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ISSUE 6 | FEBRUARY 19, 2016
BudgetConferenceBudget Conference Next Week
Both chambers have passed their proposed 2016-2017 state budgets. 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.
On Thursday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent a memo to all House members that read, in part, "There is positive forward progress in the effort to reach an agreement on budget allocations with the Senate.  However, there is still a great deal to be worked out. Therefore, we will not begin conference this weekend. It is my hope that we will begin conference early next week. I hope you enjoy your weekend."
AffordableHousingAffordable Housing: How Senate & House Proposals Impact Your County
Florida's affordable housing trust funds (i.e., Sadowski Trust Funds) were created more than 20 years ago to ensure funding for affordable housing.  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.
The proposed 2016-2017 Senate budget would use all $317 million in Sadowski Trust Funds on affordable housing.  In addition to reducing formidable housing burdens for Florida families, the Senate proposal would create 32,600 jobs and generate $4.6 billion in positive economic impact in Florida.
The House proposal, however, follows Governor Scott's lead by sweeping $172 million of the funds for other purposes.
As one example, Sarasota County would receive $3,535,302 under the Senate budget and $616,530 under the House budget. Check how the different proposals would impact your community:  Senate Proposal versus House Proposal.
AConsensusPlanA Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty
A new Brookings Institute/American Enterprise study finds that the nature of poverty has changed over the years and it is more difficult to climb the ladder of economic success than ever.  It analyzes the changes relating to the nature of poverty and makes numerous recommendations on how to strengthen communities, the workplace and much more.  Among others, the report concludes that to strengthen families in ways that will prepare children for success in education and work we should:
  • promote a new cultural norm surrounding parenthood and marriage;
  • promote delayed, responsible childbearing;
  • increase access to effective parenting education; and
  • help young, less-educated men and women prosper in work and family.
"The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?"  -- Pablo Picasso
TEACHT.E.A.C.H. for Early Learning Quality
Teacher-child interactions are one of the strongest predictors of a child's ability to succeed in life, school and work.
During the first five years of life when 90 percent of the brain is formed, teacher-child interactions are fundamentally important, and are tied to a teacher's knowledge, skills and classroom practices.  Teachers who are able to receive the professional development they - and the children in their care - need are better able to help those children improve language and cognitive skills, and strengthen the executive functioning skills that make children successful in school: the ability to pay attention, take turns, delay gratification, and get along with others.
The T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early ChildhoodŽ Scholarship Program has provided professional development scholarships for more than 23,243 early learning teachers since 1998.  This data-driven program that generates measurable outcomes is a successful public/private partnership providing a tremendous benefit to early learning teachers and their employers, taxpayers, and most importantly the 200,000+ children in Florida's School Readiness program.
The Legislature appropriated $4.5 million to support T.E.A.C.H. this year.  Recognizing the program's extraordinary benefits, Governor Scott and the House have proposed an additional $7 million for the program next year.  The 2016-2017 Senate budget proposal would level-fund the program at $4.5 million.
Read more about T.E.A.C.H. and why it is important to tell legislators today to support the House proposal to increase funding for the program.
JudgeJudy"Judge Judy", Supreme Court Justice?
Nearly 10 percent of college graduates surveyed in a poll believe Judith Sheindlin, aka "Judge Judy," serves on the Supreme Court. The survey also found 28.4 percent of college graduates correctly identify the father of the Constitution as James Madison.  About 59 percent of college students surveyed believe the father of the Constitution was Thomas Jefferson, who was actually the principal writer of the Declaration of Independence.
The poll, conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in August 2015, but released in January 2016, concluded from the 1,000 surveyed that college graduates "are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage."
"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." -- H. G. Wells
EarlyStepsOptionsEarly Steps Options
As session's end nears, it becomes more and more important to get bills in the best position to ultimately pass.  Hundreds of bills die each session because time runs out before they are heard.
The Early Steps bills (CS/SB 7034 and CS/HB 943) are critically important bills that delineate the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Health and local Early Steps providers to ensure that $60+ million of taxpayer dollars used to provide services to more than 40,000 children are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Children served by Early Steps are birth to 36 months who have medical conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and hearing/vision impairment, as well as children with significant developmental delays.  Research definitively shows that the earlier we are able to provide Early Steps services to these children, the more likely they will be to achieve their full lifelong potential and succeed at home, at school, and in life.  Failing to provide the services in a timely manner has grave consequences not only for the children and their families, but also for taxpayer pocketbooks.
This week, with the House bill (CS/HB 943) stalled after being heard in only one committee, the contents of CS/SB 7034 was amended onto a must-pass bill (CS/SB 7058), voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and placed on the Special Order Calendar.  Now, in addition to including Early Steps language, the bill conforms state law to the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was reauthorized by Congress last year.  If it (or another bill with similar provisions) does not pass, the state will lose more than $250 million used to fund the Florida School Readiness Program, which serves more than 200,000 children.
CS/SB 7034 (the stand-alone Senate Early Steps bill) is on the Senate calendar, awaiting consideration by the full Senate.
Advocates are working to get at least one of the three vehicles for bringing definition, clarity, and accountability to the Early Steps Program passed this year.
Last year, Congress reauthorized the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG).  If Florida fails to pass legislation conforming state law to the new federal law, it will lose more than $250 million in federal funding used to support Florida's School Readiness Program, which serves more than 200,000 children.
The House bill implementing the new CCBDG requirements (CS/HB 7053) passed the House last Thursday.
Yesterday, the Senate companion bill (CS/SB 7058) passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.  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.
In a surprise move, an amendment was filed on Wednesday and approved by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday adding the provisions of the Senate's Early Steps bill (CS/SB 7034) to CS/SB 7058. The provisions are extremely important to the future, efficient functioning of the Early Steps program that serves more than 40,000 children 0-3 years old with developmental disabilities or delays.
As mentioned above, CCDBG legislation is must-pass legislation this year.  Before the Early Steps language was added to the Senate bill, the House and Senate bills were largely aligned and ready to be passed and sent to the Governor.  Addition of the Early Steps language to the Senate bill means that - if it passes as-is off the Senate floor - it will have to be reconsidered by the House.  If the House does not accept the Early Steps language, then the bill will have to go back to the Senate to again be voted upon by that chamber.
ALICEALICE: Jobs and Employment
Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop, yet its under-employment rate is now one of the worst in the nation. The ALICE Report highlights many of the
consequences of low-wage jobs and under-employment.  This year's CFED Scorecard finds that not only does Florida have a higher rate of low-wage jobs than almost any other state, but that we have the lowest rate of retirement savings (38.3%) in the entire nation (45.8%). This is a systemic problem with long-term consequences that no single company or group can solve.  Thankfully, United Way and others have identified a variety of tools and solutions to begin to give hope for employees and employers alike.
"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is." -- Yogi Berra
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
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/CS/HB 11 creates three "Project Leo" pilot projects, with the first serving Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwanee Counties, the second serving Palm Beach County, and the third serving Hillsborough County. 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), the second project will be developed and administered by CARD at the Florida Atlantic University (CARD FAU), and the third project will be developed and administered by CARD at the University of South Florida (CARD USF).
The bill directs CARD UF, CARD FAU, and CARD USF 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, CARD FAU, or CARD USF. Each center's criteria must, at a minimum, consider the individual's risk of elopement.
LAST ACTION:  2/17/16  HOUSE  Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.
MentalHealthMental Health & Substance Abuse Overhaul
CS/SB 12 is a comprehensive bill that 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.
LAST ACTION: 2/18/16  SENATE   Favorable with CS by Appropriations.
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: 2/17/16 SENATE Favorable by Rules.
DirectPrimaryCareDirect Primary Care
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; and/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 direct primary care practices also include routine preventative services, like lab tests, mammograms, Pap screenings, and vaccinations.

CS/CS/SB 132 provides that a direct primary care agreement is not insurance and is not subject to the Florida Insurance Code.
LAST ACTION:  2/17/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Fiscal Policy.
DentalCareDental Care: Underserved Areas
CS/CS/HB 139 requires the Department of Healt(DOH) to develop and implement a dental care access account initiative to benefit dentists employed by a publihealth program or committeto opening a private practice capablof serving at least 1,200 patients in a "dental health professional shortage area" or medically underserved area.

The bill requires DOH to implement an electronic benefits transfer system enabling selected dentists to spend awarded funds on:
  • repayment of dental school student loans;
  • investment in property, facilities, or equipment required to establish and operate a dental office; and
  • transitional expenses associated with relocation or opening a dental practice.
