In Session: Report from Tallahassee – March 17, 2017

‘Parent Power’: Senate Bill 78 – Recess (Flores, R-Miami) would require every school district in the state to provide at least 20 minutes per day/100 minutes per week of recess for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. Currently, some elementary schools provide recess and others do not. The bill’s supporters included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) and the Florida PTA. All cited both the academic and health benefits for children of daily, unstructured playtime in addition to regular physical education classes. But the bill’s strongest advocates were parents. Calling themselves ‘recess moms’ they spoke passionately to legislators about the need for their children to have a daily physical activity break, not only to develop social skills but also to focus better when they are in the classroom.

Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores (left) listens as a ‘recess mom’ advocates for SB78.

SB 78 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, its final stop before a full vote on the Senate Floor. Bill sponsor, Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, said it won approval “thanks to the power of advocacy by parents.” A House companion bill, HB 67, has not yet been heard in committee.

‘Keys to Independence’: Legislation to help foster children get their driver’s licenses passed unanimously in its final committees this week and heads for floor votes in both the House and Senate. House Bill 217 (Sullivan, R-Mt. Dora) and Senate Bill 60 (Bean, R-Fernandina Beach) make permanent a pilot program created three years ago by the Florida Legislature called Keys to Independence, which pays for driver education, licenses and auto insurance for youth in the child welfare system.

‘Keys to Independence’ bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach)

‘Keys to Independence’ bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mt. Dora)

State Guardian Ad Litem Director, Alan Abramowitz told the committees that since 2014 more than 1,200 teens have enrolled in the program, quadrupling the number of foster youth with driver’s licenses. Having a driver’s license gives teens in foster care a more normal childhood experience. It helps them to be more independent and productive by making it easier to get jobs, participate in school and community activities, and be prepared to live on their own. The two bills moved rapidly through House and Senate committees as legislators applauded the program’s successes and sought to expand it. The bills will be heard in the full House and Senate as early as next week.

Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director,
Statewide Guardian Ad Litem Program

2018-03-31T14:39:13-04:00 March 16th, 2017|