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Issue 4  | March 27, 2017 

Top News: Children's Week at the Capitol - Every Child a Hero
Left: 'Hanging of the Hands' in the Capitol Rotunda.  Right: Children's Week coordinator, Jason Zaborske with children's artwork, "Every Child a Hero".

This week, the United Way of Florida, together with over 100 partners and more than 4,000 families, educators and leaders from across the state, gather at the Florida Capitol for the 22nd annual Children's Week. The celebration began on Sunday by hanging tens of thousands of children's paper hand cutouts inside the state Capitol. The "Hanging of the Hands" is a Children's Week tradition intended to remind legislators to prioritize children when making critical budget and policy decisions. Children's Week is a key tool for advocates across Florida, creating a platform for their voices to be heard in unison. On Tuesday, policymakers and advocates will hold a press conference on the steps of the Old Capitol building to speak out about the most pressing policy issues facing Florida's children and families including quality education, affordable children's health care, family financial stability, and child abuse prevention. Other events include exhibitors' booths, sponsored by nonprofits, faith-based organizations and businesses to provide information about children's programs and services; the YMCA Teens Town Hall Meeting for older students to engage and collaborate with Florida's Children and Youth Cabinet; and the Children's Trust/Youth Advisory Committee's Youth Leadership Workshop on civic engagement. Ted Granger, Tallahassee Democrat
Early Learning and School Success
Representative Byron Donalds (R-Naples)
 
Voluntary Prekindergarten : CS/HB 757 (Donalds, R-Naples) and SB 468 (Stargel, R-Lakeland) seek to enhance reading proficiency for children in VPK through grade 5 by requiring the Just Read, Florida! office to provide teachers, reading coaches, and principals with research-based training reading instruction. It requires the Office of Early Learning to assign student identification numbers to each VPK student, and requires VPK to give parents the results of pre- and post-assessments within 10 days. Statewide kindergarten screening is required to directly assess literacy and numeracy skills. A child at risk of not attaining the VPK performance standards may re-enroll for an additional year at the parent's request.
 
Committee on Early Grade Success: Florida has made significant strides in increasing reading proficiency, but many students are not reading at proficient levels. SB 806 (Stargel, R-Lakeland) and HB 1229 (Grall, R-Vero Beach) create a 'Committee on Early Grade Success' within the Department of Education to develop a proposal for a coordinated child assessment system for School Readiness, Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) and the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. Coordinated assessments will help teachers, improve accountability and data sharing, and enable better policy decisions.
 
Florida Children's Initiatives assist disadvantaged neighborhoods in creating a community-based service network that includes quality education, accessible health care, youth development programs, opportunities for employment, and safe and affordable housing for children and families living within its boundaries. There are currently three Florida children's initiatives recognized in statute: the Miami Children's Initiative, the New Town Success Zone in Jacksonville, and the Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando. CS/SB 924 (Rouson, D-St. Petersburg) and HB 783 (Shaw, D-Tampa) create two new Children's Initiatives: the Tampa Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise Success Zone in the City of Tampa and the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition in the City of Miami. 
Child Safety
Senator Steube presents SB 286, Human Trafficking Education in Schools, with the high school student who first suggested the idea.

Human Trafficking Education in Schools: SB 286 (Steube, R-Sarasota) requires that information on the dangers and signs of human trafficking be included in comprehensive health education for middle and high school students. This new requirement can include information on the warning signs of human trafficking, terms used in trafficking, websites used by traffickers, and information on how a student can get help. A student may opt out of this instruction with a note from his or her parent.
 
Use of Wireless Communications Devices While Driving : The "Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law" generally bans a person from operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device. Enforcement is permitted only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for another traffic violation.  CS/SB 144 (Garcia, R-Hialeah) amends the law to authorize enforcement of the ban on texting while driving as a primary offense; HB 69 (Slosberg, D-Delray Beach) provides for primary enforcement of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law for drivers age 18 or younger.
 
Enhanced Safety for School Crossings : Current law authorizes the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish school speed zones. However, there is nothing in Florida Statutes regarding establishment of safe school crossing locations. CS/HB 493 (Toledo, R-Tampa) requires DOT to evaluate the viability and cost of establishing a uniform system for the designation of safe school crossing locations on arterial or collector roads within a one-mile radius of all schools. The bill requires DOT to report its findings to the Governor and Legislature by January 1, 2018.
 
