2017 Legislative Session Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Rick Scott signs nursing home reimbursement changes into law

Changes to how the state’s nursing that accept Medicaid are paid are coming down the pike.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a wide-sweeping health care bill (SB 2514) last week that, among other things, moves the payment system to a cost-based system to a prospective payment system. The law delays the move from cost-based system to a prospective payment system by a year, giving health care officials and providers additional time to study and prepare for the shift.

“LeadingAge Florida and our high-quality, mission-driven members appreciate that the Legislature delayed implementation of the prospective payment system for a year,” said Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida.

The shift to a prospective payment plan, which reimburses nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated on several different components, was one of several behind-the-scenes food fights this year.

Officials with LeadingAge, which represents about 400 senior communities through the state, expressed concern that the initial proposal would shift money from high-quality nursing homes, threatening the quality of care offered in facilities across the state. But Bahmer said the group “never opposed the shift to a PPS approach.”

“However, we have consistently opposed ill-conceived plans that would damage Florida’s highest-quality nursing care providers,” said Bahmer. “The Legislature wisely delayed the implementation of the PPS to allow the further study of this important issue. Looking forward to 2018, we will work with AHCA, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to ensure that the payment system truly rewards high-quality providers.”

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents about 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers, was generally supportive of the recommendations proposed during the 2017 Legislative Session, but did seek to make some changes.

Emmett Reed, the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association, said he appreciated the organization appreciated Scott for “recognizing that a stronger reimbursement system is best for everyone involved.”

“The prospective payment system will put the focus on quality care and quality of life for Florida’s nursing center residents, and for the first time in Florida’s Medicaid history, will link nursing center reimbursement to quality outcomes,” said Reed. “On behalf of the thousands of long term caregivers working in our member centers, we commend Governor Scott for supporting PPS so they can achieve their goals of providing exceptional care and services to our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games

Lawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom.

Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines. The devices in question use a specific software known as “Version 67.”

Source: Twitter

The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser.

The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue.

The Tribe believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside attorney, has argued Cooper misunderstood the gameplay: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games, the concerns behind pre-reveal, disagree. They have complained in court filings that the state continues to go after the games through its Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

“Customers fear legal repercussions (and) most have decided not to offer the game, fearing (the department’s) wrath,” their filing said, referring to ABT’s “confusing and heavy-handed tactics.” They include threats of criminal prosecution and loss of liquor licenses, according to the motion.

But the state’s filing notes that the machines “operate upon the insertion of money and award prizes through the element of chance.”

A Twitter account called @RealBlueSkyGame has photos of banners advertising the devices as the “only Florida court approved no chance game,” adding that they offer a “cash payout.”

“We don’t violate anything and they know it,” says one tweet. “We are winning!!! They are wrong, so sad.”

Another tweet from that account responded to a FloridaPolitics.com post last week, saying, “They are not pre-reveal anything. They are no chance games. Get the terminology correct.”

Pre-reveal game makers bemoan state’s ‘heavy-handed tactics’

The companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games say they’re “losing money every day” even after a Tallahassee judge ruled the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines.

Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games are asking Circuit Judge John Cooper to lift an automatic stay of his March decision. Cooper, however, already has agreed to reconsider the ruling, setting a hearing next Monday in the Leon County Courthouse.

The devices—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser.

Still, the companies say the continuing insistence of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) that the games are illegal is killing their bottom line.

The department regulates gambling, but has been going after the games through its Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

“Customers fear legal repercussions (and) most have decided not to offer the game, fearing (the department’s) wrath,” their motion says, referring to ABT’s “confusing and heavy-handed tactics.” They include threats of criminal prosecution and loss of liquor licenses, according to the motion.

“This court has recognized that if the state and ABT unhappy with the ruling, they can afford themselves a legislative fix,” it adds. “The very simple fact here is (that the pre-reveal games in question are) not gambling under any known definition; that is why there is no regulatory scheme.”

