News & Events

Week 7

Week 7 – February 27, 2016


With 2 weeks left until the end of session, House and Senate leadership announced budget conferees and funding allocations on Friday evening. Negotiations will take place between the various committees throughout the weekend, with unresolved issues bumped up to full appropriations chairs, Tom Lee (R-Brandon) and Richard Corcoran (R-Pasco) on Monday at 6 pm. The budget has to be completed by Tuesday, March 8 to allow for the constitutional requirement of a 72-hour cooling-off period before the final vote on the budget if the session is to end on time on March 11. Click here to read Speaker Crisafulli’s memo regarding budget allocations and here to access members of the budget conference committees and meeting times for each committee. House and Senate leaders agreed to a budget outline that severely reduced Governor Scott’s 2 priorities for the session, a $1 billion tax reduction plan and a large $250 million economic incentives package. In the end, members agreed to $400 million in tax cuts and no funding for the Florida Enterprise Fund. Scott’s office responded by stating, “With the Legislature’s action today, there will no longer by incentive funding for major projects to come to Florida…and we are beginning the process of notifying cities across the state that there would be no funding available to help them recruit businesses if the Legislature does not take immediate action to reverse course.” Members explained that after Scott had proposed his plans, state economists had reduced nearly $400 million from estimates of how much revenue the Legislature would have to work with and shrugged at the other possibility that the Governor will use his line item veto pen strongly in the budget again as a consequence.

This past week, the Senate unanimously passed HB 7053 which included combined language relating to the Child Care Development Block Grant (HB 7053) and the Early Steps Program (SB 7058) and sent it back to the House. The bill is awaiting consideration by the full House. Among the flurry of activities was the much anticipated Senate confirmation of the Department of Health (DOH) Surgeon General, Dr. John Armstrong, which was postponed by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on February 23, and rescheduled for March 1.


Early Learning – Child Care Development Block Grant

HB 7053, a bill to bring Florida into statutory compliance with new federal requirements for the School Readiness program was passed by the Senate this week. The bill provides for the drawdown of federal block grant funding for subsidized child care, and directs the Office of Early Learning to develop (through rule making) quality standards for publicly-funded child care, including appropriate group size requirements. The Senate companion, SB 7058 was taken up by the Senate on February 22. SB 7058 was amended in the Appropriations Committee to add the language of SB 7034, the Early Steps bill. SB 7058 was amended to HB 7053 and passed the Senate on a vote of 40:0 on February 23 and immediately certified to the House.

A similar bill, SB 1166 relating to education funding by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) passed favorably in the Appropriations Committee on February 25. The bill includes language relating to background screening and criminal background checks of child care personnel. SB 2502, the Implementing Bill for the 2016-2017 General Appropriations Act also includes language on child care block grant reauthorization which was substituted for HB 5003, Implementing the 2016-2017 Appropriations Act.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Eligibility    

CS/SB 524, initially a bill relating to Higher Education Performance Incentive Program, was amended in the Appropriations Committee on February 26 and became a ‘train’ for several education issues. The amended bill included language (section 7, pp. 13-14) that revised the eligibility for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program to 5 year olds along with the program’s intended 4 year olds. Each child would still only be eligible for one-time participation, but parents would be able to determine whether to enroll children at age 4 or 5. The proposed change does contemplate age limits by setting a hard date of ineligibility for children turning 6 before Feb 1st. This would limit the eligible population to the children that would be younger 5-year-olds that may not be developmentally ready for kindergarten. Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) in his presentation stated that the language is a ‘one-year deferment from the program.’ The bill passed the Appropriations Committee on a vote of 15:3.

Reading Instruction   

The rate of 3rd grade students performing below grade level in reading has consistently exceeded 40 percent over the past several years. SB 1068 attempts to address this situation by expanding public school reading requirements relating to interventions and instructional supports, teacher certification and training, and school improvement and accountability. The bill was amended to: require the use of data from the statewide kindergarten readiness screening to identify students in need of reading interventions and supports; authorize the use of alternative pre- and post-assessments aligned to the performance standards adopted by the Office of Early Learning for the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK); and, to authorize VPK or School Readiness providers to continue offering services during the pendency of an appeal of termination, if such termination if not an emergency termination or a termination for fraud.

The bill was voted favorably in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on February 24. The House companion, CS/CS/HB 7021 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) is awaiting full House consideration.

Child Care Personnel   

CS/HB 1125 by the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee and Rep. Charles McBurney (R-Jacksonville) prohibits the Department of Children and Families (DCF) from granting exemptions for employment to child care personnel who have been identified as a sex offender, or convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor. The bill has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for House consideration on March 1. The Senate companion, SB 1420 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is scheduled to be heard in Rules on February 29.


