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ISSUE 3 | MARCH 24, 2017
UnitedWayAskUnited Way "Ask": A Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Win
Florida's United Ways are requesting that the 2017 Legislature appropriate $1.2 million to support our tax preparation assistance programs statewide.  More than 1,205 appropriations requests have been made in the House, totaling $2.58 billion. But the United Way request stands out for many reasons. Among others, it is a win for:
  • All of Florida - With it, United Way and our partners will serve all 67 counties.
    • Working Families - It will help 31,000 ALICE families recoup more than $48 million in tax refunds and more than $13 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) that they have earned.
      • Research shows that the EITC provides the most powerful tax tool we have to help ALICE families climb out of poverty.
  • Taxpayers - By improving ALICE families' financial stability, taxpayers will pay less for emergency safety net and other social services.
  • Employers - When financial emergencies and stresses are reduced, employers have more productive, focused employees.
  • Education - It will help working families draw down more than $1 million in education tax credits, so their children can pursue higher education.
  • Economy - Pumping millions of dollars into the economy helps families, helps creditors, and helps retail, and will generate more than $2.5 million in sales tax revenues; more than double the state's investment.
Few, if any, appropriations requests have such broad and deep impacts across-the-board for Florida and its people.  Recognizing these facts, on Tuesday the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee passed HB 2153.
A win-win-win-win-win-win for us all.
FloridaConstitutionFlorida Constitution Heading for Major Changes?
V oters will likely decide in 2018 whether to amend Florida's Constitution to address numerous issues that reflect the conservative philosophy and ideology of the state's leaders.  Charter schools, health care, guns, the courts and much more could be included.
Article XI, Section 2  of the Florida Constitution creates the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which meets every 20 years to review the state's Constitution and has the power to place proposed amendments to the Constitution on the ballot.  Proposals generated by the 2017 Commission will appear on the November 2018 ballot.
Its 37 members  include the Attorney General and the following appointees:
  • 15 - Governor appointees
  • 9 - House Speaker appointees
  • 9 - Senate President appointees
  • 3 - Chief Justice appointees
The political, philosophical and ideological leanings of the vast majority of Commissioners mirror those of the politicians who appointed them and Governor Scott's Policy Director, Jeff Woodburn, is the Commission's executive director.   Consequently, it is anticipated that the proposed Constitutional amendments the body proposes will be so aligned.
The Commission met for the first time Monday in what was mostly a ceremonial meeting highlighted by comments from the appointing politicians.  However, it quickly ran into trouble when Commissioners objected to proposed staff-written rules that, among others, would have provided Commission Chair  Carlos Beruff nearly unfettered discretion to determine which proposals are ultimately placed on the ballot, would have prevented the full Commission from changing a proposed amendment created by one of the Commission's committees, and would not apply "Sunshine" standards to the body.
The Commission has scheduled public hearings in Orange County for March 29, in Miami-Dade County on April 6 and in Palm Beach County on April 7.
The official Commission website is located at http://flcrc.gov/ .  In addition, the Partnership for Revising Florida's Constitution has created a website that will maintain updated information on the Commission's workings.
A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple its value every year. I told him, "At my age, I don't even buy green bananas."   -- Claude Pepper
SpecialSessionSpecial Session Looking More Likely
On one hand...Last Friday, Speaker Corcoran called Enterprise Florida an "absolute cesspool" that's "unreformable...I can assure you, they will be zeroed out again. And if we have to go to special session, we're ready. Because we're right."
On the other hand...Governor Scott's number one priority is getting the Legislature to provide $85 million to fund Enterprise Florida. Three days after Corcoran's comments, Scott's chief spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz, said Corcoran is being "very hypercritical" in his efforts to abolish the organization.
Meanwhile...The Senate stands mute on the sidelines.  It appears they will be the tie-breaker.
How they break the tie may hinge on the outcome of Senate President Negron's $2+ billion funding priority to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges into adjacent rivers.  If he sides with Corcoran, he can get the money in the budget, but Scott may veto it.  If he sides with Scott, Corcoran could prevent the funding from even getting into the budget.
