Florida's Legislative Preview
A roundup of what interest groups, lawmakers and the governor are seeking this year.
» Fast-Track Foreclosures — The Florida Bankers Association wants lawmakers to help speed up the foreclosure process. Leading the charge is Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples). A bill she recently filed would give banks only one year, rather than five, to seek a deficiency judgment. Condo associations would have the ability to speed up foreclosures if a lender is moving too slowly.
» State Contracts — State CFO Jeff Atwater is urging the Legislature to pass contract legislation that would require pre-audits of contracts as well as audits at the conclusion of a contract to ensure the state is is getting the best prices for goods and services.
» Tort Reform — The Florida Medical Association is pushing for a law that allows a health provider in a medical liability suit to discuss the case with the plaintiff’s other medical providers. The measure will increase the burden of proof for negligence.
» Wrongful Death — The Florida Justice Association, the association for civil trial attorneys, wants the Legislature to repeal the wrongful death medical malpractice exemption. Under current law, if a deceased Floridian has no spouse or dependent children, then there are no survivors who can hold the medical community accountable for negligent acts. The association wants the exemption eliminated so that families of victims, such as adult children of a victim of medical negligence, can recover damages for their loss, just as they are able to in non-medical situations.
» Health Care Reform — As House and Senate lawmakers look at how they will implement the 2010 Affordable Care Act that expands coverage for the poor and uninsured, key players in the health care industry are weighing in:
• The Florida Medical Association opposes expansion of Florida’s Medicaid Pilot Project, backed by Gov. Scott, which would move patients into managed-care insurance plans.
• The FMA also opposes mandating Medicaid participation as a condition of physician licensure. The physicians advocacy group says it will continue its efforts to try to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates to the Medicare level.
• The Florida Hospital Association is supporting implementation of a health insurance exchange for Floridians above 133% of the federal poverty level and below 400% and “access to health care coverage” for Floridians above 22% of the federal poverty level and below 133%. The FHA opposes any further cuts to Medicaid hospital payments — Gov. Scott has proposed a 2% reduction to most hospitals — and opposes legislation mandating that hospitals contract with Medicaid HMOs. The FHA opposes any preset or mandatory reporting of mandated nurse-to-patient ratios and supports legislation that allows advanced registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances.
• The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which advocates on behalf of Florida’s 14 safety net hospital systems, is concerned about an Agency for Health Care Administration proposal that calls for moving away from a per diem system to a “diagnosis-related group” payment model based on the type and severity of a patient’s illness. While the change will actually send more Medicaid dollars to many hospitals, it will negatively impact hospitals like Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and Tampa General Hospital, which serve some of the state’s neediest populations. Advocates for the “safety net” hospitals say the payment proposal needs tweaking. The Florida Hospital Association, meanwhile, says it supports a transition period to the new payment model but suggests the state allow for continuation of per diem payments for at least one year while the new model is tested and validated.
• Scott wants the Legislature to set aside $80 million for 700 new medical residency positions.
• The Florida Optometric Association is supporting legislation that allows optometrists to prescribe oral medication for the treatment of eye disease and ailments. The group says the change would ensure access to quality, affordable eye care for all Floridians, particularly those living in rural counties.
» Amendment Push — A coalition of environmental groups is working to put a Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the 2014 ballot to counteract steep budget cuts and create a dedicated funding source for acquiring and restoring conservation and recreation lands. The proposed trust would dedicate 33% of net revenue from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years to the acquisition, restoration, improvement and management of wetlands and forests, fish and wildlife habitats, water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades and a variety of other lands.
» Renewables/Fertilizer — The Florida League of Cities wants a law that encourages the development and implementation of renewable and alternative energy sources. The league also supports the authority of local governments to adopt and implement fertilizer ordinances. Landscapers and others in the fertilizer, pest control and turf grass industry have been fighting the growing patchwork of local ordinances over the past several years and favor a statewide rule.
» Everglades — The Everglades Coalition is asking the Legislature to allocate $100 million for the state’s recently approved Everglades water quality plan and advance construction of “vital” Everglades projects. The Everglades Foundation, meanwhile, is seeking funding for restoration projects in excess of $28 million. Gov. Scott has requested $60 million for Everglades restoration.
» Florida Forever — The Florida Forever Coalition wants $100 million for Florida Forever, the state’s land-buying program. The program received $8.4 million last year. In its budget request in October, the Florida DEP asked for $50 million for Florida Forever from the sale of surplus lands. Scott has proposed $75 million.