Could 2020 be the “Year of the Child” in the Florida House?
Speaker José Oliva is at least kicking around the concept, according to state Rep. Travis Cummings, the Appropriations Committee chair.
The Orange Park Republican mentioned on a recent episode of the He Said She Said podcast that the theme is “being workshopped.”
Cummings said he and Oliva dined recently, and the Speaker mentioned the idea, still in development.
“It is a theme that has been discussed, but without any substance to it as of yet,” explained Oliva spokesman Fred Piccolo. “The title is about as much detail as there is. No decision has been made to move forward with it.”
Still, Cummings outlined some potential avenues for the theme to develop when asked. One area to watch: Increased funding for the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
“Speaker Oliva is confident in the leadership of Secretary (Chad) Poppell and, of course, that of our Governor,” Cummings said.
“Thus, we are open to any recommendations coming from DCF as they will have had a full year to evaluate the system. But, we do feel that the professionals serving our less fortunate children and families should have adequate resources.”
Currently, outcomes vary, he added: “For one, we have high performing CBC (organizations) and some that really struggle. We need to improve so that, no matter where a child resides in our state, they are cared for in the best manner possible.”
More talent is needed to help in these areas, Cummings said.
“If our colleges and universities aren’t putting more focus into producing quality graduates in the field of social work, mental health, etc., they are missing the boat. Our state is booming and unfortunately these needs grow. We need to ensure that we attract talent to these career fields,” the budget chair noted.
Likewise, more resources are still needed for the intellectually disabled.
“We made some strides last session by increasing the pay for employees that work in group home settings. This is managed by the (Agency for Persons with Disabilities). We aren’t where we need to be but resources are always limited. I am hopeful we can keep moving the needle,” Cummings said.
For Cummings, time is running short. He’s termed out of this House this year and will not be running for his area’s Senate seat, now held by the also-term limited Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.
But he’s been signaling to colleagues the need to ensure that budget asks in 2020 focus on the future.
Cummings’ advice to future legislators? Get to know your districts.
“I am sure there are reports gathering dusts on shelves all across the Capitol. But where legislators best evaluate the need is visiting facilities in their districts and across the state,” he said.
That’s “not to mention meeting with parents and getting in the trenches with the men and women serving our most vulnerable Floridians.”