Rob Bradley Archives - Page 5 of 38 - Florida Politics

Rob Bradley on the budget: ‘A smooth process’

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley told reporters Thursday “major (budget) issues are still unresolved” but “we’re having great communications” with the House.

“It’s been a very smooth process,” he said.

No doubt helping matters is the relative closeness of the two chambers in terms of total spending for next year.

The House and Senate went into conference separated by roughly $100 million; last year, that difference was $4 billion.

The year before that, it was $1.4 billion.

Hospital and environmental funding will likely be “bump” issues, meaning the subcommittees will ask leadership to ultimately resolve differences.

By 10:30 a.m. Friday, “all unresolved issues will bump to Chair Bradley and (House budget chief Carlos) Trujillo,” an email from the Senate explained earlier this week.

By 10:30 a.m. Sunday, “all unresolved issues will bump to the presiding officers,” meaning Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Lawmakers also are looking at spending hundreds of millions for increased school safety after the Parkland high school tragedy.

“But we’re in great shape,” Bradley said. “We’re where we need to be … There’s an agreement on both sides about wanting to accomplish each other’s priorities.”

Rob Bradley kills his criminal justice bill to ‘fund school safety initiatives’

After a criminal justice bill sponsored by Senate budget chief Rob Bradley was zeroed out Wednesday in early  negotiations, he said he will kill it to help fund plans to harden schools and fund for mental health services.

“I have killed my own bill,” Bradley told Florida Politics.

The move to abandon the bill took Sen. Jeff Brandes, the co-sponsor of the measure and the Senate’s top criminal justice budget-writer, by surprise.

“I one-hundred percent did not know this was going to happen,” Brandes said.

The sweeping criminal justice reform (SB 484) would have cost taxpayers $10 million to fund and would have authorized counties to create supervised bond release programs and allowed qualifying inmates to be moved from prison to county jails in cases when they are terminally ill and given less than a year to live.

The bail bond industry last week lobbied hard against the measure.

“In light of the cuts that we are taking across all areas of the budget to fund school safety initiatives, I decided to address that issue next session,” Bradley added.

His measure had cleared two Senate committees and was in its last stop, Senate Appropriations, a panel chaired by Bradley. Appropriations is scheduled to meet Friday, but that bill will not be put on the notice anymore.

Brandes, the Senate’s top criminal justice budget-writer, has introduced several criminal justice reforms this year that focus on rehabilitating inmates. The measure that Bradley has killed would have helped divert more people out of the criminal justice system.

An estimate 4,200 inmates would have been eligible to be sentenced to a county jail under this bill, according to data from the Department of Corrections.

“I think that it is an idea that is still one that has value and frankly should be considered,” Brandes said. “I was surprised tonight, but there might be an opportunity to discuss it in the future.”

House, Senate agree on major school funding issue

Lawmakers continued negotiations Wednesday on a new $87 billion-plus state budget, after reaching agreement on several major issues, including a funding plan for public schools.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said the Senate has agreed with the House on how to use local property taxes to help fund the 67 school districts. The House had objected to using an increase in the local taxes, known as the “required local effort,” that came as a result of higher property values.

Under the agreement, the Senate and House will use increases in local tax collections related to newly constructed homes and businesses. But they will lower the tax rate on existing properties to offset potential tax increases caused by higher values of those properties.

The net effect will be a funding plan close to what the House originally advanced, using $192 million in local taxes combined with $315 million in state funding for a $507 million overall increase in the school funding formula. It resulted in a $100 increase in per-student funding in a statewide system that includes 2.8 million students.

Bradley and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, said the fatal shootings this month of 17 students and staff members at a Parkland high school have changed the dynamic of reaching an agreement on a state budget for 2018-2019.

One direct result is that lawmakers have agreed to put $400 million toward helping Florida schools with issues such as mental-health services and more security. That financial priority, coupled with a decline in projected corporate income-tax collections and a higher demand for Medicaid services, has tightened the budget process.

Trujillo and Bradley said it will mean fewer projects for House and Senate members in the annual budget bill.

“It’s necessary, because there are more important things at stake,” Bradley said. “There is no price we can put on the safety of our children.”

The new dynamic has also resulted in the Senate moving toward the House on using unspent money in various trust funds to pay for other programs and initiatives.

The original House proposal shifted, or “swept,” nearly $400 million out of the trust funds, including $182 million out of affordable housing programs. The Senate’s budget bill only swept $124 million and did not touch the housing funds.

Bradley said the new budget demands have changed the Senate’s position.

“Because of Parkland, we’ve swept a lot of trust funds,” Bradley said. “And affordable housing, there just isn’t enough money there to maintain the Senate’s position of not sweeping that fund.”

The new budget reality will also impact Gov. Rick Scott’s priorities, including his call for $180 million in tax and fee cuts.

“We’re willing to help and deliver as much as we can, but I think all of our priorities have refocused (after Parkland),” Trujillo said.

Lawmakers have tentatively agreed on an $80 million tax-cut package, which could include more sales-tax “holidays” and few other measures.

