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Lawmakers won't eliminate Public Health Trust provision from healthcare bill

State lawmakers on Thursday pitched 14 amendments to HB 7113, the omnibus healthcare bill moving through the Florida House.

The amendments included an effort by Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, to remove a controversial provision that would give the Miami-Dade Public Health Trust total control over contract negotiations between Jackson Health System and its labor unions. Under current law, the Miami-Dade County Commission has the final say.

Jackson, Miami-Dade County, the Public Health Trust and the healthcare workers union all supported Gonzalez's amendment.

"All this does is allow for the elected officials of Miami-Dade County to vote on union contracts if they go to impasse," Gonzalez said.

But Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, pointed out that a grand jury in 2010 had concluded that the Miami-Dade Commission exercises too much authority over the Public Health Trust.

"We have a Public Health Trust in place that is non-partisan and that is ultimately accountable for the financial well-being of that hospital," Trujillo said. "We have put these people in a position of power... but they are powerless in all labor negotiations [because] all impasses and negotiations will be sent to a county commission."

Rep. John Wood, the Winter Haven Republican who added the language to the bill, agreed.

"We believe public health trusts do not need the interference of the county commission to exercise their authority to manage the business," Wood said.

Gonzalez's amendment failed in a 53-62 vote.

Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican who sits on the Public Health Trust, voted against the amendment. Other Miami-Dade lawmakers who voted against the amendment included Trujillo and Republican Reps. Frank Artiles, José Félix Díaz, Jeanette Núñez and José Oliva.

The Public Health Trust language is not included in a Senate bill.

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