News & Events

End of Session Report

Week 9 – March 18, 2016

Session Adjourns – Major Children’s Legislation Approved;
Governor Signs Budget

The 2016 60-day legislative session ended on time at 6:45 PM this past Friday, March 11 after legislators passed the $82.3 billion state budget with a near unanimous vote. The crowning achievement of the session was the passage of language in a bill sponsored by Senator Rene Garcia that lifts the 5-year ban on KidCare health insurance for lawfully residing immigrant children, the subject of HB 89 – Kidcare by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz that was passed earlier by the full House on a unanimous vote of 118:0. The legislation was 7 years in the making.

Other signature legislation for children included bills regarding child care, Early Steps for children with developmental delays, and those to expunge the records of juveniles. Additionally important was the passage of landmark legislation for children and adults with developmental disabilities, a priority of President Andy Gardiner. Gardiner’s promise to his son Andrew 12 years ago helped to shape the trajectory of his 15-year legislative career and Senate Presidency during which he pledged to improve opportunities for Andrew and tens of thousands of others like him.

2016-17 Florida First Budget

On March 17 Governor Rick Scott signed the 2016-2017 Florida First budget into law along with a veto list of $256.1 million (substantially less that the $461.4 million amount vetoed last year that bitterly angered members). The budget includes some laudable increases in programs and services for early learning, child welfare, persons with disabilities, and the juvenile justice system.

Below are some highlights from the Governor’s message:

Early Learning – The Florida First budget provides $395.2 million for the Voluntary PreKindergarten Program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The total funding in the Florida First budget is more than $1 billion – an increase of $26.1 million over last year’s funding. The budget also invests $15.5 million for the early learning performance funding program for child care instructors who improve the quality of the education they provide (a $5 million increase). Additional increases in early learning include:

  • $10 million increase to School Readiness (with proviso that allows for contracted slots targeting children in concentrated areas of poverty);
  • $10 million for TEACH which can be used to increase CDA capacity in Florida;
  • Nearly $650,000 increase for Help Me Grow over current year funding (a total of $2.45 million); and
  • $3 million for Early Learning Florida to increase the accessibility and capacity of professional development opportunities.

Continuing Reforms in Juvenile Justice – The Florida First budget provides $1.9 million to increase staff-to-youth ratios at the Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) residential programs in order to improve the safety of youth and staff. The budget also provides the following:

  • An additional $2.35 million to fund the PACE REACH after school program at three existing PACE Centers for Girls, and adds 63 additional slots at PACE Centers’ day programs statewide;
  • An investment of $1.25 million for the About Face Program to provide summer and afterschool life preparation programs; and
  • An additional $1.5 million for prevention programs that provide intervention services to at risk youth, which will reduce delinquency and prevent these youth from reoffending.

Making Florida First for Healthy Families

Record Funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities – The Florida First budget makes a record investment of $1.3 billion for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and provides over $39 million to remove more than 1,400 individuals from the critical needs waitlist for the third year in a row. $10 million also for competitive grant program for housing developments designed for persons with developmental disabilities.

Healthy Start – The Florida First budget invests $27 million in the statewide Healthy Start Program, an increase of $400,000 over last year’s funding, to improve the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and children in Florida.

Mental Health Care Innovation

Family Intensive Treatment Teams
– The Florida First budget invests $10.2 million, an increase of $2.8 million, to implement evidence-based practices for treating parent’s mental health and substance abuse disorders that put children at risk. An additional $20.5 million for mental health and substance abuse services.

Community Action Treatment – The Florida First budget invests $17.25 million in total funding, with an increase of $3.75 million to add five new additional Community Action Treatment (CAT) teams to areas in need. These teams provide community in-home services to severely mentally ill children and their families. These teams focus on treating Floridians in their communities rather than in institutional settings.

Community Based Services – The Florida First Budget invests $20.4 million in additional funding for care coordination and transition services for families involved in the child welfare and $23 million for Community Based Care (CBC) Core Services funding.

Additional investments:

  • $28.8 million in Federal Trust Funds for Florida KidCare Coverage for Lawfully Residing children ($0 needed in State General Revenue due to reductions in Medical Emergency Trust Fund)
  • $7.3 million for Children’s Specialty Hospitals
  • $2 million for Healthy Families expansion
  • $18.3 million for federally qualified health centers
  • $10 million for Free and Charitable Clinics
  • $5 million for Safety Net Program for the Children’s Medical Services Network


Early Learning – Child Care Development Block Grant

HB 7053, a child care reauthorization bill that brings Florida into compliance with the federal regulations that need to be enacted in 2016 for the School Readiness program, passed the full House on a vote of 114:0 on March 11, 2016.  The bill is now ready for signature by the Governor. 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.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Eligibility    

Language that revises the eligibility for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program to include 5 year olds was amended to CS/CS/HB 7029 on School Choice by Rep. John Cortes (R-Kissimmee) and Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Miami).  The amendment was an issue championed by Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon), the Chair of Senate Appropriations.  Each child would still only be eligible for a 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 1. This would limit the eligible population to the children that would be younger 5-year-olds that may not be developmentally ready for kindergarten.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Accountability 

CS/CS/HB 7029 on School Choice by Rep. John Cortes (R-Kissimmee) and Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Miami) passed and is headed to the Governor. The bill includes language that will suspend kindergarten readiness rates from being assigned for last year and this coming fall. In doing so, the bill also requires that low performing providers that were deemed such before the change in kindergarten readiness assessment remain as low performing providers until the scores for 2017 are calculated.

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 attempted 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. However, the bill died in Appropriations. 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 is not an emergency termination or a termination for fraud. The House companion, CS/CS/HB 7021 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) died in Senate messages.  The language was later amended to CS/CS/HB 7029 on School Choice by Rep. John Cortes (R-Kissimmee) and Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Miami) but was removed in the final bill that passed.

After-School Programs

SB 156 by Sen. Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) entitled After-School Programs would have exempted certain not-for-profit membership associations from regulations applied to child care facilities. However, the bill died in the Senate Committee on Community Affairs. The House companion, HB 1423 by Rep. Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) was never heard in committee. The bill continued to be discussed regarding proper oversight of out-of-school time activities for school age students and the differences, if any, between child care and afterschool programming. Relatedly, the Department of Children and Families is conducting regional rule review workshops of the Florida Administrative Code rules for Child Care Licensing in order to more accurately define the differences between birth-to-five child care and afterschool programming for 6-to-12 year olds.


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 passed the House unanimously. 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 language from the Senate companion, SB 248 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) was included in HB 5101 – the Medicaid budget conforming bill which passed the Senate on a vote of 40:0 on March 11 as part of the budget, and is now ready for signature by the Governor.

Early Steps Program 

The language in SB 7034 by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs was amended to HB 7053, the Child Care Development Block Grant bill. The bill passed the full House on a vote of 114:0 on March 11 and now heads to the Governor. 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.


CS/CS/HB 7087 by the Select Committee on Affordable Healthcare Access and Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) was substituted for CS/SB 1686 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville)and  passed by the House on a vote of 118:0 on March 11, 2016.  The bill is now headed to the Governor.  The bill creates a taskforce to compile and analyze certain data and conduct a comparative analysis of health insurance coverage available for telehealth services and for in-person treatment, and requires the task force to submit a report to the Governor and Legislature by June 30, 2017.

Prepaid Dental Plans

HB 819 by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) was substituted for SB 994 by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) and passed by the Senate on a vote of 35:2 on March 7, 2016.  The bill now heads to the Governor for signature. 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.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

SB 12 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) addresses Florida’s system for the delivery of behavioral health services.  During the last week of session, the bill was amended and passed by the Senate on a vote of 38:2 and returned to the House.  The bill passed the House on a vote of 118:1 and was sent to the Governor for his signature.  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. 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.

Dental Program for Medicaid Eligible Children

SB 580 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) was substituted for  CS/HB 595 by Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando).  The bill passed the House on a vote of 115:0 on March 8 and is headed to the Governor for signature. The bill 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.

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 died in Fiscal Policy. The language of CS/CS/SB 132 was amended to CS/CS/SB 212 by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) relating to Health Care.  This was the last bill to pass the Senate unanimously on March 11, 2016.  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) died in Senate messages.

Dental Care

CS/CS/HB 139 by Rep. W. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) passed the Senate on March 11 on a vote of 40:0 and now heads to the Governor. The 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 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) was substituted for CS/CS/HB 139.