Florida KidCare Program

HB 89 by Rep. Jose Diaz (R-Miami) that would allow children of lawfully residing immigrants, who have been living in the United States less than five years to be insured under the Florida KidCare program will be heard on the House floor this coming Wednesday. HB 89 extends Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid eligibility to a “lawfully residing child” who meets other eligibility qualifications of the program. The bill specifies that the statutory changes do not extend KidCare eligibility to undocumented immigrants. The Senate companion, SB 248 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) is awaiting a hearing in the full Senate Appropriations Committee (the last stop before heading to the Senate floor). However, SB 2508, the Health Care Services budget conforming bill includes similar language which was substituted for HB 5101 – the Medicaid bill, and will be negotiated in budget conference.

Early Steps Program 

The language in SB 7034 by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs was amended onto SB 7058 on February 18 in the Appropriations Committee and that bill was passed by the full Senate on February 23. The language of SB 7034 was amended to HB 7058 which passed the Senate unanimously on February 23. The bill is now awaiting action by the full House. The bill renames the “Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention Program” as the “Early Steps Program,” sets accountability standards, and revises requirements for the Department of Health (DOH) to maintain a clearinghouse of information for parents and health care providers on developmental evaluation and early intervention programs. The bill also requires the development of an individual family support plan for each child served in the program, and expands eligibility to serve additional children.

Children’s Medical Services

SB 1240 by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) relating to Children’s Medical Services (CMS) eligibility and enrollment, is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. The bill requires the Department of Health to use an appropriate assessment instrument to determine clinical eligibility for the CMS program. It also requires the department to provide notice to a parent or guardian of a child who has been determined clinically ineligible for the CMS program, of the parent’s or guardian’s appeal rights under ch. 120, F.S. The House companion, HB 1117 by Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) is awaiting action in the Health Quality Subcommittee, and will likely not be heard this session.


SB 7087 by the Select Committee on Affordable Healthcare Access and Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) that provides practice standards and registration requirements to provide telehealth services in Florida has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for full House consideration on March 1. A similar bill, CS/SB 1686 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) was passed unanimously by the Appropriations Committee on February 25.

Prepaid Dental Plans

HB 819 by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) passed the House on February 24 on a vote of 100:15.The bill removes dental services from the list of minimum benefits that Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) plans must provide, effective March 1, 2019. Instead, effective July 1, 2017, AHCA must implement a statewide Prepaid Dental Health Plan (PDHP) program for children and adults, and begin enrollment by March 1, 2019. AHCA must contract with at least two licensed dental managed care providers through a competitive procurement process to provide dental benefits. AHCA is authorized to seek any necessary state plan amendment or federal waivers to implement the statewide PDHP program. The bill requires AHCA to prepare a comprehensive report on dental services which must examine the effectiveness of the managed care plans in providing dental care, improving access to dental care and dental health, and achieving satisfactory outcomes for recipients and providers. The bill authorizes the Legislature to use the findings of the report to establish the scope of minimum benefits under the MMA program for future procurements of eligible plans; specifically, the Legislature may use the findings of the report to determine whether dental benefits should be benefits under the MMA program or be provided separately.

The Senate companion, SB 994 by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) is awaiting full Senate action.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

SB 12 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) that addresses Florida’s system for the delivery of behavioral health services passed the Senate on February 24 on a vote of 33:0 and was immediately certified to the House. The bill provides for mental health services for children, parents, and others seeking custody of children involved in dependency court proceedings. The bill 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. The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) are directed to modify licensure requirements to create an option for a single, consolidated license to provide both mental health and substance use disorder services.

Although there is no additional state funding provided, the AHCA and the DCF are directed to develop a plan to increase federal funding for behavioral health care. To the extent possible, the bill aligns the legal processes, timelines, and processes for assessment, evaluation, and receipt of available services of the Baker Act (mental illness) and Marchman Act (substance abuse) to assist individuals in recovery, and reduce readmission to the system.  The duties and responsibilities of the DCF are also revised to set performance measures and standards for managing entities and to allow the agency to enter into contracts with managing entities that support efficient and effective administration of the behavioral health system, as well as to ensure accountability for performance.

CS/HB 7097 by the House Children and Families Subcommittee and Representatives Harrell, Peters and Pilon is awaiting action by the full House. A similar bill, SB 1336 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) is awaiting action in the Appropriations Committee.

Dental Program for Medicaid Eligible Children

SB 580 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) was considered by the full Senate on February 24 and has been placed on Third Reading for final passage on March 2. CS/SB 580 authorizes the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to reimburse a health access setting under the Medicaid program for remedial dental services (remedial tasks) delivered by a dental hygienist when provided to a Medicaid recipient younger than 21 years of age. Remedial tasks are defined as intra-oral tasks that do not create unalterable changes in the mouth or contiguous structures, are reversible, and do not expose the patient to increased risks.

