Senate unveils health care expansion “compromise”

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

The Senate filed an amended version of its health care expansion plan Tuesday, a “compromise” it hopes will help bridge a philosophical gap with the House.

The Senate’s expansion plan – known as the Florida Health Insurance Exchange – was originally envisioned as a three phase plan. The first phase was shifting uninsured residents to the state’s managed care system, which is Florida’s version of the Medicaid system overseen by private insurers.

Uninsured patients would remain on those plans while the state sought federal approval for the underlying expansion plan. If green-lighted, the uninsured would be moved over to the state-run health care exchanges by Jan. 1, 2016.

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The amendments, filed by Senate Health Policy Committee Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, removes the Medicaid piece. Under the new plan, patients would go straight to the state-run exchanges on January 1.

“By removing Phase 1 enrollment in Medicaid Managed Care, the amendment streamlines implementation while facilitating a smooth transition for enrollees who can move directly to the FHIX,” wrote Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, in a memo to his members explaining the changes.

Removing the Medicaid piece from the plan could help placate opponents, including the GOP-dominated House and Gov. Rick Scott, that has expressed concern that the plan would expand the federally-run system, which it has hammered all session as “flawed.”

The amendment also adds an exemption to the bill’s work requirement, which some say will provide a hurdle to final approval. The feds have never approved an expansion plan that required enrollees to work or attend school in order to receive coverage.

“The bill allows an exception to the work requirement for individuals who are disabled or caregivers of a person with disabilities,” Gardiner explained.

When fully enacted, the Senate plan would cover an estimated 800,000 people and draw down nearly $50 billion over eight years. Over that same timeframe, the state would be on the hook for $5 billion, a price tag that has also been a point of contention for House Republicans.

House Budget Chief Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has said the House is likely to vote on a Senate-crafted expansion plan during the three week special session scheduled to begin June 1.

Disagreement over health care expansion under Obamacare, in part, forced regular session off the rails and forced lawmakers to return to Tallahassee for a special session to write the state budget.

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‘We had someone turn back the clock': A look back at Florida’s brush with government shutdown

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

As the clock ticked closer to midnight, lawmakers became more anxious. A six-month legislative session featuring near fist fights, budget vetoes and intense racial politics was winding down, yet they still had not figured out how to keep the lights on.

If lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the June 30 end of the fiscal year, it triggers a government shutdown. That means mass state worker furloughs, a suspension of most government services, and a body blow to the state economy.

Yet, after 128 days in legislative session, the second longest in state history, that’s where lawmakers found themselves on June, 30 1992 as the clock’s hour-hand crept closer to “12.”

“We had someone turn back the clock. They actually got up and set it back,” said state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Hollywood Democrat who served as senate president during the 1992 session. “Things were really, really tense.”

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Scott administration considered pulling “Freedom of Speech” provision from public building rules

use of state buildings

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

Gov. Rick Scott’s office considered pulling the “Freedom of Speech” provision from rules that govern the use of state buildings, according to a draft document considered by administration attorneys.

The consideration came as a group was pushing for the second year in a row to set up a controversial “satanic Temple” display next to other Capitol holiday displays.

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The rule, which ultimately was not changed, includes language that allows for the “freedom of expression consistent with the first and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.” It applies to public spaces like the first floor of the Capitol or the rotunda area on the fourth floor, both frequent venues for news conferences and protesters.

In the proposed rule change that was considered by the Scott administration, the existing free-speech language had a black line drawn through it and the section was renamed “peaceable assembly.”

The proposal removed any of the “freedom of speech” protections outlined in the rule and replaced them with language that simply referred to a portion of the rule that requires people who want to use the Capitol to submit a request three days in advance. That section also included a proposed change that would lengthen from 3 to 30 days the amount of time in advance a group would need to request use of a public building.

The proposed rules change also changed “any person” to “any government entity” in a section that dealt with who could construct “exhibits, posters, signs, displays” in public buildings.

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Scott signs bill to let children secretly tape their rapists

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Child rape victims have legal permission to secretly record their rapists under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott one day after an ice cream truck driver who was serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter was acquitted at a second trial.

The bill Scott signed Friday was a response to the Florida Supreme Court ordering a new trial for Richard McDade, who was convicted of repeatedly raping his stepdaughter when she was between 10 and 16. A judge during the first trial allowed recordings of conversations McDade had with his stepdaughter that she secretly recorded with an MP3 player hidden in her shirt.

But the Supreme Court ruled the recording was illegal and ordered a new trial last December. Florida prohibits conversations to be recorded or otherwise intercepted without the consent of both parties. The new law makes an exception for children who are victims or potential victims of rape and other violent acts that record their attackers. The law takes effect July 1.

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McDade, 68, walked free Thursday after a Lee County jury that didn’t hear the recordings acquitted him. The Lee County state attorney’s office said the recordings wouldn’t have been allowed at the second trial even if the Legislature and Scott acted sooner because they were illegal at the time they were made.

Sexual abuse victim advocate Lauren Book said the bill signing was one good outcome of the case, though she was outraged at McDade’s acquittal.

“Nobody can or should feel good about this. The only silver lining is this won’t happen going forward,” said Book, who founded Lauren Kid’s, a nonprofit group that raises awareness about sexual abuse and seeks to prevent it. “It’s sort of sad that children need to be their own heroes sometimes, but that is what this bill does.”

Lee County Assistant state attorney Tyler Lovejoy, who prosecuted the McDade case, praised the new law.

“It is easy to stand behind legislation that protects children,” Lovejoy said. “Anytime that legislation opens the door for new, corroborative evidence to be admitted in the courtroom, it is both bold and inspiring. What is most exciting about today is the prospect that prosecutors have a new weapon to use against those who seek to harm children, and those same children can provide a new voice to those who still do not believe in monsters.”

Scott also signed a bill allowing rural letter carriers drive their routes without wearing seat belts.

Political Fix podcast: Legislative leaders react to the long awaited LIP deal; Scott’s commission is unhappy with hospitals

We have a Low Income Pool funding deal!

What’s that mean? Are we out of the budget woods? This week’s episode has reaction to the deal from a trio of Florida’s legislative leaders.

We also dive into the first meeting of Gov. Rick Scott’s health care financing commission, which is not very happy with state hospitals.

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We focus on all things politics in the Sunshine State. We are the joint bureau of Naples Daily News / Tampa Tribune / Treasure Coast in Tallahassee.