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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE #1                                                                                              MARCH 6, 2015
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Greetings2Greetings!  Welcome to your 2015 Legislative Link

Welcome to another session of the Florida Legislature and to the inaugural issue of the 2015 Legislative Link. As always, your Legislative Link will keep you up to date on health, education, human service and nonprofit issues of interest to Florida's 32 United Ways and our community partners. Highlighting legislative activities that took place during the week, the Legislative Link will arrive in your in-box every Friday during session. If you have any questions or comments regarding the Legislative Link or any issues it addresses - or should address - please don't hesitate to contact the United Way of Florida. Have a great session!
SessionBegins2015 Session Begins: Smooth Sailing?

On Tuesday, the 2015 Legislative session began as Florida's 45th Governor, Rick Scott, described the Sunshine State as a state where "everything is possible".   Governor Scott's 21 minute State of the State Address to Florida's 160 legislators was upbeat and focused on well established priories of Florida's Chief Executive: cutting taxes, jobs and the economy, and education.

The session promises to be an interesting and potentially tumultuous one. With about $1 billion in new money to spend, and Republicans firmly in control with a super-majority in the House (81Rs-39Ds) and a solid majority in the Senate (26Rs-14Ds), it might appear that session is primed for smooth sailing.
RoughWeatherRough Weather Ahead ...


Stormy seas began rocking the boat on the second day of session as a chasm opened up between the House and Senate on the issue that will determine the outcome of virtually every item in the 2015-2016 state budget: Medicaid expansion.

Bottom line:  If the state does not expand Medicaid - in some form - it may lose $1.3 billion in federal funds used to pay health care for indigent patients. The total potential loss comes closer to $2 billion if state match is added.

House Speaker Steve Crisafuli was quoted on Tuesday reiterating his long-held position that he is "not interested in expanding Medicaid as we know it."  However, Senate President Andy Gardiner, a hospital executive form Orlando, pronounced his willingness to explore the issue, saying "I don't know where it ends ... but we have an obligation to look at this issue."

Following President Gardiner's lead, the Senate Health Policy Committee heard testimony on Wednesday on several options for implementing the expansion and Committee Chairman Aaron Bean said he expects a plan to emerge in about a week.

Put that all together with implementation of Amendment 1, Speaker Crisafuli's desire to implement a long-term water policy, the Governor's and Speaker's desires to cut taxes by $500 million, and expiration of the Seminole Compact that puts millions of dollars into state coffers through gambling on Seminole lands, and the stage is set for intrigue and excitement during the 2015 Session.

Because if it didn't work out, I didn't want to blow the whole day.  -- Paul Horning, Green Bay Packers running back on why his marriage ceremony was before noon.

ConsensusAgenda2015 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda


Florida's 32 United Ways strive daily to solve the most pressing education, income, health, and safety net challenges facing our communities.  Our work extends deep into the fabric of our communities and expands to embrace every opportunity to improve the lives of our neighbors and those we serve.

During the 2015 Session, we will focus on three
Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda priorities:  Early Learning, Access to Health Care, and Financial Stability.

While we will focus on these critical issues, we will also join our community partners in their advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life for all Floridians; pursuing issues that - together with our Consensus priorities - are fundamentally important to improving the health and well-being of our communities, today and tomorrow.



Working hard, but hardly getting by?  The United Way ALICE Report found that 30 percent of Florida households are above poverty yet are still Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  With an additional 15 percent of families in poverty, nearly half of our state is in or close to financial crisis. This prevents millions of our children, seniors and workers from contributing to or benefiting from the state's economic recovery. The report has informed this year's United Way policy priorities that promote a more prosperous and sustainable Sunshine State.   See Appendix J, beginning on page 129 of the report, to see how large the ALICE population is in your community. 

EarlyWinEarlyStepsEarly Win for Early Steps: A Win?


Early Steps is one of Florida's most critically-needed services for children and their families. The program serves more than 43,000 children birth to 36 months old who have medical conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, hearing/vision impairment, as well as children with significant developmental delays. It is instrumental in helping these children achieve their full life-time potentials. 

Last month, the Department of Health (DOH) notified the state's 15 Early Steps offices that $4.2 million would be cut from this year's program budget. When concerned legislators, led by Senator Renee Garcia, voiced their displeasure that such a cut would decimate direct services to children, the Department rescinded the cut, slashed state program office staffing, and told local Early Steps offices to reduce their administrative/operating costs by nine percent. In doing so, the Department assured Senator Garcia that direct services will not be impacted and the program will run more efficiently.

Early Steps experts and staff across the state strongly disagree, claiming that services and program quality will be compromised to the point that continued federal funding - about $50 million of the total $54 million budget - is jeopardized.

Dr. Celeste Philip, Deputy State Health Officer for Children's Medical Services in DOH, will testify next week about the "transition".  Advocates are looking forward to hearing the details.

Last year, we couldn't win at home and we were losing on the road. My failure as a coach was that I couldn't think of any place else to play.
-- Harry Neale, professional hockey coach

AffordableHousingatRiskAffordable Housing at Risk


Amendment 1, which passed last November with 75 percent of the vote, requires that 33 percent of documentary stamp revenue be placed into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) and used for land and water conservation.

By law 16.9 percent of doc stamp collections are currently placed into Sadowski Housing Trust Funds; a dedicated revenue source to fund Florida's affordable housing programs that are a lifeline for low income families and individuals to attain or maintain their housing.

CS/SB 586 is one of several bills written to implement Amendment 1. As required by the Constitution, it would allocate 33 percent of doc stamp revenues to Amendment 1 programs. However, it changes the Housing distribution to 16.19 percent of doc stamp collections less the 33 percent given to Amendment 1. This means that housing would get 16.19 percent of 67 percent of doc stamp revenues instead of 16.19 percent of 100 percent of doc stamp revenues. The end result is that housing distributions would be reduced by more than $112M every year in the future.

The Sadowski Coalition - a broad-based coalition of non-profit and business partners, including the United Way of Florida - is working with legislators to craft a bill that implements Amendment 1 without causing harm to Floridians in need of affordable housing.

DevlopmentalDisabilitiesDay2015 Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day


The Arc of Florida and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council hosted 2015 Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol on Thursday.   Highlighting March as national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, the event provided exhibitors an opportunity to display and share information and services available to persons and families with developmental disabilities.

KidCareAmendedWill KidCare Finally be Amended to Help More 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.

On Wednesday, SB 294 was unanimously passed by the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.   The bill would remove the five year waiting period for more than 25,000 children.  Read more

I found out that it's not good to talk about my troubles.  Eighty percent of the people who hear them don't care and the other twenty percent are glad you're having trouble.
-- Tommy Lasorda, LA Dodgers Manager
ChildCareChild Care: Better Quality and Safety


While their parents are at work, hundreds of our youngest children across the state are cared for during the day in the homes of others.  670 of those family day care homes are members of Florida Family Child Care Home Association (FFCCHA).   FFCCHA members strive to ensure the care they provide is safe, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of family child care homes around the state where home owners are charging fees to take care of unrelated children, but the quality of the care and the safety of the children is unknown.

CS/SB 210, which was passed by the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Thursday, is intended to - at least minimally - protect children who are in unlicensed and unregulated child care facilities and family child care homes during the day.  Among others, the bill: 

  • Defines "family day care home" as an occupied residence where care, protection, and supervision of a child takes place for a period of less than 24 hours a day on a regular basis, is regularly provided for children from at least two unrelated families, and which either receives a payment, fee, or grant for any of the children receiving care or advertises the availability of its services, whether or not it receives a payment, fee, or grant.
  • Requires a registered family day care home to conspicuously display its license or registration in the common area of the home. 
  • Requires a family day care home not subject to licensure to register annually with the Department of Children and Families and provide basic information such as name and address, proof of background screening, number of children being cared for, and plans for a substitute.
  • Requires screening and background checks for the operator, each household member, and the designated substitute.
  • Makes it a misdemeanor to advertise a child care facility, a child care facility exempt from licensure, a family day care home, or a large family child care home without including within such advertisement the state or local agency license number, exemption number, or registration number of the facility.
FLUninsuredRateFlorida Uninsured Rate Among Highest in Nation


Although Florida's uninsured population declined 3.8% from 2013 to 2014, the Sunshine State is among the states that still have the highest rate of uninsured residents, according to a Gallup study released late last month. This state's uninsured rate of 18.3 percent in 2014 ranks it in the highest quintile in the nation. Many states in the South rank in the highest two quintiles. States that expanded Medicaid saw larger drops in uninsured rates and, for the seventh consecutive year, Massachusetts has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation, at 4.6 percent. Read the report.

(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)

FoodDesertsFood Deserts

SB 610 provides an income tax credit for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts. It provides definitions, sets forth eligibility and application requirements, and establishes the amount of credit. The bill allows the Department of Revenue (DOR), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), to adopt rules to administer the program. It requires DOR and DACS to review the program after 3 years for the purpose of recommending to the legislature whether it be continued or eliminated and provides criminal and administrative penalties for fraudulently claiming tax credits.

Last Action: 03/02/15 SENATE Favorable by Agriculture Committee.
RestitutionforJuvenileRestitution for Juvenile Offenses

SB 312 expands the authority of the court to order restitution when a child is found to have committed a delinquent act, regardless of whether the child is adjudicated delinquent or adjudication is withheld. 

It requires, rather than authorizes, the child and the child's parent or legal guardian, to pay restitution when the court has determined that restitution is appropriate. It also authorizes the court to:
  • Set up a payment plan if the child and the parents or legal guardians are unable to pay the restitution in one lump-sum payment;
  • Absolve the parent or guardian of any liability for restitution if, after a hearing, the court finds that the current offense is the child's first referral and the parent or guardian has made diligent and good faith efforts to prevent the child from engaging in delinquent acts, or the victim entitled to restitution is the child's parent or legal guardian; and
  • Make both of the child's parents or guardians responsible for restitution, regardless of whether one parent or guardian has sole custody of the child.

The bill clarifies that the Department of Children and Families (DCF), a foster parent with whom the child is placed, or the community-based care lead agency supervising the placement of the child is not considered a guardian responsible for restitution for the delinquent acts of a dependent child.

Last Action: 03/02/15 SENATE Favorable by Criminal Justice Committee. 

JuvenileJusticeJuvenile Justice

SB 378 expands juvenile civil citation by allowing law enforcement to issue a civil citation to youth who have committed a second or subsequent misdemeanor. (Civil citation is presently only available to youth who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor.)

In addition, law enforcement will be authorized to issue a simple warning to the youth or inform the youth's parents of the misdemeanor, or the officer will be required to issue a civil citation or require participation in a diversion program under the bill. (These options are now discretionary with law enforcement.) Issuing a civil citation will no longer be discretionary for law enforcement under the bill.

The bill also provides that in exceptional circumstances law enforcement may arrest a first-time juvenile misdemeanant by providing written documentation justifying why the arrest is needed to protect public safety.

Last Action: SENATE Temporarily Postponed by Criminal Justice Committee.

ChildrenandYouthCabinetChildren and Youth Cabinet

HB 55 addresses the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet (Cabinet), which consists of the Governor and 14 members. These members include the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, the Secretary of Juvenile Justice, the Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Director of the Office of Early Learning, the State Surgeon General, the Secretary of Health Care Administration, the Commissioner of Education, the Director of the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office, the Director of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention, and five members appointed by the Governor who represent children and youth advocacy organizations. 

The bill creates one additional Cabinet position to be held by a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor.

