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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue 8April 20, 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: Special Session Looms 
old and new capitol

Two weeks remain before the scheduled end of the regular session. Only 26 bills (out of 1,734 bills filed) have passed both houses and gone to the Governor to be signed.  The critical Senate 'FHIX' bill, to extend affordable health coverage to 800,000 Floridians, has so far not been embraced by the House. The budget impasse on health care expansion and Low Income Pool (LIP) funding has put a virtual stop to most activity. Last week, Senate and House leaders agreed that an extended or special session will be needed for the Legislature to finish the one job it is required by the Florida Constitution to do each year: pass a state budget. Read more.
Quick Links

Important Session Dates

May 1: Last day of the regular Session

Urge the Florida House to use the remaining days of the 2014 Legislative Session to pass the Senate's FHIX plan - a common-sense solution that's in the best interest of South Florida and all Floridians. Read more here.
Early Learning
Hanging of the Hands, Children's Week 2015.
If a special legislative session is convened, due to the budget impasse, bills that didn't pass during the regular session will have to be re-filed again for consideration during the special session. The most important of United Way's priority bills still in process are the early learning 'health and safety' bills.
CS/HB 7017 is ready to be heard on the House Floor. The Senate companion bill, CS/SB 7006 is scheduled for a final hearing by the full Appropriations Committee on April 21 before heading to the floor. Advocates are working hard to ensure the early learning bills are heard during the regular session so Florida children need not wait another year to get the care they deserve in their early learning settings and taxpayers get the bang for the buck they deserve for their investment in early learning. Read more about these bills here.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
CS/SB 7068 and CS/HB 7119 make changes to the statewide system of safety-net services for substance abuse and mental health (SAMH). The Department of Children and Families administers this system, contracting with seven managing entities that in turn contract with local service providers to deliver SAMH services. The legislation would allow managed care behavioral health organizations to bid for managing entity contracts; requires DCF to develop performance standards to measure improvement in behavioral health; and allows managing entities flexibility in shaping their provider networks. Read more.

Guardians for Developmentally Disabled Dependent Children
CS/CS/HB 437 and CS/CS/SB 496 create a framework for identifying and appointing guardians for developmentally disabled children who may require decision-making assistance beyond their 18th birthday. The legislation authorizes guardianship courts to exercise jurisdiction over dependent children nearing their 18th birthday to appoint guardian advocates, limited guardians, and plenary guardians. It also requires the court to conduct an annual review of the continued necessity of a guardianship for young adults in extended foster care who already have a guardian; requires the Department of Children and Families to develop and update a plan for any child who may require the assistance of a guardian; and allows the child's parents to remain the child's natural guardians unless the court determines it is not in the child's best interest. The House bill passed unanimously last week; the Senate bill passed its final committee and is ready for a floor hearing. Read more.
Bills to Watch This Week



SB 1116 Literacy Jump Start Pilot (Abruzzo, D-Wellington) Establishes a pilot project in St. Lucie County to assist low-income, at-risk children in developing literacy skills; encourages coordination of health screening and immunization in conjunction with emergent literacy instruction.


CS/CS/HB 1193 Services for Combat Vets and Their Families (Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill) Establishes the 'Florida Combat Veterans' Care Coordination Program' to provide combat veterans and their families with behavioral healthcare referral and care coordination services.

CS/SB 378 Juvenile Justice (Garcia, R-Hialeah and Gibson, D-Jacksonville) Authorizes a law enforcement officer to issue a warning to a juvenile who admits having committed a misdemeanor, or to inform the child's parent or guardian, or to issue a civil citation or require participation in a similar diversion program.

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.