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ISSUE 4 | FEBRUARY 8, 2016
BudgetProposalsPoisedBudget Proposals Poised for Floors
This week, House and Senate appropriations committees passed their proposed 2016-2017 budgets. The proposals are now primed to go to the House and Senate floors and then to conference, where differences will be resolved.
The Senate's nearly $81 billion proposal is almost $1 billion more than the House package (HB 5001).
Two of the biggest differences are in transportation and economic development funding, where the Senate proposes spending almost $800 million more than the House (including $250 million for Governor Scott's Florida Enterprise Fund to lure businesses to the state) and in tax cuts, where the House proposes $1 billion and the Senate recommends $250 million.
SenateIncludesFreeTaxPrepSenate Includes Free Tax Prep
Albeit small in its overall $80+ billion budget proposal, the Senate includes a $1 million investment that arguably could provide the entire budget's best yield for taxpayers, low income workers, and our state economy.
The $1 million will be used by United Ways and their partners around the state to increase access to tax preparation services for more than 30,000 ALICE families, helping them to save more than $2 million in tax preparation fees and generating more than $40 million in tax refunds.  Many of these dollars will flow back into the state economy, generating state and local sales taxes.  However, research suggests that even more will be used to help these hard working families pay bills, reduce debt, and save for future emergencies.
As the conference process gears up, United Ways will work with Senators to help House members understand the extraordinary value of the appropriation to their constituents, and to all of us.
HFFHealthy Families Florida
Quantifying outcomes for human service programs is difficult because people and our circumstances are so complex and varied, and we change as individuals over the years.  Doing so in ways that comply with the highest research standards is also costly and time consuming.  That's why so few human services programs have been able to undertake robust third party evaluations.
One that has - and has left observers in amazement - is Healthy Families Florida, a voluntary home visiting child abuse and prevention program working with at risk families that has documented extraordinary results:
  • 98% of children in families served were free from abuse during services one year following program completion and 95% were free from abuse and neglect three years later.
This is amazing in-and-of-itself.  But the program does so much more than prevent abuse and neglect.  Among others:
  • 86 percent of participants improved their self-sufficiency by gaining employment, enrolling in job training, furthering their education, securing stablhousing or obtaining a driver's license;
  • 93 percent of children enrolled in HFF were fully immunized by age two (Florida average: 77%);
  • 92 percent of mothers enrolled in the project did not have a subsequent pregnancy within two years of the target child's birth; and
  • over 90 percent of children are up to date with well-baby checks at ages three and four.
The House and Senate have both passed proposed budgets that would appropriate Healthy Families Florida an additional $1.9 million dollars to expand services across the state.  Healthy Families contracts with 35 community organizations to provide home visiting services in all of Florida's 67 counties.  The additional $1.9 million will be used to serve up to 560 new families, bringing the total number of families served to more than 8,000 statewide. 
Kudos to legislators for supporting this transformational program.
HoldingRecessBeforeHolding Recess Before Lunch Increases Fruit and Veggie Consumption
Students participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to select a fruit and a vegetable side, but many schools report that fruits and vegetables are feeding trash cans rather than students.
A study by coauthors David Just, PhD (Cornell University) and Joseph Price, PhD (Brigham Young University) published in Preventive Medicine analyzed almost 23,000 student lunch observations and concluded that holding recess before lunch can increase fruit and vegetable consumption by 54 percent and increase by 45 percent those eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables.
The two biggest reasons why: students are hungrier after recess and rush to finish lunch if recess is after lunch.
AffordableHousingAffordable Housing
More than 20 years ago, the Legislature made a promise to Floridians: They pledged that a portion of ad valorem taxes paid to the state would be placed into housing trust funds and used for affordable housing.  The promise is contained in the Sadowski Act and the trust funds are commonly referred to as the Sadowski trust funds.
