The third week of session saw the rollout of the House and Senate proposed budgets for the 2015-16 Fiscal Year which contain a $5 billion difference. The Senate included $2.8 billion of federal funds for the expansion of health care coverage under SB 7044, and another $2.2 billion for continuation funding for the Low-Income Pool Program, a program scheduled to expire June 30. The state is currently in negotiations with the federal government for an extension of the LIP Program which funds hospitals and other health providers for services provided to poor and uninsured individuals. The House health budget does not include funding for health care coverage expansion or funding to extend the LIP Program. Friday’s release of these proposals is the first step in a budget battle almost certain to last until or beyond the May 1st close of session.
As bills continued to move, SB 7044, the Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX) bill passed its second committee,the Senate Committee on Health Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Sen. Rene Garcia, on March 17. The bill which passed unanimously, provides alternative affordable health care coverage to low-income, uninsured Floridians through private insurance.
EARLY LEARNING AND SCHOOL READINESS
Early Learning Bills
A bill to increase health and safety standards at early learning facilities by the House Education Committee, CS/HB 7017 is awaiting action by the full House. The companion bill by the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee, SB 7006 is awaiting action by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Both bills increase the health and safety standards and personnel requirements for Voluntary Prekindergarten Programs Education (VPK) and School Readiness programs. While the bills are substantively similar, the Senate bill differs in that it would allow school districts to create policies permitting families to enroll four-year-olds in kindergarten if a child is 4 years of age by Sept. 1 of the school year, and has achieved certain academic and social standards. Currently, kindergarten serves five-year-olds. The House bill also requires that pre- and post-assessment data collected in the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program be used as part of the calculation of a provider’s readiness rate.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Early Steps Program
This week, advocates met with Dr. Celeste Philip, Deputy Secretary for Health and Deputy State Health Officer for Children’s Medical Services (CMS), for continuing dialogue on issues regarding proposed restructuring of the Early Steps Program. Advocates and the respective budget committees in both House and Senate will continue to monitor the program transitions in the months ahead to ensure that services to children are not affected.
Florida KidCare Program
SB 294, sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia ( R-Hialeah) that would allow children of legal immigrants, who have been residing in the United States less than five years to be insured under the Florida KidCare program, passed 2 committees unanimously in the Senate. The federal government permits states to cover those in a 5-year waiting period, if the state elects to do so. The bill specifies that the statutory changes do not extend Healthy Kids or Medicaid eligibility to undocumented immigrants. The fiscal impact for the 2015-16 fiscal year in recurring state General Revenue funds is down from $14.5 million last year to $4.8 million.
The House companion, HB 829 by Rep. Mike LaRosa (R-St. Cloud) is STALLED – still awaiting its first hearing in the House Health Innovation Subcommittee.
We need you to contact the following house members and let them know how important these bills are to you and ask that the bills be heard quickly:
Health Care Coverage Expansion
On March 19, 2015, the Senate Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed SB 7044 relating to Health Insurance Affordability Exchange. The bill creates the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program or FHIX in the Agency for Health Care Administration and extends health care coverage (by drawing down approximately $3 billion per year in federal match) to cover an estimated 800,000 uninsured, low-income Floridians in households earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). These individuals are not currently eligible under the Medicaid program. To be eligible, an individual must be a U.S. citizen and a Florida resident. The FHIX is implemented in three phases, from July 1, 2015, through January 1, 2016. Florida Health Choices, Inc., the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, the Department of Children and Families, and the Agency for Health Care Administration are given duties to implement the FHIX. The bill provides the AHCA with authority to seek federal approval to implement the FHIX program. Triggers for ending the program are also included.
There is no House companion to the proposed Senate bill. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) has reiterated his chamber’s continued opposition to Medicaid Expansion.
Newborn Health Screening
SB 632 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) directs the Department of Health to establish requirements for newborn adrenoleukodystrophy, a test administered to newborns which identifies the presence of adrenoleukodystrophy, a disease of the central nervous system that is inherited as an X-linked recessive trait and characterized by blindness, deafness, tonic spasms, and mental deterioration. The bill also provides certain insurance and managed care coverage; and, provides for documentation of objections to screening by the parent or legal guardian. The bill is scheduled to be heard in its second committee, the Senate Committee on Health Policy on March 23.
