The Children’s Campaign is pleased to provide you with the first Legislative Connection – Bill Update edition of the 2017 session. These editions focus on the movement of legislation pertaining to children, providing you with information about bills that were heard and/or scheduled to keep you up-to-date or so you can take action. If you would like to track our priority legislation in real-time, visit our Legislative Center.
HB 581 and SB 1016 According to House staff analysis, 229,311 food stamp (SNAP) recipients in Florida will lose eligibility based on the income and asset limit changes. Children would be the largest group affected, with at least 157,078, or 8.5% of all children receiving SNAP losing eligibility. Our most recent Legislative Connection covered the United Way’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Project report that found 45% of Florida households qualify as working poor (when Federal Poverty Level and ALICE households are combined).
Presently, HB 581 sponsored by Rep. White (R-Pensacola) has passed two committees and is awaiting scheduling in its final committee of reference, Health & Human Services. SB 1016 sponsored by Sen. Passidomo (R-Naples) has received its committees of reference, but has yet to be scheduled.
The House Children, Families & Senior’s subcommittee bill, Relating to Child Welfare, was heard and passed on Monday. The bill was filed and assigned its number, HB 7075. The bill amends many different sections of statute that governs child welfare, including requiring the creation of a statewide quality rating system for providers of residential group care and foster homes, extending the jurisdiction of the dependency court over young adults with a disability until the age of 22, requiring that a child’s transition plan must be approved by the court before a child’s 18th birthday and amending permanency goal options. Many of the pieces of this bill were included in the massive child welfare reform proposed last session. The bill has yet to receive its additional committee assignments.
SB 416 passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with a unanimous vote, following adoption of a technical amendment. This bill allows therapy or facility animals to be used in court by minors in certain cases involving trauma. Senator Book (D-Broward) presented the bill in absence of bill sponsor Senator Montford (D-Quincy), and thanked the committee “as a survivor of a crime and somebody who needed a Cosmo in my life” and “for all the children throughout the state who I’ve gotten to speak with who have utilized these services”. The bill will now move on to the Rules Committee. Similar bill, HB 151, passed its final committee of reference, the Judiciary Committee, unanimously on Thursday and has been placed on the calendar on 2nd reading.
Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah) presented SB 852, a human trafficking bill resulting from recommendations by an Office of Public Policy Analysis and Government Accountability report, to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. According to Senator Garcia, the bill addresses concerns about children outside of the dependency system missing out on services. The bill requires the Department of Children and Families and sheriff’s offices to track child victims of commercial exploitation, both within and outside of the dependency system, six months after their investigation is closed to ensure they have access to services. Multidisciplinary staffings and creation of service plans are also requirements in the bill. It is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Committee on 3/22 at 4:00pm in room 110 S. Similar bill, HB 1383, sponsored by Representative Nunez (R-Miami) has been scheduled for House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee on 3/20/17 at 3:30 pm in room 12 H.
SB 1044 sponsored by Senator Garcia (R-Hialeah) received multiple amendments that were technical in nature and three amendments that gave more rights to unaccompanied and homeless youth. The bill is aimed to improve the care of children in the child welfare system by placing into law recommendations from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Governor. Provisions include:
- Prohibiting community based care lead agencies from using state funds to pay employees in excess of the salary of the DCF secretary, who currently makes $140,539. Fifteen of the 18 lead agencies pay their CEO in excess of this amount;
- Allowing DCF to return an abused or neglected child to his or her home with an in-home safety plan when the conditions that caused the child to be removed are resolved rather than when the parents have substantially completed their case plan; and
- Requiring an assessment to determine the best placement for children removed from their home.
The bill passed Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs unanimously and now moves on to Senate Judiciary. Similar bill, HB 1121, was amended by the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee to specify that criminal record checks do not involve DCF’s child welfare information system and passed the committee unanimously. The bill will move on to the House Health Care Appropriations committee.
Following a technical amendment, HB 857 passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with a unanimous vote. The committee had no questions for the sponsor, Representative Plakon (R-Longwood), and did not debate the bill. HB 857 “fixes a glitch” in current law by allowing individuals who received not guilty verdicts to expunge their arrest record. The bill also creates a cause of action against website owners who post booking photos and charge money to take them down. Representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Florida Smart Justice Alliance and The Children’s Campaign waived in support. Similar bill. SB 118, sponsored by Senator Steube (R-Sarasota), received an amendment on Thursday that provided specific language about what to include in notices to website owners and clarified that notices need to go through a registered agent. During debate, Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) raised concern about constitutionality “on the provision of booking photos.” In Senator Steube’s closing, he explained that he had worked closely with the Press Association to resolve their initial issues with the bill, and that the First Amendment Foundation had not come to him with any concerns. SB 118 passed its last Senate committee, Appropriations, with a unanimous vote.
A bill making permanent the Keys to Independence program, SB 60, passed its last Senate committee on 3/16 with a unanimous vote. The Keys to Independence program provides foster children with the access and means to obtain their driver’s license. The bill sponsor, Senator Bean (R-Jacksonville), stated, “It’s a heartwarming program,” while adding that the funding is already in the Department of Children and Families’ base budget. There were no questions or debate from the committee. The bill has been placed on the special order calendar for 3/21. Identical bill, HB 217, also passed its last committee of reference unanimously and has been placed on the calendar on 2nd reading.
According to Senator Garcia, SB 358 is “a glitch bill from SB 12 last year”. He presented his bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee on 3/16 and it passed with a unanimous vote. This was the bill’s last committee of reference. SB 358 authorizes the Department of Children and Families to approve receiving systems, requires the Department and Sheriff’s offices to collect follow up data on dependent and nondependent children and clarifies that court hearings must be heard within five court days. Senator Garcia expressed his pride in being part of “a commitment to make sure mental health and substance abuse is at the forefront of our conversation”. The bill has been placed on the calendar on 2nd reading.
SB 286, a bill that requires health courses in public schools to teach children in 7th to 12th grades warning signs and indicators of human trafficking, is scheduled to be heard in Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs on 3/21/17 at 4:00 pm in room 401 S.
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This Legislative Connection is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Nicki Harrison, Breanna Kim, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller