News & Events
Week 4 – February 5, 2016
SESSION NEARS MIDPOINT: KIDCARE BILL READY FOR FULL HOUSE ACTION; HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGETS READY FOR FLOOR APPROVAL
Bill and budget action gathered speed as the legislature headed towards the mid-point of the 60 day session. The most significant moment for many child advocates was the unanimous approval of HB 89, the KidCare Bill for children of lawfully residing immigrants by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami) in the House Health and Human Services Committee. This marks the bill’s final stop before full House consideration. Rep. Diaz became emotional during his closing remarks, stating “We run for office. We make a lot of promises and this process is tough. And a lot of good bills die, but you can’t relent,” Diaz said, choking back tears. “You have to do things you believe in without fear of consequence. Handling a bill that deals with immigration is not easy. ” The issue has the support of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) who included the issue as a priority this legislative session.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee members amended and approved their preliminary budgets this past week. Next week, both full chambers will vote on their proposed 2016-2017 state budgets.
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 placed on the Special Order Calendar for a floor hearing on February 10. The bill provides for the draw down of federal block grant funding for subsidized child care, and directs the Office of Early Learning to develop (through rule making) quality standards for publicly-funded child care, including appropriate group size requirements. The Senate companion, SB 7058 by Education Pre-K-12 passed that Committee on February 2 with an amendment by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) preventing sex offenders from working in child care settings. A similar bill, SB 1166 relating to education funding by Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) is awaiting action in the Appropriations Committee. The bill included language relating to background screening and criminal background checks of child care personnel. SB 2502, the Implementing Bill for the 2016-2017 General Appropriations Act also includes language on child care block grant reauthorization. The bill has been placed on the Calendar for Senate consideration on February 10.
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 was voted favorably in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on February 5, and now heads to the Health and Human Services Committee. The Senate companion, SB 1420 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) was voted favorably in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on February 4, and now heads to Criminal Justice.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Florida KidCare Program
HB 89 by Rep. Jose Diaz (R-Miami) that would allow children of lawfully residing immigrants, who have been living in the United States less than five years to be insured under the Florida KidCare program, was approved unanimously in the House Health and Human Services Committee on February 4. HB 89 extends 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). SB 2508, the Health Care Services budget conforming bill includes similar language and was approved by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The bill is scheduled for full Senate floor action on February 10.
Click here to thank Chair Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) and members of the House Health and Human Services Committee for supporting HB 89. Please also thank Senator Rene Garcia for his tireless pursuit of this issue.
Early Steps Program
SB 7034 by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs was approved unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 3, and has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for February 10 for floor action. 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. The House companion, HB 943 by Rep. Julio Gongalez (R-Venice) is awaiting action in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.
Children’s Medical Services
SB 1240 by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) relating to Children’s Medical Services eligibility and enrollment, is scheduled to be heard in the Health Policy Committee on February 9. The bill requires the Department of Health to use an appropriate assessment instrument to determine clinical eligibility for the Children’s Medical Services program. It also requires the department to provide notice to a parent or guardian of a child who has been determined clinically ineligible for the Children’s Medical Services program, of the parent’s or guardian’s appeal rights under ch. 120, F.S. The House companion, HB 1117 by Rep. Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville) is awaiting action in the Health Quality Subcommittee.
SB 7087 by the Select Committee on Affordable Healthcare Access and Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) that provides practice standards and registration requirements to provide telehealth services in Florida, is scheduled to be heard in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on February 8.
CS/SB 760, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on January 11, and is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. The bill 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 House companion CS/HB 153 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) is scheduled to be heard by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee on February 9.
HB 4001 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) passed the House on a vote of 80:37 on February 3, and now heads to the Senate. The Senate companion, SB 68 by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Milton) is awaiting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Diaz de la Portilla has however reportedly indicated that this bill which would allow people with concealed-weapons’ licenses to carry firearms on state college and university campuses, might once again fail to get through his committee.
The House’s open-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 passed the full House on a vote of 80:38 on February 3, and is heading to the Senate. It is unclear if the Senate measure SB 300 by Sen. Don Gaetz, (R-Destin) will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami).
