more.

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.

BoosterSeatLawBooster Seat Law Passes

  

According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Fact Sheet, motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.  A major risk factor is incorrect use of child restraint systems.  CDC research had found that: 

  • Use of a car seat reduces the risk for death to infants (aged less than 1 year) by 71 percent; and to toddlers (aged 1-4 years) by 54 percent in passenger vehicles.
  • 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.
  • For older children and adults, use of a seat belt reduces the risk for death and serious injury by approximately 50 percent.

A handful of committed legislators and many child advocates have been working for years to get the Legislature to pass a booster seat bill that will better protect the lives of our children.  The 2014 Legislature finally came through by passing CS/HB 225Read more.

VictoryFLConsumersVictory for Florida Consumers!

  

Consumer debt covers non-business debt such as mortgages, credit cards, medical debts, and other debts mainly for personal, family, or household purposes.  If a borrower defaults on a consumer debt, the lender will initiate collection efforts, often through sale or assignment of the asset to a third-party debt collector.  State and federal debt collection laws provide consumer protection against deceptive, unfair, or abusive collection practices that can occur before the debtor is sued, as well as during the litigation process.


CS/CS/HB 413 strengthens Florida's debt collection laws, but as originally filed would have significantly weakened them.  Thanks to the bill sponsor, Representative David Santiago, the offending provisions were removed.  Read more.

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.  The 2014 Legislature passed 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.
VolsOrgYouthSportsVolunteers 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.

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.


The 2014 Legislature passed CS/HB 591, which 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.

AttnysforDepChildrenAttorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs

  

CS/CS/HB 561 is going to the Governor.  The bill provides legislative findings that though there are organizations that provide representation to children in dependency proceedings, a child with certain special needs in the system has a particular need for legal services.  The bill requires the court to appoint an attorney for a dependent child who:

  • resides in, or is being considered for placement in, a skilled nursing facility;
  • is prescribed a psychotropic medication and declines it;
  • has a developmental disability as defined by statute;
  • is being placed in, or is considered for placement in, a residential treatment center; or
  • is a victim of human trafficking as defined by statute.

The bill requires the court to ask the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office to recommend an attorney willing to work without additional compensation prior to the court appointing an attorney on a compensated basis.

UnaccomHomelessYouthUnaccompanied 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.

JuvenileJusticeJuvenile Justice

  

CS/CS/HB 7055 is a comprehensive bill passed by the Legislature that 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).  Among many others, the bill:

  • requires DJJ to provide an environment that fosters educational development (current law only refers to social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development);
  • provides that children committed to DJJ receive technical education, when appropriate (current law only refers to training in life skills, including career education);
  • requires DJJ to increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention, and treatment services that strengthen and reform the lives of children;
  • requires that children be cared for in the least restrictive and most appropriate service environments;
  • ensures that children assessed as low and moderate risk to reoffend are not committed to residential programs, unless the court deems such placement appropriate;
  • requires placement of children in facilities close to their home communities when possible;
  • requires residential facilities must have no more than 90 (rather than 165) beds each;
  • provides that DJJ should use trauma-informed care as an approach to treating children with histories of trauma;
  • requires DJJ to engage faith and community-based organizations to provide a full range of voluntary programs and services to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency;
  • requires DJJ to establish volunteer coordinators in each circuit and encourage mentor recruitment;
  • clarifies that the intake assessment process consists of a preliminary screening that may be followed by a full mental health, cognitive impairment, substance abuse, and/or psychosexual evaluation; and
  • requires detention staff to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency, school personnel, and victim when a child charged with certain serious offenses is released from secure detention or transferred to nonsecure detention.
CharSolStatuteRevisedCharitable Solicitation Statute Revised

  

The 2014 Legislature passed a major overhaul of the state's charitable solicitation law.  CS/CS/HB 629 provides increased oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) of charitable organizations and sponsors, professional fundraising consultants, and professional solicitors.  The bill addresses a multitude of fundraising issues for nonprofits.  Read more.

HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking

  

CS/CS/CS/HB 989 is a major human trafficking bill passed by the 2014 Florida Legislature.  Generally, the bill extends to victims of human trafficking protections that currently extend to victims of sexual abuse.  Among others, the bill:

  • provides that the definition of "sexual abuse of a child" used in dependency proceedings includes "allowing, encouraging, or forcing a child to participate in commercial sexual activity," as provided in the human trafficking statute;
  • protects court records involving human trafficking of a minor for labor or human trafficking for commercial sexual activity;
  • specifies that compensation claims filed by persons engaged in an unlawful activity at the time of the crime upon which the claim is based are not eligible for an award, unless the victim was engaged in prostitution as a result of being a victim of human trafficking for commercial sexual activity; and
  • specifies that victims of human trafficking of a minor for labor or human trafficking for commercial sexual activity are eligible for victim relocation assistance.
InterestingBillsPassedInteresting Bills that Passed

  

State IT - HB 7073 establishes an Agency for State Technology and a Chief Information Office.


