Influence – Florida Politics

Personnel note: Fla. Dems promote Roosevelt Holmes, announce new hires

The Florida Democratic Party announced a slew of new hires and one promotion Tuesday as it gears up for the 2018 election cycle.

“I am extremely proud to announce some of our recent hires to the Florida Democratic Party. This is a passionate, diverse, talented, and experienced group of Democrats and we are grateful they have joined us to help turn Florida Blue in 2018,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

“We know what Florida looks like after nearly 20 years of being under all Republican rule – an economy that does not work for all Floridians, a weakened public school system, rising health care costs while insurance companies get tax breaks, and leaders who are controlled by special interests. We have hired a staff who knows what is at stake in 2018 and this team is qualified and committed to electing Democrats up and down the ballot, to move Florida, forward!”

Topping the bulk announcement was the promotion of Roosevelt Holmes III, who will now serve as senior advisor to the Florida Democratic Party.

Holmes joined FDP as deputy political director in 2015, and was bumped up to political director last year. He also recently served as the party’s interim executive director.

Before joining FDP, Holmes worked on winning campaigns for several Democrats, including Barack Obama in 2008, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in 2012. He also worked in Rep. Kathy Castor’s office, for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Workforce, and served in the Government Affairs and Public Policy Department of the UNCF.

New hires in the announcement:

Clifton Addison will serve as a deputy political director. He joins FDP after serving as a Legislative Aide in the Florida Senate and as the African American Outreach Director of For Our Future PAC.

— Lauren Calmet will serve as a deputy political director. Lauren previously served as the Director of Community Affairs for the Florida Coalition for Children.

Kevin Donohoe will serve as a senior spokesperson, with a focus on the race for Florida governor. He previously worked to elect Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in 2017.

Sebastian Kitchen will serve as a senior spokesperson, with a focus on the U.S. Senate race. He most recently directed communications for Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’ 2017 campaign.

Asriele Stubbs will serve as the community engagement director for South Florida.

Ella K. Coffee will serve as the community engagement director for West Central Florida.

Alexandria Ayala will serve as the community engagement director for Palm Beach and Treasure Coast

Lisa Peth will serve as the community engagement director for Northeast Florida.

Adrian Young will serve as the community engagement director for Tallahassee and Gainesville.

Keith Hardy will serve as the community engagement director for Northwest Florida.

Brandon Philipczyk will serve as COO.

Avery Russ will serve as a compliance assistant.

Nicole Torres will serve as a compliance specialist.

Alex Barbieri will serve as the data and analytics director.

Drilling ban could be headed to ballot

Florida’s nearshore waters would be off limits to future oil and gas drilling under a measure that moved closer Tuesday to appearing before voters in November.

The state Constitution Revision Commission voted 32-1 to advance a proposal (Proposal 91) that seeks to prohibit oil and gas drilling within about three miles of the East Coast and nine miles of the Gulf of Mexico coast.

“These things (oil rigs) are not what we want along our shorelines,” said Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor of Sewall’s Point who sponsored the proposal. “We want to protect our natural resources and our scenic beauty.”

Commissioners still will have to take a final vote on the proposed constitutional amendment before it could go on the November ballot. The commission meets every 20 years to propose constitutional amendments and faces an early May deadline to finish its work.

Thurlow-Lippisch said her proposal is a needed “statement” to help the economy, wildlife and quality of life for Floridians.

“It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, or black or white or an alien from outer space, if you get to come here, you can walk the beaches and enjoy what they are,” Thurlow-Lippisch said.

Florida law currently prohibits the state from granting leases to drill for oil or natural gas in state coastal waters. But putting a drilling ban in the Constitution would be more permanent.

Thurlow-Lippisch’s proposal wouldn’t impact the transportation of oil and gas products produced outside those waters.

