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CalmAftertheStormThe Calm After the Storm
The last 12 months have seen two regular legislative sessions, three special sessions, political gamesmanship at its best/worst, and legislative dysfunction of immense proportions.
Which is why there was such great relief when sine die came and went as scheduled on March 11 following a smooth, cooperative 2016 session.
Unlike last year, the House and Senate worked together, passing 279 of the 1,814 filed bills, timely crafting a 2016-2017 state budget, and achieving their priority goal: getting out on time, so they can hit the campaign trail.
The early session - beginning in January instead of March - worked well; well enough that the Legislature passed a bill (SB 7076) setting January 9 as the first day of the 2018 session.
Florida's United Ways, the partners we work with, and the communities and people we serve had a pretty successful session, highlighted by passage and funding of many of our priority issues.  Read below about those issues and others, and enjoy a long interim!
VetoesVetoes Quick and Light
Governor Scott suffered some big losses during the 2016 session.  He did not get his requested:
  • $1 billion tax cut;
  • $3 billion Seminole Compact;
  • $250 million business incentive fund; or
  • surgeon general confirmation.
As a result, speculation abounded as to whether he would retaliate for these high profile losses by surpassing the $461 million in vetoes he made to last year's budget.
But shortly after session's end, the Governor embarked on a "million, billion jobs victory tour," touting one million new jobs created since 2010 and $1 billion in tax cuts during the last two years resulting from his Florida First Budgets. He then released his veto list before he had even received the budget from the Legislature.
Last week, he signed the budget into law and kept true to his veto list, vetoing $256 million, far less than anticipated and further signaling - as the chambers did during session - that the dysfunction of 2015 is in the past.
StateBudget2016-2017 State Budget
On the final day of the 2016 session, the Legislature fulfilled its sole constitutional responsibility by passing the 2016-2017 state budget. The $82.3 billion budget contained in HB 5001 is 446 pages long with 3,000+ lines of appropriations.  It is about $3.5 billion more than this year's budget.
Some of the United Way's priority budget issues contained in the 2016-2017 budget include:



2016-17 BUDGET
INCR./DECR. Over 2015-16 Budget
Early Learning Performance Funding Pilot Project
Help Me Grow Florida Network
Children-at-risk of school failure - poverty tract
Voluntary Prekindergarten Program
TOTAL Early Learning Services
Healthy Families Florida
Homeless Housing Assistance
Community Care for the Elderly
All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
Pace Center for Girls
Children/Families in Need of Services
United Way of Florida - Financial Literacy and Prosperity Program
Housing Finance Corporation (SAIL)
Housing Finance Corporation (SHIP)

Click here to view major budget items of interest to United Ways and our partners across the state.
PutthePhoneDownPut the Phone Down, Mom and Dad
In one of the first studies on technology habits that includes children's points of view, researchers at the University of Washington and University of Michigan surveyed 249 families with children ages 10 through 17.
The study found that while parents have many rules for their kids, such as "no phones at the dinner table, no phones in church, and no phones during family events, etc.", the parents themselves don't following those rules.
Among others, children also felt that parents should ask permission and talk with them before posting anything on social media about them, but parents felt it was acceptable to put up whatever was on their mind at the moment.
Last year, Congress reauthorized the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The 2016 Florida Legislature had to pass legislation conforming Florida law to the new federal CCDBG standards or lose hundreds of millions of dollars used to provide school readiness services to more than 200,000 low income children.
Fortunately, on the last day of session the legislature passed CS/HB 7053which not only addressed the CCDBG, but also addressed the critically important Early Steps program (see below).
Click here to read an overview of the CCDBG provisions in CS/HB 7053.
EarlyStepsEarly Steps
Children served by the Early Steps program are age 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 to 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.
The 2016 Legislature passed CS/HB 7053 which, among others, delineates the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Health and local Early Steps providers to ensure that $60+ million of taxpayer funds used to provide services to more than 40,000 children are used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Click here to read about the bill's requirements.
KidCarePassesKidCare Passes!
After seven years of advocacy by United Way and many state partners, the 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.
