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Lawmakers sign off on generator requirements

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be required to have generators and 72 hours of fuel after the Legislature agreed to ratify a pair of proposed rules sought by Gov. Rick Scott.

Despite concerns about a potential $243 million impact over the next five years, House members Friday voted 108-1 to pass a bill (SB 7028) that will require assisted living facilities to have generators.

The House and Senate had earlier approved a similar rule for nursing homes. Scott issued a statement thanking legislative leaders Friday for ratifying the rules.

“This means Florida’s elderly and vulnerable residents will be safer during natural disasters, and I will never stop fighting to keep them safe,” the governor said in a statement.

The new rules replace a pair of emergency rules that the governor issued in September following the deaths of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County. Hurricane Irma knocked out the nursing home’s air-conditioning system, which led to sweltering conditions.

The emergency rules sparked legal challenges from some industry groups concerned about the potential costs of generators and the quick timeframes sought by the Scott administration. The state appealed the decision and continued to enforce the emergency rules.

The permanent rules ratified this week came after negotiations between the Scott administration and long-term care facilities. But House leaders had remained concerned about the costs for assisted living facilities, which range dramatically in size.

Friday’s House vote on the assisted-living facility rule was a surprise turnaround and came after aggressive lobbying from the Scott administration, including Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior.

The issue of nursing homes and assisted living facilities having backup power on site was a top priority of Scott during this year’s Legislative Session.

But the House never introduced a bill to ratify the ALF generator rule.

House leaders, however, agreed Friday to take it up and pass it. Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican, was the lone no vote. The Senate voted unanimously Monday to approve the bill, which means the measure is now ready to go to Scott for his signature.

Gail Matillo, president of the Florida Senior Living Association, said her members are glad to have permanent rules in place.

”We’ll work closely with our members to make sure they can comply in the best way possible,” she said.

Florida Health Care Association lobbyist Bob Asztalos also said the rules lay out what is expected of long-term care providers going into the hurricane season.

“We appreciate that the governor worked with us developing (the rules) and are pleased that now there is certainty in how we take care of our residents for disaster purposes,” he said.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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