Last Action: 03/03/15 HOUSE Favorable by Choice & Innovation Subcommittee.
ClosingtheGapClosing the Gap Grant Program

HB 3 modifies the "Closing the Gap" (CTG) grant program in the Department of Health. The CTG grant program was created by the Legislature in 2000 to improve health outcomes and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in Florida by providing grants to increase community-based health and disease prevention activities. 

Grants are awarded for one year through a proposal process, and may be renewed annually subject to the availability of funds and the grantee's achievement of quality standards, objectives, and outcomes. The Office outlines required criteria for a grant proposal, including the selection of a priority area that will be addressed by the proposed project. The proposal must identify one of the following priority areas:

  • Increasing adult and child immunization rates in certain racial and ethnic populations; or
  • Decreasing racial and ethnic disparities in: 
  • Maternal and infant mortality rates; 
  • Morbidity and mortality rates relating to cancer;
  • Morbidity and mortality rates relating to HIV/AIDS; 
  • Morbidity and mortality rates relating to cardiovascular disease; 
  • Morbidity and mortality rates relating to diabetes; or
  • Oral health care.

HB 3 allows the CTG grant program to also fund projects directed at decreasing racial and ethnic disparities in morbidity and mortality rates relating to sickle cell disease.

Last Action: 03/03/15 HOUSE Favorable by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

HumanTrafficking1Human Trafficking

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national hotline number funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The NHTRC provides service referrals, tips to law enforcement, information to the public, training, and technical assistance.

Currently, 25 states require or encourage the NHTRC hotline number to be posted or promoted within the state. Florida law currently does not require or encourage the posting of the hotline number.

CS/HB 369 creates s. 787.08, F.S., relating to human trafficking public awareness signs. The bill provides legislative findings, permits the Department of Transportation (DOT) to erect awareness signs at its facilities, and permits businesses to display awareness signs on their premises.

The bill requires the Attorney General to approve the form and content of the authorized signs and provides for a minimum size and font size. The bill also contains proposed wording for the signs.

Last Action: 03/03/15 HOUSE Favorable with Committee Substitute by Transportation & Ports Subcommittee.

HumanTrafficking2Human Trafficking

Section 787.06, F.S., Florida's human trafficking statute, defines human trafficking as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining of another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. In recent years, the Legislature has overhauled Florida's human trafficking laws to increase penalties for human trafficking and to make human trafficking prosecutions easier. The greatest driver of human trafficking in Florida is prostitution. 

Currently, the penalty for soliciting another for prostitution is a second degree misdemeanor for the first offense, a first degree misdemeanor for the second offense, and a third degree felony for a third or subsequent offense. Anyone who is convicted, pleads guilty or pleads nolo contendere for solicitation for prostitution is subject to a $5,000 fine.

CS/HB 465 increases the criminal penalties for soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring another to commit prostitution. The penalties are increased as follows:
  • First offense is a first degree misdemeanor; 
  • Second offense is a third degree felony; and
  • Third, or subsequent, offense is a second degree felony. 

The bill requires a judge to sentence a person convicted of solicitation to 10 days in jail if it is their second or subsequent conviction for solicitation.

The bill also requires the court to order a person convicted of solicitation to perform 100 hours of community service and complete an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking. The bill also authorizes a judge to impound or immobilize the car of a person convicted of solicitation for up to 60 days.

Last Action: 3/03/15 HOUSE Favorable by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

IndividualswithDisabilitiesIndividuals with Disabilities

CS/SB 642 creates the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program, which would assist individuals with disabilities in saving money without losing their eligibility for state and federal benefits, and thereby providing a pathway for economic independence and a better quality of life. The ABLE accounts resemble in some respects the federal 529-college savings plans that are tax-advantaged savings accounts. This program was created by the federal ABLE Act of 2014 ("ABLE Act"), which authorizes states to establish ABLE programs as an agency or instrumentality of the state or contract with other states to administer such accounts if certain conditions are met.1 Florida ABLE, Inc., is required to implement the Florida ABLE Program on or before July 1, 2016. 

