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ISSUE 3 | JANUARY 29, 2016
HouseSenateEdBudgetsHouse & Senate Education Budgets Released
House and Senate appropriations subcommittees released many of their proposed budgets for 2016-2017 this week.  Your Legislative Link briefly reviews some of the education budget items below, and next week will delve into them in greater detail plus provide an overview of the health and human services proposals.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Education released its preliminary 2016-2017 budget 
on Tuesday, and the House proposal was unveiled on Wednesday. Here are some of the budget highlights:
                                                        Proposed 2016-2017

Total Public SchoolS
Total VPK
Total Early Learning
SR Performance Funding
Help Me Grow

AfterSchoolProgramsAfter School Programs to Compete for Funding?
While the proposed House education budget allocates funding to a variety of after school and mentoring programs as the state budget has always done, the Senate proposal eliminates millions of dollars in line item funding for specific organizations providing after school and mentoring services.  It then uses those dollars and combines them with an additional $10 million to create a $30 million Statewide After-Care and Mentoring Competitive Grant Program that will provide competitive awards to non-profit organizations to provide after school and school supplemental programs to Florida children up to 18 years of age.
BeardsAreCleanBeards are Clean!
A recent study conducted in an American hospital reached a surprising conclusion. Researchers swabbed the faces of 408 hospital staffers, with and without facial hair, and found that it was the clean-shaven personnel, not the bearded, who were more than three times as likely to be harboring MRSA (a potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant infection) on their freshly-shaven faces.
HouseTaxCutsHouse Tax Cuts: Nearly $1 Billion
On Wednesday, the House Finance and Tax Committee unveiled its proposed tax cut bill, amounting to $989.2 million.  Unlike Governor Scott's $1 billion proposal that would cut $1.18 billion permanently, the largest portion of the House proposal makes about $700 million in one-time cuts over the next two fiscal years.  The proposal is contained in the Committee's January 27 meeting packet

The proposal includes the following cuts:
  • $512 million - 1 percent cut to the tax applied to rent payments on commercial leases next year plus 1 percent in 2017-2018.  Each percentage point drop is worth about $256 million annually.
  • $60 million - Permanent sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment.
  • $56 million - 10-day back to school sales tax holiday.
  • $35 million - 1-day small business Saturday.
  • $33 million - College text book sales tax exemption.
  • $23 million - 1-day technology sales tax holiday for purchases up to $1 million.
  • $10 million - Renewable energy tax credit.
  • $9 million - Research and development tax credit.
  • $2.3 million - 1-day outdoor sales tax holiday on things like camping and fishing equipment.
"Never use a big word when a little filthy one will do."
-- Johnny Carson
SenateTEDCommitteeSenate TED Committee: Helping ALICE
Florida taxpayers leave more than $1 billion in tax refunds on the table in Washington every year.  On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development (TED) released its proposed 2016-2017 budget, which includes a $1 million appropriation that will be used to help hard working ALICE families recoup their refunds to help them pay bills, reduce debt, and save for future emergencies.
ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, families are hard working families that struggle to pay their bills every month.  While working hard to be productive, contributing citizens, they just don't earn enough to pay their bills.
The $1 million appropriation will be used by United Ways and their partners around the state to help ALICE families recoup refunds they have earned and deserve by expanding access to free tax preparation services.  These services will be provided to more than 30,000 low income, working Floridians, saving them up to $2.7 million in tax preparation fees and generating up to $48 million total tax returns, including $18 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. 
It is rare in any arena to see a return of $48 dollars for each dollar invested.  Many thanks to the Senate TED Subcommittee for recognizing not only this phenomenal yield, but also for targeting it to ALICE families that are the backbone of Florida's economy.
ELCostModelingAnalysisEarly Learning Cost Modeling Analysis
A ground breaking report by the Florida Early Learning Consortium reveals a terribly disturbing fact: The Early Learning Cost Modeling Analysis concludes that the reimbursement rate Florida pays to nonprofits and businesses to care for 200,000+ children birth to 5 years old in Florida's School Readiness program is barely enough to pay the bills, and comes nowhere close to being able to pay for quality.