The proposal comes amid debate about Trump administration plans to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off various parts of the country. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared in January in Tallahassee and said drilling would not occur off Florida’s coasts, but the administration’s stance has continued to draw questions. The issue involves waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf — a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida’s West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast.

Former state Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, recalled the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and said the goal is for it not to happen again.

“Even the perception of oil reaching our Florida beaches, on the Northwest Florida coast, brought our economy, which is largely dependent on tourism, on its knees,” Gaetz said. “The economic damages that we suffered were in the billions of dollars.”

The region has been able to rebound in part through a settlement with BP. About three-quarters of the $2 billion the state is expected to receive will go to the non-profit organization Triumph Gulf Coast, which will direct money to economic-development projects in Northwest Florida.

Constitution Revision Commission member Gary Lester, a vice president of The Villages who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Rick Scott, cast the lone vote against the drilling-ban proposal.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and member of the commission, advised Thurlow-Lippisch — while voting for the proposal — to consider adding a definition of drilling to offset the need for a future constitutional rewrite.

“I can see a day where technology is advanced to a point where someone may be able to do something with a level of comfort, security and safety that would satisfy you and the rest of us, that they could protect Florida’s Gulf Coast and still accomplish the objective we don’t want them accomplishing through what is loosely called drilling today,” Lee said.

CRC won’t consider tax measure

The sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of the Legislature to increase taxes and fees is withdrawing the measure from consideration by the state Constitution Revision Commission.

The Legislature has decided to place an identical measure (HJR 7001) on the November ballot. In light of that decision, Constitution Revision Commission member Fred Karlinsky of Weston said he will withdraw his proposal (Proposal 72), which had been scheduled for consideration by the commission this week.

The Legislature’s ballot measure, which was supported by Gov. Rick Scott, and Karlinsky’s proposal would require two-thirds votes by the House or Senate to pass tax or fee increases in the future.

Under current law, taxes and fees are generally subject to majority votes — an easier standard than requiring two-thirds votes. The Legislature’s ballot proposal will need support from at least 60 percent of voters in November to be enacted.

A poll released last week by the Tallahassee-based firm Clearview Research showed the measure had support from 64 percent of likely general-election voters.

Rick Scott signs bill on power transmission lines

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a bill dealing with the approval of electric transmission lines, an issue that stemmed from a legal battle between Florida Power & Light and local governments in Miami-Dade County.

The bill (HB 405) was one of 30 that Scott’s office announced Monday night that he had signed.

During the Legislative Session that ended March 11, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the transmission-line bill, which was sponsored by Republicans Rep. Jayer Williamson of Pace, Rep. Bobby Payne of Palatka, and Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa.

The bill was rooted in a 2016 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in a dispute involving a proposed FPL project that would add two nuclear reactors at the utility’s Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade.

Scott and the state Cabinet approved the project in 2014 in their role as a state power-plant siting board. But the appeals court overturned that decision, with a key part of the ruling saying Scott and Cabinet members erroneously determined they could not require underground transmission lines as a condition of the project approval.

Lee said last month on the Senate floor that the bill would make changes that would effectively revert to an approval process that had been in place for decades before the court ruling. He said the changes are needed to make sure that transmission lines, which are crucial to power-plant projects, can be sited.

But Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who opposed the bill, said the appeals court sided with local governments on issues related to land use and local regulations.

Bethune statue, slavery memorial, payday loans among bills signed by Rick Scott

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott signed bills into law that will place a statue of Florida educator and civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol, and create a slavery memorial at the state Capitol.

Those two measures were among 30 the governor signed Monday that were passed during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Florida will be making history: Bethune will be the first African-American woman to get her own likeness in in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall in its 154-year history. She founded what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach.

The statue of Bethune, a child of former slaves, will replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida for decades in the Capitol.

The measure creating a slavery memorial at the Capitol calls on the Department of Management Services to develop a plan after receiving recommendations from the Florida Historical Commission. That plan would then be submitted to the governor and legislative leaders.

