Week 3 of the Legislative Session was a busy one with several bills of importance to children and families being heard in committee or on the House and Senate floors. A large number of bills are also scheduled to be heard next week during the 2017 Children’s Week.
In addition, The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet held its spring quarterly meeting on March 20 during which Agency heads presented their legislative priorities. The Cabinet also approved sending a letter to leadership that supports funding and legislation consistent with the 9 priority indicators approved at their previous meeting. These priorities align with the Cabinet’s support of the first 1,000 days initiative, as well as the key measurable indicators that have been identified through the2016 Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT Data Book.
The Children and Youth Cabinet’s priority headline indicators for the 2017 Legislative Session:
Reduction in the number of preventable child deaths that occur with a focus on ages zero to three.
SCHOOL READINESS AND EARLY GRADE SUCCESS
Early Learning Bills
HB 757 by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) relating to Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) was reported favorably in the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on March 21. The bill requires the Just Read, Florida! office to provide teachers, reading coaches, and principals in prekindergarten through grade 3 with specified training; and requires VPK providers to provide parents with pre- and post-assessment results within a specified timeframe. The Senate companion SB 468 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) has been referred to four committees, and is awaiting a hearing in the Education Committee.
SB 806 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) creates the 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. The bill provides for membership of the committee; provides committee meeting requirements; requires the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning to provide necessary staff for the committee; and requires the committee to submit a report by a specified date. The bill has been referred to four committees and is awaiting action in the Education Committee. The House companion, HB 1229 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) is scheduled to be heard in the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee on Monday, March 27.
Children with Unique Abilities
HB 15 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) relates to Educational Options. The bill revises provisions relating to expanding eligibility of the Gardiner Scholarship Program, John M. McKay Scholarship Program, and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program; and provides appropriations. The House bill awaits a hearing in the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. On the Senate side, SB 902 by David Simmons (R-Longwood) expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee on Monday, March 27.
Religious Expression in Public Schools
SB 436 by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) and Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” protecting K-12 public school students, their parents, and school personnel from discrimination based on their religious beliefs and expressions. The bill passed the Senate Chamber on a vote of 23:13 on March 23. The bill requires that students’ work be graded according to the expected academic standards, without regard for any religious content. Also, students are permitted to wear clothing, jewelry, or accessories that display religious messages or symbols. The House companion, HB 303 by Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Ft. Lauderdale) was reported favorably by the Education Committee on March 23.
High School Apprenticeship Program
HB 525 by Rep. David Silvers (D-Palm Beach) authorizes students to use credits earned upon completion of an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship program to satisfy specified high school graduation requirements. The bill was reported favorably by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee on March 20. The Senate companion, SB 978 by Sen. Bobby Powell (D-W. Palm Beach) is scheduled to be heard in the Education Committee on March 27.
Florida Kidcare Program
HB 637 by Rep. Nicholas Duran (R-Miami) and SB 1654 by Sen. Daphne Campbell (D-North Miami Beach) creates a Kidcare Operational Efficiency and Health Care Improvement Workgroup to maximize the return on investment and enhance the operational efficiencies of the Florida Kidcare program. The House bill has been referred to 3 committees and is awaiting action in the Health Innovation Subcommittee. SB 1654 is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on Monday, March 27.
HB 963 by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers) and SB 1124 by Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward County) requires the Department of Health, upon the advice of the Genetics and Newborn Screening Advisory Council, to expand the statewide screening of newborns to include any condition on the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel; and requires the council to determine whether a condition should be included in the state’s screening program within a specified period after its addition to the federal panel. HB 963 has been referred to three committees, and is awaiting action in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. SB 1124 is scheduled to be heard in the Health Policy Committee on Monday, March 27.
Temporary Care of a Child
HB 363 by Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) and Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Ft. Lauderdale) and SB 200 by Sen. Kathleen Possidomo (R-Naples) authorizes certain organizations to establish programs to assist parents and legal guardians in providing temporary respite care for a child, providing that such placement does not constitute abuse, neglect, or abandonment; and authorizes the Department of Children and Families to refer children to such programs under certain circumstances. HB 363 was reported favorably by the Health and Human Service Committee on March 23. SB 200 is awaiting action in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.
