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ISSUE 1 | MARCH 10, 2017
RockyStartA Rocky Start
The opening day of session is normally a time for celebration and talk about everyone working together to do what's best for Florida.  Monday's opening day was far from the norm, and portends a rocky road ahead.
During his State of the State speech, Governor Scott took pot-shots at Speaker Richard Corcoran.  Later that day, Corcoran responded in kind.  While neither invoked the name of the other, their targets were unmistakable.  Senate President Joe Negron was the only one who stayed true to tradition and focused entirely on his priorities and vision for the session and the state.
Capitol observers are speculating that the contentious atmosphere will likely lead to a long summer of special sessions.  That sentiment is so strong that it even compelled Representative Kimberly Daniels, who opened the House session with a prayer, to include the comment, "And Lord, I know I'm asking for a miracle, but may this session end on time."
That refrain will be echoed many times in the coming two months.
GovScottBudgetGovernor Scott's Proposed 2017-2018 Budget
On January 31,  Governor Scott unveiled his 2017-2018 "Fighting for Florida's Future budget. The $83.5 billion proposal is a little more than $1 billion more than this year's budget.
As in the past, Governor Scott's proposal is largely framed around growing jobs and the economy.  It proposes increases in many areas, includes $618 million in tax cuts, reduces funding for charity care that hospitals provide by close to $900 million, and would eliminate funding for "infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses."  A short summary of the Fighting for Florida's Future budget proposal is here.
The Legislature's only constitutionally-required responsibility is to craft each year's state budget.  While it will consider Governor Scott's recommendations, it will use - or not - any or all of his proposal.  We'll find out in the next two months.
Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.  -- Pablo Picasso
FrictionandLeaders2017 Session: Friction and Leaders
The same political party controls the Florida House, Senate and Governors mansion.  So, smooth sailing this session, right?  Well....
Probably not, if the past is any indication.
Over the last few months, the House sued the Governor, the Senate prepared to sue the House, the Speaker dead-panned the Governor's top priorities, the Speaker declared that one of the Senate President's priorities will not be funded as the President would like, the Speaker has called more than $400 million of the Governor's funding (i.e., local property taxes) a tax increase and declared that it will not happen.
Senate President Joe Negron is a pragmatic, moderate conservative whose priorities for the 2017 Session are for Florida to stop "criminalizing adolescence," to create World Class Universities, and to find a way to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges t hat create environmental and economic havoc along the St. Lucie, Indian and Caloosahatchee Rivers.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran was an a ide to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott.  Like President Negron, he is grounded in tr aditional conservative values, like no new taxes.  However, unlike President Negron, ideologically he tends to see government more as a problem, and is intent on limiting and reforming it.  His priorities, at this point, are centered not around substantive legislative issues, but on restructuring the process and how Tallahassee works.  His new House Rules accomplish that in substantial ways (see "New House Rules" below), addressing lobbyists, legislators, and member projects, among others.
Fundamental differences between these two and the Governor over the billions of dollars in state revenue at issue with gambling, property taxes, tax cuts, and economic incentives, to name just a few, could result in the contentious start to session remaining throughout.
WhatIfWhat if ...?
This question keeps millions of Floridians up at night and distracted during the day. The updated 2017 United Way ALICE ReportĀ® highlights that 44 percent of Florida households earn less than what it takes to independently survive in their local communities.  Other studies have found that ALICE families' income swings up to 30 percent month-to-month.  How would you handle such uncertainty?  How do you think that uncertainty impacts business, schools and the larger economy?  While the Florida Legislature wrestles with fiscal and political uncertainty, their citizens wrestle with far more.  There is a hopeful set of 'What Ifs' that we can look to in the coming months:
  • What if the legislature helped bring millions more dollars back to Florida by helping more families get their full tax refunds?
  • What if local schools, businesses and community partners helped high school seniors and adults claim millions of new Pell Grant dollars to be more skilled workers?
  • What if YOU engaged your networks to highlight the resources and solutions available to your community? 
NewHouseRulesNew House Rules
House and Senate rules are generally tweaked each two years by the incoming Senate President and House Speaker.  Changes are normally modest and relatively limited.
Normalcy took a back seat this year as Speaker Corcoran unveiled comprehensive modifications to House rules that will significantly change the way legislators, lobbyists, and the process work.
Among others, the new House Rules have many lobbyists grumbling because they must submit an electronic appearance form on every bill and amendment they will address.
The rules also compelled the Senate to hire a law firm to prepare to sue the House because they would have unconstitutionally prevented the Senate from following its own budget process rules.  Fortunately, Speaker Corcoran and President Negron negotiated a resolution that averted the lawsuit.
When unveiling the new rules, Speaker Corcoran noted that they address lobbying, ethics reform, transparency, and sunshine which together will bring much greater accountability to the legislative process.  He was quoted as saying, "That accountability I assure you will cut a billion dollars out of the budget" by putting into the sunshine the multitude of "turkeys" that otherwise would have been placed into the budget during the last days and hours of session.  It appears that - to the extent those savings will have indeed been realized - the agreement reached by the Speaker and President may not diminish them.
For a brief summary of the new provisions contained in the House Rules and the negotiated agreement on the appropriation process by Speaker Corcoran and President Negron, click here.
SnapshotSnapshot:  2017 Florida Legislature

  • Senate
    • 40 members
      • 25 Rs
      • 15 Ds
  • House
    • 120 members
      • 79 Rs
      • 41 Ds
  • 66 Freshmen ... 40%
    • Senate - 20
    • House - 46
ConsensusLegisAgenda2017 Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda
Florida's 32 United Ways strive daily to solve the most pressing education, income, health, and safety net challenges facing our communities. Our work extends deep into the fabric of our communities and expands to embrace every opportunity to improve the lives of our neighbors and those we serve.
During the 2017 Session, we will focus on three Florida United Way Consensus Legislative Agenda priorities: Early Learning , Access to Health Care , and Financial Stability .
While we will focus on these critical issues, we will also join our community partners in their advocacy efforts to improve the quality of life for all Floridians; pursuing issues that - together with our Consensus priorities - are fundamentally important to improving the health and well-being of our communities, today and tomorrow.
Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul. 
-- Walt Whitman
SessionDates2017 & 2018 Legislative Session Dates
ARTICLE III Section 3(b) of the Florida Constitution provides that "A regular session of the legislature shall convene on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each odd-numbered year, and on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, or such other date as may be fixed by law, of each even-numbered year." (Underline added)
ARTICLE III Section 3 (d) further provides that "A regular session of the legislature shall not exceed sixty consecutive days... unless extended beyond such limit by a three-fifths vote of each house."
These constitutional provisions require that the 2017 Regular Session begin on March 7, 2017 and end on May 5, 2017.
As authorized by these provisions, the 2016 Legislature passed SB 7076 ( Chapter No. 2016-218 ), which provides that the 2018 Regular Session will begin on January 9, thereby ending on Friday March 9.
HistoryofFloridasHistory of Florida's Budget & State Employee Positions