The full list of bills signed Monday, along with summaries provided by the Governor’s Office, are below:

SB 146 Appointment of Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs – This bill requires certain court costs be paid by the state when pro bono attorneys represent special needs children in dependency proceedings.
SB 220 Bankruptcy Matters in Foreclosure Proceedings – This bill authorizes documents filed in a federal bankruptcy proceeding to be admitted as evidence in a foreclosure.
SB 268 Public Records/Public Guardians/Employees with Fiduciary Responsibility – This bill creates a public record exemption for former and current public guardians and employees with fiduciary responsibility.
SB 386 Consumer Finance – This bill provides additional repayment schedule options for consumer finance loans and sets a maximum delinquency charge of $15 per calendar month for each loan payment in default.
SB 394 Fire Safety – This bill requires the Division of State Fire Marshal to establish specified courses as a part of firefighter and volunteer firefighter training and certification.
SB 472 National Statuary Hall – This bill directs the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to replace the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection with a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune.
SB 498 Office of Public and Professional Guardians Direct-Support Organization – This bill repeals the sunset date for the Foundation for Indigent Guardianship.
SB 510 Reporting of Adverse Incidents in Planned Out-of-Hospital Births – This bill requires that adverse incidents of planned births that occur outside of hospitals be reported to the Florida Department of Health.
SB 512 Homestead Waivers – This bill provides language that can be included in a deed to waive spousal homestead rights.
SB 568 Telephone Solicitation – This bill expands the ‘Do Not Call’ list to include direct to voicemail sales calls.
SB 622 Health Care Facility Regulation – This bill amends numerous provisions related to the regulation of health care facilities.
SB 660 Florida Insurance Code Exemption for Nonprofit Religious Organizations – This bill expands the nonprofit religious organizations’ insurance code exemption to include people sharing a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
SB 920 Deferred Presentment Transactions – This bill creates a new type of small loan up to $1,000.
SB 1132 Vessel Safety Inspection Decals – This bill provides an expiration date for vessel safety inspection decals.
SB 1712 Postsecondary Revenue Bonds and Debt – This bill allows Florida A&M University to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program.
HB 21 Controlled Substances – This bill takes significant steps to combat opioid abuse in Florida.
HB 41 Pregnancy Support and Wellness Services – This bill codifies the Pregnancy Support Services Program in Florida Statute.
HB 53 Coral Reefs – This bill creates the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.
HB 67 Florida Slavery Memorial – This bill establishes the Florida Slavery Memorial to honor the nameless and forgotten men, women, and children for their contributions to the United States.
HB 85 Voter Registration List Maintenance – This bill enhances the Florida Department of State’s ability to prevent voter fraud by joining a nongovernmental organization with other states to verify voter registration information.
HB 87 Public Records/Statewide Voter Registration System – This bill creates a public records exemption for voter registration information received by the Florida Department of State from another state in which the information is confidential or exempt.
HB 405 Linear Facilities – This bill provides legal certainty for decisions made under the Power Plan Siting Act and Transmission Line Siting Act.
HB 413 Trusts – This bill updates and revises provisions of the Florida Trust Code relating to revising trust decanting procedures, electronic delivery of trust documents, and trust accounting.
HB 429 Donation and Transfer of Human Tissue – This bill requires the Florida Department of Health to develop and publish on its website educational information relating to tissue transplants.
HB 623 Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgments – This bill increases protections from unjust foreign court judgments.
HB 6021 The Guardian Ad Litem Direct-Support Organization – This bill continues the Direct Support Organization for the Guardian ad Litem Office.
HB 6515 The Relief of Cathleen Smiley by Brevard County – This bill directs Brevard County to provide $25,000 in relief to Ms. Cathleen Smiley for injuries caused by a county bus.
HB 7029 A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act/Human Trafficking Expunction – This bill continues the public record exemption of criminal history records relating to a victim of human trafficking.  
HB 7031 A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act/Criminal Justice Commission – This bill continues the public meeting exemption of a criminal justice commission while members discuss active criminal intelligence or investigative information.
HB 7035 Ratification of St. Johns River Water Management District Rules – This bill ratifies a St. Johns River Water Management District rule for Silver Springs.


