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ISSUE 5 | FEBRUARY 12, 2016
HalfWayHomeHalf Way Home
In stark contrast to last year's dysfunction, the Florida Legislature hit the half way point in its 2016 session on Wednesday with policy makers working in harmony and refusing to let any issues derail their march to the scheduled regular session end on March 11.  There are even rumors of an early sine die.
The House and Senate have passed, and Governor Scott has signed, three bills representing Speaker Crisafulli's and President Gardiner's highest priorities, all have proposed "historic" funding levels for public education, and all have agreed to significant tax cuts, although the Senate is only at about 1/4 of the House and Governor's $1 billion proposals.
Yesterday, both chambers passed their respective budgets, setting the stage for conference committees to begin ironing out the differences.  The $79.9 billion House plan is $989 million less than the $80.9 billion Senate plan, and both are larger than the $79.3 billion plan proposed in November by Governor Scott.
Major budget issues remain, and they will likely be the biggest challenges to maintaining the newfound harmony among state leaders.  Legislative approval of a new Seminole Compact that could generate about $3 billion over the next seven years will be the key ingredient to bringing in the session to a smooth landing.
Did you know? Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.
TheRaisingofAmericaThe Raising of America: Must See
The Raising of America Series is a five-part documentary series that explores the question: Why are so many children in America faring so poorly?  What are the consequences for the nation's future?  How might we, as a nation, do better?  The series investigates these questions through different lenses: What does science tell us about the enduring importance of early life experiences on the brain and body?  What it is like to be a parent today?  And what policies and structures help or hinder the raising of healthy, happy and compassionate children?  The Signature Hour covers all three of these issues.  The four subsequent episodes each dive in for a closer look.  Watch all episodes (each 32-58 minutes long) for free until February 15 at http://www.raisingofamerica.org/.
ChildrenandYouthCabinetChildren and Youth Cabinet Bill Goes to Governor
The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet (Cabinet) was created in 2007.  Among other things, it was created to enable state agencies and programs that serve children to coordinate policy development and program implementation, so services provided to children and youth are planned, managed, and delivered in a holistic and integrated manner.
The Cabinet is comprised of the Governor, two legislators, five members representing children and youth advocacy organizations and heads of all state departments serving families and children.
This year, the Cabinet took the unprecedented step of sending a letter to the Senate President, House Speaker and Governor urging them to, "... make early childhood a top priority for the 2016 Legislative Session" and that "the first 1,000 days of a child's life should be at the top of the state's priorities."
HB 241 expands the total membership of the cabinet to 16 by adding a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor. On Thursday, the Senate passed the bill and it now heads to Governor Scott for his signature.
"Marriage is grand. Divorce is about twenty grand."
-- Jay Leno
ElderlyFloridiansDie6,000 Elderly Floridians Die Awaiting Services
This week, POLITICO Florida reported that state data shows more than 6,000 poor, disabled, or elderly Floridians who qualified for home- and community-based health services died during a 12-month period while they were on waiting lists for those services.

