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Issue 9 | March 14, 2016 

Top News: Legislative Session Ends with Success for United Way Priorities
The Florida House passed HB 5001, General Appropriations Act by a vote of 119-1 and then sent the budget bill to the Senate, where it passed 40-0.

The 2016 Florida Legislative Session concluded 'Sine Die', on Friday, March 11th, ending the 60-day session on time after legislators passed the $82.3 billion state budget bill with a nearly unanimous vote. Governor Scott has seven days from budget passage to veto it. Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda priorities fared well this session. See below for a short summary and read more about budget items of interest here. The final issue of the 2016 United Gazette, featuring bills of interest to United Way that passed and failed, will be published soon.
UW Agenda Priority: EARLY LEARNING
Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole (left), R-The Villages, and Education Appropriations Chair Eric Fresen.
HB 7053 implements the new federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) requirements regarding public information on child care programs and background screening of child care workers; the bill also clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Health and local Early Steps offices regarding screening and treatment for infants and toddlers with suspected developmental delays. HB 1125 extends new CCDBG background screening requirements to all child care personnel.  HB 7029 includes language allowing five year olds to participate in the Voluntary Prekindergarten program.
The Early Learning budget increased by $27.2 M (3%) including: $5.5 M increase to T.E.A.C.H. scholarships for early learning professionals; $4.4 M increase to Child Care Executive Partnership; $1 M increase for Early Learning Professional Development; $5 M increase to Early Learning Performance Funding Pilot; $573,000 increase to Help Me Grow; and $10.8 M increase to School Readiness capacity. Per-child funding level for Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) remains at $2,437.
Please thank Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole and Education Appropriation Chair Erik Fresen for their support of early learning.
House and Senate Transportation/Economic Development (TED) Appropriations Chairs, Rep. Clay Ingram (left) and Sen. Jack Latvala included United Way's free tax prep appropriation in the TED budget.

The state budget includes a $500,000 appropriation for United Way of Florida's 'Financial Literacy and Prosperity Program' of free tax preparation and financial education services. This appropriation will allow United Ways and their community partners in all 67 counties to serve more than 12,000 low-income working families, helping them claim more than $19 million in tax refunds, including more than $5 million in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and saving them more than $1 million in tax preparation fees. Research shows that the EITC is one of the best tools Americans have to lift people out of poverty.
UW Agenda Priority: KIDCARE
KidCare bill sponsor, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, with children's health advocates after the final, unanimous House vote.

After seven years of advocacy by United Way and many state partnersthe Legislature finally eliminated the five-year ban for lawfully residing immigrant children to enroll in the Florida KidCare program. With this change, as many as 17,000 uninsured children statewide will have access to the health care they need. The legislature authorized $28 million in federal funds to pay for this expansion; no additional state revenue is required. The KidCare bill was approved on final passage as part of HB 5101 the Medicaid conforming bill.
Please call or write bill sponsors Senator Rene Garcia and Representative Jose Felix Diaz, as well as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Speaker pro tempore Matt Hudson, to thank them for their support.
Bills of Interest to United Way
Preparing for Sine Die in the Capitol Rotunda.

Several bills of interest that passed in the final week of Session:

SB 12 Mental Health and Substance Abuse: creates a comprehensive, 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.
HB 153 Healthy Food Financing Initiative Pilot Program: provides financial assistance for development or expansion of grocery retail outlets that operate in under-served communities or low income or moderate income communities
SB 590 Adoption: allows judges to place the best interests of children in adoption cases above the biological parents' wishes.
Additional bills of interest to United Way that passed or failed will be featured in the final issue of the 2016 United Gazette.
Quick Links
Questions or Comments?
Contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.