September 25, 2015

House Rules chairman sets kick-off for Florida Senate run


Republican state Rep. Ritch Workman plans to celebrate the launch of his Florida Senate campaign on Oct. 10 with a bash at his Melbourne home.

Workman, who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and a noted part-time Uber driver, is one of many House members gearing up for state Senate campaigns in 2016. 

An invite for Workman's campaign kick-off fundraiser notes that Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is on his host committee, as well as several local officials in Brevard County.  Download Invitation for 10-10-15 Kick Off

In inviting family, friends and political supporters to his home, Workman emailed his guests that he's not asking for any specific contribution amount. "Anything is welcome," he wrote.

September 23, 2015

VIDEO: Congressional redistricting maps back in court this week


Attorneys for the Florida House and Senate, as well as a group of plaintiffs, will be back in court tomorrow to make their case for which congressional redistricting map Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis should recommend to the Florida Supreme Court.

Times/Herald bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and reporter Michael Auslen break down the latest in this first installment of the "Times/Herald Tallahassee Update."


September 18, 2015

House, Senate education panels react differently to FSA review


Call it a tale of two education committees.

Both the House and Senate had hearings this week to discuss the results of an outside study to evaluate the new Florida Standards Assessments, and specifically whether the glitch-ridden roll-out last spring affected the accuracy of the test results.

The contrast in the tenor of both hearings was stark, as was the reception of Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart who spoke before both panels. (She had only a couple minutes before the Senate committee, but more than 90 minutes before the House committee.)

The Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee on Thursday afternoon was concerned and skeptical, questioning the mixed results of the independent review and whether the Department of Education had a hand in crafting the final report, because the agency had the chance to review two drafts in a "fact-checking" effort. More here.

Meanwhile, the House Education Committee on Friday morning repeatedly thanked Stewart for her work, saying she isn't thanked enough for the "tough" job she's had. Their questions didn't focus much on the FSA review, but rather the future - such as how collective results of last spring’s Florida Standards Assessments will be used in the coming months to help determine school grades and evaluate teachers across Florida. More here.

Photo credit: The Florida Channel

September 16, 2015

Bill to repeal cohabitation ban resurfaces in Florida House


HousePhotoOriginal5714A bill to ditch Florida's 147-year ban on unmarried men and women living together is getting renewed life in the state House this fall, but it's far too soon to know how much traction the proposal might get during session.

In the spring, bills to repeal the cohabitation ban died in both chambers.

Florida is one of only three states that still criminalize cohabitation. It's a second-degree misdemeanor but rarely enforced.

The newest proposal to repeal the law (HB 4003) cleared the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee this morning by a 10-3 vote, drawing some brief, lively discussion.

"The government should not be peeking under the sheets, frankly, of its citizens," said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, who is co-sponsoring this year's bill with Weston Democratic Rep. Richard Stark.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda said keeping the 1868 law on the books could create the potential for "discriminatory behavior," but opponents of the bill cite religious and moral reasons for why it should stand.

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September 12, 2015

Corcoran hopes to use his rise to 'blow-up' the Tallahassee's power pyramid

Richard CorcoranHe is far from being a household name in Florida and yet he will command one of the three most powerful positions in state government with the ability to control every piece of legislation — from how much money goes to public schools to whether the working poor have access to affordable health care.

Rep. Richard Corcoran, from Land O’Lakes in Pasco County, will be designated speaker of the Florida House on Wednesday for the two-year term beginning in November 2016. He will be formally elected by his GOP peers to a job that comes with prestige and enormous power over the 120-member chamber dominated by Republicans.

As a former legislative aide and legal adviser to three former speakers and Gov. Rick Scott, Corcoran brings with him more than 25 years of legislative experience, a network of loyalists, an allegiance with the governor, and an agenda determined to shake up what he considers the “corrupting” influences of Tallahassee.

Working behind the scenes since he won enough pledges to be named speaker of his incoming class in 2010, Corcoran and the 28 members of his class have developed a white paper he calls “The Manifesto.” In it, they outline a plan to blow up the top-down process of House leadership that has allowed special interests to drive a wedge between lawmakers.

“The special interests are the biggest cowards in this process,’’ Corcoran told the Herald/Times. “They split up the herd and go after the weak ones, and they’ll even go after the big ones if they think they can. Story here. 


May 27, 2015

House responds with batch of bills it says will lower health care costs

After spending the last legislative session knocking down Senate proposals for expanding health care coverage while offering no alternative of their own, Florida House Republicans filed a series of bills Wednesday that attempt to take a rifle-shot approach to lowering the spiraling costs of health care in Florida.

Many of the proposals are not new, and some have been passed by key committees in the state Senate, but all embrace the belief of many House leaders that the state must inject free-market competition into the health care marketplace to lower costs of health care before expanding access to the uninsured. Opponents, however, claim that many of the proposals just unleash turf battles within the health care industry that will not suppress costs.

