2018 Final Legislative Wrap Up27-Mar-2018 Dear Members,
The 2018 legislative session opened with the Florida House of Representatives focused on priorities like more transparency in policy issues, K-12 education, and reducing government spending and the Senate focused on higher education and environmental protection. They were also responding to one crisis after another including Hurricane Irma and charges of sexual harassment that rocked the Capitol. But all of that changed following the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday, February 14th. The discussion and discourse quickly shifted to help protect our children, school safety, mental health, our gun laws, and many more facets of this tragedy. The students of MSD descended on the Capitol demanding change and for three weeks they captured the hearts and minds of Tallahassee and the entire nation.
This tragedy impacted much of what happened in Tallahassee and the legislative session was extended by two days to pass the final budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The state budget is now on its way to Governor Scott where he has the authority to do a full veto of the budget, a line-item veto, or sign the entire package into law.
Considering all that happened, we do have some very good news to share. Here is an update on early learning and other important pieces of information.
Department of Children and Families One Hour Rule
The Department of Children and Families issued a handbook in late October of last year. Buried in that handbook was a provision requiring private providers to call the custodial parent within one hour of the child's scheduled arrival. We heard from many providers about the logistical nightmare and ambiguity of this rule. FACCM challenged the rule with DCF and filed an amendment on a bill to remove this provision.
Our legislative team is happy to report the bill passed, and although it still awaits the Governor's signature, it is our goal to ask DCF to suspend this rule once the bill is signed so they will have time to promulgate a new rule. We will keep you posted!!
This is a big win for providers and although we understand and respect DCF's reasoning behind this rule, we disagreed strongly that this provision was the appropriate solution. The language that passed makes it clear that providers are not responsible for children who are transported by their parents or guardian. However, we added a provision that will require providers to distribute in the months of April and September, a flyer written by DCF on the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles. We believe that education is the key. Transferring this responsibility to child care providers would be dangerous precedent. FACCM is proud to have accomplished this on your behalf.
Early Learning Legislation
HB 1091 by Rep. Erin Grall (R- Vero Beach) and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) passed the Senate and is now on its way to the Governor's office for review. The bill seeks to reinforce and strengthen accountability measures in the publicly funded School Readiness program. It also sets the stage for an increase in provider rates. This bill will codify the performance funding pilot program that has been so successful. Although participation is voluntary, for those who choose to participate, there is an opportunity for up to a 15% increase in payments.
This bill also restores local flexibility in determining eligibility so that early learning coalitions can prioritize children at greatest risk of school failure within communities.
Early Learning Budget
We have been advised that Florida is likely to receive $168 million for each of the next two years from the federal government to assist with implementing the requirements of reauthorization. We will be advocating that this money first be used on increased payment rates for quality initiatives described in HB 1091, which is consistent with some of the new goals of reauthorization. Additionally, the state budget provided the following funds:
$630 million School Readiness, which is $22 million more than last year
$ 398 million VPK, which is $1.6 million over last year although base allocation remains the same
$ 15.5 million for Early Learning Performance Funding Pilot Project, remains the same as last year
$10 million for T.E.A.C.H., which provides $7 million more than last year
$3 million for professional development, which did not get funded last year
All in all, we would say this has been a VERY good year in early learning.
Bills of Interest:
SB 7026 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act
- Provides the awarding of funds for the creation of student crime watch programsAllows a sheriff to create the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program
- Participation in this program must be agreed to by both the sheriff and the superintendent of schools
- Individual participants may not be exclusively classroom instructors
- Authorizes a law enforcement officer to seize and hold firearms and ammunition if taking custody of a person who poses a potential credible threat to him/herself or others
- Authorizes law enforcement to petition a court for a risk protection order to seize the firearms of certain individuals and provides for the timeline and procedures for return
- Requires the order be entered into state and federal crime databases
- Requires the order to be shared with the appropriate law enforcement entities
- Requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to contract for additional Community Action Teams to work in conjunction with the school board
- Prohibits a person who has been adjudicated mentally defective from owning or possessing a firearm
- Raises minimum age for all firearm purchases through a licensed dealer from 18 to 21
- Creates a three day waiting period (with certain exceptions) for prospective firearm purchasers of three days or until the completion of a background check; whichever is longer.
- The possession, sale or transfer of bump stocks is banned
- Prohibits a person from making, posting or transmitting a threat to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism
- Create a mobile suspicious activity tool with certain features for anonymous reporting (named FortifyFL as recommended by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas)
- Creates the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Creates the Office of Safe Schools within the Department of Education
- Requires the Department of Education to procure a Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool under the Office of Safe Schools
- Requires students to participate in active shooter drills as part of emergency preparedness
- Allows for confidential information to be shared amongst state and local agencies if determined necessary for proper treatment of a student.
- Requires school resource officers and school safety officers to undergo specified evaluations.
- Requires the Department of Education to establish an evidenced-based youth mental health awareness and assistance program to be provided to all school personnel in elementary, middle and high schools.
- $69 million to the Department of Education to add to the Florida Education Finance Program to fund the mental health assistance allocation
- $6 million for youth mental health awareness and assistance training
- $1 million for the design and construction of a memorial on the school grounds
- $25 million for the purpose of replacing Building 12 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
- $67 million for implementing the Guardian Program
- $98 million to the Department of Education for the safe schools allocation
- $99 million to implement a grant program for school hardening
- $10 million to DCF to competitively procure additional Community Action Teams (CAT Teams)
- $18 million for DCF to competitively procure proposals for additional mobile crisis teams around the state
- $2 million for Security Funding for Jewish Day Schools