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Jackie Toledo has a bold agenda for the 2020 Session

From electric vehicle charging to vaping, Toledo has a lot on her plate this year.

Rep. Jackie Toledo is taking a host of requests into the 2020 Legislative Session in what might be one of her most aggressive sessions to date.

Toledo, a Republican from Tampa, is pushing several bills focusing on public safety, transportation and health care reform and is proposing several funding requests to support affordable housing, increasing STEM education in Hillsborough County public schools and conservation and restoration for Florida’s environment and natural resources.

One of Toledo’s most aggressive bills seeks to reform the Pharmacy Benefit Manager program in the state.

Under the state’s current program, Toledo says PBMs negotiate in secret to determine which medications will be covered by insurance companies. Those companies can receive discounts, but don’t pass the savings along to patients or pharmacies.

Toledo’s legislation seeks to crack down on what she describes as over-charges on prescription medication caused by predatory practices among PBMs who serve as pharmacy middlemen established to facilitate claims approval for medications that require authorization in real-time.

The bill (HB 961) addresses the pricing disparity between how much PBMs charge insurance providers compared to how much they reimburse pharmacies, paying self-owned pharmacies more than other pharmacies or steering patients to pharmacies they own and PBMs not passing along savings from third-party rebates.

The bill would also increase transparency by requiring all information, including PBM revenue, to be reported to the state.

“This is a priority many states are currently tackling or have looked into addressing,” Toledo said. “With the rising cost of prescription drugs, this bill will set forth transparency requirements for the Pharmacy Benefit Managers, who are determining drug prices and essentially patient care.”

Toledo has also been passionate about better regulating e-cigarettes and tobacco products. She filed a bill this session that builds upon some steps the federal government has already taken including increasing the legal age for use from 18 to 21 and temporarily banning the sale of flavored vape juices in convenience stores, which make the products more accessible to minors.

“Our efforts now are going to be on making sure vapes and nicotine dispensing devices fall under the tobacco statute to have them treated the same,” Toledo said. “Another component is the collection of what’s due. Like traditional cigarettes, the tax will go toward education, prevention and future treatment of the ailments associated with long and short term nicotine use.”

Another bill Toledo is sponsoring seeks to expand electric vehicle infrastructure in Florida.

“As Florida becomes a leader in technology and innovation we want to ensure that our state’s infrastructure is compatible with new technologies,” Toledo said.

Her bill would establish an electric vehicle infrastructure grant program through the Florida Department of Transportation to develop more charging stations throughout the state. It would also require an electric vehicle infrastructure master plan to set goals for the state highway system and counties to create adequate public charging stations to meet growing demand and encourage electric vehicle use and ownership.

The grants would provide 80% funding for fast charge stations and 50% for level two stations that take longer to use.

Toledo also has several appropriations requests in the Legislature this year.

Those include funding requests for New Life Village for affordable housing for low-income families with at-risk youth who have been affected by trauma and for seniors. The $1 million multi-year project would expand the New Life campus to create more housing for both small and large families as well as include an onsite wellness and character development program.

Services would include financial literacy, health and wellness training, trauma response, after school tutoring and programming for arts and sports.

Toledo is also requesting $1.3 million for a STEM workforce development program through Building a Better Tampa Bay to increase the number of students interested in pursuing high-wage, high-skill jobs in things like robotics, computer science and computer coding. The program would also focus on training in underserved communities including women and disenfranchised students.

Toledo is also supporting several environmental priorities including a $1.5 million request to expand the Florida Aquarium’s coral research facility to include an induced spawning center and visitor center and developing a seagrass farm in her Tampa district to restore seagrass throughout the state.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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