These three men will ultimately figure it out, but Corcoran's special session talk could portend a long summer of special sessions before they do.
BudgetSnapshotFlorida 2016-2017 Budget Snapshot
  • $82.2 Billion Budget
    • 20.5 million people ... $4,000 each
    • spent each day ... $225 M
    • spent each hour ... $9.4 M
  • Education
    • total amount ... $23.9 billion
    • percent of total budget ... 29%
    • spent each minute ... $45,000
  • Health & Human Services
    • total amount ... $34.3 billion
    • percent of total budget ... 42%
    • spent each minute ... $65,000
"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession, I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."  -- Ronald Reagan
UnionBustingBill"Union Busting" Bill Heads to House Floor
HB 11 is headed to the House floor. The bill would require public-sector unions - except those representing firefighters and law enforcement or corrections officers - to report annually how many employees they are eligible to represent and how many of those employees actually pay annual dues for the union to represent them.  If the union fails to report those figures or if less than 50 percent of eligible employees paid dues to the union, the organization would be decertified as the official collective bargaining entity for those workers.
The bill passed its last committee of reference this week on a party-line vote and is headed to the House floor.
It is unknown how many employees the bill would affect, but it would be thousands, including many Florida teachers and professors.  At stake is the collective bargaining process where unions, regardless of the number of employees in a certain profession they represent, are authorized by law to collectively bargain for all of the employees in that profession.
Supporters claim the bill is about democracy: if at least 50 percent of an employee group are not members of a union, the union should not be allowed to represent all of the employees in that group.
Opponents contend it is all about union-busting because few - if any - democratically elected/supported organizations can show that 50 percent of the people they represent voted for them, including legislators.
A priority of House Speaker Corcoran, it is likely the bill will pass the House, but on a party-line vote as it did in committee with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against.
However, its Senate companion (SB 1292 ) has not yet been heard and is referenced to four committees, a nearly impossible challenge to surmount this late in session, particularly since the chairman of the first committee to which it is referenced has reportedly said he is not going to hear it.
GRForecastGR Forecast: Little Help
Last Friday, the Revenue Estimating Conference, comprised of budget experts from the Legislature and state agencies, projected how much money the Legislature will have to spend next year. This projection will be the basis for the 2017-2018 state budget. In short, the projection is basically flat.
The projections  increased by $115.2 million, less than 0.2 percent of the state's current annual budget. Unfortunately, the vast majority of that - $106.8 million - is non-recurring money that lawmakers won't be able to rely on in future years.
Obviously, the new forecast does little to change the dire budget situation ahead. While Florida is not facing a deficit next year, because of recurring tax cuts made by the Legislature earlier this decade we are facing a $1.3 billion deficit in 2018-19 and a $1.9 billion shortfall in 2019-20.
PayForSuccessPay-For-Success: Creative Solutions for the Future?
When the state wants to try out new ideas, it typically either just invests in them or creates and funds pilot projects.  Based upon outcomes, politics and money, the initiatives either fizzle out when the state money dries up, find a way to sustain themselves when the pilot projects end, or are taken to scale.  Regardless. taxpayers are the ones who bear the risks of failure.
In recent years, a new way of funding exciting new ideas for addressing social ills has gained more and more momentum. It is funded by the private sector, removes all risk of failure from taxpayers, vests responsibility for achieving success in quality nonprofits, and measures success in change that is achieved, not the number of services provided.
The pay-for-success model has been used in a number of states and in other Western countries. While some have reported mixed results, the fact that even when innovative ideas that have been funded have failed, taxpayers have not had to pay for them and what appeared to be legitimate solutions were proven false.  This, in itself, is a valuable endeavor.
A pay-for-success program allows a governmental entity to enter into contracts with private non-profit organizations to provide targeted services. Initial funding for these services is provided by private investors.
W hen a performance measure outcome identified in the contract is achieved, as recognized ban independent evaluator, the governmental entity makes a "success payment" to the private investor. The amount of the success payment is specified in the contracts, but presumablcovers the costs of the services plus some level of return on the initial investment made bprivate investors.
On Wednesday, SB 1446 u nanimously passed the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.  It authorizes a statagency, contingent upon authorization in the General Appropriations Act, to negotiate and enter into a pay-for-success contract with a private entity.
Contin g ent upon authoriz ation in the G en e r al App ropri ations A ct, the bill provides a non r e cur ri nappr opri ation of $850,000 from the Ge n e r al R ev enue  Fund for the 201 7-2018 fisc ay e ar to the D ep artm ent of He alt h to enter into a pay-for-success contract for Nurs e - F ami ly P artn ership services with desi gn ated H ea lt hy Sta rt c o alitions and f ed e r al ly q u alifi ed h e alth cente rs. The Nurs e - F ami ly P artn e rship is a home visiting program.
( Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
LimitationsLimitations on Property Tax Assessments
The Florida Constitution requires all property to be assessed at just value (i.e., market value) on January 1 of each year for purposes of ad valorem taxation, subject to assessment limitations and exemptions in certain circumstances. Such assessments are used to calculate property taxes that fund counties, municipalities, district school boards and special districts. In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting annual assessment increases for most nonhomestead parcels to 10 percent of prior year assessed value. This limitation does not apply to district school board assessments or in years when a property undergoes certain changes, including changes in ownership. Unless renewed, the 2008 amendment is set to expire on January 1, 2019. Existing constitutional language directs the legislature to propose a constitutional amendment, for the 2018 general election that would retain the cap beyond its scheduled expiration date.
CS/HJR 21  proposes a constitutional amendment to permanently retain the 10 percent cap on annual nonhomestead parcel assessment increases.  The amendment will appear on the 2018 general election ballot and require 60 percent approval for passage.
LAST ACTION: 3/23/2017 HOUSE CS passed as amended.

PublicAssistancePublic Assistance
Florida's Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Program provides cash assistance to needy families with children that meet eligibility requirements. To be eligible for full-family TCA, applicants must participate in work activities unless they qualify for an exemption. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) may sanction TCA recipients who fail to meet work activity requirements through the withholding of cash assistance for a specified minimum time or until the participant complies, whichever is later.
Among others, CS/CS/HB 23  increases the sanctions for TCA recipients who are subjected to the work requirements for the first three instances of noncompliance and creates a sanction for the fourth instance of noncompliance.
The bill has a recurring, positive fiscal impact of $2,246,447 in savings from the reduction in TCA benefits while participants experience penalties for noncompliance,
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee.

AlternativeTreatmentAlternative Treatment Options for Veterans  
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are known as "signature wounds" for service members returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), between 11 percent and 20 percent of the individuals who served in these conflicts are diagnosed with PTSD each year.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a class of therapy that includes treatments not considered standard in the current practice of Western medicine, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and relaxation.
Many veterans are turning to CAM treatments to treat TBI and PTSD as an adjunct to other traditional treatments.
CS/HB 55 , subject to legislative appropriation, authorizes the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) to contract with one or more individuals, corporations not for profit, state universities, or Florida College System institutions to provide alternative treatment options for veterans who have been certified by the VA, or any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, as having a TBI or PTSD.  The alternative treatment options may include :
  • Accelerated resolution therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Equine therapy
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Meditation therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Outdoor and indoor sports therapy
  • Service animal training therapy
  • Yoga therapy
LAST ACTION: 3/20/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Health Innovation Subcommittee.
ChildrenObtainingDLChildren Obtaining Driver Licenses
Children in the foster care system often face barriers to participating in everyday life experiences common to other young people their age.  These life experiences are a part of how all children are prepared for the responsibilities they will assume as adults.  Foster care children who are not able to learn or gain experience driving miss an important part of learning how to be independent, including being able to work and participate in extracurricular activities.
CS/SB 60 expands statewide the program that provides motor vehicle insurance and driver licenses to children in out-of-home care who are in relative and non-relative placements.  It also provides assistance to children who have reached permanency or turned 18 under certain circumstances.  The program is authorized to pay for a child in out-of-home care to complete a driver education program and obtain a driver license or the related costs of licensure under certain circumstances.  The bill continues the program beyond the 3-year pilot period.
The bill requires the child's transition plan and the court to address the issue of a child in care being able to obtain a driver license.  It provides that a guardian ad litem authorized by a minor's caregiver may sign for the minor's learner's driver license and not assume any obligation or liability for damages caused by the minor.
LAST ACTION: 3/23/2017 SENATE Passed.
UseofWirelessUse of Wireless Communications Devices While Driving
The "Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law" generally bans a person from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device. Enforcement is permitted only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for another traffic violation.
CS/SB 144 a mends the law to authorize enforcement of the ban on texting while driving as a primary offense.
LAST ACTION:  3/22/2017 SENATE Favorable by Transportation.
AutismAwarenessAutism Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers
CS/SB 154  requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to establish continued employment training relating to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Instruction must include, but is not limited to, instruction on the recognition of the symptoms and characteristics of an individual on the autism disorder spectrum and appropriate responses to a person exhibiting such symptoms and idiosyncrasies. Completion of the training may count toward the 40 hours of required instruction for continued employment or appointment as a law enforcement officer.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENATE  Favorable with CS by CS/CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
DirectPrimaryCareDirect Primary Care
Direct primary care is a primary care medical practice model that eliminates third party payers from the provider-patient relationship. Through a contractual agreement, a patient generally pays a monthly retainer fee, on average $77 per individual,to the primary care provider for defined primary care services, such as office visits, preventive care, annual physical examination, and routine laboratory tests.
After paying the monthly fee, a patient can access all services under the agreement at no extra charge based on the terms of the agreement. Typically, DPC practices provide routine preventive services, screenings, or tests, like lab tests, mammograms, Pap screenings, and vaccinations. A primary care provider DPC model can be designed to address most health care issues, including women's health services, pediatric care, urgent care, wellness education, and chronic disease management.
CS/CS/SB 240  amends the Florida Insurance Code (code) to provide that a direct primary care agreement is not insurance and is not subject to regulation under the code.
The bill also directs the Agency for Health Care Administration to submit a Medicaid waiver or waiver amendment to the appropriate federal authorities to provide Medicaid enrollees the opportunity to choose DPC agreements within the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program.
As of June 2016, 16 states had adopted DPC laws that define DPC as a medical service outside the scope of state insurance regulation.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 SENATE    Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
LocalTaxReferendaLocal Tax Referenda
SB 278  requires local governments to hold referenda to adopt or amend local option discretionary sales surtaxes during general elections.  The term general election means an election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years, used for the purpose of filling national, state, county, and district offices and for voting on constitutional amendments not otherwise provided for by law.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Ethics and Elections.
HumanTraffickingHuman Trafficking Education in Schools
SB 286   requires that information on the dangers and signs of human trafficking be included in comprehensive health education for middle and high school students. This new requirement can include information on the warning signs of human trafficking, terms used in trafficking, websites used by traffickers, and information on how a student can get help. A student may opt out of this instruction with a note from his or her parent.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 SENATE  Favorable by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
ReligiousExpressionReligious Expression in Public Schools
CS/HB 303  a uthorizes a student to:
  • Express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments free from discrimination.
  • Wear jewelry that displays a religious message or symbol to the same extent as secular types of jewelry that displays messages or symbols are permitted.
  • Engage in and organize religious groups before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that secular student organizations and groups are permitted.
The bill also requires a school district to:
  • Allow a religious group the same access to the same school facilities for assembling as given to a secular group and allow a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings.
  • Permit school personnel to participate in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated and at reasonable times before or after the school day as long as the activities are voluntary and do not conflict with the duties and responsibilities of such school personnel.
LAST ACTION: 3/23/2017 HOUSE Favorable by- Education Committee.
ReligiousExpression2Religious Expression in Public Schools
SB 436  c reates the "Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act," and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.  Among others, the bill:
  • Authorizes a student to:
    • Express his or her religious beliefs in written and oral assignments free from discrimination.
    • Wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent as secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted.
