UW logo

 Legislative Link          #LiveUnitedFL
ISSUE 1 | JANUARY 15, 2016
TrainWreckTrain Wreck ... to ... Kumbaya ...?
The 2015 Florida Legislature was a train wreck: a failed regular session and two failed special sessions, and passage of a state budget days before the end of the budget year.

The 2016 Legislative Session began Tuesday with everyone singing Kumbaya: they are going to work together collegially, pass their priority issues, and end on time as scheduled on March 11.

Hoping to highlight their new-found partnership and create positive momentum for the next 60 days, the two chambers passed and sent to the Governor two key bills this week: a bill increasing educational opportunities for people with unique abilities (SB 672) and a massive water bill (CS/CS/SB 552), high priority bills for Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli, respectively.

But numerous potential land mines litter the path ahead: major budget issues, tax cuts, gambling, fracking, guns, health care, etc., etc.

It will take commitment, compromise, and statesmanship for the song Legislators were singing this week to last the entire session. Our hopes are that these qualities will prevail and a successful session is before us. Good luck Legislators!
FLUWConsensus2016 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda
Florida's 32 United Ways strive daily to solve the most pressing education, income, health, and safety net challenges facing our communities. Our work extends deep into the fabric of our communities and expands to embrace every opportunity to improve the lives of our neighbors and those we serve.

During the 2016 Session, we will focus on three Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda priorities: Early Learning, Access to Health Care, and Financial Stability.

While we will focus on these critical issues, we will also join our community partners in their advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life for all Floridians; pursuing issues that - together with our Consensus priorities - are fundamentally important to improving the health and well-being of our communities, today and tomorrow.
ALICEALICE & Health Care
More than 3.2 million Florida households below the ALICE Threshold face significant health care access challenges. But we know that providing access to preventative healthcare, especially for children, more than makes sense for families, saving millions for government and tax payers. The ALICE Report highlights the cost to families and government for ignoring prevention: poor oral health increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, pregnancies, and school dropout, among many others. Read more about the challenges ALICE families face in your county in the United Way Alice Report.
"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it."
-- Lou Holtz, Arkansas - Notre Dame
GovScottFloridaFirstGovernor Scott's "Florida First" Proposed Budget
Each year, the Governor submits a proposed budget for the next fiscal year to the Legislature. Although it identifies the Governor's priorities for funding, it is just a proposal; the Legislature can use all or parts of it, or toss it in file 13.

On November 23, Governor Scott unveiled his Florida First proposed 2016-2017 state budget.

The $79.3 billion proposal is about $1 billion more than this year's budget. It includes $1 billion in tax cuts, creates a $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund to lure businesses to the state, contains historically high K-12 funding, eliminates almost 1,000 state jobs, and contains no pay raises for state employees, who have gotten only two pay increases in the last 10 years.

Read highlights from the Florida First budget proposal.
FFtaxcutsFlorida First Tax Cuts
In his 2016-2017 Florida First budget, Governor Scott proposes $1 billion in tax cuts. Here's how they stack up:

$770 million - eliminating income tax on manufacturing and retail businesses

$339 million - cutting tax on commercial leases over two years

$76.9 million - eliminating tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment

$72.8 million - back-to-school and hurricane-preparedness sales tax holidays

$46 million - extending sales tax exemption on text books
HumanvsGoldfishHuman vs. Goldfish: Goldfish Wins
Marketing professionals focus on a variety of human characteristics in order to optimize their sales. An interesting Attention Spans Report released by Microsoft Canada reveals that the digital age has shortened people's attention spans, but that people are processing things more, so they can move on to the next item of interest. The study concludes, among others, that people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, while goldfish generally maintain attention for nine seconds. Hmmmmmm.
"Son, you've got a good engine, but your hands aren't on the steering wheel." -- Bobby Bowden, Florida State
DifficultBudgetIssuesDifficult Budget Issues Ahead
Putting together the state budget is always trying; many different perspectives and priorities among leadership and rank and file. Potentially four of the most controversial 2016 budget issues include:

Tax Cuts - Governor Scott wants $1 billion in tax cuts and Speaker Crisafulli agrees. Senate leaders, however, have targeted only about $250 million. Key to finding a compromise will be determining the actual amount of the budget surplus. Scott says it is $1.3 billion and legislative analysts say it is closer to $635 million. The final numbers on which the Legislature will base next year's budget will be unveiled by the Revenue Estimating Conference next Tuesday, January 19.

LIP Funding - The Low Income Pool (LIP) consists of federal funds used to reimburse hospitals for indigent care they provide. Federal LIP funding will decrease by $400 million next year, after falling by about $1 billion this year. How to address the LIP budget hole was one of the most contentious issues last session. Claiming hospitals are making record profits, Governor Scott has not included funding in his Florida First budget proposal to replace the $400 million.

School Funding - Governor Scott has proposed a $500+ million increase for school funding, but almost the entire amount comes property taxes resulting from increasing property values. A number of Republicans and Democrats are calling this a tax increase.

Seminole Compact - Gambling is one of the most complex political issues faced by the Legislature each year; what helps one industry hurts others and vice-versa. Governor Scott has signed a new Compact with the Seminole Tribe that could generate $3 billion in tax revenue over the next seven years, but the Legislature has to approve it. Already, Legislators are taking sides as to whether the proposed Compact goes too far or not far enough.
KeyKidCareChangeKey KidCare Change ... Finally?
Immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida are required by state law to wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare. During those five years, many forego needed health care that could not only improve their quality of life, but help them succeed in school.

For years, advocates have worked to remove the waiting period. This week, a bill accomplishing just that (HB 89) passed one of only two committees to which it has been referenced, Speaker Crisafulli proclaimed that passage is a priority, and a new fiscal analysis concluded that slightly more than 15,000 children will be covered at no cost to the state (the feds will pick up the entire tab).

The Senate companion bill (SB 248) passed two committees during the interim and awaits hearing by the Appropriations Committee.

Read more about why this is such an important issue for our state.
FLMedicaidKidsFlorida Medicaid Kids Miss Out on Dentist
An American Dental Association Health Policy Institute policy brief reveals that Florida's Medicaid dental reimbursement rate is about one-third of what private insurance pays. The average charge for pediatric dental services with private dental insurance in 2013 was $105.24, while the Medicaid reimbursement rate was $38.56. The brief concludes that, while only 10 percent of dentists now participate because Florida's dental care reimbursement rate is one of the lowest in the country, the number of Florida dentists accepting Medicaid will continue to decline.
EarlyStepsEarly Steps: The First Steps to a Better Life
Last year, more than 40,000 Florida children received Early Steps services that will allow many to avoid a lifetime of diminished cognitive and/or physical function, and will allow taxpayers to avoid millions of dollars in unnecessary payments for special education classes and other public supports that would have been required without Early Steps.

Administered by the Department of Health (DOH), the program serves children birth to 36 months who have medical conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and hearing/vision impairment, as well as children with significant developmental delays. Each year, Early Steps helps these children achieve critical developmental milestones, starting them on a path toward achieving their full lifelong potential, and success at home, at school, and in life.

Legislation intended to address many of the challenges facing the program was passed by committee this week (SB 7034). Among others, the bill:
  • requires DOH through its information clearinghouse to:
    • provide comprehensive information to educate parents and providers of early intervention services;
    • promote public awareness of intervention services available to parents of children with developmental disabilities or delays;
  • directs DOH to refer to children with developmental disabilities or delays as children with "unique abilities" whenever possible in the clearinghouse; 
  • renames the Florida Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention Program as the Early Steps program;
  • establishes goals for the Early Steps program;
  • adds definitions for "developmental delay", "developmental disability", "habilitative services and devices", and "local program office" of the Early Steps program;
  • establishes performance standards for the program relating to services and referrals, individualized family support plans, and outcomes for infants and toddlers served;
  • requires DOH to, among others:
    • develop a statewide plan for the program;
    • establish standards and qualifications for service providers used by the program;
    • develop uniform procedures to determine eligibility for the program;
    • provide a statewide format for individualized family support plans;
    • competitively procure local offices to administer the Early Steps program;
    • establish performance measures and standards to evaluate local Early Step offices; and
    • provide technical assistance to local Early Step offices;
  • specifies duties of local Early Steps offices, most of which are required by federal law.

Your Legislative Link will delve into more of the details of the bill as session progresses.

(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
DentalHygieneDental Hygiene Services for Children
The scope of services that dental hygienists can perform without supervision of a dentist was expanded in 2011. However, the legislation did not specifically permit health care facilities for which the hygienists work to bill Medicaid for those expanded services unless they are performed under the general supervision of a dentist.

CS/SB 580 and CS/HB 595 authorize the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to reimburse health care facilities under the Medicaid program for remedial dental services (remedial tasks) delivered by a dental hygienist when provided to a Medicaid recipient younger than 21 years of age. Remedial tasks are defined as intra-oral tasks that do not create unalterable changes in the mouth or contiguous structures, are reversible, and do not expose the patient to increased risks.

LAST ACTION: 1/13/16 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
MedicaidDentalServicesMedicaid Dental Services
Medicaid services in Florida are provided through Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) plans. Currently, all MMA plans are required to provide dental services, as medically necessary, to their enrollees.

HB 819 removes dental services from the list of minimum benefits that MMA plans must provide, beginning March 1, 2019.

