2011 Legislative Session: Week 5 Summary

Included with each weekly summary is a link to our full legislative report, which is updated on a daily basis. The report also provides access to definitions of legislative jargon, charts on how an idea becomes a law and links to the web pages of the Florida Senate and House.

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April 1 – April 8, 2011
FIFTH WEEK OF THE 2011 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Included with each weekly summary is a link to our full legislative report, which is updated on a daily basis. The report also provides links to the Florida Senate and House and access to a glossary of legislative terms.


HIGHLIGHTED ACTION THIS WEEK:

Life and Death
Ultrasound Before Abortion
During a meeting of the Senate Health Regulation Committee, Conference staff indicated support for SB 1744 (Storms), which passed (7-5). This bill requires an ultrasound be performed and reviewed with a woman prior to an abortion. The woman may decline to view the ultrasound by signing an opt out form. The bill is now in Budget. HB 1127 (Porter) remains in its final committee of reference, Health and Human Services.

Crisis Counseling
An amendment to the budget that would have moved a $2 million allocation for crisis pregnancy centers to family planning was defeated on the floor of both the Senate and House. Funding for the program has been in the budget since 2006 and maintains a network of 50 crisis pregnancy centers that provide counseling, information and resources to pregnant women.

Scheduled for Next Week
Parental Notice of Abortion – SB 1770 (Hays)
and Abortion Regulation – SB 1748 (Flores) are scheduled for the Health Regulation Committee on Tuesday, April 12. Both bills were on the agenda to be heard this week; however, time ran out before they could be taken up by the committee.


Social Concerns

Developmental Disabilities Rally at the Capitol
Families, caregivers and individuals with disabilities attended a rally to protest an emergency order by Governor Scott and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities that mandated a 15 percent rate reduction for providers who work with persons with developmental disabilities. The emergency cuts were made in response to a $174 million deficit in the Medicaid program that funds services to about 30,000 individuals. Families are already being told by personal caregivers that due to significant cuts in pay required by the emergency order, they can no longer provide services.

ACTION ALERT: Urge the Senate to accept the House budget position that addresses the Agency for Persons with Disabilities deficit.

Affordable Housing – Action Alert Update
SB 2154 (Budget)
– formerly SB 7200 – passed the Senate (33-6). An amendment offered by Senator Christopher Smith to remove Section 1 of the bill, which permanently redirects the state and local housing trust fund doc stamps to general revenue,  failed on the floor. The bill was sent to the House with a request that the chamber pass the bill as is or agree to conference. The House amended the bill, removing all text to leave a blank bill and sent it back to the Senate, putting the chambers in a posture to go to conference on the measure. We thank those who responded to our call to action, and we are hopeful that a decision will be made in conference to save the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Instate Tuition for Undocumented Students
SB 318 (Siplin) cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee (7-0). This proposed legislation increases access to higher education for undocumented students by allowing them to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges. To qualify, students must attend a Florida high school for at least three years and graduate or receive a GED and submit an affidavit stating his or her intent to file for legal residency as soon as eligible to do so. The bill will be heard next in the Senate Higher Education Committee. HB 55 (Bullard, D.) has yet to be heard by its first committee of reference, House K-20 Innovation.

Unauthorized Immigrants
CS/SB 2040 (Judiciary) was reported favorable by the Judiciary Committee (5-2). The committee substitute for this bill requires employers to verify the immigration status of all new hires but offers an alternative to the E-Verify system by utilizing state-issued identification cards. The Department of Corrections may enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for employee training under 287 (g) but is not required to do so because of fiscal impact or workload issues. Other provisions outline procedures for removal and deportation of criminal aliens. The bill’s reference to Criminal Justice has been removed, and it is now in the Budget Committee. There is no identical House companion.

Human Trafficking
CS/SB 246 (Joyner) passed the Senate unanimously. This bill addresses the trafficking of individuals associated with massage establishments by requiring that persons providing massage services and massage establishments possess and maintain certain documents. HB 477 (Burgin), which passed its first committee during the second week of the session, remains in Business and Consumer Affairs.

See the Conference’s human trafficking web page for information and resources on the trafficking of human beings in our state.


Senator Arthenia Joyner discusses a bill on the Senate floor

Drug Testing of Individuals Seeking Assistance for Their Families
The Conference opposes proposed legislation that requires all individuals applying for benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program to undergo and pay for a drug test. Mike McCarron, Executive Director, sent a letter to bill sponsors expressing concern that the practice of testing all applicants is unjust and that cutting off benefits to those that test positive but are willing to enter treatment hurts families when they are in greatest need. CS/SB 556 (Oelrich) is currently in its last committee of reference, Budget. HB 353 (Smith, J.) is also in its last committee of reference, Health and Human Services.

Scheduled for Next Week
Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council – SB 898 (Bennett) – Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, Tuesday, April 12


Health
Umbilical Cord Blood Banking
The Senate passed unanimously SB 702 (Flores) that promotes awareness of cord blood banking, and it’s now in House messages. Companion CS/HB 471 (Nuñez) passed its first committee unanimously, Health and Human Services Quality.

Medicaid Reform
CS/CS/SB 1972 (Negron)
was passed with a committee substitute by Health and Human Services Appropriations (4-2) and will be heard next by the Budget Committee. CS/HB 7107 (Schenck) passed the House last week (80-38). The Conference will continue to monitor these measures, which expand managed care in Florida’s Medicaid program, anticipating reconciliation of the two bills before the end of session.

Health Budget
Florida is experiencing a significant budget shortfall. Both the House and Senate make cuts across the board, but there are significant health program reductions. The Senate proposes to significantly limit the Medically Needy Program and to remove Medicaid for Aged and Disabled, which when combined with 10% rate reductions, cuts hospital revenue a combined total of 35%. The House goes less deep, by maintaining Medically Needy and Meds AD, with cuts of 7% to hospitals and nursing homes. As hospital revenues shrink, current services to vulnerable populations may be discontinued.


Education
McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
CS/HB 1329 (Bileca) passed House PreK-12 Appropriations (11-3). This proposed legislation provides additional educational options for students with disabilities by expanding program eligibility. The bill is now in House Education, its last committee of reference. SB 1656 (Wise) waits to be heard by its first committee of reference, Senate Education Pre-K-12.

K-12 Virtual Schools
A bill that expands Florida’s virtual education program was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Pre-K-12 committee. SB 1620 (Flores) allows school districts to contract with other districts or private virtual school providers approved by the Department of Education. Current law permits students in public and private schools as well as home-schooled children to enroll in free courses offered by Florida Virtual School for grades 6-12. The bill goes next to the Senate Budget Committee. There is not a companion bill in the House.


Other
Scheduled for Next Week
Religious Freedom – SJR 1218 (Altman) is scheduled for the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 12. The bill was on the agenda this week; however, time ran out before it could be taken up by the committee. Concealed Weapons – CS/SB 234 (Evers) is also on Tuesday’s agenda for Judiciary.


Prior Legislative Summaries
> Session Summary: Week 1
> Session Summary: Week 2
> Session Summary: Week 3
> Session Summary: Week 4