The Sadowski Coalition is a diverse group of organizations that annually advocates for the Legislature to use all Sadowski trust funds for their intended purpose. Unfortunately, some or all monies have been "swept" out of the trust funds and used for other purposes over the years.
And it may happen again this year.  While the proposed 2016-2017 Senate budget would use all $317 million in Sadowski trust funds on affordable housing, the House has followed Governor Scott's lead and diverted $172 million of the funds for other purposes.
In a state where more than 900,000 very low income Floridians pay more than 50 percent of their income on housing, and where millions more ALICE families struggle to make their rent and mortgage payments each month, sweeping housing trust funds should not be an acceptable option.
In addition, by sweeping the funds, the House would lose one of the state's most effective economic drivers.  Besides reducing formidable housing burdens for Florida families, appropriating all of the funds for affordable housing would create 32,600 jobs and generate $4.6 billion in positive economic impact in Florida.
EarlyStepsEarly Steps Keeps Moving
On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed Early Steps legislation (CS/CS/SB 7034) intended to address challenges facing the program that serves more than 40,000 children statewide.
Most of the changes made by the original bill as reported previously in the Legislative Link remain in the bill.  However, a key amendment was added by the Appropriations Committee changing the program's eligibility criteria.
Current law provides that children are eligible if they are 1.5 standard deviations from the mean in two or more physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, or adaptive domains, and if they are  2.0 standard deviations from the mean in one of those domains.  The deviations are "based on a standardized evaluation instrument."
The amendment requires that the deviations be based on "informed clinical opinion and an evaluation using a standard evaluation instrument."
The CS/CS also expands eligibility to include children who are 1.5 standard deviations from the mean in one or more of the domains, as measured by "informed clinical opinion and an evaluation using a standard evaluation instrument."
The bill specifies that the Department of Health is required to apply the eligibility criteria above "if specific funding is provided."
AfterSchoolCompGrantsAfter School Competitive Grants
On Wednesday, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Don Gaetz provided an overview of his subcommittee's 2016-2017 budget, including its proposal to coalesce $20 million of previously line-itemed appropriations for after school and mentioning programs into a pool of funds that will be allocated through a competitive grant process.  Senator Gaetz expressed his confusion about how the previously line-item-funded programs could be complaining when the Subcommittee is proposing an additional $10 million to the after school/mentoring pot, for a total of $30 million.
The proviso detailing how the competitive process would work was also released.  It provides that competitive funding will be provided to "non-profit, voluntary organizations that provide after-school and school-supplement programs to Florida children up to 18 years of age that promote academic growth, personal responsibility and citizenship, as well as professionally-supported one-on-one relationships, leadership development and character development.
Organizations qualified to compete for grants in this category must have 501(c)(3) status, be organized as Florida non-profit corporations in good standing with boards of directors comprised of Florida citizens, meet all requirements of federal and local law pertaining to their activities and governance, and not be listed on the Florida Department of Management Services convicted, suspended or discriminatory vendor lists or the federal government excluded list.
Grants would be awarded on a non-recurring basis for proposals that meet the following standards:
  • demonstrated favorable return-on-investment and low administrative overhead;
  • emphasis on low-income children, children with low academic performance or children with unique abilities;
  • emphasis on mentoring or individual/team relationships that result in academic and social growth;
  • extensive use of unpaid community volunteers;
  • ongoing demonstrated financial or in-kind support for the organization from the community as opposed to a disproportionate reliance on government funding; and
  • competent and accountable financial management of the organization and comprehensive, accurate reporting of the uses and impact of any grants received under this program.
Grants would be awarded by an Aftercare and Mentoring Award Committee comprised of individuals appointed by the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, and must include the Commissioner of Education, and the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, or their designees.
KidCareKidCare: To The Floor
On Wednesday, language eliminating the five year waiting period for legally residing immigrant children to access health coverage through KidCare was incorporated into one of the Senate's budget conforming bills (SB 2508).