    • Pray or engage in and organize religious activities before, during, and after the school day to the same extent that student engagement in secular activity or expression and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.
  • Requires a school district to:
    • Comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and specifies that a school district may not prevent school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated at reasonable times before or after the school day.
    • Give a religious group access to the same school facilities for assembling as given to a secular group without discrimination and authorizes such a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings.
    • Adopt a policy that establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event at which a student is to speak publicly.
  • Requires the Florida Department of Education to develop and publish on its website a model policy regarding a limited public forum and the voluntary expression of religious viewpoints by students and school personnel in public schools. The model policy must be adopted and implemented by each district school board.
LAST ACTION: 3/23/2017 SENATE Passed.
VeteranIDVeteran Identification
SB 444   directs the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to create a veteran identification card to be used by veterans as proof of veteran status for obtaining discounts or fee waivers. The DHSMV shall issue the card to a veteran who has been honorably discharged and who provides to the DHSMV:
  • a copy of the veteran's DD Form 214;
  • a copy of the veteran's valid driver license or identification card or another form of photographic identification acceptable to the DHSMV; and
  • payment of a $10 fee.
LAST ACTION:  3/22/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Transportation.
FloridaCJFlorida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force
The Florida Department of Corrections is the third largest state prison system in the country. It incarcerates approximately 100,000 inmates in correctional facilities and supervises nearly 140,000. As of June 30, 2015, there were 11,000 correctional officers. The Department's annual budget is $2.4 billion for 2016.
At least 25 states have used what is commonly called justice reinvestment to develop and adopt prison reforms.  The process involves an analysis of the data on what drives prison populations and costs, enactment of policies that address those factors, investments that support carrying out the changes, and oversight and measurement to ensure the desired results are being achieved.
Half of those states have reduced their prison populations since 2009. Five states, Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Utah, adopted reforms in 2014 and 2015 that have a collective projected savings or avoided cost of more than $1.7 billion over the next two decades
CS/SB 458   creates a 28-member joint legislative entity called Florida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of the state's criminal justice system, court system, and corrections system. The task force must submit a report of its findings, conclusions, and recommendations for proposed legislation during the 2018 Legislative Session.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENAT E Favorable with CS by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
EnhancedSafetyEnhanced Safety for School Crossings
Current law authorizes the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish school speed zones. However, there is nothing in Florida Statutes regarding establishment of safe school crossing locations.
CS/HB 493  requires DOT to evaluate the viability and cost of establishing a uniform system for the designation of safe school crossing locations on arterial or collector roads within a one-mile radius of all schools. The bill requires DOT to report its findings to the Governor and Legislature by January 1, 2018.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

HSGradHigh School Graduation Requirements
CS/HB 525  expands current law by permitting a student to use credit earned upon completion of a registered apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program to satisfy the credit requirements for courses in fine or performing arts, speech and debate, or practical arts; or electives.
LAST ACTION: 3/20/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.

ConsolidationofMedicaidConsolidation of Medicaid Waiver Programs
Medicaid is the health care safety net for low-income Floridians. It is a partnership of the federal and state governments established to provide coverage for health services for eligible persons. States must follow federal Medicaid rules unless they receive a waiver. The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is authorized to waive federal requirements to the extent that he or she "finds it to be cost-effective and efficient and not inconsistent with the purposes" of the Medicaid program.
Florida has a waiver to operate the Medicaid Managed Care Long-term Care (LTC) program. The LTC program provides services for elderly and disabled individuals who require long-term nursing facility level of care.
Florida also operates multiple Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers to provide services not otherwise available through Medicaid, intended to prevent or delay institutional placement.
Among others, CS/HB 619  requires the consolidation of individuals enrolled in three HCBS waivers into the LTC program by January 1, 2018.  He HCBS waivers that would be consolidated and the number of people they would impact are the:
  • Project AIDS Care (PAC) waiver (7,800 individuals);
  • Adult Cystic Fibrosis (ACF) waiver (140 individuals); and
  • Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury waiver (350 individuals).