HB 23 by Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was reported favorably by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on March 22. The bill increases the penalties for the first three instances of noncompliance with the Temporary Case Assistance (TCA) work requirements to align with the food assistance program’s sanctions, and creates a fourth sanction. SB 570 (Rouson) is a similar bill, and is awaiting action in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.
SB 1392 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) requires the Department of Children and Families to perform a drug test on an applicant for TANF benefits with a prior drug-related felony conviction and who the department reasonably suspects is engaging in the illegal use of a controlled substance. The bill was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21. The House companion, HB 1117 by Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) is awaiting action in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
SB 1400 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) was reported favorably by the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21. The bill requires a parent whose actions have caused harm to a child who is adjudicated to be dependent, to submit to a substance abuse disorder assessment or evaluation, and to participate in and comply with treatment and services; requires the Department of Health to establish a hormonal long-acting reversible contraception (HLARC) program, and requires the Department of Children and Families to develop or adopt one or more initial screening assessment instruments to identify and determine the needs of, and plan services for, substance exposed newborns and their families.
SB 924 by Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg)creates the Tampa Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise Success Zone within the City of Tampa in Hillsborough County and the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition within the City of Miami; provides for the projects to be managed by not for profit corporations that are not subject to control, supervision, or direction by any department of the state; and, provides that the success zones and the coalitions are designed to encompass areas large enough to include certain components but small enough to allow programs and services to reach participants. The bill was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21. The House companion, HB 783 is awaiting action in its first committee, Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee.
Foster Care/Driver’s Licenses for Children in Foster Care
SB 60 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) passed on a vote of 38:0 on March 23, 2017. The bill requires the child’s transition plan and the court to assist children in foster care in obtaining a driver license. The bill also expands the program to include, under certain conditions, children in non-licensed out-of-home care who have reached permanency or turned 18. HB 217 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) is awaiting floor action.
SB 286 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 21. The bill requires the inclusion of human trafficking instruction in the training provided to school district personnel. HB 665 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) has been referred to 3 committees and is awaiting action in the Prek-12 Quality Subcommittee.
SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on March 22, and now heads to Appropriations. The bill requires DCF or a sheriff’s office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) was reported favorably in the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee on March 20.
HB 1165 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview)provides civil cause of action by victims of human trafficking or the Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking against certain persons; provides for damages, attorney fees and costs; provides for civil penalties; provides for civil forfeitures; provides procedures for forfeiture actions; provides that actions have no statute of limitations; and, adds functions and duties for Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The bill was reported favorably in the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee on March 20. The Senate companion, SB 970 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Committee.
HB 329 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was reported favorably by the Civil Justice and Claims Committee on March 8, 2017 and now heads to the Health and Human Services Committee. The Senate companion, SB 762 by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) prohibits time-sharing plans from requiring a visitation at recovery residences between specified hours. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 27.
SB 1454 by Sen. Doug Broxon (R-Pensacola) and HB 1269 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) adds the Statewide Medical Director for Child Protection as an official who must be consulted in the screening, employment, and termination of child protection team medical directors statewide; and, requires the Children’s Medical Services program within the Department of Health to convene a task force to develop a standardized protocol for forensic interviews of children suspected of being abused. The House bill has been referred to 3 committees and is awaiting action in the Healthy Quality Subcommittee. SB 1454 is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on March 27.
CS/SB 144 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) revises the legislative intent relating to the authorization of law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to persons who are texting while driving; deletes a provision requiring that enforcement of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law be accomplished only as a secondary action; and requires the deposit of fines into the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund. The bill was reported favorably by the Transportation Committee on March 22, and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.
Prolific Juvenile Offenders
SB 1670 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and HB 7059 by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) revises requirements for the placement of a child in detention care; provides that a child who is a prolific juvenile offender does not require a risk assessment to be placed in detention care; provides that children meeting specified criteria shall be placed in detention care until the detention hearing; provides criteria for determining whether the child is a prolific juvenile offender; requires secure detention for all children awaiting placement in a commitment program until placement or commitment is accomplished; and, specifies the time period for hearings for prolific juvenile offenders. HB 7059 is awaiting action in the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. SB 1670 is scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee on March 27.