Lawmakers are also moving toward agreement on $76 million for Visit Florida, the state’s main tourism promotion agency, although Scott has asked for $100 million.

The final budget is expected to include Scott’s request for $85 million to replenish the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, an economic development program initially approved last year.

“Several months ago, I had some concerns about the governor’s fund,” Bradley said. “But he’s demonstrated, (Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director) Cissy Proctor, they’ve demonstrated those funds are being spent wisely. The state taxpayers are getting a greater (return on investment) on it. We couldn’t be happier as a Senate. It’s going to get funded this year.”

The fund has attracted more than 225 applications seeking more than $821 million. Scott has allocated a little more than $35 million, including $6 million for a 1.5-mile access road at Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville and $8.25 million to expand access to the cruise and cargo terminals at Port Canaveral.

Over the next few days, House and Senate members will meet in a series of conference committees trying to work out the details of spending in education, health care, criminal justice, the environment and other areas of the state budget.

Unresolved issues will move to Trujillo and Bradley on Friday, with any issues unresolved by the chairmen eventually moving to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, and Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

Lawmakers have until Tuesday to work out a budget if they hope to end the annual Session on time March 9. The state has a constitutional 72-hour waiting period before lawmakers can take final budget votes. The new budget will take effect July 1.

Vacation rental bill likely ‘dead’

A controversial bill that would pre-empt the local regulation of vacation rental properties is likely dead for the 2018 Session, a Senate sponsor said Wednesday.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, said he has met with Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, about bringing up the bill (SB 1400) during the last Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, scheduled for Friday.

But Steube said the committee has limited time, which has been complicated by dealing with legislation related to the mass shooting at a Broward County high school. As a result, the committee is not likely to deal with other bills, like the vacation rental measure, that would involve a lengthy debate.

“I don’t think Sen. Bradley has an inclination to bring it up,” he said.

Steube also said the fact that a similar bill (HB 773) has stalled in the House is another factor.

“I think it’s dead for this year. I think this is an issue this Legislature will see every year until it’s resolved. I won’t be here. But I can guarantee you they will find a senator to file it,” said Steube, who is planning to run for a congressional seat this fall. “You never say never until the (final) gavel drops,” Steube added. “But I think it’s going to be very difficult for that to be resurrected.”

The Legislative Session is scheduled to end March 9.

Save the ‘sporks’? Amendment yanked from Senate veggie garden bill

A broad amendment to the Senate vegetable garden bill that would have preempted local ordinances that ban plastic straws, or really any plastic utensils, was withdrawn Wednesday after facing scrutiny.

“I am going after the paper straws,” Sen. Rob Bradley said.

The powerful state senator and sponsor of the bill (SB 1776) filed the utensil amendment two hours before the Senate brought the vegetable garden bill up for debate.

“My wife has started a little garden, how would your amendment on straws impact her garden?” said Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat.

Bradley said it would not affect it and that “freedom would reign in the Thurston household.”

But after concerns were raised on the amendment, Bradley pulled it from consideration and asked to push his vegetable garden bill to third reading.

Without the straw amendment, the bill would only preempt local bans on vegetable gardens.

“The Legislature intends to encourage the development of sustainable cultivation of vegetable and fruits at all levels of production, including for personal consumption, as an important interest of the state,” the bill states.

If passed, the proposal would make local ordinances regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties “void and unenforceable.”

Primary texting-while-driving ban teed up in House

Sponsors of a measure that would make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida on Wednesday continued their fight for the bill’s passage, even though it appears dead in the Senate.

The House bill (HB 33), which has the support of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, was heard on the House floor. The measure is sponsored by Reps. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican.

“It will change behavior and save lives,” Toledo said Wednesday.

Proponents want to give law enforcement officers the right to pull over motorists when they see them texting behind the wheel.

Now, texting while driving is a “secondary” violation, which only comes into play if drivers are stopped for another reason.

Supporters say it needs to be a primary offense, pointing to 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in Florida in 2016, resulting in 233 deaths.

Slosberg’s twin sister, Dori, died i

She told fellow House members she visited some 30 cities and counties to explain the bill to local officials and was often greeted with applause.

But Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley and some House Democrats have expressed concerns about the legislation.

It could increase “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,” said Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor.

Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, said he’ll be concerned if enforcement data, assuming the bill takes effect, shows that blacks are disproportionately pulled over, for instance.

The bill was rolled over for third reading, at which time it will be debated and voted on; that could be later this week.

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Background for this post provided by the News Service of Florida.

Rob Bradley’s fairness doctrine

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.

Budget remarks don’t bode well for Sadowski Trust

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 Rob Bradley 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. Kathleen Passidomo, 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 Carlos Trujillo 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, Senate start negotiations on tighter budget

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 Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, expressed confidence the Session will finish on time.

While numerous details still need to be worked out, Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, 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 Joe Negron, 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 forward with 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.”

Budget conference begins tonight, state allocations unveiled

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.

Here are the appointees to the Conference Committee Assignments: 2018 Regular Session CONFERENCE Committees

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