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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE 5                                                                                                   APRIL 3, 2015
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HalfWayHome
Half Way Home: Where are they headed?
Wednesday marked the half-way point in the 60 day regular legislative session, scheduled to end on May 1. At this point, 1,699 bills have been filed (852 Senate; 847 House) and only 15 have passed both houses and gone to the Governor. He has signed five.

While those numbers could indicate a slow session, they aren't unusual; the vast majority of bills get passed the second half of session.

What is unusual is the size of the budget divide between the two houses and its roots. The total budget chasm is $4.3 billion, but the health care divide is larger, at $5.3 billion ($2.8 billion Medicaid expansion; $2.3 billion Low Income Pool/LIP). The Senate includes those funds, the House does not.

The Legislature is only required by the Constitution to pass one bill each year, the state budget. As the following two articles suggest, this is going to be a bigger challenge than in recent history.

Only time will tell where this intriguing session will end.
PhilosophicalRootsPhilosophical Roots Underlie Budget Impasse
While the $4+ billion budget difference is indeed larger than usual, it is far different from past budget impasses.

Rather than being grounded in differences on funding preferences, this divide is grounded in a philosophical difference rooted in our nation's origins: States Rights vs. Federalism.

The Senate, by acceding to the federal government on LIP funding and Medicaid reform (albeit with a private sector approach) has accepted the principal of federal authority, while the House's obstinacy in refusing federal support aligns with state authority.

This is an overly simplistic view, and the justifications for each position are usually couched in much more crass terms by opponents of one side or the other.

The bottom line, as Senate President Andy Gardiner puts it, is "What is best for the state?"

A simply put bottom line:
  • The Senate has concluded that the best thing for the state is to provide health care to 800,000 Floridians and ensure indigent care is adequately provided by the state's hospitals.
  • The House has concluded that the possibility of the feds reneging on billions of dollars of commitments to fund that health care endangers the state's future fiscal health.
Each of us - and each Florida Legislator - must decide which conclusion is best for the state.
TimingisEverythingTiming is Everything, Oh My!
As mentioned above, the only constitutional mandate required of the Legislature is to pass a state budget.

The rub this year - and the issue that has everyone on edge and wondering much more than in years past how the budget impasse will be resolved - is that the deadline for passing a budget is June 30, and the date when $2.3 billion in LIP funding ends is June 30.

So the big question is whether the federal government (actually, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) will tell the Legislature if it is going to continue LIP funding in time for the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty.

The Governor and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) have been negotiating with the feds on this for months, and this week Senate President Gardiner took the unusual step of dispatching two of his trusted colleagues to D.C. to inquire about their position and time-frame for making a decision.

On Wednesday, AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek reported that federal officials are halting negotiations for at least two weeks. Speculation abounded on the reasons why but, as it turns out, according to NPR the federal decision-makers went on vacation. In the game of chicken being played by the House and the feds, this an intriguing move.

Governor Scott previously requested that the feds let Florida know their decision on LIP funding by mid-April, and the fed's decision to halt negotiations for two weeks puts us in mid-April. One can only hope that the decision to halt further negotiations is intended to provide the feds an opportunity to make their final decision.

Otherwise, a special session is in our future.
ALICEandMiddleClass
ALICE & the Middle Class Conundrum

"Middle Class" is more often tied to an idea than a specific income range. It is a powerful idea that families want to identify with, but does not match many of their financial realities. The United Way ALICE Report created county Survival Budgets to identify the hardworking households who still do not earn enough to meet all their basic needs, but it also created the Stability Budget. This budget offers an objectively created 'floor' to what it means to be "middle class" and is customized for each county. Click here to see what survival and stability look like in your county.
SenatePassesBudgetSenate Passes Budget

On Wednesday, the Senate passed its proposed 2015-2016 state budget (SB 2500), and the House considered its budget on the floor (HB 5001).

Because the Senate will host budget conference committees this session, parliamentary procedure dictates these steps be followed: The Senate will send SB 2500 to the House, the House will amend it with their budget proposal and send it back to the Senate, the Senate will refuse to accept the House amendment, and conference committees comprised of House and Senate members will be appointed by the Speaker and President to iron out the differences.

