Miami politics went into overdrive Friday following state Sen. Frank Artiles' resignation, as elected officials and their political consultants scrambled to figure out who might run in a yet-to-be-scheduled special election to replace the freshman Miami Republican.
Political insiders in Miami and Tallahassee had begun whispering about Artiles' potential successor even before he stepped down. District 40 in Southwest Miami-Dade County is a competitive, Democratic-leaning and overwhelmingly Hispanic seat....
How the Legislature could use $1.5 billion in extra Medicaid money for something other than hospitals04/21/17 Blog
There's $1.5 billion on the table that could shore up the state budget, but the question in Tallahassee is this: How will the Legislature be allowed to use it?
Both the House and Senate appear ready to use the Low Income Pool approved by the Trump administration last week to offset cuts to hospitals and free up money for other priorities.
"It’ll free up money from general revenue that then can be used to put into reserves to shore up out years or to pay for some of the projects that members have a unique interest," said House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami. "Whether it’s Lake Okeechobee in the Senate or on the House side, a lot of the K-12 priorities, Schools of Hope and Best and Brightest."...
04/20/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Welfare recipients in Florida would face tougher penalties for failing to meet work requirements and some food stamp recipients could become ineligible if lawmakers in the Florida House have their way.
The chamber passed a set of changes to Florida's welfare laws Wednesday by an 82-38 vote with three Democrats joining Republicans in support. It's a move supporters say is supposed to help people who receive cash assistance from the state to find good jobs and discourage reliance on government....
04/19/17 State Roundup
Years of fighting among local governments, the Legislature and ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft could soon come to an end.
Lawmakers have sent to Gov. Rick Scott legislation that would prohibit local government from regulating the companies. Instead, the companies would need to meet statewide insurance and background check standards only.
The vote was unanimous in the House and nearly so in the Senate....
Local governments won’t be allowed to regulate ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft under legislation passed nearly unanimously by the Florida Legislature.
It now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for signature or veto. His office has not yet signaled whether he will sign it.
The bill (HB 221) sets statewide insurance and background check standards for ridesharing companies. But most critically, it overrides local governments’ attempts to regulate them. Some of the most high-profile fights over local rules have been in Key West and Hillsborough County....
Florida lawmakers are moving full steam ahead to implement the voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, but there is still no sign of a compromise between competing House and Senate plans.
The two legislators tasked with putting the voters’ will into effect, Sen. Rob Bradley and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, say they have begun closed-door talks to bridge large divides between their legislation. ...
04/18/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — For four decades, hospitals wanting to expand or open new facilities have had to get the state to agree there's a need for more health care in their community.
It's a rule that Republicans in the Florida House say creates unnecessary burdens on the free market. This week, they'll be passing a bill to repeal it.
But opponents of the repeal worry that allowing hospitals to build beds wherever they want will encourage health facilities to build in wealthy areas, leaving poor communities with limited options and safety net hospitals strapped for cash....
The Florida House has not yet decided if it will include a new $1.5 billion sum of money to cover low-income health care costs in its budget.
House Health Care Appropriations chairman Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said that it "depends on what kind of assurances we get from the federal government."
The federal government agreed to revive the Low Income Pool at $1.5 billion last week after it was set to end. Though it is clear that the money will be funded mostly by the federal government with the remainder coming from state or local governments, the full terms of the agreement are not yet clear....
The Florida House is stepping into the legal battle between Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala over the death penalty.
Last week, the House's lawyers asked for permission to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Scott, who transferred 23 death penalty cases to another state attorney after Ayala said she would not seek the death penalty in Orange and Osceola counties. Ayala has asked the court to tell Scott he is acting outside his constitutional powers to reassign cases and give them back to her office....
04/17/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — After a gunman opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub last summer, the most seriously injured victims were rushed a half-mile to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
There, doctors and nurses in Florida's busiest trauma center sprang into action, treating nearly four dozen patients from the nation's deadliest mass shooting. They had practiced repeatedly for such an occasion....
04/13/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — An anti-drug group opposed to medical marijuana is helping craft Florida laws on pot's expanded use — a cause its founders tried and failed to defeat during last year's elections.
The St. Petersburg-based Drug Free America Foundation is one of several anti-drug groups tied to conservative financiers Mel and Betty Sembler that opposed constitutional amendments legalizing medical marijuana in 2014 and 2016. The Semblers, who founded Drug Free America, gave $1 million for a political committee called Drug Free Florida, which fought against last year's amendment that provided greater access to the drug....
04/12/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The federal government agreed on Wednesday to renew a state program that repays hospitals for care they provide to the uninsured, a move that could offset state cuts to hospitals and bridge a gap in the state budget.
Gov. Rick Scott announced that the Trump administration would allow a $1.5 billion Low Income Pool in next year's state budget. That pot of money, which includes local tax dollars and federal matching money, was set to expire. It has been part of broader negotiations between the state and federal governments over Florida's Medicaid program....
The federal government has agreed to restore $1.5 billion to a state program that repays hospitals that care for the uninsured, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday.
The pot of money, called the Low Income Pool, was set to expire this year but has been part of broader negotiations over Florida's Medicaid program between state and federal officials.
“Working with the Trump Administration to secure a commitment of $1.5 billion in LIP funding for our state will truly improve the quality and access to health care for our most vulnerable populations," Scott said in a statement....
Gov. Rick Scott is directing state health and law enforcement agencies to travel the state in search of solutions to the opioid epidemic, but the governor has not taken the extra step to declare a statewide public health emergency.
Florida's Department of Health, Department of Children and Families and Department of Law Enforcement will in the coming weeks begin workshops in Palm Beach, Manatee, Duval and Orange counties. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the initiative, a deal with drug companies to provide Narcan spray and their support for legislation related to the opioid crisis at an event in the state Capitol on Tuesday....
04/09/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — When voters made California the first state to allow medical marijuana in 1996, the rules were so lax, anyone with a doctor's recommendation could grow their own cannabis.
Not until next year will the Golden State start to regulate its growers. State ID cards are voluntary for patients, making it impossible to track everyone who is legally using medical cannabis there....