Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley is undertaking something seen too rarely in the Legislative process: He is actually trying to clean up and improve Florida’s health care financing policy.
Bradley, an Orange Park Republican, intends to do this by finally eliminating “auto-payments,” a payment scheme that Gov. Rick Scott described in 2015 as arbitrary, inconsistent and bearing no relationship to improving access or quality of care.
This is not the first attempt to deconstruct the auto-payment policy.
Last year, the House acted to eliminate the policy for all but a small number of public hospitals that qualify as “safety net” providers.
The House accomplished this through a formula that requires hospitals receiving auto-payment money to have a Medicaid caseload of 25 percent or more. Then they added a complicated set of additional conditions designed to direct as much funding as possible to 11 large, government-funded hospitals.
The result was that out of 28 facilities that qualified for a piece of the $318 million in auto-payment funding, 92 percent – or roughly $292 million – went to those 11 facilities.
The argument those hospitals are making now is that they treat the highest percentage of Medicaid patients. What they don’t want you know is the state already recognizes their high Medicaid caseloads through other channels.
Those same 11 hospitals received $400 million of Low Income Pool funding. They got $163 million in Medicaid Disproportionate Share payments as well.
That’s a whopping $563 million in tax dollars already.
Many hospitals in rural Florida also treat high numbers of Medicaid and charity care patients, but the LIP formula has been manipulated to direct the money to public hospitals, so those rural hospitals now get little to nothing from LIP or the Disproportionate Share program.
Overall, these large, government-funded hospitals are doing very well.
Based on 2016 data, they had an average total margin of nearly 10 percent. That compares favorably with HCA at 9.6 percent or Tenet at 6.6 percent, two for-profit hospital corporations with their own Medicaid and charity care obligations.
About 1 in 6 patients served at an HCA hospital were covered by Medicaid and the company provided $122 million in charity care services. Tenet had a Medicaid percentage of 23.5 percent and provided $33 million in charity care.
Bradley is providing much-needed leadership by attempting to end payment formulas disconnected from any incentives for efficiency or quality of care.
His approach requires a smaller total cut in Medicaid payments to all hospitals compared to last year, specifically improves Medicaid payments for freestanding children’s hospitals and provides a special allocation to fund UF Health Jacksonville, one of those 11 hospitals that truly does need additional help.
Let’s hope this common-sense approach is embraced by both the House and Senate.
As many speculate that Florida’s affordable housing issues will be exacerbated by the influx of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, the state Legislature intends to sweep millions from the Sadowski Trust, which funds the state’s affordable housing programs.
Speaking with reporters late Tuesday night following an organizational meeting of the newly announced budget conference, Senate Appropriations Chair RobBradley said his chamber reversed its position on the fund and will have to sweep dollars for initiatives that surfaced in light of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
“Because of Parkland, we swept a lot of trust funds,” Bradley said. “There just isn’t enough money there to maintain the Senate’s position of not sweeping the fund — we are going to be sweeping that fund.”
The Legislature’s post-Parkland proposal included $263 million for school safety improvements and $102 million for mental health services.
The proposed Senate budget released in late January did not include any sweeps to the Sadowski Trust, leaving an estimated $308 million to $322 million for affordable housing programs in the state. The House’s proposed budget in January included a $182 million sweep to the fund.
This year there was a bipartisan push to prevent future sweeps from the Sadowski fund. SB 874, sponsored by Naples Republican Sen. KathleenPassidomo,and HB 191, sponsored by Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw, sought to prevent the Trust’s dollars from being swept, or repurposed, into unrelated projects or items.
Passidomo’s bill was factored into the Senate’s initial budget proposal. Shaw’s bill was never heard in committee.
House budget chief CarlosTrujillo said a final version of the budget should be released Tuesday morning. The 2018-19 budget is expected to allocate $32 billion in state funds and, with federal funds, is likely to top $87 billion.
House and Senate leaders Tuesday night kicked off formal negotiations on a new state budget — but face hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected costs and less tax revenue than originally thought.
Leaders held an initial conference committee meeting after announcing earlier in the day they had reached agreement on “allocations,” which are big-picture numbers for the various parts of the budget such as education, health care and criminal justice. House and Senate negotiators will use those numbers as they hammer out details of each budget area in the coming days.