Warning Shot Bill - CS/CS/HB 89 authorizes a person to threaten the use of force in situations in which the person may lawfully use actual force in self-defense.


Gun Discrimination - CS/CS/SB 424 prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners.


75 MPH Speed Limit - SB 392 authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation to set the speed limits on limited access highways at 75 mph.


Pop-Tarts - HB 7029 prevents schools from disciplining students who play with simulated weapons, as happened to a student who chewed a Pop-Tart into the shape of gun.


Medical Marijuana - CS/CS/SB 1030 allows certain patients whose Florida-licensed physician registers them with the Department of Health to use low THC cannabis under limited circumstances.

If it weren't for electricity, we'd all be watching television by candlelight.  -- George Gobel
BillsThatDiedBILLS THAT DIED
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
EarlyLearninggEarly Learning

  

The 2014 Legislature failed to pass early learning legislation that would have helped ensure the health and safety of tens of thousands of our youngest children in child care, school readiness, and prekindergarten programs.  The last bill to pass the Senate before it passed the 2014-2015 budget and sine died, CS/CS/HB 7069 was never taken up by the House.  Among many others, the bill would have increased 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.
HealthCareLegalImmChildrenHealth Care for Legal Immigrant Children

  

A huge barrier to accessing health care for immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida is state law that makes them wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare.  During those five years, many forego needed care that could not only improve their quality of life, but help them succeed in school.


SB 282 died in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  It would have removed the five year waiting period for more than 25,000 children.  Read more.

FoodDesertBillsFood Desert Bills Languish

  

"Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.  Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.  According to a power point presentation before the Agriculture Committee on January 8, 2014, the USDA has identified 1,192 tracts in Florida as food deserts."


USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts nationwide, more than half of whom (13.5 million) are low-income.


SB 426 and HB 441 would have provided a corporate income tax credits for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts.  Both bills died during the 2014 Session.

CharitableExemptionAdValoremCharitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation

  

CS/HB 587 would have allowed 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 had taken "affirmative steps" to prepare the property for a charitable purpose.  If the property was not in actual use for an exempt purpose within five years, the property owner would have had to pay back taxes owed plus 15 percent interest.

UniformFraudulentTransActUniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

  

SB 856 would have amended 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.  The 2014 Legislature failed to pass the bill.

SoberHousesSober Houses

  

A "sober house" is a residence that houses addicts in a low-crime, drug-free community intended to foster rehabilitation.  "Sober homes" and "sober housing" are new terms for facilities formerly known as "halfway houses".  Halfway houses were used by those leaving a residential center with limited residential options.  Some sober home advocates argue that placing the home in a single-family neighborhood helps to avoid temptations that other environments can create.  Organizationally, these homes can range from a private landlord renting his or her home to recovering addicts, to corporations that operate full-time treatment centers across the country and employ professional staff.


CS/SB 582 would have required annual registration with the Department of Children & Families (DCF) by sober houses to operate in the state, provided a criminal penalty for operating without a valid certificate of registration, and authorized DCF to conduct inspections and issue, deny, suspend or revoke a certificate of registration for a sober house.

BullyingBullying

  

CS/SB 548 died during Session.  It created a criminal statute penalizing bullying and aggravated bullying.  The newly-created statute provided a second degree misdemeanor for bullying and a first degree misdemeanor for aggravated bullying.  Cyber-bullying was included in each new crime.  The elements of the two new offenses and the definitions provided in the bill were the same as the elements and definitions in the stalking statute.

JuvenileJusticeEdProgsJuvenile Justice Education Programs

  

CS/CS/HB 173 failed to pass the 2014 Legislature.  It would have made 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 amended 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;
  • 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
  • requiring prevention and day treatment programs to provide career readiness and exploration opportunities, as well as truancy and dropout prevention intervention services.
StudentswithDisabilitiesStudents with Disabilities

  

CS/HB 5103 did not pass this Session.  It would have established the Florida Personal Learning Account Program (account) to provide parents of students with disabilities more flexibility to customize their child's education.  To be eligible for an account, a student would have to have been: 

  • a Florida resident;
  • eligible to enroll in kindergarten through 5th grade or have received an account in the previous year;
  • identified as having Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down's Syndrome, an intellectual disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome, or Spina Bifida, or high-risk kindergartners; and
  • an individual with educational plan (IEP) and be eligible for Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) matrix support levels IV or V.

The parent would have selected educational services for the student, paid for the services "up front," and requested reimbursement for services from the account.  Parents could be reimbursed for educational services from a private school, specialized instructional services, private tutoring, virtual education, curriculum, educational evaluations, and therapy services.

MentalHealthFirstAidMental Health First Aid

  

If it had passed the 2014 Legislature, CS/CS/CS/HB 159 would have required the Department of Children and Families to use a competitive procurement process to select a statewide association for mental health or substance abuse awareness or treatment to develop, implement, and manage a Mental Health First Aid program.


