2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
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Every Legislative Session has its own signature feel with ebbs and flows unique to any given year. The 2020 Session was no exception. Defined by the outbreak of the worldwide pandemic COVID-19 virus, lawmakers scrambled to reduce previously closed out budget items to provide $300 million for combating the pandemic during the last week of the regularly scheduled 60-day session. Because of this, Session was extended to Thursday, March 19th and members are back in Tallahassee as this is being written, to debate and pass the $93.2 billion FY 2020-21 State Budget.
Legislators will undoubtedly be back for a Special Session at some point possibly this summer to address the unprecedented economic disruption caused by the virus pandemic. The impact to the U.S. and Florida economy cannot be understated. The vast majority of Florida’s tourism industry is now closed for the foreseeable future significantly reducing sales tax revenues that the state so heavily relies. Some experts warn that the unemployment rate could exceed 20% as a result of imposed quarantines and reduced public activity, which is forcing service oriented businesses to layoff employees in numbers rarely, if ever seen.
Despite the pandemic turmoil, the Legislature did manage to pass major legislation affecting various segments of Florida’s economy, passing 210 bills out of 3,578 filed. Below are brief summaries of major bills passed this year and what didn’t make over the finish line in 2020.
Speaker Oliva made healthcare reform his priority once again this Session and delivered on passing the physician scope of practice issue (HB 607) allowing Physician Assistants and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners to prescribe medicine and consult patients with various levels of autonomy. The House also shepherded through legislation, HB 389, allowing pharmacists to enter into a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement with a physician to manage chronic health conditions if the pharmacist meets certain qualifications.
Another bill, HB 599, expands the scope of practice of consultant pharmacists. Under the bill, a pharmacist must complete additional training as required by the Board of Pharmacy to be licensed as a consultant pharmacist. A consultant pharmacist may provide medication management services in a health care facility within an agreed to framework with the facility or managing physician.
All three scope of practice bills have been signed into law by Governor DeSantis.
A much debated issue that emerged in the months leading up to Session was the ongoing deficit running the iBudget waiver under the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The waiver allows individuals with disabilities to live in communities by providing individual cost plans for life sustaining services. The Senate introduced SB 82 which introduces measures to contain costs in an effort to control ongoing agency deficits. There was no House companion, however late in Session the rules were waived by the House and the bill was amended with language exempting regulations for the construction of a facility for up to 72 beds to house individuals with developmental disabilities. The bill ultimately passed.
Hospital reimbursements were once again on the chopping block for the majority of session until the outbreak put the brakes on that idea, sparing reductions in what’s known as the Critical Care Fund, Medicaid reimbursements, and a funding error from the Agency for Healthcare Administration.
The annual tax package (HB 7097) providing tax relief for consumers and businesses passed this year but not after being reduced from $120.5 million tax relief package down to $47.7 million with about half of the proposed tax credits also trimmed in a reaction to COVID-19. Lawmakers hastily put away $300 million in related allocations and budget reserves. A one-time $543 million corporate tax refund made it in to the final bill.
The federal program that verifies workers’ legal status for employment purposes exposed a rare fracture amongst the Republican majority this year when the Governor made it a legislative priority to fulfill a campaign promise. E-Verify is currently voluntary in Florida, but a bill making it mandatory for public entities and private businesses was met with stiff resistance from business organizations representing hotel, restaurant, and agricultural industries to name a few.
After much back and forth between the House and Senate, the final version, SB 664, passed makes E-Verify mandatory for public entities but included language stating that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the attorney general or state attorneys could demand employment records to verify compliance with the law for private employers.
Other Major Legislation that Passed
Following the lead in other states regarding the reimbursement for the likeness or image of college athletes, SB 646 authorizes an intercollegiate athlete at a postsecondary educational institution to earn compensation for the use of her or his name, image, or likeness. It also prohibits a postsecondary institution from preventing an athlete from earning compensation for likeness or images.
On the last day of Session, a bill that expands a program providing tax credits to businesses who provide private school scholarships passed over objections of Democratic lawmakers. Teachers also will receive raises under legislation passed and dollars funded in the budget. Money set aside to raise minimum teacher salaries and provide raises for teachers who are already above that minimum is included in the budget.
The Legislature passed SB 1794 Constitutional Amendments, which makes it more difficult for citizens to amend the state constitution by increasing the signature threshold for placing and amendment on the ballot, limiting out of state funding for initiatives, and allowing for more scrutiny of proposals by the state supreme court.
Major Legislation that Failed to Pass
A gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida once again failed to materialize. The lucrative revenue sharing plan that provided roughly $500 million annually to the state coffers remains unresolved.
House leaders pushed to place a cap on the amount of THC in medical marijuana for patients (HB 713) under age 21, but was opposed by the Senate and failed to pass.
The House passed (HB 737) requiring public schools to hold a moment of silence for students each day. Members of the Senate believed it was unnecessary and it wasn’t taken up in that chamber.
Repealing the state’s no-fault auto insurance system, personal-injury protection, or PIP coverage (HB 771/SB 378) was introduced again this year but did not receive full votes in either the House or Senate.
A House plan to move the state Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Environmental Protection, under Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to pass. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, fought the move, and the Senate scuttled it.
Lawmakers failed to pass a broad school-safety bill. The House and Senate could not agree on a measure (HB 7065) that included recommendations from a Parkland shooting and a statewide grand jury.
A carry over issue from last year preempting regulation of vacation rental properties from local governments to the state was defeated this year after a concerted effort to oppose the bills was mounted by local governments and citizens alike. HB 1011 and SB 1128 did not receive a full floor vote in either chamber.
The $93.2 billion state budget (HB 5001) passed on Thursday, March 19th includes higher salaries for teachers, a boost in affordable housing funds, and $25 million to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The State Budget for FY 2020-21 is more than $2 billion higher than current year spending, but most likely will be reduced as state revenues that rely on tourism and spending will see an unprecedented reduction because of efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19. The budget does include $3.8 billion in reserves.
The budget funds $100 million for the land-buying program, Florida Forever. It is currently funded at $33 million. Visit Florida was funded at $50 million in the FY 2020-21 budget and extends the agency through at least 2023. Probably a wise decision considering the current state of worldwide tourism and travel.
For the first time that anyone can remember, the budget fully funds the affordable housing programs, known as the Sadowski Trust Fund, at $370 million without raiding the trust fund as has been the norm in previous years.
The new budget will provide a 3% across-the-board raise for all state workers including correctional officers in the state prison system.
The budget discussed above will most likely be reduced as the impact of the virus sets in and brings Florida’s service and tourism based economy to a halt. Lawmakers will be back to address the coming revenue shortfalls; the just passed $93.2 billion state budget will surely be adjusted.
2020 TALLAHASSEE FLY-IN
The FCACC has a strong presence in the state capital where we meet with lawmakers and work with other like-minded organizations to support legislation. Members from all over the state came to the Capitol to meet lawmakers. We met elected officials who influence health care policy and tell them our stories from the trenches - what the real impact of bills are on our practices and patients.
Charge: The Advocacy Committee is charged with advocating for CV medicine and communicating with the lawmakers and regulators of Florida on issues relating to improving the cardiovascular health of all Floridians and to promoting access to quality cardiovascular care in Florida.
Support HR 3107
HR 3107 is the bipartisan “Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act,” which would bring about necessary reforms to the prior authorization process within Medicare Advantage plans. The Florida Chapter supports the bill - go to this link and send your lawmakers a message to support the legislation.
The legislation specifically: