HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGETS APPROVED | BILLS ON THE MOVE
The short Easter/Passover week saw each Chamber debate and pass their proposed budgets setting the stage for budget conference to negotiate a single state budget. The two proposed budgets still contain an approximate $4 billion difference. The House Appropriations Committee budget (HB 5001) totals $81.2 billion while the Senate Appropriations Committee budget (SB 2500) totals $83.2 billion. The Senate budget doesn’t account for $2 billion in higher-education tuition (Brandon Larrabee, NSF, April 11, 2017).
In addition, numerous bills of interest to children and families such as the Witness Protection continue to make their way through the process on final passage or are in preparation for final passage. However, policy committees have largely completed their work and only a few will be meeting again this session, stranding several other bills for the year.
On Wednesday, April 12, Gov. Rick Scott announced an agreement with the federal government on the Low Income Pool program, also known as LIP, which provides money to help care for poor and uninsured patients. “Working with the Trump Administration to secure a commitment of $1.5 billion in LIP funding for our state will truly improve the quality and access to health care for our most vulnerable populations,” Scott said (Brandon Larrabee, NSF, April 12, 2017). Details of the agreement are still being worked out.
SCHOOL READINESS AND EARLY GRADE SUCCESS
HB 757 by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) relating to Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) was reported favorably by 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) is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education on April 18.
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 has been referred to three committees, recently passed its first committee, the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, and 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 Senate Committee on Monday, April 17.
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 was reported favorably by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on April 4. SB 1124 was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on April 13.
SB 1580 by Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) is scheduled to be heard in the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on April 17. The bill requires a receiving facility or mental health treatment facility to refer the case of a minor admitted to such a facility for a mental health assessment to the clerk of the court for the appointment of a public defender within a specified timeframe; and, grants the minor’s attorney access to relevant records. The House companion, HB 1183, by Rep. David Silvers (D-W. Palm Beach) is awaiting a hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee.
HB 23 by Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was reported favorably by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 30 and has been placed on Special Order for floor action April 18. 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 by Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) is scheduled to be heard in the Commerce and Tourism Committee on April 17.
SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) requires the DCF or a sheriff’s office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The bill is scheduled for final passage on April 18. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6.
HB 7049 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) authorizes subpoenas in certain investigations of sexual offenses involving child victims and specifies requirements; prohibits persons from using children in sexual performances or promoting sexual performances by children; provides for separate offenses of computer pornography and child exploitation; prohibits persons from possessing, with intent to promote, child pornography; prohibits persons from knowingly possessing, controlling, or intentionally viewing child pornography; and provides for separate offenses of transmission of child pornography. The bill was reported favorably in the Judiciary Committee on April 13. SB 1244 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Committee.
SB 1318 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) renames service districts as service circuits, and district medical directors as child protection team medical directors; requires that each child protection team medical director be a licensed physician and be board certified in specified specialty areas; and, requires the department’s Children’s Medical Services program to develop, maintain, and coordinate the services of one or more sexual abuse treatment programs. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on April 18. The House companion HB 1269 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) is awaiting action in the Health and Human Services Committee.
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 the placement or commitment is accomplished; and, specifies the time period for hearings for prolific juvenile offenders. HB 7059 was reported favorably by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on April 3. SB 1670 was reported favorably by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on April 13 and now heads to Appropriations.
SB 196 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) on Civil Citation and Diversion Programs was reported favorably by its last committee of reference, the Appropriations Committee on April 13 and heads to the Senate floor. The bill now contains an amendment requiring the Supreme Court to provide an annual report about cases on the court’s docket that have not be resolved in 180 days, a move said to be taken to garner needed House support. There are two House companion bills: HB 205 by Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) and Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) which was reported favorably by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on April 3 and now heads to the Judiciary Committee, and HB 213 by Rep. Kamia Brown (D-Ocoee) which is awaiting action by Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
HB 849 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) passed the full House on April 5 on a vote of 76:35. The bill provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapons and firearms are not prohibited from carrying firearms on certain private school property. SB 1330 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) was reported favorably by the Rules Committee on April 12.
Witness to Murder Bills
SB 550 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was substituted for HB 111 by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Representatives Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) and Kionne McGhee (D-Cutler Bay) and passed by the full Senate on April 13. The bill is expected to be sent to the Governor for his approval in the coming weeks. Per Rep. Stafford “the bill is aimed at motivating people to come forward and provide information to police about murders. She said similar records exemptions already are provided for sexual-assault victims and child-abuse victims, and that this bill is about bringing “perpetrators to justice.” (NSF, March 30, 2017). The bill would provide an exemption for identifying information about witnesses for two years after murders are witnessed. Stafford said many murder cases are unresolved because witnesses do not come forward because of fear of retaliation. “Witness intimidation is real, and so is retaliation,” Stafford said.
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 Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resource on April 13.
Children and Families in Poverty
HB 581 by Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola) relating to Family Self-Sufficiency was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6. The bill authorizes changes to public assistance policy and federal food assistance waivers to conform to federal law; establishes food assistance program eligibility standards for initial applications and re-certifications after January 1, 2018; requires DCF to implement asset verification services to verify eligibility for public assistance; requires Career Source Florida, Inc., to contract with a vendor to develop a pilot program to increase employment among certain persons receiving temporary cash assistance; and provides appropriations. The Senate companion, SB 1016 by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) is awaiting a hearing by the Commerce and Tourism Committee.