BUDGETS AND CHILDREN’S BILLS MOVE FORWARD
Nearing the mid-point of the legislative session, the House and Senate full appropriations committees debated and passed their budgets this week, while the early learning and child welfare bills moved a step closer to passage. The booster seat bill, which had not been heard in the House for several years, received its first House committee hearing, and following months of calls and hard work by dedicated advocates, the Senate KidCare bill, SB 282 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah), was finally passed by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday, March 25. The bill would allow children of legal immigrants, who have lived in the United States less than five years, to be eligible for KidCare. Dozens of advocates flocked to the capitol to witness the bill’s hearing and testify in favor of it, including the Florida Hospital Association, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, The United Methodist Church, United Way, Florida CHAIN, KidsWell Florida, Florida Impact, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida Legal Services, Florida Children’s Council, The Children’s Trust and Florida Now.
APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES TAKE UP BUDGETS
On Wednesday, March 26, the House Appropriations Committee discussed and passed its $75.3 billion budget. Unlike last year’s spending plan, this budget passed with some bipartisan support with four Democrats supporting the Republican-crafted product. The main points of objection for most Democrats were again the decision of House leadership to forgo expanding the Medicaid program for low income, adult Floridians, as well as what they cited as an insufficient level of per student funding in the K-12 education system. Chairman Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) expressed optimism that the nearly $400 million difference between the House and Senate budgets could be easily resolved. The following day, Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their committee’s budget. Unlike its House counterpart, the $74.9 billion Senate spending plan was approved unanimously, with all Democrats signaling their support.
Immediately following their committee approvals, the Senate appropriations plan was filed as SB 2500, while the House budget, which will eventually become the official 2014-15 General Appropriations Act, was filed as HB 5001. Both will head to their respective floors next week for approval by their full bodies. During this time, there may be more amendments added. Finally, the budgets will have to be reconciled during the Budget Conference process. Stay tuned to future Capitol Connections for more detailed budget comparisons and coverage of this critical phase of the legislative session.
Early Learning Bills Pass Committees
HB 7069 by Chair Marlene O’Toole (R-The Villages) and the House Education Committee, was passed by the Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday, March 24. The bill, which addresses early learning health and safety standards, licensing, and more was passed with little debate or discussion. It will be heard next by the full House Appropriations committee on Wednesday, April 2, at 2:30 PM. Some notable components of the bill include the following:
The bill’s companion, SB 7114 by Chair John Legg’s (R-Lutz) Senate Education Committee, was heard by that same committee on Tuesday, March 25. While the bills are substantially similar, some differences do exist related to the process of notification for egregious health and safety violations and the age eligibility of a School Readiness practitioner. The Senate bill also provides DCF with the rulemaking authority to define substantial compliance for monitoring of license-exempt facilities that receive public funds. An amendment was added that would require at least 50 percent of child care personnel to be trained in first aid and child CPR. The bill was passed without discussion or debate. On Thursday, the bill received a new number, SB 1702, and will likely receive a new committee assignment.
Florida KidCare Program
Thanks to your tireless efforts, Sen. Rene Garcia’s SB 282 has finally passed the Senate Health Policy Committee. However, more effort is needed to push this bill and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz’s HB 7 closer to the finish line.
Please call or email the chairs and other members of the committees below and ask them to support the bills.
|House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee||Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee|
|Chair Matt Hudson (R-Naples)||Chair Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring)|
|Rep. MaryLynn Magar (R-Tequesta)||Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach)|
|Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa)||Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers)|
|Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford)||Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton)|
|Rep. Neil Combee (R-Polk City)||Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville)|
|Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach)||Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon)|
|Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola)||Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee)|
|Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs)||Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples)|
|Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-New Port Richey)||Sen. Christopher Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale)|
|Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach)||Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood)|
|Rep. Elaine Schwartz (D-Hollywood)||Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine)|
|Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven)|
Newborn Health Screening
SB 722 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was passed unanimously by the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 25. The bill, which now goes to its final committee, Senate Judiciary, will allow the State Public Health Laboratory to release the results of a newborn’s hearing and metabolic tests or screenings to the newborn’s health care practitioner, a term which is expanded to include a physician or physician assistant, osteopathic physician or physician assistant, advanced registered nurse practitioner, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, midwife, speech-language pathologist or audiologist, or a dietician or nutritionist. An amendment was added that would require an audiologist, who has diagnosed a child with a hearing impairment, to ask the child’s parents if they would like to receive direct correspondence from a qualified Early Steps provider.
Its companion, HB 591 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie) was passed unanimously by its final committee, House Health and Human Services, on Thursday, March 20.
