Influence Archives - Page 5 of 283 - Florida Politics

Redistricting-related bill OK’d by Senate

The Florida Senate Tuesday passed a bill aimed at streamlining the handling of political redistricting court cases.

The legislation (SB 352) was approved without debate 24-14, sending it to the House. 

Bill sponsor Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican, has said the plan “locks the maps in place on qualification day,” giving clarity to candidates.

It also “encourages” courts “to follow certain procedures to maintain public oversight when drafting a remedial redistricting plan,” according to a bill analysis.

The bill is a response to court challenges over the state’s redrawn districts after the 2010 Census.

Hutson, an Elkton Republican, was concerned that previous redistricting cases were decided “behind closed doors, outside of the public eye” by judges.

Opponents, including Integrity Florida, a Tallahassee-based ethics watchdog, had called the bill a “solution in search of a problem.”

 

Tom Feeney calls Senate plan “largest Florida tax hike in many years”

The head of Associated Industries of Florida came out in opposition Tuesday to the Senate’s plan to repeal a tax break to the insurance industry.

“AIF supports reducing the business rent tax,” AIF president & CEO Tom Feeney said. “However, we cannot support this tax break on the back of creating what would be the largest Florida tax hike in many years if the insurance premium tax salary credit is repealed.”

The bill (SB 378) aims to use the money from the insurance companies’ tax break and use it to instead reduce the tax that businesses pay on their commercial rents, a cut that Gov. Rick Scott has long called for.

“Florida is one of only a few states that have two separate taxes for insurers – a corporate income tax paid by all businesses and a second, punitive tax on the insurance premiums paid by Floridians,” Feeney explained. “The removal of the working tax credit would make premium tax collections from insurers in Florida increase by $297.3 million.”

The state “simply cannot risk the future creation of new high-paying insurance jobs or the loss of such existing jobs,” he added. “We need a predictable, business-friendly environment that includes reasonable incentives for corporations large and small to do business in Florida.  That is what keeps Floridians working and Florida-based companies giving.”

Hefty price tag added to long-term care carve out

The Florida Health Care Association has made carving out nursing homes from the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program their top priority, touting its ability to save the state money.

However, a new roadblock may have just made that task infinitely more challenging.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) recently released an agency bill analysis on Senate Bill 682. The analysis indicated that a carve out of long-term care would come with a hefty price tag — an additional $284 million for FY 2014-2015, $432 million in FY 2015-2016.

The estimated “ongoing cost avoidance” would be $200 million annually.

Specifically, the analysis says that the agency analyzed the potential cost of carving out the nursing facility component from the long-term care (LTC) program utilizing the current managed care population’s characteristics. It modeled the costs of that population if the nursing facility versus community distribution was the same as before the legislature moved Medicaid recipients into the SMMC program.

The finding was that under the current program more recipients were transitioned into the community that would not have occurred under the prior program structure, resulting in the cost savings identified.

Translation: Because Florida health plans are doing a better job at care coordination, they are more successful at transferring members into home and community-based care than the old LTC model was where recipients mostly resided in nursing homes, the state is saving money, and any move back to the old model would come at a cost.

“The Health Plans are doing what the Florida Legislature envisioned when they moved Medicaid recipients, including those in long-term care, into the SMMC program,” said Audrey Brown of the Florida Association of Health Plans.

“The fundamental strategy was to allow Florida’s health plans to coordinate long-term care for our state’s most vulnerable and frail Medicaid beneficiaries and to reduce reliance on nursing homes and increase the utilization of appropriate community-based alternatives,” Brown added. “Simultaneously, this strategy allowed for expanded, meaningful benefits to beneficiaries that the previous fee-for-service Medicaid program did not offer.”

Brown noted the program delivers the right amount and type of care to address individual needs and that satisfaction rates from members in the LTC program were high.

“The program is now delivered through more cost-efficient, home-based care services, which not only offers a less restrictive setting for plan members,” she concluded, “but has also resulted in more than $400 million in cost savings.”

With the House still staunchly lined up behind the value of the SMMC program and a new revelation of this significant fiscal impact — usually a poison pill for legislation — it is likely that Florida’s health plans will come out on top this year and live to fight this, and other attempts at carve-outs, another day.

American Action Network radio spots target GOP resistance to AHCA

The American Action Network kicked off Tuesday with pro-AHCA radio spots in 28 Congressional districts nationwide, and three of them are in Florida.

Those three: CD-3, the home of Rep. Ted Yoho; CD-6, the home of Rep. Ron DeSantis; and CD-8, the home of Rep. Bill Posey.