Fiscal Year     Total Expenditures  Total Positions
FY 1998-1999  -  $45,554,881,093  -  128,178.00
FY 1999-2000  -  $48,165,445,604  -  127,624.00
FY 2000-2001  -  $52,499,445,405  -  124,838.00
FY 2001-2002  -  $46,899,780,753  -  121,019.00
FY 2002-2003  -  $48,933,620,352  -  115,854.25
FY 2003-2004  -  $51,833,223,696  -  118,524.60
FY 2004-2005  -  $58,327,500,793  -  118,029.75
FY 2005-2006  -  $61,573,997,174  -  118,178.99
FY 2006-2007  -  $66,106,932,379  -  115,370.24
FY 2007-2008  -  $64,374,278,216  -  115,897.99
FY 2008-2009  -  $60,706,805,397  -  113,565.25
FY 2009-2010  -  $62,043,528,663  -  128,850.25
FY 2010-2011  -  $65,455,633,071  -  127,453.50
FY 2011-2012  -  $62,984,498,596  -  122,925.75
FY 2012-2013  -  $63,965,466,652  -  118,613.75
FY 2013-2014  -  $68,033,342,209  -  115,169.50
FY 2014-2015  -  $71,042,787,940  -  115,186.57
FY 2015-2016  -  $72,319,055,419  -  114,371.57
FY 2016-2017* -  $82,285,276,649  -  113,430.82
* 2016-2017 figures are estimates. The figures will be finalized after the end of the current fiscal year -- June 30, 2017.
Source: Office of Economic and Demographic Research
( Portions excerpted from Legislative staff analyses.)
FamilySelfSufficiencyFamily Self-Sufficiency
On Tuesday, the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee passed CS/HB 581.

During the recent recession, Florida became one of forty states to implement broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) to expand eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), setting eligibility for most households at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or less. Florida also waived asset limits for SNAP in most cases. As of November 30, 2016, 3,331,377 total individuals were enrolled in SNAP in Florida. Certain adult SNAP recipients must meet work requirements as a condition of benefit receipt.

Florida's Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Program provides cash assistance to needy families with children. To be eligible for full-family TCA, recipients must participate in work activities unless they qualify for an exemption.

HB 581 eliminates BBCE for SNAP and aligns Florida's eligibility requirements with the federal minimum eligibility requirements for all initial applications and recertifications for SNAP benefits after January 1, 2018. The bill reinstates asset limits and requires DCF to contract with a vendor to verify liquid assets. At least 229,311 (6.8%) of SNAP recipients will no longer be eligible based on the income and asset limit changes.

The bill also creates a program to be piloted at three or more RWBs to increase employment and earned income among those TCA recipients with significant barriers to employment while reducing their reliance on public assistance. Additionally, the bill increases reporting by CareerSource on employment outcomes and economic self-sufficiency of TCA and SNAP recipients.

