Rob Bradley – Page 2 – Florida Politics

FHCA lauds lawmakers for nursing home budget increase

Lawmakers got praise from the Florida Health Care Association Thursday for upping funds to nursing homes in the 2018-19 state budget.

“FHCA applauds the Legislature for making the quality care of our frailest elders a priority. We want to especially thank Senate President Joe Negron, who has long been a champion for nursing home residents. Under his leadership, this year’s budget includes almost $130 million in increased Medicaid funding for nursing homes,” said FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed.

“With those added dollars, facilities will have more resources to retain and recruit higher-quality staff to be directly involved in the care of residents. The funding increase will also support facilities as they continue making measurable improvements to residents’ health and well-being.”

Reed also approved of lawmakers adding in $10 million to help support nursing centers as they transition to the Prospective Payment System in October, and cheered an increase in nursing home residents’ allowances.

“The additional $25 per month this increase provides will allow greater choices for residents who rely on Medicaid as their long term care safety net, helping them to pay for personal items that improve their quality of life – things like beauty services, clothing, and other personal items,” Reed said.

In addition to Negron, the FHCA chief lauded Senate budget chief Rob Bradley and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Reed said lawmakers who backed the increased funding “will be remembered for their effective, meaningful, and thoughtful actions for the state’s long-term care residents.”

Earlier this week FHCA praised lawmakers for approving the nursing home generator rule, which was a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, after a prolonged power outage after Hurricane Irma led to a dozen heat-related deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

Legislative leaders increase funding for UF project

Dozens of member projects were zeroed out as legislative leaders reached a deal on an $87 billion budget deal, but one University of Florida project was not only salvaged, it got double of what the House and Senate had initially agreed to.

“It was about making sure that the projects that we chose had the greatest impact on the economy and greatest return on investments,” Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley told reporters after budget conference Wednesday night.

The House and the Senate had initially agreed to fund the Data Science and Information center at the University of Florida at $25 million, but on Wednesday once the budget deal had been agreed to, it got $50 million in funds.

Throughout the budget process, legislators said a lot of member projects had to be cut to find money for the $400 million “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act.”

Most of the money in the school safety package will go to “school hardening,” such as security upgrades to school buildings and bringing more school resource officer on staff.

DSR survived the belt-tightening without a loss of funds.

“Having this data science center is an important step into the 21st Century and UF is a leader in that cutting-edge technology,” Bradley said.

The UF Data Science Research Lab uses cutting edge technology to develop data management, data mining and data analysis strategies for everything from text-based databases to multimedia ones with images and video.

In addition to state funding, projects at DSR have received funding from federal sources, such as DARPA, and private industry, including Amazon, Pivotal and Google.

‘It’s silly’: Senate won’t punish Enterprise Rent-A-Car for NRA move

Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley said it would set “bad precedent” to go along with a House plan that would have financially punished Enterprise Rent-A-Car for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association.

“I think that it’s silly to get involved in rebidding contracts … because you’re mad at a temporary moment in time about something that they have or haven’t done politically,” Bradley said.

House members,  mirroring what Georgia lawmakers were doing, tried to target an aviation fuel tax reduction benefitting Delta and a statewide rental car contract held by Enterprise after the companies severed ties with the NRA, according to a POLITICO Florida report. The rental cat company’s contract expires in 2020.

The House quietly proposed a plan that would have hurt Delta and Enterprise after the companies decided not to give NRA members discounts following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The decision came after Parkland students, teachers and parents organized massive protests urging for more gun-control measures.

The Fleming Island Republican said the state should not get involved in the fight because it would set “bad precedent” if they did.

Legislative leaders reach budget deal, Session extension looms

Florida lawmakers will extend their annual session for several days to pass a new $87 billion-plus state budget, which will include a $101.50 increase in per-student funding in public schools.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced early Wednesday afternoon that legislative leaders had reached agreement on the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. One of the last issues to be resolved was funding for hospitals and nursing homes.

His announcement came after House and Senate negotiators failed to finalize a budget before a Tuesday deadline, forcing an extension of the 60-day legislative session, which had been scheduled to end Friday.

“We do believe that as of right now we have agreement on the budget,” Corcoran told the House, drawing applause from the members.

But Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron said they have not worked out the timing of the session extension, which will likely mean a final vote on the annual appropriations bill Sunday afternoon or Monday.

The budget bill must be published, and then lawmakers must wait 72 hours before the final vote under a constitutionally mandated “cooling off” period.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said the last major issue settled was a deal securing $40 million in state funds, which can be matched with $60 million in federal funding, for nursing homes.

“It was very important to us in the Senate,” Bradley said. “We have a $100 million to help our elderly, our frail, vulnerable citizens who are in our nursing homes.”

Lawmakers also settled a dispute over a funding formula distributing Medicaid payments to Florida hospitals.