This is unacceptable.  Hard scientific research shows that 90 percent of a person's brain is built during the first five years of life.  Students in the School Readiness programs benefit enormously from quality programs, and failure to pay for quality results in higher rates of remediation, school failure, crime, and unemployment for these students.  These consequences have a significant impact on the entire state's quality of life and economic well-being, and force us all to pay higher taxes in future years.
The Governor, House and Senate have all proposed increased funding for the School Readiness program and for Early Learning Performance Funding next year.  Most of the funding is nonrecurring, and will go to the same providers who struggle to provide any type of quality with the funding per student they receive.  We applaud policy makers for proposing these increases, and urge them to continue down the path to quality funding for all of Florida's students.
CheaperDiamondCheaper Diamond = Longer Marriage?
In the late 1930s, De Beers created the enduring slogan that "a diamond is forever."
A recent study suggests that marriages have a lower likelihood of divorce when the engagement ring costs less.  The study found that spending between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring is associated with a 1.3 times greater incidence of divorce as compared to spending between $500 and $2,000.
"There are 249 millionaires in Congress. Remember a couple of years ago when this new Congress told us they had the solution to the recession? Apparently, they didn't share it with the rest of us." -- Jay Leno
The rate of 3rd grade students performing below grade level in reading has consistently exceeded 40 percent over the past several years.  In order to address this situation, on Tuesday the House Education Committee passed a comprehensive reading reform bill (CS/HB 7021) and the Senate passed its companion bill (SB 1068). The bills expand public school reading requirements relating to interventions and instructional supports, teacher certification and training, and school improvement and accountability.  Among others, the House bill:
  • requires school districts, when allocating remedial and supplemental instruction resources, to give the highest priority to students in kindergarten through grade 3, who have a substantial reading deficiency, instead of just those students who are in grade 3;
  • requires that students in kindergarten through grade 3, who are identified as having a substantial reading deficiency, be provided an individual progress monitoring plan, a federal plan (such as an individual education plan), or both if necessary. Such students must be provided intensive, explicit, systematic, and multisensory reading interventions immediately following identification of the substantial deficiency;
  • requires the State Board of Education to create guidelines for determining whether a student in kindergarten through grade 3 has a substantial reading deficiency;
  • prohibits schools from waiting until a student receives a failing grade at the end of the grading period to identify the deficiency and initiate interventions;
  • requires that the interventions school districts provide to students who are retained in 3rd grade include evidence-based, explicit, systematic, and multisensory instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension;
  • requires that, beginning July 1, 2018, retained 3rd grade students be taught by a teacher who holds a reading certification or endorsement, in addition to the current requirement that the teacher be rated "highly effective;"
  • expands the intensive acceleration course currently provided to retained 3rd graders to also include students who were previously retained in kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade;
    • the acceleration course must, among others, provide uninterrupted reading instruction for the majority of the school contact time each day, provide small group instruction, and reduced teacher-student ratios;
  • requires VPK providers to implement intensive, explicit, and systematic instruction for participants who exhibit a deficiency in emergent literacy skills, including oral communication, knowledge of print and letters, phonemic and phonological awareness, and vocabulary and comprehension development; 
  • requires that a parent of a K-3 student identified with a substantial reading deficiency be immediately notified and informed of opportunities to observe effective instruction and intervention in the classroom and to receive literacy instruction from the school or through community adult literacy initiatives; and
  • provides that once a parent is notified, the school must update the parent of the student's progress at least once every two weeks in writing.