LAST ACTION: 3/7/2017 HOUSE CS by Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee; read 1st time.
MedicaidBlockGrantsMedicaid Block Grants
HM 7033  urges the U.S. Congress to implement the Medicaid program through per capita block grants to the states, including a rate of growth and various adjustments for risk and enrollee income, and including state authority to design programs without reference to current federal Medicaid laws and regulations.
Copies of the memorial will be sent to the President of the United States, to the President of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and to each member of the Florida delegation to the United States Congress.
LAST ACTION: 3/9/2017  HOUSE passed.
ReligiousExpressionReligious Expression in Public Schools
SB 436  creates the "Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,"and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.  Among others, the bill:  
  • Authorizes a student to:
    • Express his or her religious beliefs in written and oral assignments free from discrimination.
    • Wear clothing,accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent as secular types of clothing,accessories, and jewelry that displamessages or symbols are permitted.
    • Pray or engage in and organizreligious activities before,during, and after the school day to the same extent that student engagement in secular activitor expression and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.
  • Requires a school district to:
    • Comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and specifies that a school district may not prevent school personnel from participating in religious activities on school grounds that are student-initiated at reasonable times before or after the school day.
    • Give a religious group access to the same school facilities for assemblinas given to a secular group without discrimination and authorizes such a religious or secular group to advertise or announce its meetings.
    • Adopt a policy that establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event at which a student is to speak publicly.
    • Requires the Florida Department of Education to develop and publish on its website a model policregarding a limited public forum and the voluntarexpression of religious viewpoints by students and school personnel in public schools. The model policy must be adopted and implemented beach district school board.
LAST ACTION: 3 /6/2017 SENATE Favorable by Education.
HighSchoolGradHigh School Graduation Requirements
To graduate from high school with a standard high school diploma, a student must successfully complete 24 credits, an International Baccalaureate curriculum, or an AdvanceInternational Certificate of Education curriculum.  Three of those credits must be in social studies, including one credit each in U.S. historand World history; one-half credit in economics, which must include financial literacy; and one-half credit in U.S. Government.
CS/SB 392  c reates the"Personal Financial Literacy Education Act."  It revises high school graduation requirements by removing the financial literacy component from the economics curriculum and requiring a stand-alone one-half credit in personal financial literacy.
The bill also reduces the number of required elective credits from eight to seven and one-half.
LAST ACTION: 3/6/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Education.
SupremeCourtSupreme Court Reporting Requirements
The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration provide time standards for resolution of trial and appellate cases based on what the Court considers a presumptivelreasonable time period.  The standards for rendering a decision applicable to the Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal are:
  • 180 dayafter oral argument or submission of the case to the court for a decision without oral argument; for juvenile dependency or termination of parental rights cases; and
  • within 60 days afteeither oral argument or submission of the case to the court for a decision without oral argument.
SB 878  requires the Supreme Court to annually prepare a status report on cases that are unresolved within 180 days after oral argument or the date of submission to the panel without oral argument. The report must, among other things:
  • Identify the case type.
  • Specify the number of days that have elapsed since the oral argument or the date the case was submitted to the panel for a decision.
  • Explain why the Court failed to render a decision within the 180-day time period.
  • State when the Court expects to render a decision or dispose of the case.
The r e port must a lso inc l ude d a ta on c a s e s r e solv e d du r ing the  y e a r p r e c e d i ng the d a te of the r e port that took long e r t h a n 180 d a y s to r e solve.
LAST ACTION: 3/7/2017 SENATE Favorable by Judiciary.
PublicSchoolRecessPublic School Recess
SB 78 requires each district school board to provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5. Such recess must involve at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play per day.

LAST ACTION: 3/8/2017 Favorable by Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K - 12 Education.
JuvenileCivilCitationJuvenile Civil Citations and Similar Diversion Programs
C urrently Florida law authorizes four differentypes of juvenile diversion programs:
  • JuvenilCivil Citation Programs;
  • Prearrest and Postarrest Diversion Programs;
  • Neighborhood Restorative Justice Programs;and
  • Community ArbitratioPrograms.
Currently, a juvenile who successfully completes a prearrest or postarrest diversion program may seek expunction of his or her nonjudicial arrest record for a nonviolent misdemeanor offense if the agencies establishing the program have authorized such expunction.
CS/HB 205  amends the law to:
  • make expunction available for anof the diversion programs identified above;
  • ensure a one-time expunctiofoanfirst-time misdemeanowhen the prograis successfully completed; and
  • allow a juvenile to lawfulldeny or fail to acknowledge successful participation in a diversion program and expunctiofor a first-time misdemeanor for purposeocriminal justice agency employment.
LAST ACTION:  3/8/17 HOUSE Favorable with CS by Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
JuvenileCivilCitationsJuvenile Civil Citations and Similar Diversion Programs
Current law establishes a civil citation process that provides law enforcement an alternative to arresting juveniles for nonserious delinquent acts. These civil citation or similar diversion programs are discretionary and are established at the local level in concurrence with the chief judge, state attorney, public defender, and head of each local law enforcement agency.

Currently, if a juvenile admits to committing a misdemeanor, a law enforcement officer has the discretion to:
  • Issue a warning or inform the juvenile's parent of the child's infraction;
  • Issue a civil citation or require participation in a similar diversion program; or
  • Arrest the juvenile.
A law enforcement officer can issue a civil citation to any juvenile who admits to committing a first-time, second-time, or third-time misdemeanor.

Sixty counties have implemented a civil citation or similar program in Florida. For Fiscal Year 2015-16, 19,386 juveniles were eligible for a civil citation and only 9,636 eligible juveniles were issued one. The recidivism rate for the juveniles who completed a civil citation program in Fiscal Year 2014-15 was 3.8 percent.

