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2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up 

What a session! Out of nearly 2,000 bills, only 196 were passed by the Florida Legislature. Many are still awaiting approval by the Governor. This is a brief overview of the changes made that most affect social workers in Florida. For full text and staff reports on the bills see links and line references.

Thank you to everyone who participated in LEAD, who contacted their legislators to advocate for the values of social work in public policy, and who strengthened the voice of social workers in Florida by joining NASW. You made a difference this session. There is still work to be done and we look forward to working with you this year as we prepare for the 2020 session.

LEAD Bills

HB 7066 Voting Rights Restoration
This bill implements the provision of amendment 4 voting rights restoration and addresses the voting process post problems experienced during the 2016 election with absentee ballots and faulty signatures on provides election supervisors with additional direction and requirements to prevent future problems.

  • It requires felons to assert that they comply with the provisions of law when they register
  • It defines certain offenses that do not comply and cross references many of those statutes.

Many professions that have committed a sexual offense are included such as chapter 491 licensees.

HB 168 Federal Immigration Enforcement
The "Sanctuary Cities" bill penalizes non-compliance with current federal immigration law, making it illegal for a city to have sanctuary policies. This new law will be primarily enforced by state attorneys, but may be enforced by the Governor and the Attorney General. Consequences of having a "sanctuary policy" for undocumented immigrants (meaning cities that do not hold undocumented persons until they can be handed over to the federal ICE program) include heavy fines, removal from office, and a loss of certain non-federal grant funds for up to five years.

CS/CS/SB 7030 School Safety
This bill expands last year's school safety measures taken in response to the Feb.14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The language is based on the recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. The bill puts into effect several school hardening practices including the expansion of the "school guardian" program, which allows certain school personnel to carry firearms on campus and to non-campus school events, to now include classroom teachers. The decision to implement the school guardian program is now in the hands of the district school boards. At the same time the bill provides funding to hire additional mental health professionals in schools (line 1309 in the bill text), and provides for the continuation of intervention services for students who transfer to a different school. The bill also expedites services for students with mental or behavioral disorders and establishes a standard behavioral threat assessment instrument for school districts and charter schools.

Social Work Profession

HB 23 Telehealth
This bill allows for the use of telehealth, including services provided by 491 licensed practitioners like social workers. The bill allows, but does not mandate, that HMOs and other health insurance companies pay for such services. It allows practitioners licensed in other states to participate, providing they register with the Florida Department of Health (DOH). DOH is allowed to remove them from the list under certain circumstances.

SB 838 Public Records/ Mental Health Treatment and Services
This bill provides an exemption from public records requirements for petitions for voluntary and involuntary admission for mental health treatment, court orders, related records, and personal identifying information regarding persons seeking mental health treatment and services.

SB 1418 Mental Health
This bill makes changes to 491.07 concerning confidentiality. Requiring service providers, including mental health professionals, to disclose information from a clinical record under certain circumstances relating to a patient who makes threats to cause serious bodily injury or death to themselves or someone else.

Health Care

HB 21 Hospital Licensure
This bill repeals the requirement for a certificate of need for hospitals. The impact on social workers is not known. The House leaders would allege that it opens the market place and expands job opportunities. The hospital industry would argue that it will contract the ability of existing hospitals to expand and improve quality care by diverting resources to other hospitals.

HB 19 Prescription Drug Importation Programs
The bill requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to establish the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program; authorizing a Canadian supplier to export drugs into this state under the program under certain circumstances. However, it also requires AHCA to request permission from the federal government to implement this program. AHCA will need that permission to proceed with the program.

Child Welfare

SB 262 Child Welfare
This bill improves communication in the child welfare process by imposing new requirements and authority by the courts. Specifically the bill:

  • Requires that a child's guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem be entered on court orders in dependency proceedings
  • Requires cooperation between certain parties and the court to achieve permanency for a child as soon as possible
  • Requires that during an adjudicatory hearing, the court advise parents in plain language of certain requirements to achieve permanency with their child.

Mental Health

HB 369 Substance Abuse Services
One of the key provisions of this bill is to expand the use and certification of "peer specialists." It directs the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to establish a credentialing process for Peer Specialists and sets up the infrastructure for such a process. The bill also tightens controls over "recovery homes" by increasing background screening and licensing controls.

Authorizes DCF & AHCA to grant exemptions from disqualification for service provider personnel to work in certain treatment programs, facilities, or recovery residences; revises background screening requirements & exemptions from disqualification for certain service provider personnel; provides qualifications for peer specialists; authorizes DCF to approve certain credentialing entities to certify peer specialists; provides for review of certain decisions made by department-recognized credentialing entities; provides certain prohibitions & penalties.

HB 501 Alternative Treatment Options for Veterans
Authorizes the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to contract with state university or Florida College System institution to furnish specified alternative treatment options for veterans; provides university or institution responsibilities; provides requirements for provision of alternative treatment options & related assessment data; provides eligibility requirements; requires direction & supervision by certain licensed providers; requires annual report to Governor & Legislature

Criminal Justice

SB 910 Court-Ordered Treatment Programs
Providing that veterans who were discharged or released under any condition, individuals who are current or former United States Department of Defense contractors, and individuals who are current or former military members of a foreign allied country are eligible in certain Military Veterans and Service members Court Program, etc

HB 49 Incarcerated Women
Deemed the 'Dignity for Incarcerated Women" act, the bill protects incarcerated women from potentially dangerous or inappropriate situations involving male guards, and requires prisons to provide basic necessities like feminine hygiene products, toothpaste and tooth- brushes. The bill defines circumstances where a female rather than a male guard should be present and outlines the circumstances under which male guards are allowed to step in. It also addresses the process of filing a report explaining the circumstances that required them to do so.

HB 7125 Public Safety
The Legislature is concerned that Florida's prison population has ballooned and is out of control due in part to the many strong penalties and low limits for reaching "felony" status in a crime. The bill, for example increases the amount of drugs (all kinds) that a person would possess before being charged with a felony. The same is true for robbery. Currently you could be charged with a felony for stealing $300 but under the bill it is $1,000.

Many of the changes in the bill reflect that attitude which is in turn spread throughout the statutes where ever crimes and penalties are imposed. Sentences are reduced, gain type time is easier to achieve, pre-sentencing options are increased.

Counseling options are expanded in each judicial circuit designed to help prisoner transition into the community including job training, placement and other services. They also tackle a long tradition of using "drivers licenses" as a punishment tool for non-driving offenses. Some current felonies are reduced to misdemeanors.

Finally the bill recognizes the need to understand what is going on in the criminal justice arena and how to make sure that these changes help and establish information that will drive other decisions later. They do this by refining the requirements for data collection, not only on crime statistics, but programs and attorney caseloads. Also, mandatory direct file has been repealed under the bill.

2019 NASW-FL Legislative Agenda
​​​​Each year, the NASW-FL Board of Directors approves its overall advocacy agenda. This agenda is a broad perspective of our overall goals for the session and what we stand for as an association. Later, as bills are filed with the Florida Legislature, this agenda will be our guide for what bills to support or oppose. It also helps direct our action when the Governor’s office or other executive agencies create new policies that impact our profession or our clients.



2019 Legislative Session

Click here for a list of bills NASW-FL followed during the 2019 session.

2019 LEAD Fact Sheets

HB 365 / SB 1222: Services for Veterans and Their Families

HB 587 / SB 290: Medicaid School-Based Services

SPB 7086/ HB 7089: Voting Rights Restoration

HB 7093 / SB 7030: School Safety

HB 6051: Mandatory Direct File & HB 575:  Direct Filing of an Information

SB 168 / HB 527:  Federal Immigration Enforcement

SB884, HB991 / SB1090: Social Work Profession