This week marked the halfway point for Florida’s 2012 Legislative Session. That means that committees will soon start to shut down, giving stakeholders fewer opportunities for input. It is critical for the early learning community to remain committed to protecting the interests of Florida’s families. Continue to reach out to your Senators and Representatives about the proposals that diminish quality and accountability. Florida’s families are counting on you.
BUDGET TAKING SHAPE
On Thursday, the House passed its $69.2 billion budget for 2012-13. In the Senate, budget subcommittees received their allocations and rolled out their initial proposals. Once the Senate completes its schedule, likely next week, the House and Senate can begin the conference process and reconcile their differences.
Overall, the Health and Human Services Subcommittee budget proposal developed by Chair Joe Negron (R-Stuart) contains a $206 million increase over last year. Most children’s programs are fully funded, with some having an increase over last year.
For instance, it includes about $9.9 million to increase salaries and reduce high turnover rates among Department of Children and Families child-protective investigators.
The Senate Health and Human Services plan also includes a $76.5 million increase in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ main program for people with developmental disabilities, otherwise known as the home and community-based waiver program which faced repeated deficits in recent years. Specifically, the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee budget proposal contains:
Although children’s mental health programs are fully funded, it is important to note that there is a drastic funding cut proposed for adult mental health and substance abuse programs which has a direct effect on care to children by affected adults, and a ripple effect on programs.
In Juvenile Justice, members of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee are waiting for an increased allocation if the prison privatization plan is approved. At this time their budget contains $536 million which is a $7.2 million increase over the current year. The budget passed by the House this week contains a $22 million reduction.
The following highlights are reported by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association:
In Early Childhood Education, there are no cuts to last year’s budget for VPK or school readiness proposed this year.
STATE & LOCAL REVENUES
Related to Property Taxes
The House and Senate continue to act on multiple property tax-related bills. Positive actions taken during Week 5 include property tax relief for spouses of military and first responders who were killed in the line of duty and additional exemptions for seniors and tax breaks for small businesses.
HJR 93 and HB 95filed by Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Temple Terrace) are joint bills that enable the legislature to provide homestead property tax relief for surviving spouses of military members or first responders killed in the line of duty and create the “Fallen Heroes Family Tax Relief Act” passed the Economic Affairs committee on Wednesday. The Senate versionSB 1058,filed by Sen. Jim Norman (R-Tampa) also passed its committee of reference – Community Affairs. The Senate bill is now in Judiciary and the House bills move to the floor.
HB 55filed by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) authorizing counties & municipalities to limit assessed value of homesteads of low-income senior citizens passed the Economic Affairs committee unanimously and will now go to the full House. The related bill in the Senate,SB 838,by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) passed in theJudiciary Committee by a 6-0 margin on Thursday, February 9th and will now go to the Budget Committee.
The ‘Super Homestead Exemption’ bill,HJR 1289/HB 129filed by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), appears to have stalled for the 2012 Session. The bill, which would provide additional homestead exemptions on portions of home values above $75,000, was defeated but in a procedural move, was reconsidered and left pending in the Community and Military Affairs Committee. The chances of passage this session appear remote.
SJR 1064/SB 1062filed by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) passed the Community Affairs Committee and now makes it way to Finance and Tax committee. This state constitutional amendment would authorize the Legislature to have more flexibility to provide for assessment and exemption of tangible personal property from ad valorem taxation.The Senate companion,HJR 1003/HB 1005is in the Economic Affairs Committee.
HJR 169/HB 357filed by Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami) was endorsed by the Finance and Tax Committee. This constitutional amendment allows counties and cities to grant an additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors. The next committee of reference is Economic Affairs.
Relating to Special Districts
On Wednesday,HB 107relating to Special Districts filed by Rep. Matthew Caldwell (R-Fort Myers) was added to the Second Reading Calendar on Monday February 6th. This bill revisesprovisions relating to the merger and dissolution procedures for special districts; provides for certain merger and dissolution procedures to include referenda; provides that such provisions preempt certain special acts; provides for local governments to assume indebtedness of, and receive title to property owned by, special districts under certain circumstances; deletes provision relating to conditions under which mergers of independent special districts or dependent fire control districts with other special districts are effective and conditions under which merged districts are authorized to increase ad valorem taxes; and revises criteria by which special districts are declared inactive by the governing body. Sen. Michael Bennett (R-Bradenton) has filed a similar bill,SB 0192which is now in the Senate Budget Committee.
Relating to the Formation of Local Governments
CS/SB 692filed by Sen. Michael Bennett (R-Bradenton) revises the deadline for submission of a feasibility study of a proposed incorporation of a municipality and revises a requirement for the content of the study. On Tuesday, February 7th the bill was placed on the Special Order Calendar for the next day, however, it was later retained and placed on Special Order Calendar for Monday.
Early learning legislation continues to be a critical priority with many moving pieces and parts in the House and Senate. Overarching concerns to potential early learning legislation are that it reduces: provider accountability that is in place to ensure educational outcomes for children; funding for school-age childcare; quality improvement efforts; and community flexibility. It is critical that the law has specificaccountability measures for early learning programs, and does not limit quality supports for early learning providers.
Specific bill action:
The bill early learning conforming bill was passed on third reading on the floor on Thursday. While there were many questions for Rep. Marti Coley (R-Marianna), the bill passed 85 to 34 and it was requested that the Senate pass the bill as passed by the House or agree to conference.
Proposed Senate Pre-K Appropriations Subcommittee Early Learning Bill
This legislation is a conforming bill put forward by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) and discussed on Thursday. This conforming bill is significantly better than any other early learning legislation that has been filed. Overall it preserves quality and educational standards for the School Readiness program. Specifically, it:
The PCB put forward by Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) addresses the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) Program and provides modifications to current law. Specifically, it standardizes the VPK Provider Agreement and deletes the provision that early learning coalitions may amend contracts, if approved by the Florida Office of Early Learning. It also strikes the aspirational goals associated with teacher qualifications and it repeals the Florida Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC). The bill will be heard in committee on Monday.
SB 1758 filed by Sen. Aniterre Flores (R-Miami) will be presented to the Senate PreK-12 Policy committee on Tuesday. Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) will present a strike-all amendment to the language that was originally filed. She also serves on the PreK-12 Appropriations committee and will be a key member for support related to the conforming bill language put forward by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs). On last read, the strike all amendment to be offered at Tuesday’s hearing was identical to the bill passed by the House Business and Consumer Affairs committee. However, Sen. Flores has assured us that she will not negatively impact the early learning system.
TAKE ACTION:Please contactSen. Floresand members of theSenate Education Pre-K-12 Committeeexplain why it is important to preserve quality and educational standards such as screenings, assessments and curricula, and local flexibility in Florida’s early learning programs.
SB 1294by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) that would allow for children of legal immigrants to be eligible for Florida KidCare was scheduled to be heard on Thursday in the Senate Health Care Regulation committee, but was not heard due to lack of time and concerns over the large fiscal impact of the bill. Advocates are working to see if the bill can be amended to reduce the fiscal impact and scheduled for next week’s hearing.
Co-sponsored by Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami), this bill requires all licensed hospitals and birth centers to screen all newborns, prior to discharge, for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). For a home birth, the health care provider in attendance is responsible for the screening. A parent may object to the screening with a signed written objection. The bill defines screening as measuring blood oxygen saturation using pulse oximetry to determine whether the newborn needs additional diagnostic evaluation for CCHD. It provides specific rulemaking authority to the Department of Health (DOH) and defines the powers and duties of the department for administering the screening requirements.
The bill takes effect July 1, 2012 and the screening requirement must be implemented by October 1, 2012.
On Tuesday the bill was passed unanimously and on Wednesday was sub-referred to the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations.
Independent Living – Youth Transitioning to Adulthood
On Thursday the House passed HB 5303 on a 78:39 vote which, among other things limits the age that youth are eligible to receive independent living stipends to age 21, setting up a battle with the Senate which has fully funded Road to Independence stipends to age 23.
Juvenile Justice Bills
On Tuesday,HB 005 by Rep. Michael Weinstein (R-Orange Park) and co-sponsor Rep. Ari Porth (D-Coral Springs) related to parole of juvenile offenders passed favorably by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee by a close margin of 6-5. This bill designated as the “Graham Compliance Act;” provides that juvenile offenders who are younger than 18 at the time of commission of nonhomicide offense and sentenced to life imprisonment are eligible for parole if the offender has been incarcerated for a minimum period, and establishes criteria to determine the offenders maturity and reform. A similar bill is in the Senate filed by Sen. Steve Oelrich (R-Gainesville),SB 212 which has been referred to Criminal Justice; Children, Families, and Elder Affairs; and Budget.
Also on Tuesday,HB 497related to juvenile expunction by Rep. Ari Porth (D-Coral Springs) passed favorably by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee by a margin of 14-0. This bill allows minors who have certain felony arrests to have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement expunge their nonjudicial record upon the successful completion of a pre-arrest and post-arrest diversion program. In the Senate,SB 940 by Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville) has been referred to the Criminal Justice, and Budget Committees.
SB 834 Juvenile Justice Education
SB 834 passed out of the final stop, the Criminal Justice Committee and is on its way to the Senate Budget Committee. The House companion-HB 949- (Juvenile Justice Education)appears to have stalled at its second stop, the Education Committee.
SB 1886 Zero Tolerance
SB 1866 is expected to be placed on the agenda next week at its final stop the Criminal Justice Committee, and will include an amendment that removes the word “felony.”
SB 504 Juvenile Justice
SB 504 is headed to its final stop, the budget committee. This bill authorizes mother-infant programs.