The House and Senate have a week to finish the budget if the Legislative Session is going to end as scheduled March 9. A legally required 72-hour “cooling off” period means the budget will have to be done March 6. House Appropriations Chairman CarlosTrujillo, a Miami Republican, expressed confidence the Session will finish on time.
While numerous details still need to be worked out, Senate Appropriations Chairman RobBradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said, in part, that lawmakers plan to provide $80 million in tax cuts and will fund an expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program, a priority of Senate President JoeNegron, a Stuart Republican.
Also, the agreement means that $543.6 million in more funding will be available in the health and human services section of the budget, which includes five agencies. Bradley, however, stressed that policy differences between the House and Senate still need to be negotiated on issues including how the state will reimburse hospitals and nursing homes in the Medicaid program.
Both chambers on Feb. 8 passed budget plans for the fiscal year that starts July 1, with the Senate proposing to spend $87.3 billion and the House proposing to spend $87.2 billion. While the overall numbers were similar, the House and Senate disagreed on myriad details.
But in announcing the allocations Tuesday, Bradley said lawmakers are grappling with unexpected costs and a lower estimate of corporate tax revenue than when the House and Senate approved their budget proposals.
The biggest change stems from lawmakers’ plans to spend at least $400 million in response to the mass shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead. The House and Senate are quickly moving forwardwith bills that include taking steps to boost school safety and mental-health services.
“The tragedy in Parkland changed everything,” Bradley said.
Bradley said leaders have agreed to spend $400 million and that additional money could come through the state’s school-funding formula.
“That is something that we do because you cannot put a price, obviously, on the safety of our children,” he said.
Bradley said, however, that will affect other parts of the budget, which lawmakers are required to balance each year.
“When you take $400 million and put it towards necessary efforts, that creates challenges in other areas of the budget, and we’re up to that challenge, and we will meet those challenges,” he said.
To help pay for the issues stemming from the school shooting, Bradley said lawmakers will take $200 million out of a reserve fund known as the “working capital fund” and will take money from trust funds that are normally earmarked for other purposes such as affordable housing. Also, the budget likely will include a reduced number of projects requested by lawmakers.
“We’re going to be lean on projects this year,” he said. “It’s necessary.”
The budget also will be tighter than originally thought because of a revised estimate last week of the state’s corporate income-tax revenue. Analysts said the state is expected now to bring in $167 million less in corporate taxes than estimated earlier.
Also, Bradley said lawmakers are faced with paying $100 million more in Medicaid expenses than what had been anticipated.
“These are bills that need to be paid. This is not a discretionary choice,” Bradley said. “These are bills that health providers have incurred pursuant to our obligations under law to provide these services to individuals. And so these are bills we will pay, because we pay our bills.”
With two weeks left in Session, the Florida Legislature on Tuesday agreed to the outline of the 2018-19 state budget that will use roughly $32 billion in state funds.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Conference Chairs Sen. Rob Bradley and state Rep. Carlos Trujillo will hold an organization meeting in 212 Knott Building.
Conference subcommittees have until Friday to complete negotiations on their policy-specific areas and anything left unresolved will go to Chairs Bradley and Trujillo. Any controversies still unresolved by 10:30 a.m. on Sunday will go to the presiding officers.
“I am grateful to Speaker Corcoran, Chairs Bradley and Trujillo, and the many senators, representatives and members of our professional staff, who have dedicated significant time to the budget process so far,” Senate President Joe Negron said.
The House-Senate budget conference will iron out details on how to spend $32.2 billion. The biggest pot is for PreK-12 education, at $12.1 billion; higher education, at $4.4 billion; health care, at $9.8 billion; and civil and criminal justice; at $4.2 billion.
Other issues like agriculture, the environment and natural resources are at $434 million and general government operations, at $317 million.
The total 2018-19 budget, including state and federal trust funds, is likely to top 87 billion for the next fiscal year.
The House and Senate agreed upon the broad outlines of a state budget Monday night and will soon name conferees to work out the details.
Senate budget chief Rob Bradley confirmed late Monday that a deal between the House and the Senate on budget allocations had been reached. Budget conferencing could begin as soon as Tuesday.
Allocations are the big chunks of state money that go to each budget subcommittee to fund the various parts of state government. The panels will do the heavy lifting and fine-point negotiations that result in the state government’s spending plan.
