HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGETS APPROVED | BILLS ON THE MOVE
With two weeks left of the 2017 legislative session, the week ended with still no news on when the budget conference process will commence. Budget chairs shifted their position a number of times, but remained cautiously optimistic if the process started early next week, the budget could be completed on time. The two proposed budgets still contain an approximate $4 billion difference, with the Senate wanting to spend more money on issues like state universities, state-worker pay raises and health care, and the House wanting to be more frugal, though its budget includes major K-12 initiatives like the “Schools of Hope” legislation to fund more charter schools.
In addition, Gov. Rick Scott, who can veto individual budget items or the entire budget, has called for $200 million to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, as well as increased his request for funding Visit Florida to $100 million. Last week, the Governor was seen as helping to ensure the potential for this funding by winning approval from the Trump administration for $1.5 billion in Low Income Pool (LIP) funding to help Florida hospitals provide care to poor and uninsured patients.
Meanwhile, numerous bills of interest to children and families such as Early Grade Success and Child Welfare bills continued to make their way through the process.
SCHOOL READINESS AND EARLY GRADE SUCCESS
On Thursday, child advocates were pleased to see that HB 1229 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) was heard and reported favorably by the Education Committee, readying it for House floor action. Education Committee chair Michael Bileca (R-Miami) and all of the members of the committee are to be commended for their positive and encouraging comments on early learning and their commitment to continued legislation next year. HB 1229 creates the Committee on Early Grade Success to develop a proposal for putting forth recommendations on a coordinated child assessment system for the School Readiness Program, the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, and the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. The bill provides for membership of the committee; provides committee meeting requirements; engages the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning to provide necessary staff for the committee; and requires the committee to submit a report by a specified date. SB 806 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) has been referred to four committees and is awaiting action by the Education Committee. Language that would achieve similar results was added to SB 926 relating to Education by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), and reported favorably in the Rules Committee on April 19, readying it for Senate floor action.
HB 757 by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) relating to Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) was reported favorably by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on March 21. The bill requires the Just Read, Florida! office to provide teachers, reading coaches, and principals in prekindergarten through grade 3 with specified training; and requires VPK providers to provide parents with pre- and post-assessment results within a specified timeframe. The Senate companion SB 468 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) was reported favorably in the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on April 18 and now heads to Appropriations.
Children with Unique Abilities
HB 15 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) relates to Educational Options. The bill revises provisions relating to expanding eligibility of the Gardiner Scholarship Program, John M. McKay Scholarship Program, and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program; and provides appropriations. The bill was passed by the House on a vote of 117:0 on April 19 and now heads to the Senate. The Senate companion, SB 902 by David Simmons (R-Longwood) was reported favorably in the Education Committee on April 17, and now heads to Appropriations
High School Apprenticeship Program
HB 525 by Rep. David Silvers (D-Palm Beach) authorizes students to use credits earned upon completion of an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program to satisfy specified high school graduation requirements. The bill was reported favorably by the Education Committee on April 20 and now awaits full House consideration. The Senate companion, SB 978 by Sen. Bobby Powell (D-W. Palm Beach) is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education.
HB 963 by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers) and SB 1124 by Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward County) requires the Department of Health, upon the advice of the Genetics and Newborn Screening Advisory Council, to expand the statewide screening of newborns to include any condition on the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel; and requires the council to determine whether a condition should be included in the state’s screening program within a specified period after its addition to the federal panel. HB 963 was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 20 and is ready for full House action. SB 1124 passed the Senate on a vote of 38:0 on April 19, and is awaiting action in the House.
SB 1580 by Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on April 17 and now heads to Judiciary. The bill requires a receiving facility or mental health treatment facility to refer the case of a minor admitted to such a facility for a mental health assessment to the clerk of the court for the appointment of a public defender within a specified timeframe; and, grants the minor’s attorney access to relevant records. The House companion, HB 1183, by Rep. David Silvers (D-W. Palm Beach) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 20. During the hearing, Chair Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) stated that the Committee would be looking at why so many children are Baker acted with an eye to proposing legislative to address this next year.
SB 1756 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) provides responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families for a comprehensive statewide mental health and substance abuse program; revises the rights of individuals receiving mental health treatment and services to provide for the use of health care surrogates or proxies to make decisions; and, designates receiving facilities to permit access authority to an agency designated by the Governor to serve as the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities. The bill was reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on April 18 and now heads to Appropriations. A comparable bill SB 634 by Sen. Daphne Campbell (D-North Miami Beach) was reported favorably in Judiciary on April 19 and now heads to Rules, while another comparable bill HB 1327 by Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg) and Rep. Lori Berman (D- Boynton Beach) is still awaiting action in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.
SB 1044 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 19 and now heads to Appropriations. 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 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) which is similar to SB 1044 passed the House on a vote of 119:0 on April 20. 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.
