Corinne Mixon, Florida Statewide Lobbyist for FMHCA

The Florida Mental Health Counselors Association's priority bill has passed through its first committee in the Florida House of Representatives. House Bill 1041, titled Mental Health Counseling Interns, caps internships for clinical social work, marriage and family therapy and mental health counseling interns at five years.

Prior to this bill being filed, a loophole in the law has allowed nearly 1,700 of only 7,300 currently registered interns to continually register for longer than six years. There are currently nearly 200 interns that have been registered since the inception of the law in 1998. Thirty-five percent of the discipline cases that come before the regulatory board result from these long-term interns, many of whom act as though they are fully licensed. This reality is a risk to the people of Florida and must be fixed. Additionally, this bill will ensure that the professional title of Licensed Mental Health Counselor is meaningful and protected.

Corinne Mixon, Lobbyist, Florida Mental Health Counselors Association

The 2014 Florida Legislative Session begins on March 4th. The legislature will convene for 60 days for the purpose of amending Florida statutes, but the web of procedures leading up to the legislative session begins long before March 4th. It starts now.

The legislative session is commonly referred to as a time for “bills” to become “law.” Consider the preceding committee process the time that ideas become bills.

To understand the importance of the committee timeline, one must first see a ‘snapshot’ of Florida’s legislative procedure in its entirety. A member of the Florida House of Representatives sponsors a bill, which is referred to committees related to the bill's subject, averaging between two and five. The committee analyzes the bill and decides if it should be amended, pass, or fail. If passed, the bill moves to the next committee of reference.

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FMHCA is a state chapter of its parent organization, the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

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