Background provided by The News Service of Florida. 

The ‘policy wonk’ in winter: Joe Negron looks back on lawmaking

Senate President Joe Negron isn’t known for his wisecracks or snappy comebacks. The Stuart Republican, whose time leading the Senate will end after the November elections, instead has a reputation as a sometimes verbose — by his own admission — policy wonk with a methodical and deliberate approach to problem-solving as well as politics.

Negron, who was elected to the Florida House in 2000 before joining the upper chamber in 2009, hasn’t decided whether to stay for the last two years of his final term in the Senate. Negron, 56, will hand over the gavel to his roommate, Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano, in November.

In a wide-ranging interview last week, a relaxed version of the typically buttoned-down Negron spoke about his personal reaction to the “unfathomable” tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, growing up with seven brothers in what sounds like an austere household, and the significance of using fewer words and saying them slowly.

The News Service has five questions for Negron:

Q: You’ve been in politics a long time. What knowledge did you gain that you didn’t have when you started your term as president two sessions ago?

JN: The first is how valuable of a commodity legislators are who are prepared, who do the basic blocking and tackling of presenting their bills, who can be counted on to make persuasive arguments. … Before, I aspired to be one of those people. Now, though, in this position where I’m not doing that, I’m not in committees, the value of that, in my estimation, is very high, even higher than it was before. The value of someone you can rely on. Secondly, it’s the end of the day (during the interview). It’s like the Seinfeld episode. He says one thing funny, and then he tries to do something at the end, so maybe I’m doing that. So I’ll give you an honest one, which is the power of narrative in this town. And narrative is established in the first nine minutes of a circumstance or occurrence and, once established, nearly impossible to rebut. So those would be two things.

(Can you elaborate on that? What narratives do you think ran away from you?)

There was first the narrative that the House was ultraconservative and the Senate was not, was moderate. I think we showed there are a lot of issues where, on the Senate side, we took a more conservative position. Whether it was on stand your ground, whether it was on freedom of expression in public schools, I think some of our consumer positions are the more classically (conservative). So that was a narrative. Then the narrative that the House was getting everything and the Senate’s not doing well. That narrative. Those are sort of meta-narratives to contest. There are little narratives and issues that I would look at and say, “I didn’t even know we were fighting about that.” It could be just a policy area or it could be an industry fight. There is a constant battle to create and sustain narratives from large issues to small issues, from funding issues to … Everything that affects a legislative session, whether it’s a policy item, whether it’s a budget item, there is a constant, unremitting battle for narratives. The person or group who wins the battle to frame an issue on favorable terms, their success rate in achieving their goal goes substantially up. I knew that people try to tell a story. But the narrative that’s out there has a wide-ranging effect on the state of mind of legislators, their view of the world. People read something and even if they were part of it actually occurring, the narrative that’s out there will affect their interpretation of events they were actually a part of and saw. If I was going to give advice to a successor, I would say you should have a chief narrative officer in the president’s office.

Q: What advice have you given to Sen. Galvano?

