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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue 5March 30, 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: Budget Proposals Headed for Floor Votes


old and new capitol

The Senate and House budgets (SB 2500 and HB 5001passed their respective Appropriations Committees and head for full floor votes this week. The two chambers' budgets are still $4 billion apart, with the major differences in health care spending:



  • Agency for Health Care Administration: Senate $27.8B; House $22.8B (a $5 billion difference due to modified Low Income Pool and Medicaid expansion funds)
  • Department of Children and Families: Senate $2.9B; House $2.9B
  • Department of Health: Senate $2.8B; House $2.7B
  • Agency for Persons with Disabilities: Senate $1.19B; House $1.15B 
  • Department of Elder Affairs: Senate: $284.4M; House $293.6M
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs: Senate $108.6M; House $108.5M 


  • Overall PreK-12: Senate: $21.0B; House: $21.1B 
  • K-12: Senate: $13.2B; House: $13.3B
  • Early Learning: Senate and House: $1.0B
    (with differences in program allocations)

Read more. 

Important Session Dates:


April 12-17: Children's Week

May 1: Last day of the regular Session


Last week, in a spectacular bipartisan vote of 392-37, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that will extend Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding for two years. The bill also prevents big cuts in payments to physicians serving Medicare patients and extends funding for home visiting programs and for community health centers. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on this bill when they return from recess the week of April 13.
Please CALL your U.S. Senators NOW and urge them to vote YES on the CHIP bill.

Senator Bill Nelson:
Senator Marco Rubio:
Quick Links

Early Steps Budget At Risk

The Early Steps program, administered by the Florida Department of Health, serves children age birth to three years who have medical conditions or developmental delays. Last year, more than 40,000 Florida children received Early Steps services that will help many of them improve their functioning and save taxpayers millions of dollars in future costs. While Early Steps caseloads have grown, the House proposed 2015-2016 budget does not include an increase for the programs, while the Senate budget includes a $3.3 million increase; a good start, but far below the $5 million needed, according to the Florida Consortium of Infants and Toddlers. Read more here.
Human Trafficking Hotline

The Florida legislature deems 'human trafficking' (i.e., subjecting victims to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor) to be a form of modern-day slavery. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national hotline number providing referrals to human trafficking victims, tips to law enforcement and information to the public. Florida law currently does not require or encourage the posting of the hotline number. CS/CS/HB 369 and CS/SB 534 would require the Department of Transportation to display public awareness signs, with information on how to call the NHTRC to access help and services, at all public rest areas, turnpike service plazas, weigh stations, welcome centers and public transit facilities. Read more.
Behavioral Health System Reform

Legislation that would change the way mental health and substance abuse services are organized, delivered and funded in Florida is moving in both the House and Senate.  HB 7119 and SB 7068 create networks of behavioral health care providers in each region of the state that offer a comprehensive range of services, and integrate behavioral health care and primary care. The proposed model would draw additional funding from Medicaid. According to Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Rene Garcia, "The bill will lead to more continuity and less fragmentation of services. People suffering from mental illness and substance abuse will receive more effective treatment, and the service delivery system will be more accountable to the taxpayers."  Read more.
Bills to Watch This Week


CS/HB 99 Juvenile Civil Citations (Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach)  Requires law enforcement to issue a civil citation for juvenile misdemeanors; provides that in exceptional situations, law enforcement officer may arrest a first-time juvenile misdemeanor offender.

CS/HB 1193 (Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill) and SB 1144 (Simpson, R-New Port Richey) Services for Veterans and their Families. Requires DCF to establish Florida Veterans' Care Coordination Program to provide information and referral services to veterans and their families for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

CS/SB 7044 Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (Health Policy)  Creates a state health insurance exchange, using federal Medicaid expansion funds, to purchase private insurance for eligible Floridians in the 'coverage gap'.

HB 7119 Mental Health and Substance Abuse (Harrell, R-Stuart)  Revises statewide system of safety-net prevention, treatment, & recovery services for substance abuse & mental health services administered by DCF; creates crisis stabilization services utilization database.

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.