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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
ISSUE 9                                                                                                 MAY 1, 2015
old and new capitol 
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RegularSessionSputtersRegular Session Sputters to an End
While the back-and-forth between the House and Senate (and sometimes the Governor) during the 2015 session distinguished it as arguably the most contentious and acrimonious in modern history, its final week took the session to uncharted and undreamed-of territory.

The tangled web of activity and the speculation around it is too abundant to delve into in this Legislative Link, but here are some of the week's highlights:
  • Governor Scott filed suit against the federal government for linking the Low Income Pool (LIP) to Medicaid expansion (i.e., requiring Florida to implement Medicaid expansion or lose LIP funding).
  • The federal government appeared to reverse itself by seeming to say LIP and Medicaid expansion are not linked.
  • House Speaker Steve Crisafulli shocked everyone by unilaterally adjourning the House three days early and telling representatives to go home.
  • Senate President Andy Gardiner informed Speaker Crisafulli that the House was in violation of the Florida Constitution and that they needed to reconvene on Friday (today). 
  • Speaker Crisafulli replied the House would not reconvene.
  • President Gardiner requested that special session be convened from June 1 - June 20 to address budget issues.
  • Thirteen Senate democrats asked the Supreme Court to order the House back on Friday, and the Court asked for a response from the House by 10:00 AM Friday.
As this Legislative Link went to press, the special session issue had not been resolved and communications were being made between the President and the Speaker about how to proceed.
SpecialSessionComingSpecial Session Coming
While the House adjourning on the 57th day of the 60 day session caught everyone by surprise, it was already clear that the Legislature would have to meet in special session - or a very lengthy extended session - to resolve the $4 billion chasm dividing the House and Senate proposed 2015-2016 state budgets.

The presiding officers of each chamber must now agree to come back in special session in order to complete the state budget, the only bill they are required to pass each year by the June 30 deadline. Governor Rick Scott could also order them back, but his doing so has already been criticized by legislators because of his absence from session discussions over the last two months.

Agreeing on the dates and content of a special session are daunting and not in the Legislature's favor. Among others:
  • The divide between the House and Senate is deep:
    • The abrupt, unilateral adjournment of the House without notifying the Senate derailed the session and killed scores of bills that Senators wanted.
    • For almost two months, both sides have accused the other of intransigence: The House claiming the Senate won't budge on its support of health care expansion and the Senate claiming the House won't consider it. Neither side appears at this time prepared to bend.
  • The unknowns and time are not in their favor. Unless the federal government modifies its timeframe for considering the state's LIP proposal, the soonest Florida will know is July 3, two days after the Legislature must have the budget completed. The $4 billion difference between the House and Senate budgets is rooted entirely in this issue (and its linkage to healthcare expansion by the Senate).
There is much to overcome in a short time.
FLunitedwayissues2015 Florida United Way Issues
On the budget side, United Way priority issues are in the same position as everyone else's, in limbo. School readiness funding, school readiness performance funding, Help Me Grow, Healthy Families and Healthy Start, affordable housing, Early Steps, T.E.A.C.H., homeless, and Community Care for the Elderly are all on the table until the Legislature returns to craft next year's budget.

On the substantive side, session ended with two key United Way priorities left behind, early learning health and safety legislation and KidCare for legally residing immigrant children.

Once a regular session ends, the bills filed for the session die if they have not passed. The only way they can be resurrected before the next regular session would be for them to be included in the "call" for the special session. It is very unlikely these two bills will be included in the call.
I changed all my passwords to "incorrect", so that whenever I forget, it will tell me, "Your password is incorrect."
-- Will Ferrell
EarlyLearningBillDiesEarly Learning Bill Dies.  Again.
At the end of the 2014 Legislative Session, comprehensive early learning health and safety legislation was the last bill to die. This year, the House health and safety bill (CS/HB 7017) passed the House and its Senate companion (CS/CS/SB 7006) was awaiting hearing on the Senate floor when session ended.

The bills would have required that all school readiness providers receiving state funds be held to the same health and safety standards and inspected annually by the Department of Children and Families to ensure those standards were being met. Currently, license-exempt faith-based and private school providers are not held to those standards.

Among many others, the bills would have required providers to notify parents of disciplinary action and conspicuously post Class I violation citations and inspection reports that result in disciplinary action on the premises. In addition they would have required, in the future, that personnel be at least 18-years-old and hold a high school diploma or equivalent, be trained in developmentally appropriate practices aligned to the age and needs of children they serve, and trained in infant and child first aid and CPR.

Once again, Representative Marlene O'Toole championed the effort, but getting the bill passed out of the Senate proved insurmountable, again.
KidCareKidCare for Immigrant Children Dies
Florida KidCare is the state's health insurance program for uninsured children in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

When first implemented, federal law required that lawfully residing immigrant children wait five years before they could participate in the KidCare program. However, in 2009 Congress revised the law to allow states to eliminate the five year waiting period.

Florida has not eliminated the waiting period and, as a result, approximately 20,000 immigrant children who are lawfully residing in Florida must wait five years before they can participate in the program and receive the health care they need. The cost to the state for providing coverage for these children is estimated to be $14 million.

The Senate bill that would eliminate the waiting period (SB 294) passed two of its three referenced committees this session, but its House companion (HB 829) was never heard.

While the bills are dead, Senator Rene Garcia, the Senate bill sponsor and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, vowed that he will try to secure funding to eliminate the waiting period when the appropriations process kicks back into gear.
I haven't committed a crime.  What I did was fail to comply with the law. -- David Dinkins, New York City Mayor, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes.
MentalHealthSubAbuseDiesMental Health/Substance Abuse Bill Dies
Mental illness and substance abuse are arguably the most pervasive illnesses in our society and they have an extraordinarily negative impact on our economy and our communities. From high unemployment rates to homelessness to incarceration, the financial and social impacts affect us all.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 50 percent of individuals with severe mental health disorders are affected by substance abuse and 29 percent of all people diagnosed as mentally ill abuse alcohol or other drugs.

Yet mental health and substance abuse services are some of the most underfunded services in the state.

Advocates were hopeful that major reforms to Florida's mental health and substance abuse system would pass this year, but - as with so many others - the bills died. Chief among them were CS/HB 7119 and a number of bills related to it. This important bill would have, among others:
  • allowed managed behavioral health organizations to bid for managing entity contracts when fewer than two bids are received;
  • required care coordination, specifying services that shall be provided within available resources, and prioritizing the populations served;
  • required the Department of Children and Families to develop performance standards that measure improvement in a community's behavioral health and in specified individuals' functioning or progress toward recovery;
  • provided managing entities flexibility in shaping their provider network, while requiring a system for publicizing opportunities to join, and evaluating providers for participation;
  • added children involved in the child welfare system who are not in out-of-home care to the list of groups prioritized to receive care coordination; and
  • required improved coordination of behavioral health and primary care services through the development and effective implementation of coordinated care organizations.

While hundreds of bills died during the last days of session, this one (and its companions) was one of the most important.

PassedBILLS THAT PASSED
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
ClosingGapClosing the Gap Grant Program
The "Closing the Gap" (CTG) grant program was created by the Legislature in 2000 to improve health outcomes and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in Florida by providing grants to increase community-based health and disease prevention activities.

SB 94 expands the list of priority health areas under the CTG grant program to include sickle cell disease.
DiabetesAwarenessDiabetes Awareness Training
CS/HB 201 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.
ConcealedWeaponsConcealed Weapons - Evacuation
Florida law prohibits carrying a concealed weapon unless a person has received a permit to do so.

CS/CS/SB 290 provides an exception to the law that will allow a person to carry a concealed weapon or firearm while in the act of complying with a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or by a local authority regardless of the person's licensure status, so long as he or she may otherwise lawfully possess a firearm.