On Thursday, the House amended SB 2500 and sent it back to the Senate. Since they refused to accept the Senate budget, the House agreed to a Senate request to meet in conference committees to resolve their differences. As this Legislative Link went to press, conferees had not been appointed.

A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple its value every year. I told him, "At my age, I don't even by green bananas." -- Claude Pepper

VPKVoluntary Prekindergarten Education Program
One of this session's most important early learning bills was passed by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee this week, SB 518.

The bill expands the formula for calculating the kindergarten readiness rate for Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program providers and schools to include student performance results on pre- and post-assessments in addition to student performance results on the statewide kindergarten screening.

Current law requires the assessments to "be valid, reliable, developmentally appropriate, and designed to measure student progress on early literacy, numeracy, and language." In addition to these requirements, SB 518 requires the assessments be observation-based, developed using norm samples, appropriate for English language learners and students with disabilities, available in multiple languages, and provide processes and supports for ensuring continued reliability and professional development. All incredibly important.

Also, the bill clarifies that pre- and post-assessments must be administered during the first and last two weeks of the school year or summer prekindergarten program by prekindergarten instructors, rather than "individuals" as required in current law. The term "prekindergarten instructor" is defined as a teacher or child care personnel who provide instruction to students in the VPK program.

Finally, the bill requires that the Office of Early Learning (OEL) annually report the appropriate level of student learning growth based on data from the pre- and post-assessments for calculating the kindergarten readiness rate of each public school or private provider delivering the VPK program.

After passing three committees, SB 518 only has to pass the Appropriations Committee before going to the floor. Unfortunately, its House companion, HB 483, has not yet been heard in committee. Fortunately, a scaled back version of SB 518 that merely requires pre- and post-assessments has been amended onto the comprehensive House early learning health and safety bill, CS/HB 7017, which is poised for consideration by the House.
CivilCitationBillsCivil Citation Bills Move

Since 2010, arrests of juveniles statewide have decreased by an amazing 36 percent (from 121,000 to 78,000). Much of this decrease is attributable to implementation of a civil citation process that allows young people who have committed first-time, non-serious delinquent acts to swiftly face consequences such as community service or treatment, and maintain "clean" arrest records.

Two similar, important civil citation bills are making their way through the legislative process: CS/SB 378 and CS/CS/HB 99. Last Thursday, CS/SB 378 passed the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee, and on Tuesday, CS/CS/HB 99 passed the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Among others the House bill amends current law by:
  • authorizing a law enforcement officer to issue a warning or inform a juvenile's parent when a juvenile admits to having committed a misdemeanor;
  • giving the officer discretion to issue a civil citation or require participation in a similar diversion program if he or she decides not to issue a warning or notify the juvenile's parents;
  • giving the officer discretion to arrest the juvenile (If an arrest is made, the officer must provide written documentation as to why it was warranted); and
  • authorizing an officer to issue a civil citation for second or subsequent misdemeanors.
Read more about the civil citation process.
ServicesforVeteransServices for Veterans and Their Families

Our nation was won by the courage of veterans. Our liberty is owed to their bravery.

Unfortunately, for myriad reasons, veterans and their families often face daunting challenges.

As one example, the Florida Council on Homelessness 2014 Report found in its annual point-in-time study that 28,113 of Florida's 41,335 homeless are veterans.

This year, Florida Legislators are considering two similar bills intended to provide critically important services to Florida's veterans, so they don't suffer from homelessness and other maladies: CS/CS/HB 1193 and SB 1144. Both bills have one more committee stop before heading to their respective floors.

Please see last week's Legislative Link for a summary of CS/HB 1193.

As the Legislature is hopefully poised to do, the United Way of Broward County has already taken aggressive steps to help its veterans. Its nationally acclaimed MISSION UNITED supports U.S. military veterans and their families by helping them re-acclimate to civilian life by assisting them with critically needed services such as employment readiness, education, health, legal assistance, emergency financial aid, and housing.

