Policy bills took a backseat last week to intensive budget negotiations, which remained in full swing through much of the weekend. Both House and Senate Budget Committees completed their work this past Saturday, with unresolved issues passed to the Appropriations Chairs. The finalized budget is scheduled to be printed Monday setting up an on-time legislative exit. A budget update edition of Legislative Connection will publish later in the week. In the meantime, here’s a summary of key bills that were heard and passed:
HB 693 – A Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) was presented by Representative Alexander (D-Tallahassee). This new version does not advance juvenile justice reform. Now included is an offense regarding lease of personal property, which wasn’t in the in the original bill, and all prior proposed changes to threshold amounts for certain larceny offenses are deleted. Further, the PCS now only raises the felony threshold amount from $300 to $750 for fraudulently obtaining or retaining personal property or equipment. Representative Gonzalez asked why an increase to $750 was chosen. The bill sponsor explained the amount, based on the consumer price index, was agreeable to both parties. HB 693 passed the committee favorably with 16 Yeas and 2 Nays and will now move to the House floor.
SB 892 – Senator Simmons (R-Longwood) presented SB 892 in the Senate Committee on Appropriations on 4/25. This bill allows the court to impose a sentence as a youthful offender if a person committed a felony before they turned 21 years of age. The Florida Smart Justice Alliance, Florida Public Defenders Association and The Children’s Campaign waived in support. Senator Simmons explained, “This is smart justice that permits common sense application of the law.” SB 852 passed the committee favorably with no questions or debate from the committee. The bill will now move on to the Senate floor this week.
SB 1044, a child welfare bill that makes changes to improve the care of children in the child welfare system based on recommendations from the Department of Children and Families and the Governor, passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations on 4/25. Two technical amendments were also adopted, one changing the enactment date related to substance-exposed newborns, and the other appropriating funds to implement a shared family care residential service pilot program. The bill, sponsored by Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah), passed unanimously in its last committee stop.
SB 852, sponsored by Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah), passed the House floor on Wednesday. It seeks to ensure services for child victims of commercial exploitation are consistent throughout the state and requires the Department of Children and Families and Sheriff’s offices to conduct multidisciplinary staffings for suspected victims. Representative Nunez presented the bill and urged members to vote for it, expressing that human trafficking is a “form of modern day slavery, it’s a stain on our society.” SB 852 not only passed its last reading on the House floor, it has also been substituted for similar bill HB 1383. The bill is now back in the Senate and is expected to be on its way to the Governor in the coming days.
Bills on the Way to the Governor
SB 60, known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” makes permanent a pilot program facilitating foster children to receive driver’s licenses. This bill comes from a push in the Legislature to create normalcy for youth in foster care. Sponsored by Senator Bean (R-Jacksonville), Representative Sullivan (R-Eustis) and Representative Albritton (R-Bartow), the bill will now go to the Governor to be signed into law.
HB 151, allowing victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment to use therapy animals or facility dogs during their testimony, has been tagged the “feel good bill” of this year’s session. With absolutely no opposition during the legislative process, the bill moves to the governor for his final approval. The bill sponsors include Representative Brodeur (R-Sanford), Representative Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs) and Senator Montford (D-Quincy).
HB 185, sponsored by Representative Larry Lee, Jr, (D-Pt. St. Lucie) and Senator Aaron Bean, (R-Fernandina) gives discounts on state park fees to foster families and families who adopt children with special needs.
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This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Nicki Harrison, Breanna Kim, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller