The Regular Session of the Florida Legislature came to a close (sine die) at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, March 11. The motion to adjourn sine die, Latin for 'without day,' is the last action of a session of the Florida legislature.
The House and Senate chambers approved an $82.3 billion state budget for fiscal year 2016-2017. HB 5001, the General Appropriations Act, passed the House (
) and the Senate (
). The budget will now go to Governor Rick Scott who has line item veto authority.
The final status of FCCB budget priorities include:
Pregnancy Support Services: The budget allocates an additional $2 million in recurring funds for a total of $4 million to a network of pregnancy help centers that provides services such as pregnancy and childbirth education, counseling, referrals, and infant care and parenting classes. The budget allows for funding of additional assistance with wellness services and life skills. FCCB has been supportive of this program since its inception in 2005.
Kidcare: Budget contains a $28.8 million allocation and implementing language eliminating the five-year waiting period for low-income, lawfully-residing immigrant children to participate in the KidCare insurance program. The exclusion of eligibility for undocumented immigrants of any age has been maintained. The measure has been a perennial priority of the FCCB and a previous Catholic Days at the Capitol issue.
Affordable Housing: The legislature has appropriated $200 million of affordable housing trust fund dollars, an increase of $25 million from last year. However, it sweeps $116 million of available housing trust funds to general revenue. The FCCB has long supported full funding of housing trusts to assist vulnerable populations with affordable housing needs.
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK): Despite FCCB recommendations to increase the individual scholarship amount by at least $50, the budget level funds the scholarship at $2,437 per child for the upcoming school year. During budget negotiations, the House had recommended a $37 per-child increase. The Senate proposed level funding and that position ultimately prevailed.
Bolstering VPK funding has been a recent Catholic Days at the Capitol issue. Per-pupil scholarship amounts currently remain lower than 2007-2008 school-year levels. Lower funding makes it challenging for schools to continue serving children participating in the program.
A final session summary on the final status of bills engaged by the FCCB will be forthcoming.