JN: He doesn’t need my advice. I need advice from him. I wasn’t joking when I said we have a lot in common. His leadership race took 3 ½ weeks. Mine took 3 ½ years. He doesn’t need advice from me. We talk about ideas. He’s been alongside for most of this journey. I’ve probably learned more from him than he’s learned from me. One thing I’ve learned from him that’s practical, is to talk more slowly, and fewer words. Sen. Galvano’s very measured in his words. I tend to, when I get a question about something I feel strongly about, I tend to (say), I have three points, here’s point one, here’s point two. I’m still ridiculed in a playful way. … Playful’s not the right word. Friendly. In a friendly way by my colleagues for — remember I rolled out an amendment in Appropriations … an amendment that I lost — for the four privileges. There’s the husband-wife privilege. There’s the doctor-patient. I went through like all the different privileges and I was trying to get to a point and I was just like losing everybody. See, Galvano doesn’t do that. Galvano has another move, too, where he kind of answers the question and then just sort of stops, like, how’s this question still going on? Whereas I tend to go bop, bop, bop. So I’ve learned that from him. And we both have good preparation skills. That’s one reason why we get along so well. We both get books out and we spread them out on the kitchen table and work through things, and he’s known for his attention to detail, as I think I am. But I’ve learned that from him. Fewer words and delivered more slowly.

(Have you done that?)

I have. I don’t mind you asking. In meetings, especially. People that are talking aren’t necessarily interested in your opinion. They more want to tell you what they want you to hear, what they want to communicate to you. So in meetings, of course I’ll respond to questions if asked and I’m polite and respectful, but I think I’ve learned to listen more and to talk less. There’s a verse in Proverbs that is good for all this. This is the King James, because that’s how we were brought up. It says, “In the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin.” Which is an Elizabethan way of saying, if you keep talking, eventually you’ll say something that’s regretful. It’s true. So I’m going to start talking a little less in this interview.

Q: How did the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and meeting with the students and the parents, affect you on a personal level?

JN: It’s devastating. One reason I don’t talk a lot about it is because I get too emotional just talking about it. Sen. (Lauren) Book I thought was incredibly moving and powerful and persuasive on the Senate floor. The one young man she talked about, Kyle, I was with her when we saw Kyle. That was not an exaggeration. A third of his foot was blown off. The only reason he wasn’t killed was — and he volunteered to tell us this story, some people didn’t want to talk but he did — so he told us that he saw the killer and his instinct was to jump and get out of the way, so literally, he starts diving in mid-air and going through the air horizontally, and by the time the gun was fired, it hit his foot. So about a third of his foot, from the shot, was missing, and they’re trying to put his foot back together, having to get tendons and ligaments from his upper leg to basically rebuild his foot. Then we saw another young man in the hospital who also had injuries from being shot and was recovering. And then, and I don’t even know if I can talk about it, but the Peter Wang funeral that we went to, was … She mentioned it, and her words can speak for, but that — the family and the close Chinese community in that area and just hundreds and hundreds of people who came to walk by to pay their respects and the immense sense of loss the parents felt. I asked the mom, through an interpreter, because, to me, it was a morally correct position when someone is shooting that you would try to escape. There’s nothing immoral about that. Nothing unethical about that. Somebody’s shooting, everybody has a right to leave. And instead of leaving, he’s holding the door and letting multiple people go ahead of him, which resulted in him being killed. Then she told about how he was brought up to care for others. They have a large extended family of cousins. He looks after the younger ones and will even check in on the older ones. Then West Point came down and class of, I believe 2024, and in my head I’m thinking, just the enormity of the whole situation. Then, of course, seeing the school and seeing, there was a stool in one of the classrooms, because we could look through the windows of the classrooms. And there was a stool and there’s blood behind there. And you realize somebody was sitting there. And then there were carnations all over the school and all over the desks, and on one of them, you know how we all have the little Apple earbud things, just sitting there, someone’s Apple thing just sitting on their desk. Stuff strewn all over the campus. People running for their lives. You can see where the coach, Coach Feis that we included in the bill, where he was killed and what happened. I can’t really explain it. It’s overwhelming. There are certain places in our society that are sacred places, sacred spaces. To me, I include courthouses in there. Courthouses are where important things happen and people’s lives are changed. I’ve always considered that a sacred place. And then schools. I have three children. We’ve all waited in line at the pick-up line, and when you see an invasion of that and a temporary destruction of that — and ultimately, the school will prevail and the parents and the community will prevail — but to see the loss that was visited upon people that are just sitting in a classroom, it’s still unfathomable to me. All we can do is, we talked to the parents and we talked to law enforcement, and do our best to address it in a responsible way to try to reduce the risk of it happening again, but on a personal level it’s … It’s bad. Everyone feels safe at school. There’s a whole feeling you get at school — the backpacks, and the routine, and the lunches — and we’ve all spent a lot of time on campuses, volunteering for things, and just to see that turned into a horrible scene, it’s, it’s just devastating.

