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ISSUE 4 | MARCH 31, 2017
BigBudgetWeekBig Budget Week
Next week marks the midpoint of the 2017 Session.  This week, the House and Senate began positioning themselves for what promises to be a rollercoaster second half.
Appropriations subcommittees rolled out their funding recommendations this week.  Those recommendations put into writing for the first time this session the funding levels that are being considered for every one of the 3,000+ budget items that will appear in the 2017-2018 state budget.
The proposed Senate budget (SPB 2500 ) was released on Wednesday, and the House bill (PCB APC 17-01) came out this morning. Click here for a snapshot of a (very) limited number of budget items.
The proposed budgets will be passed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees next week and then off of their respective floors the week of April 10, setting the stage for joint House and Senate conference committees to begin ironing out the differences.
It is impossible to determine when the conference committees will actually be appointed because the trickle down theory is in play:  Big funding issues that collectively cost billions of dollars must be resolved before funding for the multitude of remaining issues can be decided.  This year the list of unresolved "big" issues is much longer than usual, including hospital and higher education funding, gambling, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida funding, funding to clean up Lake Okeechobee drainage, property taxes, and tax cuts.
Next week's Legislative Link will compare key issues in the House and Senate budget proposals to this year's budget.
CWandFSDChildren's Week and Senior Day Bring Thousands to the Capitol
With thousands of construction paper cut-outs of children's hands adorning the Capitol, more than 4,000 thousand children, advocates and teachers flooded the Capitol for Children's Week this week, followed by thousands of seniors converging to celebrate Senior Day on Wednesday.
The excitement and energy was palpable as Children's Week participants - among many others - participated in an adoption celebration, directly put their most pressing public policy questions to members of the Children and Youth Cabinet, heard the wise words of Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince, and were regaled in the Storybook Village.  Special recognition was given to Florida Women's Hall of Fame member Carol Barnett, as she was presented the annual Chiles Advocacy Award for her extraordinary vision and commitment to improving the quality of life for children and families in Florida and across the nation.
More than 2,000 Senior Day participants - many of whom traveled the length of the state to participate - heard from our state's foremost senior-arena leaders, including Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Jeffrey Bragg and Claude Pepper Center Executive Director Larry Polivka, and enjoyed a lively day of fun and entertainment.
While all of these wonderful events provided opportunities to enjoy, learn and network, the week provided the highest-profile spotlight on children, family and senior issues that the session will see.  It provided advocates the opportunity to flood the Capitol halls with their messages on how to build a better Florida.  Perfect timing given the budget work being undertaken by policymakers.
"Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night."   -- Dave Barry
SessionSnapshot2017 Session Snapshot: Record Number of Bills
LobbyTools reports that more bills have been filed this session than any session since they began keeping records in 2000.
House and Senate members filed 2,983 this session, making 2017 the session with the most bills filed, eclipsing the 2004 session's previous record of 2,691 bills.
Why so many bills?  The main reason is the new House rule requiring that separate bills be filed for each member appropriations project request, of which there are 1,205 .
Excluding the appropriations project requests, 1,486 bills have been filed, less than the 1,814 filed in 2016.
EarlyGradeSuccessCommittee on Early Grade Success
How do we know if funding for school readiness and the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) programs is a wise investment?  How do we know if children who are transitioning between the school readiness, VPK and kindergarten programs are learning and growing as they should, or not?  How do school readiness, VPK and kindergarten teachers - and tax payers - know how children are progressing through the programs?  How do we know which school readiness  and VPK programs are actually providing the service we are paying for?
We don't know the answers to these questions, even though taxpayers pour more than $1 billion dollars into these programs each year.
It's about time Florida taxpayers knew the answers to these questions.
The answers will be found when we create and implement a uniform process for assessing how our youngest children are learning, growing and progressing through these programs.  "Assessing" does not mean "testing."  It means implementing tools that teachers can use to observe the growth and development of the children in their care.
Currently, there is no system for ascertaining the answers to the questions above,  Fortunately, Representative Erin Grall and Senator Kelli Stargel have filed bills (HB 1229  and SB 806 ) that will ultimately provide the answers. The bills will create a Committee on Early Grade Success, within the Department of Education, to develop a proposal for establishing and implementing a coordinated child assessment system for the School Readiness Program, the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program, and the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment.
