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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
ISSUE 3                                                                                              MARCH 20, 2015
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KidCare5YearKidCare 5 Year Waiting Period ... Calls Needed!

Immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida are required by state law to wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare. During those five years, many forego needed health care that could not only improve their quality of life, but help them succeed in school. The cost to the state for providing health care coverage to the projected 22,602 eligible children would be $4.8 million, while the federal government would pick up the rest of the tab ($41.5 million).

SB 294 and HB 829 would eliminate the waiting period, so sick children can see a doctor when needed. The Senate bill has already passed unanimously out of the Health Policy Committee and the Health and Human Service Appropriation Committee. Unfortunately, the House bill has not yet been heard. Please help us get this important legislation passed by reading Help End the 5 Year Wait and making important calls to key policymakers today!
SenateCommitteeProtectsSenate Committee Protects Long-Term Affordable Housing

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed CS/CS/SB 586. The bill revises the formula for distribution of funds from documentary stamp tax revenues into Florida's affordable housing trust funds, among others, in order to fund environmental programs required under Amendment 1. Heading into the Committee hearing, the bill would have revised the formula in a way that would have resulted in $112 million less funding for affordable housing next year and even more in future years. Thanks to Senators Charlie Dean (the bill sponsor), Alan Hays, Chris Smith, Jack Latvala and Tom Lee, the bill was amended by the Committee to maintain the formula "as is", so the percentage of doc stamp revenues flowing into the affordable housing trust funds will be maintained at the current level.

While this is a major victory for affordable housing advocates, and we will work to make sure the formula is not changed as the bill moves forward, the issue that we will also be focusing on is to make sure the Legislature does not "sweep" any of the funds out of the affordable housing trust funds to be used for non-housing issues. There are $278.5 million total affordable housing trust funds available for next year. At this point, Governor Scott has proposed sweeping $100.8 million of those funds for other purposes and the House has proposed sweeping $121.5 million. Our work is cut out for us!
HealthCareHealth Care: Floridians Need, Officials Hope


Although the federal government has told Governor Scott it will not provide $1 - $2 billion in Low Income Pool (LIP) dollars to pay for indigent care in Florida if the Legislature does not expand Medicaid (in some form), it was reported this week that Florida's Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Services hopes to have a letter of agreement with the feds in mid-April extending LIP funding, possibly in time for the Legislature to include the money in next year's budget.

The same day as the hoped-for agreement was reported, the US Census Bureau released a report finding that in 2013 Florida had an uninsured rate of 24.3 percent, or more than 3,775,000 residents. The only state with a higher uninsured rate was Texas, at 24.8 percent.

ALICECopesALICE: Jobs, Transportation & Housing


Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households find many ways to make ends meet. ALICE often has to live further away from work to afford rent. Transportation costs impact ALICE wherever they live. Urban households often pay more for car insurance and many in rural counties commute much further for work. More than 40 percent of households in 23 Florida counties commute outside of their home counties. See how the United Way ALICE Report highlights the trade-offs ALICE faces with jobs, transportation and housing. 

My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion.  He said okay, you're ugly too.

-- Rodney Dangerfield

KeyLegislationKey Legislation Protecting Children Passes Committee


Under current law, when a minor with developmental disabilities or with some level of incapacity ages out of the foster care system at age 18, a gap exists between the time he or she turns 18 years old and the time when a guardian can be appointed. Because of this gap, many young adults have suffered as a result of making bad decisions, and at least one has died.

Two separate issues create this gap. First, there is no procedure within the dependency system to identify adults willing to serve as guardians for these minors as they reach age 18 years of age. Second, probate courts that have the jurisdiction to appoint guardians after a person turns 18 cannot begin the process until after the child turns 18, and the process can take months. It is during these months that problems and deadly mistakes have been made.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took definitive steps to close this unnecessary and harmful loophole on Tuesday. It passed CS/CS/SB 496, which provides for guardianship proceedings to begin in advance of a child's 18th birthday when the child is pre-determined by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to need a guardian when the child becomes an adult. Specifically, the bill:

  • creates a process for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to identify the need for guardians for children with developmental disabilities or who lack capacity in advance of the child's 18th birthday;
  • authorizes the court to initiate proceedings for the minor;
  • provides the same due process rights guaranteed to adults; and
  • allows the child's parents to be considered natural guardians unless the dependency or probate court determines it is not in the child's best interest or the parents' rights have been terminated.
BiggestTaxCutBiggest Tax Cut Bill Moves


When Governor Scott proposed his 2015-2016 Keep Florida Working state budget before session, his goal was to cut $673 million in taxes. On Monday, the Senate Finance and Tax Committee passed a bill (CS/CS/SB 110) implementing the biggest piece of the Governor's proposal, a $431.3 million cut in taxes next year on cell phone and cable/satellite bills, equating to a $470.5 million cut in future years. Divided among the state's 18 million cell phone bills, the cut translates to reducing a $100 monthly bill to $96.40. 

EldersaBoonElders a Boon to Florida!


Between 2010 and 2030, Florida's population will grow by almost five million and more than half of that growth will be by people 60 years old and older, while Floridians age 0-17 years old will account for only about 14 percent of the growth. As Florida leads the nation in growth of its elder population, so too should it lead in expanding and creating systems of care and engagement that will maximize the extraordinary potential of this population. While some believe elders are a drain on our economy because of rising health care needs as people age, the opposite is true. In Economic Impact of Aging Florida: Facts You Should Know, AARP highlights numerous facts revealing that Florida elders are indeed a boon to our tax base, our economy, our workforce, and our common good. 

NewbornScreeningNewborn Screening Advances


Newborn screening helps 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 53 disorders.

Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a genetically determined neurological disorder that affects 1 in every 17,900 boys worldwide. The disorder causes neurological deficits including visual and auditory impairments, impaired coordination, dementia, and seizures.

On Monday, the House Health Quality Subcommittee passed CS/HB 403. It directs DOH to establish requirements and adopt rules for screening for ALD as part of the Florida Newborn Screening Program (NSP). It also requires that providers of maternity and newborn services, including hospitals, birth centers, and health care providers who perform home births, perform the screening or refer newborns for ALD screening within 24 hours after birth.

PresidentialPrimaryPresidential Primary: 1st Bill to Pass this Session


On Wednesday, the Senate passed and sent to Governor Scott HB 7035, changing the date for Florida's presidential primary to March 15.   Passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, the bill moves the date from March 1. Under national Republican Party rules, holding the primary before March 15 results in Republican delegates being allocated proportionally to all Republican candidates.   March 15 is the first date that will allow the Republican primary winner to get all of the delegates. The new "winner take all" Republican primary (if signed by Governor Scott) could help Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, potential presidential candidates next year. The bill has no impact on Democrats because their national party awards delegates on a proportional basis regardless of the state's primary date. 

DentalCareDental Care - Dentists


Only 27.4 percent of low income Floridians have access to dental care. CS/HB 657 and its Senate companion bill CS/SB 606 require the Department of Health to develop and implement a Dental Care Access Account Initiative to benefit Florida licensed dentists employed by public health programs or committed to opening private practices capable of serving at least 1,200 patients in an area designated as a dental health professional shortage area (HPSA) or a medically under-served area.

Florida currently has 220 designated dental HPSAs, which have only enough dentists to serve 17 percent of the population living within them. For 2012, it is estimated that 853 additional dentists were required to meet the total need. This puts Florida among the states with the highest proportion of their populations that are deemed under-served.

Last Action HB 657: 3/16/15 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Health Quality Subcommittee.

Last Action CS/SB 606: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Agenda Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

A girl phoned me the other day and said ... "Come on over, there's nobody home." I went over.  Nobody was home.
-- Rodney Dangerfield
RetailHealthcareRetail Healthcare


Earlier this month, the Association of American Medical Colleges released "The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013 to 2025", confirming what numerous others studies have found: Florida faces a significant shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, the shortage, in combination with other factors, will result in lack of access to traditional, expensive health services and create a new model for providing health care services.

The new model is already taking shape as retailers like CVS, which opened its MinuteClinics in 2006, offer flu shots to physicals, and create in-house clinics that post their prices and allow consumers to choose which services they want, where and when. Of the 960 MinuteClinics nationwide, about 300 have opened since 2012 alone, including 33 in Florida. 

(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
DiabetesDiabetes Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers


CS/SB 746 requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to establish an online continuing employment training component relating to diabetic emergencies. This component must include, at a minimum, recognition of symptoms of such an emergency, distinguishing such an emergency from alcohol intoxication or drug overdose, and appropriate first aid for such an emergency. Completion of the training component may count toward the 40 hours of instruction for continued employment or appointment as a law enforcement officer.

Last Action: 03/16/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Criminal Justice.

HazardousWalkingHazardous Walking Conditions


CS/CS/SB 154 requires that district school boards, in cooperation with other governmental entities, inspect and identify hazardous conditions along routes that students must take while walking to or from school. The bill also requires that the appropriate governmental entity correct any hazardous walking conditions within a reasonable period of time. In addition, the bill:

  • revises the conditions for identifying walkways parallel to a road as hazardous;
  • creates criteria for identifying conditions at uncontrolled crossing sites as hazardous; 
  • revises the process for inspecting, identifying, and correcting hazardous walking conditions;
  • authorizes a district school board to initiate a proceeding to obtain a declaratory judgment if, after inspection, the governmental representatives are unable to reach a consensus on whether a hazardous walking condition exists; and 
  • provides that the designation of a road as a hazardous walking condition is inadmissible as evidence in a civil action for damages against a governmental entity.
Last Action: 3/16/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
PublicRecordsPublic Records/Homelessness Surveys


CS/SB 552 provides that individual identifying information of a person contained in a Point-In-Time Count and Survey or data in a Homeless Management Information System collected pursuant to federal law and regulations is exempt from Florida's public disclosure laws. The bill defines "individual identifying information" as information that directly or indirectly identifies a specific person or can be used to identify a specific person. The bill allows aggregate information to be released so long as an individual cannot be identified. 

