Nov. 4, a United Way of Northeast Florida delegation joined representatives from Florida’s other 32 United Ways to advocate during the second-annual Capitol Day in Tallahassee. Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera thanked the gathering of over 40 United Way volunteers, board members and staff advocates for their commitment, noting that his wife and mother have been active members of United Way Miami’s Women’s affinity group. He outlined Governor Scott’s session focus of reducing taxes on manufacturers aimed at creating more jobs for Florida.
Advocates were briefed on the current state of issues included in this year’s United Ways of Florida Legislative Consensus Agenda. Our delegation, which included United Way of Northeast Florida Public Policy Committee members Dawn Lockhart and Colleen Rodriguez, contributed to more than 36 conversations with key legislators and staff. They were joined by our new Head of Community Impact Phyllis Martin and Director of Public Policy Jason Roth.
Education: We are again looking to link school readiness provider payments to early-learning quality standards and the actual cost of providing quality care. We are also seeking a $30 million increase in School Readiness funding to alleviate the number of children and families still on the wait list and are asking the legislature to restore funding for Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program to the pre-recession (2007) level of $2,677 per child.
Financial Stability: We are asking the legislature to invest $1.2 million in state funding to expand the capacity of free tax-preparation and financial-education programs statewide. This proposal was met with positive response so far and, with the vice-chair of the originating appropriations committee as the sponsor, we are hopeful for its passage.
Health: We asked the legislature to eliminate the KidCare five-year waiting eligibility requirement for lawfully residing immigrant children and adopt a bipartisan ‘Florida plan’ to expand health coverage for uninsured Floridians.
In addition to Capitol Day, we also recently held our annual Northeast Florida Children’s Advocacy Training in partnership with Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, Jax Kids Coalition, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
About 80 nonprofit volunteers and staff attended the event at the Jessie Ball duPont Center to learn more about effective advocacy. Participants had the opportunity pose questions to a panel, which included State Sen. Audrey Gibson, News4Jax’s Melanie Lawson and the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s Shannon Blakenship. Roundtable discussions were led by Brittany Birken of the Florida Children’s Services Council, Kevin Cate of Cate Communication and United Way of Northeast Florida Public Policy Director Jason Roth. The half-day training was capped off with an incredibly motivating keynote address by the 2015 Duval Teacher of the Year, Kifimbo Holloway-Parnell, who spoke about the moment that inspired her to work with children.
The 2016 legislative session begins Jan. 12 and continues for 60 days, ending in March. If you are interested in learning more about our public policy program, contact Jason Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org.