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ISSUE 2 | JANUARY 22, 2016
Only"Only" $1.2 Billion New Money Next Year
General Revenue (GR) is typically money generated by Florida taxes that the Legislature can use however it would like. Much of it is used as match to draw down federal funds, the largest portion of which is Medicaid.

In this year's budget, as usual, about 75 percent of GR is comprised of sales tax revenue. Click here to see the breakdown of GR in the 2015-2016 state budget.

Each year, at the beginning of session, the General Revenue Estimating Conference, comprised of legislative budget experts, meets to project how much GR the Legislature will have to spend the next year. On Tuesday, the Conference met and concluded that the Legislature will have $1.2 billion more than this year to appropriate in the state's 2016-2017 state budget. While a healthy increase, it is about $400 million less than was projected a few months ago.

Even so, Governor Scott and House leaders reiterated their intent to cut taxes by $1 billion next year.

As budget discussions go into high gear in coming weeks, it will be interesting to see how the lower forecast impacts the desire to cut significant taxes, fund education at historic levels, fund the biggest Medicaid case levels ever, overhaul a broken corrections system, and create Governor Scott's proposed $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund to lure businesses to the state, among others.
BudgetFastTrackBudget Fast Track
Since the GR estimates have been finalized, the Legislature is positioned to begin to put together next year's budget. And it looks like they are aiming to craft it faster and earlier in session than any time in recent history.

Next week, budget subcommittees will be given their allocations, setting the amount of money each has to spend within next year's budget.  According to a memo from House Appropriations Chair Richard Corcoran obtained by the Jacksonville Times-Union, the entire 2016-2017 House budget proposal will be published by the end of January, the House Appropriations Committee will debate and vote on it on February 3, and a vote on the House floor will take place on February 10 and 11.  According to FloridaPolitics.com, the Senate is on a similar timeline.

As such, the full appropriations committees in both Houses will take up the full budget half way through session, during its fourth week. If this schedule is indeed realized, it will be the earliest that a full budget has been crafted in many years.
"My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that's the law."  -- Jerry Seinfeld
PaychecktoPaycheckFlorida: A Paycheck-to-Paycheck State
The website GOBankingRates has estimated the extent to which residents in all 50 states live paycheck-to-paycheck. Tracking the United Way ALICE Report that found 45 percent of Floridians struggle to pay their bills, GOBankingRates concludes that after paying off necessities including food, transportation, utilities, and healthcare, the average Floridian has about $376 dollars left over, ranking the Sunshine State 5th nationally.

The 10 states where you're most likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck:
  1. Hawaii
  2. California
  3. New York
  4. Alaska
  5. Florida
  6. Nevada
  7. New Jersey
  8. Rhode Island
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Connecticut
BoosterSeatLawBooster Seat Law "Clarified"?
After years of trying, advocates in 2014 succeeded in getting legislation passed requiring that 4 and 5 year olds being transported in motor vehicles be secured in a separate carrier, an integrated child seat, or a booster seat.  At that time, only Florida and South Dakota allowed the use of seatbelts (only) for children under the age of five.

The success was in no small part based on National Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research showing, among others, that use of a booster seat reduces the risk for serious injury by 45 percent for children aged 4-8 years, when compared with seat belt use alone.

The requirement to use a child restraint device does not apply when a safety belt is used and the child:
  • is being transported gratuitously by an operator who is not a member of the child's immediate family;
  • is being transported in a medical emergency situation involving the child; or
  • has a medical condition that necessitates an exception as evidenced by appropriate documentation from a health care professional.

HB 7063 extends the exemption for those that do not need to use a booster seat when transporting 4 and 5 year olds to licensed and license-exempt child care facilities, family day care homes, large family child care homes, and after-school programs.

Bill proponents contend, among others, that the exemption is merely a clarification of the original intent of the 2014 changes and that requiring the businesses identified above to use booster seats is an unreasonable financial burden.

Bill opponents ask why - in the face of compelling research and relatively minimal costs - we are squabbling over an issue that is so clear cut: Booster seats protect children from serious injury.

Opponents made their concerns known at the bill's hearing on Tuesday, and comments by Legislators afterward indicate the issue will be the subject of serious debate as the bill winds through the process.

ALICEChildCareALICE: Child Care Budget Buster
Because of employment challenges, ranging from work schedules to transportation to the demands of multiple jobs, ALICE families living paycheck to paycheck struggle to find time for their children and to keep them safe.

In all but five Florida counties, the cheapest legal childcare for two children costs more than rent, and rent eats up more than half of many families' budgets. In a third of Florida counties, this has led about half of all families to commute out-of-county to find a better job.

Sacrificing for our children is admirable, but we are living in a time and place where hard work and sacrifice still don't make ends meet.

The Legislature can help more than 30,000 working ALICE families by appropriating $1.2 million for free tax preparation services that will help them draw down approximately $48 million of their hard earned money through tax refunds.
"I never feel more alone than when I am trying to put sunscreen on my back." -- Jimmy Kimmel
EarlyStepsEarly Steps Takes Step Forward
On Tuesday, HB 943 unanimously passed the House Health Quality Subcommittee after being amended to mirror the Senate Healthy Steps bill (SB 7034) that passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services last week.

The Health Quality Committee's action was welcomed by advocates, as the Senate bill contains many improvements over the originally filed bill and includes significant improvements to the current Early Steps system.   Last week's Legislative Link provided a summary of the bills' contents.

Advocates continue to work to expand eligibility parameters, so "Early" Steps indeed provides services as early in a child's life as possible, when the potential to eliminate or ameliorate them is greatest.

The Senate bill only has one more committee (Appropriations Committee) to go through before heading to the Senate floor, and the House bill has two committees (Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee; Health and Human Services Committee) to go through before going to the House floor.
QuoteLastWeekQuote of the (Last) Week
Waving Confederate flags, last week the League of the South, rallied in Tallahassee in opposition to two bills (SB 154 and HB 243) that would ban display of Confederate flags or emblems from 1860 through 1865 on publicly owned or leased property.  Across the street, people gathered, waved American flags, and sang the National Anthem.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that James Colquhoun, public affairs officer for the League, said as he looked at the flags across the street, "The only thing a Southerner should see when he looks at that Yankee rag is prison bars...You're on occupied territory."

And this is 2016.
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
BullyinginSchoolBullying in School
In 2008, the Florida Legislature enacted the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, prohibiting bullying or harassment of any public K-12 student or employee during a public K-12 education program or activity; during a school-related or school-sponsored program or activity; on a public K-12 school bus; or through a public K-12 computer, computer system, or computer network. The law also requires each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution.

CS/HB 229 revises current law by requiring each district school board to:
  • review its anti-bullying and harassment policy every three years with the involvement of students, parents, teachers, administrators and other community stakeholders;
  • authorize a list of bullying and harassment prevention programs; and
  • establish a procedure for receiving reports of alleged acts of bullying or harassment.
The bill also makes each school principal responsible for reviewing and implementing the school board's bullying and harassment policy.

LAST ACTION: 1/21/16 HOUSE Favorable by Education Committee.
DisposablePlasticBagsDisposable Plastic Bags
Americans use approximately 100 billion plastic bags every year, each typically discarded after a single use. It takes an estimated twelve million barrels of oil to produce those bags. They are also non-biodegradable and have a life expectancy of more than 1,000 years, although ultraviolet rays weaken the bags and eventually break them down into smaller and smaller particles until they are invisible to the naked eye.

SB 306 authorizes a municipality with a population of fewer than 100,000 people and which qualifies as a "coastal community" to establish a pilot program to regulate or ban disposable plastic bags.

The bill defines the term "coastal community" as a "municipality that abuts or borders the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, or a bay" and provides that the implementing ordinance may not take effect earlier than January 1, 2017 and must expire no later than June 30, 2019.   A municipality that establishes a pilot program is required to:
  • collect data pertaining to the impact of its regulation or ban;
  • submit a report on the impact of its regulation or ban to the governing body of the municipality at a public hearing by April 1, 2019; and
  • provide a copy of the report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
LAST ACTION: 1/20/16 SENATE Favorable by Environmental Preservation and Conservation.
UnattendedPersonsAnimalsUnattended Persons and Animals in Motor Vehicles
CS/CS/SB 308 creates immunity from civil liability for property damage that may occur when an individual attempts to rescue a minor, elderly or disabled adult, or domestic animal from a motor vehicle.

In order to qualify for such immunity, the individual must:
  • determine that the vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable method for the minor, elderly or disabled person, or animal to get out of the vehicle without help;
  • have a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the known circumstances, that it is necessary to enter the vehicle because the minor, vulnerable adult, or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm;
  • contact a law enforcement agency or 911 before entering the vehicle or immediately thereafter;
  • use no more force than necessary to make entry into the vehicle and remove the person or animal; and
  • stay with the person or animal in a safe location, in reasonable proximity to the vehicle, until a law enforcement officer or other first responder arrives.
LAST ACTION: 1/21/16 SENATE Placed on third reading calendar.
ExpunctionofRecordsExpunction of Records for Minors
CS/SB 386 amends current law to require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to retain the criminal history record for only two years after they turn 19 (until age 21), instead of five years (until age 24), for minors who are not classified as serious or habitual juvenile offenders or who have not been committed to a juvenile correctional facility or juvenile prison. The criminal history record is then automatically expunged.

The bill also provides that a minor who is eligible for automatic expunction of criminal history records at age 21 may apply for an expunction under certain circumstances.

LAST ACTION: 1/21/2016 SENATE Placed on third reading calendar.
ChildrenYouthCabinetChildren and Youth Cabinet
The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet (Cabinet) was created in 2007 to develop and implement a shared vision among the branches of government to improve child and family outcomes statewide.

SB 500 expands the total membership of the Cabinet to 16 by adding a Governor-appointed superintendent of schools to the Cabinet. The bill also changes the title of the "Director of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention" to the "Director of the Office of Adoption and Child Protection."

LAST ACTION: 1/20/16 SENATE Favorable by Education Pre-K.
HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking
Florida law defines human trafficking as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining of another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. Human trafficking in Florida proliferates through illegal industries such as prostitution. In recent years, the Legislature has overhauled Florida's human trafficking laws to increase penalties for solicitation and removed offenses that penalize minors for commission of prostitution in order to reflect that minors are unable to consent to prostitution and should be viewed as victims of human trafficking. Despite these changes, 39 minors were arrested for prostitution in the past year.

CS/CS/HB 545 removes persons under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution. The bill provides that sexually exploiting a child in prostitution should be viewed as human trafficking. This ensures that children involved in prostitution are viewed as victims, not culprits.

Among others, the bill:
  • adds faith-based programs on the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking to the educational programs that a person convicted of soliciting prostitution must attend if such programs exist in their respective judicial district;
  • increases the penalties for knowingly renting space to be used for prostitution;
  • adds human trafficking as a qualifying felony for first degree murder in the commission of a felony;
  • clarifies the offense of branding a victim of human trafficking; and
  • adds racketeering to the qualifying offenses for a sexual predator or sexual offender if a judge makes written findings that racketeering activity involved at least one sexual offense included in the definition of sexual predator or sexual offender. 
LAST ACTION: 1/21/16 HOUSE Placed on second reading calendar.
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/HB 595 authorizes 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: 1/21/16 HOUSE Favorable by Health and Human Services Committee.
ChildCareFacilitiesChild Care Facilities
The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was substantially modified last year, provides hundreds of millions of dollars to fund subsidized school readiness services for low income Floridians. However, some child care personnel are employed by child care facilities that do not receive CCDBG funding and are not subject to new CCDBG requirements. CS/HB 1125 applies new CCDBG background screening requirements to those employees. Among others, the bill prohibits employment of anyone by a child facility that has been:
  • identified as a sex offender;
  • convicted of certain felonies such as murder, child abuse or neglect, child pornography, spousal abuse, etc.; or
  • convicted of violent misdemeanors.
LAST ACTION: 1/20/16 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Children, Families & Seniors 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: 1/21/16 Signed by Governor, Chapter No. 2016-2.
EmploymentDisabilitiesEmployment: Disabilities
According to the United States Census Bureau, individuals who have a disability make up approximately 12.9 percent of the population of Florida, and 9.9 percent of individuals ages 18 to 64 (working age) have a disability. In 2013, over 20 percent of working-aged individuals who have a disability lived below the federal poverty line in Florida, compared with 14.3 percent of individuals without a disability.

CS/HB 7003 addresses the employment and economic independence of individuals with disabilities. Among others, it:
  • modifies the definition of "developmental disability" to include Down Syndrome;
  • modifies the state's equal employment policy to provide enhanced executive agency employment opportunities for individuals who have a disability;
  • creates the Employment First Act, which requires certain state agencies and organizations to develop an interagency cooperative agreement to ensure a long-term commitment to improving employment outcomes for individuals who have a disability;
  • creates the Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (Literacy Program) within the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to promote economic independence and successful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities by providing information and outreach to individuals and employers; and
  • creates the Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program (Partner Program) to recognize businesses that demonstrate commitment, through employment or support, to the independence of individuals who have a disability.
LAST ACTION: 1/21/16 Signed by Governor, Chapter No. 2016-3.


Session Dates

"Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?"
-- George Carlin
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