Last Action: 3/17/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Governmental Oversight and Accountability.
OnlineVoterOnline Voter Registration


CS/SB 228 directs the Division of Elections to develop an operational, online voter registration system by October 1, 2017 for registering first-time voters and updating existing voter registrations. 

Last Action: 3/17/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Ethics and Elections.
VoluntaryContribsVoluntary Contributions to End Breast Cancer


SB 676 authorizes the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to collect a voluntary contribution of $1 or more per applicant through motor vehicle registration, driver license, and identification card forms for the Florida Breast Cancer Coalition Research Foundation, Inc. 

Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.
IndividualswithDisabilitiesIndividuals with Disabilities


CS/SB 1246 creates the Florida Unique Abilities Partner program to recognize business entities that employ individuals with disabilities, contribute to organizations that support the independence of individuals with disabilities, or establish programs that contribute to the independence of individuals with disabilities.

The bill requires the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to maintain a website that provides the public with a list containing the name of every business that has been designated as a Florida Unique Abilities Partner, and businesses with the designation must be identified on the EmployFlorida Marketplace system.

Last Action: 3/17/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Commerce & Tourism. Read First Time.
ServicesforVeteransServices for Veterans and Their Families


SB 1144 establishes the Florida Veterans' Care Coordination Program within the Department of Children and Families (DCF), to provide veterans and their families with behavioral health information and referral services. Behavioral health includes services for both mental health and substance abuse. The new program will be delivered through Florida's 211 Network and is based on a pilot project in central Florida. The bill has an appropriation of $2 million for the program and has an effective date of July 1, 2015.

The goals for the Florida Veterans' Care Coordination Program include:
  • preventing suicides among veterans;
  • increasing the use of services; and
  • increasing the level of federal Veterans Administration funding. 
The bill requires DCF to establish care coordination teams to implement the program statewide. The program is to provide information and referral services by expanding the services provided by the Florida 211 Network to include:
  • peer support, crisis intervention and information and referral;
  • treatment coordination, including follow-up care; 
  • suicide assessment; 
  • promotion of safety and wellness; 
  • coordination of resources available to veterans; and 
  • needs assessments, including safety planning. 
Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable by Children, Families & Elder Affairs.
BehavioralHealthBehavioral Health Services


SB 1462 authorizes counties to provide funds for voluntary, pretrial treatment-based mental health court programs. Contingent on an annual appropriation, the bill allows each judicial circuit with a treatment-based mental health court to establish at least one position to coordinate the responsibilities of participating agencies and service providers. 

Among others, the bill directs the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to submit a federal waiver or a Medicaid state plan amendment for the provision of health homes for individuals with chronic conditions, including severe mental illnesses or substance use disorders. The agency is also directed to apply to the federal government for a planning grant that creates opportunity for improved access to community mental health services.

Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families & Elder Affairs.
DisabilityAwarenessDisability Awareness


CS/SB 152 requires district school boards to annually provide disability history and awareness instruction in all K-12 public schools, during the first two weeks in October, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year. The required disability awareness instruction must be integrated into the existing school curriculum and be augmented by presentations from individuals who have a disability, who are approved by the school or school district, and who meet existing background screening requirements. 

The bill requires each public school in Florida to establish a disability history and awareness advisory council and provides requirements for the council regarding membership, responsibilities, and frequency of annual meetings.

Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable by Fiscal Policy. Second Reading.
FinancialLiteracyFinancial Literacy Program: Individuals with Disabilities


CS/SB 206 creates the Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The goal of the program is to promote economic independence and successful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities by providing education, outreach, and resources on specific issues such as financial education, financial and health benefit programs and services, job training and employment opportunities, and the impact of earnings and assets on federal and state programs. 

Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Fiscal Policy.
IdentificationCardsIdentification Cards


SB 256 allows a person with a developmental disability, or the parent or guardian of a child or ward with a developmental disability, to voluntarily request to be issued an identification card exhibiting a "D" designation for the person who has been diagnosed by a licensed physician as having a developmental disability. 

The designated identification card could help law enforcement and other officials identify if they are dealing with a developmentally disabled individual. However, it is unknown how many individuals may apply for this designated identification card.

Last Action: 3/19/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Transportation.
HumanTraffickinggHuman 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/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: 03/19/15 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Economic Affairs Committee.
FSECCFlorida State Employees' Charitable Campaign


SB 694 and its House companion bill HB 719 provide 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 (FSECC) made during participation in a special event. Both bills allow state officers and employees to contribute undesignated funds to the FSECC as part of a campaign event, and direct the fiscal agent to direct undesignated contributions to participating charitable organizations in proportion to all designated FSECC contributions received by that organization.

Lastly, both bills eliminate the requirement that local steering committees be established in each fiscal agent area. It also eliminates the additional eligibility requirements for an independent unaffiliated agency, national agency, and international service agency.

Last Action SB 694: 03/17/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

Last Action HB 719: 03/17/15 HOUSE Favorable by Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.


Session Dates

Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. 

-- Dave Barry
United Way of Florida, 307 E. Seventh Avenue, Tallahassee, FL  32303  -  phone: 850.488.8287