Legislative Connection

Tallahassee Town Hall Draws a Crowd

On December 9, 100+ citizens and advocates crowded into St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Tallahassee to discuss children’s issues spanning the Journey to Justice and Journey to Great Beginnings platforms of The Children’s Campaign. The event was hosted by The Children’s Campaign and co-sponsored by the Washington D.C. – based Every Child Matters and the law firm of Holland & Knight. Roy Miller moderated the panel discussion which included Alan Abramowitz (Guardian ad Litem), Dewey Caruthers (dewey & associates), Cathy Craig-Myers (Florida Juvenile Justice Association), Kurt Kelly (Florida Coalition for Children), Dr. Norin Dollard (Florida Kids Count, USF Department of...

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Get it Right — We’re Watching

More eyes will be on the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling and performance with Early Steps if the Florida Senate gets its way.  The Senate is responding to outcries from parents and the advocacy community – including The Children’s Campaign – who brought the crisis forward and questioned DOH’s commitment to the program over a several year period. Research shows that early intervention is crucial for children with developmental concerns. Prior to funding cuts in recent years, Florida’s Early Steps program served children at-risk of developmental delays to help provide necessary services when they would make the largest impact. Today, the...

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Youthful Misdeeds Continue to Impact Adulthood – Even in the Senate

The importance of legislation that expunges juvenile records at an earlier age was illustrated with a lighthearted political hazing when SB 386 was heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Representative Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) presented the bill that would expunge selected juvenile criminal records automatically when young adults reach the age of 21, an important contrast to the current practice of doing so at age 24. Speaking on behalf of the bill’s sponsor, Senator Nancy Detert (R-Sarasota), Latvala explained that “kids do foolish things” and that minor offenses shouldn’t be allowed to ruin their futures. After being grilled by the...

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“System Failure” Present in Two Tragic Child Deaths

Standing before the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee, Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll answered pointed questions about the two most recent tragic child deaths that have rocked the state. Janiya, an eleven-year-old Manatee county girl who appears to have suffered a lifetime of abuse, was found in a freezer following the arrest of her mother for failing to disclose her whereabouts. The last time Janiya was seen was in June of 2014, but she was not found until October of this year. Recently released reports indicate that her mother was investigated by DCF more than...

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DOH Again Faces Tough Questions about Children’s Health

Standing before a panel of senators from the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, Department of Health (DOH) Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Tschetter faced probing questions about the agency’s treatment of special-needs and medically needy children. Thousands of children have been screened out of Children’s Medical Services Network (CMS Network), the state’s collection of programs for children with the most severe medical issues, into less expensive (for the state) Medicaid managed care. At the hearing, Tschetter was unable to answer exactly how many children had been screened out of the program, although the DOH presentation to the committee made...

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Back to the Future for Committee Week 1

Following two special sessions that stretched the 2015 legislative session well into summer, legislators are back to the job of lawmaking. No time travel in a suped-up DeLorean was required.  Legislators had used their authority provided by the Florida Constitution, and acquiescence of the Governor, to schedule the 2016 session for January instead of March.  Committee weeks in advance have already begun.  It gives Tallahassee the fatigued look and feel of a year-round legislature. But this go-around isn’t shaping up to be any easier than the last one.  The testiness of the recent health care fight still casts a shadow...

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Special Session Ends. Preparations Underway for Early Next Session

Complementing the never-ending heat in Tallahassee is the feeling that we have a year-round Legislature in town.  The reason? In 2015, it mostly is a year-round Legislature.  Special Session ended on Friday, June 19.  Committee hearings for the upcoming session start the week of September 16, about 80 days away. Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday signed the FY 2015-16 budget of $78.2 billion only four days after it was presented to him, used his line item veto power to the tune of $461 million, and appeared to set the stage for renewed conflict with the Florida Senate in the process....

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Special Session – At the Halfway Mark

State Budget Conferences: Differences to Watch Late last week, five days into Special Session, legislative leadership agreed on the overall revenue allocations, triggering the start of budget negotiation conferences. These began on Saturday morning, continued throughout the weekend, and into Monday and Tuesday. The Children’s Campaign capitol team led by Colleen Mackin walked the halls, worked issues, and kept its eyes on the process. Budget conferences separate line items by constitutional offices and executive branch departments and their related functions across the state. The process allows committee appointees from each Chamber to iron out differences in a choreographed series of...

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Round Two: What’s Next In Special Session?

It’s anyone’s guess. Next week, the House and the Senate will return to Tallahassee to pass a state budget. Bills have already been filed, with the Senate focusing on a range of options to expand the number of insured Floridians while the House has proposed bills addressing nurse practitioner prescribing ability, state employee health insurance, sales tax exemptions, and health care regulations. The Children’s Campaign is fully reviewing both appropriation packages and will provide more detailed information as the process continues. Legislative work has continued throughout the break. Bills have been presented to the Governor and signed into law, the...

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Some Children’s Bills Survive, Some Die

As reported in multiple media outlets, the contentious debate between the Chambers about Medicaid expansion and Low Income Pool (LIP) funding imploded. A budget has not been passed, and multiple important bills were left to die. A Special Session of the Legislature is proposed to convene on June 1, ostensibly enough time to finalize a budget before the June 30th deadline, but at present the gulf that exists is wide and deep. The Children’s Campaign will keep you advised on new developments in the ongoing budget saga. The pall cast by the Medicaid expansion fight can be felt across issues,...

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