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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue 10May 4, 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: Session Over 
old and new capitol
The final week of the Florida Legislative Session was filled with historic twists and turns, beginning with the House adjourning 'Sine Die' 3 days early.  Senate President Gardiner called the move 'unconstitutional" and Senate Democrats filed suit to call the House back into Session.  On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court did rule the early adjournment unconstitutional but declared it was impractical to call legislators back to Tallahassee on the last day.   Many bills died when the session ended including two key United Way priorities: early learning health and safety legislation and KidCare for legally residing immigrant children (see below).  The House and Senate budgets are still $4 billion apart and a special session is now required to pass the state budget and send it to the Governor before the fiscal year ends on June 30th.  But House and Senate will first have to agree on both the dates and the content of the special session.  Read more.

Quick Links

Important Dates

Last day of the regular Session: May 1st

Special Session: TBD

UW Priorities: Early Learning and KidCare Bills Die
Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole presents her bill on the House floor.
For the second year in a row, United Way priority early learning health and safety legislation died. CS/HB 7017 passed the House and CS/CS/SB 7006 had been scheduled and was awaiting a hearing on the Senate floor on the final day of Session. House Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole (R-The Villages) has championed health and safety legislation as part of a larger early learning overhaul, which is now postponed for another year. Read more.

The Senate bill (SB 294) that would have eliminated the waiting period for lawfully-residing immigrant children to enroll in Florida KidCare, 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, has vowed that he will try to secure funding to eliminate the waiting period during the special session budget process.
Bills That Died
Representatives leaving the House
after adjourning early.
would have created the 'Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities' to promote economic independence and successful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities.

SB 518 VPK Education would have included Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program pre- and post-assessments, in addition to the statewide kindergarten screening, as part of the kindergarten readiness rate.

SB 610 Food Deserts would have provided an income tax credit for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts.

CS/CS/HB 1193 Services for Combat Veterans and their Families would have created the Florida Veterans' Care Coordination Program (the Program) to provide dedicated behavioral healthcare referral services through Florida's 211 Network.

CS/SB 1500 Housing for the Homeless would have made changes to laws related to housing for homeless individuals and families and encouraged homeless continuums of care to adopt the Rapid Re-Housing approach to preventing homelessness.

See more bills that died.
Mental Health Bill Dies
Senator Rene Garcia speaks about CS/SB 7068.
Mental illness and substance abuse are pervasive illnesses in our society. From high unemployment rates to homelessness to incarceration, the financial and social impacts affect us all. Yet mental health and substance abuse treatment lack coordination and are among 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. Instead, CS/SB 7068 Mental Health and Substance Abuse became one of the session's casualties when Senate bill sponsor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Rene Garcia, refused to concur with House amendments to the bill. While hundreds of bills died during the last days of session, this one (and its companions) was perhaps the most important. Read more.

Bills That Passed


CS/HB 153 Literacy Jump Start Pilot establishes a five-year Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project in St. Lucie County to provide emergent literacy instruction to low-income, at-risk children.

CS/CS/SB 228 Online Voter Application 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.

CS/CS/HB 369 Human Trafficking seeks to heighten public awareness by requiring that Human Trafficking Hotline information signs be placed in a variety of public places.

CS/SB 378 Civil Citation expands juvenile civil citation by allowing law enforcement to issue a civil citation to youth for a second or subsequent misdemeanor. Civil citation is presently only available to youth committing a first-time misdemeanor.

CS/CS/HB 437 Guardians for Developmentally Disabled Children creates a framework for identifying and appointing guardians for developmentally disabled children who may require decision-making assistance beyond their 18th birthday.

CS/SB 642 Individuals with Disabilities creates the Florida 'Achieving a Better Life Experience' (ABLE) Act, to help individuals with disabilities save money without losing eligibility for public benefits, providing a pathway for economic independence and better quality of life.

See more bills that passed.

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.