Tallahassee Update

Senate Budget

On Thursday, the Senate approved their $70.7 billion budget on a 33-6 vote.  The drastic cuts which had originally been proposed in hospital payments from Medicaid were of grave concern to Jackson and other safety-net hospitals. The proposal adopted Thursday cut Medicaid hospital payments across the board.  Jackson Health System was disadvantaged by the previous Senate formula so having an across the board cut is an improvement, and we need to continue our effort to reject Medicaid cuts to safety-net hospitals.  One aspect of Medicaid cuts, limiting ER visit compensation to 6 or12 visits will probably fall especially hard on those safety-net hospitals such as Jackson Health System which serves patients seriously in need We need to continue campaigning against this aspect.  One positive part of the budget proposal of the Senate is to make money available for construction of primary care facilities accessible to Medicaid patients. Early next week the House and Senate will start working on the final budget.

Pension Victory! At least for Now …

Thanks to everyone who was able to send messages or make calls on the proposed changes to the FRS pension. As we reported last week, there was a serious attack on the defined benefit plan. It would have forced all new employees into the defined contribution plan unless they affirmatively asked for the pension plan and raised the vesting period above 10 years as an incentive not to join the defined benefit plan. Thousands of people responded against this measure and the Senators carrying that version of the bill agreed to “TP” it during the last committee.  At the end  of the week, the House sponsor agreed to withdraw it from consideration.

Prison Privatization Bill is Finally Dead!

Last week’s significant victory on Prison Privatization, was reconfirmed this week. Thursday was the last opportunity for the Senate to bring the measure up for reconsideration and the day passed with the bill finally dead.  Governor Rick Scott has made several threatening statements that he may try to use his powers to privatize some of the prisons involved, but any such effort would be a difficult task because he would have to demonstrate that it saved money and maintained security. All of these steps were what the legislative leaders were trying to avoid with their defeated massive privatization.

Hospital Sale and Lease Bill Clears a House Committee

The bill governing the sale and lease of public hospitals passed another committee in the House. It requires court oversight and public exposure for any sale. It also would require a referendum of the people before a sale could take place in a county such as Miami-Dade. Unfortunately, the house bill picked up language which had previously only been in the Senate version which would require the public hospitals to do a study of their market value before the end of 2012.

Minor Victories Continue..

The bill granting ARNPs  the ability to commit mental patients at risk of harming themselves or others continued to pass through committees in the House. Bills allowing legal immigrant children and the children of state workers who are qualified by low income to participate in Florida’s Kid-care program also passed.

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