District 38 Disability Community Contacts

 

 

 

 

 

*Agency for Persons with Disabilities

• Provides coverage for certain services that are otherwise not covered by Medicaid; such as, Dental care, medical supplies, medical equipment, and skilled nursing.

• Offers analysis in behavior in order to change the individual’s behavior, training to caregivers, and speech therapy.

• Offers companion services; such as, non- medical care and 24 hours personal care, licensed dietitians, residential habilitation services, and physical adaptation to the homes in order to benefit the individual.

•Electronic communication system in case of emergency.

•Employment coaching, living coaching, and transportation services.

 

*Florida Division of Blind Services

• The Blind Babies Program and the Children Program provides early- intervention education and offers services that help the child’s learning and ability to function independently. 

• The Transition Program and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program assist young people and the blind in meeting their future employment goals.

• Independent Living Services are provided to enable the blind or visually impaired to live more independently.

• Information services are provided to employers who need to know how to make a job accessible to an employee with a visual impairment.

 

*Florida Department of Children and Families

• Provides statewide policy guidance for the local mental health program offices and state mental health treatment facilities.

• Assists in the development of statewide legislative budget requests.

• Reviews proposed legislation that would affect adult mental health.

• Provides technical assistance to local SAMH staff, providers of services and supports, and most importantly, people with serious mental illnesses and their families.

• Coordinates data analysis for adult, children, and juvenile mental health programs.

 

Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.)/ Earned Income Tax Credit

• Some disability retirement benefits qualify as earned income to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC.

 

Social Security Administration

• Social Security Disability Insurance Program provides income supplements to people who are physically restricted in their ability to be employed.

Supplemental Security Income Program makes payments to people with low income, under the age of 65, who are blind or have a disability.

 

 

Workforce

 

www.apd.myflorida.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.dns.myflorida.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.dcf.state.fl.us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.irs.gov

 

 

 

www.ssa.gov

 

 

 

 

(407) 245-0440

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(407) 245-0700

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(407) 245-0400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(800) 829-1040

 

 

 

(800) 772-1213

Brain Injury Association of Florida

• Helps Floridians connect with important resources; such as,

              a. Locate a support group nearby.

              b. Return to employment.

              c. Successfully return to school.

              d. Locate the right healthcare professional.

              e. Find help to lessen the burden on caregiver.

              f. Help stop further brain injuries from occurring through     

                 education and information.

 

Center for Independent Living

• Work closely with the clients to determine what modifications they need in their homes, communities, and vehicle.

• Provides professionals to deal with mental health counseling and deaf and hearing impaired services.

• Helps the client determine his/ her employment goals, share job research techniques, offer referrals, advocate to potential employers, and provide training.

Help clients understand their protections under the law when it comes to housing; such as, Fair Housing laws, Assistance in home, budgeting, down payments etc.

 

www.biaf.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.cilorlando.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(850) 410-0103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(407) 623-1070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

• School to Work Transition involves a number of activities that help students enter training, continue education, and/or work after leaving high school.

• Deaf, Hard of Hearing addresses hearing loss issues in the workplace.

• Supported Employment provide service for individuals who need ongoing support in their employment.

• Ticket to Employment offers access to employment and rehabilitation services necessary to help a person secure and retain employment.

• Independent Living promote a philosophy of independent living.

• Injured worker program provide Florida injured workers with reemployment services to return them to suitable gainful employment.

 

Goodwill Industries of Central Florida

• Use the company’s income to pay for employability programs and services, which are free for the people who need it the most.

• Helps people with disabilities find jobs and realize a greater role, through work, in the community.

 

Lighthouse Central Florida

• Children and Youth Services

  1. Provide programs and activities that help prevent developmental delays, provide daily living skills, and help student that are part of the Individualized Education Program.

• Adult Rehabilitation Services

  1. Provide access to technology and training in order to help with reading and writing, and fostering independent living.

• Adult Employment Services

  1. Help develop skills needed for employment, job placement, and offer continued employment support.

 

 

Other

 

 

Disability Rights Florida

Carry out investigation on abuse and neglect to adults and youth, and prevent unnecessary incarceration of people with disabilities.

Investigate complaints of violations of rights of adults and youth, and advocate in communities in order to ensure full enjoyment of rights and privileges.

Provide representation to students with disabilities, advocate for educational rights and in the juvenile justice system, and educate parents.

Increase access to employment opportunities, assistive technology, and systematic advocacy with Vocational Rehabilitation

Investigate financial abuse and educate policy makers and stakeholders.

 

Camp TBI

A weekend retreat where TBI survivors and their families get involved in social events, activities, and learning.

www.rehabworks.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.goodwillcfl.org

 

 

 

 

 

www.lighthousecentralflorida.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.disabilitiyrightsflorida.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.camptbi.org

 

(800) 451-4327

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(407) 235-1500

 

 

 

 

 

(407) 898-2483

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

800) 342-0823

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(800) 410-0103

     
*LYNX/Access LYNX

• The ACCESS LYNX program provides complementary service for eligible individuals who are not able to use the regular fixed route bus service because of a disability or other limitations.

 

www.golynx.com (407) 423-LYNX
Quest, Inc.

Educational

  1. a.      Provide therapy, private school, and autism school.

Vocational

  1. a.      Training program to help with transition from school to work.

Residential

  1. a.      Focus on independent living and living facilities for people with disabilities.

Recreational

  1. a.      Camp Thunderbird; summer camp.

 

 

www.questinc.org (407) 218-4300
Social Security Administration

• Social Security Disability Insurance Program provides income supplements to people who are physically restricted in their ability to be employed.

• Supplemental Security Income Program makes payments to people with low income, under the age of 65, who are blind or have a disability.

www.ssa.gov (800) 772-1213
 

United Way 2-1-1 & Elder Helpline (Heart of Florida United Way)

• A 24-hour information and referral helpline which links people in need with assistance from local health and human service programs.

 

 

www.211.org

www.hfuw.org

 

2-1-1

Veterans’ Administration

• A patient-centered integrated health care organization for veterans providing excellent health care, research, and education for service men and women

 

www.orlando.va.gov (407) 599-1599

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Denotes an agency that Representative Nelson’s office can provide direct access to. Please contact a staff member from his office for more information.

 

This compilation is a courtesy of the Office of State Representative Bryan Nelson and is not meant to be a complete listing of agencies and services available. If you would like more information, have questions about any of the contacts listed, or would like to have your organization added to this list, please contact Representative Nelson’s office at (407) 884-2023

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Will we see you next week? You’re Invited!

As a state legislator, I have the unique opportunity to listen and work with many different individuals and groups on a variety of issues. One cause that is of particular importance to me is facilitating opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Here in Central Florida, we are fortunate to have several strong support organizations for disabled individuals, such as Quest, Inc. We also have local employers such as Rosen Hotels and Publix Supermarkets that have created diverse job opportunities to help people work hard and earn a good living. However, there are people and employers who have not yet learned of the opportunities that exist when they connect, and on Tuesday, April 24th, I will be hosting a summit in Apopka to bring our community together.

My summit is geared towards connecting our community members and local employers to learn about the benefits, incentives, and opportunities that are available for hiring individuals with disabilities. If you have a family member or a friend that could benefit from this information, you are highly encouraged to attend, as many outstanding community partners will be on hand to discuss education opportunities, vocation support programs, among other important information. Goodwill Industries of Central Florida, Inc., has been extremely helpful in securing outstanding presenters and participants, including Walt Disney World, LYNX, and the Disability Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida.

This free community event opens at 8:00 AM for networking at the Apopka Community Center/VFW located at 519 S. Central Avenue in Apopka. At 8:30 AM, I will begin the program, along with Goodwill Industries CEO, Mr. William Oakley. Ms. Jeannie Amendola from Walt Disney World will be providing some “myth busting” about hiring persons with disabilities, while Mr. Bill Hearndon from LYNX will talk about the transportation programs available for individuals who may have difficulties to travel to and from work, as well as the future of this important issue. Two exciting panels will follow focusing several critical issues such as on-the-job training, employment scenarios, as well as sharing success stories from local employers. The event will conclude before 11:00 A.M.

In addition to panels and speakers, several government and community organizations will be on hand to share information on the services and programs available to both prospective employers and employees and their families. The State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Veterans’ Administration, and Social Security are just some of the key organizations that will be on hand during the event. This is an excellent chance to meet with representatives from these agencies and discuss the program available for your friend or loved one- please make sure you attend!

I am extremely pleased to invite you to attend this important summit on working with and hiring individuals with disabilities. With persons with disabilities facing an unemployment rate above 15%, it is important that we work together to educate our local businesses on the opportunity we have to address this issue. This is a win-win situation for employers, the employees and their families, and our community. I look forward to a strong response from our community for this important discussion. If you would like participate in this event as a local partner or would like additional information, please contact my office at (407) 884-2023. I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!

For Florida,

 

 

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under Community Event, District 38, Education, Employment

F.Y. 2012-2013 Brief Budget Breakdown: Education

Last Friday, the Governor was presented with House Bill 5001, relating to Appropriations. This bill contains the state budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 that begins on July 1, 2012. He will have fifteen days to sign, line item veto, or allow the bill to go into effect without his approval. It is important to remember that with the line item veto power, the Governor can strike certain line items from the state budget, while allowing the rest of the budget go into effect. As in previous columns, I’d like to provide more information and details about this budget and how it will affect Floridians. The first area to address is education, since education is one of the state’s core priorities along with health and human services and public safety.

 Over the last few years, the Legislature has made many cuts and prioritized the most vital functions of state government to reduce spending. This year was no different, as the Legislature sought to address a $1.2 billion deficit. However, as a key point of evidence that our economy is improving, the budget deficit for the current fiscal year stood at $4.6 billion during the 2011 Legislative Session. In spite of these challenges, the Legislature crafted a budget that allows us to “live within our means” without raising taxes or fees. We are recovering and making the right decisions to ensure continued improvement and a return to prosperity.