CS/SB 196 requires a law enforcement officer to issue a civil citation or require the juvenile's participation in a similar diversion program when the juvenile admits to committing one of several first-time misdemeanor offenses, including possession of alcoholic beverages by a person under age 21, battery, criminal mischief, retail theft, and disorderly conduct.

The bill also permits a law enforcement officer to issue a civil citation or require the juvenile's participation in a similar diversion program when the juvenile admits to committing:
  • A misdemeanor offense not enumerated in the bill; or
  • A second-time or third-time misdemeanor offense not enumerated in the bill.
A law enforcement officer must provide written documentation articulating why an arrest is warranted when he or she has the discretion to issue a civil citation but instead chooses to arrest the juvenile.

LAST ACTION: 3/8/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
DisasterPrepDisaster Preparedness Tax Exemption
CS/SB 664 provides for a seven-day sales tax exemption period for the purchase of specified items associated with disaster preparedness and protection, from May 30, 2017, through June 5, 2017.  Some of the items exempted from sales tax include:
  • a portable self-powered light source selling for $20 or less;
  • a portable self-powered radio, two-way radio, or weather band radio selling for $75 or less;
  • a tarpaulin or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less;
  • an item typically sold or advertised as a ground anchor system or tie-down kit selling for $50 or less;
  • a gas or diesel fuel tank selling for $25 or less;
  • a package of AAA-cell, AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt, or 9-volt batteries selling for $30 or less; and
  • cellular telephone charger selling for $40 or less.
The  R e v e nue  Estimati n Conf e r e n c (REC) e sti m a tes the bill will reduce G e n e r a l R e v e nue r e ce ipts b y $5.3 million and r e du c es l o ca l r e v e nue  b y $1.4 million  in F isc a Y e a r 20 1 7 - 18.


LAST ACTION: 3/6/2017 SENATE Favorable with CS by Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Labor Organization
HB 11 requires a public employee labor union to include the following information in its annual financial report for each certified bargaining unit that the organization represents:
  • The number of employees in the bargaining unit who are eligible for representation by the employee organization; and
  • The number of employees who are represented by the organization, specifying the number of members who pay dues and the number of members who do not pay dues.
If a registered employee organization does not submit this information for a certified bargaining unit it represents, the organization's certification for that unit is revoked.

The bill also requires a public employee labor union that has been certified as the bargaining agent for a unit whose dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation in that unit to petition the commission for recertification as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit.

LAST ACTION: 3/8/2017 House Favorable by Oversight, Transparency Administration Subcommittee.
ChildrenObtaingDLsChildren Obtaining Driver Licenses
Children in the dependency system sometimes face barriers to having everyday life experiences common to young people their age.  Florida statute recognizes that children in the dependency system should have normal age-appropriate experiences.  One typical experience for teenagers is obtaining a driver license, which can facilitate having a job, attending school, engaging socially, and contributing to the community.

The Florida Legislature authorized the Keys to Independence Act in 2014.  This created a 3 year pilot program to help children in licensed foster care overcome barriers to getting a driver license, such as the costs of education, licensure, and insurance, by providing reimbursement.

CS/HB 217 makes the Keys to Independence program permanent.

LAST ACTION: HOUSE Favorable by Healthcare Appropriations Committee.
SoldiersandHeroesSoldiers' and Heroes' Monuments and Memorials Protection Act
CS/HB 529 makes it a third degree felony to willfully and maliciously injure, damage, or deface a memorial which honors or commemorates a soldier, a military organization or unit, a first responder, or an astronaut.

LAST ACTION: 3/8/2017 HOUSE Favorable by Local, Federal, and Veterans Affairs.


Session Dates

United Way of Florida, 307 E. Seventh Avenue, Tallahassee, FL  32303  -  phone: 850.488.8287