Each award may not be less than $10,000 or exceed $100,000.
LAST ACTION: 2/17/16  HOUSE  Favorable by Health and Human Services Committee.
HealthyFoodFinancingHealthy Food Financing
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/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 under-served 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: 2/18/16  HOUSE  Favorable with CS by State Affairs Committee.
MentalorPhysicalDisabilitiesMental or Physical Disabilities
SB 356 removes prejudice based on mental or physical disability as a factor for reclassifying a criminal offense or having a civil cause of action under Florida's hate crimes statute.  The bill reclassifies the felony or misdemeanor degree of an offense if the commission of the offense evidences prejudice based on any of 10 specified characteristics of the victim, including mental or physical disability.  It also provides that a person or organization that is coerced, intimidated, or threatened in violation of the statute has a civil cause of action.
The bill also creates "Carl's Law," establishing a separate hate crime statute specifically for crimes evidencing prejudice based on mental or physical disability.
According to the Florida Attorney General's Office, in 2014 (the latest year for which data is reported), there were two reported hate crimes in Florida motivated by the victim's mental disability (2.7% of reported hate crimes).  No hate crimes were reported under the physical disability category.
LAST ACTION: 2/17/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
JuvenileCivilCitationsJuvenile Civil Citations
CS/SB 408 requires a law enforcement officer to issue a civil citation or require the juvenile's participation in a similar diversion program for the following enumerated first-time "misdemeanor offenses":
  • possession of alcoholic beverages by a minor;
  • battery, provided the victim approves of the issuance of the civil citation or similar diversion program;
  • petit theft;
  • retail theft;
  • affrays and riots;
  • disorderly conduct;
  • possession of cannabis or other controlled substances;
  • use, possession, sale, manufacture, delivery, transportation, advertisement, or retail sale of drug paraphernalia; and
  • resisting an officer without violence.
The bill permits the issuance of a civil citation or similar diversion program for:
  • a first-time misdemeanor offense that is not one of the enumerated "misdemeanor offenses;" or
  • any second or third-time misdemeanor, regardless of whether the offense is considered one of the enumerated "misdemeanor offenses."
A law enforcement officer must provide written documentation articulating why an arrest is warranted if he or she has discretion under the statute to issue a civil citation, but chooses instead to arrest the juvenile.
The bill also provides that the civil citation law, s. 985.12, F.S., does not modify the authority of a law enforcement officer to issue only a simple warning to the juvenile or to notice the juvenile's guardian or parent of the alleged offense.
LAST ACTION:  2/16/16 SENATE  Favorable with CS by Criminal Justice.
FloridaCommissiononPovertyFlorida Commission on Poverty
SB 556 establishes the Florida Commission on Poverty (Commission), assigned to the Department of Economic Opportunity, to serve as an advisory board to the Governor and Cabinet, the Legislature, and appropriate state agencies and entities on matters relating to poverty.  The Commission must conduct a study and develop strategies to address the causes of poverty in Florida, and may procure information and assistance, contract for necessary goods and services, and apply for and accept funds, grants, gifts, and services.
The bill provides for appointment of five voting members and any number of non-voting members to the commission, requires the voting members to be confirmed by the Senate, and provides that members serve 4-year terms. Commission members serve without compensation, but voting members are entitled to reimbursement for per diem and travel expenses.
The Commission must submit an annual report to the Governor, President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  The report must contain an accounting of the Commission's activities, and any recommendations by the Commission for legislative, administrative, or regulatory reforms for the purpose of mitigating poverty in Florida.
LAST ACTION: 2/16/16  SENATE  Favorable by Commerce and Tourism.
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/SB 580 authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration 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: 2/18/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations.
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/CS/HB 599 is a comprehensive bill that, among others:
  • requires Community Based Care lead agencies (CBCs) 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;
  • removes the requirement to develop and implement a two-pronged assessment for placement and services, and creates a workgroup to evaluate whether the state should develop an initial assessment to help make appropriate initial placements;
  • requires a quality rating system for group homes and foster homes to be implemented by July 1, 2018; and
  • requires CBCs to do a plan for managing group home utilization, including specific targets for reductions over a five-year period if the CBC has utilization over eight percent.
LAST ACTION: 2/17/16  HOUSE Favorable with CS by Health and Human Services Committee.
