This week marks the mid-way point of this year’s Session. Attention has shifted to appropriations with each chamber putting their spending plans on the table for all to see. Decisions and priorities are being driven by the push from the Governor’s office to achieve a billion-dollar tax cut and a redo of the revenue forecast. More coverage will be forthcoming.
On the policy side, many good children’s bills continue to move forward: expunction of juvenile records, A Child’s Best Hope Act, expanding Early Steps, and KidCare for children of legally residing immigrants.
Bills that have lagged behind in getting out of the starting blocks face an uphill struggle. Some of the substantive committees are not scheduling meetings and agendas on those committees up the chain are squeezed tighter and tighter.
Following a letter to the Chair from The Children’s Campaign detailing the need for the bill, SB 700–Confidentiality of Juvenile Records passed the Criminal Justice Committee unanimously. The bill would keep certain juvenile records (non-felonies) from being available to the public. These records are currently available even when the child is not convicted or they have been legally erased. These records can brand a youth and bar them from employment and education and more. The bill’s next stop is the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
HB 89-Kidcare passed the Health and Human Services Committee unanimously. Advocates from The Children’s Trust, Florida CHAIN, and Florida Children’s Services Council praised the bill and its beneficial effects for the health of children of legally residing immigrants. The Children’s Campaign has promoted the bill for each of the five years since it was filed. Representative. Diaz (R-Miami) became emotional when his work on the bill was acknowledged by the committee members stating, “You have to do things you believe in, without fear of consequence.” The bill has been placed on the calendar on 2nd reading.
SB 386 Expunction of Juvenile Records – Sen. Detert (R-Venice) is in messages to the House where it is expected to be received warmly due to the hard and good work of Rep. Latvala (R – Clearwater). The Children’s Campaign has coordinated its efforts closely with both chambers and its sponsors for 2 years to pass this vital legislation that prevents youthful mistakes from derailing kids’ future success as adults.
SB 590-Adoption, a bill that gives judges the ability to decide adoption placements for foster children based on the best interest of the child, was read a second time, passing unanimously.
SB 590’s companion, HB 673-Adoption, passed the Health and Human Services Committee. Representative Harrell (R- Stuart) called the bill “a very important bill for our children.” It has been placed on the House calendar on 2nd reading.
HB 599–Child Welfare, the House version of SB 7018, will be heard Monday, 2/8, at 2:00 pm in room 212K. Highlights of this well-intentioned but problematic bill include increased focus on domestic violence, a quality rating system for group homes, and allowing children to be involved in their case plan. Implementation and fiscal questions remain, and other provisions of the bill could cause unintentional harm. The Children’s Campaign will release a full bill analysis detailing concerns that this type of massive overhaul needs more strategic planning, implementation and concerted coordination to minimize unintended consequences.
HB 7053-Child Care and Development Block Grant, which brings Florida’s childcare into compliance with federal requirements, has been placed on the calendar for a second reading. The Senate has filed their version of the bill, SB 7058.
SB 7034-Early Steps unanimously passed its last committee of reference, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and is now on its way to the Senate floor. Two amendments were adopted, including one that expands eligibility for infants and toddlers as funds are available. Appropriate funding would allow Early Steps to provide more early intervention services when they can be most beneficial. The bill has been placed on special order calendar for 2/10 if received.
SB 1240–Children’s Medical Services (CMS) has been placed on the agenda for Health Policy Committee on 2/9 at 10am in room 412K. The bills would address the recent crisis faced by CMS when DOH, through a variety of maneuvers, dropped more than 13,000 children with severe medical problems from the program and “transitioned” them to Medicaid managed care.
This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Bethany Smith, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller
With online support from Tiffany McGlinchey
If you like reading our publications, we need your help to keep them coming. The Children’s Campaign accepts NO government funding, and therefore donations from readers like you are necessary in order to retain our independent voice. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!