All three have expressed concerns about the American Health Care Act. Posey and DeSantis are members of the House Freedom Caucus, which has been a hard sell on the bill.

The ads point out issues with the Affordable Care Act, closing with emphatic words from President Donald Trump.

“I want everyone to know that I’m 100 percent behind this. This is going to be great for people,” Trump said after a meeting with House conservatives.

As well, these spots drop just three days after VP Mike Pence and Gov. Rick Scott held a pro-AHCA event in Jacksonville, one well-attended by politicians in the Jacksonville media market.

Yoho and DeSantis’ districts overlap with that media market.

AAN spokeswoman Courtney Alexander described the AHCA as “a conservative plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and give Americans access to quality, affordable health care.”

“Lawmakers will soon face two options, either support patient-centered, affordable health care or keep the Obamacare status quo that has hurt millions of Americans. The latter is unacceptable and unsustainable, that’s why we are urging constituents to contact their member of Congress one last time to ensure they’re on the side of more choices, better coverage and lower costs,” Alexander said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

House bills move ahead on loss of driver’s licenses, human trafficking, Baker Act

Three bills dealing with issues of child support, sexual exploitation of minors and the controversial Baker Act were passed favorably by the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee Monday.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels introduced HB 313, while Rep. Jeanette Nuñez put forth her legislation on child trafficking in HB 1383 and Rep. David Silvers added his measure (HB 1183) to the meeting.

Daniels’s proposal would give Florida judges greater flexibility in considering cases where defendants challenge the revocation of their driver’s licenses due to back payments of child support. Specifically, the bill amends an existing law known as the “Florida Responsible Parent Act,” creating broader circumstances for state judges to consider before taking the license of a parent behind on child support payments.

The original law was aimed at holding so-called “deadbeat dads” financially responsible for their children but has been controversial since its start. Critics argue it cripples those coming from lower socio-economic circumstances and makes employment prospects tougher, if already unemployed at the time of the license revocation. For with jobs, the loss of a driver’s license can lead to unemployment, further complicating their situation with a judge.

Additionally, opponents have cited many of those caught driving without a license become ensnared in a web of ongoing legal problems and poverty, exponentially worsening their situation, and creating the potential for criminalizing offenders, which makes it harder to be a financially responsible parent.

Daniels said her legislation would prevent judges from automatically revoking licenses or arresting offenders of the Responsible Parent Act. Through electronic monitoring devices, a defendant could keep their license to drive back and forth to work through supervision of the court system and authorizes the state to provide businesses with tax incentives for employing defendants in such cases.

Separately, Nuñez’s bill would change the language in a measure already addressing human trafficking, but not specifically worded to be inclusive of the term “commercial” in the exploitation of minors under 18 years old.

HB 1383 changes several internal and external reporting requirements for the Dept. of Children and Families, the legislator said.

“First the department must submit to the legislature a report from information of the CBC (community-based care) lead agencies noting the prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation and the specialized services used to treat these children, and local service capacity,” Nuñez told the committee Monday. “Secondly the bill also requires the department to maintain data on verified victims of commercial sexual exploitation referred to non-safe houses in their community.”

Current law only requires them to maintain data on who are referred to safe houses, she said.

Further, DCF must conduct multidisciplinary staffing on victims of commercial child sexual abuse to determine their needs. The proposal also would require a so-called “case plan” for those victims and mandate DCF to follow up on all victims of child sexual exploitation, not just individual segments.

Finally, HB 1183 — Silver’s measure would require hospitals or other facilities accepting a child 10 years or younger to notify the clerk of courts in the appropriate county within 24 hours, a sticking point for several committee members who thought it should be inclusive of everyone 18 and under.

The vice chair of the committee, Rep. Julio Gonzalez, wanted to know why the bill was only inclusive of such a narrow — and young — segment of the child population at risk of being lassoed into the Baker Act, which is a process by which a person can be involuntarily detained for psychological purposes.

“There has been a lot of situations in which children have been acting up in school, and unfortunately school will be stopped if they’re suspended, but that’s not the case if they’re Baker Act’ed,” Silvers responded. “So I want to make sure the children that are going to facilities — mental health facilities — are there because they need the help, that they’re not just there for punishment for acting out in class.”

But after several questions by committee members addressing concerns about the bill to Silvers, Gonzalez circled back to his concerns, address one of several he had.

“I think we need to address the 950-lb gorilla in the room that we’re going to do the wrong thing — we’re authorizing the schools to use the Baker Act as a crutch,” he said. “Moving forward I’d like to work with you to solve that riddle.”

The bill also grants lawyers automatic access to that child’s records — school, medical, dental, etc. And any hearings regarding that child must be done in his or her presence, regardless of their age, and provides for penalties in cases not adhering to that stipulation, according to the proposal’s language.

Committee Chair Gayle Harrell ended the meeting by saying, “When a 6-year-old is Baker Act’ed there’s a lot going on there. We need to make sure that child is being appropriately treated as rapidly as possible.”

2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission

Carlos Beruff: Constitution Revision Commission won’t waste taxpayers’ money or time

The newly-formed Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) won’t spend time on changes that can’t pass at the ballot box, its chairman said Monday.

“If the public doesn’t feel overwhelmingly supportive of (a proposed amendment), then why do it?” said Carlos Beruff, the Manatee County homebuilder appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. The panel held an organizational meeting in the Capitol.

“It just doesn’t make sense (when) we have a threshold of 60 percent,” he added. “We don’t need to waste the taxpayers’ money or their time with proposals we don’t think are going to meet that.”

The 37-member panel meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document, but its suggestions have to be approved by 60 percent of voters during the next statewide election.

When asked if he’ll authorize polling to know what will make the cut and what won’t, he said, “That’ll probably be part of the plan but I’m not sure.”

He quickly added with a laugh: “I’m not much on that stuff, though. I spent money on polling; I know how that works.” Beruff, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in last year’s primary election.

He did announce the schedule for the first of a series of public hearings for ideas for amendments: Next Wednesday in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County, and April 7 in Palm Beach County. Times and exact locations are yet to be decided, he said.

Beruff also postponed a vote on the commission’s rules, including already contentious provisions on public records and open meetings.

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an open government watchdog, earlier Monday asked Beruff to apply open meeting standards to any meeting of commissioners, not just meetings of three or more.

The current draft rule tracks the Legislature’s rule that two people can meet without requiring notice and availability for public attendance.

Former Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, an appointee of Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said she was concerned there was no provision for a vice-chair.

“There’s no continuity in the event that he, for some reason, cannot act,” she said of Beruff. “That affects how people feel about the integrity of the process.”

As governor, Scott chose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and selected the chairperson. Richard Corcoran, as House Speaker, got nine picks, as did Joe Negron as head of the Senate. Chief Justice Labarga is allotted three picks. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to have been selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

House bill advances to allow alternative treatments for Florida veterans suffering brain injuries, PTSD

A Florida House committee unanimously advanced a first-of-its-kind bill Monday to allow alternative treatments for veterans diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

Treatments to be considered include music, art, horses, dogs, acupuncture, yoga and more.

HB 55, sponsored by both Rep. Daniel Burgess and Rep. Frank White, looks to expand beyond the scope of simply prescribing drugs to vets suffering from the serious diagnoses of TBI and PTSD.

The legislation would authorize the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to contract with certain licensed individuals and businesses offering such service options, as long as they are recognized medically, scientifically or psychologically to have the benefits they claim, and are evidenced-based in nature.

“This bill is important because the military is very good at teaching service members at putting the uniform on, but not so good at teaching us to take it off,” said Burgess, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves who presented the bill to the House Health Innovation Subcommittee Monday. “It isn’t always easy to adjust back into society. I’ve heard stories of soldiers who had to kill someone, then a few days later go on service leave back here in the States. Now imagine that perspective.”

Burgess cited several startling statistics in justification of the bill, chiefly that an average of 25 service members per day commit suicide.

Veterans diagnosed with TBI and PTSD are often prescribed a plethora of medication, sometimes contributing — it has been argued — to depression among veterans and active servicemen and women, leading to higher suicide rates in recent years.

On hand to speak to the committee was Ryan Anderson, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, accompanied by his dog, “Hero.”

He told the committee about a story when his best friend was killed on one of his many deployments to Afghanistan, on Sept. 29, 2010.

“For a long time, I felt like he was always walking right next to me,” Anderson said emotionally. “But this bill is the first of its kind in the United States.”

Anderson went through hyperbolic oxygen therapy, in addition to a few other things before finding Hero, his animal companion.

He backed up Burgess’s statistic on military suicide rates with another more specific to Florida, saying 25 percent of all suicides across the state are made up of active-duty service members or veterans, although they only make up eight percent of the population.

In imploring the committee to vote for the bill and how he had discovered help, he said, “Alternative treatments are saving warriors lives.”

Dorothy Hukill cancer-free, will miss remainder of 2017 Session out of ‘abundance of caution’

Sen. Dorothy Hukill has been deemed cancer-free, but will miss the remainder of the 2017 Legislative Session out of an abundance of caution.