The bill defines the term "in the act of evacuating" as the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from an evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. It provides that the 48-hour period may be extended by order of the Governor.
CivilCitationCivil Citation
CS/SB 378 expands juvenile civil citation by allowing law enforcement to issue a civil citation to youth who have committed a second or subsequent misdemeanor. Civil citation is presently only available to youth who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor.

In addition, law enforcement will be authorized to issue a simple warning to the youth, inform the youth's parents of the misdemeanor, issue a civil citation, or require participation in a similar diversion program under the bill. The bill also states that if an arrest is made, law enforcement must provide written documentation as to why the arrest is warranted.
GuardianApptGuardian Appointment: Aging Out
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.

CS/CS/HB 437 creates a framework for identifying and appointing guardians for developmentally disabled children who may require decision-making assistance beyond their 18th birthday. It also authorizes guardianship courts to exercise jurisdiction over dependent children nearing their 18th birthday to appoint guardian advocates, limited guardians, and plenary guardians. The bill:
  • requires an annual review of the continued necessity of a guardianship for young adults in extended foster care who already have a guardian advocate or guardian;
  • requires development of an updated case plan for any child who may require the assistance of a guardian advocate, limited guardian, or plenary guardian;
  • provides that upon a judge's finding that no less restrictive decision-making assistance will meet the child's needs;
  • requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to complete a report and identify individuals who are willing to serve as a guardian advocate or as a plenary or limited guardian;
  • provides that proceedings for appointment of a guardian advocate, plenary guardian, or limited guardian may be initiated in a separate proceeding in guardianship court within 180 days of the child's 17th birthday;
  • provides that a minor who is 17 and one-half years of age and is subject to guardianship proceedings must receive all the due process rights of an adult; and
  • provides that a child's parents are considered to be the child's natural guardians, unless the dependency or guardianship court determines it is not in the child's best interest or the parents' rights have been terminated.
HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking
Section 787.06, F.S., Florida's human trafficking statute, defines human trafficking as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining of another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. In recent years, the Legislature has overhauled Florida's human trafficking laws to increase penalties for human trafficking and to make human trafficking prosecutions easier. The greatest driver of human trafficking in Florida is prostitution.

Currently, the penalty for soliciting another for prostitution is a second degree misdemeanor for the first offense, a first degree misdemeanor for the second offense, and a third degree felony for a third or subsequent offense. Anyone who is convicted, pleads guilty or pleads no contest for solicitation of prostitution is subject to a $5,000 fine.

CS/CS/HB 465 increases the criminal penalties for soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring another to commit prostitution. The penalties are increased as follows:
  • First offense is a first degree misdemeanor;
  • Second offense is a third degree felony; and 
  • Third, or subsequent, offense is a second degree felony. 
The bill requires a judge to sentence a person convicted of solicitation to 10 days in jail if it is their second or subsequent conviction for solicitation.

The bill also requires the court to order a person convicted of solicitation to perform 100 hours of community service and complete an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking. The bill also authorizes a judge to impound or immobilize the car of a person convicted of solicitation for up to 60 days.
PublicRecordsHumTraffPublic Records/Human Trafficking Victims
HB 467 expands the types of criminal intelligence and criminal investigative information that is confidential and exempt from public records to include:
  • information that reveals the identity of a person under the age of 18 who is the victim of human trafficking;
  • information that may reveal the identity of a person who is the victim of human trafficking for commercial sexual activity; and
  • a photograph, videotape, or image of any part of the body of a victim of human trafficking involving commercial sexual activity.
FloridaABLEActFlorida ABLE Act
CS/SB 642 creates the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (the Florida ABLE Act). The Florida ABLE 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.
FloridaABLETrustFundFlorida ABLE Trust Fund
CS/CS/SB 644 creates the Florida ABLE Program Trust Fund (trust fund) within the State Board of Administration (SBA). The trust fund will hold appropriations and moneys acquired from private sources or other governmental or private sources for the Florida ABLE program. The trust fund will also hold ABLE account moneys.
VolContribsEndBreastCancerVoluntary Contributions to End Breast Cancer
SB 676 authorizes the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 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.
FSECCFlorida State Employees' Charitable Campaign
SB 694 provides 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. The bill allows state officers and employees to contribute undesignated funds to the FSECC as part of a campaign event, and directs the fiscal agent to direct undesignated contributions to participating charitable organizations in proportion to all designated FSECC contributions received by that organization.

