Governor's office behind amendment to weaken provisions in child safety bill
UPDATE: A last minute amendment to SB 1666, the Senate's overhaul of the child welfare laws, shopped by the Department of Children and Families and the governor's office late yesterday, was withdrawn and the Senate passed the bill unanimously to applause.
Sponsored by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the 135-page amendment so late in the process was significant enough to prompt Sen. Andy Gardiner to call for a time out to give members time to absorb what the proposal would do.
The "strike-all" amendment would make several signficant changes aimed at tamping down some of the provisions and oversight over the department, according to a document obtained by the Herald/Times. The summary of the amendment says many of the reforms would cost too much money. The proposed amendment would do the following:
* Eliminate the requirement that members of DCF's Rapid Response Teams travel to the site of a child's death in order to conduct a case review. The idea is to save money.
* Give the response teams more time to conduct the review and eliminates an outside review committee intended to provide oversight to DCF's work. The department says this is "redundant."
* Eliminates the requirement that the Death Review Committee provide training. The department considers this an onerous requirement since the committee is made of volunteers.
* Eliminates a loan forgiveness program intended to encourage people with social work and other social services degrees to work as child protective investigators. The department and governor consider this "expensive and will require additional staff and infrastructure within the department."
* Deletes a requirement the Community Based Care organizations post their executive salaries on the web site.
* Changes the liability limits on CBCs by requiring them to obtain less insurance in the event they get sued for malpractice, . The measure reduces the caps on liability to their 1999 levels by resetting them form $1 million per person, $3 million per incident for economic damages, $200,000 for non-economic damages and removes the cost of living adjustment that allows damage caps to rise according to the consumper price level industry. The current bill sets the damage caps at $2 million per claim; automobile liability cap at $200,0000 per claim and the non-economic damages cap at $400,000 per claim.
* Eliminates the Institute on Child Welfare at FSU because it "will drain resources from child welfare services."