Lawmakers in fact failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this year, including addressing pre-reveal regulation. Many were concerned the games would inundate bars, restaurants and even “family fun centers,” where they could be played by children.

Moreover, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has asked to intervene in the case, arguing that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue.

The Tribe believes the machine are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Poppycock, said the motion by the companies’ attorney, Robert E. Turffs of Sarasota: “This is not about gambling – it is a cynical attempt to appease Seminole Gaming, which fears it is losing money to this non-gambling game … gambling is just fine in Florida, but only if the ‘right people’ receive a benefit.”

But the Tribe’s outside attorney previously argued Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown,” Barry Richard said.

For its part, DBPR’s attorneys added that Cooper’s decision created a “grey market gaming industry” that can’t be regulated, since pre-reveal machines aren’t classified as slot machines or amusement machines, and can’t be taxed.

“The stay is necessary to help prevent the very likely proliferation of potentially illegal conduct and unauthorized gaming throughout the state,” the department’s motion says.

Because the machines “operate upon the insertion of money and award prizes through the element of chance, it is substantially likely (the department) will prevail on appeal.”

We have a deal: Lawmakers agree to increase money for higher ed and Hoover dike

Gov. Rick Scott expanded the call of the Legislature’s special session Friday to include money he wants to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike and higher education investments important to the Senate.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had proposed both items in a letter to Scott earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the Senate went into recess pending what President Joe Negron referred to as “an amendment being prepared based on current developments.”

Corcoran posited the dam project as economic development spending, fully compatible with the Florida Job Growth Fund created in legislation that cleared the House floor earlier Friday.

“This disaster has all the characteristics and consequences that the (fund) is designed to address,” Corcoran wrote — specifically, “the devastating economic impact resulting from the blue-green algae bloom in South Florida” last summer.

“The House believes infrastructure projects, such as the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, can assist economic recovery and support the area’s workforce,” he wrote.

Corcoran noted that “your friendship with President Trump” has resulted a promise for federal matching money for the $200 million project, which Scott urged the Legislature to support during the regular session.

Negron on Thursday evening demanded respect for the Senate’s higher education priorities — he wants Florida’s colleges and universities to rank among the nation’s best. The upper chamber has voted to override Scott’s vetoes of $75 million in higher ed projects.

Corcoran found a way to qualify those projects as economic incentives. “These institutions can and ahould provide ongoing research, training, and support for local economic recovery,” he wrote.

“As I have publicly stated, the House will not participate in any legislative action to override your higher education project vetoes,” Corcoran stressed.

“However, with your agreement, we can support more conservative appropriations to provide funding for higher education projects that will contribute to the broader goal of strong public infrastructure and a skilled workforce.”

Scott confirmed in a written statement that Trump has promised money to fix the dike, which surrounds Lake Okeechobee.

“Along with SB 10, a major priority for Senate President Joe Negron, that I signed into law last month, repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike will ensure that future generations of Floridians will not be plagued with safety concerns during flooding events and problems with algae. I urge the Legislature to take up this call and fund these critical repairs,” Scott said.

“Also, today, I updated the call to include higher education funding. Last week, I signed a historic $4.9 billion budget for Florida’s universities, which is a $174 million increase over last year,” Scott continued.

“By adding higher education to the topics that can be considered during the ongoing special session, the Legislature will have the opportunity to modify these issues for my consideration.”

Rick Scott signs 33 bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday approved another 33 bills from the 2017 Legislative Session, according to an email from his office.

The official list with descriptions follows:

CS/CS/HB 39 Autism Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers – This bill requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to enhance Autism Spectrum Disorder training for law enforcement officers.
HB 65 Civil Remedies for Terrorism – This bill creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by an act of terrorism. 
CS/HB 105 Canvassing of Vote-by-Mail Ballots – This bill authorizes the use of a cure affidavit for a vote-by-mail ballot if a voter’s signature does not match the signature in the registration books or precinct registers. This bill also requires supervisors of elections to immediately notify an elector upon receipt of a vote-by-mail ballot with a missing or mismatched signature.
CS/HB 141 Craft Distilleries – This bill allows craft distilleries to sell up to six factory-sealed containers of each branded product in the distiller’s gift shop.
CS/CS/HB 169 Fictitious Name Registration – This bill requires those doing business in Florida under a name other than their legal name to register with the Division of Corporations of the Department of State.
CS/HB 181 Natural Hazards – This bill creates an interagency workgroup under the Florida Division of Emergency Management to share information, coordinate efforts of state agencies and collaborate on the impacts of natural hazards.
HB 207 Agency Inspectors General – This bill prohibits state inspector general contracts from including bonuses for work performance.
CS/CS/HB 209 Medical Faculty and Medical Assistant Certification – This bill expands medical faculty certificates to John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
CS/HB 211 Cosmetic Product Registration – This bill reduces the regulatory burden on Florida’s cosmetic manufacturers by restructuring fees and eliminating registration requirements for cosmetic products.
CS/CS/HB 241 Alarm Systems – The bill streamlines permitting of low-voltage electric fences and allows alarm monitors to contact law enforcement directly in certain circumstances.
HB 243 Public Records – This bill provides an exemption from public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of certain investigative personnel of Office of Financial Regulation and their spouses and children.
CS/CS/HB 249 Drug Overdoses – This bill creates guidelines for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to report drug overdoses and requires hospital emergency departments to develop policies to promote the prevention of unintentional drug overdoses.
CS/CS/HB 293 Middle Grades – This bill requires an independent study of other states with high-performing middle school students.
HB 299 Central Florida Expressway Authority – This bill revises provisions governing the Central Florida Expressway Authority to include Brevard County as a member.
CS/HB 6501 Relief of J.D.S. – This bill directs the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities to provide $950,000 in relief to J.D.S., a woman victimized while living in an Orange County group home.
CS/HB 6503 Relief of Sean McNamee, Todd McNamee and Jody McNamee by the School Board of Hillsborough County – This bill directs the School Board of Hillsborough County to provide $1.7 million in relief to Sean McNamee and his parents for a severe head injury sustained during football practice at Wharton High School.
CS/HB 6507 Relief of Angela Sanford by Leon County – This bill directs Leon County to provide $1.15 million in relief to Angela Sanford for injuries sustained in a car accident caused by collision with an ambulance.
CS/CS/HB 6511 Relief of L.T. – This bill directs the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide $800,000 in relief to L.T., a child formerly in the care of the Department.
CS/CS/HB 6515 Relief of Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr. – This bill directs Florida State University to provide $1.8 million in relief to Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr. for the wrongful death of their son, Devaughn Darling, during preseason football training.
CS/CS/HB 6519 Relief of Amie Draiemann O’Brien, Hailey Morgan Stephenson and Christian Darby Stephenson II – This bill directs the Florida Department of Transportation to provide a total of $1,116,940 in relief to the Estate of Christian Darby Stephenson, Amie Draiemann O’Brien, Hailey Morgan Stephenson, and Christian Darby Stephenson II for the wrongful death of Christian Darby Stephenson.
CS/HB 6521 Relief of Mary Mifflin-Gee by the City of Miami – This bill directs the City of Miami to provide $2.3 million in relief to Mary Mifflin-Gee for a brain injury sustained while in the care of Miami paramedics.
CS/CS/HB 6529 Relief of Lillian Beauchamp by the St. Lucie County School District – This bill directs the St. Lucie County School District to provide $1.5 million in relief to Lillian Beauchamp, for the wrongful death of her son, Aaron Beauchamp.
CS/HB 6539 Relief of Eddie Weekley and Charlotte Williams –This bill directs the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to provide $1 million in relief to Eddie Weekley and Charlotte Williams for the disappearance and wrongful death of their son, Franklin Weekley.
CS/HB 6545 Relief of Jerry Cunningham by Broward County – This bill directs Broward County to provide $550,000 in compensation relief to Jerry Cunningham for injuries sustained from a Broward County bus.
CS/HB 6549 Relief of Altavious Carter and Dustin Reinhardt by the Palm Beach County School Board – This bill directs the Palm Beach County School Board to provide $790,000 in relief to Altavious Carter for injuries sustained in a school bus accident and $4.7 million to Dustin Reinhardt for a head injury sustained in auto shop class at Seminole Ridge High School.
HB 7035 OGSR/Nonpublished Reports and Data/Department of Citrus – This bill removes the October 2, 2017 repeal date for public records exemption of any nonpublished reports or data related to research conducted and funded by the Department of Citrus.
HB 7077 Gulf Coast Economic Corridor –  This bill makes changes to the administration of the money recovered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.
HB 7079 Trust Funds – This bill creates the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to administer money recovered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.
HB 7087 OGSR/Protective Injunctions for Certain Types of Violence – This bill continues the public record exemption for the identities and location information of victims of domestic or repeat violence requesting notice of service.
HB 7093 OGSR/Agency Personnel Information –This bill revises and reorders existing public records exemptions for specific classes of personnel to extend protections to their spouses and children and amends the requirements to qualify for the exemptions.
HB 7099 Corporate Income Tax – This bill updates the Florida corporate income tax with last year’s changes in the federal corporate income tax code.
HB 7113 OGSR/Donor or Prospective Donor/Publicly Owned Performing Arts Center – This bill continues the public records exemption for identifying information provided by a donor or a prospective donor to a publicly owned performing arts center if the donor or prospective donor wishes to remain anonymous.
HB 7115 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys – This bill provides for the care, reinterment and memorialization of remains exhumed from the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, establishes a memorial at the Capitol Complex in Leon County and the former school in Jackson County and preserves the areas known as Boot Hill Cemetery and the White House.  

