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14 posts from April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014

Lawmakers agree to delay controversial hospital funding model


Specifics still need to be ironed out, but hospitals across Florida are already celebrating the news that a controversial funding model will not be implemented as planned this year.

The so-called "tiering" law would have required counties that use local dollars to draw down more federal money for hospitals to begin sharing that money statewide. Jackson Health System in Miami was bracing for a $140 million hit as a result of the new law. Tampa General Hospital said its loss would have been $43 million. Miami Children’s Hospital and All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg estimated they would collectively see funding cut $17.6 million.

The Legislature's two health care budget chiefs -- Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, and Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring-- agreed this morning that the law should be delayed at least for a year. That gives the state time to complete a study of its existing Medicaid funding mechanisms and come up with recommendations, as required by the federal government.

"We don’t know what happens next year so the best thing to do is maintain the status quo," Grimsley said. "When we come back in session next year, we will then have a better idea of what direction we need to go."

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Senate committee rejects effort to reduce dog racing at parimutuels but passes injury reporting

A proposal to end the requirement that dog tracks race greyhounds in order to keep their gaming permits died Tuesday in the Florida Senate on a procedural vote.

The decision not to take up the proposal by the Senate Appropriations Committee means that Florida’s 13 remaining greyhound tracks will operate another year as they are today, following the same racing schedules they have been required to follow for more than a decade.

The committee approved a less restrictive dog racing bill (SB 742) requiring track operators and dog trainers to report race-related injuries to state gaming regulators. If the bill passes, it will be the first time in Florida greyhound racing history that track operators have been required to report injuries.

Florida is one of only two states that do not require injury reporting and animals rights activists had also hoped this would be the year they could get approval to pass the so-call "de-coupling" bill that would have allowed tracks to reduce their racing schedule and, ultimately, end dog racing.

Florida has more greyhound racing than any other state, but the racing schedule is still tethered to a 1997 law that allowed track owners to operate poker rooms only if they operate 90 percent of the races they held back then.

The Senate Appropriations Committee failed to take up the measure after the proposal, by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, was subjected to a rules challenge by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Latvala, a supporter of the pari-mutuel industry, said the proposal was too broad of an expansion of the original bill and violated Senate rules. In addition to reducing the schedule of live races, the bill would have changed the tax rates on race tracks, revised permits and ended charity events.

The bill’s defeat was a blow to animal rights groups, which said they had the votes to pass the measure.

"This means that greyhound decoupling is very likely dead for this session,’’ Carey Theil, director of Grey2K USA, the greyhound advocacy group that spearheaded the effort this session, said in an email to supporters. "Greyhound decoupling will come back, and I am confident that it will eventually become law.’’ Story here. 

Miami invited to bid on 2016 Democratic Convention. Will it?


Miami is one of 15 cities invited to bid on the 2016 Democratic National Convention, leaving local governments to decide whether the $50 million price tag is worth the effort.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Broward Democrat who serves as head of the Democratic National Committee, issued a request for proposals Tuesday to the Miami area and 14 cities, including Orlando, New York, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh.

Miami-Dade has opted not to pursue political conventions in past election cycles, citing costs. The initial estimate for hosting the 2016 convention that may nominate Hillary Clinton is $50 million, roughly what Tampa spent to host the 2012 Republican convention.

Earlier this year, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez offered the county’s AmericanAirlines Arena as a convention site for the Democrats in 2016. But despite an enthusiastic letter to Wasserman Schultz expressing interest, Gimenez said the county still needed to analyze the hosting requirements before deciding whether to pursue the convention. Miami-Dade was joined by Miami and Miami Beach in Gimenez’s Feb. 28 letter of interest.


Today in Tallahassee: Five Things to Know

Both the House and Senate plan to spend Wednesday passing bills off their respective floors. The Senate session starts at 10 a.m. The House gets underway at 10:30 a.m.
Here's what to watch on Day 51:
The House will a vote on a bill seeking to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. The bill had come under fire for a provision that would have prevented local governments from regulating the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes. But Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, passed an amendment Tuesday that stripped the controversial language from the proposal. 
The Senate, meanwhile, will vote on a proposal that would increase the criminal penalties for killing or injuring a pregnant woman and her fetus (SB 162).
Also up for a vote in the Senate: HB 513, which would allow Florida to appoint a state poet laureate.
The Senate will discuss (but not vote on) SB 392, which would raise the speed limits on certain highways. The chamber will also take up SB 926, which preempts local regulation of wage theft.0
Be on the lookout for budget conference committee meetings. The meetings could take place before or after the floor session, and need only be noticed one hour before the start time.