No numbers have yet been released, but a top source offered these three nuggets: $400 million in school safety initiatives, record funding for K-12 and higher education, and close to $100 million in tax cuts.
General revenue is one of the sources of income used to build a multi-billion dollar budget. That’s combined with federal and state trust funds.
As House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s priority education bill is pushed through the Senate committee process, some watching this week were perplexed by the vote of one sometimes perplexing Republican lawmaker.
Sen. Tom Lee, who has helped carry Corcoran’s policy in a sometimes-hostile Senate, voted with Democrats to gut language from the omnibus bill that would decertify teachers’ unions if their membership does not stay above 50 percent of total eligible employees.
Versions of the language, deemed “union busting” by opponents, have been the subject of partisan slugfests all session.
Lee told Florida Politics he voted for Sen. Perry Thurston’s amendment out of an “abundance of caution.” But insiders said there may be another reason: former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Jimmy Patronis for chief financial officer, a role Lee says he is mulling a run for.
The connection is this: An education reform foundation founded by Bush has been a big supporter of the House measure, and by him voting down on that provision, it would be a jab at them.
Lee says he is not always in lockstep with the foundation, as many Republicans are, but his vote was based on needing more information on the impact of the issue, which critics say is a “spiteful way of taking rights away from workers.”
“I tend to be an ally of the Speaker and expect to continue to be so, but at the end of the day, you take your orders from the people who elected you,” Lee said, “and not the former governor or the House Speaker.”
Lee said he gives Senate President Joe Negron “a lot of credit” for sending HB 7055 through the Senate committee process. The bill will be heard next week the Appropriations Committee, according to Senate Budget Chairman Rob Bradley.
Whether the proposal will be a hiccup in budget talks remains to be seen.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Arming teachers — A week after the worst school shooting in the state’s history, the Republican-controlled Legislature unveiled their proposals, which include training school employees to become armed “marshals.” It’s something President Donald Trump agrees with, but Gov. Rick Scott does not. House Speaker Corcoran said teachers who have the requisite hours to act as trained law enforcement officers would be allowed to carry guns in schools, adding that it is a “first of its kind proposal” in the nation. With two weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers and the governor are also pushing for more school resource officers and boosting funding for mental health services.
Unprecedented gun law proposals — After thousands of students, parents and teachers came to Tallahassee to speak to legislative leaders seeking more restrictions on the purchase of “war weapons,” both chambers and the governor all agreed to raise the minimum age of owning and possessing “all firearms” to 21 and banning the sale of bump stocks. Gov. Scott said a ban on assault weapons would “not fix the problem” and would hurt “law-abiding citizens.” The House and Senate plans also include a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases.
Scott on mental health services — Gov.Scott wants to expand mental health services teams statewide to serve youth and young adults with early or serious mental illness by providing counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services. He also wants every Sheriff’s Office to have a crisis welfare worker embedded in their departments to work on repeat cases in the community. This would mean adding 67 more employees at the Department of Children and Families by July 15.
Budget slap fight — With less than three weeks to go in a legislative session, the direction of which has now been overcome by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, budget negotiations between the House and the Senate aren’t just stalled, they’re not happening. The first indication that the annual back-and-forth between the two chambers is not on track surfaced Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press’ Gary Fineoutreported that House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo said there has been “no progress” on allocations and, instead, that legislators are focused on responding to the tragedy in Parkland.
Criminal justice reforms move ahead — A sweeping criminal justice bill that would upend how the state collects data on offenders in an attempt to better determine who is incarcerated and for how long is moving in the Senate. The measure would require the Department of Corrections to use risk-assessment instruments that can identify the appropriate intervention and program for offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill (SB 1218) could be used as the foundation for “meaningful” criminal justice reform in the future. Another measure that would ease mandatory minimums in certain drug trafficking cases also headed to the Senate floor this week.
Scott to sign bill replacing Confederate statue with McLeod Bethune
Gov. Scott will soon sign a bill that will make Florida the first state to commemorate an African-American historical figure in the U.S. Capitol.
The state House and Senate have approved legislation that will honor civil-rights leader MaryMcLeodBethune at National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Her statue will replace that of Confederate General EdmundKirbySmith. The Legislature agreed to remove Smith’s statue in 2016.
Daytona Beach Democratic Rep. PatrickHenry sponsored the initiative in the House, which cleared the measure Tuesday. PerryThurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, sponsored the Senate version.