The House companion, CS/HB 595, by Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) is awaiting action by the full House.

Direct Primary Care

CS/CS/SB 132 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) that creates a new section of Florida Statutes related to the application of the Florida Insurance Code for direct primary care agreements is awaiting Senate consideration. The language of CS/CS/SB 132 was amended to CS/SB 212

by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) relating to Ambulatory Surgical Centers and passed by the Appropriations Committee on February 25 on a vote of 17:0. The bill provides that a direct primary care agreement is not insurance and is not subject to the Florida Insurance Code. The bill defines the terms, “direct primary care agreement,” “primary care provider,” and “primary care service,” and specifies certain provisions that must be included in a direct primary care agreement.

The House companion, CS/CS/HB 37 by Rep. Fred Costello (R-Port Orange) has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for House consideration on March 1.

Dental Care

CS/CS/HB 139 by Rep. W. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) requires the Department of Health (DOH) 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. The bill has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for House consideration on March 1. The bill requires DOH to implement an electronic benefits transfer system enabling selected dentists to spend awarded funds on:

  • Repayment of dental school student loans;
  • Investment in property, facilities, or equipment required to establish and operate a dental office; and
  • Transitional expenses associated with relocation or opening a dental practice.

The Senate companion, SB 234 by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) passed unanimously in the Appropriations Committee on February 25.

Public School Recess

HB 833 by Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) requires each district school board to provide 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5, and students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades. The recess must be provided for at least 20 consecutive minutes each day and may not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons. The bill is awaiting  action in the Senate.

The Senate companion, SB 1002 by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) is still awaiting action in the Education Pre-K-12 Committee (it’s first committee of reference). Sen. Hays filed an amendment to SB 1166 on February 25 to add the language of SB 1002 which he later withdrew from consideration.

Healthy Food Financing – Food Deserts

CS/SB 760, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is awaiting action in the Appropriations Committee. The bill directs the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to establish a program to provide financing to retailers to construct, rehabilitate, or expand grocery stores in underserved communities in low- and moderate-income areas. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Committee on March 1.

The House companion CS/HB 153 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) is awaiting full House consideration.


Child Welfare System

SB 7018 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 1. The bill requires DCF, in collaboration with certain stakeholders, to develop a continuum of care for children in the child welfare system. This continuum of care must be a complete range of placement options, programs, and services for children served by, or at risk of being served by, the dependency system. The continuum of care requires a quality rating system for residential group care, as well as an annual report.

The bill creates a new section of law that requires an initial assessment whenever a child has been determined to need an out-of-home placement to aid in guiding the child into the least restrictive placement and help determine any services needed. The bill also requires an in-depth assessment to be completed for each child placed in out-of-home care, to supplement the initial assessment and further determine service and placement needs.

The bill creates permanency teams that are required to review out-of-home placements for certain children who have historically faced barriers to permanency. The bill also outlines the intervention services to be provided by lead agencies.

The House companion HB 599

by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) and Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for House consideration on March 1.

Child Protection Teams (CATs)

SB 670, by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Committee on March 1. The bill applies immunity from personal liability in certain actions to any member of a child protection (CPT) team, in certain circumstances. As a result, CPT members may not be held personally liable for torts committed in such capacity; instead the state may be held liable up to the limits established under the state’s statutory waiver of sovereign immunity. A child protection team (CPT) is a medically directed, multidisciplinary team of professionals contracted by the Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Program in the Department of Health (DOH). CPTs supplement the child protective investigation activities of local sheriffs’ offices and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in cases of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect. CPTs provide expertise in evaluating alleged child abuse and neglect, assessing risk and protective factors, and providing recommendations for interventions to protect children and to enhance a caregiver’s capacity to provide a safer environment when possible. HB 715 by Rep. Gayle Harrell is awaiting action in the House Appropriations Committee.

Adoption and Foster Care

CS/CS/SB 590 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) revises the circumstances under which an adoption consent is valid, binding, and enforceable. The bill has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for Senate consideration on March 1. The bill also requires the court to consider a child’s best interest when changing a placement rather than the appropriateness of the placement. The bill requires courts in all dependency proceedings to advise the parent who is a party to the case at the arraignment hearing of the right to participate in a private adoption plan. The House companion, CS/HB 673 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) has also been placed on the Special Order Calendar for House consideration on March 1.

CS/SB 860 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) that designates the second week of February of each year as “Foster Family Appreciation Week” has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for Senate action on March 1. The House companion, HB 657 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) will also be taken up on the Special Order Calendar by the full House on March 1.