The House companion, HB 403 by Rep. Mike LaRosa (St. Cloud), passed favorably in the House Subcommittee on Health Quality on March 16, and now heads to the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
On March 17, the House Subcommittee on Children, Families,and Seniors chaired by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) discussed proposed committee bill, PCB CFSS 15-02 on child welfare as follow-up to the legislation passed in 2014 (see committee packet for a bill summary on pages 1-2). The proposed committee bill will be taken up by the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee during their scheduled meeting on March 24 and will include recommendations from the Florida Institute for Child Welfare Report which will emphasize trauma-informed care in statute and require Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) advisory committee to meet more frequently than annually.
Guardian for Dependent Children who are Developmentally Disabled or Incapacitated
SB 496 by Senator Detert (R-Venice) passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting action in its final committee of reference, Senate Appropriations Committee.The bill creates a framework for identifying and appointing guardian advocates, limited guardians, and plenary guardians for developmentally disabled children who may require decision-making assistance beyond their 18th birthday. More specifically the bill:
Requires an annual review of the continued necessity of a guardianship for young adults in extended foster care who already have a guardian advocate or guardian;
Requires development of an updated case plan for any child who may require the assistance of a guardian advocate, limited guardian, or plenary guardian;
Provides that upon a judge’s finding that no less restrictive decision-making assistance will meet the child’s needs:
Provides that a minor who is 17 and one-half years of age and is subject to guardianship proceedings must receive all the due process rights of an adult; and
Provides that a child’s parents are considered to be the child’s natural guardians, unless the dependency or guardianship court determines it is not in the child’s best interest or the parents’ rights have been terminated.
The House companion, CS/CS/HB 437 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) has passed all its committees of reference and is awaiting a full House vote.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Understanding that mental health and substance abuse issues are at the heart of many of the child abuse and neglect cases, and that many individuals are wrongly incarcerated in the corrections sytem, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members recently announced their support of a 21-page bill that would better fund community mental health services and, among other things, establish a data collection system populated with information about individuals receiving publicly funded substance abuse and mental health disorders.
In kicking off the press conference on HB 1005, veteran state Sen. Nancy Detert predicted that the state would pass legislation this year increasing funding for mental health and substance abuse services. Sen. Garcia said that for too long the Florida Legislature has neglected the state’s mental health and substance issues. “The reason that happens is there is such a huge stigma associated with mental health and substance abuse and we try to keep it hidden,” Garcia said, adding that everyone knows someone who has been impacted by mental health and substance abuse issues. “That’s why it’s incumbent upon this Legislature to act today.” However, the funding is now in question due to the budget imbalance created by the uncertainty of Medicaid Expansion and the Low Income Pool.
HB 1005 by Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg) creates the Behavioral Health Task Force within DCF and requests the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in Courts to act as a subcommittee of the task force. The bill further revises duties of the Criminal Justice, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse Statewide Grant Review Committee; creates the statewide Center for Excellence for Criminal Justice, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse at the current the Criminal Justice, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse Technical Assistance Center; and establishes a Behavioral Health Workforce Loan Forgiveness Program. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee.
SB 1338 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) creates the “Excellence in Behavioral Health Act”. It establishes the Behavioral Health Task Force within the Department of Children and Families; authorizes counties to fund treatment-based mental health court programs; requires the Department of Children and Families to designate qualifying organizations as community behavioral health centers; and requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to implement a prospective payment methodology for reimbursement rates at community behavioral health centers. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.
HB 1277 by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) creates the Florida Priority Care Project. It directs DCF, in consultation with AHCA and the Department of Corrections (DOC) within current resources, to develop behavioral health services a pilot project; establishes criteria for involuntary placement in assisted outpatient treatment; provides procedures for admitting persons for assisted outpatient treatment; provides for funding of services; provides for service delivery by a managing entity or managed care plan; provides for a petition for assisted outpatient treatment; requires appointment of counsel; provides procedures for a hearing on assisted outpatient treatment; directs DCF to establish a mental health treatment bed registry website; and requires public and private mental health facilities to participate in the registry. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee.
Some of the elements in Rep. Adkins and Rep. Peters bills will be merged in the House Children and Families Subcommittee’s PCB CFSS 15-01 on Mental Health and Substance Abuse scheduled for a hearing on March 24. However, child advocates remain concerned that despite these good efforts, the focus is exclusively adult-centered, and that none of the legislation
HB 465 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview), “Relating to Public Records/Human Trafficking Victims,” is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate companion, SB 1106 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 23.
