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Legislative Link
A legislative update provided by the United Way of Florida
 
SPECIAL SESSION ISSUE 2                                                                JUNE 12, 2015
old and new capitol 
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CountDownCount Down to Sine Die
Last Friday, as the scheduled three week special session headed toward its midpoint this week, Legislative leaders came to agreement on the amount of funding each budget area (education, health and human services, transportation, etc.) will receive next year, and appointed conference committees to hash out the differences between the proposed $76.15 billion House (HB 1A) and $80.42 billion Senate (SB 2500A) 2015-2016 budgets.

Last weekend and early this week, conference committees met to hammer out the budget differences and on Wednesday the issues the committees could not resolve were "bumped" to the budget chairs in each chamber, Senator Tom Lee and Representative Richard Corcoran.

As this Legislative Link went to press, Senate President Andy Gardiner had expressed his hope that the final budget could be done on Monday, setting the stage for a Thursday sine die following the constitutionally-mandated 72 hour waiting period before it can be voted upon in the respective houses.
HealthFundingHealth Funding Breakthrough
Last week, myriad differences in the House and Senate proposed budgets existed, but the real sticking point - and the reason the special session was needed in the first place - was the $5 billion chasm between the health care funding proposals. The Senate proposal included $2.8 billion to expand healthcare plus $2.2 billion for funding the Low Income Pool (LIP), which is used to pay hospitals for care they provide to indigent patients. The House included neither.

Last weekend, it was agreed that the Senate's plan to expand health care coverage to 800,000 low income Floridians would not happen next year and that LIP funding would come from state and federal coffers: $1 billion in anticipated federal LIP funding plus $396 million in state funds used as match to draw down an additional $604 in federal health care funds. As a result, next year's budget come close to the $2.2 billion in LIP funds in this year's budget.

Of course, the devil is in the details and as this Legislative Link went to print it had not been decided how the LIP funds would be allocated to hospitals, particularly to the safety net hospitals that provide the bulk of uncompensated care.
What are they planting to grow the seedless watermelons?
-- Jerry Seinfeld
HouseHealthCareBillsHeardHouse Health Care Bills Heard
During the regular session and the first days of the special session, the Senate's health care expansion plan, or FHIX (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange), was debated at numerous stops and refined to address House concerns. Nothing, however, allayed House leadership's concerns.

Last week, the House finally put on the table a series of proposals to address health care that were all voted out of the House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday. Intended to address rising health care costs, the bills:
  • allow state employees to choose among multiple health care plans, so some may choose lower cost plans (HB 21A);
  • authorize ambulatory surgical centers to keep patients up to 72 hours (HB 23A);
  • allow consumers to pay physicians directly for primary care (HB 25A);
  • expand authority of advanced-registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe drugs (HB 27A);
  • require hospitals to notify obstetrical physician with privileges at the hospital at least 120 days before closing the obstetrical department or ceasing to provide obstetrical services (HB 29A); and
  • eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) process, which requires state approval for building high-cost medical facilities like hospitals (CS/CS/HB 31A).
TaxCutBillTax Cut Bill Advances
Last week, the House passed its omnibus 2015-2016 tax cut bill, HB 33A.  The plan cuts $436.5 million in taxes next year and $299.3 million annually thereafter, far less than the almost $700 million supported by both Governor Scott and the House during the regular session

Before last week's agreement between House and Senate leaders on major budget issues, the Senate had not considered any tax cut proposals. However, on Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee took up, amended, and passed HB 33A after reducing the total amount of cuts to $400 million. The Senate press release details the cuts.
If con is the opposite of pro, then isn't Congress the opposite of progress?  -- Jon Stewart
SpecialSessionWrapUpSpecial Session Wrap-Up
While it appears the special session will come in for a smooth landing next week as scheduled, who knows?! As we have already seen with this Legislature, anything is possible.

Following next week's anticipated sine die, your Legislative Link will delve into the budget details of greatest interest to United Ways and our partners.
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