 For PreK-12 education, an increase of $1.1 billion was allocated to this critical budget area, which represents a 12.2% increase over last year’s PreK-12 budget. The breakdown of funds includes $10.3 billion from General Revenue, $361.1 million from the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, $220.1 from the State School Trust Fund, and $2.5 billion from Other Trust Funds. For the Florida Education Finance Program, funding per student increased2.41% from $6,224.92to $6,375.18or by $150.26 per student. This includes an additional $6.7 billion of local funds for the FEFP. Class size compliance has been budgeted at $2.984 billion, while the growing Voluntary Prekindergarten program increased by 7.4% or $28.7 million over the current fiscal year budget. Reading Instruction allocations have increased 33.1%, as well as School Recognition funds are increased12.53% to provide an increase in the amount of the award from $70 up to $100 per student. Several community-based education programs will receive additional funding, such as Boys and Girls Club, Autism Buddies, Best Buddies, Take Stock in Children, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, among others. Public broadcasting for TV stations will receive $4 million.

 Postsecondary or Higher Education was allocated $5.8 billion for FY 2012-2013, which represents a 5.9% decrease over the current budget year not accounting for tuition. This budget provides for 1,282.75positions. For tuition, Florida Colleges and workforce education programs will be permitted to make 5% adjustments to tuition and fees. It is important to remember that Florida’s university tuition ranks among the lowest in the country. There is room to equalize tuition in the state with other out of state schools. These tuition adjustments are needed to ensure that programs offered are competitive and provide a challenging and innovative curriculum. Additionally, the budget for need-based student financial aid increased by $453,131 or 0.3 percent. For additional post-secondary education opportunities, the Florida Virtual Campus will be established which will provide access to online student and library support and serve as a statewide resource and clearinghouse for distance learning courses and degree programs. The Degree Completion Pilot Program will be established to recruit, recover, and retain adult and non-traditional learners to assist them in completing degrees aligned in high-wage, high-skill, and workforce needs.

 Our school system and our post-secondary institutions are critical to the continued recovery and for the long-term success of our state. The Legislature has renewed its commitment to our children by increasing the PreK-12 funding while ensuring our higher education systems have the flexibility necessary to ensure world-class programs and degrees. If you would like additional information on this issue or any other state issue or agency, please do not hesitate to contact me at (407) 884-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

For Florida,

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under Budget, District 38, Education, Session 2012

Workforce Boards and Getting Floridians Back to Work

Recently, I stood with Florida’s Governor as he signed House Bill 7023 relating to Regional Workforce Boards into law in Orlando. Regional Workforce Boards are responsible for local planning and workforce service delivery systems. However, some regional boards have come under scrutiny for certain programming decisions. House Bill 7023 addresses these policy issues and re-commits the state to ensuring that the regional workforce boards are held to the same high standards as other government entities and that taxpayer dollars are being used as efficiently as possible. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide some information on the key provisions of this important legislation.

 House Bill 7023 will require that Workforce Florida develop a single state-wide workforce system “brand” for Florida that demonstrates its mission to helping Floridians locate work and obtain the right support for their industry. The new law, effective July 1, 2012, requires members of the Board and its executive director to file financial disclosure forms. Currently, elected officials, other state boards and entities, and key state employees must file these forms that ensure ethical decisions are being made and to prevent so-called “sweetheart” deals from being made. Additionally, the increased transparency and limits on conflict of interests will promote increased integrity for the members of the board. Any contract between a workforce board and a member or member’s relative must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the board, and any such contract valued over $25,000 must be approved by Workforce Florida. The new law also provides for methods for removal to ensure sound leadership on the boards. The Chair and the Executive Director will serve “at the pleasure of the Governor,” which will allow the Governor to have the authority to remove a member of the board for just cause. House Bill 7023 will make strides to ensure increase efficiency and fiscal responsibility of the board by strictly prohibiting the boards from using state or federal funds for food, beverages, or entertainment activities. The monies provided to these boards need to go the job seekers who are looking to become more competitive in the job market, not to frivolous expenses. Finally, the boards will now be required to develop and submit an annual budget to Workforce Florida to ensure funds are being spent properly. This budget would also have to be approved by the local elected official, ensuring that the community and the state are aware of the proposed allocations of the board.

 If you would like to learn more about Workforce Florida, please visit www.workforceFlorida.Com. For the Central Florida Regional Workforce Board, please visit www.workforceCentralFlorida.Com. Both sites can provide a wealth of information on Florida’s job market, offer information on local programs and opportunities available, as well as contact information if you would like to learn more. Getting Floridians back to work has been a key mission and the number one priority for the Legislature and this bill is a good step towards ensuring accountability and stability for the workforce programs.

 Next Monday, April 9th, I will be hosting my annual Post-Session Town Hall at Ocoee City Hall. On Wednesday, April 11th, I will be hosting my annual Post-Session Town Hall at Apopka’s City Hall. Thursday, April 12th, my final Town Hall for Session 2012 will be at the Mount Dora City Hall. Ocoee and Apopka’s Town Halls are from 6-7PM, and the Town Hall in Mount Dora will be from 5-6PM. I will provide information on Session 2012, the state’s budget for 2012-2013, and information on the redistricting process. If you would like information on these town halls or any other state issue or agency, please do not hesitate to contact me at (407) 884-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

For Florida,

 

 

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under District 38, Employment, Session 2012

