Influence Archives - Page 3 of 337 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott signs Janet Cruz-sponsored bill letting patients make fewer drug store trips

Rick Scott signed SB 800, the Senate companion to House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz’s HB 1191, putting medication synchronization into law.

What’s that, you ask?

Many patients, especially those with chronic conditions who may have been prescribed medications from different specialized physicians, currently face various refill dates and multiple trips to the pharmacy each to maintain their prescribed treatment plan.

This lack of alignment (or synchronization) in prescription fill dates has been identified as a major contributor to medication nonadherence, which results in bad health outcomes for patients and an estimated annual impact of $300 billion a year in avoidable costs to the U.S. health care system.

The new law now prohibits health care companies from denying patients the ability to receive a partial refill of a prescription if they choose to enroll in a medication synchronization program through their pharmacy. This should allow more patients to synchronize their prescription plan and lead to better health outcomes.

“This new law is an invaluable tool for elderly and chronically ill patients in Florida who find it burdensome to make multiple trips to the pharmacy each month,” Cruz said on Thursday. “Medication synchronization will lead to better health outcomes and longer lives for thousands of Floridians who are in need of continuing care. I am grateful to my colleagues for their overwhelming support of this legislation, and I thank Governor Scott for signing it into law.”

In new video ahead of HB 7069 signing, Florida House declares ‘hope has arrived’

The Florida House is touting the signing of a wide-sweeping education bill with a new video.

The nearly 3-minute web video, released ahead of a bill signing event at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, features news clips showing parents talking about their children and reporters highlighting the 2015 “Failure Factories” series by the Tampa Bay Times.

After the words “failure no more, hope has arrived” flash onto the screen, the video shows footage of Rep. Byron Donalds talking about the bill (HB 7069) during a committee hearing earlier this year.

“We are wasting the educational time and the economic future of the kids who sit in those classrooms,” the Naples Republican is shown saying in the video. “The real conversation is what are we doing to make sure the children who are in the biggest need have the greatest opportunity for success.”

“What we’re doing here is allowing operators who have a demonstrated track record of success in low-performing areas in other parts of the United States of America, and we are giving them the opportunity and the ability to come to Florida and perform for the kids who are at risk the most,” continues Donalds, who was an advocate for the bill. “That’s what we’re doing in this bill.”

The Governor’s Office announced Thursday he planned to sign a major education bill at 3:45 p.m. The governor’s daily schedule listed the event as “HB 7069 Signing and Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill, among other things, creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this reported, reprinted with permission.


Don’t estoppel believing: Now it’s a law

After years of unsuccessfully fighting its way through the Legislature, the estoppel bill is now law.

Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday signed the measure (SB 398), which overhauls the legal process of estoppel letters. It goes into effect July 1.

“We are grateful for this compromise that will benefit Florida homeowners, associations, and taxpayers,” said Mark Anderson, Executive Director for Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies (CEOMC). “The Florida House, Senate, and Gov. Scott deserve credit for finally getting this across the finish line.”

Estoppel letters, or estoppel certificates, are an obscure part of some real estate closings.

They’re legal documents sent by a homeowners association, detailing any amount owed to the association. Usually, that’s unpaid fines or association fees left by owners who defaulted on their mortgage.

Title agents and Realtors have wanted to shift the cost of preparing such letters from themselves back to the associations. Anderson has said preparing estoppel letters takes time and research, costing anywhere from $15 to $400.

Former state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami-Dade Democrat, disputed that story when she was in the Legislature, saying all homeowners associations “do is punch a button on a computer … It’s been a ripoff for a while.”

Among other things, the measure allows an association “to charge a maximum fee of $250 for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate, if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association (and) an additional maximum fee of $150, if there is a delinquent amount owed to the association,” the bill analysis says.

PR man and communications savant Kevin Cate, in an effort to get people to pay attention to the issue, once rebranded it as “smashing the Home Tax.”

Could Erin Grall become ‘Madam Speaker?’

Erin Grall first thought about making a run for legislative leadership during the 2016 election cycle.

At the time, she said it didn’t seem like there would be a chance for her to run for Speaker. But then Republican members voted to change the rules governing the election of their leader. Now every freshman had a full session to make an impression before the real campaigning was supposed to start.

“When the rules changed, I saw it as an opportunity to work really hard … and get to know my classmates and let them get to know me,” she said in an interview Wednesday.  “I feel like that’s the best approach to servant leadership.”

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the 39-year-old Vero Beach attorney is one of five members of the Republican freshman caucus running for Speaker. If elected, Grall will be the first female to serve in the position.

Grall said that isn’t the only reason why she’s running, but acknowledged that she would offer a “new and different perspective.”

“I very much believe that role models are important. To the extent that I could get other women involved in the process, I think it’s important (they are involved,)” she said. “Our perspective is a little different. I think that it is lost in the process. It is important. I believe I was successful, but I think some women don’t feel there is going to be support.”

Grall was elected in 2016 after a tough primary election in House District 54. Four Republicans, including Grall, were vying to replace Debbie Mayfield, who was term-limited and running for the Florida Senate.

The House District 54 race marked the second time Grall has run for office. She ran in House District 29 in 2010, losing the race to Rep. Tom Goodson by just 1 percentage point. It was that race, though, that made Grall realize she wanted to be in public service.

Tough races, both in 2010 and again in 2016, have helped shape Grall. She said it’s shown constituents, as well as her colleagues in the Legislature and others in The Process, that she has a strong center and is a “voice for advocacy.”

Grall said she has started to have discussions with her colleagues about her candidacy in a more open way. She said she thought having discussions about it “during session could have provided a distraction,” and has recently started talking to members about her vision for the future.

“My conversation is about how do we bring new members to a collective vision of a 20-year plan, and not a 2-year election cycle,” she said.

That means building on the ideas put forward by current leadership and making sure future classes understand that vision; looking at ways to make sure “each and every member’s talents are being utilized” to their best potential; and offer training and mentoring to people who want it.

With about two weeks until the vote, Grall said she was “not certain” about her chances. Under new Republican conference rules, candidates for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30.

While Grall might not be willing to handicap her chances, a push for a secret ballot come election day might be to her benefit. Grall said that method will “allow people to vote for the best people to serve the class and Florida.”

Three candidates — Randy Fine, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — have been in the race for a significant period of time, while Byron Donalds, like Grall, is a relatively recent entrant into the race.

Grall said there has been value in the conversations she has been having, and it is clear her colleagues “have a great deal of respect” for her. She said she’s hopeful that will translate to success come June 30.

“I know I will be able to work with all of them in success for Florida,” she said.


Rick Scott vetoes higher education bill, priority for Joe Negron

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a wide-sweeping higher education bill, saying the legislation “impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve.”

The bill (SB 374) was a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, who has made improving the State University System a cornerstone of his term as Senate President.

The bill, among other things, enhanced policy and funding options for state universities to “recruit and retain exemplary faculty, enhance the quality of professional and graduate schools, and upgrade facilities and research infrastructure,” according to a May 5 conference report. It also restructured the governance of the Florida College System and modified “the mission of the system and its institutions.”

Scott appeared to take issue with the provisions dealing with the state college system. In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner explaining his veto, Scott said the legislation “impedes the State College System’s mission.”

“This legislation impedes the State College System’s mission by capping the enrollment level of baccalaureate degrees and unnecessarily increasing red tape. This interference impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve,” he wrote. “In addition to this legislation, the total budget of the State College System was cut by $26.7 million during the 2017 Regular Session.”

Scott went on to say that while the bill makes “positive changes to several State University System programs, and there are many provisions I think would be good for students, it does so at the expense of the Florida College System.”

Negron said he fundamentally disagrees with that assessment.

“I fundamentally disagree that SB 374 makes positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges. Like Governor Scott, many members of the Senate attended our state’s community colleges and we recognize the vital role they play in our public education system,” said Negron. “For that very reason, we crafted SB 374 to further elevate Florida’s nationally-ranked community colleges through a renewed focus on their core mission – on-time completion of vital associate degrees and workforce credentials that prepare students for jobs in communities across our state.”

In addition to changes to the state university and state college systems, the bill also increased student financial aid and tuition assistance by expanding the Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars award to cover 100 percent of tuition and specified fees, plus $3000 per fall and spring semester for textbooks and other college-related expenses; expanding the Benacquisto Scholarship Program to include eligible students graduating from out-of-state; and establishing the Florida Farmworker Student Scholarship Program.

In his veto letter, Scott said the expansion of Bright Futures will still occur in fiscal 2017-18.

“Because this important expansion currently exists in the budget and proviso language in SB 2500, Florida’s students will still benefit from this critical program,” wrote Scott. “I urge the Legislature to pass legislation that revisits these issues and expands Bright Future Scholarships permanently while recognizing the importance of both our state colleges and universities in the 2018 Legislative Session.”

Negron said his travels across the state have taught him the importance of Bright Futures, and said the governor’s veto makes advance planning “much more difficult.

“As I have traveled the state talking to families, I have learned what an important role Bright Futures plays as students plan their financial investment in a college or university education,” he said. “Students and families deserve certainty when making these important decisions, and today’s veto makes advance planning much more difficult.”

The veto comes just days after the end a Special Session, where Scott saw many of his priorities approved. While the Senate backed Scott throughout the regular Session, there appeared to be some tension between the Senate and the governor during the three-day special session.

The special session also saw a reconciliation between Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who were often at odds with each other throughout the regular session.

Scott and Corcoran embarked on a one-day, multi-city victory tour Tuesday to highlight the legislative victories. A spokeswoman for Negron said Tuesday that Negron had already departed for a prior commitment in California before the events were confirmed, but said he “looks forward to attending future events with the Governor and Speaker Corcoran to discuss the important accomplishments of the 2017 Session.”

Rick Scott signs pollution notification bill into law

Companies will now be required to promptly notify the Department of Environmental Protection of a pollution incident under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The so-called spill bill (SB 1018) requires companies to submit a notice of a reportable pollution release to the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of the release. That notice must contain a detailed description of the installation, substance and circumstance of the spill.

“I am proud to sign this legislation today to strengthen Florida’s pollution notification laws. The sewage spill in Pinellas County and pollution incident at Mosaic last year demonstrated the importance of a 24-hour public notification requirement following pollution incidents,” said Scott in a statement.“Floridians deserve to know about these types of events and every Florida resident should enjoy clean water and a healthy environment. I appreciate the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their work on this legislation.”

The state agency is then required to publish the notification to the Internet within 24 hours of receiving it. It must also create a system that allows parties to subscribe and receive emails of notices received by the DEP.

“This bill will help increase requirements for pollution prevention and give residents the security that they will be notified when pollution occurs,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, who backed the measure. “Keeping residents informed of potential health and environment concerns is extremely important.”

The bill was backed by Sen. Denise Grimsley and Galvano in the Senate, and Reps. Kathleen Peters and Charlie Stone in the House.

“This bill will give Florida residents the peace of mind that they will be informed if pollution occurs in their community,” said Peters in a statement. “We will keep working to ensure that safety of our families and preservation of our environment is a top priority.”

The measure also provides additional resources for pollution prevention and recovery. It goes into effect on July 1.

Rick Scott: No hard feelings between him and Richard Corcoran

Chalk it up to “passion.” Or politics.

Gov. Rick Scott, speaking to reporters after a Wednesday bill signing, explained away the open tension between him and House Speaker Richard Corcoran after the House this year tried to gut VISIT FLORIDA and do away with economic development organization Enterprise Florida, his two favored state agencies.

By the end of the recent Special Session, however, lawmakers agreed to the creation of an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to be controlled by Scott, full funding for tourism marketing, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.

That deal is said to be in return for Scott’s approval of a controversial education funding policy bill (HB 7069), pushed by the House, that critics say slights traditional public schools in favor of privately-managed charter schools. Scott says he’s still “reviewing” that bill.

“What’s great is that people have passion for what they believe in,” he said. “I know the Speaker has passion for what he believes in; I have passion for what I believe in. Both of us went out there and tried to explain to others (our positions) … but we came together for what is a win for our state.”

Scott in fact went to the districts of House members who supported Corcoran’s plan to defund the agencies and more or less publicly shamed them.

Cut to this week, when Corcoran joined Scott on a “victory tour” to several cities to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during (the) legislative Special Session.”

“I’m proud of the fact we’re able to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA; I’m proud of the fact we have this new development tool, $85 million that’s going to work to get more jobs here; I’m proud that we’re going to partner with the (Donald) Trump administration to help finish the dike,” he said.

Scott was at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to sign a bill (SB 7022) “which provides pay raises for Florida’s sworn state law enforcement officers, correctional officers and state employees,” according to a press release.

“… I’m glad the Speaker believed in all those things and we went to five cities to celebrate that success,” Scott added.

As far as any fight next year for business incentives, which Corcoran calls “corporate welfare,” Scott said he’ll decide then—his last year in office. He’s term limited in 2018.

Till then, “I’m going to keep working hard to get more jobs … I’ll use the tools that we have to call on companies … and I think it’s going to work,” he said.

Gary Farmer to Rick Scott: Veto ‘dreadful’ HB 7069

A new state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Rick Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.”

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a 2-page letter to Scott Tuesday on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools.

“This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources towards improving our public education,” Farmer wrote.

The bill “would force school districts to give an even split of locally derived capital outlay funds to charter schools.”

Farmer also mentioned how “the process through which this bill was passed also raises some serious transparency issues.”

He said the bill “was fundamentally changed into a 278-page amendment that slashes funding for struggling schools and requires school districts to pay for charter school projects that they cannot afford.”

Moreover, the final product “included provisions that were the subject of some 55 other bills, the vast majority of which either had been voted down in committee or had stalled,” he said.

The bill “also hijacked unrelated issues, such as recess and Gardiner Scholarships for students with special abilities, in a blatant attempt to borrow support,” Farmer added. “That may be the most offensive part of this process, as these issues enjoyed broad, bipartisan support—unlike the other controversial provisions” of the bill.

“… While there are small pockets of good policy hidden within this bill, it is a monstrosity when coupled with the multitude of bad policies that have been included,” Farmer concluded.

Scott was in a Cabinet meeting Wednesday morning, but was expected to meet with reporters later in the day.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Parker Aziz is no longer Special Master and attorney for the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee.

Off: Nikolas Pascual has stepped down as a legislative assistant for the vacant House District 116 seat.

Off: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off: Zachary McCulley is no longer legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican State Rep. Clay Ingram.

Off: Juanita Olvera is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

Ray Rodrigues: ‘We believe we will win’ suit over medical marijuana smoking ban

The sponsor of a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment said he is confident the state would prevail if sued over the proposal’s smoking ban.

“We believe we will win that lawsuit,” said House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the House’s version of the medical marijuana implementing bill during both the regular and special session this year. “We’re proceeding ahead as if the bill we passed is going to be the way the bill is implemented.”

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an implementing bill during the special session, which ended Friday. The measure, which Gov. Rick Scott has said he will sign, allows patients who suffer chronic pain related to 10 qualifying conditions to receive either low-THC cannabis or full-strength medical marijuana. Under the bill, edibles and vaping is allowed, but smoking is banned.

“We don’t believe you smoke medicine,” said the Estero Republican. “We believe that smoking causes as much harm as the benefits, particularly when we’re offering vaping, which provides all of the benefits and none of the harm.”

That ban has drawn the ire of John Morgan, the Orlando attorney who helped draft the constitutional amendment and bankrolled the 2014 and 2016 campaigns, and other medical marijuana advocates.  Morgan has said once Scott signs the bill he plans to sue over the smoking ban, saying the 71 percent of Floridians who voted for the amendment expected smoking to be a way to consume it.

“I don’t know why they would object to anyone on their death bed wanting to use what they wanted to relieve pain and suffering,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press last week. “If they were really concerned about smoking, why don’t they heavily tax cigarettes?”

Morgan said he plans to file the suit in Leon County, and has enlisted John Mills, a constitutional law expert and the dean emeritus of the University of Florida’ Levin School of Law, to help in the upcoming legal battle.

“I know John Morgan believes he wrote (the amendment so) that it would include smoking. We’ll see what the courts say about that,” said Rodrigues. “We had our legal staff review it first, and it’s very clear where he enumerates in the amendment this was illegal and now this is legal. He did not include smoking in this section, and smoking is illegal today. The section where it enumerated where medical marijuana would be legal does not include that.”

Legislation to implement the 2016 constitutional amendment fell apart on the final day of the regular 2017 Legislative Session after the Senate pushed for retail caps for growers. While medical marijuana wasn’t included in the initial special session call, it was added on Wednesday afternoon — the first day of the three-day of the special session.

Rodrigues said leadership had been in discussions since the end of the regular session about how to work out differences, and finally reached an agreement late Tuesday.

The final bill caps the number of retail locations growers can have at 25 locations across the state. However, the measure allows each grower to open five more locations for every new 100,000 patients in the state’s medical marijuana use registry. The limit on retail locations expires in 2020, a provision that was important for House members, said Rodrigues.

Another important provision was making medical marijuana tax exempt. Rodrigues said that was something House leaders said they wanted to do from the beginning, and something that they were able to get in to the final bill.

Rodrigues said he expects legislation to be filed each session to try to tinker with the state’s medical marijuana program, but said there’s only one way there will be a total overhaul of the system

“I only see one instance where what we’ve implemented is blown up.  We make it clear this is an implementing bill for Amendment 2. Should there be a future amendment for how marijuana is treated in Florida, our amendment is clear … this implementing bill sunsets and an entirely new implementing bill must be devised,” he said. “That’s the only way I see it blowing up, and given how polling numbers have been on recreational marijuana, below 50 percent for years, I don’t’ see that happening anytime soon.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

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