News & Events
Week 3 – January 29, 2016
CHILDREN’S WEEK; BUDGET ON FAST TRACK; KIDCARE BILL MOVING IN HOUSE
The third week of session got off to a lively start with the annual celebration of Children’s Week which coincided with the 10th birthday of VPK. Thousands of children, parents, and providers descended on the Capitol to advocate for the full spectrum of children’s services and needs. The week also saw many bills of interest to child care advocates moving through the process, the most significant being the unanimous approval of HB 89, the KidCare Bill by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) in the House Health Care Appropriations Committee.
House and Senate budget Subcommittees released their preliminary budgets this past week. Next week, the full Appropriations Committees in both chambers will initiate work on the proposed 2016-2017 state budget. The full House Appropriations Committee will debate and vote on the budget on February 3. The budget is then scheduled to be debated and voted on the House floor on February 10 and 11.
The Senate is on a similar timeline. The full Appropriations Committee will meet on February 3 to take up the budget and other related bills.
EARLY LEARNING AND SCHOOL READINESS
Early Learning Bills
A bill, HB 7053 to bring Florida into statutory compliance with new federal requirements for the School Readiness program was filed by the House Education Committee. The bill was approved unanimously in the Education Appropriations Committee on January 27, 2016. The Senate companion, SPB 7058 by Education Pre-K-12 is scheduled to be heard in committee on February 2, 2016. A similar bill, SB 1166 relating to education funding by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) was voted favorably in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on January 28, 2016. The bill included language relating to background screening and criminal background checks of child care personnel. SPB 2502 – Implementing the 2016-2017 General Appropriations Act also includes language on child care block grant reauthorization.
Child Care Personnel
CS/HB 1125 by the Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee and Rep. Charles McBurney (R-Jacksonville) prohibits the Department of Children and Families (DCF) from granting exemptions for employment as child care personnel to persons who have been identified as a sex offender, or convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor. The bill is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The Senate companion, SB 1420 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on January 27, 2016, was temporarily postponed.
A bill HB 7021 relating to reading instruction passed unanimously in its last stop, the Education Committee, on January 27, 2016. The Senate companion SB 1068 was approved favorably in the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee on January 27, and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
In the last decade, Florida made significant strides in increasing the reading proficiency of third graders. However, in recent years, proficiency has leveled off and 40 percent of students are not reading at or above grade level. The bill will increase access to specialized training for teachers to support struggling readers. Among the provisions are those that:
- Extend the early warning system coverage to students in kindergarten through grade 5, and specify that a substantial reading deficiency is an indicator for students in kindergarten through grade 3.
Require prekindergarten instructors to receive training in explicit, systematic, and multisensory reading instruction, and require VPK program providers to provide specialized reading instruction to students who exhibit a deficiency in emergent literacy skills.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Florida KidCare Program
HB 89 by Rep. Jose Diaz (R-Miami) 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, was approved unanimously in the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on January 28. HB 89 extends the 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 Senate companion, SB 248 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) is awaiting a hearing in the full Senate Appropriations Committee (the last stop before heading to the Senate floor).
Please click here to thank Chair Matt Hudson (R-Naples) and members of the House Health Care Appropriations Committee at for supporting HB 89.
Early Steps Program
SB 7034 by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs is scheduled for a hearing in the full Senate Appropriations Committee (the last stop before Senate floor action) on February 3 at 9:00 am, 412 Knott Building. 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.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
SB 12 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) addresses the current system of behavioral health services. The bill passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on January 26 and now heads to Appropriations. 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 (“the agency” or “AHCA”) and the Department of Children and Families (“the department” or “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.
Additionally, the agency and the department are to develop a plan to increase federal funding for behavioral health care. The bill directs that a transportation plan be developed and implemented in each county or group of counties. 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 managing entities are also revised and updated. Each managing entity is to conduct a community behavioral health care needs assessment in their geographic region which must include the information needed by the department for its annual report to the Governor and the Legislature. The bill is expected to improve primary behavioral services and reduce post-partum depression.