Unemployment Update for Florida

With the new fiscal year just a few months away, I’d like to provide an update on unemployment compensation and the impact of legislation from the 2012 Legislative Session. While Florida’s jobless rate continues to decline, many are still receiving unemployment benefits. This year, individuals who apply for state unemployment benefits for the first time will receive 23 weeks of benefits before qualifying for any applicable federal benefits. Additionally, the number of benefits weeks available will correlate to the state’s unemployment rate; the lower the rate, the less weeks available and vice versa. After the state’s regular unemployment compensation benefits are exhausted, individuals then enter a “tiered” system for federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC). EUC Tier I provides up to 20 additional weeks, EUC Tier II provides up to 14 additional weeks after that, EUC Tier III provides up to 13 additional weeks after that, and Tier IV provides up to 6 additional weeks after that, for a total of up to 99 weeks of benefits. As of February of this year, EUC benefits are extended through December 29, 2012. After this date, no additional benefits will be provided, regardless of any remaining benefits that may exist on the claim. Because EUC benefits are federally managed, any additional benefit weeks would have to be enacted by Congress. If you would like to find your Congressional Member, please visit http://www.house.gov to find out which Congressional District you currently reside in.

 If you exhaust your state benefits and you qualify for EUC benefits, you should receive a determination letter within seven days after you claimed your last weeks of unemployment, since the EUC claim is filed automatically. If you have been receiving federal EUC benefits and you have received a final payment notice for Tiers I, II, or III, you will receive a wage determination letter in the mail and will then be automatically enrolled in the next tier for your EUC. If you believe you are eligible and are exhausting your Tier IV benefits by that date, please visit http://www.floridajobs.org.

 At the state level, Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund (UCTF), is funded by the unemployment compensation tax paid by Florida’s employers.  The UCTF has “trigger points” in which the tax rate for unemployment compensation goes up or down, depending on the status of the trust fund. In prosperous times, the trust fund grows steadily due to the relatively low numbers of unemployment claims and rates generally decrease. However, in difficult times when there’s a significant demand for benefits, a rate change will “trigger on” when the balance of the trust fund falls below 4% of the taxable roll at the end of the state’s fiscal year (which is June 30th). To show how quickly the trust fund can be drained, in the 4th quarter of 2008, the UCTF had more than $1.3 billion in it. By June 30th of 2009, it had less than $450 million in it. Given that the taxable roles for the year came in at close to $50 billion, $450 million represented less than .9% of the taxable roles. This percentage was below the 4% threshold and thus, the tax increase to replenish the UCTF was “triggered” on. As of August 24, 2009, the trust fund balance went to $0. Prior to the down turn, employers enjoyed a very low unemployment rate, with the minimum rate hovering around $7.00 in 2008. This is unfortunately not the case today.

 For employers, the updated forecast for the state’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund was recently updated. Based the numbers through September 2011, the November 2011 forecast estimates that Fiscal Year 2013/2014 to be the first year since the economic downturn that the fund will have a positive year-end balance with no interest or additional taxes being due to the federal govern met for previous advancements. As of March 2012, the state has received over $2.8 billion in advances for benefits from the federal government, with $1.0 billion repaid already to the federal government, leaving $1.8 billion remaining to pay.  Additionally, the amount borrowed also includes interest which the state must pay from general revenue only.

 During the 2012 Legislative Session, the business community alerted the Legislature to the looming drastic increase of rates for unemployment compensation as a result of the challenging economy. In response, the Legislature passed House Bill 7027. This bill reduces the taxable wage base for employer unemployment compensation taxes by $500 to $8,000 for tax years 2012-2014. This results in employers saving at between $27 and $50 per employee at the maximum/minimum rate for unemployment compensation taxes, saving businesses more than $800 million during this three year period. It also extends the repayment period from three to five years, through 2017 for the unemployment compensation trust fund. As a direct result of this issue, a workgroup will be convened to review Florida’s unemployment compensation program and provide recommendations to the Legislature. While Florida’s economy continues to recover, employers will continue to realize significant savings as a result of this legislation, which I voted for during the 2011 Session.

 Also, next week, I will be hosting my final two town halls, one in Apopka’s City Hall on Wednesday, April 11th from 6-7 PM, and in Mount Dora on Thursday, April 12th, from 5-6  PM. I look forward to meeting you and listening to your comments and concerns.

 If you would like more information on unemployment compensation, my upcoming town halls, or any other state issue or agency, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

 For Florida,

 

 

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under District 38, Employment, Session 2012, Taxes and Fiscal Policy

Sine Die! Redistricting Update after Session 2012

The Florida Legislature adjourned “Sine Die” last Friday, March 9, at 11:59 P.M. after passing the state’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. The $70 billion budget will head to the Governor for his approval or for his veto. Over the next few weeks, I will provide an updated overview of the finalized budget once it has been signed by the Governor. Friday was also an important day for the Florida Supreme Court, as it released its ruling on the Florida Legislature’s proposed maps for redistricting. As previously noted, the Florida Legislature was mandated to re-draw the Florida House, Florida Senate, and Congressional seats as a result of the biennial Census. The Florida House and Florida Senate plans were sent to the state’s Supreme Court for approval or rejection, while the Congressional maps are currently under review with the federal Department of Justice. While this was an important ruling in regards to this issue, it was also the first time the redistricting process has been reviewed under the meaning of the 2010 Amendments 5 and 6 known as “Fair Districts.” On Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Florida House maps are valid, but the Florida Senate maps are not. It is interesting to note that the Court noted in its opinion that both maps would have been declared valid prior the adoption of Amendments 5 and 6. As a result of this ruling, Governor Scott was obligated to call a special session, which has been scheduled to begin this week. The purpose of this Special Session is to review and redraw the maps and address the concerns of the Supreme Court.

 For the proposed districts for the Florida House, the Supreme Court declared that “…the apportion map for the Florida House of Representatives to be constitutionally valid under the Florida Constitution.” Having passed this important hurdle, these maps will be pending approval by the federal Department of Justice before being officially established for qualifying in June of this year. At that point in time, candidates will declare their intent to run in the new districts that have been established. This means that all 120 of the Florida House seats will be up for election in new districts.

 For the proposed districts for the Florida Senate, the two major issues the Supreme Court identified were the numbering of the districts, as well as 8 of the actual districts that were drawn. The numbering of the districts was not “consecutive” in the manner that the Supreme Court felt comfortable with, while several individual districts did not meet the two-tiered standards used by the Court. These standards included compactness, equal population, and minority voters protection, among others. As a result, these districts must be review and re-developed during the Special Session that commenced this week. Once the Legislature approves the updated maps, it will be re-sent to the Supreme Court for review, before heading to the Department of Justice prior to  June’s qualifying for the 2012 elections, which includes all 40 Senate seats.

 I will continue to provide updates on this very important issue. If you would like to read more information on the redistricting process including the maps and other information from the Legislature, please visit http://www.FloridaRedistricting.Org. If you would like to access the opinion from the Supreme Court, please visit http://www.FloridaSupremeCourt.Org. If you would like to review information from the 2012 Session that recently concluded, you can visit http://www.MyFloridaHouse.Gov. For any other questions or issues with any other state agency or issue, please do not hesitate to contact my district office at (407) 884-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

For Florida,

 

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under District 38, Redistricting 2012, Session 2012

Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Budget Taking Shape

At this point in Session, the House’s proposed budget is taking shape. The Speaker of the House released the allocations for the appropriations committees to formulate their respective budgets with. The total proposed budget for the Florida House proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 is $69.2 billion, an estimated $3 billion of increase of the current budget of $66.5 billion. It is important to note that this proposed House budget does not have any increased taxes or fees related to it. Since I was elected in 2006, the state’s budget has been balanced fairly and with the right priorities in mind, health, education, and safety. However, in order to ensure the state’s core missions were best addressed, other areas of the budget such as government operations and agriculture and natural resources had to be reduced. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide a breakdown of the major areas this proposed budget would fund (and you can click here for the official summaries by area).

 I have the opportunity to serve on the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees several state agencies including the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Department of the Florida Lottery. The proposed budget for this area is $1.75 billion, a $26.1 million or 1.5% increase over the current fiscal year. This budget includes $252.9 million in General Revenue (a $0.5 million or 0.2% increase over the current year) and $1.5 billion in trust fund allocations, a $25.6 million or 1.7% increase over the previous year. This budget would fund 11,335.25positions,  a reduction of 2% over the current year.

 Looking next at Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations, the proposed budget total for  this area is $3 billion, a 42% increase over the current fiscal year’s appropriations. This proposed budget includes $182 million from general revenue (a $5 million decrease) and $2.8 billion from trust funds (a $906 million increase). This budget would fund 8,802.75positions, a decrease of 207.5 positions less than the previous fiscal year, a 2.3% decrease. One of the major reasons for the increase in the overall budget is due to the transfer of Florida’s School Nutrition Program from the Department of Education to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ($1.1 billion) as the result of laws passed during the 2011 Session.

 Looking at Higher Education Appropriations, the proposed budget total is $5.9 billion, a $242.6 million or 5.5% decrease over the previous fiscal year. This total proposed budget includes $395.3 million (12.21%) decrease in General Revenue funds, a $149.2 million (18.19%) increase from the Education Enhancement Trust Fund and an increase of $248.8 million (13.8%) in other trust fund budget authority. The proposed budget for this budget area also includes an 8% increase in base tuition for Workforce Education, the Florida College System, and the State University System. The total proposed budget funds 1,278.75, a decrease of 24 positions over this current year.

 The next budget area is  Transportation and Economic Development budget. The total proposed budget for this area is $9.3 billion, a $6 million or 0.1% increase over the current year. This proposed budget is based on a $123 million allocation from General Revenue (a 48.9% or $118.8 million decrease), as well as $9.2 billion allocated from trust funds (a 1.4% or $125 million increase). This proposed budget would fund 13,850.5 positions, which is a reduction of 36 positions or 0.3%  over the current fiscal year. A big change for this budget is from the consolidation of several state entities into the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

Now focusing on the state’s core budget areas (and priorities), for Justice Appropriations, $4.2 billion has been proposed to be allocated for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which would be a $584.6 million (12.25%) decrease over the current year. This budget includes $3.4 billion from General Revenue, as well as $760.8 million from trust funds. 46,563 positions would be funded as a result of this budget, a decrease of 2,715 positions or 5.5% than the current fiscal year. A big change for this budget is the result of the removal of the Clerk of Courts from the state’s budget. It is important to note that this proposed budget does not contain changes in adult sentencing or release policies and ensures continued public safety.