On Thursday, the House companion bill (CS/HB 89) passed the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Both bills have passed with ease and will next go to the floors of their respective chambers. Health care for 17,000 children may be just around the corner, at last. Kudos to Senator René Garcia and Representative Jose Diaz for their years-long commitment to passing this important legislation.
ALICEandHealthCareALICE and Health Care
46th in the Nation - This is Florida's rank for both how many of our low-income children are without health insurance (11.5%) and how many of our adults skipped going to the doctor last year because they just could not afford it (17.6%).
That is better than the 50th place ranking the 2016 CFED: Assets & Opportunity Scorecard gave Florida for total uninsured, percentage of employers offering insurance, and average employee share of premium.  This burdens not only ALICE families, but also communities and employers that have to deal with the mounting short- and long-term consequences of insufficient preventative dental, mental and medical care.
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
MissingPersonsMissing Persons with Special Needs
Elopement, which meanleaving an area without supervision or caregiver permissionis prevalent among personwith certain special needs and may expose them to dangerous situations. Individualwith Alzheimer's disease or autisare two populations at higher risk to elope.
CS/CS/HB 11 creates the "Project Leo" pilot program in Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties to provide personal devices to aid in search-and-rescue efforts for personwith special needin caseof elopement.
The project will be developed and administered by the Center for Autisand Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD UF). The bill directs CARD UF to select participants on a first-come, first-serve basis to receive a personal device to aid in search-and-rescue efforts.
LAST ACTION: 2/1/16  HOUSE Favorable with CS by Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
DirectPrimaryCareDirect Primary Care
CS/SB 132 provides that a direct primary care agreement is not insurance and is not subject to the Florida Insurance Code.
Direct primary care is a primary care medical practice model that eliminates third party payers from the primary care provider-patient relationship. Through a contractual agreement, a patient pays a monthly fee, usually between $50 and $100 per individual,to the primary care provider for defined primary care services, which may include:
  • office visits;
  • annual physical examinations;
  • routine laboratory tests;
  • vaccinations;
  • wound care;
  • splinting or casting of fractured or broken bones;
  • other routine testing, e.g., echocardiogram and colon cancer screening; or
  • other medically necessary primary care procedures.
After paying the fee, a patient can access all services under the agreement at no extra charge. Some DPC practices also include routine preventative services, like lab tests, mammograms, Pap screenings, and vaccinations.
LAST ACTION: 2/1/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Health Policy.
BullyingandHarassmentBullying and Harassment Policies in Schools
SB 268 requires periodic revision of a school district's anti-bullyinand harassment policy, modifies the information that must be contained in the policyand requires schools to implement the policy. Among others, the bill adds the requirements that each:
  • school district revise its anti-bullyinand harassment policat least every three years;
  • school implement the school district's anti-bullying and harassment policy; and
  • school district's anti-bullyinand harassment policy:
    • make  reporting of bullyinor harassment mandatoryand
    • include a list of bullying prevention and intervention programs authorized by the school district to provide instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment.
LAST ACTION: 2/2/16  SENATE  Favorable by Education Pre-K - 12.
FreshProduceFresh Produce Markets & SNAP
According to the Food Research and Action Center, it is well documented that the SNAP program that delivers monthly benefits through EBT cards (formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program) is beneficial to the health of children and adults and the well-being of low-income people in the United States by enhancing the food purchasing power of eligible low-income families. However, many venues, especially in low-income communities, do not accept SNAP cards.
SB 284 permits an owner or operator of a market that sells fresh produce to be a Supplemental Nutrition Services Program (SNAP) retailer authorized to establish an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system to accept SNAP payments for the market's produce sellers, to the extent allowed by federal law and regulation. The bill does not require a market owner or operator to operate or maintain an EBT system for its produce sellers. It also does not prohibit an authorized Food Nutrition Service produce seller from operating its own EBT system for its own customers.
LAST ACTION:   2/3/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations.
