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ISSUE 7 | FEBRUARY 26, 2016
ConferenceToBeginConference To Begin
Late last week, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent a memo to House members saying, "It is my hope that we will begin conference early next week."
While conference had not begun as this Legislative Link went to press on Friday, Thursday evening Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli released a joint statement that they "...are pleased with the progress President Lee and Chair Corcoran have made and are optimistic we will be ready to begin the budget conference this weekend."
Two weeks remain in the regular session and one of the highest legislative priorities is to get out on time.  With last night's announcement, it appears legislators are well positioned to accomplish that goal.
"I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places.  He told me to quit going to those places."  -- Henny Youngman
FLuntappedworkforceFlorida's Untapped Workforce: People with Disabilities
With an estimated two million additional jobs needed in Florida by 2030, its future workforce must include an underutilized one.  A Florida Chamber of Commerce report  released earlier this year estimates the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities was 18.4 percent in 2014, nearly three times higher than the state's 6.3 percent unemployment rate the same year.
The benefits of employing the disabled are manifold.  It is a win-win for employers, the disabled, the economy, and taxpayers.
Did you know?  The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised their visors to reveal their identity.
CCDBGCCDBG/Early Steps Pass Senate
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. The day before, the Senate companion bill (CS/SB 7058passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Like its House companion, the bill, 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.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also amended the bill to include the contents of the Senate's Early Steps bill (CS/SB 7034).
Yesterday, the Senate brought both bills to the floor, replaced all of the language in CS/HB 7053 with the contents of CS/SB 7034 (both the CCDBG and Early Steps provisions), and passed CS/HB 7053.  As a result, CS/HB 7053 will now go back to the House for its reconsideration and vote.
(Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
MentalHealthSubstanceAbuseMental Health & Substance Abuse Overhaul
CS/SB 12 is a comprehensive bill that, among many others, 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: 2/24/16  SENATE  Passed as amended; HOUSE  in messages.
MissingPersonsSpecialNeedsMissing 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/SB 230 creates three "Project Leo" pilot projects, with the first serving Alachua, Baker, Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee 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: 2/24/16  HOUSE  Passed as amended; SENATE in returning messages.
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 school principals 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: 2/24/16  SENATE Favorable with CS by Fiscal Policy.
PublicRecordsPublic Records/Juvenile Criminal History
CS/CS/HB 293 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);
  • making the list of juvenile records that are not confidential identical in two previously conflicting statutes;
  • 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: 2/14/2016  HOUSE Passed as amended.
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; 2/24/16 HOUSE  Passed.
JuvenileCivilCitationsJuvenile Civil Citations
CS/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: 2/24/16 SENATE  Favorable with CS by Children, Families and Elder Affairs.
HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking
CS/CS/HB 545 addresses human trafficking and offenses that are often associated with human trafficking.  Among others, the bill:
  • removes persons under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution;
  • provides that sexually exploiting a child in prostitution should be viewed as human trafficking, and ensures that children involved in prostitution are viewed as victims, not culprits;
  • adds faith-based programs on the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking to the educational programs that a person convicted of soliciting prostitution must attend if such programs exist in their respective judicial district;
  • increases the penalties for knowingly renting space to be used for prostitution;
  • adds human trafficking as a qualifying felony for first degree murder in the commission of a felony;
  • clarifies that branding a victim of human trafficking is a human trafficking offense; and
  • adds racketeering to the qualifying offenses for a sexual predator or sexual offender if a judge makes written findings that racketeering activity involved at least one sexual offense included in the definition of sexual predator or sexual offender.
LAST ACTION:  2/24/16  House Enrolled.
TemporaryCashAssistanceTemporary Cash Assistance: Immigrants
CS/CS/SB 750 provides that the income of an illegal noncitizen, or ineligible noncitizen who is a mandatory member of a family, counts in full for determining if the family of a new applicant or a person reapplying is eligible to participate in the Temporary Cash Assistance Program.  The provision would take effect July 1, 2016.
LAST ACTION: 2/24/16  SENATE Favorable with CS By Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
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 2/18/16 HOUSE  Passed; 2/23/16  SENATE in messages.
BehavioralHealthWorkforceBehavioral Health Workforce
The Institute of Medicine 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/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:  2/24/16 SENATE Favorable with CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
EligibilityforEmploymentEligibility for Employment as Child Care Personnel
CS/SB 1420 disqualifies from employment with a child care provider any person who is registered as a sex offender under federal law.  It also disqualifies anyone who has been arrested, is awaiting final disposition, or has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to, or has been adjudicated delinquent and the record has not been sealed or expunged for any felony or misdemeanor referenced in the federal child care criminal background check law or any felony or misdemeanor enumerated in Florida's Level 1 and Level 2 employment screening statutes.
The bill also requires that any person employed by a child care provider on July1, 2016, who has been granted an exemption to a disqualification from employment must be rescreened no later than August1, 2016.
LAST ACTION: 2/22/16 SENATE  Favorable by Criminal Justice.
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 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: 2/24/16  HOUSE Passed as amended.
CS/CS/CS/SB 232 expands and renames the Statewide Public Guardianship Office within the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) as the Office of Public and Professional Guardians.  The office is given the additional responsibility to regulate professional guardians, who have not previously been closely regulated by the state.  The newly titled office remains housed within the DOEA and the executive director remains an appointee of the Secretary of the DOEA.
The Office of Public and Professional Guardians is directed to adopt rules to establish standards of practice for public and professional guardians, receive and investigate complaints, establish procedures for disciplinary oversight, conduct hearings, specify penalties, and take administrative action.
LAST ACTION: 2/10/16 SENATE, Passed; 2/24/16  HOUSE Passed as amended.


Session Dates

"I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap." -- Rodney Dangerfield
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