FLlegisSendsFlorida Legislature Sends 3 Tax Proposals to Voters
Three joint resolutions passed by the Legislature this session will allow voters in November to decide if the Florida Constitution should be amended to:
  • authorize the legislature to grant a property tax break to first responders who were disabled in the line of duty (HJR 1009);
  • authorize the Legislature to exempt solar panels or other renewable energy devices from tangible personal property taxes (HJR 193); and
  • allow counties and municipalities to lock in place the value of a home belonging to a senior citizen who is eligible for a property tax break (HJR 275).
The amendments must receive a yes vote from at least 60 percent of voters in order to pass.
AfterSchoolFundingAfter School Funding to Change?
In a move that shocked after school providers who had no notice it was coming, the Senate Education Appropriations Committee proposed to eliminate about $20 million in line item funding for specific organizations providing after school and mentoring services and added $10 million to the pot to create a $30 million Statewide After-Care and Mentoring Competitive Grant Program.  The program would have required all programs providing after school and school supplemental programs to Florida children up to 18 years of age to competitively bid for funding to provide those services.
The House did not agree with the Senate's approach; traditional after school line items were maintained in the final budget and the competitive grant process was jettisoned.
However, saying that politics should be removed from after school and mentoring funding decisions, Senate leaders vowed to re-visit the issue next session.
ChildrensHealthCoverageChildren's Health Coverage: Good & Bad
The Florida Healthy Kids 2015 Report was released in March, and it tells two stories, one good and one not so good.
On one hand, the Report cites a 2015 Georgetown University study showing that Florida had one of the greatest declines in the nation in the number of uninsured children from 2013 to 2014.  The Healthy Kids Report confirms this, noting that the number of uninsured children in Florida decreased by more than 280,000 children since 2008.
On the other hand, almost 400,000 children remain uncovered, a problem that affects their quality of life, their parents' employment, and the cost of healthcare for all of us.
Many of these uninsured children are eligible for subsidized health insurance for as little as $15 or $20 a month - or even nothing at all.  The Report cites 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data showing that approximately 230,000 Florida children under age 18 are likely to be eligible for subsidized coverage, but are not enrolled.
Special Needs/Elopement - Creates three "Project Leo" pilot projects, to provide personal devices that will aid in search-and-rescue efforts for persons with special needs in cases of elopement. CS/SB 230
Mental Health - Creates a coordinated system of care for those suffering from mental illness or substance use disorder through a "No Wrong Door" system of single access points. CS/SB 12
Criminal Records/Minors - Automatically expunges the criminal record when a minor turns 21 if the person had not been classified as a serious or habitual juvenile offender or had not been committed to a juvenile correctional facility or juvenile prison. CS/SB 386
Criminal Records/Minors - Makes the criminal history records of juveniles who have committed three or more misdemeanors confidential and exempt.CS/CS/HB 293
Marriage/Religious Organizations - Allows clergy, churches and religious organizations to refuse  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. SB 110
SNAP - Authorizes operators of fresh produce markets to allow certain vendors to implement and operate electronic benefits transfer systems for accepting SNAP benefits. CS/HB 103
Vehicle Rescue - Provides immunity from civil liability for a good samaritan who enters or damages a motor vehicle to remove a person or domestic animal that is in danger. CS/CS/HB 131
Statuary Hall - Provides for replacing the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection. CS/SB 310
Healthy Food Financing - 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. CS/CS/CS/HB 153
Scope of Practice - Authorizes physician assistants (PAs) and advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances under certain circumstances. CS/HB 977
Bullying - Requires school districts to update their anti-bullying and harassment policies and makes school principals responsible for reviewing and implementing the policies. CS/HB 229
Dentists/Underserved Areas - Requires the Department of Health to develop and implement a dental care access account initiative to benefit dentists employed by a public health program or committed to opening a private practice capable of serving at least 1,200 patients in a "dental health professional shortage area" or medically underserved area. CS/CS/HB 139
Children and Youth Cabinet - Expands the membership of the Children and Youth Cabinet to 16 by adding a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor. HB 241