SB 7018 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) is awaiting action in its last stop before floor action, the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill requires DCF, in collaboration with certain stakeholders, to develop a continuum of care for children in the child welfare system. This continuum of care must be a complete range of placement options, programs, and services for children served by, or at risk of being served by, the dependency system. The continuum of care requires a quality rating system for residential group care as well as an annual report.
The bill creates a new section of law that requires an initial assessment whenever a child has been determined to need an out-of-home placement to aid in guiding the child into the least restrictive placement and help determine any services needed. The bill also requires an in-depth assessment to be completed for each child placed in out-of-home care, to supplement the initial assessment and further determine service and placement needs.
The bill creates permanency teams that are required to review out-of-home placements for certain children who have historically faced barriers to permanency. The bill also outlines the intervention services to be provided by lead agencies.
The House companion HB 599 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) and Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) is scheduled to be heard in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on February 8.
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 passed the full Senate on February 2 on a unanimous vote. The bill also requires the court to consider the 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 in the Health and Human Services Committee on February 4, and is ready for full House action.
CS/SB 860 by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) that designates the second week of February of each year as “Foster Family Appreciation Week” passed the full Senate on February 2 on a unanimous vote. The House companion, HB 657 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) is awaiting action in the Health and Human Services Committee.
Civil Citations and Diversion Programs
HB 7085 by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) relating to juvenile civil citation and similar diversion programs is scheduled to be heard in the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on February 8. The bill requires the establishment of civil citation or similar diversion programs for juveniles; provides definitions; and, specifies program eligibility, participation, and implementation requirements. A similar bill, SB 408 by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Cape Canaveral) is scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee on February 8.
Confidentiality of Juvenile Records
SB 700 by Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) that specifies that certain confidential information obtained under chapter 985, F.S., relating to juvenile justice, is exempt from public records requirements was passed by the Criminal Justice Committee on February 1, and is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. The House companion, HB 293 by Rep. Sharon Pritchett (D-Miramar) is awaiting action in the Judiciary Committee.
Your help is needed to push the Expunction of Juvenile Records issue across the finish line. The actual Expunction bills are doing well, and hopefully are going to the Governor soon, but the accompanying public records exemption bills need a push. Please contact President Designate Negron, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and thank him for his focus on juvenile justice prevention. You can contact Chair Negron and members of the committee at https://www.flsenate.gov/Committees/Show/ACJ/ and ask that SB 700 be scheduled for a hearing soon. Please explain that:
- These bills are needed to align Florida’s juvenile record confidentiality laws with the new prevention focus in juvenile justice. The majority of youthful misdeeds should not be available for review except for legitimate uses by law enforcement and other state authorities.
- Florida’s laws don’t change as fast as technology, and once something is online, it’s hard to erase. In this case juvenile arrest records can be found through search engines, even after they are expunged at a later date. On-line access to juvenile records closes doors to jobs, education, and housing for tens of thousands of youth living in Florida each year.
- Certain records (described below) will still be able to be reviewed by law enforcement and to agencies [BB1] that work with vulnerable populations.
- The challenge is that two sections of Florida statute give two different sets of direction as to which juvenile records are confidential and exempt from public record.
- These bills fix the inconsistency in law that was discovered through a case in which a youth’s arrest records were released based on direction given by one statute. That case is G.G. v. FDLE.
- These bills will ensure that juvenile records should only be released in circumstances that are identical in chapters 985 and 943.
- The consistency is created by ensuring that all records will be confidential and exempt, unless:
- A juvenile is arrested, charged, or is found to have committed a violation of law which, if committed by an adult would be a felon.
- Or when a juvenile has been transferred to adult court
Support for fixing juvenile record confidentiality laws is widespread and includes:
- James Madison Institute
- Southern Poverty Law Center
- FSU Project on Accountable Justice
- Florida Smart Justice Alliance
- The Children’s Campaign
- Voices for Florida
- Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center
- Florida Children’s Council
- Florida Juvenile Justice Association, and many others
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Children and Youth Cabinet
HB 241 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) expands the total membership of the Children and Youth Cabinet to 16 by adding a superintendent of schools who is appointed by the Governor. The House passed the bill on February 3 on a vote of 115 :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) is ready for final passage on February 10.
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 the 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 was passed by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on February 2, and now heads to Health and Human Services. 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.