Legislative Connection

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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Child Welfare: More to Know and More to Fix

The More You Know” is a series of public service ads that have aired on NBC since 1989. The premise is simple – knowledge is power. The more the public knows about an issue, the greater likelihood of personal engagement, better decision-making, and making a difference. Florida’s child welfare system would be better off if making a similar and transforming commitment.  Consider the reasons for doing it differently: Less than 10%   ̶  only one out of 13   ̶  Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) reports have been posted to the child fatality website for 2015. Report findings are...

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Children and Seniors Take the Capitol

It was a very interesting week at the capitol in regards to “Awareness Days”. On Tuesday, a few hundred children – who appeared to outnumber the adults – gathered in the courtyard for Children’s Day.  On Wednesday, a vastly greater number of older citizens packed the same bricked area for Seniors Day. Children’s Day provided beautiful photo ops: smiling kids straining to see the historic capitol, booths of service providers, and vibrant children’s handprints hanging inside from the rotunda. Seniors Day brought covered meters restricting parking for blocks, offsite shuttles delivering large numbers of the voting public attending, and coordinated...

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Child Abuse Death Review Finds Systemic Issues

On Thursday, Mike Carroll, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) addressed the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs committee about recent child abuse deaths. The presentation focused on the recent tragic death of a 3 year-old Seminole Indian boy. In his short life, the young boy had multiple interactions with the child welfare system. He had several placements, and numerous calls to the Abuse Hotline on his behalf.  In his presentation, Secretary Carroll said that the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) report would show that there were signs that this child was being physically abused, but...

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Carrot, Stick, Unequal Justice

An old adage suggests two alternatives exist to motivate change depending on the circumstances – sometimes use a carrot and sometimes a stick. Civil citation allows juveniles to receive a warning, diversion program or other option rather than being arrested for a misdemeanor offense. Last year 13,000 Florida juveniles did not have the option of being issued a civil citation. This was based solely on their place of residence as not all communities participate in the program. Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah) filed SB 378 that attempted to expand civil citation with a mandate – the “stick”. The bill would have changed...

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Tragedies Rock State – Mental Health and Substance Abuse At Play Again

In Orlando, a mother is accused of taking the life of her three children. Five-month-old Christopher and six-year-old Philip were strangled to death and seven-year-old Laci strangled and drowned. All had cuts on their bodies. Jessica McCarty, the mother, was found on the lawn of her home by police following a failed attempt to take her own life. McCarty has a history of drug abuse, including law enforcement involvement.  In 2009, following a suicide attempt, a child abuse investigator believed the children faced immediate danger and inadequate supervision, but noted their father and grandmother seemed like capable caregivers. The family...

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Long Overdue Changes for Juvenile Records Moving

The Children’s Campaign has spent the last year gathering stories from across the state of how juvenile records negatively impact the lives of young adults. We along with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, members of the juvenile justice coalition, and others are championing law changes that allow mistakes made as a juvenile to remain in the past. This week, multiple good bills passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. These bills address the issues of juvenile record confidentially and expunction. Proposed Committee Bills (PCB) CRJS 15-04, 15-05 and 15-06 will make changes to the law including: Expand confidentiality protections for...

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A Tale of Two Chambers: Group Homes

In a variation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of paths, it was the worst of paths.”  Both legislative chambers held lively discussions about out-of-home care last week. Both had very different tones and, at times, conflicting expert testimony. Some youth, in front of the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee, testified that after seven foster care placements, their group home experience put them on a path of personal and educational success. Other youth appearing the next day at the Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee were critical of their group home experience....

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2015 Legislative Session Begins

Legislative Session has officially started in Tallahassee. Hot topics that will impact children this Session include: services to children with disabilities, child welfare, juvenile records and trying children as adults, education funding, tax cuts and what to do about the expected loss of federal low income pool health care funds. Leadership across the legislative process had excitedly touted in advance of session the state’s $1 billion budget “surplus” and with it a plan to cut taxes. This positive tone has turned to concern. Loss of low income pool dollars is estimated at $1.3 billion. This development results in the projected...

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