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2014 Florida Legislative Session Update

“Sine Die” and the traditional dropping of the white handkerchief concluded the 2014 Florida legislative session late in the evening on May 2. CBC agencies, as well as many of their board members, local foster and adoptive families, staff and lobbyists all made trips to Tallahassee to meet with legislators to advocate for adequate funding and fair and equitable legislation.

While several bills were passed that will benefit youth and families, there were some issues, especially affecting funding that did not make it into final bills:

• $25.4 million in new core funding was not realized this session. CBC’s will receive approximately $10 million with little going to service funds.
• Adequacy Funding Model: While this was a key priority and unanimously approved by the Florida Coalition for Children’s board of directors, the new adequacy funding model was not included in the final version of SB 1666. Though several legislators, including Sen. Altman, made pleas to enter the model as a late amendment, it was not approved. As a result, BFP will again have a funding shortfall in FY2014-15.

Here are the key bills we were following and working on throughout session. Each passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature:
• SB 774 – Motor Vehicle Insurance and Driver Education for Children in Care: Authorizing the court to consider the best interest of a child in removing specified disabilities of nonage for certain minors; directing the Department of Children and Families to establish a statewide pilot program to pay specified costs of driver education, licensure and costs incidental to licensure, and motor vehicle insurance for a child in licensed out-of-home care who meets certain qualifications; requiring the department to contract with a qualified not-for-profit entity to operate and develop procedures for the pilot program; providing for preferential enrollment in driver education for specified children in care, etc.

• SB 1666 – Child Welfare: Requiring the Secretary of Children and Families to appoint an Assistant Secretary for Child Welfare; providing qualifications and responsibilities; requiring alleged incidents of juvenile sexual abuse involving specified children to be reported to the department’s central abuse hotline; requiring the department to conduct specified investigations using critical incident rapid response teams; requiring the use of safety plans in child protection investigations in cases of present or impending danger, etc.

• HB 7141 – Human Trafficking: Requires DCF to employ screening & assessment instruments to determine appropriate services provided to sexually exploited children; provides criteria for placement in safe houses & safe foster homes; directs DCF, DJJ, & lead agencies to participate in coordination of local responses to human trafficking; authorizes department to certify safe houses & safe foster homes & provides requirements for certification; authorizes placement of child in settings other than safe houses & safe foster homes under certain conditions; creates Statewide Council on Human Trafficking; provides for transfer of general revenue funds & establishes positions.

We would like to thank Brevard’s delegation, all of whom supported our efforts for adequate funding and equitable legislation. Special thanks to Sen. Thad Altman, a member of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, who spoke in favor of funding adequacy on the Senate floor during the final session. Unfortunately, his efforts did not result in a favorable vote for this issue. Thanks also to Speaker-elect Rep. Steve Crisafulli who worked behind the scenes with several key committee members on our issues.