In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, the Port Orange Republican said her team of physicians informed her that “post treatment tests show no remaining cancer and they are optimistic of a cancer-free full recovery.”

While Hukill said she hoped that would signal the end of her treatment, her doctors recommended “one more round of radiation treatments in an abundance of caution.”

Hukill disclosed in November she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and was undergoing treatment. At the time, she said it was in its early stages and her medical team advised the “prognosis for a full recovery is good.”

In her letter to Negron on Monday, she said additional radiation treatments will, unfortunately, mean she “will be unable to return to Tallahassee before the completion of the 2017 Regular Session.

“During this time, I will continue to be part of the legislative process from the District and I look forward to returning to Tallahassee soon,” she wrote.

Negron informed members of Hukill’s prolonged absence Monday, telling them he was pleased to hear that Hukill’s “treatment was successful and her doctors have determined that she is cancer-free.”

Negron said Hukill will continue to manage her “district offices, staff, bills, and committee responsibilities remotely during this time.”

“He will evaluate whether he needs to make additional appointments to account for her absence,” Negron aide Katie Betta said.

“Senator Hukill asked that I convey her sincere thanks for the ongoing support of the Senate family during her treatment,” said Negron in a memo to senators. “While we certainly miss Senator Hukill in Tallahassee, we are delighted that she is on the road to a full recovery and look forward to the day when she can return to Tallahassee.”

“My thoughts are with Sen. Hukill and I hope she gets better soon,” Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon said through an aide.”

Legislation advanced making knowingly spreading HIV through sex without partner’s knowledge a capital crime

Roughly 34 years after the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, Florida’s lawmakers are considering legislation whose maximum sentence would be death to knowingly spread the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, to a sexual partner without their knowledge, according to a committee that voted favorably Monday in regard to the measure.

The bill, HB 165, sponsored by Florida Rep. Kionne McGhee, would expand a current law already on the books in the Sunshine State making it a crime to consciously spread sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

McGhee’s legislation looks to amend the law by adding HIV to a list of STDs, which include gonorrhea, genital herpes simplex, chlamydia, human papillomavirus hepatitis and syphilis, among others. Anyone caught knowingly spreading those communicable diseases can be punished in a court of law and face jail time, but may only be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor crime if they didn’t know it.

The amendment could make it a first-degree felony, punishable by death, if a person knowingly spreads the disease more than once to multiple people.

The move was sparked by a 2011 case in Key West, Florida, that forced Florida lawmakers to redefine the definition of sex. The Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling in connection to the case just last week.

Gary Debaun, 65, allegedly risked his partner with the virus that causes AIDS and a legal definition of sexual intercourse can’t get him out of the charge, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a six-page decision based solely on whether intercourse is defined as only sex between a man and a woman.

“The term ‘sexual intercourse’ is commonly understood to broadly refer to several sex acts — including the sexual act at issue here,” said the court ruling. “In certain contexts, the term refers to specifically — that is, more narrowly, to penile-vaginal intercourse.”

Bill exempting credit unions from deceptive practices laws passes panel

A bill that would give credit unions the same exemption from state anti-deceptive practice laws that banks and savings and loans already enjoy passed a Florida House of Representatives committee with no debate Monday.

The committee substitute for House Bill 1347, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park, would exempt state or federal credit unions from Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act under the assumption that credit unions get all the regulation and oversight they need from other, mostly federal banking laws and regulations.

The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee unanimously approved it, after no one expressed any opposition.

“The current statute provides exemptions for most regulated Florida industries… based on the idea that regulated industries are properly governed by their respective regulatory authorities and their respective corrective actions from those regulatory authorities,” said Democratic state Rep. Richard Stark of Weston, who presented the bill to the committee in Jones’ absence.

The committee equally swiftly ran through a serious of other banking and insurance issues that drew no opposition or debate and little discussion.

Among them was Republican state Rep. Mike Miller‘s House Bill 925 that addressed several state financial administration issues, most notably extending the period in which insurers must permit claims from Holocaust victims, and for Holocaust victims to bring certain claims. That requirement was to sunset this year.

“There are still 12,500 folks who are still eligible for that, so having that expire this year we would be leaving those people out of the mix,” said Miller, of Winter Park.

Also among the bills approved by the insurance and banking panel were Republican state Rep. David Santiago‘s House Bill 359 dealing with medical malpractice insurance rates; Republican state Rep. Daniel Raulerson‘s House Bill 435 dealing with regulation of overseas banks with offices in Florida; Raulerson’s House Bill 437 creating a public records exemption involving overseas banks;

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