Gun Safety: SB 956 (Campbell, D-North Miami Beach) and HB 1355 (Duran, D-Miami) regarding concealed weapons or concealed firearms require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue a license if, in addition to other specified criteria, the applicant has undergone a mental health evaluation conducted by certain licensed professionals and has been determined to be competent.
Children's Health
Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Ft. Myers)

Newborn Screenings : CS/HB 963  (Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers) and SB 1124 (Book, D-Broward) require the Department of Health, advised by the Genetics and Newborn Screening Advisory Council, to expand the statewide screening of newborns to include additional conditions recommended by the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel.
 
Florida KidCare Program : There are four operating components (Medicaid for children, Medikids, the Children's Medical Services Network, and the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation) and four administrative entities: the Agency for Health Care Administration, Dept. of Children and Families, Dept. of Health, and Florida Healthy Kids Corporation. In order to improve efficiency and maximize return on investment of the Florida KidCare program HB 637 (Duran, R-Miami) and SB 1654 (Campbell, D-North Miami Beach) create a KidCare Operational Efficiency and Health Care Improvement Workgroup. The workgroup will examine successful models to improve value and health care outcomes, make recommendations to improve the program's efficiency, provide transition plans based on the recommendations, recommend federal waivers to improve the program and submit a final report by December 31, 2017.

Small Food Retailers
: According to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) access to quality retail grocers in Florida is strongly linked to a variety of diet-related health outcomes. Communities, particularly low-income areas, in which residents do not live in close proximity to affordable and healthy food retailers are known as food deserts. Healthy food options in these communities are hard to find or unaffordable, and diabetes, heart disease and obesity are more prevalent.  CS/HB 1083 (Lee, D-Ft. Pierce) and CS/SB 1592 (Bean, R-Jacksonville) direct DACS to establish the Healthy Food Assistance Program that focuses on providing assistance to small retailers for projects that increase the availability and sales of fresh and nutritious food in low-income communities.
Bills to Watch this Week



HB 11 (Plakon, R-Longwood) Labor Organizations: Revises required information to be included in application for renewal of registration of employee organization; provides for revocation of certification under certain conditions; requires certain employee organizations to recertify as certified bargaining agents.
 
CS/HB 83 (Eagle, R-Cape Coral) Offenses by Aliens Unlawfully Present in the United States: Requires specified offenses to be reclassified if committed by such aliens; specifies reclassification of these offenses; specifies enhancement of level of ranking for purposes of sentencing & gain-time eligibility.
 
HB 677 (Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach) Justifiable Use of Force: Specifies person who is attacked or threatened with use of force in dwelling, residence, or vehicle in which person has right to be has no duty to retreat & has right to stand his or her ground by using or threatening to use force upon reasonable belief of necessity to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or forcible felony.
 
HB 955 (Ahern, R-Seminole) High School Graduation Requirements: Revises requirements to include financial literacy; revises required credits for standard high school diploma to include instruction in personal financial literacy & money management.
 
SB 978 (Powell, D-West Palm Beach) High School Graduation Requirements: Authorizes the use of credits earned upon completion of a registered apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship to satisfy specified high school graduation credit requirements; requires the State Board of Education to approve and identify apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs for such purpose.
 
SB 1210 (Lee, R-Brandon) Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education: Requires each district school board to adopt a process allowing parents or other persons who pay ad valorem property or sales tax in Florida to object to the use of specific instructional materials based on specified criteria.
 
SB 1572  (Bean, R-Jacksonville) Education Savings Account Program: Authorizes a parent to direct a financial institution trustee of his or her child's account to use funds for specified costs of attending specified private schools or programs, for participating in a dual enrollment program, or to make a contribution to the child's college savings plan or to a contract under the Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program.
 
HB 7057 (Raburn, R-Valrico) Civic Literacy: Designates month of September annually as "American Founders' Month"; requires postsecondary students to demonstrate competency in civic literacy & provides requirements; requires committee to develop or revise courses & establish specified course competencies.
Quick Links
Questions or Comments?
Contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.