MentalHealthSubstanceAbuseMental Health and Substance Abuse Overhaul
Both the House and Senate have committed to making fundamental changes to Florida's mental health and substance abuse system, intending to improve and streamline the services it provides.  Three bills passed out of committee this week:
PCB CFSS 16-01 makes changes to the statewide system of safety-net prevention, treatment, and recovery services for substance abuse and mental health (SAMH) administered by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  DCF currently contracts with seven managing entities that in turn contract with local service providers to deliver SAMH services.  The bill changes service provision and enhances operation of this outsourced approach by, among others:
  • allowing managed behavioral health organizations to bid for managing entity contracts when fewer than two bids are received;
  • requiring managing entities to earn a "coordinated behavioral health system of care" designation by 2019 and requiring the annual submission of plans for phased enhancement of the subsystems within their system of care, including specific information on recommendations for additional funding;
  • requiring managing entities to provide care coordination, specifying services that shall be provided within available resources, and prioritizing the populations served; and
  • requiring DCF to develop performance standards that measure improvement in a community's behavioral health and in specified individuals' functioning or progress toward recovery.
The bill also streamlines local application processes for Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse grants, and makes several changes to the Marchman Act, which provides for voluntary and involuntary treatment for substance abuse impairment.
CS/HB 979 makes a variety of changes to the state's laws governing provision of acute behavioral health care.  The bill implements several recommendations from DCF's Baker Act and Marchman Act Project Team Report for Fiscal Year 2016-17 intended to improve access to the acute behavioral health care system.
CS/SB 12 is a comprehensive bill that mirrors portions of the bills above and was substantially amended this week.  Among many others, the bill provides for mental health services for children, parents, and others seeking custody of children involved in dependency court proceedings.  It also creates a coordinated system of care to be provided either by a community or a region for those suffering from mental illness or substance use disorder through a "No Wrong Door" system of single access points.
"The only thing money gives you is the freedom of not worrying about money." -- Johnny Carson
VenusFlytrapsVenus Flytraps Can Count to Five
Venus flytraps and other carnivorous plants have the ability to 'count,' a surprising new study appearing in the journal Current Biology reports. Flytraps, researchers say, can count how often they have been touched by an insect, and at least as high as five. The first touch causes the plant to enter a preparatory state. On the second touch, the trap begins to close. On the third, the flytrap finishes closing its capture organ. On the fourth touch, the plant begins to produce a hormone associated with the feeding process.  The fifth and final touch is registered when glands on the trap's inner surface produce digestive enzymes and transporters that help it to absorb nutrients.
KidCareandBoosterSeatsKidCare & Booster Seats
Advocates scored two major victories on child health and child safety this week.
On Wednesday, the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee passed HB 89, which removes the five year waiting period immigrant children lawfully residing in Florida must endure before becoming eligible for KidCare.  The bill will open the door to health care coverage for 15,000 children at no cost to the state; the feds pick up the entire tab. The bill's next stop is the House floor.
Also on Wednesday, the House Economic Affairs committee removed a provision from CS/HB 7063 that would have exempted licensed and license-exempt child care facilities, family day care homes, large family child care homes, and after-school programs from the requirement to secure 4 and 5 year olds in booster seats while being transported in a motor vehicle. The Senate Transportation Committee followed suit later that day by amending the exemption out of its companion bill (SB 1394).
CCDBGCCDBG Bill Passes Senate Committee
More than 200,000 children birth to age 5 from low income families receive subsidized child care through Florida's School Readiness program.  The majority of funds - more than $273 million -  used to pay for the program come from the  federal government through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  The CCDBG was reauthorized last year and in order to keep receiving the funds, Florida law must be revised to reflect changes required by the new CCDBG.
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education passed CS/SB 1166which implements the required changes.  The bill was amended to include language from the House bill (PCB EDC 16-02) that implements the changes and, among others:
  • increases public information on, and background screening of, child care providers;
  • aligns eligibility requirements with the grant;
  • requires inspection of, and standards for, school readiness provider emergency preparedness plans; and
  • requires pre-service and in-service training for personnel of school readiness program providers.
"You're not famous until your mother has heard of you."
