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The day that was in Florida politics – March 19

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A marijuana lobbyist said to me a couple of weeks ago that he suspected the latest challenge to the Charlotte’s Web rule would “smoke out” people’s true intention; whether they disliked the rule or disliked the law.

It’s the end of the third week of the session and we’re getting to the “smoke out” point on a few issues. Thursday things got a little smoky with the environment, healthcare and the list of approved words for state employees.

Don’t know whether state Sen. Alan Hays committed a gaffe – you know, when a politician mistakenly speaks a truth – or intended to say what he said the way he said it.

The subject was Amendment 1 money Thursday. When asked about his low-ball figure in a land-buying proposal, Hays said, “The state and federal government owns for conservation purposes 9.4 million acres of land for conservation in the state. My question is, how much is enough?

There’s more on the story here.

Well, given that Hays was proposing $2 million for land buying after voters approved Amendment 1, mandating documentary stamp money ($741 million this year) go to water and land buying conservation – environmentalists are not too pleased with how the Senate wants to implement the amendment. That story is here.

The Senate Thursday introduced an alternative Low Income Pool proposal to use Medicaid dollars to keep federal dollars flowing to safety-net hospitals. The plan modifies a Diagnostic Related Group payment schedule adopted a couple years ago.

The proposal would close a billion-dollar gap in the state budget opened by the scheduled end of LIP.

“The Senate budget aims to avoid brinksmanship negotiations with the federal government,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner. “Instead the Senate proactively proposes an alternative plan for Medicaid sustainability in Florida.”

The Senate plan would create the Florida Health Insurance Exchange and draw down about $2.8 billion in federal funds to provide healthcare to about 800,000 uninsured Floridians.

The House has shown no interest in the Senate plan.

Brian Koon almost created an emergency Thursday when he testified before a Senate committee. Koon is the director of Emergency Management and wanted money to react to floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.  State Sen. Jeff Clemens asked Koon if the state needs to have “climate change plans” in place.

In the ensuing discussion, by one count, Koon had five opportunities to use the words “climate change” but said something else, referencing “language to that effect.”

A Department of Environmental Protection employee said earlier this week he was reprimanded for talking about climate change.  PEER has called for an investigation. The Scott administration has said there is no gag order on climate change talk.

Clemens suggested that maybe Koon would be more comfortable with “atmospheric reemployment.” That almost caused state Sen. Jack Latvala to fall off his chair with laughter. More on the climate change discussion here. It occurred in an Appropriations subcommittee meeting. The Senate video is here, the laughter starts at the 90-minute mark.

And Gov. Rick Scott has signed the first bill of the 2015 session to arrive at his desk. Scott signed a bill moving the presidential primary to March 15. It creates a winner-take-all contest for Republicans. The story is here.

Medicinal marijuana stakeholders have marked April 14 on their calendars. That’s the date an administrative law judge has scheduled a hearing on in the suit challenging the proposed regulations to implement the Charlotte’s Web law. You can read more here.

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