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
ExceptionalStudentExceptional Student Instruction  
HB 655 removes the option for the school district receiving an exceptional student with a disability who resides in a residential facility to decline to provide or contract for educational instruction.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable by PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
FederalImmigrationFederal Immigration Enforcement
Although the federal government has broad powers over immigration enforcement, federal immigration agencies rely on state and local law enforcement agencies to assist and cooperate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
CS/HB 697  creates the "Rule of Law Adherence Act" (Act) to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies, including their officials and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Among others, the bill:
  • prohibits a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency from having a law, policy, practice, procedure, or custom which impedes a law enforcement agency from communicating or cooperating with a federal immigration agency on immigration enforcement;
  • requires a state or local governmental entity and law enforcement agency to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration law;
  • provides procedures for a law enforcement agency and judge to follow when an arrested person cannot provide proof of lawful presence in the United States or is subject to an immigration detainer;
  • requires any sanctuary policies currently in effect be repealed within 90 days of the effective date of the Act;
  • requires an official or employee of a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency to report a violation of the Act to the Attorney General or state attorney, failure to report a violation may result in suspension or removal from office;
  • requires a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act to pay a civil penalty of at least $1,000 but no more than $5,000 for each day the policy was in effect;
  • creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by the conduct of an alien unlawfully present in the United States against a state or local governmental entity or law enforcement agency whose violation of the Act contributed to the person's injury;
  • suspends state grant funding eligibility for 5 years for a state government or local government entity or law enforcement agency that violates the Act; and
  • requires a state or local law enforcement agency to provide immediate notice of the arrest and charges of a person determined to not be a citizen of the United States and unlawfully present under federal immigration law.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.
VolPrekEdVoluntary Prekindergarten Education
CS/HB 757  requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to train Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) through grade 3 personnel on effective research-based reading instructional strategies and interventions;
  • requires each Early Learning Coalition to coordinate with the Florida's Office of Early Learning (OEL) to assign student identification numbers to each VPK student;
  • requires each public and private school in the VPK program to provide parents the results of the evidence based pre- and post-assessments within 10 days after administration of each assessment;
  • requires statewide kindergarten screening to emphasize and directly assess early literacy and numeracy skills;
  • authorizes a child that is at risk of not attaining the VPK performance standards to reenroll in one of the school-year programs for the subsequent year at the request of the child's parent; and
  • changes the date the DOE must report its findings on district implementation of reading plans from February 1, to December 1, and clarifies that the report must include findings from the previous school year.
The bill also appropriates $10 million to the DOE for development and training of VPK through grade 3 teachers, reading coaches and school principals on research-based reading instructional strategies and interventions.

LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
SupremeCourtSupreme Court Reporting Requirements
The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration provide time standards for resolution of trial and appellate cases based on what the Court considers a presumptively reasonable time period.  The standards for rendering a decision applicable to the Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal are:
  • 180 days after oral argument or submission of the case to the court for a decision without oral argument; for juvenile dependency or termination of parental rights cases; and
  • within 60 days after either oral argument or submission of the case to the court for a decision without oral argument.
SB 878  requires the Supreme Court to annually prepare a status report on cases that are unresolved within 180 days after oral argument or the date of submission to the panel without oral argument.  The report must, among other things:
  • Identify the case type.
  • Specify the number of days that have elapsed since the oral argument or the date the case was submitted to the panel for a decision.
  • Explain why the Court failed to render a decision within the 180-day time period.
  • State when the Court expects to render a decision or dispose of the case.
The report must also include data on cases resolved during the year preceding the date of the report that took longer than 180 days to resolve.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
YouthfulOffendersYouthful Offenders
SB 892  allows the court to impose a sentence as a youthful offender if a person committed a felony before they turned 21 years of age. Current law requires the person be under 21 at the time of sentencing.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENATE Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
ChildrensInitiativesChildren's Initiatives
Florida children's initiatives were created to assist disadvantaged areas within the state in creating a community-based service network that develops, coordinates, and provides quality education, accessible health care, youth development programs, opportunities for employment, and safe and affordable housing for children and families living within its boundaries. There are currently three Florida children's initiatives that have been recognized in statute; the Miami Children's Initiative, Inc., the New Town Success Zone in Jacksonville, and the Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando.