"First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me."  -- Steve Martin
FSECCRepealBillFSECC Repeal Bill Passes House
After years of intentional neglect and purposeful action by the state, a bill repealing the once vibrant and impactful Florida State Employees' Charitable Campaign (FSECC) passed the House on Thursday.
In an end-game planned and implemented years ago by the Department of Management Services (DMS), which decided it did not want to oversee the Campaign, the House passed CS/HB 1141  on Thursday.
Since 1980, state employees generously contributed more than $94 million to more than 1,000 charities through the Campaign.  But instead of working to improve the Campaign to assist state employees and address current times and giving preferences, DMS prevailed upon the House to repeal the Campaign.  It appears likely that the bill will pass this session and the Campaign will die.
The $94 million contributed by state employees over the years helped millions of Floridians.  The benefit of the Campaign to state government, state employees, charities throughout the state, and millions of Floridians will undoubtedly result in charities coming back to the legislature to revisit the issue in years to come with a Campaign proposal that is a win-win-win for all.
( Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
OffensesbyIllegalImmigrantsOffenses by Illegal Immigrants
For certain offenses, Florida law provides for reclassification of the crime to the next higher degree and increases the offense severity ranking by one level. Examples of current offenses that are subject to reclassification provisions are crimes motivated by prejudice, and assault and battery offenses against a law enforcement officer engaged in the lawful performance of his or her duties
CS/HB 83  reclassifies five violent crimes to the next higher degree and enhances their severity ranking one rank higher than the normal ranking committed by an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States. The offenses qualifying for the enhanced penalty are:
  • sexual battery;
  • aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
  • murder;
  • unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging a destructive device or bomb; and
  • armed burglary.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
PublicSchoolAttendancePublic School Attendance Policies
CS/HB 127   requires district school boards to adopt student absence policies regarding student appointments to receive autism spectrum disorder therapy, including but not limited to, applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy and occupational therapy.
LAST ACTION: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
StudentsRemainingStudents Remaining on School Grounds During School Hours
CS/SB 148   authorizes district school boards to adopt policies for allowing students to leave school grounds during school hours, with some exceptions.
LAST ACTION:  3/29/2017 SENATE Favorable by- Rules.
StudentswithDisabilitiesStudents with Disabilities in Public Schools
CS/HB 233  establishes standards and procedures regarding the use, monitoring, documentation and reporting of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.
MiddleSchoolStudyMiddle School Study
CS/HB 293  directs the Florida Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive study of states with high- performing students in grades 6 through 8 in reading and mathematics, based on the states' performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The findings of the study must be reported to the Governor, the State Board of Education, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by December 2017.
LAST ACTION: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
UseofAnimalsUse of Animals in Proceedings Involving Minors
Under CS/CS/SB 416 , a court may authorize the use of a facility dog to assist a victim or witness who must testify in a proceeding involving a sexual offense or in a dependency proceeding. The bill also expands the class of victims and witnesses who may use the assistance of an animal in giving testimony to include those having an intellectual disability.
Under current law, only a service or therapy animal may assist witnesses or victims who are required to testify. The bill removes references to "service animals" from current statute, and includes "facility dogs" as animals that may assist in relevant proceedings. As used in a courtroom, therapy animals and facility dogs fulfill the same purpose. This purpose is protecting the victim or witness from severe emotional or mental harm, which might occur while testifying in the presence of the defendant.
The difference between a service or therapy animal and a facility dog appears to be in their qualifications. Under current law, a service or therapy animal must be evaluated and registered according to national standards. Under the bill, a therapy animal or facility dog must be trained and evaluated according to industry standards.
LAST ACTION: 3/29/2017 SENATE Favorable by- Rules .
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: 3/29/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Government Accountability Committee.
ExceptionalStudentInstructionExceptional 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: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable by PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
MedicaidManagedCareMedicaid Managed Care
CS/SB 682 , among others, exempts from the Long-Term Care component (LTC) of the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program those Medicaid recipients who have resided in a nursing facility for more than 60 consecutive days. The bill also exempts those recipients in the LTC component who are receiving hospice care while residing in a nursing facility.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Health Policy.