“I tell you I’ve spent the last 36 hours watching a lot of heavily lobbied special interests fight like hyenas over a static amount of money,” Bradley said. “At the end of the day, what is important to us is creating new money to help vulnerable Floridians rather than worrying about how these special interests work out their fights among themselves.”

Although the specific details had not been released early Wednesday evening, Bradley cited a number of accomplishments in the new budget, including $100 million for the Florida Forever environmental land-buying program and $400 million for a school-safety initiative, which will provide more mental health services and security officers for schools.

He said the budget will include a tax-cut package, which is expected to be in the range of $80 million, and will include more than $50 million to address the opioid crisis.

Although state workers will not receive a general pay raise, the budget includes pay hikes for state law enforcement officers, assistant state attorneys, state firefighters, assistant public defenders and probation and detention officers in the Department of Juvenile Justice, Bradley said.

He said there would be “record” funding for the state university system and public schools. The $21 billion public school budget will include a per-student funding increase of $101.50, Bradley said.

The budget includes a permanent expansion of Bright Futures scholarships for students at universities and state colleges, including allowing the merit aid to be used to attend summer classes.

However, without the appropriations bill actually being published, the budget deal technically remained “open” for adjustments on Wednesday, with some lawmakers speculating that it was being used as leverage to sway some reluctant House members as they debated a contentious school-safety bill (SB 7026). The House passed the bill 67-49 early Wednesday evening.

“In my opinion, it’s because they are wrangling votes over there” in the House, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said about the delay on finalizing the budget.

Bradley said he could not speculate on the House, while saying “there were no carrots or sticks with regards to the budget” in the Senate debate over the school-safety bill, which passed in a 20-18 vote earlier in the week. He said the budget delay was caused by differences over the health-care spending.

Sen. Tom Lee, a former budget chairman and Senate president, said he believed there were real budget differences between the two chambers “but maybe they weren’t working on it very hard — they weren’t in a big rush.”

He said using spending initiatives in the annual budget bill to motivate individual members is “a real management tool.”

“They’ve used every tool that I have ever seen used in this building to try to whip the votes for this (school-safety) bill,” Lee said.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Lawmakers will need overtime on budget

Florida lawmakers will need to go into overtime because of an impasse about hospital spending in final negotiations over a new state budget.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, told House members Tuesday night that lawmakers will have to extend the Session, scheduled to end Friday, or hold a Special Session.

“Make preparations because that’s kind of where we are headed,” Corcoran said after a day of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Senate.

Corcoran said a “best-case scenario” would be finishing the Session Saturday. But he also said it was possible the Session would be extended to Monday or that Gov. Rick Scott could call a Special Session that might start as soon as Monday.

It will mark the second year in a row that the Legislature was unable to complete its annual Session in the allotted 60 days.

Last year, lawmakers extended the Session for three days to vote on the budget and then had to return for a Special Session after Scott vetoed the public-school portion of the budget, which he deemed inadequate.

Corcoran did not detail the reasons for being unable to reach agreement.

But earlier, Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said the House and Senate were continuing to negotiate payments to Florida’s hospitals and whether to scrap a long-standing system for a new one that would increase base Medicaid rates paid to every hospital, regardless of Medicaid patient load.

Late Tuesday morning, Bradley said it was “too early to tell” whether lawmakers would be able to reach agreement on an $87 billion-plus spending plan by midnight. Meeting the deadline would give lawmakers enough time to adhere to a mandated 72-hour cooling-off period before a final budget vote on Friday, the last scheduled day of the 2018 Session.

But when Corcoran spoke to House members about 8:15 p.m., he made clear the budget wouldn’t be done in time.

Hours later, there was still no signs of an agreement. If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by midnight Friday, it would mark the second year in a row that the Legislature was unable to complete its annual Session in the allotted 60 days.

The House’s proposed spending plan for hospitals in the upcoming year is essentially a continuation of the current year’s budget. But the Senate has proposed redistributing $318 million in Medicaid “automatic rate enhancements” currently paid to 28 hospitals with large Medicaid caseloads and use it to increase the rates paid for all hospitals.

The Senate budget also includes $50 million to offset the recurring effect of the current year’s budget cuts on hospitals. The Senate plan has been endorsed by some rural hospitals that say the additional $50 million in the Senate plan is what they need.

But the Senate proposal would reduce Medicaid payments to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami by as much as $58 million and Orlando Health by nearly $9 million. House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, said the House would not let safety-net facilities such as those face steep reductions.

HCA Healthcare, a for-profit chain that owns 43 facilities in the state, could see nearly $40.5 million in Medicaid increases under the Senate plan. Tenet, which owns nine hospitals in Florida, would see a nearly $4 million increase in Medicaid payments under the Senate plan, and Community Health Systems, which owns 23 hospitals in Florida, would see as much as a $7.7 million bump in Medicaid payments.