The United Way urges the Florida Legislature to pass CS/HB 1193, SB 1144, or similar legislation that provides veterans the supports they deserve.
FloridahasalotofVeteransFlorida has a lot of Veterans!

The Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs reports:
  • Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation after California and Texas with more than 1.6 million veterans - 12 percent of the Sunshine State's population 18 and over.
  • Wartime veterans make up about 75 percent of Florida's total veteran population (1.2 million).
  • There are more Vietnam-era veterans than any other wartime category in Florida with more than 498,000.
As a child, my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.  -- Buddy Hackett
UseofTobacco
Use of Tobacco Products in Motor Vehicles

According to the American Lung Association's affiliate in Oregon, the Environmental Protection Agency classifies secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen that causes cancer in humans. The U.S. Surgeon General's 2006 Report also found that children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and severe asthma.

Seven states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have prohibited smoking in privately owned vehicles while children are present. The ages range from under eight (Vermont) to under 18 (California and Oregon).

The Florida Legislature may be poised to join the seven other states that prohibit smoking in privately owned vehicles while children are present. SB 548 and HB 671 each have one committee stop before heading to their respective floors.

Both bills prohibit smoking tobacco in a motor vehicle in which there is a child under 13 years of age. Violation would be a non-moving traffic violation.
AprilChildAbusePreventionMonthApril is Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Pinwheels for Prevention, a national campaign creating a community-wide commitment to healthy child development, is launching its annual awareness campaign in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Florida (PCA Florida), the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

To draw attention to and encourage involvement in child abuse prevention efforts, visit the Ounce of Prevention's PCA and Pinwheels for Prevention websites.
BillsHeardBILLS HEARD THIS WEEK
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
RestitutionforJuvenileOffensesRestitution for Juvenile Offenses

CS/CS/HB 235 expands the authority of courts 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 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 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 guardian; and
  • make both of the child's parents or guardians responsible for restitution, regardless of whether one parent or guardian has sole parental responsibility.
Last Action: 4/2/15 HOUSE CS/CS by Judiciary Committee.
AlcoholicBeveragesAlcoholic Beverages

Powdered alcohol is alcohol that has been molecularly encapsulated in a starch or sugar. When combined with a liquid the product produces an alcoholic beverage.

CS/CS/SB 998 prohibits the sale, offering for sale, purchase, use, offering for use, or possession of powdered alcohol.

Last Action: 3/31/15 SENATE CS/CS by Commerce and Tourism. Read first time.
EmployOppsEmployment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities

CS/HB 1083 requires development and implementation of an interagency cooperative agreement among 10 state agencies and organizations. The agreement must, among others:
  • establish commitment by state leadership to maximize resources and coordination to improve employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities;
  • develop strategic goals and benchmarks to assist state agencies and organizations in implementing the agreement;
  • identify financing and contracting methods to help prioritize employment for individuals with disabilities by state agencies and organizations;
  • establish training methods to better integrate persons with disabilities into the workforce;
  • ensure collaborative efforts between agencies; 
  • promote service innovations to better assist individuals with disabilities in the workplace; and
  • identify accountability measures to ensure sustainability of the agreement.
Last Action: 3/31/15 HOUSE Favorable by Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.
MentalHealthMental Health and Substance Abuse

HB 7119 makes changes to the statewide system of safety-net prevention, treatment, and recovery services for substance abuse and mental health (SAMH) administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

DCF currently contracts with seven managing entities that in turn contract with local service providers to deliver SAMH services. The bill updates statutes that provided DCF initial authority and guidance for transitioning to the managing entity system. The bill makes changes to providing services and enhances operation of this outsourced approach by:
  • allowing managed behavioral health organizations to bid for managing entity contracts when fewer than two bids are received;
  • requiring care coordination, specifying services that shall be provided within available resources, and prioritizing the populations served;
  • requiring DCF to develop performance standards that measure improvement in a community's behavioral health and in specified individuals' functioning or progress toward recovery;
  • specifying members for managing entities' governing boards, and requiring managed behavioral health organizations serving as managing entities to have advisory boards with that membership;
  • allowing managing entities flexibility in shaping their provider network, while requiring a system for publicizing opportunities to join, and evaluating providers for participation; and 
  • deleting obsolete statutes regarding the transition to the managing entity system.
The bill also adds family members and other interested parties as parties authorized to petition the court for the appointment of a guardian advocate to consent to treatment when the individual is not competent to do so.

