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House abandons Department of Health decentralization, for now

Rep. Matt Hudson is backing off his proposal to decentralize the state’s Department of Health, shifting many of the duties and costs to county governments. But even without that controversial component, the reorganization plan was still opposed by Democrats.

Hudson, R-Naples, said the decentralization idea is a good one that he will pursue next session.

“This year due to some fiscal restraints in terms of leave payouts and things like that it wasn’t the appropriate time, and we’ll go after it next year,” he said. “I think it’s important that we started the conversation and we’re engaged in talking to the counties and the governor’s office and the department on seeing how best to facilitate that.”

Representatives of Florida's counties and the Department of Health expressed concerns about the decentralization effort now stricken from HB 1263. The department released a statement Tuesday applauding the decision to remove that controversial provision from the legislation.

However, several public health advocates continued to speak out against the overall reorganization measure, which streamlines the mission of the Department of Health, decreases the number of divisions, privatize A.G. Holley Hospital for tuberculosis treatments and transfers a student loan forgiveness program for nurses to the Department of Education.

Without the decentralization component, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Department of Health reorganization on a party line vote. The Senate’s version of DOH reorganization, SB 1824, is also moving through committee but it never included the controversial decentralization provisions.