The Senate budget also includes an additional $130 million increase in Medicaid payments for nursing homes that aren’t included in the House budget.

Bradley said Tuesday that once the chambers agree on the hospital spending they will discuss nursing homes.

Negotiations have been completed on a $21 billion public school budget and a $7.9 billion budget for state universities and colleges, including financial aid, Bradley said. But as of Tuesday evening, lawmakers had not released the details of the agreement.

Based on earlier public negotiations, lawmakers will not increase state performance funding for universities and state colleges. That funding would remain at $245 million for the universities and $30 million for the 28 state colleges.

Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, said Monday night he expects the university system to receive an additional $20 million that would be shared by schools that have reached “pre-eminent” status, including the University of Florida and Florida State University. The University of South Florida is also expected to achieve that status in the coming year and would share those funds.

Negron also said he expects a $20 million increase in the “world class” program, which is money shared by all the universities to attract top-level professors and researchers. Another $10 million increase would go to rewarding high-performing medical, law and professional schools.

In the public-school system, lawmakers have agreed to roughly a $500 million increase in the funding formula for the 67 school districts, which should yield a per-student increase in the range of $100 in the new academic year.

School funding was impacted by the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, with lawmakers agreeing to spend an additional $400 million on school-safety and mental-health initiatives.

School-safety legislation (SB 7026) debated Tuesday in the House includes a $97.5 million increase for the “safe schools” program in the funding formula. It would boost the program, which helps the 67 school districts hire school resources officers, to $162 million in the 2018-2019 academic year.

The legislation also would provide $67 million to the school districts in a new mental-health category in the funding formula.

But one of the impacts of shifting more state funding to school safety may be Gov. Scott’s call for an $18 million increase in funding to help teachers buy classroom supplies. The increase sought by Scott would have boosted the annual support to $350 for each teacher, although it appears the program is likely to remain at its current level of $45.3 million, which provides $250 a year.

Hurricane housing programs axed from budget

State funding is absent for affordable housing programs tailored to those affected by last year’s hurricanes.

The reason? Unforeseen constraints created by a high-profile $400 million school safety and mental health proposal designed to prevent another school shooting.

Budget chiefs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Carlos Trujillo told Florida Politics on Saturday evening that the Legislature’s budget will not fund the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program (HHRP) and the Rental Recovery Loan Program (RRLP). Instead, dollars dedicated to affordable housing will go to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL).

“We have limited funds,” Bradley said. “Post-Parkland, everybody is taking a haircut. We agreed that SHIP and SAIL are going to be our focus when it comes to affordable housing.”

The cut to HHRP and LLRP walks back on the intentions of the House and Senate when they first passed their budgets — which happened weeks before the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In its chamber-backed spending plan, the House appropriated $45 million and $64 million for HHRP and LLRP, respectively. The House initially did not fund SHIP and SAIL, instead sweeping $182 million from the affordable housing funding source, known as the Sadowski Trust.

The Senate had prioritized funding this year for all four affordable housing programs. Its first budget appropriated $30 million to HHRP and $60 million to LLRP, along with a little more than $104 million each to SHIP and SAIL. The Senate’s first spending plan did not propose any Sadowski sweeps.

The Legislature now intends to dole out just $109 million on affordable housing through SHIP and SAIL. The Sadowski Trust is expected to have an estimated $308 million to $322 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Close to $200 million from the trust will be spent on other projects.

HHRP and LLRP were spawned in the Legislature following the 2004 Hurricane season, when Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings requested $98 million for HHRP and $177 million for RRLP.

The two programs mimicked SHIP and SAIL, but specified that the money be spent on projects to house those who lost their homes in hurricanes. Both were never codified by statutes and eventually were removed from the budget.

Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican, filed HB 987 this Session to breathe life back into the hurricane housing programs. The popular measure passed the House last week. A similar bill (SB 1328) is up for consideration in the Senate and had widespread support in committees.

The bills include a reactivating clause, meaning the programs could be funded when future hurricanes hit the state. According to Trujillo, that provision can still be signed into law — even if the hurricane housing programs aren’t funded this year. 

Gov. Rick Scott asked the Legislature in November to appropriate $65 million to HHRP and $25 to RRLP as part of a $100 million Hurricane Irma affordable housing relief package

But again, that was before Parkland.

The Legislature’s budget will be finalized Tuesday for a vote on Friday.

Budget negotiators face $7.8m gap over transportation, economic development issues

Florida budget leaders Saturday were still grappling with a $7.8 million funding difference on ‘bump’ issues that impact transportation, tourism and economic development.

The House and Senate met Saturday night in conference, revealing a $6 million funding gap on Department of Transportation-related items and a $9 million difference on economic opportunity projects.

