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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Special Session - Issue 3June 29, 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 Ends; Budget Signed 
old and new capitol
The nearly 3-week special legislative session ended on June 19, after House and Senate passed the 2016 budget bill, SB 2500-A. Four days later, the Governor signed the bill, after vetoing $461 million, including many legislators' projects and local appropriations. 

The $78 billion budget did not expand health coverage to the 850,000 uninsured Floridians in the 'coverage gap'. The House refused to pass the Senate FHIX (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange) bill, meanwhile offering other bills designed to address health care costs. The two chambers were unable to reach agreement on any of the bills and so no reforms were passed this session.

Meanwhile, the critically important state/federal Low Income Pool (LIP) program remains in place at nearly the full amount of $2.2 billion, following House and Senate agreement on funding: $1 billion will come from federal LIP funding plus $396 million in state funds will be used as match to draw down an additional $604 in federal health care funds.

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Looking Ahead: Important Dates for the 2016 Legislative Session

Interim Committee Weeks:
Wed., Sept. 16 - Fri., Sept. 18
Mon., Oct. 5 - Fri., Oct. 9
Mon., Oct. 19 - Fri., Oct. 23
Mon., Nov. 2 - Fri., Nov. 6
Mon., Nov. 16 - Fri., Nov. 20
Mon., Nov. 30 - Fri., Dec. 4

First day of 2016 Session:
January 12

Tax Cut Bill
Governor Scott signed into law  HB 33-A, providing tax cuts of $400 million next year and $253 million annually thereafter. This was 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% (saving the average consumer about $20 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.

Key Budget Items

Funding in the 2015-16 budget that will support key United Way priorities include:
  • Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) - increased by $2 million.
  • Alzheimer's Disease Initiative - increased by $1.7 million.
  • Affordable Housing - $175 million (increased by $8 million).
  • Homeless - $8.3 million.
  • Early Learning - $1.025 billion overall.
    • $636 million for School Readiness program (increased by $5 million).
    • $389 million for VPK (level per-student funding).
    • School Readiness Performance Funding Project - $10.5 million maintained.
    • T.E.A.C.H. Scholarships - increased by $1.5 million.
    • Help Me Grow (HMG) - $1.88 million. 
    • Child Care Executive Partnership Program (CCEP) - total of $31 million. 
    • Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) - increased by $2.5 million.
  • Early Steps - increased by $13 million. 
  • Healthy Start Coalitions - cut by $807,000 plus an additional $497,500 vetoed.
  • Healthy Families - increased by $3.9 million.
  • Healthy Kids - cut by $53 million.
  • Guardian ad Litem - increased by $156,475.
  • Domestic Violence Program - increased by $4.4 million.
  • Children/Families In Need of Services (CINS/FINS) - increased by $1.8 million.
  • Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) - cut by $100,000.
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.