For PreK-12 Appropriations, the total overall proposed budget is $12.7 billion, which is $1.1 billion or a 9.5% increase over the current fiscal year. This proposed budget has been increased by9.22% ($808 million) from General Revenue to total $9.6 billion. Coupled with $657.1 million in education-dedicated trust funds for a total trust fund allocation of $3.2 billion. As a result of this increase, the per-student funding or FEFP is increased by $141.30 or2.27%. The state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program will receive an increase of $28.5 million (7.42%) to address an increase in enrollment of 11,519 students, which will translate to a per-student amount of $2,383 for the school year.

Finally, the largest portion of the budget is the Healthcare Appropriations budget. The proposed budget for this area is $54 billion, a0.18% increase. This budget includes $7.6 billion in General Revenue, which is a total increase of $655 million or9.41%, as well as $22.2 billion in trust fund allocations, a 3.1% decrease from the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The Medicaid portion of this budget has nearly doubled in the last ten years. This year, the Medicaid allocation for caseloads is increased by $304.7 million to address 155,720 additional beneficiaries. Additionally, no category of Medicaid eligibility will be eliminated or reduced. For Florida’s KidCare Program, $4.6 million will be allocated to address the expected growth in enrollment. This appropriation will allow an additional 11,612 children to be served, which is a 4% increase over the June 30, 2012 expected enrollment.

While this budget is certainly important to review, please note that this proposed budget is not the final budget for the state. The Florida House’s proposed budget of $69.2 billion is not exactly identical to the Florida Senate proposed budget of $70.2 billion. These proposed budget will be continued to be vetted by the House and compromises will be worked out between the House and Senate committees for funding. What issues cannot be reconciled by committees will then head to budget conferences, where members from each chamber meet together to discuss and reconcile any unresolved budget items before sending the entire budget to both chambers for passage, and then  to the Governor for his approval in the late Spring.

When I was elected in 2006, the budget for the state was $72 billion. Since then, the state has faced trying economic times, but we have been able to still ensure the state’s priorities have been funded, while preserving our state’s bond rating and reserves in case of another economic downturn. The fiscal year 2012-2013 budget will be balanced without any increase in taxes or fees, while increasing our commitment to education and healthcare. Certainly, Florida is in a much better position to recover than other parts of the country, and this puts us in the best setting for future success.  If you would like to review the appropriations by subcommittee area or for the overall proposed House budget,  please http://www.MyFloridaHouse.Gov

For Florida,

 
State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under Budget, General, Session 2012

The Truth About Florida’s Insurance Assessments

It is certainly no secret that property insurance remains a central issue in Florida. When it comes to property insurance, it has been a struggle over many years to balance rates that are both actuarially sound and fair for the consumer. As a result of Florida’s unique risk exposure situation, government entities such as Citizens, the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund have been created to mitigate the losses caused by the exit of private insurance carriers from the state. When these entities do not have enough money to pay their obligations, they are authorized by Florida Statute to levy a variety of assessments on insurance policies in order to make up the shortfall. There has been some misinformation presented recently about “assessments” and a “hurricane tax” that I would like to clarify. While assessments are in existence in Florida, why they exist and how they can be phased out must be addressed. You can find this information on assessments on your “Declarations” page or by contacting your insurance agent.

Looking first at Citizens Property Insurance,  it is s a government-created and supported insurer (ch. 627, F.S.). If Citizens does not collect enough money from insurance premiums to pay its claims, such as a Category 3 hurricane hitting Miami or the recent explosion in fraudulent sinkhole claims, it can assess its own policy holders and non-Citizens’ policy holders.  Citizens has a three-fold assessment base. The first assessment, the Citizens Policyholder Surcharge under catastrophic loss, will be a maximum surcharge of 45% and paid only by Citizens policy holders. If the 45% assessment does not adequately make up the shortfall, the next assessment that is levied in addition to the first assessment is the Regular Assessment, which can be between 6 and 18%. Finally, there is the emergency assessment, which will occur if and only if the first two assessments combined do not make up the shortfall faced by Citizens. This additional assessment is between 10% and 30% per policy  for all Citizens’ and non-Citizens’ policyholders. Currently, there is a 1.0% emergency assessment on homeowners’, business, and auto policies, regardless of who is your carrier.

Assessment Chart for Citizens Property Insurance

Next is the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Created by the Legislature in 1993 after the devastation Hurricane Andrew caused, its purpose is to provide reimbursements to insurers for parts of their catastrophic losses from hurricanes. It is a state trust fund that is tax exempt and governed by the State Board of Administration. The Cat Fund is able to sell reinsurance at a discount to private insurers due to its tax free status and because it can utilize surcharges on auto, home, and business insurance policies. Similar to Citizens, state law requires that if the Cat Fund has insufficient cash balance to pay losses, then assessments will be placed on a wide range of lines of insurance to pay for the losses. This assessment can range from up to 6% for one year of hurricanes or up to 10% for multiple year storms. Currently, there is an assessment for the Cat Fund. It is 1% for all policies except workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, and medical policies renewed after January 1, 2007, for losses incurred during the 2004 hurricane season. This assessment was increased to 1.3% due to increased losses from the 2004 storm season and is in place until January 1, 2017.

