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News from Tallahassee for 12/6/13
Supreme Court takes up medical marijuana case posted on 12/5/13
by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tampa Tribune
TALLAHASSEE — The battle over medical marijuana moves to the state’s highest court today, when advocates argue for and against the state’s proposed ballot question.
The measure aims to create a state constitutional amendment, to be voted on in 2014, decriminalizing marijuana to treat “debilitating conditions” such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
The fight before the justices is technical, centering on whether the ballot summary is clear and accurate.
People United for Medical Marijuana, the committee behind the initiative and led by personal-injury attorney John Morgan, thinks it is. Morgan is friend and recent employer to Charlie Crist, now Democratic candidate for governor.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, who joined with the Republican-majority Legislature to oppose the measure, argues the language is misleading and would make Florida “one of the most lenient medical-marijuana states.”
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court against the initiative likely will be fatal to the effort to get it on the ballot in time for the 2014 election. The state’s constitution requires a decision no later than April 1.
As of Monday, the state’s Division of Elections reported 133,296 valid signatures toward the 683,149 needed by February to get the initiative on the ballot. There were 14,198 signatures from Hillsborough County, 10,163 from Pinellas and 3,673 from Pasco.
Rod Sullivan, a constitutional law professor at Jacksonville’s Florida Coastal School of Law, said Bondi’s argument is the stronger. He predicts defeat for the pro-marijuana forces.
State reps to tackle hospital problems posted on 12/5/13
by MATTHEW BEATON | The News Herald
PANAMA CITY— The local state legislative delegation is expected to take up Thursday the county’s controversial quest to create an irrevocable trust for a hospital pension and a separate measure to allow the county to remove its member on the board managing the pension.
The pension is overseen by the Bay Health Foundation, and the Bay County Commission has tried unsuccessfully to remove its appointee from that board. The commission wants the ability to remove its pick with or without cause.
The two issues are being submitted as local bills to Bay County’s three-member delegation — state Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, state Reps. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, and Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City — which meets at 5:30 p.m. today in the Bay County Government Center.
The delegation will hear four local bills total. The two others would create entertainment districts in downtown Panama City where drinks could be taken out of bars during special events and would change how members are chosen for the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
The Bay County legislative delegation meets annually to vote on local bills submitted by government entities. The bills are limited in scope — generally covering a city or county — but require the state Legislature’s action. No local bills were submitted from the county last year.
The County Commission and foundation have been going back and forth on the pension for about a year. The commission hopes legislative action will be the solution.
Medicaid Grows Without 'Expansion' $ posted on 12/5/13
by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
Even though Florida’s Legislature turned down federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving billions of federal dollars on the table, the state's health insurance program for the poor continues to grow.
Florida’s Medicaid program added about 165,000 people in October, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The growth exceeded that of any other state -- including those that voted to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs.
The flow of federal funds to the states that voted to expand the program is set to begin Jan. 1. In Florida, the expansion would have affected about 800,000 people -- mostly adults -- who have incomes below the poverty level but still don't qualify under Florida's rules.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration has long predicted Medicaid will grow because of the "woodwork effect" -- uninsured people who already qualified for the program stepping forward to enroll because of heightened publicity about the requirement for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Many uninsured people may have heard that there is a financial penalty for going without coverage after March 31. Those with low incomes may not know they are exempt from the requirement.
The "Get Enrolled America" campaign waged by volunteers has been raising awareness in low-income neighborhoods around the state, encouraging people to check with their local health centers. Those centers' application counselors and navigators are mainly there to help the uninsured enroll in a plan at Healthcare.gov, but if they find someone who qualifies for Medicaid they guide them toward that program.
Negron expects no movement on Medicaid expansion posted on 12/4/13
by James Call | Florida Current
There doesn’t appear to be much chance that the Medicaid expansion stalemate between Tallahassee and Washington will break any time soon. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius exchanged letters during the summer and there has been no communication between the Senate and HHS since.
Recent remarks by both Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, indicate expansion is not a priority item for the upcoming session. When asked if he thought there would be any movement on the issue in 2014, Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, quickly said, “No.”
Two Months Into Exchange Rollout, How Obamacare Has Fared In Florida posted on 12/4/13
by MELISSA ROSS | Health News Florida
Today the Obama administration is launching a campaign to promote the benefits of the president’s signature health care law.
The push comes after widespread criticism over the technical problems plaguing the online home of the insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
The White House says the web site is functioning much better now, and they’re going on the offensive to tout the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Carol Gentry, editor of Health News Florida, a subsidiary of WUSF Public Media in Tampa joined us to discuss how the implementation of Obamacare is playing out in the Sunshine State.
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