Healthy Food Financing – Food Deserts

CS/HB 153 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) that was substituted for CS/SB 760, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville)  passed the Senate on vote of 40:0 and is headed to the Governor for signature. 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.


Booster Seats 

HB 7063 Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) originally included language exempting child care facilities or child care providers from the child restraint (booster seat) law for children aged 4 through 5 years when a seat belt is used. This language was removed from the bill in the Economic Affairs Committee on January 28.  Similar language was removed from the Senate companion, SB 1394 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

Gun Safety

Major legislation supported by The National Rifle Association and Florida Carry to relax standards for carrying weapons were defeated this session:

Campus Carry Bills

HB 4001 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) to remove provisions prohibiting concealed carry licensees from openly carrying handgun or carrying concealed weapon or firearm into college or university facility died in Senate messages. The Senate companion, SB 68 by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Milton) was never heard in committee.

HB 4055 by Rep. Greg Steube  (R-Sarasota) relating to school safety would allow handgun or carrying of concealed weapons or firearms into elementary or secondary school facility or administration building.  The bill was never taken up in committee.  This session, there was no Senate companion to the bill.

Open Carry Bills

HB 163 by Rep. Matt Gaetz. (R-Shalimar) that would allow people with concealed-weapons’ licenses to openly carry firearms in Florida died in Senate messages. SB 300 by Sen. Don Gaetz, (R-Destin) died in the Judiciary Committee.

HB 4031 by Rep. Greg Steube  (R-Sarasota) would have allowed concealed licensees from openly carrying handgun or concealed weapon or firearm into specified public meetings or into career centers.  The bill was never taken up in committee.  This session, there was no Senate companion to the bill.


Child Welfare System

HB 599 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) and Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) that was substituted for SB 7018 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice), passed the House on March 11 on a vote of 113:0 but died in messages to the Senate.

The bill would have required DCF, in collaboration with certain stakeholders, to develop a continuum of care for children in the child welfare system. The continuum of care would be a complete range of placement options, programs, and services for children served by, or at risk of being served by, the dependency system, and would have required a quality rating system for residential group care, as well as an annual report.

Child Protection Teams (CPTs)

SB 670, by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) died in House Messages. The bill would have applied immunity from personal liability in certain actions to any member of a child protection (CPT) team, in certain circumstances. HB 715 by Rep. Gayle Harrell died in the House Appropriations Committee.

Adoption and Foster Care

CS/CS/SB 590 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) that revises the circumstances under which an adoption consent is valid and binding is awaiting the Governor’s signature. The bill 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/CS/HB 673 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) was substituted for CS/CS/SB 590.

CS/SB 860 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) designates the second week of February of each year as “Foster Family Appreciation Week.” The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.  The House companion, HB 657 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) was substituted for CS/SB 860.


Prosecution of Juveniles – Expunction of Juvenile Records

CS/CS/CS/HB 147 by Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) was substituted for CS/SB 386 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) and signed into law by the Governor on March 10. The bill requires all records related to minors who are not classified as serious or habitual juvenile offenders (non-serious juvenile offenders) to be automatically expunged when the minor reaches the age of 21, provided certain specified exceptions do not apply.  The bill also permits non-serious juvenile offenders to apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to have their records expunged earlier than age 21.  A diversion program is authorized to provide for the expunction of a juvenile’s arrest record upon successful completion of the diversion program.

Confidentiality of Juvenile Records

HB 293 by Rep. Sharon Pritchett (D-Miramar) was substituted for SB 700 by Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee).  The bill specifies that certain confidential information obtained under chapter 985, F.S., relating to juvenile justice, is exempt from public records requirements.  The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

  • 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.

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 died in the Judiciary Committee. The bill required the establishment of a civil citation or similar diversion programs for juveniles. A similar bill, SB 408 by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Cape Canaveral) died on the Senate Calendar.


Individuals with Disabilities

CS/HB 7003 by Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) that establishes the Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Financial Services (DFS) was signed into law by the Governor on January 21, 2016 as Chapter No. 2016-3. The Senate companion, CS/SB 7010 by President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) was substituted for CS/HB 7003.