“Bethune’s life and values illustrate the best of Florida,” Thurston said. “Choosing her likeness for the Hall sends a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity.”
Bethune served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. She was an appointee of President HerbertHoover to the White House Conference on Child Health and was an adviser to President FranklinRoosevelt. Bethune also founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The school has offered to cover the cost of Bethune’s statue.
Each state is allowed two representatives in Statuary Hall. The Sunshine State’s other statue commemorates JohnGorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.
The week in appointments
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority — Scott appointed Maggie Montalvo to fill a vacant seat in the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Montalvo, 53, is the executive vice president and the chief operations officer of First Colony Bank of Florida. She received a degree in banking from the American Banking and Accounting Institute.
Her term ends April 16, 2020, and her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
St. Johns River Watch Management District — Scott appointed Allan Roberts, the owner and operator of First Coast Cattle, to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Roberts, 70, is currently a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
He will fill a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 1, 2020. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Floridians flocked to CRC hearings in Melbourne, Jacksonville
The Constitution Revision Commission held two meetings in its “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour this week, and much like the first stop in Ft. Lauderdale, turnout was healthy.
An estimated 600 people went to the Feb. 19 meeting at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. Among them were 240 individuals who filled out a speaker card.
The Jacksonville stop, held on the University of North Florida campus Feb. 20, more than 500 showed up, with 210 requesting a chance to speak before the commission.
The next tour stop is a Feb. 27 hearing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, followed by a March 5 hearing at The Westin in Cape Coral and a March 13 stop at University of South Florida — St. Petersburg.
House Democrats still working on AR-15 ban
Among the state House’s most visible actions while Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors were in Tallahassee was a no vote on advancing an assault weapons ban bill to the chamber floor for debate.
The 71-36 party-line defeat in the HB 219 vote was met with astonishment and tears by students in the gallery, but Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t giving up on getting a bill to ban semi-automatic rifles to the House floor before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.
McGee said semi-automatic assault rifles, particularly the AR-15 model used in the Parkland shooting, are a “common denominator” in mass shootings and lawmakers need to discuss the issue before they can “move on.”
McGee didn’t reveal his strategy for getting such a ban through the GOP-controlled House, but Senate Democrats this week said they would attempt to attach gun legislation, including an AR-15 ban, to bills moving through the Legislature.
FDP chair calls out Republicans for AR-15 vote
The Florida Democratic Party chair said state House Republicans turned their backs on the survivors of the Parkland shooting this week when the chamber voted not to hear a bill banning semi-automatic assault weapons.
“[Tuesday’s] vote is just one more reminder that Gov. Scott,Corcoran and the GOP-led legislature continue to fail to provide the leadership needed to put an end to senseless mass shootings,” said FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
“If tragedy strikes again and innocent children and citizens are gunned down in a classroom, a dance club or an airport, we can look to yesterday as another example of elected officials that care more about special interest money than keeping our kids safe from harm.”
The House voted 71-36 against hearing the bill, HB 219. No Republican voted in favor of the measure.
Car dealer bill stalls in House committee
A bill aimed at making changes to car dealership regulations stalled out in its second House committee this week over objections it was tailored to hand a single industry association a monopoly on dealer training.
The bill (HB 595) by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel would make changes to various legal definitions relating to car dealers.
But a strike-all amendment also by Rommel would have required new car dealers to take a four-hour course each year to keep their license. That would put them in line with requirements set for used car dealers.
That training could only be offered by “a Florida-based, nonprofit, dealer-owned, statewide industry association of franchised motor vehicle dealers.”
Only one group in the state (probably not coincidentally) qualifies under that definition: the Florida Automobile Dealers Association.
FADA representative John Forehand testified that the cap isn’t necessarily indicative of the charge the group would levy but was there as a protection since the language would make it the sole source for the training.
“Why not $200? $300?” asked St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton. No matter: The bill later was temporarily postponed.
FCUA names Jones ‘Lawmaker of the Year’
The Florida Credit Union Association this week named West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones as their “2017 State Lawmaker of the Year.”
FCUA recognized Jones as a longtime friend of credit unions, and for sponsoring a bill in the 2017 Legislative Session to exempt credit unions from regulation and lawsuits under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trades Practices Act.