Associated Industries releases 2017 Voting Record report

The voting record report is out.

Associated Industries of Florida released its 2017 Voting Record report. Published for more than four decades, the annual report is considered one of the definitive legislative scorecards for the business community. This year, the organization calculated more than 208,966 votes on 1,955 bills with 848 legislators.

“This session, AIF faced a variety of tough issues on behalf of Florida’s business community, including opposing any measure that would have made it more expensive for businesses to operate, such as prejudgment interest and fighting to preserve the insurance premium tax salary credit,” said Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of AIF, in a statement. “Additionally, AIF was a proud advocate for Florida’s business community, actively engaging on measures, such as reducing the business rent tax, addressing the workers’ compensation system, making 5G wireless technology a reality and protecting productive private agricultural land.”

Feeney said while AIF accomplished many of its priorities during the 2017 Legislative Session, “this year’s Voting Records vary from what (AIF has) seen in years’ past.”

The report shows the lowest percentages since 2002 for both the Senate and House, with the Senate voting in favor of the business community 74 percent of the time. The House, according to the report, voted in favor of the business community 79 percent of the time.

“Although Florida’s business community had to fight back initiatives that would have negative impacted our state’s small and large businesses, we did make some headway this session; and, we thank Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature for continuing to give our state the opportunity to have a vibrant, competitive business environment,” said Brewster Bevis, the senior vice president of state and federal affairs at AIF, in a statement.

Governor signs Grieving Families Act, plus four other bills, into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed five bills into law Wednesday, including legislation providing birth certificates in cases of miscarriage and punishing the desecration of graves.

Scott did not explain his reasons in his transmission letter to the secretary of state.

HB 101, the Grieving Families Act, would give parents the option of receiving a state-issued certificate if a pregnancy is lost between nine weeks and 20 weeks of gestation.

The measure cleared the Senate unanimously and the House over one dissenting vote.

It was worded to ensure it wouldn’t spark a partisan argument over whether the state was trying to define life.

A companion measure, HB 103, providing a public record exemption under the act, also won Scott’s signature.

HB 107 provides felony penalties against anyone willfully damages or removes graves or other final resting places of the dead. The new law exempts legitimate maintenance work or movement of graves and remains when legally authorized.