CS/SB 924  codifies the Tampa Sulphur Springs Neighborhood Promise Zone and the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition in Miami  that are currently in existence and have been designated by the Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce) as Florida children's initiatives.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
SmallFoodRetailersSmall Food Retailers  
Healthy Food Financing Initiatives have been developed at the local, state, and federal levels to provide funding to create healthy food options in low-income areas in which residents do not live in close proximity to affordable and healthy food retailers. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) administers the state's Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
CS/HB 1083  repeals the Florida's Healthy Food Financing Initiative and directs DACS to establish the Healthy Food Assistance Program that focuses on providing smaller retailers assistance for projects that increase the availability and sales of fresh and nutritious food in low-income and moderate-income communities.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.
VictimsHumanTraffickingVictims of Human Trafficking
CS/HB 1165   creates a cause of action for a victim of human trafficking to sue the trafficker who victimized him or her.  A victim may recover economic and noneconomic damages, penalties, punitive damages, reasonable attorney fees, reasonable investigative expenses, and costs in bringing the action.  If the victim was forced into lawful labor, the victim is entitled to recover the fair market value of the labor or the amount realized by the trafficker, whichever is greater. A victim is also entitled to reimbursement for the time in captivity, payable at the same rate as one is paid by the state for wrongful incarceration (currently $50,000 a year).
The bill also allows the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking to file a cause of action on behalf of victims of human trafficking. In addition to the damages available to the council or victims, the bill provides for a $100,000 civil penalty for the Council or victim in addition to punitive damages. Additionally, a law enforcement agency is entitled to a $50,000 civil penalty in the event the agency rescued a victim or located the property where the trafficking occurred.
The bill also provides for civil judicial forfeiture proceedings that may be brought by the Council against the real and personal property of a person who knowingly participated in human trafficking. Forfeiture may also be filed against property where the owner allowing human trafficking to happen by willful blindness.

LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee.
FLCompTrustFlorida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking   
CS/HB 1167 creates the Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking. The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking will administer the fund.
The purpose of the fund is to receive and administer funds from civil actions brought on behalf of the fund including money from seizures of personal and real property, penalties imposed by the courts, or received from any other public or private sources or from the Legislature; to administer claims for compensation by survivors of human trafficking; and to create a public-private partnership by establishing a 501(c)(3) foundation for receipt of charitable contributions to carry out the foundation's purposes, including but not limited to:
  • Educating the public about the recruitment, trafficking, and exploitation of persons through human trafficking.
  • Assisting in the prevention of recruitment in Florida schools of minors for exploitation.
  • Establishing a survivor's resource center for legal services, social services, safe harbors, safe houses, and language services that are available to survivors of trafficking.
  • Advertising the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline number and the Be Free text line in diverse venues.
  • Assisting in the coordination between law enforcement and service providers.
  • Assisting in vacating convictions of minors who were victims of trafficking.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee.
TANFTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Applicant Drug Screening
CS/SB 1392   would require the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to drug test applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) who have been convicted of committing or attempting to commit certain drug-related felonies within the last 10 years and who the department has reasonable suspicion are engaging in the illegal use of a controlled substance.
LAST ACTION: 3/21/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
MilitaryandVetMilitary and Veteran Support
SB 1588   contains provisions relating to veteran-owned businesses, employment of military spouses, and student veteran support. Among others, the bill:
  • directs the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to create a website to streamline the procedure for applying for certification as a veteran business enterprise;
  • provides that the Supreme Court of Florida may admit the spouse of a military service member to practice law in this state if the Florida Board of Bar Examiners certifies that the spouse meets certain requirements;
  • requires the Department of Education to expedite the processing of an application for educator certification submitted by the spouse of a military service member; and
  • provides legislative intent regarding academic credit for military training and coursework and collaboration between the State Board of Education and the Board of Governors on student veteran issues.
LAST ACTION: 3/22/2017 SENATE   Favorable with CS by Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security.



Session Dates

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