Budget Outlook The potential for general revenue shortfalls in the next few years has become the backdrop framing current budget discussions. By 2018 lawmakers fear they could be $1.4 billion short of how much they will need to cover expected spending, with a $1.9 billion hole projected in 2019. Plans for a budget exercise were unveiled by House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, as he tried to stress the chamber’s message that the state budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be incredibly tight. “Our real goal and our real task throughout the course of this committee and throughout the course of this year is going to be finding ways to cut, to save in order for us to meet our long-term financial obligations,” Trujillo said (Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida January 10, 2017).
With that scenario, House subcommittee budget chairs were given a budget exercise from House leadership to examine the current state budget and propose preliminary funding reductions. Each subcommittee had to submit two plans (A & B) with a target reduction amount. On March 15, 2017, the chairs of the budget subcommittees presented their Plans A and B budget reduction exercise to Chair Carlos Trujillo. The House proposed budget reduction lists will be considered during the last week of March. However, the House budget committee is proposing a $1.4 billion reduction ($573.8 million in health care, $485 million in education, and $275 million in the justice budget).
Some of the proposed reductions at this point include:
In addition several special projects, including Help Me Grow were not recommended for funding.
On March 8, 2017, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services presented its initial Budget Reduction Proposal. Some of the highlights:
The Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations – Chair Proposed Reductions was released on March 8, 2017. The total proposed cuts were $46.3 million from State Board of Education Administration ($36.2 million) and Mentoring Programs ($10 million).
The Senate Subcommittee On Criminal And Civil Justice Appropriations Chairman’s Proposed Budget Reductions was released on March 8, 2017. The Total General Revenue cuts were $46 million ($3.2 million from the Juvenile Redirection Program).
These budget reduction exercises and proposals differ greatly from the Governor’s recommended budget. At the end of January, Governor Rick Scott’s 2017-2018 Budget entitled “Fighting for Florida’s Future” outlined proposed budgets for children and families in education, health and human services, and juvenile justice: $1.1 billion in funding for early child education and care which is more than a $36 million increase over current year funding, increases in community-based care, including mental health services, increased supports for Floridians with developmental disabilities, and an expansion of prevention and workforce education programs for youth, as well as additional residential beds in the Department of Juvenile Justice.
SCHOOL READINESS AND EARLY GRADE SUCCESS
Early Learning Bills
A bill relating to reading instruction HB 79 filed by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was reported favorably by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee on March 14, 2017. The Committee Substitute deleted the requirement that the Office of Early Learning (OEL) identify guidelines for reading instruction strategies and provisions related to early warning systems. SB 656 filed by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is awaiting its first hearing in the Education Committee. The bill revises duties of the Just Read, Florida! Office relating to reading instruction, training, and research; revises data and monitoring requirements for school improvement plans and early warning systems; revises parent notification requirements relating to students with reading deficiencies; revises requirements and standards for teacher training and professional certificates and endorsements; revises requirements and criteria for remediation and identification of students with reading deficiencies; and revises reporting requirements relating to school improvement and accountability.
SB 78 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on March 16, 2017 and placed on the Calendar for floor action. The bill will require school districts to provide 20 minutes of unstructured recess for Kindergarten-5th grade students. It’s House companion, HB 67 by Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville) is awaiting action in its first committee of reference, the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
SB 358 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on March 16, 2017 and placed on the Calendar for floor action. The House companion, HB 1327, by Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg) is awaiting action in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee. The bill authorizes the Department of Children and Families to approve receiving systems for behavioral health care; deletes an obsolete provision requiring a report by the department and the Agency for Health Care Administration; requires the department to post certain data on its website; and specifies that certain court hearings must be scheduled within 5 court working days unless a continuance is granted.
The Florida Consortium of Advocates for Infants and Toddlers, Florida’s Part C/Early Intervention Program, identified 3 priority issues for the 2017 session.
Support the Association of Early Learning Coalition’s priority to restore greater flexibility in determining eligibility based on local needs.
SB 1044 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on March 13, 2017 and now heads to Judiciary. The bill provides that central abuse hotline information may be used for the employment screening of residential group home caregivers; and requires a court to inquire as to the identity and location of a child’s legal father at the shelter hearings; requires a court to consider maltreatment allegations against a parent in an evidentiary hearing relating to a dependency petition; and requires a court to conduct an inquiry under oath the inquiry to determine the identity or location of an unknown parent after the filing of a termination of parental rights petition.
HB 1121 by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine) is similar to SB 1044, was reported favorably in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee on March 13, 2017 and now heads to the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill provides that central abuse hotline information may be used for the employment screening of residential group home caregivers; and requires the court to inquire as to the identity and location of the child’s legal father at shelter hearings; requires the court to consider maltreatment allegations against parents in evidentiary hearings relating to dependency petitions; and requires the courts to conduct an inquiry under oath to determine the identity or location of the unknown parent after the filing of a termination of parental rights petition.
SB 1400 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21, 2017. The bill requires a parent whose actions have caused harm to a child who is adjudicated to be dependent, to submit to a substance abuse disorder assessment or evaluation, and to participate in and comply with treatment and services; requires the Department of Health to establish a hormonal long-acting reversible contraception (HLARC) program, and requires the Department of Children and Families to develop or adopt one or more initial screening assessment instruments to identify and determine the needs of, and plan services for, substance exposed newborns and their families.