Hate Crimes/Disability - Creates "Carl's Law," establishing a separate hate crime statute specifically for crimes evidencing prejudice based on mental or physical disability. HB 387
Employment/Disabilities - Establishes a long-term commitment by state agencies to employ the disabled individuals and creates the Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities to promote economic independence and successful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities. CS/HB 7003
Cohabitation - Repeals law making it a second degree misdemeanor for a man and woman to lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together without being married to each other. SB 498
Human Trafficking - 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. CS/CS/HB 545
Dental Services/Children - Authorizes Medicaid reimbursement for remedial dental services provided by a dental hygienist when provided to a Medicaid recipient younger than 21 years of age. CS/SB 580
Adoption - Requires a court to determine whether an adoption is in the best interest of the child. CS/CS/CS/SB 590 
Mental Health - Addresses issues related to administration of psychotropic medications, competency evaluations, and transportation to competency and commitment hearings for mental health forensic clients. CS/CS/HB 769 
Human Trafficking - Increases protections for minors and victims of human trafficking by, among many others, increasing the age of a child victim or witness who may have his or her testimony videotaped or who may testify by closed circuit television from under 16 years of age to under 18 years of age; CS/SB 1294
Dental Services - Removes dental services from the list of minimum benefits that MMA plans must provide, beginning March 1, 2019 and requires implementation of a prepaid dental health plan program for children and adults on the same date unless the Legislature determines otherwise. HB 819
Employment/Disabilities - 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. CS/HB 837
Child Care/Background Screening - Applies new CCDBG background screening requirements to all child care personnel regardless of whether their employer receives federal CCDBG funding. CS/CS/CS/HB 1125
Homeless - Encourages homeless continuums of care to adopt the Rapid ReHousing approach to preventing homelessness for individuals and families who do not require the intense level of support provided in the permanent supportive housing model and requires Rapid ReHousing to be added to the components of a continuum of care plan. CS/SB 1534
Abortion - Requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and prevents state money from going to abortion clinics. CS/CS/HB 1411
Hospital Price Transparency - Requires hospitals and insurance companies to publish the cost of common procedures and quality of care information. CS/CS/HB 1175
Holocaust Memorial - Creates a Florida Holocaust Memorial on state Capitol grounds. SB 716 
Telehealth - Creates a 15-person advisory council made up of health care representatives across several industries to study the issue and report to state lawmakers by October 2017. CS/CS/HB 7087
Principals/Low Performing Schools - Creates a pilot program for select Florida counties that would give principals in low-performing schools discretion in overseeing their schools to improve student achievement and school management. CS/CS/CS/HB 287
Insurance/Down Syndrome - Requires insurance companies to provide health insurance coverage to people with Down Syndrome. CS/CS/CS/HB 221
Needle Exchange - Would let the University of Miami establish a sterile needle and syringe exchange program in Miami-Dade County. CS/CS/SB 242
Competency-Based Education - Sets up a five-year pilot program starting in 2016-17 for Pinellas, Palm Beach, Lake and Seminole Counties to let students advance through school if they can prove they've mastered lessons.CS/CS/HB 1365
Juvenile Detention Costs - Requires a 50-50 split of juvenile detention costs between counties and the state and requires counties to drop previous legal claims against the state. CS/SB 1322
Discrimination - Created the "Florida Competitive Workforce Act" and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations. HB 45
Intimate Apparel - Prohibited retail stores from allowing a customer to try on intimate apparel in the store unless it is tried on over clothing or with a disposable shield; prohibited a retail store from selling intimate apparel that has been tried on in violation of the prohibition. SB 104
After School - Exempted certain nonprofit after school providers from state health, safety and background screening requirements. HB 133
Plastic Bags - Authorized a municipality with a population of fewer than 100,000 people and which qualifies as a "coastal community" to establish a pilot program to regulate or ban disposable plastic bags. SB 306
Confederate Flag - Banned display of Confederate flags or emblems from 1860 through 1865 on publicly owned or leased property. SB 154 and HB 243