Finally, there is the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association or FIGA. FIGA was created by the Legislature in 1970 to handle the claims of bankrupt or failing property insurance companies in Florida. Just like the other two entities, FIGA is not-for-profit and in Florida Statutes, but operates differently than Citizens or the Cat fund. FIGA assessments can be up to 2% based on each insurer, but can also include an additional emergency assessment of up to 2%. Unlike the other two, FIGA only levies a surcharge when an insurance company goes broke and can no longer pay its claim. Therefore, it is possible (and has happened) that FIGA has not issued an assessment for every year or every storm. The most recent assessment from late 2009 is 8/10 of 1% or 0.8% for FIGA.  In the case of the hypothetical category 3 storm hitting the state, depending on how many companies went out of business would determine the FIGA assessment, if one was necessary.

While all three entities operate independently of each other in terms of assessments, major storms can force all three to levy multiple assessments on policies at the same time. A recent example was the 2004 storm season. Multiple hurricanes hit the state causing widespread damage, and as a result, Citizens, the Cat Fund, and FIGA all had to levy assessments to make up for the significant losses they incurred. Citizens Insurance originally levied a 1.4% assessment that then was decreased to the current 1.0% assessment previously mentioned. The Cat Fund levied a 1.0% assessment until January 1, 2011, when it was increased to 1.3% due to increased losses from the storm season. FIGA had a 2% assessment as well as an emergency 2% assessment in 2006, a 2% assessment in 2007, and a 2009 assessment of 0.8%. To view a comprehensive chart of the entities and their current assessments, please click  Hurricane Assessment Authority 1.24.12 to view.

National Weather Service Map of the 2004 Storm Season

When combined, if you have a homeowner’s insurance policy, and auto insurance policy, and a commercial insurance policy, you could face a total combined assessment of up to 35% of each of your policy premiums.

While assessments are certainly not ideal, this is the reality of property insurance in the Sunshine State due to us having more coastal exposure than all the states from Texas to North Carolina. The more coastal exposure a state has, the greater the risk that an insurance company or the state itself must cover, especially when the highest risk areas (the coasts) have a lot of people and property.

Vulnerability Map from NOAA

 In order to lessen the impact assessments can and could have on your premiums in the future, the state’s property insurance market must be restored. This includes having more private carriers who can absorb the increased risk of building and living on the coast. The less risk Citizens Insurance must cover, the less need there is for assessments. In 2009, I sponsored House Bill 1495 that began major reforms for Florida’s property insurance market. This bill allows for coastal residents to be required to pay their actuarially sound rate which should reduce our potential for assessments on District 38 homeowners, auto owners, and business owners. Last year, Senate Bill 408 was passed to continue these reforms by addressing majors issues such as the recent explosion in sinkhole fraud and re-opened hurricane claims. This year, House Bill 1127 aims to reduce the impact of assessments by reducing the Coastal Account assessment from 6% to 2%, while eliminating regular assessments for Personal Lines and Commercial Line Accounts. If you’d like to learn more about this pending legislation, please click Government Operations Appropriations Staff Analysis of HB 1127 1/31/2012 to access the most recent analysis. 

As Chairman of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee in the Florida House, we are working very hard to come up with a solution that will reduce our exposure to assessments for government insurance policies over the long-term. We are on the right track to rehabilitating Florida’s insurance market and we will continue to work towards a long-term solution that is reasonable, fair, and protects Floridians and their homes. If you have any questions on this issue, please contact either of my offices at (407) 884-2023 or (850) 488-2023. You can also email me at Bryan.Nelson@MyfloridaHouse.Gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

For Florida,

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under Insurance and Banking Policy, Proposed Legislation, Session 2012

Week 2 Completed & What a “Claim Bill” Is

With the first and second week of Session now concluded, things are certainly starting to gear up in Tallahassee with legislation and the redistricting process. You may have heard about “claim bills” that had been passed during the opening days of Session. While claim bills are a form of legislation, they are not the same type of legislation as the bill one may think of that enacts a law. In fact, claim bills are very unique and have a long history in government dating back to medieval England. This week, I’d like to provide an overview on this unique type of bill, its process, and its importance to Floridians. From its earliest days, Florida has always had sovereign immunity as one of its fundamental principles. Florida explicitly included certain laws related to waivers of sovereign immunity in its Reconstruction Constitution in 1868 and in the state’s revised Constitution in 1968. Today, Chapter 768 of Florida Statutes addresses Florida’s sovereign immunity, waivers to this policy, and the exceptions to it. While the state is certainly liable for claims of injury and/or wrongful actions, not everyone is eligible for a claim bill to be filed.