“Representative Jones has served credit unions in Florida as a true champion,” said Patrick La Pine, who heads FCUA’s parent organization, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.
“He has sponsored legislation to include credit unions in an exemption under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act and understands the critical role that credit unions play in Florida’s economy and in serving Floridians throughout the state.”
FCUA honored Jones in Tallahassee last month during the Florida Advocacy Conference, where the lawmaker addressed credit union leaders gathered to help promote the industry at the state capitol.
Senate fracking ban bill on life support
A fracking ban sponsored by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young didn’t make the agenda for the Feb. 27 Senate Appropriations Committee, and anti-fracking groups are laying the blame on Appropriations Chair Bradley.
Floridians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of anti-fracking groups and businesses, put out a statement this week blasting Bradley not allowing the bill to be heard.
“The fracking ban has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers because the people of Florida have been demanding it to protect our water, our tourism economy and our natural resources. If a fracking ban does not end up on the Governor’s desk to sign this session, it will be seen by the people of Florida as a failure of leadership,” said Brian Lee, the group’s legislative director.
Floridians Against Fracking suggested in the same release that Senate PresidentNegron bring the ban bill up for a vote directly on the Senate floor, or in a future, unscheduled Appropriations Committee.
The fracking ban was a major campaign pledge of Young’s in the 2016 cycle. The House companion has not yet been heard in any committee, though the House has said it would take up the Senate version of the bill should it pass.
Business rent tax debate flares up on Twitter
The National Federation of Independent Business/Florida and the Florida AFL/CIO’s Rich Templin had a little back and forth on Twitter this week about the business rent tax cut when the tax package was up in House Appropriations.
It’s the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation. Gov. Scott and trade groups have long called to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.
Shot by NFIB: “The small and independently owned businesses NFIB represents overwhelmingly support the biz rent tax cut; #smallbiz drives the economy, and saving them money creates jobs, improves benefits and keeps the dollars in our backyards.”
Chaser by Templin: “This bumper sticker sloganeering doesn’t equate to sound fiscal policy. The overwhelming bulk of this tax cut will go to larger retailers based out of state. The taxpayers shoulder the burden & services workers & small businesses need are hindered.”
Background: Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.
AOB reform ad hitting Florida airwaves
Radio stations across the state this week started playing an ad warning Floridians of the dangers of “Assignment of Benefits,” which allows insurance policy rights to be signed over to third-party contractors.
The Consumer Protection Coalition, one of the chief organizations pushing AOB reform is led in part by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a member of the coalition, is footing the bill for the ad.
Listen to the new ad here:
“On the heels of the Florida Justice Reform Institute releasing a new report showcasing the need for AOB reform, the Consumer Protection Coalition felt it was important to alert Florida home and auto owners on how the AOB scheme works and why it is important for them to engage in asking Florida lawmakers to support meaningful AOB reform,” said Florida Chamber VP Edie Ousley.
The ad goes over how AOB works — or at least how it can be abused by unscrupulous lawyers and vendors. The radio ad is available on CPC’s website.
FSU prof to help on Hamer doc
A Florida State University professor is teaming up with Tougaloo College in Mississippi and the Kellogg Foundation to produce a new documentary on civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
FSU’s Davis Houck, the current holder of an endowed chair named after Hamer, will serve in an advisory capacity on the film, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” and the corresponding civil rights K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice.”
“Having Fannie Lou Hamer’s name attached to my work and Florida State University is inspiring and daunting,” said Houck, a professor at FSU’s School of Communication.
“The project is inspiring because of the life she led in pursuit of justice, and it is daunting because her fearlessness — often in the face of grinding and lethal adversity — sets an enormously high bar for anyone seeking to walk in her footsteps.”
Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement known for her powerful speeches, songs and activism. The K-12 component focuses on youth empowerment and community engagement in the Mississippi Delta, and it intends to connect students and teachers to the region’s history during the civil rights movement.
Tallahassee a ‘Great Small Town for Big Vacations’
The Travel Channel listed Tallahassee as one of “10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations” this week, much to the delight of the capital city’s officials and its tourism marketing arm.
“The uniqueness of our area continues to gain the attention of national media that recognize Leon County’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “We know that we live in an exceptional part of Florida and we think it’s time the rest of the nation, and the world, knows it, too.”