In its place, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is required to contract with at least two licensed dental managed care providers through a competitive procurement process to implement a statewide prepaid dental health plan (PDHP) program for children and adults, with enrollment beginning by March 1, 2019. A PDHP is a risk-bearing entity paid a prospective per-member, per-month payment by AHCA to provide dental services.

The bill analysis states that as a result of the carve-out, Medicaid patients would no longer receive integrated, coordinated care. Additionally, adult Medicaid recipients would lose the expanded dental benefits they receive through the MMA plans, including preventive services such as twice-yearly exams and cleanings, fluoride treatments, fillings, and yearly x-rays.

The bill also requires AHCA to conduct a comprehensive study on Medicaid dental service, due by December 1, 2016. If after reviewing the report the Legislature decides to maintain dental services as a minimum MMA plan benefit, then removal of such services from the list of minimum MMA benefits provided in the bill must be repealed before July 1, 2017.

LAST ACTION: 1/13/16 HOUSE Favorable by Health Innovation Subcommittee.
StudentswithDisabilitiesStudents with Disabilities: Transition to Work
The John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program (McKay Scholarship Program) provides scholarships for eligible students with disabilities to attend an eligible public or private school of their choice. Currently, a McKay Scholarship student must have direct contact with his or her private school teacher at the school's physical location in order to maintain eligibility.

HB 837 authorizes a private school to establish a transition-to-work program for students participating in the McKay Scholarship Program, which will allow students to earn credits while working off-site. The transition-to-work program consists of academic instruction, work skills training and a volunteer or paid work experience. Students participating in the transition-to-work program must be between 17 and 22 years of age and cannot have a high school diploma or equivalent certificate.

LAST ACTION: 1/13/16 HOUSE Favorable by Choice and Innovation Subcommittee.
VeteranHomesteadExemptionVeteran Homestead Exemption
Current law provides a full exemption from ad valorem taxes on property that is owned and used as a homestead by an honorably discharged veteran who has a service-connected total and permanent disability and is a permanent Florida resident. The exemption may be carried over to the benefit of the veteran's unremarried surviving spouse, provided the residency requirement is met.

CS/HB 611 removes the residency requirement for the full exemption on property that is owned and used as a homestead by the surviving spouse of a veteran who died from service-connected causes while on active duty. In addition, the bill exempts the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran, who was totally and permanently disabled upon death, from payment of ad valorem taxes for a homestead property in this state if the veteran, at the time of death, owned homestead property in another state and used it in a manner that would have qualified for homestead exemption if the property was located in Florida.

LAST ACTION: 1/11/16 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee.
StudentsUniqueAbilitiesStudents with Unique Abilities; School Uniforms
One of Senate president Gardiner's highest priority bills was passed by the House and Senate and sent to the Governor this week. SB 672 establishes mechanisms for approval of unique postsecondary education programs tailored to the needs of students with intellectual disabilities and the statewide coordination of information about programs for students with disabilities. Specifically, the bill includes two key components:
  • A process through which postsecondary institutions in Florida can voluntarily seek approval to offer a Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) for students with intellectual disabilities; and
  • A Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities (statewide coordinating center) for statewide coordination of information regarding programs and services for students with disabilities and their parents.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20 percent of all public elementary schools and 12 percent of public secondary schools have adopted mandatory school uniform policies. The purpose often cited for adopting school uniform policies in public schools is that it promotes a safe and supportive learning environment by reducing incidences of student truancy, disciplinary referrals, and absenteeism.

SB 672 also awards incentive payments to school districts and charter schools that implement district-wide or school-wide standard student attire policies applicable to students in kindergarten through grade 8. Each school district or charter school qualifies for a minimum award of $10 per student if it implements a policy that:
  • prohibits certain types or styles of clothing, while requiring solid-colored clothing and fabrics, and short- or long-sleeved shirts with collars; and
  • allows reasonable accommodations based on a student's religion, disability, or medical condition.
LAST ACTION: 1/14/16 ENROLLED; Presented to Governor.
HealthyFoodFinancingHealthy Food Financing
Access to quality retail grocers in Florida is strongly linked to a variety of diet-related health outcomes. Individuals living in places more than a half mile from the nearest full-service grocer and who lack access to a vehicle are more likely to die prematurely from diabetes, diet-related cancers, stroke, and liver disease than individuals living where grocers are closer and vehicles are more available. The American Heart Association reports that low income areas have more convenience stores than supermarkets, thus limiting healthy options in those areas, and that 2.5 million Floridians live in areas where fresh food is not readily available.

CS/SB 760 establishes the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to provide financial assistance for development or expansion of grocery retail outlets that operate in underserved communities or low income or moderate income communities. Read more about Healthy Food Financing.

LAST ACTION: 1/11/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Agriculture.


Session Dates

"We didn't tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking." -- John McKay, USC
United Way of Florida, 307 E. Seventh Avenue, Tallahassee, FL  32303  -  phone: 850.488.8287