The bill creates the Florida ABLE, Inc., as a direct support organization that is organized as a not-for-profit corporation. It would be comprised of the Chair and a director of the Florida Prepaid College Board, the Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, one appointee of the Florida Senate, and one appointee of the Florida House of Representatives.

Last Action: 03/04/2015 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

FloridaABLEFlorida ABLE Trust Fund/State Board of Administration


CS/SB 644 creates the Florida ABLE Program Trust Fund (trust fund) within the State Board of Administration (SBA). The trust fund will hold appropriations and moneys acquired from private sources or other governmental or private sources for the Florida ABLE program. The trust fund will also hold ABLE account moneys.

Last Action: 03/04/2015 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

CarryingConcealedWeaponCarrying a Concealed Weapon or a Concealed Firearm

CS/SB 290 creates an exception to the statute that prohibits carrying concealed weapons or firearms unless a person is licensed to do so or if the weapon is a self-defense chemical spray or nonlethal stun gun or similar device designed for defensive purposes. 

The exception provided in the bill allows a person to carry a concealed weapon, or firearm if he or she may otherwise lawfully possess a firearm, while in the act of complying with a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or declared by a local authority regardless of licensure status.

The bill provides a definition for "in the act of evacuating." It also sets forth a 48 hour period within which the exception is applicable, which may be extended by executive order.

Last Action: 03/04/15 SENATE Favorable by Community Affairs Committee.


SB 590 requires all United States and state flags purchased on or after January 1, 2016, by the state, a county, or a municipality for public use to be made in the United States entirely from domestically grown, produced, and manufactured materials.

Last Action: 03/04/15 SENATE Favorable by Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

FSECCFlorida State Employees' Charitable Campaign

SB 694 provides an exception to the requirement that state officers and employees designate a charitable organization to receive their contributions from the Florida State Employees' Charitable Campaign made during participation in a special event.

Last Action: 03/04/15 SENATE Favorable by Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

SchoolBusSchool Bus Stop Safety

SB 346 creates the "Gabby's Law for School Bus Stop Safety." The bill increases the offense for passing a stopped school bus on the side that children enter and exit while displaying a stop signal from a noncriminal traffic infraction to the criminal offense of reckless driving. The bill also increases the penalties imposed for failing to stop for a school bus.

Last Action: 03/04/15 SENATE Favorable by Education Pre-K Committee.

AdoptionFosterCareAdoption and Foster Care


CS/HB 7013 makes three additions to statutes to improve the adoption of children from foster care:

The bill creates a program to advance the permanency, stability, and well-being of children in the child welfare system by awarding incentive payments to community-based care lead agencies (CBC's) for achieving specified adoption performance standards. CBC's provide adoption-related services in the state pursuant to contracts with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The new adoption incentive program would require DCF to conduct a baseline assessment of CBC adoption performance regarding such factors as the length of time children have been waiting for adoption; the length of time to complete an adoption; and feedback from prospective adoptive families, adoptive families, adoptees, children within the child welfare system, and stakeholders. The bill requires DCF to then establish measurable outcome targets for performance by each CBC and negotiate incentive payments to be paid to CBC's upon meeting these targets.

The bill also re-creates a program to provide an additional adoption benefit of either $5,000 or $10,000, depending on whether the adopted child has special needs described in statute, for qualifying employees of state agencies who adopt a child from the child welfare system. The program was originally created in 2000 and provided employee adoption benefits until it was repealed in 2010.

Currently the Office of Adoption and Child Protection (Office) in the Executive Office of the Governor works to promote adoption, support of adoptive families, and advance child abuse prevention through a variety of means, including participating in events to recognize and celebrate adoptive families and adopted children. The bill requires the Governor to select and recognize one or more individuals, families, or entities that have made significant contributions to the adoption of children from foster care each year. Recognition awards will be collected by the Office's direct support organization, authorized by current law.

Last Action: 03/03/15 HOUSE Committee Substitute by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.



Session Dates

I won't know until my barber tells me on Monday. 

-- Knute Rockne, when asked why Notre Dame had lost a game.
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