Welcome to The Children’s Campaign’s Legislative Connection – Bill Update edition. These editions focus on the movement of legislation pertaining to children and provide information about bills heard and/or scheduled to keep you up-to-date or allow you to take action. To track our priority legislation in real-time, please visit our Legislative Center.
SB 60 has made it through its path in the Senate without ever receiving a negative vote. The bill by Senator Bean (R- Jacksonville) makes the Keys to Independence program permanent, providing children in the foster care system with the access and means to obtain their learner’s permit and driver’s license. Senator Bean stated on the Senate floor that the pilot program “has been a smashing success.” During debate, Senator Gibson brought up findings from the pilot indicating low participation in six counties and asked about plans to increase it. Bean’s response was that, “barriers are coming down with the approval of this bill” and explained participation is addressed by expanding the program to include children in out-of-home placements, allowing guardian ad litems to sign applications, and including this goal in the youth’s file and transition plan that are reviewed by the courts. The next step for the bill is to be sent to the House in messages. The companion bill, HB 217, is on its second reading in the House with all favorable votes as well, suggesting that one of the bills is likely to make it to the Governor’s desk
A bill that would require health courses in public schools to teach children in 7th grade to 12th grade warning signs and indicators of human trafficking, SB 286 passed the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee unanimously. During the meeting, Senator Steube introduced a high school student in his district, Natalie Macaire King, to provide an overview of the bill. Natalie expressed her passion for human trafficking issues and was the original drafter of the bill before bringing it to the Senator’s attention. She further explained that in speaking to teachers and peers she found “something that really almost scared me…they didn’t understand that this is a real issue and it’s happening in our backyard”. With the passing of this legislation, she hopes to make this “a very safe process for students to be able to know and recognize these dangers.” The bill’s next stop is Education, where is has yet to be scheduled.
HB 1383 by Representative Nunez (R-Miami) defines commercial sexual exploitation, and changes the internal and external reporting requirements for DCF. It requires multidisciplinary staffing by DCF to determine placement needs and services for victims. The bill had a technical amendment that was heard and passed with no objection. Organizations such as Florida Now, Junior League of Florida, Smart Justice Alliance and The Children’s Campaign waived in support of the bill. Chair Harrell commended Representative Nunez for bringing this bill forward and expanding the conversation of sex trafficking in the Florida Legislature. The bill passed unanimously and will be moving on to House Health and Human Services Appropriations for its final committee stop. Similar bill, SB 852, (Senator Garcia) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously on 3/23; its next stop is Appropriations.
HB 1183 originally required mental health facilities to refer certain cases for minors to the clerk of court for appointment of a public defender within a certain time frame. Following a strike-all amendment proposed by the bill’s sponsor, Representative Silvers (D-West Palm Beach), the bill now requires mental health facilities to begin examinations within 12 hours of the child’s arrival and complete them within 24 hours for children 10 years of age and younger. The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee adopted the amendment and many representatives spoke of the benefits this would have for children in mental health facilities. Some concerns were raised, with many representatives worried about the age limit that the amendment proposed, and concerns about the timeframe for more complex cases. Most seemed confident that this bill would hinder schools from using Baker Act laws as a “crutch” for children with behavioral issues. Florida Hospital Association showed their support for the bill and pledged to work with Representative Silvers to remedy some of the concerns they had with the bill. The bill passed the committee unanimously and now moves on to House Health & Human Services Committee. Companion bill, SB 1580 (Senator Gibson), has yet to be calendared at its first committee stop.
HB 23 (Representative Eagle) passed the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee with one vote against, following two amendments. The first specified the sum of nonrecurring funds from the Federal Grants Trust Fund to the Department of Children and Families for performing the technology modifications ($952,360). The other amendment provided that children under age of 16 in families who are being sanctioned for the first time, may continue to receive Temporary Cash Assistance for the first month through a protective payee. The bill’s next stop is the Health & Human Services Committee. The Senate version, SB 570 (Senator Rouson), has received its committees of reference but has yet to be scheduled.
HB 757 received two amendments before it passed the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee. As amended, the bill requires the Just Read, Florida! Office to train Voluntary Prekindergarten – grade 5 teachers and reading coaches on research-based intervention, reading strategies and requires Just Read, Florida! to develop evidence-based reading instruction and intervention programs. The amendments also delayed permitting a child who has completed a school year VPK program, but is at risk of not attaining the VPK performance standards from re-enrolling in another school year program to the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The bill passed unanimously and is headed to the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.
After passing the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice unanimously, SB 892 (Senator Simmons) is on its way to Senate Appropriations. The bill amends current law from requiring a young adult to be under 21 at the time of sentencing in order to impose a sentence as a youthful offender to looking at their age at the time the crime was committed. This will allow a greater number of young people to be eligible to receive a youthful offender status. It also protects public safety by keeping the provisions requiring that youth could not have previously been sentenced as a youthful offender and that the offenses aren’t capital or a life felony.
SB 1102 by Senator Rouson (D- St. Petersburg) is scheduled to be heard in Senate Criminal Justice on 3/27 at 1:30 pm in room 37 S. The bill would increase certain larceny threshold amounts to meet inflation and current prices of consumer goods. Florida is one of only five states with current felony theft thresholds below $500. Many of these amounts have remained unchanged since the late 1980s and early 1990s. Companion bill, HB 693 (Representative Alexander), is in Justice Appropriations Subcommittee awaiting scheduling.
Other legislation scheduled to be heard next week includes:
HB 151 (Representative Brodeur) expands the usage of support animals for minors in cases of child abuse, neglect and abandonment has been placed on Special Order Calendar for 3/29. Companion bill SB 416 (Senator Montford) has been scheduled in the Rules committee on 3/29 at 1:00 pm in room 110 S.
HB 233 (Representative Edwards) which bans the use of certain types of seclusion and physical restraint for students with disabilities in public schools has a proposed committee substitute and is scheduled to be heard in PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee on 3/27 at 12:30 pm in room 102 H.
HB 1121 (Representative Stevenson) which makes multiple changes to Florida’s child welfare statutes is scheduled to be heard in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee on 3/28 at 8:00 am in room 404 H.
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This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Nicki Harrison, Breanna Kim, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller