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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue 3March 16, 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: Health Insurance Affordability Exchange


SB 7044, Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX), creates a new state health insurance exchange that uses federal Medicaid expansion funds to enroll low-income Floridians in a private sector alternative to traditional Medicaid. FHIX would need a federal waiver because it requires recipients to pay monthly premiums, and be employed or looking for work, to get coverage. The bill is moving quickly in the Senate, with support from Senate Leadership, but so far, it has no companion bill in the House. Read more.


old and new capitol

Access to affordable, quality care is also the goal of two bipartisan 'telehealth' bills moving in the House and Senate.  CS/SB 478 (Bean, R-Jacksonville and Joyner, D-Tampa) and HB 545 (Cummings, R-Orange Park and Jones, D-Jacksonville) would provide health care to patients in rural parts of the state, as well as to under-served regions, using technology such as the Internet and smartphones to connect physicians to patients in their own homes. Read more.



VPK Assessments


While the 'Health and Safety' early learning bills make their way through House and Senate committees, another early learning bill, SB 518 (Gibson, D-Jacksonville and Gaetz, R-Niceville) is also moving in the Senate. Current law requires Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) assessments to measure student progress in language, literacy and numeracy. Senator Gibson's bill and its companion HB 483 (Jones, D-Jacksonville) offer some long-awaited improvements. The bills require VPK pre- and post-assessments to be observation-based and appropriate for English language learners and students with disabilities; and also require that the VPK pre- and post-assessment results be added to students' performance on the statewide kindergarten screening. Read more.

Juvenile Justice: Civil Citations


Juvenile civil citation and diversion programs keep youths who have committed non-serious offenses out of criminal court and reduce recidivism rates. Civil citation is currently only available to youths who admit to committing a first-time mis-demeanor. CS/SB 378 (Garcia, R-Hialeah and Gibson, D-Jacksonville) and CS/HB 99 (Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach) expand the program by allowing law enforcement to issue civil citations to youths who have committed a second or subsequent misdemeanor. Read more.


Bills to Watch This Week


SB 228 Online Voter Registration (Clemens, D-Lake Worth and Richter, R-Naples) Requires the Division of Elections of the Department of State to develop an online voter registration system.

SB 818 Maximum Class Size (Garcia, R-Hialeah) Requires the calculation of a school district's class size categorical allocation reduction to be based on the school average when the maximum class size requirements are not met.

CS/HB 369 Human Trafficking (Kerner, D-Palm Springs and Spano, R-Riverview) Authorizes DOT and business owners to display human trafficking public awareness signs at specified locations.

SB 1202 Voter Registration in Schools (Brandes, R-St. Petersburg) Designates a specified period each year when supervisors of elections are authorized to provide students with the opportunity to register to vote at school, and with instruction on the elections process.

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.