Other bills related to human trafficking include:
HB 467 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview), “Relating to Public Records/Human Trafficking Victims,” is currently in the House Judiciary Committee
SB 1108 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), “Relating to Public Records/Identity of a Victim/Human Trafficking Offenses,” is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 23
SB 1110 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), “Relating to Public Records/Residential Facilities Serving Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 23
Charging Youths as Adults in Criminal Proceedings
HB 783 by Rep. Katie Edwards (R-Sunrise) that seeks to reduce the number of youth charged as adults in less serious criminal proceedings passed the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice on March 16, and now heads to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill specifies offenses that allow state attorneys to file information for specified juvenile offenders. More specifically the bill:
Prohibits filing information for juveniles with certain conditions;
Specifies effects of direct file;
Prohibits certain juvenile offenders from being transferred to adult court;
Requires the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to collect specified data and make a report;
Specifies minimum age for indictment of juveniles for certain offenses;
Prohibits certain juvenile offenders from being transferred to adult court; deletes provisions relating to sentencing of juveniles as adults for certain offenses;
Revises provisions relating to transfer of other pending felony charges when the child has been indicted;
Revises factors to be considered in determining whether to impose juvenile or adult sanctions for violations of law by juvenile;
Requires the court to consider specified reports in the hearing on such sentencing;
Revises provisions relating to sentencing alternatives.
The Senate companion, SB 1082 by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Cape Canaveral) is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 23.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Students with Disabilities
SB 7022, entitled “Individuals with Disabilities,” has been placed on the Senate Special Order Calendar for full floor action on March 24. Part of the joint agenda, “Work Plan 2015,” announced by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, the legislation seeks to enhance employment options available within state government for Floridians who have a disability.
Specifically, the bill requires each executive agency to:
Establish annual goals in its affirmative action plan that ensure full utilization of underrepresented groups in the agency’s workforce to include individuals who have a disability;
Annually report its progress toward increasing employment of individuals who have a disability; and
By January 1, 2016, develop an agency-specific plan on promoting employment opportunities for individuals who have a disability.
The bill appropriates $138,692 in recurring funds and $26,264 in nonrecurring funds from the State Personnel Trust Fund, and authorizes two FTE from the Department of Management Services to implement this act.
The House companion, HB 7095 by the Committee on Education and Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Miami) passed the committee favorably on March 19 and now heads to the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
CS/SB 152 sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) and the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee passed favorably in the Senate Fiscal Policy on March 19. CS/SB 152 requires district school boards to annually provide disability history and awareness instruction in all K-12 public schools, during the first 2 weeks in October, beginning with the 2016-17 school year. The required disability awareness instruction must be integrated into the existing school curriculum and be augmented by presentations from individuals who have a disability, who are approved by the school or school district, and who meet existing background screening requirements. The bill requires each public school in Florida to establish a disability history and awareness advisory council, and provides requirements for the council regarding membership,responsibilities, and frequency of annual meetings. The district costs associated with the required disability awareness instruction would be paid from existing Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) funds or other local sources. No additional state funds would be needed to implement the bill.
The House companion, HB 123 by Rep. John Cortes (R-Kissimmee) is awaiting a hearing in the House K-12 Subcommittee.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Children and Youth Cabinet
HB 55 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) relating to the Children and Youth Cabinet, passed the House Education Committee unanimously on March 19.
The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet (Cabinet) consists of the Governor and 14 members. These members include the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, the Secretary of Juvenile Justice, the director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the director of the Office of Early Learning, the State Surgeon General, the Secretary of Health Care Administration, the Commissioner of Education, the director of the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Office, the director of the Office of Adoption and Child Prevention, and five members appointed by the Governor who represent children and youth advocacy organizations. The bill creates one additional Cabinet position to be held by a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor.
The Senate companion, SB 878 by Sen. Bill Montford (D-Quincy) passed favorably in the Senate Education PreK-12 Committee, and now heads to the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.
APPROPRIATION SUBCOMMITTEES RELEASE INITIAL BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS THIS WEEK
The third week of session marked the ramping up of the state budget process, as chairmen of the appropriations subcommittees announced their recommended budgets. The funding proposals, which were released ahead of schedule will now be sent to the full appropriations committees in each of the respective chambers and provide a basis for the development of a single comprehensive appropriations bill by both the House and Senate.
Early Learning Budget Highlights
Total School Readiness funding in the House budget is $560.5 million and includes a $5 million recurring increase for serving additional children. This is different to the Senate budget that includes an additional $15 million nonrecurring increase to serve additional children for one year.