-- Jay Leno
PayforSuccessPay for Success Bill Moves
On Tuesday, the Florida Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee unanimously passed CS/SB 1200, which would create a "Pay for Success" financial structure where private funding can be utilized to solve social issues in Florida at no risk to taxpayer dollars.
In a Pay for Success model, government contracts with an intermediary to obtain social services.  The intermediary then obtains a financial backer and service provider(s).  If a service does not meet predetermined outcomes set by the state, the government pays nothing, and an ineffective program is discontinued.  If the service does achieve its outcomes, the financial backer receives its investment back plus interest (usually at about 10 percent), and the state has a proven program for which it can then provide funding.
Fourteen states have introduced and/or passed Pay-for-Success legislation: California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.  Read more to find out more about this innovative approach to finding solutions to societal problems.
ImmigrantBillsImmigrant Bills of Note
A number of bills have been filed this session dealing with immigrants.  They would enhance criminal penalties for immigrants and make it a felony to re-enter the country after being deported, among others.  A few of them that have gotten the most recognition include:
CS/HB 563/SB 750: These two bills would require income of undocumented immigrant family members to be included in the calculation of Temporary Cash Assistance Program benefits.   Currently, undocumented immigrants are not legally eligible to receive TANF benefits and a family's cash-assistance stipend is pro-rated, so it does not cover the undocumented member.  Including the income from undocumented family members would reduce benefits for 755 families - and save taxpayers - about $240,000.
CS/CS/HB 675/SB 872: These so-called Sanctuary City bills would force local governments and officials to comply with federal immigration authorities at a level not mandated or funded by the federal government.  They would authorize the Attorney General to sue local governments that do not comply, impose fines for not enforcing the policies, and make local governments and their elected officials vulnerable to civil action for personal injury or wrongful death, including waiving sovereign immunity for any elected officials or policymakers responsible for local policies that interfere with enforcement of federal immigration law.
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
ChildWelfareChild Welfare
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) implements child welfare services aimed at preventing abandonment, abuse, and neglect of children through community organizations known as lead agencies.  DCF is required to administer a system of care that prevents the separation of children from their families and provides interventions to allow children to remain safely in their own homes.  However, when it is determined that in-home services are not enough to allow a child to safely remain in his or her home, the child is removed from his or her home and placed with a safe and appropriate temporary out-of-home placement.
CS/HB 599 is a comprehensive 40-page bill that, among others:
  • requires lead agencies to provide a continuum of care through direct provision, subcontract, referral, or other effective means, and requires DCF to specify the minimum services available through contract;
  • requires a workgroup to determine the feasibility of a statewide initial assessment tool for placement and services;
  • requires a quality rating system for group homes and foster homes to be implemented by July 1, 2018;
  • requires DCF to monitor residential group home placements and for lead agencies to develop a plan for managing group home utilization; and
  • creates permanency teams that are required to review out-of-home placements for children placed in residential group care.
LAST ACTION: 1/20/16 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.
ReligiousOrgsMarriageReligious Organizations/Marriage
SB 110 provides that clergy, churches and religious organizations, and their employees may not be required to solemnize a marriage or provide certain services or accommodations for a marriage if the action would cause them to violate a sincerely held religious belief.
LAST ACTION: 1/26/16  SENATE Favorable by Judiciary.
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: 1/27/16 SENATE favorable by Rules and placed on the special order calendar.
UnattendedPersonsUnattended Persons and Animals in Motor Vehicles
Since 2010, 16 children and 17 senior citizens have died from vehicular heat stroke in Florida after being left unattended in motor vehicles.  Nationally, Florida ranks second only behind Texas for the number of child vehicular heat stroke fatalities in the United States.
A "good samaritan" that enters a motor vehicle in such emergency situations for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damages arising out of any care or treatment rendered.  However, under current law, the good samaritan may be civilly liable for entering or damaging the motor vehicle.