Q: What are you reading?

JN: My colleagues got me, “Letters from Prison,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I read that poem at my designation, the “Who am I?” poem which he wrote when he was in prison. … In my portrait, there’s a book called “The Cost of Discipleship,” that he wrote. My dad gave that to me when I was 12 or 13 years old. That’s one reason I’m the earnest person that I am. There was not a lot of frivolity in our family growing up. I hear about kids that are running around, there’s balloons. No. We’re reading. We’re going to church. We’re serious-minded people, and you guys need to work really, really hard if you want to move up. That was the whole theme of our house growing up. I’m not joking at all. My mother said, “You’re born to work. If you have any fun along the way, that’s great, but essentially you’re here to work.” No, I’m not making this up. It’s come full circle. That’s true.

(Negron’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, says the other book in the portrait is “Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott.)

Yeah, Little Women. My mom read that to us when we were kids. She read us “Little Men” and “Little Women.” For some reason I remember “Little Women” better so I picked that one. But yeah, we were readers. It was a serious operation, the nine of us, seven boys and two parents. On Saturdays, my mom would write a list. And you had to get all your jobs done on the list and when that was done, then we would do something, go to the park or play Monopoly, or get ready for church on Sunday. But we had a list of things and those things all had to get done. But, you know, list-making works good for appropriations. How do you think I got this job?

Q: What do you listen to on the 5 ½-hour drive home?

JN: I’m not listening to Hits 1 on my Sirius so much anymore. I listen to the comedy channel. There are so many comedy channels. I’m a huge fan. Oh, I went and saw Jim Gaffigan in Jacksonville. Do you guys know Jim Gaffigan? Hot pockets. He’s a comedian. So I listen to comedy, news and then the ‘70s channel. You can’t go wrong with rolling out a Supertramp song every now and then. “Take the Long Way Home.” It’s a classic.

Proposal takes aim at hospital ‘certificates of need’

A Florida panel may be on the verge of ending the state’s contentious certificate-of-need process for hospitals.

Such a move could be a victory for Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans who have been unable to win support for the deregulation of the hospital industry in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The Constitution Revision Commission is expected Tuesday to consider a proposal that would ask Florida voters to tie new hospital growth to hospital-acquired infection rates.

Commission member Frank Kruppenbacher initially proposed a constitutional amendment (Proposal 54) that would have prevented the state from limiting hospitals, nursing homes, hospices or intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities through the granting of certificates of need. The proposed amendment was subsequently altered to make clear that while the so-called CON laws would be repealed, laws that restrict or limit the ownership of facilities would remain in effect.

Kruppenbacher is now offering a revision, under the description “access to quality healthcare.” Under it, the state could not prevent hospitals from entering counties if any existing hospitals in those counties have infection rates higher than the statewide average.

The CON program is a regulatory process that has long required hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers to get state approval before adding new facilities or offering expanded services. Scott and House Republican leaders have wanted to eliminate the program, arguing it is a barrier to free enterprise and helps existing health-care facilities avoid competition.

The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years and has the power to place proposed constitutional amendments directly on the November ballot. It is meeting this week in Tallahassee to try to narrow a list of ballot proposals. Ultimately, 60 percent of voters would have to approve any constitutional amendments.

When asked about the certificate-of-need proposal, Kerri Wyland, a Scott spokeswoman, said the governor “looks forward to seeing the CRC’s ideas on how to eliminate restrictions on the availability of health care services to increase access and quality of health care for Florida patients.”