The report states that according to statistics provided by the Department of Elder Affairs, 6,538 people died during the 2014-2015 fiscal year while they were on a waiting list for one of four programs aimed at keeping the elderly out of nursing homes.  The four programs include: Medicaid managed long term care, Home Care for the Elderly, Community Care for the Elderly and the Alzheimer's Disease Initiative.  Read the entire report here.
EITCEarned Income Tax Credit Can Help Rural Families
The United States Department of Agriculture has recently posted a blog by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the importance of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Among others, Secretary Vilsack points out that while we've seen wages rise and unemployment fall in rural areas over the last several years, workers in rural America still receive less hours and earn less pay than those in urban areas. Fortunately, for those who need help making ends meet, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can help.
The EITC is recognized as one of the most effective tools for lifting families and individuals out of poverty.  The EITC, along with the Child Tax Credit, greatly improves opportunities for working families.  These working family tax credits lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty in 2013, including 5 million children, and made 22 million other people under the poverty line better off.
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
UnattendedPersonsAnimalsUnattended Persons and Animals in Motor Vehicles
Unattended 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:  2/2/16 Enrolled.
HealthyFoodFinancingHealthy 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/CS/HB 153 establishes the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Pilot Program to provide financial assistance for development or expansion of grocery retail outlets that operate in underserved communities or low income or moderate income communities.  The bill requires a poverty rate of 25 percent as one of the criteria for participation.
LAST ACTION: 2/10/16 Favorable with CS by Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.
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: 2/8/16 HOUSE Favorable by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
PublicSchoolRecessPublic School Recess
Current law establishes minimum time requirements for physical education instruction in public schools.  However, there are no similar provisions related to school recess, which some organizations consider to be an integral component of a child's physical, social, and academic development.
HB 833 requires each district school board to provide 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades.  The recess must be provided for at least 20 consecutive minutes each day and may not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.
LAST ACTION:  2/9/16  HOUSE  Favorable by Education Committee.
ReadingInstructionReading Instruction
The rate of 3rd grade students performing below grade level in reading has consistently exceeded 40 percent over the past several years. SB 1068 attempts to address this situation, but on Thursday the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education temporarily postponed it. The bill expands public school reading requirements relating to interventions and instructional supports, teacher certification and training, and school improvement and accountability.  Among others, the 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 multi-sensory 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.
LAST ACTION: 2/11/16 SENATE   Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Temporarily Postponed.
HealthCareTransparencyHealth Care Transparency
Clear, accurate information about the cost and quality of health care is necessary for consumers to select value-based health care.  CS/HB 1175 is intended to ensure greater consumer access to health care price and quality information by requiring certain heath care providers, insurers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to provide that information to patients.  Among many others, the bill:
  • requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to contract with a vendor to create an all-payer claims database (APCD) that provides an online, searchable method for patients to compare provider price and quality, and requires insurers and HMOs to submit data to the APCD, under certain conditions;
  • imposes certain pre-treatment transparency requirements, such as requiring facilities to post online average payments and payment ranges that can be searched by consumers and to provide within 3 days of a request, a good faith, personalized estimate of charges, including facility fees; and
  • imposes certain post-treatment transparency requirements, such as requiring facilities to provide an itemized bill within seven days of discharge that meets certain requirements for comprehension by a layperson, and identifying any providers who may bill separately for the care received in the facility;
LAST ACTION:  2/9/16 HOUSE  Favorable with CS by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
PayForSuccessPay For Success
CS/SB 1200 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.
LAST ACTION:  2/11/16  SENATE  Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.
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.
CS/HB 7053 implements the required changes.  Among others, it:
  • 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.
LAST ACTION:  2/11/16 HOUSE  Passed.
MissingPersonsMissing Persons with Special Needs
Elopement, which means leaving an area without supervision or caregiver permission, is prevalent among persons with certain special needs and may expose them to dangerous situations.  Individuals with Alzheimer's disease or autism are two populations at higher risk to elope.
CS/CS/CS/HB 11 creates two "Project Leo" pilot projects, one in Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee Counties and one in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  Each pilot project must provide personal devices to aid in search-and-rescue efforts for persons with special needs in cases of elopement.
The first project will be developed and administered by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD UF) and the second project will be developed and administered by CARD at the Florida Atlantic University (CARD FAU)
The bill directs CARD UF and CARD FAU to select participants on a first-come, first-serve basis to receive a personal device to aid in search-and-rescue efforts.  Participants will be selected based on criteria developed by CARD UF or CARD FAU.  Each center's criteria must, at a minimum, consider the individual's risk of elopement.  The number of participants shall be determined based on available funding within the each center's existing resources.  The respective county sheriff's office will distribute the devices to the project participants.
LAST ACTION:  2/10/16  HOUSE Favorable with CS by Judiciary Committee.
MentalHealthSvcsMental 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 as 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/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".
LAST ACTION: 2/10/16  HOUSE Favorable with CS by Judiciary Committee.
BullyingandHarassmentBullying and Harassment Policies in Schools
SB 268 requires periodic revision of a school district's anti-bullying and harassment policy, modifies the information that must be contained in the policy, and requires schools to implement the policy. Among others, the bill adds the requirements that each:
  • school district revise its anti-bullying and harassment policy at least every three years;
  • school implement the school district's anti-bullying and harassment policy; and
  • school district's anti-bullying and harassment policy:
    • make reporting of bullying or harassment mandatory; and
    • include a list of bullying prevention and intervention programs authorized by the school district that provide instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment.
LAST ACTION: 2/11/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
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: 2/11/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
BehavioralHealthWorkforceBehavioral Health Workforce
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has chronicled efforts, beginning as early as the 1970s, to deal with workforce issues regarding mental and substance use disorders, but notes that most have not been sustained long enough or been comprehensive enough to remedy the problems.  Shortages of qualified workers, recruitment and retention of staff, and an aging workforce have long been cited as problems.
CS/SB 1250 expands the behavioral health workforce, recognizes that the need for additional psychiatrists is of critical state concern, integrates primary care and psychiatry, and allows persons with disqualifying offenses that occurred five or more years ago to work under the supervision of certain qualified personnel until a final determination regarding the request for an exemption from disqualification is made.
LAST ACTION: 2/10/16  SENATE  Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
JuvJusticeDirectFileJuvenile Justice - Direct File
On any given night in America, 10,000 children are held in adult jails and prisons.  These children do not receive educational and rehabilitative services that are necessary for their stage in development, are in extreme danger when in the facilities, and are often placed in isolation which can produce harmful consequences, including death.  Florida has one of the nation's highest rates of children being incarcerated in adult jails and prisons.
To address these issues, SB 314 substantially amends two of Florida's current methods for transferring a juvenile to adult court for criminal prosecution.  These transfer methods are indictment and direct file.  It also amends current provisions requiring the court to impose juvenile and adult sanctions upon juveniles transferred to adult court.
The bill amends the indictment process by limiting the state attorney's authority to convene a grand jury in cases in which the juvenile is 14 years of age or older (currently available for juveniles of any age who are charged with an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment).
The bill also amends the direct file transfer statute by eliminating the mandatory direct file system and modifying the discretionary direct file system to a two-tiered system based on the juvenile's age and enumerated offense.
In the first tier, the state attorney may direct file a juvenile who is16 years of age or older and less than 18 years at the time of the alleged offense if he or she committed a serious enumerated offense.
In the second tier, the state attorney may direct file a juvenile who is 14 or 15 years of age at the time of the offense if he or she committed murder, manslaughter, or sexual battery.  The bill prohibits a juvenile from being transferred to adult court by indictment or direct file if the juvenile:
  • has a pending competency hearing in juvenile court; or
  • has been previously found to be incompetent and has not been restored to competency by a court.
LAST ACTION: 2/11/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.


Session Dates

Did you know? Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density.
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