Greetings from Florida.
Well, the 2011 Regular Legislative Session is in full swing and several pieces of legislation are moving through the process. Some have already been signed into law by Governor Rick Scott.
This week a Republican proposal to largely privatize Medicaid services passed the House in a mostly party-line vote. The proposal would deliver Medicaid services mainly by private companies and network of hospicals, much like a managed care service. Proponents maintain that the concept would save the state approximately $1 billion a year while improving service. Opponents argue that it would only serve to enrich hospitals and HMOs at taxpayer expense.
The proposal by Robert Schenck (R-Springhill) also caps malpractice claims to $300,000 for non-economic damages, which proponents believe will help cut costs.
The proposal has yet to be passed by the Senate, but is widely expected to be.
Another issue being debated that has vocal proponents and opponents is a plan to raise state universities’ tuition rates. Florida’s in-state tuition rates for state universities is currently below the national average. Two years ago, the Legislature enacted a policy to allow state universities to increase their tuition rates at a rate of 15 percent per year to catch up to the national average. Even with that change, Florida’s rates are the third lowest in the nation. One university president, who will not be named so as to not anger our many Gator readers, has asked the Legislature to allow him to raise his school’s tuition by 30 percent.
Legislators, however, are debating more modest proposals. A House proposal would allow universities to raise their tuition by 5 percent, and any amount beyond the 5 percent up to 15 percent must be approved by state’s Board of Governors. The Senate proposal grants no automatic increase, but rather authorizes the Board of Governor’s to approve up to a 15 percent increase in tuition. House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos are at odds over this issue, with the latter not wanting to increase tuition beyond the already permitted 15 percent.
Student groups across the state are watching this issue very closely, and are obviously vocally opposing any attempt to raise tuition any further.
And now, a little politics.
The punditocracy has been keeping an eye on the Florida Legislature this year over the issue of the state’s presidential primary election, which is currently set for January 31, 2012. Back in 2008, the Florida Legislature moved up the state’s presidential primary election so Florida primary voters would have more of a say in choosing their parties’ nominees for president. This decision was met by an all-out boycott of Democrat candidates and a loss of half of the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.
The date is widely expected to be pushed back, but not back enough so as to appease the national Republican and Democrat parties. Florida lawmakers insist they do not want to preempt the traditional early primary states such as New Hampshire, but that they intend to place Florida as fifth on the pecking order of presidential primaries. Being the fifth state to hold the presidential primary would still mean a loss of delegates and other punitive measures.
Republican Party officials from Iowa and South Carolina are so upset over Florida’s “arrogance,” that they have publicly called on the RNC to convene a special task force to change the 2012 Republican Convention venue from Tampa to some other location.
Other states have blasted similar statements of contempt for Florida, to which House Speaker Dean Cannon responded, “I look forward to meeting [them] in Tampa next summer.”
As do I.
Until next time!
Christian R. Cámara, Director of Florida Insurance Project