The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee approved HB 7075 (formerly PCB CFS 17-02) – Child Welfare Bill on March 13, 2017. The bill revises the definition of “Permanency Goal”; extends the jurisdiction of the dependency court over young adults with a disability until the age of 22; requires transition plans to be approved by the court before a child’s 18th birthday, requires the transition plan to be attached to the case plan and updated before each judicial review; allows the court to use “maintain and strengthen” placement in the child’s home as a permanency goal; requires DCF to ensure the quality of contracted services and programs as well as the availability of an adequate array of services available to be delivered; and requires DCF to develop, in collaboration with lead agencies and other child welfare stakeholders, a statewide quality rating system for foster homes and providers of residential group care.
Foster Care/Driver’s Licenses for Children in Foster Care
B 217 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on March 16, 2017.
SB 60 By Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on March 16, 2017 and placed on the Special Order Calendar for floor action on March 21, 2017.;The bill expands the program to include, under certain conditions, children in non-licensed out-of-home care who have reached permanency or turned 18. The bill requires the child’s transition plan and the court to assist the child in obtaining a driver license.
SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Criminal Justice Committee on March 13, 2017 and now heads to Judiciary. The bill requires DCF or a sheriff’s office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims or commercial sexual exploitation. The bill has been referred to three committees and is scheduled to be heard in its second committee, the Judiciary Committee on March 22. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) is a similar bill which has not yet been referred to committees. It is awaiting a hearing in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.
HB 65 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) and SB 286 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) has been introduced which will require the inclusion of human trafficking instruction in the training provided to school district personnel. The House bill has been referred to 3 committees and is awaiting action in the Prek-12 Quality Subcommittee. SB 286 is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21, 2017.
SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) which requires DCF or a sheriff’s office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims or commercial sexual exploitation was reported favorably by the Criminal Justice Committee on March 13, 2017. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) is a similar bill and is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee on March 20, 2017.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
HB 779 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) was reported favorably by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 15, 2017 and now heads to Judiciary. The bill removes a statement of applicability relating to violations of carrying concealed weapon or firearm; reduces penalties applicable to persons licensed to carry concealed weapons or firearms for a first or second violation of specified provisions relating to openly carrying weapons; makes fines payable to clerks of court; provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapon or firearm do not violate certain provisions if firearms are temporarily and openly displayed. The Senate companion, SB 646 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is awaiting action in the Judiciary Committee.
HB 849 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) was reported favorably in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 15, 2017, and now heads to the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. The bill provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapon and concealed firearm are not prohibited by specified laws from carrying firearms on certain private school property. There is no Senate companion to the bill.
Witness to Murder Bills
SB 550 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was passed by 2 of the 4 committees of reference. It awaits action in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. The House companion, HB 111 by Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) and Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-Cutler Bay) was reported favorably in its last committee, the Judiciary Committee, on March 16, 2017. The bill provides that the personal identifying information of a witness to a murder remains confidential and exempt for 2 years; provides an exemption from public records requirements for criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information that reveals the personal identifying information of a witness to a murder for 2 years, and provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption.
Children and Families in Poverty
HB 2154 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) provides an appropriation for the United Way of Florida – Financial Literacy and Prosperity Program. ALICE refers to the population in our communities that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. The ALICE population represents those among us who are working, but due to child care costs, transportation challenges, high cost of living and so much more, are living paycheck to paycheck. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee on March 21, 2017.
HB 581 by Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) relating to Family Self-Sufficiency was reported favorably in the House Appropriations Committee on March 15, 2017 and now heads to Health and Human Services Committee. The bill authorizes changes to public assistance policy and federal food assistance waivers to conform to federal law; establishes food assistance program eligibility standards for initial applications and re-certifications after January 1, 2018; requires DCF to implement asset verification services to verify eligibility for public assistance; requires Career Source Florida, Inc., to contract with a vendor to develop a pilot program to increase employment among certain persons receiving temporary cash assistance; and provides appropriations. The Senate companion, SB 1016 by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) has been referred to 4 committees, and is awaiting a hearing in the Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Youth Ambassadors Award,
March 15, 2017
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Youth Ambassadors are youth in the state of Florida who have turned their lives around for the better after contact with the juvenile justice system. These ambassadors serve as mentors and role models for other at-risk kids throughout the state. The Secretary of DJJ Christina K. Daly, the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation and members of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association and partners honored the 2017 DJJ Youth Ambassadors at a reception at Florida’s Historic Capitol on March 15, 2017. The recipients of this year’s award were Jesus Mendoza and Alyssa Beck. Youth Ambassadors received a certificate and Youth Investment Award from the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), which is the direct support organization for DJJ. This is the seventh year that DJJ has recognized Youth Ambassadors.
Children’s Week – March 26-31
Children’s Week brings together many non-profits at the Capitol under “One Voice” to support children’s issues and advocate for the full spectrum of children’s services and needs. Local coordinators also plan and implement various events in their communities to symbolize the unity of Florida’s statewide child advocacy efforts.
Children’s Week has also unified community events and activities statewide, bringing thousands of parents, children, legislators, professionals, community leaders and concerned citizens together to share valuable knowledge and information about children’s issues in each community across the state.