News from Tallahassee for 4/25/15

House passes 1-day wait before abortion posted on 4/23/15

by MARGIE MENZEL | News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — With the Senate also poised to take up the issue, the Florida House on Wednesday approved a bill that would require 24-hour waiting periods before women can have abortions.

The measure (HB 633), sponsored by freshman Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, passed 77-41, largely along party lines.

The debate followed party lines, too, with Republicans arguing for the sanctity of life and Democrats arguing for the right to choose.

“This is not a procedure — it is a life,” said Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness. “Representative Sullivan, the greatest consequence of your bill is a beautiful baby.”

But House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, called the bill “an example of government intrusion.”

“This is not a reflection period — this is a 24-hour ban,” Pafford said.

The bill would add the 24-hour waiting period to the conditions for informed consent before women can end pregnancies. The full Senate today is expected to take up an identical measure (SB 724).

Sullivan said her bill would “empower” women by giving them more time to reflect before making such decisions.

“I am here today as an advocate for those women who are being pressured,” she said Wednesday.

» Read more

Bill requires proof of rape for abortion-waiting-period exemption posted on 4/21/15

by Christine Stapleton | Palm Beach Post

Women who become pregnant by rape or incest and want an abortion would be exempt from a 24-hour waiting period if they can prove they were the victims of a crime under an amendment to a Senate abortion bill (SB 724) approved by the Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday.

The amendment was filed by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, 37 minutes before the start of the bill’s final committee hearing. Flores made it clear that “there is a part of me that would have no exceptions” to the bill, which would require women seeking abortions to wait at least 24 hour after consulting with their doctor before getting an abortion.

Under the amendment, pregnant women would not have to wait 24 hours if they can prove they are victims of rape or incest by providing a police report, medical records or restraining order.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who successfully pushed a bill banning late term abortions last year, said she supported the amendment “just to make sure there was a crime” so that women wouldn’t falsely claim they were raped to make their abortion “more expedient.”

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, voted “no” after condemning the amendment, the bill and Stargel’s comments.

“The suggestion that some women are going to claim to be raped so they can have an abortion 24 hours earlier is absolutely absurd and I find it offensive,” Clemens said, adding that rape victims shouldn’t “need a piece of paper from a police officer to justify that they have been raped.”

» Read more

Senate LIP Plan Added to Federal Proposal posted on 4/21/15

by News Service of Florida

The state agency responsible for Medicaid submitted a new proposal Monday to the federal government for up to $2.2 billion in health-care funding, but the move might be too late to break a budget impasse.

The new model for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program closely follows legislation approved by the state Senate earlier this month. LIP, which is largely used to cover the expenses of uninsured, low-income Floridians who show up at hospitals needing treatment, is set to expire June 30.

In a statement, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek said the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should move quickly on the new proposal.

"We are expediting our submission of this LIP model in order to help CMS speed up their decision," Dudek said. "CMS knows that our budget depends on their rapid response to this model."

Senators hammered Dudek at a confirmation last week over the fact that it took until February or March to submit even outlines of LIP concepts to CMS during negotiations about extending the program. State officials have known for about a year that LIP was set to run out without a new deal with the federal government.

The proposal sent to CMS on Monday seems unlikely to quickly resolve the budget standoff. The state's public comment period will be open until May 22, three weeks after the annual legislative session is set to conclude. Lawmakers have already conceded that they will almost certainly miss that May 1 deadline for passing a budget and ending the regular session, prompting either legislative overtime or a special session.

» Read more

Health-care battle puts nearly everything in legislative limbo posted on 4/20/15

by Gray Rohrer | Orlando Sentinel

FL Senate ChamberTALLAHASSEE — From education to mental health and tax cuts, most key issues before the Legislature are in limbo as the House and Senate wage war over health-care spending for the poor.

The gridlock is happening with just two weeks left in a regular session that likely is headed for overtime or a special session later in the spring. So far, only 24 out of about 1,600 bills have passed.

The Senate's insistence on Medicaid expansion and the House's unbending resistance, combined with a fight between Gov. Rick Scott and the federal government over a separate Medicaid program, have frozen talk about other top priorities.

"Everybody's dug in," said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.

The inertia has even stalled increased funding for schools — a priority for Scott, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner alike. The two chambers are close on the bottom-line numbers, with the House providing $19.7 billion for K-12 funding and the Senate $19.6 billion, but nothing is budging without the budget.

Both Republican-controlled chambers have passed their versions of the budget: $80.4 billion in the Senate and $76.2 billion in the House. The next step is for Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to agree to specifics for health care, education and other government services.

But the Medicaid impasse has left the House and Senate with a $4.2 billion difference in budget outlines.

The House has $690 million in tax cuts in its budget, mostly through $470 million in reductions to cable and phone taxes that would save the average cable user $43 over a year. The Senate has considered up to $800 million in tax cuts but plans to leave them out of its budget until the health-care battle is settled.

» Read more

Doctors, Nurses Deliver Flip-Flops To Governor Scott posted on 4/20/15

by AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s doctors and nurses are weighing in on the fight over Medicaid expansion.

A group of health professional from Miami’s Jackson Health System traveled to Tallahassee last week to deliver flip-flops to Gov. Rick Scott and worn-out shoes to House leaders, who have claimed that only “Gucci loafer-wearing lobbyists” want Medicaid expansion.

The House and Senate budgets remain gridlocked in the final weeks of Florida’s legislative session over $1 billion in federal hospital funds. Scott and the House also oppose the Senate plan to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians.

Scott once supported Medicaid expansion but recently said that he’s against it.

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