Legislators only met for two days last week due to the religious holidays. This is a brief release on the work that was completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Low Income Pool (LIP) federal funds totaling $900 million more than last year may help state legislators bridge the budget divide between the Chambers and complete a budget that is still billions apart. LIP provides vital funds to hospitals to help care for poor and uninsured patients.
The Senate voted unanimously to support their budget proposal, but used last year’s funding for LIP. The overall Senate budget plan amounts to about $85.1 billion. The House proposal is set at $81.2 billion and doesn’t include any LIP money in its spending plan.
The House Judiciary Committee heard five bills last week that focused on the issue of human trafficking and child exploitation. The hearing was on the same day as the Florida Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Day, which included a march to the capitol, advocates meeting with their policy makers and staff and a press conference on the capitol steps.
All trafficking and sexual exploitation bills that were heard passed unanimously, including:
- HB 1165 (Spano) – creates a new cause of action for a victim of human trafficking and allows the council to file the cause of action on behalf of victims of human trafficking
- HB 1167 (Spano) – creates the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking and Prevention in the Department of Legal Affairs, which consists of funds obtained from civil actions brought on behalf of victims of human trafficking
- HB 1417 (Spano) – creates a public record exemption for court documents related to human trafficking victim identification
- HB 7049 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) – addresses obscenities, child pornography and other child exploitation offenses including morphed child pornography, computer pornography and transmission of child pornography and reorganization of child exploitation laws
- HB 7053 (Criminal Justice Subcommittee) – amends public record exemption for any info in a videotaped statement of a minor that is an alleged victim of sexual battery, lewd acts or other sexual misconduct
Senate President Joe Negron has made juvenile justice reform a priority for his two-year term at the helm. One important reform is continuing through the process even though it got a bit of a delayed start. The Children’s Campaign is advocating for SB 1102, a bill revising threshold amounts for certain larceny offenses, which hasn’t been updated for decades. This will reduce the number of felony charges for theft and allow more appropriate diversion and restitution. The bill was heard in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice 4/13. Senator Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) sponsored the bill. The bill added two amendments that lowered two of the original thresholds, grand theft was lowered from $1,000 to $750 (current law $300) and retail theft was lowered from $500 to $400 (current law is $300). The Children’s Campaign, Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Right on Crime, the Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, JMI, the FL Public Defender Association and Smart Justice Alliance waived in support. The Florida Retail Association continued their opposition. The bill passed unanimously. HB 693, a similar bill sponsored by Representative Alexander (D-Tallahassee), has yet to be scheduled in its final committee stop, House Judiciary.
Two good bills, SB 60 sponsored by Senator Bean (R-Jacksonville) and HB 151 sponsored by Representative Brodeur (R-Sanford) were enrolled this week after making it through the process, and will be on their way to the governor’s desk for his signature. SB 60 provides foster children with the means and access to obtain a driver’s license, while HB 151 expands the use of support animals for minors in cases of child abuse, neglect and abandonment.
SB 852, sponsored by Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah) requires multidisciplinary staffings for children suspected of being victims of commercial sexual exploitation and ensures consistency of services between children in and out of the dependency system. The bill was heard on second reading and an amendment that moves up the date for the requirement for biennial licenses for continuing education was adopted. The bill has been placed on third reading in the Senate for 4/18. Similar bill, HB 1383, has been placed on the calendar for second reading but not yet scheduled.
On 4/13, Senator Flores (R-Miami) presented SB 196, a bill requiring the establishment of civil citation or similar diversion programs for juveniles and written documentation from law enforcement officers who choose to arrest a juvenile for a civil citation-eligible offense. An amendment was proposed that added data collection for civil citation cases and those that utilize them, and data collection for direct file. Senator Flores explained that the amendment was a way to increase support for the bill by adding sections from other senators’ bills that are no longer moving through the process. In debate Sen. Brandes stated, “I don’t believe we should take discretion away from a sheriff… I don’t think we should mandate the plan. I don’t believe that it’s responsible legislation, to remove law enforcement discretion.” Sen. Flores countered, “The current law does have that discretion and how has that discretion manifested itself? It manifests itself very, very differently. Not just in different counties, but amongst different people, and that is a harsh reality that we sometimes do not want to face.” As amended the bill passed the Appropriations Committee with a vote of 16 to 1.
Following a delete all amendment that aligned it very closely with its House companion, HB 7059, SB 1670 sponsored by Senator Latvala (R-Clearwater) passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice unanimously. The bill would label children meeting certain criteria as “prolific juvenile offenders” and hold them in detention pending placement in a residential program. The two bills now only differ stylistically, in the clarification of the definition of residential commitment for those juveniles adjudicated and awaiting placement, and the total amount spent on the program. The Senate splits $5.96 million from recurring and nonrecurring funds from GR and the House proposes $2.98 million recurring from GR and $2.89 million from the Shared County/State Juvenile Detention Trust Fund. HB 7059 is awaiting hearing in House Judiciary.
Other bills scheduled to be heard:
A bill relating to public assistance, SB 570 sponsored by Senator Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), which has amended out the increased sanctions and added assistance and data collection about the work requirements of the program, has been scheduled in the Commerce and Tourism committee on 4/17 at 1:30 pm in room 110 S. HB 23, companion to SB 570, which has not had the increased sanctions language, amended out and could impact over 11,000 families receiving Temporary Cash Assistance has been placed on House Special Order calendar for 4/18.
SB 468, a bill that requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to provide teachers and other staff with specific training and requires VPK teachers to provide pre- and post-assessments to the participants’ parents, has been scheduled in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K – 12 Education on 4/18 at 1:30 pm in room 412 K.
Similar child welfare bills will be heard in both chambers this week. HB 1121, which has been billed by the sponsor, Representative Stevenson (R-St. Augustine) as a “collection of fixes in a broader system to to make it better and keep children and families and vulnerable adults safer,” is on House Special Order calendar for 4/18. SB 1044 sponsored by Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah) is scheduled to be heard in Senate Judiciary on 4/19 at 1:30 pm in room 110 S.
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This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Nicki Harrison, Breanna Kim, Holly McCall, Karen Bonsignori, Roy Miller and Tiffany McGlinchey