2017 Legislative Session - Week 5, April 7, 2017
Session Reaches Midpoint | House and Senate Budgets Advance


Senate Appropriations Chair, Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) 
chairing the Appropriations Committee meeting on April 6

Budget
House and Senate budget committees approved their spending plans on Wednesday, setting the stage for votes in their full chambers next week, even as the two proposals remain roughly $4 billion apart. The House Appropriations Committee budget (PCB APC 17-01) totals $81.2 billion while the Senate Appropriations Committee budget (SPB 2500) totals $83.2 billion. However, the Senate doesn't include almost $2 billion in higher-education tuition in its plan, while the House does --- meaning the differences between the two chambers are actually about twice as large (Brandon Larrabee, NSF, April 5, 2017)

The week also saw marathon committee meetings by both chambers in preparation for the upcoming Easter/Passover holidays this coming week.   The short week ahead will see each Chamber debate their proposed budgets to set the stage for budget conference after the holidays.

SCHOOL READINESS AND EARLY GRADE SUCCESS
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 by the Education Committee.  Language that would achieve similar results was added to SB 926 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) relating to Education on April 3 and is now in the Rules Committee.  The House companion,  HB 1229   by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) was reported favorably by the PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee on April 3 and now heads to the Education Committee.

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) was reported favorably by the Education Committee on April 3, and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education. 
 
EDUCATION

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville)  at press conference 
with Recess Moms. Photo: Courtesy Naked Politics
Recess Bill 
SB 78 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) now has 18 co-sponsors and was approved unanimously by the full Senate on April 4. The bill will require school districts to provide 20 minutes of unstructured recess for Kindergarten-5th grade students. The House companion, HB 67 by Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville) has 51 co-sponsors and was amended by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee on March 28 to allow school districts to substitute 100 of the 150 minutes of mandated elementary physical education for recess.  The bill now heads to the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee.  

   
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; as well as provides for appropriations. The House bill was reported favorably by the Education Committee on April 6.  The Senate companion, SB 902  by David Simmons (R-Longwood) was not considered by the Education Committee on April 3.

SB 1314 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid) was reported favorably by the Education Committee on April 4 and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.  The bill specifies the Department of Education's duty to approve or deny an application for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program within a specified time; requires an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization to allow certain dependent children to apply for a scholarship at any time; revises parent and student responsibilities for program participation; authorizes the Learning Systems Institute to receive compensation for research under certain circumstances; and authorizes specified eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations to develop a professional development system. 
   
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 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.  SB 436 was substituted for  HB 303 by Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Ft. Lauderdale)  and passed by the full House on a vote of 114:3 on April 5.  
   
HEALTH

Florida Senator Daphne Campbell, District 38

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.  SB 1654 was reported favorably by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 3 and referred to its final committee, Rules. The House bill has been referred to 3 committees and is still awaiting action by the Health Innovation Subcommittee.     
 
Newborn Screenings
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 is awaiting action by the Appropriations Committee. 

Mental Health
SB 1756 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) provides responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families for a comprehensive statewide mental health and substance abuse program; revises the rights of individuals receiving mental health treatment and services to provide for the use of health care surrogates or proxies to make decisions; and, designates receiving facilities to permit access authority to an agency designated by the Governor to serve as the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for individuals with disabilities.  The bill was reported favorably by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs on April 3 and now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  
 
CHILD WELFARE
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 passed the House on a vote of 96:16 on April 5.  SB 200 was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on April 3 and now heads to Judiciary.

Public Assistance 
HB 23 by Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was reported favorably by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 30. 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 a similar bill which was reported favorably by the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee on April 3 and now heads to the Commerce and Tourism 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) was reported favorably by the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on April 4.

Child Welfare   
HB 1121  by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine) is similar to SB 1044 in that it provides that central abuse hotline information may be used for employment screening of residential group home caregivers; and requires the court to inquire as to the identity and location of the child's legal father at shelter hearings; requires the court to consider maltreatment allegations against parents in evidentiary hearing relating to dependency petition; and, requires the court to conduct an inquiry under oath to determine the identity or location of the unknown parent after the filing of a termination of parental rights petition. HB 1121 was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6. 

HB 7075  (formerly PCB CFS 17-02) - Child Welfare Bill, by the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee was scheduled to be heard by Health and Human Services Committee on April 6. The bill hearing was temporarily postponed. 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" placement 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 quality rating system for foster homes and providers of residential group care.  The Senate companion, a similar bill, SB 1680 by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) was reported favorably by the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.  The bill now heads to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Foster Care/Driver's Licenses for Children in Foster Care   
SB 60  by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) 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. SB 60 was substituted for HB 217   by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) and passed the House on April 5 on a vote of 116:0. 

Human Trafficking  
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 reported favorably by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on April 3.  The Senate companion, SB 972  by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was scheduled to be heard by the Criminal Justice Committee on April 3 but was temporarily postponed.   

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 reported favorably by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on April 3.  The Senate companion,  SB 970  by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was scheduled to be heard by the Criminal Justice Committee on April 3 but was temporarily postponed.

SB 852 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) requires DCF or a sheriff's office to conduct a multidisciplinary staffing on child victims or commercial sexual exploitation.  The bill was reported favorably by the Appropriations Committee on April 6 and Placed on Special Order Calendar for April 13.  HB 1383 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6.

Child Protection 
HB 329 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6. 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 reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on April 4 and now heads to the Rules 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 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 awaiting action by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  The House companion  HB 1269  by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was reported favorably by the Health and Human Services Committee on April 6. 

JUVENILE JUSTICE
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 is awaiting a hearing by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. 

Civil Citation
SB 196 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) on Civil Citation and Diversion Programs has passed two of its three committees of reference. It was most recently voted favorably by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice on March 8, 2017, and now heads to the Appropriations Committee. There are two other House companion bills: HB 205 by Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole) and Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) 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.

SB 1670 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and HB 7059 by Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Rep. James Grant (R-Tampa) revises requirements for 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; provides for placement of prolific juvenile offenders in detention care in certain circumstances; 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 was reported favorably by the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on April 3.  SB 1670 is awaiting a hearing by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

OTHER BILLS AFFECTING CHILDREN
Firearms 
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 Education Committee on April 3 and now heads to the Rules Committee. 

Witness to Murder Bills
SB 550  by Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) was reported favorably by the Rules Committee on April 6 and Placed on the Special Order Calendar for April 13. The House companion, HB 111  by the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Representatives Cynthia Stafford (D-Opa Locka) and Kionne McGhee (D-Cutler Bay) is in Senate Messages.  Rep. Stafford commented on her presentation of the bill that "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.  

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. 

EVENTS
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The Pinwheel Garden, photo credit: Ounce of Prevention

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Pinwheels for Prevention, a national campaign creating a community-wide commitment to healthy child development, is an annual awareness campaign in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse Florida (PCA Florida), the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

To draw attention to and encourage involvement in child abuse prevention efforts, visit the Ounce of Prevention's PCA and Pinwheels for Prevention   websites.