Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update

03 May 2011 Publication
Authors: Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Policy News Alert

Around the State

Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pauses on extension of statewide Medicaid waiver expansion. On Friday, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) received a letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notifying the agency that CMS will not grant an extension of a waiver to expand the Medicaid reform program statewide. Last fall, Florida sought a three-year extension of the five-year Medicaid reform project that began under former Governor Jeb Bush. Shortly thereafter, CMS notified AHCA that it would conduct a broad review of the waiver, including possibly changing the waiver terms and conditions. Instead of considering a waiver extension, CMS will require AHCA to submit a new waiver proposal. In the Legislature, the House and Senate continue to negotiate over a proposal to expand Medicaid managed care statewide, although no visible progress on compromise has been made thus far.

Budget

Budget conference fast tracked, but major issues remain. The Legislature convened in conference on the budget on Wednesday after accusations earlier in the week regarding gamesmanship by members of both chambers. As part of the compromise, the Senate agreed to advance a bifurcation of the Florida Supreme Court into separate criminal and civil divisions, each comprising five justices. The proposal is a priority of Speaker Dean Cannon, which supporters argue will increase the efficiency of the high court in hearing cases. Proponents argue the proposal is little more than a “court packing” scheme to obtain more favorable outcomes for Republican proposals. The Senate also dropped its proposal to include the budgets of the state’s five water management districts within the overall state budget as well as a proposal to merge the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority into the state’s Florida Turnpike Enterprise. Through the weekend, a number of minor and major outstanding issues were resolved by the appropriations chairs, including requiring state employees to contribute three percent of their income to their retirement plan. The final budget must be completed and provided to the Legislature and other parties by the end of the day Tuesday, as the Florida Constitution requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period before a vote for final passage may be taken on the budget.

Legislature

Firearm bills passed out of the Legislature. A number of bills relating to gun ownership passed the Senate along nearly party-line votes last week after debates by members in both chambers. S.B. 234 by Sen. Greg Evers authorizes persons who possess a concealed firearms permit to briefly and openly display the firearm and to carry or store the firearm in a vehicle. The bill originally allowed the open carrying of a firearm if the owner possessed a concealed firearm permit, which engendered significant opposition from law enforcement groups. Proponents countered that concealed firearms permit holders should not be subject to prosecution for accidental exposure of a lawfully concealed firearm. S.B. 234 now goes to the House for final consideration. H.B. 45 by Rep. Matt Gaetz preempts the entire field of firearms regulation to the state, including firearm storage and waiting periods. The bill imposes a fine of up to $5,000 for a knowing and willful violation of the state’s preemption by an elected or appointed local government official or administrative agency head under whose jurisdiction the violation occurred. The bill also creates a civil cause of action against any county, agency, municipality, district, or other entity for declaratory and injunctive relief as well as actual damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Opponents argued that the preemption would prevent municipalities from preventing an individual from bringing a firearm into a meeting of the local governing bodies, such as school boards, while proponents argued government officials should be held liable for impacting a constitutionally guaranteed right. Finally, H.B. 155 by Rep. Jason Brodeur prohibits a health care practitioner, as well as hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers, from intentionally entering any information regarding firearm ownership into the patient’s medical record if the practitioner knows that such information is not relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety. A health care practitioner or facility may inquire into gun ownership only if the information is relevant to the patient’s medical care or safety. Opponents argued that gun safety is a fundamental part of patient safety and that the proposal violates the physician-patient relationship, while proponents argued that gun ownership is irrelevant to the provision of health care. The bill, along with H.B. 45, now heads to the governor.

Significant school choice bills quickly advance in the House. A number of bills expanding school choice programs advanced on the floor of the House last week. H.B. 1331 by Rep. Michael Bileca modifies the Opportunity Scholarship Program to allow a student to enroll in another public school if the student has spent the prior year in attendance at a public school that has received a D or F grade and that is in one of the two lowest categories of the state’s “differentiated accountability” system. The bill was passed out of the House, while the Senate bill, S.B. 1822 by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, is on the Senate Second Reading calendar awaiting placement on the Special Order Calendar for floor consideration. H.B. 7197 by Rep. Kelli Stargel significantly expands opportunities for students in grades K – 12 to participate in virtual education. The bill authorizes charter schools to operate a virtual charter school to provide full-time online instruction; expands the Florida Virtual School to provide full-time instruction in grades K – 12 and part-time instruction in grades 4 – 12; expands school district virtual instruction programs to include part-time instruction in grades 9 – 12; and requires that all statewide end-of-course assessments be administered online. The bill also passed out of the House, while the Senate bill, S.B. 1620 by Sen. Anitere Flores, is on the consent calendar for today for expedited consideration and passage.


Public Policy News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the-minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our clients and our colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss these topics further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:

G. Donovan Brown
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3362
gbrown@foley.com

Marnie George
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3398
marnie@thegeorgegroup.com

Michael P. Harrell
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3373
mharrell@foley.com

Robert H. Hosay
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3382
rhosay@foley.com

Jonathan P. Kilman
Orlando, Florida
407.244.3256
jkilman@foley.com

Paul W. Lowell
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3380
plowell@foley.com

Thomas J. Maida
Tallahassee, Florida
850.513.3377
tmaida@foley.com

Marnie George of The George Group assists Foley on a variety of government and public policy matters as a consultant.

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