UW logo
 United Gazette                    #LiveUnitedFL
Issue 1 | January 19, 2016 

Top News: 2016 Florida Legislative Session Opens

The 2016 Florida Legislative Session opened last Tuesday and despite passing several key bills in the first week, legislators face some tough challenges, including tax cuts, gambling, fracking, guns and health care. Most important, House and Senate will have to agree on and pass a state budget before the Session ends on March 11.

The Florida United Way legislative agenda reflects issues of top importance to our communities, especially those highlighted in the United Way ALICE Report. The 2016 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda includes three priorities: Early Learning, Access to Health Care, and Financial Stability. We will advocate and report on these critical issues and also join our community partners in their advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life for all Floridians.

Each Monday during Session, the United Gazette will provide a summary of the week's top stories, legislative highlights and bills to watch. For a deeper dive, visit the United Way of Florida's
Free Tax Prep/Financial Ed
UW of Florida President Ted Granger presents the UW budget request to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

United Way is requesting $1.2 million in state revenue to expand the capacity of free tax preparation and financial education services in Florida. More than 31,000 low-income families throughout the state will be served, generating more than $48 million in tax refunds that will help these families become more financially stable and also boost Florida's economy.

Rep. George Moraitis (R-Ft. Lauderdale) and Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) are sponsoring United Way's budget request. Last week, Ted Granger presented the request to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which will make a recommendation to the full Appropriations Committee later in the Session.
Early Learning Update
Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee Chair Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood)

The Early Steps program serves children birth to 36 months who have significant developmental delays or medical conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and hearing/vision impairment. Last year, Early Steps helped more than 40,000 of these children achieve critical developmental milestones toward reaching their full potential and success at home, school, and in life. Legislation (SB 7034) sponsored by the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee (Sen. Eleanor Sobel, Chair) addresses some of the challenges facing the Early Steps program. Read more here.
KidCare Bill: First House Hearing
Bill sponsor Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, (left) and Children & Youth Cabinet member Steve Uhfelder listen to public testimony in support of HB 89.

Immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida are required by state law to wait five years before they are eligible for KidCare. For years, advocates have worked to remove the waiting period. This week, the KidCare bill (HB 89) passed one of only two committees of reference. Speaker Crisafulli endorsed the bill and a new fiscal analysis concluded that approximately 15,000 children will be covered with no additional cost to the state. The Senate companion bill (SB 248) is waiting to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. 

Read more about why this is such an important issue for Florida.
Bills to Watch This Week 
HB 943 Prenatal Services and Early Childhood Development (Gonzalez, R-Venice): Revises requirements for DOH to maintain clearinghouse of information for parents & health care providers on developmental evaluation & early intervention programs; requires development of individual family support plan for each child served in program. 

HB 563 Temporary Cash Assistance Program (Gaetz, M, R-Shalimar): Adds proof of application for employment to eligibility requirements for receiving services or temporary cash assistance; decreases lifetime cumulative total time limit for receiving temporary cash assistance; adds proof of application for employment to work activity requirements for participant in temporary cash assistance program; requires income of family members who are undocumented immigrants to be included in eligibility determination for the whole family.

HB 599 Child Welfare (Combee, R-Auburndale): Extends court jurisdiction to age 22 for young adults with disabilities in foster care; provides conditions under which child may be returned home with an in-home safety plan; requires specified intervention services & supports; requires every child placed in out-of-home care to be referred within certain time for comprehensive behavioral health assessment; requires lead agencies to ensure availability of full array of family support services.

HB 7063 Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (Steube, R-Sarasota): Includes language exempting child care facilities or providers from the 'booster seat law' for children ages 4-5 when a safety belt is used.

SCAHA1 Telehealth (Select Committee on Affordable Health Care Access): Provides practice standards for telehealth providers, requires healthcare professionals not licensed in Florida to register to deliver telehealth services.
Quick Links
Questions or Comments?
Contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.