The VPK program total budget is $396.1 million, and the base student allocations of $2,480 for the school year program and $2,116 for the summer program represent an increase of 1.75%. The Senate has proposed $389.2 for the VPK budget and base student allocations of $2,437 for the school year program and $2,080 for the summer program.
The House has $10.5 million with $3.5 million recurring for performance based funding. The Senate has $3.5 million recurring.
The House and Senate have proposed $2 million for the Help Me Grow Florida Network, a national initiative that is designed to identify children at-risk for developmental or behavioral disabilities, and connect them with community-based programs for health and developmental services.
The House proposed an additional $1.5 million in non-recurring funds for the TEACH scholarship program. The Senate proposed the base funding of $3 million without the increase in funds.
The House proposed an additional $2.5 million in non-recurring funds for the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program, an evidenced-based early learning program. The Senate proposed base funding of $3.9 million without the increase in funds.
Kidcare: The House proposed full funding for the KidCare program with an increase for Florida Healthy Kids dental services to be paid a monthly premium of no more than $14.54 per member per month.
Children’s Medical Services Administration: The House and Senate proposed $1 million in recurring funds and $8.6 million in Trust Funds for an increase in per member per month funding for administrative services related to Children’s Medical Services Network Title XXI Program.
Healthy Start Coalitions: The House and Senate proposed $872,500 in nonrecurring funds to the Department of Health to fund designated Healthy Start Coalitions and federally qualified health centers to integrate the Nurse-Family Partnership model to provide intensive nurse visitation services for women and their infants. From these funds, the Department of Health will use $10,000 to contract with the Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office for process and outcome data identification, management, and analysis. Any needed training and programmatic support will also be provided. The following is provided to high risk communities: Miami-Dade County $487,500 and Pasco County $375,000.
Newborn Screening and Hearing Testing: The House proposed $600,000 for the restoration of non-recurring funds for genetic testing and referral services in the Florida Newborn Screening Program.
Early Steps: The Senate proposed an additional $3.3 million in recurring funds for the Early Steps Program.
A Safe Haven for Newborns: The Senate proposed $300,000 in recurring funds for A Safe Haven for Newborns program.
Child Nutrition Program: The House and Senate proposed $15 million in Trust Funds to increase budget authority to compensate for additional services provided by the Afterschool Meals Program.
Electronic Personal Records for Foster Children: The House appropriated $100,000 in non-recurring funds for the development of MyJumpVault to allow foster youth to access their medical records.
Healthy Families Expansion: The Senate proposed an additional $5 million to serve an additional 1,229 families (total of 6,798) to restore the program to the 2009-10 funding level of $28.1 million.
Community Based Care Risk Pool: The House and Senate proposed an additional $10 million and $3 million in federal Trust Funds for the risk pool established in statute to mitigate CBC operating deficits. The risk pool was last funded in 2009-10 for $4 million.
Healthy Transitions Grant: The House and Senate proposed $999,750 in Trust funds for grants for individuals ages 16 to 25 who are at risk of developing a mental health disorder. The award is for five years and will be administered by the Central Florida Managing Entity.
Secure Capacity Increase At A Youth Facility/Juvenile Incompetent to Proceed Program: The House and Senate appropriated $975,601 in recurring funds and $2,673 in non-recurring funds for an additional 8 beds (total of 48) to reduce the waiting list (average 40 days). DCF contracts with the provider specifically for children with mental health or intellectual disabilities to restore trial competency.
Increasing Safety in Child Protective Investigators for Families Experiencing Domestic Violence: The House proposed $750,000 in non-recurring funds while the Senate appropriated $250,000 to provide for the integration of domestic violence services and child protective investigators to reduce child abuse and removal from the home.
Federal Funding for Child Welfare Improvement Training, Title IV-E: The House and Senate proposed $16.6 million in Trust Funds to expand base activities related to training Child Protection Investigators (CPIs), case managers, hotline, and Children’s Legal Services Staff.
Increase to Core Service Funding for Community Based Care (CBC) Lead Agencies: The House appropriated $8.9 million in recurring funds and $6.7 million in Trust funds. The Senate Appropriated $9.4 million in recurring funds and $6.7 million in Trust Funds. The current funding level is $587.1 million for all CBCs.
Enhanced Services for Human Trafficking Victims: The Senate proposed $400,000 in non-recurring funds to assist victims.