ExpunctionofRecordsofMinorsExpunction of Records of 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 before turning 21 under certain circumstances.
LAST ACTION:  1/28/16 SENATE; Passed.
MentalHealthServicesMental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System
To address mental health issues in the criminal justice system, Florida has multiple programs, some of which operate on a statewide basis such a state-administered forensic and civil mental health programs.  Others are only available in certain counties or circuits, such as mental health courts and veterans' courts.  CS/CS/HB 439 amends statutes governing these programs by, among others:
  • creating the Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program, which is to be modeled after the Miami-Dade Forensic Alternative Center, and allowing the Department of Children and Families to implement the pilot program in Duval, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties, if existing recurring resources are available;
  • authorizing county court judges to order misdemeanants to involuntary outpatient placement if the misdemeanant meets the certain statutory criteria;
  • creating statutory authority for each county to establish a mental health court program (MHCP) that provides pretrial intervention and post-adjudicatory programs;
  • authorizing courts to order adult offenders with mental illnesses to participate in pretrial intervention and post-adjudicatory programs and to admit juvenile offenders with mental illnesses into delinquency pretrial MHCPs;
  • expanding the definition of "veteran", for the purpose of eligibility for veterans' court, to include veterans who were discharged or released under a general discharge; and
  • expanding the statutory authorization for certain offenders to transfer to a "problem-solving court" in another county to also include transfer to delinquency pretrial intervention programs.
LAST ACTION: 2/1/16 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.
TempCashAssistanceProgTemporary Cash Assistance Program
CS/HB 563 would require income of undocumented immigrant family members to be included in the calculation of Temporary Cash Assistance Program (TANF) 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.
LAST ACTION:  2/2/16  HOUSE  Favorable by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
AttorneysforDepChildrenAttorneys for Dependent Children
When the state removes a child from their parent's care and custody due to allegations of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the child is under the jurisdiction of the state dependency system.  Dependency proceedings are adversarial legal proceedings where the court must decide between the parents' constitutional rights to raise their children free from interference and the State's compelling interest to protect children from neglect or abuse.
All parents in dependency proceedings are constitutionally entitled to counsel, and indigent parents are entitled to appointed counsel.  However, no provision in Florida law or rule requires appointment of counsel for dependent children unless the child has certain medical needs. CS/HB 949 attempts to remedy this situation by:
  • expanding the right to appointed counsel in dependency proceedings to children under the age of 8 who have been prescribed psychotropic medication and to children who are ineligible for representation by the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Program due to a conflict of interest;
  • requiring appointment of substitute counsel if an attorney appointed to represent a dependent child withdraws or is discharged by the court;
  • requiring that all appointed attorneys and organizations, including pro bono attorneys, receive funding for litigation costs; and
  • requiring that the Justice Administrative Commission contract with a non-profit entity to create a Quality Counsel Program. The Quality Counsel Program, using information submitted by appointed attorneys, provides review and analysis of attorney advocacy and makes recommendations to enhance the quality of representation for dependent children.
LAST ACTION: 2/3/16 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Civil Justice Subcommittee.
EarlyChildhoodMusicEarly Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program
Some studies have indicated a correlation between instruction in fine and performing arts and student achievement in core academic subjects, including reading and math. However, while the number of elementary music classes has increased statewide, some school districts do not have any elementary students enrolled in music courses.
HB 1253 establishes the 3-year Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program in the Department of Education to assist selected school districts in implementing comprehensive music education programs for students in kindergarten through grade 2.
To be eligible, each school in the district must have established a comprehensive music education program that:
  • includes all students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 2;
  • is staffed by "certified music educators";
  • provides music instruction for a least 30 consecutive minutes 2 days a week;
  • complies with class size requirements under s. 1003.03, F.S.; and
  • complies with the "department's standards for early childhood music education programs" for students in kindergarten through grade 2.
LAST ACTION:  2/1/16  HOUSE Favorable by K-12 Subcommittee.


Session Dates

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