The training program would have been required to include, but not limited to: 

  • an overview of mental illnesses and substance use disorders and the need to reduce the stigma of mental illness;
  • information on the potential risk factors and warning signs of mental illness or substance use disorders, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders and self-injury, and common treatments for those conditions; and
  • an action plan that encompasses the skills, resources, and knowledge required to assess the situation, select and implement appropriate interventions, and help an individual with appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care.

K-20 educators and first responders would have been given priority for participation in the program.

InterestingBillsDiedInteresting Bills that Died

 

Teachers Packing - CS/CS/CS/HB 753 would have allowed school superintendents to designate one or more individuals to carry concealed weapons on school property.


Marrying Minors - HB 1279, which passed the House, would have made it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to get married.


Springs Protection - CS/CS/CS/SB 1576 would have required the Department of Environmental Protection to delineate a spring protection and management zone for each Outstanding Florida Spring.


Guns in Disaster Shelters - CS/CS/CS/SB 296 would have allowed those in lawful possession of guns to conceal weapons without a permit during mandatory evacuations and local emergencies, such as riots.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.  -- Greek Proverb
WHAT'S INSIDE
   

2014 Session. Done.

 

 

BILLS THAT PASSED:

 

Legislature Sends Veterans Bill to Governor

 

Alzheimer's Disease

 

Protecting Our Children's Identities

 

Keys to Independence

 

Canned or Perishable Food Distributed Free of Charge

 

Booster Seat Law Passes

 

Victory for Florida Consumers!

 

Homeless

 

Volunteers for Organized Youth Sports and Recreational Programs

 

Newborn Health Screening

 

Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs

 

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

 

Juvenile Justice

 

Charitable Solicitation Statute Revised

 

Human Trafficking

 

Interesting Bills that Passed

 

 

BILLS THAT DIED:

 

Early Learning

 

Health Care for Legal Immigrant Children

 

Food Desert Bills Languish

 

Charitable Exemption from Ad Valorem Taxation

 

Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

 

Sober Houses

 

Bullying

 

Juvenile Justice Education Programs

 

Students with Disabilities

 

Mental Health First Aid

 

Interesting Bills that Died

 

 

2014-2015 STATE BUDGET:

 

2014-2015 State Budget

 

Tax Cuts

 

 

United Way of Florida bills of interest, updated weekly.
  
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And now the sequence of events in no particular order.

  -- Dan Rather, television news anchor

StateBudget12014-2015 STATE BUDGET
StateBudget2014-2015 State Budget

  

Lawmakers had more than $1 billion "new" dollars next year to spend, reserve, or give back to taxpayers.  The 2014-2015 state budget (HB 5001) is a $77.1 billion package that - because of increased revenue from a growing economy - includes more than $1 billion in new money.  The largest state budget in history, it allocates about $3 billion to reserves, provides $500+ million in tax cuts, and adds water to parched human, education, and criminal justice services.  Four appropriations holding the promise of a much improved future: 

  • Healthy Families
  • Affordable Housing
  • Early Learning Quality Incentive Pilot
  • Help Me Grow

Healthy Families - Healthy Families Florida (HFF) is a voluntary home visiting program that helps parents learn how to parent, support their families, and attain self sufficiency.  Research-proven, it is a nationally-acclaimed gem in Florida's family support/child protection system.  Legislators increased the program's budget by $2 million, providing the ability to serve more than 500 new families and bringing the total HFF budget to $23.1 million.


Affordable Housing - Over the last 12 years, Legislators have taken more than $1 billion away from affordable housing trust funds to spend on other things.  As a result, the state has lost tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity; and the quality of life for many has been diminished.  The 2014 Legislature recognized the extraordinary economic and social benefits of funding affordable housing by breaking the trend and investing $167+ million of the $226 million of available affordable housing trust funds into housing. [$100,000,000 for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP) and $67,660,000 for the State Apartment Incentives Loan Program (SAIL).  Kudos to the Sadowski Coalition!


Early Learning Quality Incentive Pilot - 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.


Help Me Grow - Help Me Grow (HMG) is a landmark initiative that will ultimately create a system of care in Florida linking parents of young children with local resources, including developmental screening, I&R, care coordination, and online resources; it will create a community of caregivers helping each child realize his or her full potential.  The Legislature appropriated $2 million to help germinate the extraordinary potential of this initiative.


See more budget items...

TaxCutsTax Cuts

  

With $1+ billion extra dollars to spend and elections just a few short months away, lawmakers fulfilled Governor Scott's request to cut more than $500,000 in taxes.  The final omnibus tax cut bill, HB 5601 includes, among many others, the following tax breaks:

  • $395 million - motor vehicle fee reduction
  • $32.3 million - Back to School Sales Tax Holiday
  • $11.6 million - sales tax exemption for pre-paid college meal plans
  • $3 million - reduction in the tax rate businesses pay on electricity
  • $2.9 million - Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday
  • $2.5 million - sales tax exemption for prescribed diet pet food
  • $2.4 million - sales tax exemptions for car seats and child bike helmets
  • $1.7 million - Energy and Water Efficient Appliance Sales Tax Holiday
 
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