House Committee Passes Comprehensive Child Welfare Reform Proposed Committee Bill
The Healthy Families Subcommittee released its long-discussed committee bill, PCB HFS 14-03 on “Child Protection and Child Welfare Services.” The bill, which had been robustly work-shopped during the last few meetings, will now receive a bill number and committee assignments. Some differences noted by Chair Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie) in the newest version of the bill include:
Meanwhile, the suite of child welfare bills in the Senate (SB 1666, SB 1668, SB 1670), which had been postponed to ensure that the bills addressed some of the issues raised by the recent Miami Herald investigation, will be heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 2, at 1 PM.
Motor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care
SB 744 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) passed its third committee, Senate Banking and Insurance, on Tuesday, March 25. Its last assignment is Senate Appropriations. The bill would establish a statewide pilot program to pay for the costs of driver education, licensure, and the costs incidental to licensure, as well as motor vehicle insurance for a child in licensed out-of-home care.
Also on Tuesday, its companion, HB 977 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow), was passed unanimously by the House Healthy Families Subcommittee. Thomas Fair, from Florida Youth Shine, testified on his struggles of not being able to attend driver’s education, afford auto insurance, or lend his car to his fellow uninsured former foster care roommates. The committee also heard from Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the statewide Guardian ad Litem program, who stated that less than 3 percent of children who age out of foster care have a drivers license, and as a result, cannot get a job, go to college, or get to high school. The bill now goes to House Health Care Appropriations.
SB 260 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) was read, amended, and placed on Third Reading on Wednesday, March 26. It is scheduled to be heard and voted on by the full Senate on Thursday, April 3. The bill would allow certain unaccompanied youth to consent to medical, dental, psychological, substance abuse, and surgical diagnosis and treatment themselves. Its companion, HB 203 by Rep. Daniel Raulerson (R-Plant City), was passed out of its final committee, House Judiciary, on Thursday, March 27. It will now go to the floor of the House.
SB 768 by Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) was passed unanimously on Monday, March 24 by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill makes many changes with regards to human trafficking:
Its companion, HB 989 by Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, its final assignment.
The Senate Children and Families and Elder Affairs committee is expected to take up PCB HFS 14-02 on Tuesday, continuing the debate regarding whether victims of trafficking should be detained in “secure safe houses” to protect them from returning to their perpetrators, whether creating a system of care with high quality comprehensive services and supports is more appropriate, or whether both are possible, as Chair Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) maintains.
Juvenile Justice, Chapter 985 Rewrite
HB 7055 by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota) was passed by its final committee, House Judiciary, on Thursday, March 27. The bill proposes a variety of changes to Chapter 985 of the Florida Statutes, relating to the Department of Juvenile Justice, its duties, and its programs. The bill will incorporate and align themes of the Roadmap to System Excellence into Chapter 985, by focusing on prevention and rehabilitation and pivoting away from the idea of punishment to consequence and care. Some specific provisions of the bill include:
The bill’s companion, SB 700 by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), is in its final committee of reference, Senate Appropriations.
Juvenile Justice Education Programs
SB 598 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) was passed unanimously by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, March 24. Its companion, HB 173 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach), was passed unanimously by the full House on March 12 and recently received committee assignments after it passed through Messages to the Senate. These bills would enhance transition services by requiring that local school districts, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reentry personnel and local workforce personnel be part of a youth’s transition planning. They would also require that school districts consider the needs of individual youth when they return to school,
and enhance career and technical training. Additionally, these bills seek to improve accountability, enhance access to virtual education, and require state and federal education dollars to follow the youth who generate them.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Child Safety Devices in Motor Vehicles
A bill that would revise booster seat requirements for children, HB 225 by Rep. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), was passed by the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee on Monday, March 24. This is a big milestone as a booster seat bill has not been heard in the House for several years. The bill proposes to require an approved child restraint device for all children less than 7 years of age, if the child is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height. According to the staff analysis, only Florida and South Dakota still allow the use of adult seat belts without a booster seat for children less than 5 years of age. Its companion, SB 518 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) was last heard on March 12 and is now waiting to be voted on by its last committee, Senate Appropriations.
Lobbying of Special Districts
SB 846 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), “Government Ethics” regulates those who lobby certain independent special districts by creating a statute that closely resembles the legislative lobbying provisions and the executive branch lobbying provisions, as well as those used by The Children’s Trust. The bill:
The bill was read, amended, and placed on Third Reading on Wednesday, March 26. It is scheduled to be heard and voted on by the full Senate on Thursday, April 3. It does not currently have a House sponsor.
Special Districts: Chapter 189 Reorganization
HB 1237 by Rep. Larry Metz (R-Groveland) was passed by the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee on Thursday, March 27. It now goes to the Finance and Tax Subcommittee. The bill proposes to reorganize Chapter 189 of the Florida Statutes into eight parts, as well as:
Its companion, SB 1632 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) will be heard by the Senate Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 1.