A related House bill, HB 979 by Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg) passed the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee on January 26 and now heads to the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. Another similar bill, SB 1336 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) was voted favorably in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs on January 27, and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Prepaid Dental Plans
SB 994 by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) was voted favorably in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on January 26, and now heads to Appropriations. 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.
The House companion, HB 819 by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) is awaiting action in the Health and Human Services Committee.
CS/SB 760, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) 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. The bill passed unanimously in the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government on January 26, and now heads to its last stop, the Appropriations Committee. The House companion CS/HB 153 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) is awaiting action by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.
HB 7063 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).
HB 4001 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) has been placed on the Calendar for full House consideration on February 2, 2016. The Senate companion, SB 68 by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Milton) is awaiting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. It is unclear if the measure that would allow people with concealed-weapons’ licenses to openly display their firearms will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami). Sen. Diaz de la Portilla has however reportedly indicated that a separate measure, which would allow people with concealed-weapons’ licenses to carry firearms on state college and university campuses (SB 300 by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin), might once again fail to get through his committee. “As far as campus carry, my position hasn’t changed from last year,” Diaz de la Portilla said. The campus-carry measure — opposed by faculty members, university and college presidents, and campus law enforcement — died last year after Diaz de la Portilla refused to put it on the agenda in his committee. The House’s campus-carry proposal (HB 163 by Rep. Matt Gaetz. R-Shalimar) would allow people with concealed-weapons’ licenses to openly carry firearms in Florida. The bill has been placed on the Calendar for full House consideration on February 2, 2016. The National Rifle Association and Florida Carry support both of the proposals.
HB 4055 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) relating to school safety was never taken up in committee. This session, there was no Senate companion to the bill.
Adoption and Foster Care
CS/CS/SB 590 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) revises the circumstances under which an adoption consent is valid, binding, and enforceable. The bill was taken up by the full Senate on January 28 and is scheduled for final passage on February 2. The bill also 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/HB 673 passed unanimously in the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on January 28.
CS/SB 860 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) that designates the second week of February of each year as “Foster Family Appreciation Week” was taken up by the full Senate on January 28 and scheduled for final passage on February 2. The House companion, HB 657 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) was voted favorably in the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee on January 28, and now heads to the Health and Human Services Committee.
SB 784 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) was voted favorably in the Criminal Justice Committee on January 25 and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. The bill removes persons under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution. The bill also makes correlating changes in ch. 39, F.S., relating to the definition of sexual abuse of a child concerning dependency, to reflect that sexually exploiting a child in prostitution should be viewed as human trafficking. CS/CS/HB 545 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) is awaiting action by the full House.
Prosecution of Juveniles – Expunction of Juvenile Records
CS/SB 386 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) passed unanimously in the full Senate on January 28.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 the 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 record 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.
A similar bill, CS/CS/CS/HB 147 by Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) is awaiting floor action in the House.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Students with Disabilities
HB 585 by Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) requires school districts to provide instruction to homebound or hospitalized students. The bill passed the full House on a vote of 119 yeas, 0 nays on January 27. The bill provides the State board of Education 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 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 a children’s specialty hospital. The Senate companion, SB 806 by Sen. John Legg (R-Lutz) was voted favorably in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on January 28 and now heads to Appropriations.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Children and Youth Cabinet
HB 241 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) expands the total membership of the cabinet to 16 by adding a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor. The House will take action on the bill on February 2. 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 Senate companion, SB 500 by Sen. Bill Montford (D-Quincy) will be taken up by the full Senate on February 2.
Temporary Cash Assistance Program
HB 563 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) adds proof of application for employment to eligibility requirements for receiving temporary cash assistance; decreases lifetime cumulative total time limit for receiving temporary cash assistance; and, adds proof of application for employment to work activity requirements for participation in the temporary cash assistance program. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on February 2, 2016. The Senate companion, SB 750 by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was temporarily postponed in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on January 14.