HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS NOW UNDERWAY; SESSION SCHEDULED TO END ON TIME
With just over one week left until the scheduled end of the 2017 legislative session, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced on Wednesday that both chambers had decided on a total budget amount of approximately $83 billion (mid-point between the Senate’s original proposed $85 billion and the House’s proposed $81 billion) as well as on specific allocations – amounts in each budget category to be spent on budget conference negotiations.House and Senate conferees were then appointed and the budget conference process began in earnest. The budget must be on members desks on Tuesday to ensure the constitutionally required 72 hour “cooling off” period before it can be voted on and session can end on time on Friday.
On Thursday in Health and Human Services, the Senate reduced its original budget by approximately $1 billion to get closer to the House’s proposal by accepting a number of House offers in full or in modified form. On Friday, the House and Senate took big steps in negotiating the PreK-12 education budget after the Senate presented its first counter-offer. The two chambers agreed to $11.5 billion in funding for the state’s share of the Florida Education Finance Program, the program through which school districts are primarily funded, closing out that budget area. According to The Associated Press the increased regular public school spending is $241 million, or an approximate 1.2 percent increase in funding per student. The Senate also agreed to the House’s offer for the “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program and the “Schools of Hope” charter school program, as well as a decision on other non-FEFP services, with the Senate’s offer of $237.2 million, and the House’s offer remaining $2.4 million higher. The Senate offered $1.1 billion for early learning services, lower than its original proposal but still approximately $3.9 million higher than the House’s first offer. Key reductions in early learning programs include: Help Me Grow, TEACH scholarships, and Early Learning Florida, which are services designed to support better child outcomes.
The budget subcommittees continued negotiations until noon on Saturday. Any unresolved budget issues were then ‘bumped up” to the House and Senate Appropriations Chairs, Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Carlos Trujillo. Remaining unresolved issues will go to the President and the Speaker by noon on Sunday for final decisions.Among the high level decisions will be how to structure approximately $651 million in Medicaid cuts for hospitals, and the terms and conditions of the Low Income Pool funds the Governor was able to negotiate with the federal government to help offset the cuts.
This week also saw numerous bills of interest to children and families such Newborn Screenings, Child Welfare, and Human Trafficking being heard on third reading (final passage) in one or both chambers.
Comprehensive Education Bill Package
As is common during legislative session, individual key issues are sometimes packaged into larger bills that form a ‘train’ that incorporates multiple bills that have been considered throughout the legislative process. In the Senate, SB 926 relating to Education by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), would modify provisions related to K-12 student assessments and the minority teacher education scholars program, and adds provisions related to early childhood development, intensive reading instruction, visitation of schools by individual school board members, exceptional student education, school board attendance policies, and teacher bonuses. This includes the creation of the Committee on Early Childhood Development within the Department of Education that is substantively similar to HB 1229 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) that would create the Committee for Early Grade Success. The House has two bills that include provisions of the larger education packet.
HB 773 by Rep Manny Diaz (R-Miami) includes numerous education provisions, including the revision of requirements related to statewide assessment, new requirements for teacher training on reading instruction, provides eligibility for home education and private school students to access full-time and part-time virtual instruction programs, online course requirement for high school students, removal of statutory caps on certain teacher bonuses, and revised requirements related to school improvement strategies. The other education packet bill is HB 549 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Brevard) that revises high school graduation requirements, provisions relating to assessments and, publication and reporting; and requires an independent study of specified college entrance exams. The substance of the House and Senate education packages will be negotiated the final week of session.
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 passed the House on a vote of 115:0 on April 28. The Senate companion, SB 978 by Sen. Bobby Powell (D-W. Palm Beach) is awaiting action in the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education.
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 heard on April 27 and substituted for SB 1124 which was then passed by the House on April 28 on a vote of 117:0.
HB 1183 by Rep. David Silvers (D-W. Palm Beach) passed the House on a vote of 116:0 on April 28. 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. During the hearing on the Senate companion SB 1580 by Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) in the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, Chair Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) stated that the Committee would be looking at why so many children are Baker acted with an eye to proposing legislation to address this next year. The bill is still awaiting action in Judiciary.
SB 1044 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on April 25. The bill provides that central abuse hotline information may be used for the employment screening of residential group home caregivers; and requires a court to inquire as to the identity and location of a child’s legal father at the shelter hearings; requires a court to consider maltreatment allegations against a parent in an evidentiary hearing relating to a dependency petition; and requires a court to conduct an inquiry under oath to determine the identity or location of an unknown parent after the filing of a termination of parental rights petition. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.