 There are certain requirements that must be fulfilled within the specified time frame in order to a Florida resident to take the state to Court, win his or her case with an award that exceeds current limits of $300,000 for cases against the state, and work with a legislator to have a claim bill filed and successfully passed on his or her behalf.  This Session, two high-profile claim bills were filed and recently passed in the Florida Senate and are currently awaiting to be voted on in the House. Both claim bills are based on the “state” (meaning a specific entity or agency of the state) has committed a serious wrongdoing against a Florida resident that resulted in a judge awarding the injured resident. One of the claimants was a young man who was seriously injured and rendered permanently disabled as a result of negligence by the Broward County Sheriff. The other claimant had been wrongfully imprisoned by the State for 27 years until DNA evidence exonerated him from wrongdoing. These injured individuals were able to secure sponsorship of their claim bills in the Senate, have their bills filed, passed them through the review process set up specifically for this type of bill, and were voted favorably by the Senate. The next step in the process is for these bills to be voted on by the House, then be approved by the Governor. Should this happen, the Chief Financial Officer of Florida will then provide for a disbursement of the amount provided in the claim bill and by the court.

 Claim bills are a very unique aspect of our government and provide relief when the state itself has made a very serious mistake that has caused severe repercussions such as disability or the loss of life. It is a very complex process and most claim bills are not successful for a variety of reasons. If you would like to learn more about the claim bill process, please visit http://www.myfloridahouse.gov.

 As a side note, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who have completed my survey. We are still collecting responses online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2012District38Survey and you can still mail in your surveys if you received one in the mail. I will be releasing the results in the coming weeks, so please stayed tuned! If you would like more information on this or any other state agency or issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (407) 884-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

At the Capitol Office!

 For Florida,

State Representative Bryan Nelson

P.S. For more information on what’s going on in the Florida House, please check out the Office of Public Information’s website by visiting http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/OPI/OPI.aspx or clicking here!

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Filed under Proposed Legislation, Session 2012

Welcome to Session 2012!

This week, we began the state’s annual Legislative Session in Tallahassee. On Tuesday January 10, the Speaker of the Florida House and the President of the Florida Senate opened their respective Chambers for the upcoming sixty day legislative process, while the Governor provided his “State of the State” address to the Legislature (click here for the archived broadcast). The opening of Session is always an exciting time, and this year is no different. While it certainly is no secret that it will be another difficult budget year, there also exists unique opportunities to make Florida’s government more efficient while ensuring the best services are available for Floridians. As I noted last week, I have sponsored six important pieces of legislation. This week, I’d like to provide additional detail about the largest bill and one of my biggest priorities, House Bill 977, relating to Current and Former Military Personnel.

 House Bill 977 is considered to be an “omnibus” bill, meaning that it addresses a variety of issues under the same subject. This bill is sponsored in the Florida Senate by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Bennett. It is currently waiting to be heard in committees in both Chambers. The bill provides for an expansion of vendor preferences for state contracts, from the current program of qualified service-disabled veterans, to include certain businesses owned and operated by wartime veterans. The legislation also creates the “Combat Infantry Badge Special Use” license plate, which would be issued to recipients of the Combat Infantry Badge, contingent on providing proof of membership in the Combat Infantryman’s Association, Inc. or other proof of being a recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge. Veterans of the Vietnam War would be eligible to receive a stamp on the appropriate license plate indicating their service as well. House Bill 977 adds that each year, “Purple Heart Day” will be celebrated on the 7th of August and will include a gubernatorial proclamation designating the 7th of August as “Purple Heart Day.”

 For military families with school-aged children, the children would be able to remain students at their school they currently attend, regardless of any zoning changes that may be completed by the local school board. For education, the institutions of either the Florida College System or State University System that provide priority course registration for certain segments, will be directed to provide priority registration for those military personnel who utilize their G.I. bill benefits. Additionally, if a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces physically attends a public college or university of high learning in the State, he or she will receive automatic classification for tuition purposes. Finally, those Florida residents of at least four years prior to entering into military service and has since earned an associate degree or has earned at least sixty hours of college credit hours from a Florida College System institution shall be admitted to any Florida College System Institution or state university of the veteran’s choice.

 The other major aspect of this bill is the “T. Patt Maney Veterans’ Treatment Intervention Act” which would allow county courts to hold pre-sentence hearings and establish programs to divert a veterans who is charged with certain criminal offenses into an appropriate treatment program if they suffer from certain injuries directly related to military service in a combat theater. Such injuries would include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or certain psychological issues. Their military service would have to be verified and certain crimes and felonies would not be eligible for this program.

 I am extremely proud and honored to sponsor this legislation. Our military men, women, and families sacrifice so much for the sake of our country and community, and it is important that we recognize them for their dedication and good work. I look forward to the success of this legislation and welcome any feedback you may have on it.

 Additionally, I have opened my annual Session Survey for the constituents of District 38. It is available by accessing https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2012District38Survey. It is a brief survey that covers several key areas including education, insurance, and the environment. I encourage you to fill it out. I will be providing the results in the next few weeks.

 I look forward to the next sixty days of Session. Between establishing the budget for the next fiscal year, to approving the new districts for the 2012 and beyond elections, it will certainly be busy. If you would like more information on the Session or any other state agency or issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (407) 884-2023. If you are visiting Tallahassee and would like to stop by, please call my Capitol office at (850) 488-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

For Florida,

 

State Representative Bryan Nelson

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Filed under District 38, Proposed Legislation, Session 2012