Children’s Bills Positioned to Reach Finish Line

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iStock_000027505756_LargeThe budget bills of the two chambers are on their way to conference committee to iron out the differences, expected to start mid-week.  This signals that legislative session is coming to a close, for all practical purposes most of a year in length due to many factors.  We will know soon how children fare in final appropriations as the House and Senate reconcile their now 750-million dollar gap regarding the governor’s tax cut proposal.  That’s a tall order.  Some services will survive and some will not. 

Children’s policy bills continue to move along on their own path, the finish line clearly in reach.

Amendments to confidentiality and child welfare bills addressed a technical change in the former and many areas of concern in the latter, making both better.  Hot topic bills addressing mental health and criminal justice and human trafficking continued their forward momentum. 

Rising up in late session, a civil citation bill would make the practice mandatory and resulted in splitting law enforcement, state attorneys and several child advocacy groups against a faith-based alliance pushing it.   

mentalHealthPlainAccording to ABC News, members of the religious community in Hillsborough County have called for their local law enforcement to implement a civil citation program for marijuana possession similar to those in other Florida counties. “Kids make mistakes and to be arrested for something like that is very shocking, it’s shocking,” Judy Morton, with HOPE, said.  A bill that would require civil citation for first-time offense for marijuana possession, SB 408-Civil Citation, narrowly passed Senate Criminal Justice with an amendment that conforms the bill to its House counterpart.

Opposition to the bill has centered on the requirement that the issuing of civil citation become a mandatory practice, a provision dropped last year when the civil citation program allowed expansion from one to three misdemeanors.  Civil citation is effective when proper infrastructure exists to support it.  The lack of statewide funding to train law enforcement how to properly implement a civil citation program, as well as funding for financially restrained counties that are unable to afford it, among other reasons, make civil citations a daunting prospect for mandatory implementation this year.  The bill will next be heard in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on 2/24/16 at 10:00am on room 301S. 

iStock_000020989458_LargeHB 599-Child Welfare was found favorable in its last committee of reference, the Health and Human Services Committee, and is now on its way to the House floor. The bill was substantially amended, removing an 8% cap on group homes and change in requirements to terminate parental rights.  The bill as amended still contains a quality rating system for group homes, extends court jurisdiction for disabled youth until 22, and increases the focus on domestic violence. Although the bill continues to rely heavily on problematic safety plans and eliminates the individualized placement assessment, the intent of the bill is good. Representative Harrell (R-Stuart) stated, “this bill takes the next step on what we started in SB 1666.” 

Without discussion or debate, SB 604-Mental Health unanimously passed the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and will next be heard in its final committee of reference, Senate Appropriations. The House version, HB 439 has been placed on the House special order calendar for 2/23/16.

SB 700-Confidentiality was found favorable by Fiscal Policy following an amendment that gives public records custodians the option to not upload a juvenile’s arrest or booking photo online. The bill has been placed on the calendar on second reading. HB 293, the House companion has been placed on the House special order calendar for 2/23/16.

iStock_000025438640_LargeA bill that seeks harsher penalties for perpetrators of sex trafficking while removing the ability to charge minors with prostitution; SB 784-Human Trafficking unanimously passed Fiscal Policy. The bill has been placed on Senate special order calendar for 2/23/16. Companion bill, HB 545-Human Trafficking has been placed on House special order calendar for the same day.

Created to bring Florida’s child care health and safety standards up to the new requirements to receive the Child Care Development Block Grant funding, SB 7058-Child Care and Development Block Grant passed the Appropriations committee unanimously. It has been placed on special order calendar for 2/23/16, if received. Companion bill, HB 7053 has been accepted in messages and referred to the Education Pre-K – 12 and Appropriations committees.

SB 386 – Expunction of Juvenile Records has been accepted from messages and placed on the House special calendar for 2/23/16. Companion bill, HB 147 is also scheduled to be heard.



This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Bethany Smith, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller

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Children’s Bills Positioned to Reach Finish Line