The House and Senate have reached a compromise over funding for Visit Florida though, which has been an annual fight between Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature.

This year, the Legislature has agreed to fund it at $76 million even though Scott initially requested $100 million for the mostly taxpayer-funded tourism marketing agency.

When asked why it was not set at the amount the governor wants, Trujillo said money has been moved around to pay for school safety initiatives in wake of the Parkland mass school shooting.

“I think the governor will be the first to tell you that post-Parkland we have had to sacrifice priorities,” Trujillo said.

Budget leaders agree to more than $100M for Florida Forever

The state is one step closer to restoring funding to its premier land-purchasing fund.

On Friday night, budget chiefs Rep. Carlos Trujillo and Sen. Rob Bradley agreed to fund Florida Forever at $100.8 million for fiscal year 2018-2019 — a big jump from last year, when the Legislature did not appropriate anything to the trust.

The provision will be included in the Legislature’s budget, which is expected to be completed by its Tuesday deadline. Should the budget pass, the Department of Environmental Protection will have to distribute the funds to “state agencies and programs to purchase public lands in the form of parks, trails, forests, wildlife management areas and more,” according to the DEP website.

In negotiations, the House proposed about $36 million for programs funded by Florida Forever. The Senate offered $208 million ahead of Friday’s ‘bump’ deadline. Not a full day later, the House’s $100.8 million bump offer was accepted.

The budget appropriates $95 million to land acquisition subprograms overseen by DEP. The remaining $5.8 million is set aside for a land protection easement program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The agreement marks a legislative success for Bradley, who in October filed a bill (SB 370) that provided for a $100 million yearly spend on Florida Forever.

Bradley’s other environmental initiatives, however, did not secure the funding the Fleming Island Republican originally wanted.

Bradley’s SB 204 sought up to $75 million for springs restoration projects and $50 million for restorations to the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights area lakes. The budget conferences agreed to fund springs restoration at $50 million. The St. Johns River and Keystone Heights area lakes are set to receive almost $5.9 million, which will be coupled with the $5.5 million in the program’s base.

Florida Conservation Voters commended Trujillo and Bradley for funding Florida Forever, and are pushing the chambers to pass measures, including Bradley’s SB 370, that would commit future Legislatures to funding the land-buying trust.

The other bill the group is backing is Rep. Matt Caldwell‘s HB 7063, which would each year increase funding to Florida Forever, appropriating $200 million to the trust by 2029.

“FCV remains hopeful these two good ideas can come together to put the ‘forever’ back into Florida Forever, so that our most treasured natural areas will be protected for future generations,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of the organization.

Lawmakers will vote on a unified budget on Friday.

Final budget items start getting ‘bumped’

Budget conference chairs are now ironing out funding differences between the House and Senate dealing with a wide-range of policy issues.

Chairs Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Carlos Trujillo are figuring out funding for beach restoration, land acquisition and water projects. Currently, the state Legislature is split over nearly $172 million on appropriations for programs funded through Florida Forever.

In the higher education arena, most of the issues sent to budget chairs relate to member projects and implementing bill issues that amount to about $70 million. There are also other money differences revolving around PreK-12 bills that are tied to the budget.

In criminal justice, some issues that have yet to sail through deal with private prison operations and whether a reentry program at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office should get $200,000 in funding.

Bradley and Trujillo have until 10:30 a.m. Sunday to resolve the ‘bumped’ issues before they head to Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Senate OKs new rules for payday loans

The Florida Senate on Saturday approved revamping regulations for payday loans.

Senators voted 31-5 to pass a measure (SB 920) that would allow payday lenders to make larger loans for longer periods of time.

The industry-backed proposal also has sailed through House committees, though it has drawn opposition from some consumer advocates.

The bill would allow the businesses to make “installment” loans up to $1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits the high-interest loans to $500 for periods of seven to 31 days.

Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential changes in federal regulations that could affect the types of smaller-dollar, shorter-term loans made by payday lenders in Florida.

Also, supporters contend that payday loans play a key role for many low-income people who don’t have access to other types of credit.

During brief comments on the Senate floor Saturday, sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, alluded to those issues, saying the bill would ensure the “short-term credit market” would survive amid the potential federal changes.

But some consumer and religious groups have fought the proposal, arguing that payday loans can put borrowers in a “debt trap.”

“We have seen members of our congregations and those in the communities around them fall victim to the debt trap that this type of loan supported by this bill creates,” Rachel Gunter Shapard, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, said in a statement this week.

The bill was opposed Saturday by Miami-Dade lawmakers: Democrats Daphne Campbell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Annette Taddeo; and Republicans Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia.

The issue now goes to the House, with the 60-day legislative session scheduled to end Friday.

Senators met Saturday primarily to take up a school-safety package stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The Senate on Saturday morning began what was expected to be hours of discussion about the package.

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