CS/CS/HB 131 provides immunity from civil liability for entering or damaging a motor vehicle to remove a vulnerable person or domestic animal under certain circumstances. The bill defines a "vulnerable person" as a minor or vulnerable adult.
LAST ACTION: 1/26/16 HOUSE Placed on third reading calendar.
HealthyFoodFinHealthy Food Financing Initiative
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.
LAST ACTION:  1/26/16 SENATE  Favorable with CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.
HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking
CS/SB 784 addresses human trafficking and offenses that are often associated with human trafficking by, among others:
  • increasing the felony penalty if the victim suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement;
  • clarifying that branding a victim of human trafficking is a human trafficking offense;
  • increasing from a second degree misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 60 days in jail) to a first degree misdemeanor (up to one year in jail) a first violation of s.796.06, F.S. (renting space to be used for lewdness, assignation, prostitution), and increasing from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony (maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison) a second or subsequent violation of that statute;
  • prohibiting minors from being prosecuted for prostitution; and
  • adding racketeering to the list of the offenses that may require a person to register as a sexual predator or sexual offender if the court makes a written finding that the racketeering activity involved at least one registration-qualifying sexual offense or one registration-qualifying offense with sexual intent or motive.
LAST ACTION: 1/25/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Criminal Justice.
HousingAssistanceHousing Assistance
According to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Florida has the third highest number of persons who are homeless in the United States and a high percentage of unsheltered homelessness, meaning individuals who are homeless who stay in places not meant for human habitation.
There are a number of government programs and public-private partnerships that seek to provide affordable housing and reduce homelessness. The State Office on Homelessness (SOH) within the Department of Children and Families (DCF) serves as the central point of contact within state government for homelessness.
CS/HB 1235 provides greater flexibility and increases accountability for programs receiving public funds to address homelessness.  Among others, the bill:
  • authorizes rapid re-housing as a strategy to address homelessness. Rapid re-housing is a model for providing housing for individuals and families who are homeless that places a priority on moving a family or individual experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible, ideally within 30 days;
  • creates a task force within SOH to make recommendations regarding implementation of a Statewide Homeless Management Information System (HMIS);
  • changes performance measures used by SOH to specific outcomes rather than outputs;
  • requires SOH to establish performance measures and specific objectives by which to evaluate the performance and outcomes of lead agencies that receive grant funds; and
  • requires SOH to distribute grant funds based on lead agencies' performance and achievement of specified objectives.
LAST ACTION: 1/26/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee.
BehavioralHealthCareSvcsBehavioral Health Care Services
SB 1336 addresses the current system where behavioral health services for persons with complex, persistent and co-occurring disorders pertaining to mental illness and substance use disorder obtain needed services.  The bill recognizes that mental health and substance use disorders are diseases of the brain and subspecialties within the field of medical practice.
The bill directs the behavioral health managing entities (MEs) to develop a plan with each county or circuit in its geographic area to ensure all persons with mental health or substance use disorders subject to involuntary admission receive prompt assessment of the need for evaluation and treatment.  The MEs are to develop a transportation plan for each county or circuit within its assigned region in consultation with county officials, law enforcement agencies and local acute care providers.
The criteria for involuntary admission, stabilization, and treatment of persons with substance use or mental health disorders are revised by the bill and it identifies the professionals who are authorized to execute a certificate for emergency admission.
LAST ACTION: 1/27/16 SENATE Favorable by Children, Families and Elder Affairs.
ChildTransSafetyChild Transportation Safety
SB 1676 creates the "Haile Brockington Act" and requires that by January 1, 2017, the vehicles identified below used to transport children must be equipped with an approved alarm system that prompts the driver to check the interior and exterior of the vehicle for the presence of children before leaving the area:
  • vehicles used by public entities or private organizations for hire, including schools, camps and churches;
  • vehicles used by child care facilities and large family child care homes; and
  • school buses.
LAST ACTION: 1/27/16  SENATE Favorable by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.


Session Dates

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