Children’s Community Action Teams (CAT): The Senate proposed $750,000 in non-recurring funds while the House proposed $1.5 million in recurring funds for additional CAT teams.
Maintenance of Adoption Subsidies: The Senate provided $6.5 million in recurring funds and $7.3 million in federal Trust funds. The House proposed $4.6 million in recurring funds and $7.2 million in federal Trust funds to provide additional funding for an anticipated 3,000 new adoptions.
Adoption Incentive Awards to Community-Based Care Agencies (CBC) and State Employees: The House proposed $74,643 in recurring funds and $3.7 million in non-recurring funds for costs associated with HB 7013 – Adoption and Foster Care bill.
Non-Violence Project USA (NVPUSA HEALTHCARE) to Expand Behavioral Health Care Program in Schools: The Senate proposed $1 million in non-recurring funds for school based programs.
Increase Staff to Represent All Children by Guardian Ad Litem: The House appropriated $4.5 million in recurring funds and $108,000 in non-recurring funds for the final year of a planned 3-year staffing increases that will allow GAL to cover all children in the dependency system.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida: The Senate proposed $1 million in recurring funds to increase prevention and intervention services in the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
Helping Hands: The House proposed $125,000 in non-recurring general revenue for an after school prevention program for children.
Enpowered Youth Job Development: The House proposed $100,000 in non-recurring funds for a diversion/intervention program based in Miami, that serves inner city at-risk young men between 13 and 19, most of whom have been court-referred.
Florida’s Children’s Initiative: The House proposed $300,000 in non-recurring general revenue for prevention programs at 3 sites: Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami.
Miami Children’s Initiative-Liberty City: The Senate proposed $95,000 in recurring
funds for prevention and intervention services.
Miami-Dade Crime Prevention and Youth Crime Watch Program: The Senate proposed $100,000 in recurring funds for educational materials for a youth crime watch program to help reduce crime in Dade City.
Increase Juvenile Justice Prevention Services: The Senate proposed $780,952 in recurring funds for the Stop Now and Plan program to provide services in Alachua, Duval, Leon and Orange counties for children under age 12 who are referred to the program because of disruptive behavior.
Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Services: The Senate proposed $200,000 in recurring funds for provision of comprehensive health services by a single regional provider for youth in detention in each of the three DJJ regions.
The House and Senate proposed $735,840 for the expansion of Juvenile Assessment Centers (JACs) in Escambia and Bay Counties and the Senate included $200,000 for the Broward JAC.
The Senate proposed $500,000 for anti-bullying measures in schools.
The Senate proposed $2.4 million and the House $850,000 to expand PACE for girls.
The House proposed to $780,952 to expand the CINS/FINS program statewide.
The House provides $3 million to adjust the state’s share of the juvenile detention center costs.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The beloved bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) created in 1997 that gave rise to state programs such as Florida KidCare is authorized until 2019, but its funds must be renewed in September of this year. The good news is there seems to be bipartisan agreement on the Hill on the need to extend CHIP funding, and perhaps even a desire on the part of congressional leadership to get this done quickly. Bills that have been filed in both the House and Senate (SR 522 and HR 919) call for a swift and relatively clean four-year renewal of CHIP. More importantly, is a desire by leaders in both parties to include CHIP language in the fix to cuts in Medicare payments to doctors – the so-called SGR fix. Bill language has not yet been released on the House package, but House leaders Boehner and Pelosi and key committee chairs have agreed to a compromise that appears to extend the current CHIP program as is, with no harmful changes as proposed by the Hatch-Upton-Pitts proposal, for two years. And reports are that the proposal includes NO harmful offsets to Medicaid, CHIP or the ACA in the package, good news for kids.
If this agreement is reached, the bill will move very quickly in the House, with leaders aiming to bring this to the floor as soon as possible. If the bill passes the House, the action will move to the Senate – where, in more good news for kids, Senate Democrats continue to push for a four-year clean extension of CHIP. Four years of this vital program would provide even more peace of mind for families and stability for states going forward.
Call your Congressional members immediately and urge them to push for a clean, four year renewal of CHIP funding.
Children’s Week – April 12-17
Children’s WeekChildren’s Week www.childrensweek.org brings together many non-profits at the Captiol under “One Voice” to support children’s issues and advocate for the full spectrum of children’s services and needs. Local coordinators also plan and implement various events in their communities to symbolize the unity of Florida’s statewide child advocacy efforts.