The bill eliminates 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.
InvolExamMinorsInvoluntary Examination of Minors
CS/SB 954 requires a public school 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 the 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.
HazWalkingCondsHazardous Walking Conditions
CS/CS/CS/HB 41 requires district school boards, in cooperation with other governmental entities, to inspect and identify hazardous conditions along routes that students must take while walking to or from school. Among others, the bill also requires the appropriate governmental entity to correct any hazardous walking conditions within a reasonable period of time.
LiteracyJumpStartLiteracy Jump Start Pilot Project
CS/HB 153 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.
AllAmericanFlagActAll-American Flag Act
Current law requires the display of the United States and state flags in certain venues, but does not specify any requirements for the manufacturing or source of materials for United States or state flags purchased by the state or local governments.

HB 225 requires all United States and state flags purchased by the state, a county, or a municipality for public use, after January 1, 2016, to be made in the United States entirely from domestically grown, produced, and manufactured materials.
OnlineVoterRegOnline Voter Registration
CS/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.
ChildWelfareChild Welfare
Last year, in response to extraordinary investigative reporting by the Miami-Herald, revealing that 477 Florida children had died or been killed while in the child welfare system over the previous five years, the Florida Legislature passed CS/SB 1666.

The bill made a number of changes to state law intended to improve investigation of and subsequent response to allegations of abuse or neglect. Among the changes, were creation of the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT), expansion of the number and types of cases reviewed through the Child Abuse Death Review (CADR) process, and creation of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare (FICW).

This session, CS/SB 7078, which refines last year's bill:
  • clarifies the roles of state and local review committees in the CADR process and imposes specific reporting requirements to address the increased volume of cases reviewed through the CADR process and better align it with the newly-created CIRRT process;
  • permits the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to deploy CIRRTs in response to other child deaths in addition to those with verified abuse and neglect in the last 12 months;
  • requires more frequent reviews and reports by the CIRRT advisory committee;
  • requires a multi-agency staffing 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;
  • permits specialty plans to continue to serve children in custody of DCF under certain conditions; and
  • implements FICW interim report recommendations by clarifying legislative intent to prioritize evidence-based and trauma-informed services.
HumanTrafficking2Human Trafficking
CS/CS/HB 369 seeks to heighten public awareness regarding human trafficking in the State of Florida. It requires creation of public awareness signs that must be at least 8.5 inches by 11 inches in size, and be printed in at least a 16 point type.

The sign must state substantially the following in English and Spanish:

"If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave - whether it is prostitution, housework, farm work, factory work, retail work, restaurant work, or any other activity - call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to 233-733 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and Florida law."

The bill:
  • directs the Florida Department of Transportation to display the signs in every rest area, turnpike service plaza, weigh station, primary airport, passenger rail station, and welcome center in the state;
  • requires the Department of Health to display the signs in health departments and health clinics; and 
  • requires businesses such as strip clubs, farm labor contractor sites where farm laborers are regularly present, establishments found to be a nuisance for prostitution, and businesses offering massage or bodywork services to post the signs.
PublicRecordsVictimsPublic Records/Victims of Sexual Exploitation
HB 469 creates public record exemptions for information about the location of safe houses, safe foster homes, other residential facilities serving child victims of sexual exploitation, and residential facilities serving adult victims of human trafficking involving commercial sexual activity. The bill provides that the information regarding the location of these facilities that is held by an agency is confidential and exempt from public record requirements. However, the bill allows this information to be provided to any agency in order to maintain health and safety standards and to address emergency situations.
DiedBILLS THAT DIED
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
SchoolSafetySchool Safety - Weapons
CS/HB 19 allows school superintendents, upon approval of the district school board, to create a school safety designee program through which the school superintendent may designate one or more individuals to carry a concealed weapon or firearm on school property. Weapons or firearms may only be carried in a concealed manner and must be on the individual's person at all times while performing official school duties. The bill requires school safety designees to possess a concealed weapon license.