“The crisis in health care begins at the cost part of that equation,’’ said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, a top House lieutenant. “Until we address costs there will never be enough [Medicaid] expansion as those costs continue to rise. What I need to do is put together a system that is heavily dependent on competition and consumerism and free markets.”

The bills, filed along with several budget bills that will be introduced in the three-week special session that begins Monday, include:

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May 26, 2015

Is it really a $1 billion budget hole? Scott/AHCA and Senate disagree

Tensions continued to mount Tuesday between Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate as the governor blasted a Senate compromise and the governor’s Agency for Health Care administration issued a letter to the federal government suggesting that the state would not lose the $1 billion in federal money to reimburse hospitals for serving the uninsured under the low income pool as legislators previously suggested.

Agency for Health Care Administration deputy director Justin Senior sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services suggesting that “there is no need to infuse additional state general revenue to maintain current Medicaid hospital funding levels” in the 2015-16 budget year because local governments could draw down matching funds to offset the $1 billion not coming to the state.

He quotes the May 21 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which suggests that the state will get $1 billion and notes that "this level of funding for the LIP coupled with the options the state may elect at its discretion described in this letter would enable Florida to retain Medicaid investment in the state at or above the current $2.16 billion level of LIP funding.”

Senior concludes: "Based on this communication and our subsequent clarifying conversations, we understand that the renewed LIP will provide us with enough money to maintain current Medicaid program funding levels."  Download Wachino 526

He then attached a funding proposal that assumes local governments will draw down another $906 million and therefore eliminating the need for legislators to fill the funding gap for hospitals with general revenue funds.  Download Proposal

Senate President Andy Gardiner's response: not so fast.

He called the approach “shortsighted and only kicks the can down the road” because it fails to address the reforms the federal government wants the state to adopt in order to provide insurance to the uninsured.

“The plan proposed by AHCA relies on a particular premise—it assumes that CMS will approve a LIP plan or distribution model that devotes all or most of the LIP spending authority to incentivizing IGT [Inter-governmental transfers] donations and does not advance any of the reforms required for compliance with CMS principles,'' Gardiner said in a statement. "This assumption must be verified by CMS before the Legislature acts on this proposal.

“Using LIP exclusively as a financing mechanism in FY 2015-16 appears to minimize the amount of general revenue needed in rates or other provider payments for the coming year, but that approach is shortsighted and only kicks the can down the road, pushing the general revenue need to subsequent budget years.

“Any proposed spending plan should be a multi-year plan that establishes a foundation for comprehensive solutions. Specifically, the LIP cap declines by another $400 million in the next year and distribution of LIP payments must align with uncompensated care costs in the second year. Additionally, stricter guidelines on distribution of LIP payments take effect in the next year.

"“We believe any proposal must also be accompanied by a full LIP model in order to evaluate the specific impacts.”

May 10, 2015

What might legislative middle ground look like? Some ideas

Florida legislators may have ended their stalemate last week when they agreed to convene a three-week special session to resolve the budget crisis in June, but they didn’t agree on the hard part: how to resolve stark differences over health care.

Some compromise ideas are emerging — from using $600 million intended for tax cuts to bail out hospitals that treat poor patients, to seeking a one-of-a-kind federal waiver, to drawing federal money without passing it through Medicaid.

But finding the middle ground won’t be easy because of the deep ideological divide between House and Senate Republicans over whether or not to expand Medicaid to draw down federal money to provide healthcare for more than 800,000 uninsured residents who must otherwise rely on charity care.

“Ideologies are going to have to be on the back burner and good public policy that satisfies both sides is going to have to prevail,’’ said Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican whose district has among the state’s highest number of uninsured. She is among a minority of House Republicans who support taking federal money if it’s tied to an aggressive health care reform plan that reduces costs.

The legislative session ended abruptly April 28 when the House adjourned in protest over the impasse.

Among the ideas emerging to bridge the divide: bypass Medicaid, bypass hospitals, seek a new federal waiver or just plug the hole and buy time.

More here.

December 01, 2014

Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been selected as the Democratic Floor Leader by House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Democratic Leader pro tempore, Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. Richardson will be the first openly gay representative in Florida history to serve in a leadership position in the Florida legislature, according to House Democrats. 

Here's the Democrats' press statement:

Richardson, D-Miami Beach, was the first openly gay member ever elected to the Florida Legislature when he was elected on August 14, 2012. Richardson has been a licensed CPA in Florida for 30 years and began his career as a Pentagon auditor identifying fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. He was re-elected earlier this year to represent House District 113 for his second two-year term and is the only openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. Richardson joins the leadership team that will guide policy and action for House Democrats. As Floor Leader, he will serve as the chief liaison between the Democratic Leader and the Office of the Speaker. Richardson will also serve as ranking member on the House Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee. In that role, Richardson will work on daily schedules of action for the House. Richardson will also manage, in conjunction with Republican leaders, floor debate on bills and amendments.

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