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A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
SPECIAL SESSION ISSUE 3                                                                JUNE 24, 2015
old and new capitol 
 2004 ScottRobinsonPhoto.com
WeHaveABudgetWe Have A Budget & Vetoes!
Following a contentious regular session that ended with the House walking out three days early, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli called their colleagues back into special session on June 1 to craft a 2015-2016 state budget. The two chambers did just that, passing SB 2500A and adjourning sine die last Friday, a day before the scheduled special session end.

$1.6 billion more than this year's $77.1 billion budget, the $78.7 billion plan does not expand health care to about 800,000 Floridians, the issue that largely resulted in the regular session melt-down.

Governor Scott signed the budget during a small ceremony in his office yesterday.  While praising the Legislature for increasing education funding and positively addressing other state needs, he also vetoed $461 million.  Although he stated that he had targeted his vetoes to projects that either did not go through a proper process before getting added or did not have a statewide impact, Senate President Andy Gardiner felt otherwise.  He issued a scathing attack on the Governor, stating that, "While I respect the Governor's authority to veto various lines within our budget, his clear disregard for the public policy merits of many legislative initiatives underscores that today's veto list is more about politics than sound fiscal policy.  It is unfortunate that the messaging strategy needed to achieve the Governor's political agenda comes at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our state."
MajorHCReformsDieMajor Health Care Reforms Die
The Senate aggressively pursued major health care reform during the regular session and, even after the House's militant opposition caused the regular session's demise, continued to promote its FHIX (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange) during the first days of the special session.

The House, while offering no solutions to the health care crisis during the regular session, appeared to be shamed into offering some during the special session through several bills - some of which had died during the regular session - intended to address health care costs.

Ultimately, the House refused to consider the Senate proposal and the Senate refused to consider the House proposals, so no reforms were passed.

While reforms died, the critically important state/federal Low Income Pool (LIP) program remains in place following House and Senate agreement on funding: $1 billion will come from just-confirmed LIP funding plus $396 million in state funds will be used as match to draw down an additional $604 in federal health care funds. As a result, next year's budget comes close to the $2.2 billion in LIP funds in this year's budget.
BudgetItemsofNoteBudget Items of Note
Next year's $78.7 billion state budget signed by Governor Scott is documented in a 400-page bill (SB 2500A) that addresses all budget categories.

Funding that will support key United Way priorities include:
  • Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) - +$2 million.
  • Alzheimer's Disease Initiative - +$1.7 million.
  • Affordable Housing - $175 million, up from last year's $167 million appropriation.
    • Legislation that would have permanently reduced the amount of doc stamps coming into the Housing Trust Funds every year was defeated.
    • $81 million of housing trust funds were "swept" into general revenue.
  • Homeless - $8.3 million will be spent to fund homeless and other housing projects.
  • Early Learning - $1.025 billion with about $636 million going to the School Readiness program for low-income families and $389 million for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) for 4-year-olds:
    • VPK base student fudning remains the same as this year.
    • School Readiness Program - +$5 million in recurring funds.
    • School Readiness Performance Funding Project - $10.5 million.
    • Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) Scholarships - +$1.5 million.
    • Help Me Grow (HMG) - $1.88 million (less than this year's $2 million, but most is recurring general revenue).
    • Child Care Executive Partnership Program (CCEP) - funds totaling about $31 million ($16 million this year + $15 million next year) are authorized to be spent by the Office of Early Learning.
  • Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) - +$2.5 million.
  • Early Steps - $13 million for direct services.
  • Healthy Start Coalitions - cut $807,000 plus $497,500 vetoed.
  • Healthy Families - +$3.9 million.
  • Healthy Kids - $53 million cut.
  • Guardian ad Litem - +$156,475.
  • Domestic Violence Program - +$4.4 million.
  • Children/Families In Need of Services (CINS/FINS) - +$1.8 million.
  • Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) - $100,000 cut.
ELLA: OF INFINITE POSSIBILITIES

Wide-eyed in wonder, Ella beholds the world.
"How old are you?" her grandfather asks.
She holds up five fingers.
Ella traces her grandfather's mosaic of wrinkles, touching
  his face with those same five fingers.
Seeing tears form in her dark, dark eyes, he asks, "why so
  sad?"
"Because you are shrinking."
"But I am not sad," Grandfather replies.
"Why not?"
"Because you are growing."

Jacqueline Seewald
Fort Lee, New Jersey
June 2015 Reader's Digest
TaxCutVictoryTourTax Cut Victory Tour!
Yesterday, Governor Scott began a seven-stop "Keep Florida Working" Tax Cut Victory Tour celebrating the $400 million tax cut package approved lawmakers last week.

Passed by the Legislature last Monday, Governor Scott signed HB 33A into law the next day. It cuts $400 million in taxes next year and $253 million annually thereafter, far less than the almost $700 million supported by both Governor Scott and the House during the regular session

Among others, the bill provides the following tax breaks:
  • $207 million - Permanently reduces the Communications Services Tax rates by 1.73 percent. (The average consumer spending $100 per month will save $20.70 over 12 months.)
  • $55.4 million - Provides a 10-day Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday beginning August 7, 2015.
  • $33.9 million - Provides a one-year sales tax exemption for textbooks, print, and digital materials used by college students.
  • $1.5 million - Allows school support organizations to sell food, drink and related items tax free.
  • $1 million - Eliminates sales taxes on gun club membership fees.
SessionAroundCorner2016 Session Around the Corner
Yesterday, the News Service of Florida reported that there are only 85 days left until the Legislature returns to the Capitol for interim committee meetings and 203 days left until the 2016 Legislative Session begins.

Speculation is growing that another special session may be needed to address upcoming court rulings on redrawn congressional districts, health insurance costs for Affordable Care Act enrollees, and/or the Seminole gambling compact. However, at this time the only definites are that the 2016 regular session will begin on January 12 and interim meeting dates will be:
  • Wednesday, September 16 through Friday, September 18
  • Monday, October 5 through Friday, October 9
  • Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 23
  • Monday, November 2 through Friday, November 6
  • Monday, November 16 through Friday, November 20
  • Monday, November 30 through Friday, December 4
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