Scott also signed bills clarifying Florida’s impaired medical practitioner program and tidying up procedures at the Department of Transportation

Criminal justice reform remains a top priority for Jeff Brandes

Sen. Jeff Brandes said he plans to continue his push for criminal justice reform, advancing a multi-year process to take a closer look at the state’s criminal justice system.

Brandes, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority, was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Right on Crime annual summit. The conservative-leaning organization has been working on criminal justice issues in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.

Brandes said the key takeaway from the summit was that “many states are struggling with criminal justice reform at the same time.”

“They’re all realizing that the current trajectory they’re on isn’t working,” said Brandes, who sits on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “I think one of the things is we’re learning from each other’s experiences. Texas started this years ago, and we’re learning from their experience. We know what is palatable and we know what the outcomes are.”

Brandes said Florida can learn from other states, including Texas, about “what works and what doesn’t.”

“We don’t have to go out and reinvent the wheel,” he said. “They’ve been able to have a meaningful impact and still reduce recidivism and overall crime.”

Gov. Rick Scott announced in 2016 the state’s crime rate was at a 45-year low, dropping to 3.1 percent in 2015. However, the state saw an increase in the number of murders, rapes and motor vehicle thefts during that same time period.

But Brandes said while crime is falling, the number of people in prisons remains static. And Brandes said the state needs to look at issues like sentencing, education, life skills and how to deal with addiction and mental health problems.

“What we know is that most people in jail today are going to get out. Are they going to get out as productive members of society or are they going to get out as better criminals,” said Brandes. “What are we doing (to address) education, life skills, addiction. Are we dealing with those appropriately?”

Brandes proposed a bill (SB 458) to create a 28-member task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice, courts and correction system. While the bill received unanimous support in early committee meetings, it didn’t get a vote of the full Senate before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session.

The St. Petersburg Republican has said he plans to make criminal justice reform a top priority during his term. He told the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists last year that while it wasn’t something his constituents were clamoring for; it was an issue that needs to be addressed.

Brandes didn’t just focus on criminal justice during his trip to D.C. last week. He also met with Rep. Dennis Ross to talk about flood insurance; as well as Uber and Tesla to talk about bills passed during the 2017 Legislative Session.

House releases document listing state budget line items by county

The House released a county-by-county list of budget line items Tuesday, ranging from a $26.8 million loan for a highway project in Alachua County to $64,820 in adult education money in Washington County.

Speaker Richard Corcoran’s office dropped the list without comment, but it followed by four days Florida TaxWatch’s annual list of budgetary “turkeys” — line items included without sufficient public scrutiny or ranking low on the state’s priority lists.

TaxWatch asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto projects totalling $178 million.

“This report was produced prior to the veto process,” the House document notes.

The list includes transportation projects valued at $1 million or more, library, cultural, and historical preservation items, plus beach management projects. It does not include public school money divided among the counties by the state education bureaucracy.

The document contains a second list of projects divided between multiple counties.

Three-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday begins Friday

The Florida Retail Federation has issued a reminder that the new disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday begins this week.

Right in time for hurricane season, the state will waive sales taxes on purchases of emergency supplies starting at 12:01 p.m. Friday, ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

“Thanks to our legislative leaders and Gov. Scott for including the disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday in the budget, especially with Florida coming off of a year with hurricanes, tornadoes and floods,” federation president and CEO R. Scott Shalley said in a written statement.

“I strongly encourage all residents and visitors to take advantage of these savings by visiting your local retailers to load up on those items that will help keep you and your family safe in the event of a natural disaster,” Shalley said.

The tax holiday was among a package of tax cuts approved by the Legislature this year.

The waiver extends to solar-powered lights; self-powered radios; batteries; electric generators and fuel tanks; nonelectric coolers and reusable ice; and more. There are price limits for covered items.

The Florida Department of Revenue has issued a tip sheet with all the details. More information here.

The hurricane season begins Thursday and runs through Nov. 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a livelier-than-usual season, with as many as 17 named tropical storms or hurricanes in the Atlantic basin.

Here’s the list of the approved storm names.

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