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Capitol Reax: Abortion, Florida Keys Stewardship Act, certificates of need, guns, balance billing, gaming

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday voted 5-3 to approve a bill that targets funding for family planning and women’s health. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, says clinics that offer abortion services, like Planned Parenthood, are prohibited from receiving state funding.

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said in a statement:

“This bill has nothing to do with improving women’s health and everything to do with Tallahassee politicians working to eliminate reproductive health options for women in Florida.

“The legislature is fostering a poisonous environment by using a debunked smear campaign against Planned Parenthood as the rationale to take away Florida women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health services.

“It’s time to put an end to these reckless and dangerous lies.”

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The Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday voted 6-0 to approve the Florida Keys Stewardship Act. The proposal (SB 770) would invest $25 million a year for 10 years into water quality, restoration and protection; water supply protection; and land for critical habitat protection.

Key West Mayor Craig Cates said in a statement:

“A sincere thank you is due to the Senators who serve on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, who today took an important step toward investing in the future of the Florida Keys and the State of Florida. The Florida Keys have been an economic driver for the local communities and the entire State of Florida for a long time. By making an investment through the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, the Keys can continue to be a significant economic contributor for years to come.”

Robert Dean, chairman of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Board of Directors, said in a statement:

“We believe that the Florida Keys Stewardship Act is an important step that is needed to protect and preserve the waters of the Florida Keys and provide water supply solutions that will be able to provide the Keys with potable water for residents and tourists alike. We are tremendously thankful to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government for joining us in supporting SB 770.”

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The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee shot down a proposal (SB 1144) that would have created an exemption from the certificate of need review process if the licensee commits to improve access to care for uninsured, low-income residents in a service area. The proposal was sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz.

Chris Hudson, the state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida, said in a statement:

“We commend Senator Gaetz for sponsoring this good bill and working toward impactful health care reform,” said state director, Chris Hudson. “Floridians want increased access to quality and affordable health care. Certificate of Need reform offers a step in the right direction to bring needed competition to Florida’s health care market by improving access to care and lowering costs.”

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Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said on Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee wouldn’t hear a bill (SB 300) that would allow concealed carry permit holders to openly carry their firearms.

Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, said in a statement:

“This bill was an assault on public safety and yet another case of the gun lobby trying to force their way into the legislative agenda. The League of Women Voters of Florida cannot praise Senator Diaz de la Portilla enough for listening to his constituents, listening to law enforcement, and listening to the vast majority of Floridians in opposing open carry.”

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The House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday approved a bill by Rep. Carlos Trujillo that eliminates the practice of balance billing.

Audrey Brown, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans Inc., said in a statement:

“We thank Representative Trujillo for sponsoring this good public policy, along with the members of the House Health and Human Services Committee for passing it today, as this bill is paramount to stopping the unfair practice of balance billing.

“Right now, Florida families frequently find themselves overwhelmed by surprise medical costs, and HB 221 prohibits health care providers from billing a consumer the balance of the retail charges above the individuals’ copayment or co-insurance amount and the amount the insurer reimburses for the services – effectively ending the practice of balance billing.

“This is a serious issue affecting Floridians everyday and we at FAHP appreciate Representative Trujillo for introducing this legislation, as well as the members of the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee for their thoughtful consideration of it today and, ultimately, its passage.”

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The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved several bills related to gaming on Wednesday, including one aimed at decoupling.

Jack Cory, representing the Florida Greyhound Association, said in a statement:

“This vote by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee clearly transitions long-established pari-mutuel facilities into mini casinos from one end of the state to the other.

“While the Florida Greyhound Association has no issue with adding additional services at tracks and frontons across Florida, it’s extremely disappointing this Senate committee is siding with millionaire track owners and jeopardizing the livelihood of 4,000 Floridians involved in the racing greyhound industry.

“If you combine live racing wagers with the unregulated Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) that takes place over the Internet, Florida greyhound racing generates more than $100 million in annual revenue. Florida’s greyhound racing tracks are regulated monopolies whose owners have made billions of dollars in revenue. In addition, greyhound racing continues to generate millions in tax dollars for the state of Florida.

“Decoupling not only allows track owners to convert their facilities into mini casinos, it violates a promise many of these same track owners previously made to the Legislature – that in exchange for poker and slots, they would continue to maintain live racing. We encourage the legislature to hold track owners to that commitment.”

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