The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee approved HB 7075 Child Welfare by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and The Children, Families and Seniors Committee on April 20. 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. The Senate companion, a similar bill, SB 1680 by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee several weeks ago and is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Temporary Care of a Child
HB 363 by Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) and Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Ft. Lauderdale) and SB 200 by Sen. Kathleen Possidomo (R-Naples) authorizes certain organizations to establish programs for the purpose of assisting parents and legal guardians in providing temporary respite care for a child; providing that placement of a child in temporary respite care does not, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, constitute abuse, neglect, or abandonment or placement in foster care; and authorizes the Department of Children and Families to refer children to such programs under certain circumstances. HB 363 is awaiting Senate action. SB 200 was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 19 and now heads to Rules.
HB 23 by Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) passed the House on a vote of 82:38 on April 19 and is now headed to the Senate. The bill increases the penalties for the first three instances of noncompliance with the Temporary Case Assistance (TCA) work requirements to align with the food assistance program’s sanctions, and creates a fourth sanction. Temporary cash assistance will be terminated for the family for a minimum of 1 month 10 days or until the individual who failed to comply does so, whichever is later. Upon meeting this requirement, temporary cash assistance shall be reinstated to the date of compliance or the first day of the month 13 following the penalty period, whichever is later. Upon the first occurrence of noncompliance, temporary cash assistance for the child or children in a family who are under age 16 may be continued for the first month of the penalty period through a protective payee. The bill authorizes changes to public assistance policy and federal food assistance waivers to conform to federal law and simplify administration unless such changes increase program eligibility standards. It requires the Department of Children and Families to seek federal approval to establish food assistance program resource eligibility standards for all initial applications and re-certifications. It further requires the department, upon federal approval, to implement an asset verification service to verify eligibility for food assistance.
SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) requires the DCF or a sheriff’s office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The bill has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for Senate floor action for April 25. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for April 25.
HB 7049 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) authorizes subpoenas in certain investigations of sexual offenses involving child victims and specifies requirements; prohibits persons from using children in sexual performances or promoting sexual performances by children; provides for separate offenses of computer pornography and child exploitation; prohibits persons from possessing, with intent to promote, child pornography; prohibits persons from knowingly possessing, controlling, or intentionally viewing child pornography; and provides for separate offenses of transmission of child pornography. The bill has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for April 25. SB 1244 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Committee.
HB 1165 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) provides a civil cause of action by victims of human trafficking or the Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking against certain persons; provides for damages, attorney fees and costs; provides for civil penalties; provides for civil forfeitures; provides procedures for forfeiture actions; provides that actions have no statute of limitations; and, adds functions and duties for the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The bill is awaiting full House action. The Senate companion, SB 972 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 19 and now heads to Appropriations.
HB 1167 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) creates a Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking within DLA; provides for purposes and sources of funds; provides for administration of the fund by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; requires the fund to develop guidelines and plans; requires an annual report; requires that applications for compensation be made available in English and Spanish; and, provides for future review and termination or re-creation of the fund. The bill is awaiting full House action. The Senate companion, SB 970 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 19 and now heads to Appropriations.
SB 1318 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) renames service districts as service circuits, and district medical directors as child protection team medical directors; requires that each child protection team medical director be a licensed physician and be board certified in specified specialty areas; and, requires the department’s Children’s Medical Services program to develop, maintain, and coordinate the services of one or more sexual abuse treatment programs. The bill was reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on April 18 and now heads to Appropriations. The House companion HB 1269 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was passed by the House on a vote of 118:0 on April 20.
Prolific Juvenile Offenders
SB 1670 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and HB 7059 by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) revises requirements for the placement of a child in detention care; provides that a child who is a prolific juvenile offender does not require a risk assessment to be placed in detention care; provides that children meeting specified criteria shall be placed in detention care until the detention hearing; provides criteria for determining whether the child is a prolific juvenile offender; requires secure detention for all children awaiting placement in a commitment program until the placement or commitment is accomplished; and, specifies the time period for hearings for prolific juvenile offenders. HB 7059 was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 20. SB 1670 is awaiting action in the Appropriations Committee.
SB 196 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) on Civil Citation and Diversion Programs was reported favorably by its last committee of reference, the Appropriations Committee on April 13 and heads to the Senate floor. The bill now contains an amendment requiring the Supreme Court to provide an annual report about cases on the court’s docket that have not be resolved in 180 days, a move said to be taken to garner needed House support.
HB 205 by Rep. Larry Ahern (R- Seminole) authorizes, FDLE to adopt rules to provide for expunction of certain non-judicial records of arrest of minors upon successful completion of certain diversion programs; authorizes such expunctions for certain first-time misdemeanor offenses; requires diversion programs to submit specified data to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The bill was reported favorably in the Judiciary Committee on April 20.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
HB 849 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) is awaiting full Senate action. The bill provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapons and firearms are not prohibited from carrying firearms on certain private school property. HB 849 was substituted for SB 1330 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and scheduled for final passage on April 26.
Children With Disabilities
(D-Orlando) which provides requirements for the use of physical restraint and seclusion for students with disabilities in public schools was passed by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The House bill was reported favorably by the Education Committee on April 20. SB 810 is awaiting action in the Education Committee. The bills amend provisions relating to the use, prevention, and reduction of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities; prohibits the use of physical restraint by school personnel who are not certified to use district-approved methods for applying restraint techniques; and requires continuing education and in-service training for teaching.
SB 1418 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is a comparable bill to HB 233/SB 810. The bill is awaiting action in the Education Committee.