Senate Companion Bill SB 180 also died.
MissingPersonsMissing Persons with Special Needs
CS/CS/CS/HB 69 creates the "Project Leo" pilot project in Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties to provide personal devices to aid in search-and-rescue for persons with special needs in case of elopement.

"Elopement," which is defined as leaving an area without supervision or caregiver permission, is prevalent among persons with certain special needs and may expose them to dangerous situations. Individuals with Alzheimer's disease or with autism are two populations at higher risk to elope.

The project will be developed and administered by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD UF). The bill directs CARD UF to select participants on a first-come, first-served basis to receive a personal device to aid in search and rescue based on criteria it develops. Criteria must consider, at a minimum, the individual's risk of elopement. The number of participants will be determined based on available funding within CARD UF existing resources.
AustismAutism
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.
PersonsDevelDisabilitiesPersons with Developmental Disabilities
SB 380 and its House companion Bill CS/HB 177 require the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to allow the dependent of an active duty military member to receive Medicaid home and community-based services upon the military member's transfer to Florida if the dependent has a developmental disability, was receiving such services in another state prior to the transfer, and meets Florida's eligibility requirements. The bills also requires APD to allow a dependent of a Florida National Guard member or U.S. military reservist who is based in Florida to receive home and community-based services upon meeting Florida's eligibility requirements.
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. 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.
RestitutionJuvOffensesRestitution 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.

The bill 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.

Senate Companion Bill CS/SB 312 also died.
IDcardsIdentification Cards/Disabilities
CS/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.
SchoolBusStopSafetySchool Bus Stop Safety
SB 346 reclassifies the offense for passing a stopped school bus on the side that children enter and exit while displaying a stop signal from a noncriminal traffic infraction to the criminal offense of reckless driving.

Under the bill, a person who commits such an offense is subject to an increased civil penalty in the amount of $250 and, for subsequent violations, suspension of his or her driver license for a minimum of six months and a maximum of one year.
NewbornScreeningNewborn Screening
Florida law directs the Department of Health (Department) to conduct newborn screenings for metabolic, hereditary, and congenital disorders that result in the significant impairment of health or intellect. The Florida Newborn Screening Program screens for 31 core conditions and 22 secondary conditions. In January, more than 21,000 newborns were screened under the current program.

CS/SB 632 directs the Department to adopt rules to require newborns to be tested for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) as soon as ALD is adopted on the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel. ALD is a genetic disorder that damages myelin, the sheath that surrounds the brain's neurons. It can cause behavioral changes such as abnormal withdrawal or aggression, memory loss, visual loss, learning disabilities, seizures, speech problems, swallowing difficulties, deafness, coordination issues, fatigue, and progressive dementia.

House Companion Bill CS/HB 403 also died.
VolPreKVoluntary Prekindergarten Education Program
SB 518 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, the bill 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.
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.

CS/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.
PublicRecordsHomelessnessPublic Records/Homelessness
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.
PedDentalPediatric Dental Program
In 2011, Florida established the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program. The SMMC program requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to create an integrated managed care program for Medicaid enrollees to provide all the mandatory and optional Medicaid benefits for primary and acute care, including pediatric dental services, in a Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) program.

HB 601 removes pediatric dental services from the SMMC program and creates a new statewide prepaid dental program.

The bill directs AHCA to contract with at least two prepaid dental health plans (PDHP) on a statewide basis. A Medicaid prepaid dental health plan (PDHP) is a risk-bearing entity paid a prospective per-member, per-month payment by AHCA to provide dental services.
DentalCareDental Care
Only 27.4 percent of low income Floridians have access to dental care. CS/CS/SB 606 requires 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.