The bill addresses the employment and economic independence of individuals with disabilities. Specifically, the bill:

  • Modifies the definition of “developmental disability” to include Down syndrome;
  • Modifies the state’s equal employment policy to provide enhanced executive agency employment opportunities for individuals who have a disability;
  • Creates the Employment First Act, which requires certain state agencies and organizations to develop an interagency cooperative agreement to ensure a long-term commitment to improving employment outcomes for individuals who have a disability;
  • Creates the Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (Literacy Program) within the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to promote economic independence and successful employment of individuals with developmental disabilities by providing information and outreach to individuals and employers; and
  • Creates the Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program (Partner Program) to recognize business entities that demonstrate commitment, through employment or support, to the independence of individuals who have a disability.

The bill also makes several appropriations to fulfill the requirements and implement the programs created by the bill.

HB 1083 by Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) which was substituted for SB 936 by Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) passed the House on a vote of 115:1 on March 8 and is now headed to the Governor.  The bill revises priority classifications for clients on the waiting list for Medicaid home and community-based waiver services. The bill passed the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee on January 13 and now heads to the Health Care Appropriations Committee. The bill allows individuals with developmental disabilities needing both waiver and extended foster care child welfare services to be prioritized in Category 2 of the waiver waiting list and, when enrolled on the waiver, to be served by both the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and community-based care organizations.

The bill also permits waiver enrollment without first being placed on the waiting list for individuals who were on an HCBS waiver in another state and whose parent or guardian is an active-duty military service member transferred into the state. The bill also permits waiver enrollees to receive increases in their allotted funding for services if the individual has a significant need for transportation to waiver-funded adult day training or employment services and has no other reasonable transportation options. Finally, in a big moment on Sine Die with President Gardiner’s son Andrew watching proudly from the gallery, an amendment was approved to add Down syndrome to the definition of “developmental disability.”

Students with Disabilities

SB 672 by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) which creates the “Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program Act” was approved by the Governor on January 21.  The House companion, HB 7011 by Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) and Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Miami) was substituted for SB 672.

The bill established mechanisms for the approval of unique postsecondary education programs tailored to the needs of students with intellectual disabilities and the statewide coordination of information about programs for students with disabilities. Specifically, the bill includes 2 key components:

  • A process through which postsecondary institutions in Florida can voluntarily seek approval to offer a Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program (FPCTP) for students with intellectual disabilities; and
  • A Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities (statewide coordinating center) for statewide coordination of information regarding programs and services for students with disabilities and their parents.

The bill awards incentive payments to school districts and charter schools that implement district wide or school wide, standard student attire policies applicable to students in kindergarten through grade 8.  The bill also amends a number of provisions of the Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) program to increase student access, tighten accountability, and streamline administration.

Homebound/Hospitalized Students

HB 585 by Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) was substituted for SB 806 by Sen. John Legg (R-Lutz), passed the Senate on a vote of 39:0 and now heads to the Governor for signature.  The bill requires school districts to provide instruction to homebound or hospitalized students. Accordingly, the bill provides the state board with express rulemaking authority regarding instruction for homebound and hospitalized students, and clarifies that districts must provide instruction to eligible students in accordance with state board rule. The rules must establish, at minimum:

  • Criteria for eligibility of K-12 homebound or hospitalized students for specially designed instruction.
  • Procedures for determining student eligibility.
  • A list of appropriate methods for providing instruction to homebound or hospitalized students.
  • Requirements for initiating instructional services for a homebound or hospitalized student once the student is determined to be eligible.

The bill requires the school district in which a children’s specialty hospital is located to provide educational instruction to an eligible student until it enters into an agreement with the student’s school district of residence. The bill requires the Department of Education to develop a standard agreement for use by school districts, to provide seamless educational instruction to students who transition between school districts while receiving treatment in the children’s specialty hospital.


Children and Youth Cabinet

HB 241 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was substituted for SB 500 by Sen. Bill Montford (D-Quincy).  The bill expands the total membership of the Children and Youth Cabinet to 16 by adding a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor. The bill also changes the title of the ninth member of the cabinet from “the director of the Office of Child Abuse Prevention” to “the director of the Office of Adoption and Child Protection.” The bill was signed into law on March 9.

Human Trafficking

CS/CS/HB 545 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) was substituted for CS/SB 784 by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and signed into law by the Governor on March 9. 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.

Ad Valorem Taxation

CS/CS/HB 499 by Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) which was substituted for CS/SB 766 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami),  passed the House on a vote of 117:0 on March 9 and is headed to the Governor for signature.  The bill makes several changes related to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) process:

  • 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.

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