Major issues surround this bill, particularly the provisions allowing for profit entities to bid for managing entity contracts. See next week's Legislative Link for an overview.

Last Action: 3/31/15 HOUSE Favorable by Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.
AutismAutism

 

SB 146 requires licensed physicians, except those providing emergency services and care, to screen minors for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) if the parent or legal guardian believes the minor exhibits ASD symptoms.  The physician is required to make a referral to an appropriate specialist for a diagnostic evaluation if the physician determines it is medically necessary.  If the physician determines the referral is not medically necessary, he or she must inform the parent or legal guardian about direct access for screening, evaluation, or diagnosis from the Early Steps program or another specialist.

 

Last Action: 3/31/15  SENATE  Favorable by Health Policy.

PublicRecordsIdentityofaVictimPublic Records/Identity of a Victim/ Human Trafficking Offense

CS/SB 1108 expands the current public records exemption for certain criminal intelligence and criminal investigative information to include identifying information of a child victim of human trafficking for labor or services, as well as any victim of human trafficking for commercial sexual activity.

Last Action: 4/1/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Governmental Oversight and Accountability. Read first time.
PublicRecordsResidentialFacilitiesPublic Records/Residential Facilities Serving Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking

CS/SB 1110 creates a new public records exemption for facilities that serve children and adults who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The bill makes confidential and exempt from public records the location information of a safe house, safe foster home, or other residential facility serving child victims of sexual exploitation. It also makes confidential and exempt from public disclosure the location information of a residential facility offering services for adult victims of human trafficking involving commercial sexual activity.

The bill also allows the exempted location information to be disclosed to an agency as necessary to maintain health and safety standards or to address emergency situations in the safe house or residential facility.

Last Action: 4/1/15 SENATE Favorable with CS by Governmental Oversight and Accountability.
SchoolSafetyGunsSchool Safety/Guns

SB 180 would allow certain school district employees or volunteers, licensed to carry concealed weapons, to carry a concealed firearm on school property. In addition to being licensed to carry concealed weapons, the person must also be:
  • an honorably discharged military veteran with no firearm-related disciplinary infraction;
  • an active-duty member of the military, National Guard, or reserves, with no firearm-related disciplinary infraction; or
  • a law enforcement officer in good standing or a former officer who has retired or terminated employment in good standing and not during the course of an internal investigation.
The school district employees or volunteers who meet the criteria are called "school safety designees" in the bill.

Last Action: 3/31/15 SENATE Temporarily Postpones Education Pre-K - 12.
FloridaABLEActFlorida ABLE Act

CS/HB 935 and its Senate companion bill CS/SB 642 create the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (the Florida ABLE Act). The Act establishes the Florida ABLE program, which would help individuals with disabilities save money without losing their eligibility for state and federal benefits, and thereby providing a pathway for economic independence and a better quality of life

Under the Florida ABLE program, individuals with disabled family members and others can contribute funds to a tax-exempt ABLE account without affecting the disabled individual's eligibility for state and federal benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid. Those funds can be used for qualified disability expenses that include education, housing, transportation, employment support, health, prevention, wellness, financial, and legal expenses, and other expenses authorized through federal regulations. Funds placed in the ABLE program would supplement, rather than supplant, benefits provided through state and federal programs, earnings, and other sources.

Last Action: 4/1/15 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Health and Human Services Committee.
Last Action: 4/1/15 SENATE In Messages.
PublicRecordsHomelessnessPublic Records/Homelessness Surveys and Databases

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 s. 119.07(1), F.S., and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution. The bill defines the term "individual identifying information" and provides for retroactive application of the exemption.

The bill does not prevent the release of aggregate information from a Point-In-Time Count and Survey or data in a Homeless Management Information System that does not disclose individual identifying information of a person. The bill provides for an Open Government Sunset review and contains a statement of public necessity as required by the State Constitution.