The slideshow article says what Tallahassee “lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in Florida culture and adventure.” Recommendations included Ernestine Fryson’s famous fried catfish at the Bradfordville Blues Club, and the abundant nature tourism in the area.
Article author Steve Larese’s visit resulted from an invitation by Leon County to give the area a look. He was one of many of travel writers who visited the Leon County area while researching stories for various publications.
“To be counted among the country’s small towns for big adventure demonstrates the hard work of Leon County Division of Tourism in elevating and promoting what our community has to offer both visitors and residents,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
Senate Appropriations Chairman RobBradley says he and other senators have concerns about legislation that would make driving while texting a “primary” traffic offense.
The bill (SB 90), sponsored by Sen. KeithPerry, a Gainesville Republican, is awaiting a hearing in Bradley’s committee, which has its last scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
Proponents want to give law enforcement officers the right to pull over motorists when they see them texting behind the wheel of their vehicles.
Now, texting while driving is a “secondary” violation, which only comes into play if drivers are stopped for another reason. Bill supporters say it needs to be a primary offense, pointing to 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in Florida in 2016, resulting in 233 deaths.
But Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor, said he’s hesitant to give police the right to pull a motorist over if they are looking at their phone because they need directions.
“I think that that in itself is increasing the likelihood of pretextual stops and certainly increases government-citizen involvement tenfold potentially, by that simple act of making it a primary offense versus a secondary offense,” he said.
He also said he was concerned that in order to determine if texting had taken place, law enforcement would review the contents of an individual’s cell phone.
“These are all things that are of concern to me as somebody who has consistently expressed, over my career, privacy concerns that are grounded in the Constitution,” Bradley said.
He also said a number of other senators share his concerns. “I listen to them. And so it’s not just me,” Bradley said.
The House bill (HB 33), which has the support of House Speaker RichardCorcoran, is ready to be heard on the House floor. The measure is sponsored by Reps. EmilySlosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican.
Slosberg’s twin sister, Dori, died in a 1996 crash. Her father, former Rep. IrvSlosberg, long fought for mandatory seat belt laws and a texting-while-driving ban.
Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon wants to create a $10 million program that would reimburse trauma centers for care provided to victims of mass shootings, and Senate President JoeNegron said he will support the effort.
Braynon wants to create a fund in the Attorney General’s Office, with money coming from a portion of fees collected from new or renewed concealed-weapons licenses. The program would reimburse trauma centers that treat victims of mass shootings, such as the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.
Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat, initially wanted to attach the proposal to a bill (SB 1876) that is a carefully constructed deal that could end years of litigation between hospital systems about approval of trauma centers. But Braynon withdrew a proposed amendment to the bill Thursday, saying the proposal could be included in gun policies the Senate will consider in the coming weeks and that he didn’t want to affect what he called the “tenuous” trauma bill.
Negron, a Stuart Republican, said earlier in the day he supported Braynon’s efforts but didn’t want to include a funding request in a bill that focused on trauma center regulation.
The Legislature has wrangled for years over whether to continue with current trauma-system regulations or to allow a more competitive environment that would increase the number of trauma facilities.
The legislation moving ahead is a compromise between long-standing trauma providers and the for-profit HCA Healthcare, which has sought in recent years to open trauma centers at many of its hospitals. The House is advancing similar legislation.
Senate Appropriations Chairman RobBradley, an Orange Park Republican, thanked Braynon for understanding that the trauma compromise “deals with so many issues that all of us, Republicans and Democrats agree” should occur.
The Appropriations Committee voted 17-3 to approve the bill, with opposition from Braynon, Sen. LaurenBook, a Plantation Democrat, and Sen. AnitereFlores, a Miami Republican.
Negron told reporters earlier in the day he met with two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who sustained grievous injuries but had survived because of the quality of the care they received following the shooting.
“I am very impressed and gratified by the incredible quality of our trauma units, our surgeons, what they’ve been able to do to save lives, which they’ve done,” Negron said when asked whether he supports Braynon’s request.
“Those kinds of heroic efforts should certainly be rewarded because they are extremely expensive but worthwhile,” Negron said.
The school attack was the fourth mass shooting in Florida in the past 20 months where trauma centers were activated.
Following the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, for example, Orlando Regional Medical Center treated 35 patients at its trauma center.