SB 892 by Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) revises the criteria allowing a court to sentence as a youthful offender a person who is found guilty of, or who pled nolo contendere or guilty to, committing a felony before the person turned 21 years of age. The bill was reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on March 22 and now heads to Appropriations.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Children with Disabilities
HB 233 by Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Sunrise) and SB 810 by Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) which provides requirements for the use of physical restraint and seclusion for students with disabilities in public schools passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. The bills amend provisions relating to the use, prevention, and reduction of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities; prohibit the use of physical restraint by school personnel who are not certified to use district-approved methods for applying restraint techniques; and require continuing education and in-service training for teaching students with emotional or behavioral disabilities. The House bill is scheduled to be heard in the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee on March 27. SB 810 has been referred to three committees and is awaiting action in the Education Committee.
HB 779 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on March 23. The bill reduces penalties for persons licensed to carry concealed weapons or firearms for a first or second violation of specified provisions relating to openly carrying weapons; and provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapons or firearms do not violate certain provisions if firearms are temporarily and openly displayed. The Senate companion, SB 646 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee on March 28.
HB 849 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on March 23 and is now ready for consideration by the full House. The bill provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapon and concealed firearm are not prohibited from carrying firearms on certain private school property. There is no Senate companion to the bill.
SB 616 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) authorizes a concealed weapons or firearms licensee to temporarily surrender a weapon or firearm if the licensee approaches courthouse security or management personnel upon arrival and follows their instructions. The bill narrowly passed the Senate the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on March 22.
SB 956 by Sen. Daphne Campbell (D-North Miami Beach) regarding concealed weapons or concealed firearms requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue a license if, in addition to other specified criteria, the applicant has undergone a mental health evaluation conducted by certain licensed professionals and has been determined to be competent. The bill is awaiting action in the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. The House companion, HB 1355 by Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Miami) is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Witness to Murder Bills
SB 550 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) is scheduled to be heard in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on March 27. The House companion, HB 111 by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Representatives Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) and Kionne McGhee (D-Cutler Bay) has been placed on the House Special Order Calendar for consideration on March 29. The bills provide that the personal identifying information of a witness to a murder remains confidential and exempt for 2 years; provides an exemption from public records requirements for criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information that reveals the personal identifying information of a witness to a murder for 2 years, and provides for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption.
Children and Families in Poverty
HB 2153 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) provides an appropriation for the United Way of Florida’s ALICE Financial Literacy and Prosperity Program. ALICE refers to the population in our communities that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. The ALICE population represents those among us who are working, but due to child care costs, transportation challenges, high cost of living and so much more, are living paycheck to paycheck. The bill was reported favorably by the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee on March 21.
Small Food Retailers
HB 1083 by Rep. Larry Lee (D-Ft. Pierce) establishes the Healthy Food Assistance Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS)to provide a process for small food retailers to receive assistance for projects that increase the availability and sales of fresh and nutritious food, including fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and seafood in low-income and moderate-income communities. In addition, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability shall conduct an independent study to evaluate the policy impact of placing healthy food in previously underserved communities. The Senate companion, SB 1592 was reported favorably by the Agriculture Committee on March 21.
Limitations 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 non homestead 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. CS/HJR 21 proposes a constitutional amendment to permanently retain the 10 percent cap on annual non-homestead parcel assessment increases. The amendment will appear on the 2018 general election ballot and require 60 percent approval for passage. The bill passed the House Chamber on a vote of 110:3 on March 23.
Florida Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) Organizational Meeting March 20
Every 20 years, the CRC convenes to deliberate on proposals to amend the state Constitution. Issues that will move forward will go before the voters for a vote at the November 2018 election. The 37-member panel comprised of appointments by the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker, Attorney General, and the Supreme Court Justice. Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County home builder appointed by Scott will chair the commission. “Every member of the CRC will have the opportunity to be heard and have the chance to fight for the issues they believe are important to this state,” he said. “Most importantly, though, we need to listen to the citizens.”
Beruff also announced the first three public hearings the commission will hold to get input from citizens: March 29 in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County and a day later in Palm Beach County. (Brandon Larrabee, NSF, March 20, 2017). Speaker Corcoran pointed out that these meetings fall during the legislative session, creating a problem for members to attend.
Children’s Week – March 26-31
Children’s Week begins this Sunday with the hanging of the hands ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. The event brings together many youth groups and non-profits at the Capitol under “One Voice” to support children’s issues and advocate for the full spectrum of children’s services and needs. A series of upcoming youth town hall meetings, press conferences and meetings with legislators will emphasize the need for prioritizing children and youth policies and investments.