HB 7075 Child Welfare by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and The Children, Families and Seniors Committee passed the House on vote of 118:0 April 28. The bill revises the definition of “Permanency Goal”; extends the jurisdiction of the dependency court over young adults with a disability until the age of 22; requires transition plans to be approved by the court before a child’s 18th birthday; requires the transition plan to be attached to the case plan and updated before each judicial review; allows the court to use “maintain and strengthen” in the child’s home as a permanency goal; requires DCF to ensure the quality of contracted services and programs, as well as the availability of an adequate array of services available to be delivered; and requires DCF to develop, in collaboration with lead agencies and other child welfare stakeholders, a statewide accountability system with quality measures for foster homes and providers of residential group care.
Foster Care/Driver’s Licenses for Children in Foster Care
SB 60 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) was presented to the Governor for action on April 26. The Governor has until May 3 to act on the bill. The bill requires the child’s transition plan and the court to assist children in foster care in obtaining a driver’s 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.
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 Passidomo (R-Naples) authorizes certain organizations to establish programs for the purpose of assisting parents and legal guardians in providing temporary respite care for a child; providing that placement of a child in temporary respite care does not, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, constitute abuse, neglect, or abandonment or placement in foster care; and authorizes the Department of Children and Families to refer children to such programs under certain circumstances. HB 363 is awaiting Senate action. SB 200 was reported favorably by the Rules Committee on April 25.
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. HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) was substituted for SB 852 and passed by the House on a vote of 116:0 on April 26.
HB 7049 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) authorizes subpoenas in certain investigations of sexual offenses involving child victims; 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 passed the House on a vote of 116:0 on April 26. SB 1244 by Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) is awaiting action in the Criminal Justice Committee.
HB 1165 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) provides a 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 the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The bill was scheduled for final passage on April 28, but was temporarily postponed. The Senate companion, SB 972 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) is awaiting action in Criminal Justice.
HB 1167 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) creates a Florida Compensation Trust Fund for Survivors of Human Trafficking within DLA; provides for purposes and sources of funds; provides for administration of the fund by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; requires the fund to develop guidelines and plans; requires an annual report; requires that applications for compensation be made available in English and Spanish; and, provides for future review and termination or re-creation of the fund. The bill was scheduled to be heard on April 28 but was temporarily postponed. The Senate companion, SB 970 by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) is awaiting action in Appropriations.
HB 329 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was passed by the House on a vote of 117:0 on April 28. 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 was substituted for HB 329 and passed the Senate on a vote of 38:0 on April 28.
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 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 was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on April 25. The House companion HB 1269 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was passed by the House on April 20 and is now in the Senate awaiting action.
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) revise requirements for the placement of a child in detention care; provide that a child who is a prolific juvenile offender does not require a risk assessment to be placed in detention care; provide that children meeting specified criteria shall be placed in detention care until the detention hearing; provide criteria for determining whether the child is a prolific juvenile offender; require secure detention for all children awaiting placement in a commitment program until the placement or commitment is accomplished; and, specify the time period for hearings for prolific juvenile offenders. HB 7059 passed the House on a vote of 119:0 on April 28. SB 1670 was scheduled to be heard on final passage on April 28, but was temporarily postponed.
SB 196 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) requires each county to establish one or more civil citation and similar diversion programs for juveniles committing misdemeanors. The bill also 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. The bill was taken up by the full Senate on April 28 and substituted for a comparable bill by Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola),HB 301.
HB 205 by Rep. Larry Ahern (R- Seminole) authorizes, FDLE to adopt rules to provide for expunction of certain non-judicial records of arrest of minors upon successful completion of certain diversion programs; authorizes such expunctions for certain first-time misdemeanor offenses; requires diversion programs to submit specified data to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The bill was placed on the Calendar on second reading and is awaiting House action.
OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
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 passed the Senate on a vote of 19:15 on April 28.
HB 849 by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) is awaiting full Senate action. The bill provides that persons licensed to carry concealed weapons and firearms are not prohibited from carrying firearms on certain private school property. HB 849 which was substituted for SB 1330 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) passed the Senate on a vote of 22:13 on April 26, and is in returning messages to the House.