ChildProtectionTeamChild Protection Team
CS/SB 670 extends sovereign immunity protections to any physician licensed in this state, who is a medical director for, or a member of, a child protection team, when carrying out duties as a team member.  This is accomplished by adding those physicians to the definition of who is an "officer, employee, or agent" in the sovereign immunity statute.
A child protection team is a group of professionals who receive referrals, primarily from child protective investigators and law enforcement officers, alleging child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.  The medically directed team evaluates the allegations and also provides recommendations for child safety and support services.
LAST ACTION: 2/16/16  SENATE  Favorable by Judiciary.
TempCashAssistanceTemporary Cash Assistance: Immigrants
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.
CS/SB 750 would require income of undocumented immigrant family members to be included in the calculation of Temporary Cash Assistance Program benefits.  This would allow the department to consider the total family income regardless of whether one parent is a non-citizen.
Including the income from undocumented family members would reduce benefits for more than 700 families - and save taxpayers - about $240,000.
LAST ACTION:  2/17/16 SENATE  Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
PublicRecordsPublic Records/Juvenile Criminal History Information
CS/SB 700 addresses inconsistencies between two sections of statute relating to confidential information of juveniles and dissemination of criminal history information by, among others:
  • making the records of juveniles who have committed three or more misdemeanors confidential and exempt (currently they are not);
  • permitting a custodian of public records to choose not to post a juvenile's arrest or booking photograph that is not confidential and exempt on the custodian's website, while maintaining the public's right of access to the photograph;
  • requiring the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to release juvenile criminal history records in a manner that takes into account the records' confidential and exempt status; and
  • specifying how FDLE must release juvenile criminal history records.
LAST ACTION: 2/17/16  SENATE  Favorable with CS by Fiscal Policy.
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: 2/17/18  SENATE  Favorable by Fiscal Policy.
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: 2/18/16 HOUSE  Passed.
StudentswithDisabilitiesStudents with Disabilities: Transition to Work
The John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program (McKay Scholarship Program) provides scholarships for eligible students with disabilities to attend an eligible public or private school of their choice. Currently, a McKay Scholarship student must have direct contact with his or her private school teacher at the school's physical location in order to maintain eligibility.
CS/HB 837 authorizes a private school to establish a transition-to-work program for students participating in the McKay Scholarship Program, which will allow students to earn credits while working off-site.
A student enrolled in a transition-to-work program must receive 15 hours of academic instruction and work skills training at a private school. The student must also participate in 10 hours of work at the student's work experience program.  Consequently, the student does not need to have regular and direct contact with the teacher at the private school's physical location.
To participate in a transition-to work-program, a business must maintain and provide accurate records of the student's performance and hours worked and comply with all state and federal child labor laws.
LAST ACTION: 2/17/16 HOUSE  Passed.
MedicaidDentalServicesMedicaid Dental Services
SB 994 removes dental services as a required benefit from the Medicaid Managed Assistance (MMA) component of the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program, effective March 1, 2019. The bill requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to provide the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 1, 2016, a comprehensive report that examines how effective managed care plans within MMA have been in improving access, satisfaction, delivery, and value in dental services.  The report must also examine historical trends in costs, utilization, and rates by plan and in the aggregate.
The Legislature may use the report to determine the scope of dental benefits in the Medicaid program in future managed care procurements and whether to provide dental benefits separate from medical benefits.  If the Legislature takes no action before July 1, 2017, AHCA is directed to implement a statewide competitive procurement for a separate dental program for children and adults with a choice of at least two vendors.  Such dental care contracts must be for five years, be non-renewable, and include a medical loss ratio provision consistent with the requirement for health plans in the SMMC program.
LAST ACTION:  2/18/16  SENATE  Favorable by Appropriations.
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 serves as the central point of contact within state government for homelessness.
CS/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;
  • 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;
  • requires SOH to distribute grant funds based on lead agencies' performance and achievement of specified objectives;
  • directs SOH, subject to available funding, to provide support to the managing entities' efforts to address the needs of the homeless populations within their geographic service areas; and
  • adds managing entities as one of the organizations that should be given the opportunity to participate in local homeless coalitions that are established by SOH.
LAST ACTION:  2/17/16  HOUSE  Favorable with CS by Appropriations Committee.


Session Dates

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