Lee Memorial Hospital activated its mass-casualty trauma team in response to a shooting at Fort Myers’ Club Blu in July 2016, and Broward Medical Center activated its mass-casualty team in response to the January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami is also home to South Florida’s only freestanding pediatric trauma center.
But bill sponsor DanaYoung, a Tampa Republican, said the bill provides “much-needed certainty that we need to make sure that excellent level of care is available as we move forward as a state as we grow.”
In the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, some lawmakers plan to exempt photos and videos of school shootings from public records laws.
The plan has yet to be codified into a bill, but legislators reached a verbal agreement on Tuesday at the final Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting of the Legislative Session to attempt to tack the exemption onto an existing proposal, SB 1178.
That bill, sponsored by Chair RandolphBracy, an Orlando Democrat, as drafted would prevent visual or audio recordings of human killings from being obtained via Florida’s public records laws. Under current laws, members of the media and the general public can request access to a recorded killing if it is held by an agency unless it depicts the death of a law enforcement officer.
Bracy’s sweeping exemption, however, was not favored by the committee and after being postponed twice before in earlier meetings, members failed the bill on an initial vote.
But then Sen. JeffBrandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, motioned to reconsider the bill. Bracy then called for a recess.
Upon returning, Bracy gave his word that an amendment would be drafted to “balance” the public’s right to obtaining records with a respect for the incidents that have “been happening across our country and across our state,” an allusion to mass shootings.
“We need to figure out a way to make sure that these photos and depictions are protected,” Bracy said.
Bracy later told Florida Politics that the amendment would “narrow” the public records exemptions provided in his bill to only apply to visual and audio recordings of school shootings. He acknowledged that the provision addresses an aspect of the recent mass shooting in Parkland.
With Bracy’s promise, the bill cleared the committee unanimously. It now heads to Government Oversight and Accountability and later Rules — although Bracy said the same provision could likely be added onto existing legislation on the Senate floor.
Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley recently withdrew a bill to allow designated people to carry concealed firearms on school grounds.
Nevertheless, it didn’t slow down a Democratic congressman from California from tearing into the idea Saturday during a national radio program.
Baxley sponsored SB 1236, a proposal to allow school principals or superintendents to designate individuals who could carry guns during school hours. Those receiving the designation would have to meet training and background requirements.
SB 1236 would also require schools to receive “active shooter situation training” conducted by a law enforcement agency and to undergo safety and emergency reviews every three years by law enforcement.
The legislation is on the agenda of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting next week.
“I’ve actually pulled this bill back, because I want to look at every option,” Baxley told NPR’s Weekend Edition host Scott Simon Saturday morning. “What we’re dealing with is the fact that with a gun free zone we have made inadvertently these students a sterile target, and the (shooters) enter this campus knowing that no one is prepared to stop them.
“And I’m very interested in that first five minutes so that we can prevent an incident from becoming a massacre, and we have security people, we have a lot of trained military people and with some additional training, they’re embedded in these faculties, they already have responsibility for security, and we can have a concealed weapon on these people so that they can immediately act to change the directive.”
Explaining why he’s withdrawn his bill, Baxley said, “I think we should look at every option on how to surgically place an armed resistance in that first minutes so that we don’t have an incident turned into a massacre.”
Simon, who introduced Baxley to the show by saying the NRA endorsed him, then interjected, asking if that was a practical solution to cut down on school shootings? Wouldn’t it just add more firepower?
Baxley responded it would not, repeating that there needs to be a way to address the situation in the first five minutes of a shooter entering a school campus.
After Simon concluded his interview with Baxley, he pivoted to speaking with California U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, about the indictment Friday of 13 Russian nationals by the Department of Justice. However, Speier said she couldn’t allow Baxley’s comments to go unaddressed.
“I’m just furious that the NRA has so infiltrated every state Legislature, the Congress of the US, so we can’t even have a sane conversation,” said Speier. “The reason why 17 kids are dead today and their parents are screaming and crying on TV and there’s another 15 injured is because that young man had an assault weapon and he was able to discharge as many bullets as he did. We have got to start by putting back in place that assault-weapon ban.
“No kid needs an assault weapon. No adult needs an assault weapon. And we’ve got to do a whole lot more than that, but to somehow think this is just a mental health issue is just fundamentally ignorant.”
A day after the Parkland shooting massacre, Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, said he was not going to take up any gun-rights bills during the rest of Session unless the proposals dealt with mental health issues.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.