After School - Exempted certain nonprofit after school providers from state health, safety and background screening requirements. CS/SB 156
Social Media/Employers - Prohibited employers from requiring or requesting an employee or a prospective employee to provide a user name, password, or other means of accessing a social media account, unless it is an account used for business purposes. CS/SB 186
Sick Leave - Created the "Florida Healthy Working Families Act" that required certain employers to provide employees with earned sick and safe leave under certain conditions. HB 205
Care of a Child - Allowed a parent or legal guardian of a child to delegate by power of attorney certain authority regarding the care and custody of a child to an agent volunteering through a qualified nonprofit organization for a period not to exceed one year. CS/CS/CS/HB 259
Council on Poverty - Established the Florida Council on Poverty as an advisory council to review policies and programs that work to move people out of poverty. CS/SB 556
Immigrants/TANF - Required income of undocumented immigrant family members to be included in the calculation of Temporary Cash Assistance Program (TANF) benefits. CS/CS/HB 563
Child Welfare - Comprehensive bill that, among others, required Community Based Care leadagencies to provide a continuum of care and required DCF to specify the minimum services available through contract. CS/CS/HB 599
Child Protection - Extended 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. CS/SB 670
Immigrants/Sanctuary City - Would have forced local governments and officials to comply with federal immigration authorities at a level not mandated or funded by the federal government. SB 872
Pay for Success - Established a pay-for-success contract program. HB 1049
Reading Instruction - Expanded public school reading requirements relating to interventions and instructional supports, teacher certification and training, and school improvement and accountability. SB 1068
Nonprofit Compensation - Prohibited an employee of a nongovernmental organization receiving a portion of its budget from state-appropriated funds, to receive higher compensation than the salary paid to the highest paid secretary, department director, or supervisor of a comparable state agency who directly supervises a similar number of employees. HB 1109
Music Education - Established the three-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. HB 1253
After School - Exempted certain nonprofit after school providers from state health, safety and background screening requirements. HB 1423
School Readiness - Created Florida Mission Readiness Commission to assess readiness of infants, children, teens, and young adults to grow up to meet the challenges of adulthood. HB 1429
Child Transport/Alarms - Required that certain vehicles used to transport children must be equipped with an approved alarm system that prompts the driver to check the interior and exterior of the vehicle for the presence of children before leaving the area.  SB 1676
Term Limits - Changed term limits for members of Legislature from eight to 12 years, subject to voter approval. HJR 711
Certificate of Need - Ended the requirement that hospitals gain state approval that there will be sufficient demand before constructing or expanding the number of beds in a facility. HB 437
Certificate of Need - Exempted health care facilities from a state licensing program if they provide more charity care to uninsured people than the average facility in their area. SB 1144 
Surgical Centers - Allowed ambulatory surgical centers to keep patients for 24 hours and created recovery care centers to house patients for 72 hours after surgery. HB 85
Primary Care - Allowed people to contract with doctors for primary care, cutting out the middle man of an insurance company. CS/CS/HB 37
Standardized Testing - Allowed districts and parents to choose alternative standardized tests for their students in lieu of the Florida Standards Assessments. CS/SB 1360
School Recess - Required elementary schools to offer 20 minutes of recess each school day. HB 833
Open Primaries - Allowed voters with no party affiliation to vote in party primaries, including races with write-in candidates. SB 1698
Judicial Terms - Created 12-year term limits for Supreme Court and appeals court judges, subject to voter approval. CS/HJR 197
Open Carry - Allowed people with concealed weapons licenses in Florida to carry those weapons openly in public areas and in private businesses that allow it. CS/CS/CS/HB 163
Guns on Campus - Allowed people with concealed weapons licenses to carry concealed weapons on state college and university campuses. SB 68
Stand Your Ground - Shifted burden of proof in self-defense cases to prosecutors, who would have had to prove why defendants could not use the "stand your ground" law as a defense. HB 169
Direct File/Minors - Required prosecutors to seek court approval to try juveniles as adults unless juveniles are charged from list of most serious offenses. CS/HB 129
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