There are 310 licensed hospitals across the state, located in most of Florida’s 67 counties. While more than a dozen small rural counties have no hospitals, other areas are flush in facilities, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough counties which have 35, 23 and 16 hospitals, respectively.

Kruppenbacher’s new revision would not include nursing homes, which means the certificate-of-need program would continue to apply for new long-term care beds. Since 2014, the state Agency for Health Care Administration approved roughly 4,000 new nursing home beds, and upward of 40 new long-term care facilities are being built, said Florida Health Care Association lobbyist Bob Asztalos.

Asztalos said his association, which represents hundreds of nursing homes, supports Kruppenbacher’s revision. He said the certificate-of-need program keeps occupancy rates at Florida nursing homes high, which makes financial sense for taxpayers who foot much of the costs of long-term care through the Medicaid program.

Kruppenbacher’s new proposal would use infection rates as a measuring stick. But it does not define statewide average and does not specify the infection rates it would measure or how it would determine the rates.

Bryan Anderson, vice president of public relations at HCA, said his hospital company wasn’t behind Kruppenbacher’s initial version or the proposed revision and isn’t taking a position on the certificate-of-need issue.

Lindy Kennedy, executive vice president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, urged members of the Constitution Revision Commission on Monday to reject the proposed constitutional amendment and the potential change, saying it would hurt hospitals that provide residency programs to future physicians and provide highly specialized medical care.

“Proposal 54 would be extremely detrimental to safety net hospitals caring for the state’s neediest patients with critical, complex needs,” she said.

Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said the state currently sends hospital acquired-infection information to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes a standardized infection ratio.

In a 2015 report, Florida acute-care hospitals had higher standardized infection ratios than the national standard for infections spread by contaminated hands, ventilators or large tubes that are inserted into large veins.

But Florida hospitals scored better than national average for two other infection categories: infections from catheters and bacterial infections that cause deadly diarrhea.

Rick Scott faces decisions on 14 bills this week

Gov. Rick Scott will act on at least 14 bills this week, including a proposal (HB 67) to create a slavery memorial at the Capitol and a measure (HB 41) dealing with “pregnancy support” services.

Scott faces a Saturday deadline for signing, vetoing or allowing the bills to become law without his signature.

The bills were passed during the Legislative Session that ended March 11. Scott’s office has already said he is expected to sign the slavery-memorial bill, which was sponsored by Democratic Reps. Kionee McGhee of Miami and Rep. Larry Lee Jr. of Port St. Lucie, along with Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat.

It calls for the Department of Management Services to develop a plan and costs for the memorial on the Capitol grounds and to then submit the plan to the Governor and legislative leaders.

The pregnancy support-services bill would put into law a longstanding initiative that provides services to women and encourages carrying pregnancies to term. In the past, the controversial program has been approved annually in the state budget.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, and Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican.

Rick Scott signs bill targeting opioid addiction

Saying it is critical to “stop the addiction in the beginning,” Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a high-profile bill designed to prevent patients from getting hooked on powerful opioids.

Flanked by House leaders and law-enforcement officers at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Scott approved the measure as the state continues grappling with drug overdoses that have surged in recent years. The bill is designed, at least in part, to prevent patients from getting addicted to prescription painkillers and then turning to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

“I’ve met a lot of families all across the state who are dealing with drug abuse,” said Scott, who declared a public-health emergency last year because of the opioid issue. “I have a family member that’s dealt with both alcoholism and drug abuse, and I can tell you it’s very difficult for a family.”

Lawmakers unanimously passed the bill (HB 21) on March 9, the final full day of the annual Legislative Session.

Perhaps the highest-profile part of the bill would place limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases would be limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, though they could prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.” Cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative care patients and those who suffer from major trauma would be exempt from the limits.

