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Issue 7   |  February  23, 2018

Top News: Budget Impasse; Gun Safety Rally; Mental Health Funding
Parkland students arrive at the Capitol to advocate for Gun Safety.

Youthful energy filled the Capitol on Wednesday as 10,000 students, teachers, parents and concerned citizens converged on the Capitol to demand stronger gun control laws. Meanwhile, the Legislative process inched forward. With 140 of Florida's 160 state legislators up for election later this year, most observers have projected a timely sine die (conclusion of the session).  However, as budget talks stalled this week, those projections dimmed slightly after House Speaker Corcoran was quoted as saying that Senate leaders have "...completely stonewalled us. They're acting like kindergarteners."  Joint budget conference committees comprised of House and Senate members would normally be up-and-running by now, but they have not yet convened.  At least part of the impasse is the Senate's inclusion in its proposed budget of $100 million to address student mental health issues and avert more tragedies like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
Education: HB 7055 Includes Wide Array of Issues
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) presents HB 7055 to the Senate Education Committee.

CS/HB 7055 is the centerpiece House education bill that addresses a wide range of issues including, most prominently, the Hope Scholarship voucher program to allow bullied students to attend a private school of their choice. The Senate Education Committee advanced its version of HB 7055 this week, with some modifications and amendments.  The Senate version removes a requirement in the House bill that ties the entire Education budget to passage of the bill.  It reduces the amount of the voluntary tax credit that pays for the Hope Scholarship program, adds a financial literacy course requirement, provides additional funding for school mental health services, as well as a requirement for school districts to implement a school resource officer program to train officers on how to respond to active shooter situations on campus. The Senate bill also defines state legislators' school visitation rights. One of the most controversial Senate changes that was first added, and then removed with a subsequent amendment, was a provision that would have decertified teachers unions that failed to meet a 50% membership requirement. CS/HB 7055 has already passed the House on a party-line vote. It has one more committee stop in the Senate before going to the floor. Read more.  
Income: Payday Lending Bill Advances
Minority Leader Janet Cruz (D-Tampa), co-sponsor of CS/CS/HB 857.

On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee heard CS/CS/HB 857, which increases the maximum payday loan amount from $500 to be paid back within 31 days, to $1,000 to be paid back with in six months, and exempts some payday loans from new federal underwriting requirements going into effect next year. Many committee members struggled with their votes. On one hand, as bill co-sponsor and Minority Leader Janet Cruz explained, low income people need and use payday loans just to get by and to pay for unexpected emergencies, such as when their cars break down or they miss work because of illness. She said teachers often use these short-term loans during the summer, when they do not receive paychecks.  On the other hand, as the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection and bill opponents asserted, borrowers pay high fees to secure the loans and often become trapped in a payday loan debt cycle as they try to pay off the loans. Ultimately, the bill passed, aligning with committee member Rep. Sean Shaw's observation that in perfect world we would not need these types of loans but in reality low income individuals including many of his constituents, have no other alternative.
Child Welfare: Baby Courts
Sen. Lauren Book presents SB 1442 to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Civil and Criminal Justice.  Dr. Mimi Graham and Judge Jill Walker are seated behind her.

CS/SB 1442  Early Childhood Court Programs (Book, D-Plantation) was heard in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Civil and Criminal Justice on Tuesday. The bill creates in statute an early childhood court program to address cases involving children typically under the age of three, utilizing specialized dockets, multidisciplinary teams and a non-adversarial approach. The program is modeled on other Florida problem-solving court initiatives such as Florida Drug Courts (started in 1989) intended to assist individuals with a range of problems such as drug addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect. The goal of the Early Childhood Court program, AKA "Baby Court", is to expedite family reunification or adoption in cases of child abuse or neglect. According to Dr. Mimi Graham, Director of the FSU Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, data show that baby courts in Florida have been extraordinarily effective in meeting this goal, helping families and reducing the recidivism cost to the state. For this reason baby courts have been recognized by Florida Tax Watch as well as by Dependency Court judges and child advocates. Wakulla County Judge Jill Walker also testified at the subcommittee hearing, calling baby courts "a support system to help babies and parents... the most effective intervention I've seen in my 25 years in Dependency Court."  Read more.
Bills to Watch

Week of February 26 - March 2, 2018

CS/CS/SB 920 Consumer Finance (Bradley, R-Orange Park) - Revises a requirement for an assignee of the right to bill and collect a consumer debt to give the debtor written notice of the assignment; specifies the maximum face amount of checks that may be taken for deferred presentment installment transactions, exclusive of fees; specifies the maximum rate and frequency of fees that deferred presentment providers or their affiliates may charge on deferred presentment installment transactions.
SB 800 Infectious Disease Elimination Pilot Programs (Braynon, R-Miami-Gardens) - Citing this act as the "Florida Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA)"; authorizes the Department of Health to establish sterile needle and syringe exchange pilot programs upon request from eligible entities, rather than a single program established in Miami-Dade County.
CS/SB 386 Consumer Finance (Garcia, R-Hialeah) - Revises a provision relating to the maximum delinquency charge that may be charged for consumer finance loans; revises a requirement relating to installment repayments for consumer finance loans.
HB 1091 Early Learning (Grall; R-Indian River/St. Lucie) - Revises provisions relating to the Office of Early Learning, Early Learning Coalitions and school readiness program; requires OEL to identify observation-based child assessments; establishes a payment differential of up to 15 percent based on program assessment results.
HB 7055 Education (Bileca; R-Miami-Dade) - Revises provisions relating to Commissioner of Education, DOE, school districts, school district superintendents, statewide, standardized assessments, charter schools, educational scholarship programs, principal autonomy pilot program initiative, dual enrollment, FLVS, & private schools.
HB 693 Family Self-Sufficiency (White; R-Escambia/Santa Rosa) - Requires DCF to impose resource limit for households receiving food assistance, subject to federal approval; requires CareerSource Florida, Inc., to contract with vendor to develop pilot program to increase employment for persons receiving temporary cash assistance.

HB 751 Public Assistance (Eagle; R-Lee) - Revises penalties for noncompliance with work requirements for receipt of temporary cash assistance; requires DEO, in cooperation with CareerSource Florida, Inc., & DCF, to inform participants in temporary cash assistance program of work requirements & sanctions & penalties for noncompliance with work requirements.

HB 987 Affordable Housing (Cortes; R-Orange/Seminole) - revises reporting requirements for specified entities relating to impact fees; provides local permit approval process; revises criteria used by review committee when selecting applications for state apartment incentive loans; creates Rental Recovery Loan Program to provide funds for additional rental housing due to specified impacts.

HB 21 Controlled Substances (Boyd; R-Manatee/Sarasota) - Requires practitioners to complete specified board-approved continuing education course to prescribe controlled substances; defines "acute pain"; provides for adoption of standards of practice for treatment of acute pain; limits prescribing of opioids for acute pain in certain circumstances; provides requirements for pharmacists & practitioners for dispensing of controlled substances to persons not known to them.
SB 138 Perinatal Mental Health (Book; D-Broward) - Cites this act as the "Florida Families First Act"; requires the Department of Health to create public service announcements to educate the public on perinatal mental health care; revising components that are included in the postpartum evaluation and follow-up care provided by birth centers to include a mental health screening and the provision of certain information on postpartum depression.

HB 937 Perinatal Mental Health (Nunez; R-Miami-Dade) - Requires DOH to offer perinatal mental health care information through Family Health Line toll-free hotline accessible to general public; revises components included in postpartum evaluation & follow-up care provided by birth centers to include mental health screening & information on postpartum depression.

SB 280 Telehealth (Bean; R-Nassau/Duval) - Establishes the standard of care for telehealth providers; providing that telehealth providers, under certain circumstances, are not required to research a patient's history or conduct physical examinations before providing services through telehealth; provides record-keeping requirements for telehealth providers.
HJR 7001 Supermajority Vote for State Taxes or Fees (Leek; R-Volusia) - Proposes amendment to State Constitution to prohibit a state tax or fee from being imposed or raised except through legislation approved by two-thirds of each house of legislature; requires a state tax or fee imposed or raised to be contained in separate bill that contains no other subject.
SB 1044 Victims of Human Trafficking (Book; D-Broward) - Cites this act as the "Civil Cause of Action for Victims of Human Trafficking Act"; provides a civil cause of action for victims of human trafficking against a trafficker or facilitator; provides that such actions are not subject to a statute of limitations.
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Questions or Comments?
Contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.