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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #2March 9, 2015
A weekly update during the Florida Legislative Session, highlighting how United Way is working to make our community a better place to live.
Top News: Medicaid Expansion and the State Budget


old and new capitol

In the first week of the 2015 Session whether, and how, to expand Florida's Medicaid program has become a critical issue. Bottom line: if Florida does not expand Medicaid, in some form, we may lose $1.3 billion in federal funds (used to pay safety net hospitals for care provided to indigent patients), leaving a $2 billion 'hole' in the 2015-16 state budget. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has said he is "not interested" in expanding Medicaid; Senate President Andy Gardiner says, "we have an obligation to look at this issue". The Senate Health Policy Committee has filed SPB 7044, creating a new state health insurance exchange that uses federal Medicaid expansion funds to enroll low-income Floridians in private health insurance. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on March 10. 

Affordable Housing

By law, the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund receives 16.9 percent of documentary stamp revenues for Florida's affordable housing programs. Amendment 1, which passed last November, requires that 33 percent of doc stamp collections be placed into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) and used for land and water conservation. CS/SB 586, an implementing bill for Amendment 1, reduces the affordable housing distribution by more than $112M. The Sadowski Coalition is working with legislators to amend the implementing bill, so it will not cause harm to affordable housing. Read more


Early Steps


Early Steps provides support to 43,000 Florida children birth to 36 months with developmental delays or other special needs. Citing increased operating efficiencies, the Department of Health (DOH) recently announced deep cuts to the Early Steps administrative/operating budget and reductions in state program staff, giving assurances that direct services would not be affected. Early Steps experts across the state believe that services and program quality will be compromised and that federal funding - about $22 million of the total $54 million budget - is in jeopardy. The DOH (Children's Medical Services) is scheduled to testify on Wednesday about the Early Steps transition plan and how program integrity will be maintained given these deep budget cuts.



Immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida are still required to wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare, Florida's Children's Health Insurance Program. During those five years, many forego needed care. SB 294 (Garcia, R-Hialeah) and HB 829 (LaRosa, R-Saint Cloud) would remove the five-year waiting period for more than 25,000 children, at a cost of $4.8 million. Read more.


Bills to Watch This Week


SB 378 Juvenile Justice  (Garcia, R-Hialeah and Gibson, D-Jacksonville) - Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Authorizes a law enforcement officer to issue a warning or civil citation to a juvenile who admits having committed a misdemeanor.


SPB 7044 Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (Health Policy) - Senate Health Policy Committee. Creates the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program to enroll low-income individuals in private health insurance.


CS/HB 7013 Adoption and Foster Care (Brodeur, R-Sanford) - House floor. Directs DCF to establish an adoption incentive program providing payments to qualifying state employees.


CS/SB 586  Implementation of the Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment (Dean, R-Inverness) - Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.  Provides specified distributions to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.


SB 518
 Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (Gibson, D-Jacksonville) - Senate Education PreK-12 Committee. Revises calculation of the kindergarten readiness rate; requires a pre- and post-assessment.

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.