House Companion Bill CS/HB 657 also died.
FoodDesertsFood Deserts
Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options.

Lack of access to healthy foods contributes to poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 23.5 million people in America live in food deserts.

SB 610 and HB 1107 provide an income tax credit for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts. They define "nutrient dense foods" as foods with high levels of nutrients in relationship to the number of calories the food contains, and define the parameters for getting the tax credit.
ConsumerProtectionConsumer Protection - Refunds
CS/CS/SB 726 requires retail sales establishments to grant a refund within three days after the date of purchase for goods costing more than $1,000 if returned by a consumer who, among others, has been adjudicated incapacitated or who has documentation from a physician of a medical condition that causes the consumer to lack sufficient understanding or capacity to make reasonable decisions concerning his or her person or property.

House Companion Bill HB 793 also died.
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, include strategic goals and benchmarks to assist state agencies and organizations in maximizing employment of individuals with disabilities by state agencies and organizations.

Senate Companion Bill CS/SB 848 also died.
ChildrenYouthCabinetChildren and Youth Cabinet
The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet (cabinet) was created in 2007 for the purpose of developing and implementing a shared vision among the branches of government in order to improve child and family outcomes statewide.

Current cabinet membership includes the Governor and 14 members. These members include the Secretary of Children and Families, the Secretary of Juvenile Justice, the Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Director of the Office of Early Learning, the State Surgeon General, the Secretary of Health Care Administration, the Commissioner of Education, the Director of the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office, the Director of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention, and five members representing children and youth advocacy organizations, who are not service providers and who are appointed by the Governor.

CS/SB 878 adds a superintendent of schools to the membership of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. The superintendent is to be appointed by the Governor.
AlcoholicBevAlcoholic 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.
MentalHealthMental Health and Substance Abuse Services
CS/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 also makes numerous changes to providing services and enhances operation of this outsourced approach.
MentalHealth2Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
CS/CS/SB 7070 deals primarily with involuntary commitment of individuals. Among many others, the bill creates a Nonviolent Offender Reentry Program to divert nonviolent offenders with substance abuse impairment from serving lengthy sentences through a partial service of sentence and referral to a reentry program.
MentalHealth3Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
CS/SB 7068 requires the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to develop a plan to apply for and obtain federal approval to increase Medicaid funding for behavioral health care.

To position the state for approval, the bill reorganizes behavioral health managing entities, which contract for publicly-funded mental health and substance abuse services, to create a coordinated care organization in each region of the state. The coordinated care organization would be a network of behavioral health care providers that offer a comprehensive range of services and that are capable of integrating behavioral health care and primary care.
ServicesCombatVetsServices 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 through Florida's 211 Network. The bill requires DCF to designate "care coordination teams" to implement the Program statewide, and to provide peer support, suicide assessment, and treatment and resource coordination. In addition to the requirement for services, the bill requires the Program team to track and follow up with callers and advertise the Program.

Senate Companion Bill SB 1144 also died.
IndivswithDisabilitiesIndividuals with Disabilities
CS/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.

Among others, the bill requires the Department of Economic Opportunity 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.
BehavioralHealthBehavioral Health Services
CS/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. AHCA is also directed to apply to the federal government for a planning grant that creates opportunity for improved access to community mental health services.
HousingforHomelessHousing for the Homeless
CS/SB 1500 makes numerous changes to laws related to housing for individuals and families who are homeless. The bill amends the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program, to remove the difference in the percentage of available funds that must be reserved between specified tenant groups. It requires the State Office on Homelessness to establish a task force to make recommendations related to the implementation of a statewide Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). The bill requires that expenditures of leveraged funds or resources be permitted only for eligible activities committed on one project which have not been used as leverage or match for another project.

The bill also expresses legislative intent to encourage homeless continuums of care to adopt the Rapid Re-Housing approach to preventing homelessness for individuals and families who do not require the intense level of supports provided in the Permanent Supportive Housing model and requires Rapid Re-Housing to be added to the components of a continuum of care plan.
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