Some physicians objected during the Legislative Session to such limits. But House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who took part in Monday’s bill-signing event, defended the approach.

“It (the bill) also says no longer will we prescribe just blanketly 30-day prescriptions. Now we’ll say it’s a three-day prescription, and then you have to come back and warrant (it),” Corcoran said. “Is that an inconvenience? Yes. Is an inconvenience worth saving 50,000 lives nationwide? Absolutely.”

Another high-profile part of the bill will require physicians or their staff members to check with a statewide database before prescribing or dispensing controlled substances. In the past, Florida has not required physicians to use the database, known as the prescription drug monitoring program. The goal of the database is to prevent addicts from visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to get supplies of drugs.

Opioids have caused thousands of deaths in Florida in recent years. In 2016, for example, fentanyl caused 1,390 deaths, heroin caused 952 deaths, oxycodone caused 723 deaths, and hydrocodone caused 245 deaths, according to a House staff analysis.

House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican who sponsored the bill, described it as “another step to curbing this epidemic.”

“I grew passionate about this a couple of years ago because I just saw what it was doing,” Boyd said during the bill-signing event at the sheriff’s office. “There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t have a family member or a friend of a family that hasn’t been affected by this epidemic.”

Shifting money to school officers could be option

Legislative leaders on Friday said they would support allowing unused funds earmarked for a controversial school “guardian” program to be used for school resource officers.

Senate President Joe Negron told The News Service of Florida he believed the Joint Legislative Budget Commission could reappropriate leftover funds but said it’s too soon to say when that might happen.

Many school superintendents and school boards have said they will not implement the guardian program, which would allow school employees, including some teachers, to bring guns to school if they are specially trained and deputized by sheriffs.

The guardian program was part of a $400 million package legislators crafted in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.

The Legislature set aside $67 million for the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program,” named after an assistant football coach who died after using his body to shield students from a hail of bullets from the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle used by Nikolas Cruz in the slaying of 14 students and three faculty members.

The money for the program was included in the $88.7 billion state spending plan signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott. The budget also includes $100 million for school resource officers, but school and law enforcement officials say that is not enough to pay for one officer at each of the state’s public schools.

“Let’s see how school boards evaluate, but there could be a circumstance where money is available,” Negron said during a lengthy interview Friday afternoon.

Superintendents of some large counties — including Broward, where the Parkland school is located — have said they will not participate in the guardian plan, which also requires the blessing of county sheriffs.

“Let’s see what happens. I hope school boards will consider it, but I accept the fact that many of them may not participate and I think … some of those surplus funds could be redeployed toward school resource officers,” Negron said. “That’s something I would support but I would encourage school boards to evaluate what they believe is best for their students, and that’s all we ask. This (the guardian program) is an option.”

It remains unknown how many of the state’s 67 school districts will apply for grants — which would cover training and a $500 equipment stipend for each school worker who participates — for the program. The Department of Education will administer the grants.

House Rules Chairman Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who will take over as House Speaker after the November elections, said in a text Friday he would support allowing the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to redirect surplus funds “only after all counties had spoken on the question.” The commission includes House and Senate members and can make mid-year budget decisions.

The guardian program became a flashpoint for Democrats, students and teachers, many of whom opposed the plan.

For some, the legislation marked an important first step toward stricter gun regulations and a vital response to the Parkland community’s demand for action.

But for others, the guardian program was a deal-breaker.

Calling the program “scary,” black legislators objected that it would endanger minority children who are more likely to be punished at school. And the state teachers’ union asked Scott for a veto, saying the proposal allowing more than 200,000 school personnel to qualify to bring guns on campus would “do more harm than good.”

“We had to make a choice. Compromise is messy, especially when both chambers are controlled by Republicans,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat who graduated from the Parkland high school, told the News Service after Scott signed the school-safety measure March 9. Moskowitz was among the lawmakers and victims’ family members present for the bill signing.

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