Civil Citations and Diversion Programs

HB 7085 by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) relating to juvenile civil citation and similar diversion programs is awaiting action in the Judiciary Committee which is not scheduled to meet again for this session. The bill requires the establishment of civil citation or similar diversion programs for juveniles; provides definitions; and, specifies program eligibility, participation, and implementation requirements. A similar bill, SB 408 by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Cape Canaveral) was passed by the Criminal Justice Committee on February 16 on a vote of 3:2. The bill passed the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs on February 24 on a vote of 3:2 and is scheduled to be heard in Rules on February 29. The bills have met strong objection by members of law enforcement who do not want their hands tied through a hard requirement to use civil citations in all instances.

Confidentiality of Juvenile Records

SB 700 by Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) that specifies that certain confidential information obtained under chapter 985, F.S., relating to juvenile justice, is exempt from public records requirements is awaiting full Senate action. The House companion, HB 293 by Rep. Sharon Pritchett (D-Miramar) passed the full House on February 24 on a vote of 114:2.

  • These bills are needed to align Florida’s juvenile record confidentiality laws with the new prevention focus in juvenile justice. The majority of youthful misdeeds should not be available for review except for legitimate uses by law enforcement and other state authorities.
  • Florida’s laws don’t change as fast as technology, and once something is online, it’s hard to erase. In this case juvenile arrest records can be found through search engines, even after they are expunged at a later date.  Online access to juvenile records closes doors to jobs, education, and housing for tens of thousands of youth living in Florida each year.
  • Certain records (described below) will still be able to be reviewed by law enforcement and to agencies [BB1] that work with vulnerable populations.
  • The challenge is that two sections of Florida statute give two different sets of direction as to which juvenile records are confidential and exempt from public record.
  • These bills fix the inconsistency in law that was discovered through a case in which a youth’s arrest records were released based on direction given by one statute.  That case is G.G. v. FDLE.
  • These bills will ensure that juvenile records should only be released in circumstances that are identical in chapters 985 and 943.
  • The consistency is created by ensuring that all records will be confidential and exempt, unless:
    •  A juvenile is arrested, charged, or is found to have committed a violation of law which, if committed by an adult would be a felon.
    • Or when a juvenile has been transferred to adult court.


Human Trafficking

CS/SB 784 by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) was substituted for CS/HB 545 and passed by the full Senate on February 24 on a vote of 39:0. The bill addresses human trafficking and offenses that are often associated with human trafficking by:

  • increasing the felony penalty if the victim suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement;
  • clarifying that branding a victim of human trafficking is a human trafficking offense;
  • increasing from a second degree misdemeanor (maximum penalty of 60 days in jail) to a first degree misdemeanor (up to one year in jail) a first violation of s.796.06, F.S. (renting space to be used for lewdness, assignation, prostitution), and increasing from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony (maximum penalty of 5 years in state prison) a second or subsequent violation of that statute;
  • prohibiting minors from being prosecuted for prostitution; and
  • adding racketeering to the list of the offenses that may require a person to register as a sexual predator or sexual offender if the court makes a written finding that the racketeering activity involved at least one registration-qualifying sexual offense or one registration-qualifying offense with sexual intent or motive.

The House companion, CS/CS/HB 545 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) was voted favorably in the House on a vote of 117:0 on February 24, and immediately certified to the Senate.

Ad Valorem Taxation

CS/SB 766 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) which makes several changes related to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) process is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Committee on March 1. The bill:

  • Requires the VAB to resolve all petitions by the June 1 following the assessment year. The June 1 date is extended to December 1 in any year that the number of petitions increases by more than 10 percent over the prior year.
  • Requires that a petition to the VAB be signed by the taxpayer or be accompanied by the taxpayer’s written authorization for representation, which is only valid for one tax year.
  • Changes the rate of interest for overpayments and underpayments from 12 percent to the prime rate. Requires interest on an overpayment related to a petition to be funded proportionally by each taxing authority that was overpaid.
  • Authorizes a petitioner or a property appraiser to reschedule a hearing a single time, for good cause only. Reduces the notice for rehearing from 25 to 15 days when the rehearing is requested by the petitioner.
  • Limits the persons who may represent a taxpayer before the VAB to certain professionals, a corporate representative, or an uncompensated individual with a power of attorney.
  • Prohibits the imposition of interest or penalty when an owner of non-homestead residential property or nonresidential property was improperly granted an assessment limitation due to a clerical mistake or omission.

The bill also makes permanent the ability of a school district to levy 75 percent of a school district’s most recent prior period funding adjustment millage in the event that the final tax roll is delayed for longer than one year.

The House companion, CS/CS/HB 499 by Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) is awaiting full House action.

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