A Tampa Bay area law firm has billed the state $10,091 for mediation services and travel expenses for helping to negotiate new rules governing the operation of neonatal intensive care units Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ administration is pushing over the objections of some of the state’s largest hospitals, including one run by his former chief of staff, Shane Strum.
The Zinober, Diana & Monteverde, P.A. firm submitted the invoice for mediation services related to the negotiated rule making panel that was appointed by the Agency for Health Care Administration earlier this month.
The panel was appointed to craft new rules for the units that care for the state’s sickest newborns. The rules are necessary after the Florida Legislature agreed in 2019 to exempt hospitals from the regulatory program called “certificate of need.” The DeSantis administration floated rules to replace the CON regulations, but they were challenged in state administrative court by both Tampa General Hospital and the North Broward Hospital District, which does business as Broward Health, and is run by Strum.
The negotiated rulemaking panel includes representatives from Jackson Health System, Broward Medical Center, Nemour’s, West Kendall Baptist Hospital, AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women, Ascension Florida & Gulf Coast, Broward Health Medical Center, as well as the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.
Florida law allows agencies to enter into a negotiated rulemaking process “when complex rules are being drafted or strong opposition to the rules is anticipated.” The law requires the agency to appoint a “committee of interested persons” and to publicly post the list of representatives. Anyone who is not invited to serve on the committee who feels like their interests aren’t represented has 30 days to apply to participate.
Though authorized in statutes, the negotiated rulemaking process is rarely, if ever, used.
AHCA announced it chose Gregory P. Holder to mediate the rule negotiations. Holder was a Hillsborough County Judge for 26 years before retiring and joining the Zinober, Diana & Monteverde firm, which has offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale.
The law firm is charging the state a “discounted” rate of $375, according to the information posted on a state website maintained by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.