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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue 9April 27, 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: After Regular Session Ends, What Next? 
old and new capitol

This is the last week of the regular legislative session, scheduled to end on May 1. However, in the absence of a budget agreement legislators will be returning to Tallahassee in May or June to complete their one constitutionally-mandated task: to pass a state budget and send it to the Governor. The delay is due to the House refusal to embrace the Senate proposal to expand healthcare to more than 800,000 uninsured Floridians plus draw down federal 'Low Income Pool' (LIP) funds to reimburse hospitals for indigent care. This adds up to a nearly $5 billion budget difference. Late last week, the House and Senate exchanged a series of budget 'offers' that did little to break through the impasse. Read more.
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Important Session Dates

May 1: Last day of the regular Session

ALERT: FHIX is right for Florida
An April 23 United Way press release noted that Florida has more than 800,000 uninsured residents, the second highest in the country. Three out of four of these uninsured Floridians work full or part time and do not have access to affordable health insurance through their employers.
Early Learning Bills Move
The session's two comprehensive early learning 'health and safety' bills have moved closer to final passage and advocates are watching them carefully. The bills increase the health and safety standards and personnel requirements for Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness programs. CS/HB 7017, was amended on the House floor, passed unanimously and sent to the Senate; CS/CS/SB 7006 passed its final committee of reference and is ready to go to the Senate Floor this week. The goal is for the House bill to be substituted for the Senate bill (when it is ready to be heard on the Senate floor), and for the necessary funds to be appropriated during budget negotiations. Read more about these bills here.
Services for Combat Veterans and Their Families
CS/CS/HB 1193 creates the Florida Veterans' Care Coordination Program (the Program) within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide dedicated behavioral healthcare referral services to combat veterans and their family members through Florida's 211 Network. The bill requires DCF to designate "care coordination teams" to implement the program statewide, to provide peer support, suicide assessment, and treatment and resource coordination; and to track, follow up and advertise the services. Read more here. The bill passed the House (114-1) and has been sent to the Senate.

Hope for KidCare
Florida KidCare is the state's health insurance program for uninsured children in low- and moderate-income families. Currently in Florida, children of lawfully residing immigrants must wait five years to be eligible to enroll in KidCare and receive the health care they need. The total cost to the state for providing coverage for these children is estimated to be less than $5 million.
Legislation to eliminate the waiting period -- which advocates have tried pass for years -- is likely dead for the session. But the Senate bill sponsor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rene Garcia, has vowed he will try to secure funding to eliminate the waiting period as soon as the budget process resumes.

Bills to Watch This Week



CS/CS/SB 972 Ad Valorem Taxation (Flores, R-Miami) and CS/CS/HB 695 Ad Valorem Taxation (Avila, R-Hialeah) Establishes deadlines for Value Adjustment Boards to hear petitions; revises requirements for submitting appeals; etc.

CS/CS/SB 228 Online Voter Application (Clemens, D-Lake Worth and Richter, R-Naples) and HB 7143 Online Voter Registration (State Affairs Committee) Requires Department of State to develop an online voter registration system; requires the system to compare information submitted online with Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records.
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.