ConsumerFinanceLoansConsumer Finance Loans
CS/SB 872   establishes the Access to Responsible Credit Pilot Program. The intent of the program is to provide greater access to small dollar consumer loans and assist consumers in building their credit.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Banking and Insurance.
StatewideMedicaidStatewide Medicaid Managed Care Program
SB 916  modifies the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program (SMMC) to, among others, collapse and re-group counties within new regions and revises the plan limitations within the regions for the procurement process for Medicaid Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) and Long-Term Care (LTC) components.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable by Health Policy.
HSGraduationHigh School Graduation Requirements
HB 955  requires students entering grade 9 in the 2017-2018 school year and thereafter to complete a one-half course credit in personal financial literacy.
LAST ACTON: 3/27/2017 HOUSE Favorable by PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee.
HSGrad2High School Graduation Requirements
CS/SB 978  allows a student to use credit earned upon completion of a registered apprenticeship or preapprenticeship program registered with the Department of Education to satisfy up to one credit in fine or performing arts, speech and debate, or practical arts; or electives.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE CS by Education.
ChildWelfareChild Welfare
The Department of Children and Families' (DCF) child welfare practice model (model) standardizes the approach to risk assessment and decision making used to determine a child's safety. The model seeks to achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and child and family well-being. It emphasizes parent engagement and empowerment as well as the training and support of child welfare professionals to assess child safety and emphasizes a family-centered practice with the goal of keeping children in their homes whenever possible.
CS/HB 1121  makes multiple changes to the child welfare statutes to protect vulnerable children. Among others, the bill:
  • improves the assessment of risk for children by changing the process that DCF and the dependency court use to assess and order services for substance exposed newborns and children who enter households already under investigation or under the dependency court's jurisdiction;
  • expedites permanency for children by making changes to the procedures the dependency court and DCF use to identify and locate prospective parents requiring an inquiry and search much earlier in the dependency case;
  • fosters more meaningful engagement of families by making changes that facilitate more participation by a child in his or her case planning, streamline processes for child protective investigators, and align statute with current practice to include conditions for return and Family Functioning Assessments;
  • allows DCF to use confidential abuse registry information and investigation records for residential group home employment screening, to align with foster home screening requirements; and
  • permits hospitals and physician's offices to release patient records to DCF or its contracted entities for the purpose of investigations of or services for cases of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children or vulnerable adults.
LAST ACTION: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
NewbornScreeningsNewborn Screenings
CS/SB 1124  modifies Florida's Newborn Screening Program to require testing for any condition included in the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) and which the Genetics and Newborn Screening Advisory Council (GNSAC) has recommended for inclusion in the state's screening program.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Health Policy.
SharedUseShared Use of Public School Playground Facilities
HB 1131 , among others, requires the Department of Education (DOE) to provide technical assistance to school districts to promote community use of shared facilities and creates a Shared Use Task Force to identify barriers in creating shared use agreements.
LAST ACTION: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable by PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.
MilitaryandVeteranSupportMilitary and Veteran Support
CS/HB 1235  and CS/SB 1588  contain provisions relating to veteran-owned businesses, employment of military spouses, and student veteran support. Among others, the bills:
  • direct the Florida Department of Veteran's Affairs to create a website to streamline the procedure for applying for certification as a veteran business enterprise;
  • provide 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;
  • require the Department of Education to expedite the processing of an application for educator certification submitted by the spouse of a military service member; and
  • provide 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: 3/28/2017 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.
FloridaKidCareFlorida KidCare Program
CS/SB 1654  creates the KidCare Operational Efficiency and Health Care Improvement Workgroup to maximize the state's return on investment in the KidCare program.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
JuvenileJusticeJuvenile Justice
SB 1670   makes numerous changes that increase the use of secure detention for juveniles, including creating the designation of a prolific juvenile offender and requiring that children who are designated as prolific juvenile offenders be held in detention until disposition.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable by Criminal Justice.
SupportforParentalVictimsSupport for Parental Victims of Child Domestic Violence
SB 1694  requires the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop materials detailing the resources and services available for parents and legal guardians who are victims of domestic violence.
LAST ACTION: 3/27/2017 SENATE Favorable by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.


Session Dates

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-- Salvador Dali
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