Last Action: 4/2/15 SENATE Placed on third reading.
BullyingBullying and Harassment Policies in Schools

In 2008, the Florida Legislature passed legislation prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution.

SB 530 requires periodic revision of a school district's anti-bullying and harassment policy, modifies the information that must be contained in the policy, and requires schools to implement the policy. Among others, the bill requires that:
  • school districts revise anti-bullying and harassment policies every three years;
  • schools implement school district anti-bullying and harassment policies; and
  • school district anti-bullying and harassment policies:
    • make reporting of bullying or harassment mandatory; and
    • include a list of bullying prevention and intervention programs authorized by the school district to provide instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment.
Last Action: 4/2/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
InvoluntaryExamsInvoluntary Examinations of Minors

SB 954 requires a public school's principal, or his or her designee, to notify a student's parent or guardian if the student is removed from the school, school transportation, or a school-sponsored activity for an involuntary examination. The bill also provides notification requirements for receiving facilities that hold minor patients for involuntary examination.

The bill allows the school principal, or his or her designee, and the receiving facility each to delay notification by up to 24 hours if there is suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect and delay has been deemed to be in the student's or minor patient's best interest. Delay in notification may occur only after a report of suspected abuse, abandonment, or neglect is submitted to the Department of Children and Families' central abuse hotline.

Last Action: 4/2/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
LiteracyJumpStartLiteracy Jump Start Pilot Project

SB 1116 requires the Office of Early Learning (OEL) to establish a five-year Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project in St. Lucie County to provide emergent literacy instruction to low-income, at-risk children. OEL must select an organization to administer the pilot project and one or more municipalities to participate in the project. Both the organization and the municipalities must be located in St. Lucie County.

The local organization selected by the OEL must be a not-for-profit corporation qualified as charitable that provides training to parents to assist their children with success in school. The bill identifies the Parent Academy of St. Lucie County as an example of a qualifying organization to implement the project.

Emergent literacy instruction must be delivered in a subsidized housing unit located within an eligible municipality to facilitate parent and child access to services. The organization may coordinate with the St. Lucie County Health Department to provide basic health screening and immunization in conjunction with emergent literacy instruction.

Last Action: 4/2/15 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
ChildWelfareChild Welfare

Last year, the Legislature passed SB 1666, a major reform of the child welfare system. Among its many provisions, SB 1666:
  • created the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) to conduct a root-cause analysis of certain child deaths and critical incidents;
  • expanded the number and types of cases reviewed through the Child Abuse Death Review (CADR) process;
  • required multi-agency staffing for cases alleging medical neglect; and
  • created the Florida Institute for Child Welfare (FICW), requiring it to submit an interim report by February 1, 2015.
Prior to the passage of SB 1666, the CADR only reviewed child deaths verified to be the result of abuse or neglect. SB 1666 requires CADR to review all deaths reported to the central abuse hotline. This resulted in an increase in the number of deaths that must be reviewed through this process. For example, in calendar year 2014, 82 deaths were verified to be the result of abuse or neglect out of 440 total deaths reported to the hotline.

SB 7078 addresses issues related to the implementation of SB 1666. It was submitted as a committee substitute on Thursday by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee. This overview does not include amendments made by the committee.

To address the increased volume of cases reviewed through the CADR process and to better align it with the newly created CIRRT process, the bill clarifies the roles of the two types of committees within the CADR process and imposes specific reporting requirements. The SPB also permits the Secretary of DCF to deploy CIRRTs in response to other child deaths in addition to those with verified abuse and neglect in the last 12 months. The SPB also requires more frequent reviews and reports by the CIRRT advisory committee.

The bill also requires a multi-agency staffing to be convened for cases of alleged medical neglect, clarifying that the staffing shall be convened only if medical neglect is substantiated by the child protection team.

The bill implements FICW interim report recommendations by clarifying Legislative intent to prioritize evidence-based and trauma-informed services.

Last Action: 4/2/15 SENATE Submitted as a Committee Bill by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
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-- Henry A. Kissinger

 
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