May 2009

5/8/2009

Click here to download the Budget Conference Report.

5/6/2009

With new budget, get ready to pay new, higher fees

Source: Aaron Deslatte | Tallahassee Bureau   Aaron Deslatte can be reached at 850-222-5564 oradeslatte@orlandosentinel.com.  May 6, 2009

TALLAHASSEE — Get ready for smaller — and more expensive — government.

The $66.5 billion Florida budget that rolled off the presses Tuesday packs the biggest combination of tax and fee increases in two decades. The Legislature ends its weeklong overtime session Friday when it will sign off on the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Among the biggest hikes: a $1-per-pack increase in the 34-cent state tax on cigarettes. The tax will also hit smokeless tobacco, but not cigars.

The roughly $1 billion in higher fees will touch nearly everyone.

At the same time, lawmakers are imposing a 2 percent pay cut on thousands of state employees who earn more than $45,000, possibly shipping prisoners to other states to save money and cutting core operations of government to balance the budget. Here’s how the fees will hit you:

Courts

Fees will rise roughly $227 million, including:

•Filing a civil lawsuit will increase from $295 to $395.

•Filing a probate case will go from $280 to $395.

•Foreclosure fees paid by banks and other mortgage lenders would rise by about $145 million — boosting the cost from the current $295 to as much as $1,900, based on the price of the home.

•Fees paid by landlords to evict a tenant will go down, from $265 to $180.

But under a deal struck Tuesday, Florida would join the rest of the nation in waiving court filing fees for residents who can show they are “indigents” under the law.

“We thought we’d join the other 49 [states],” said Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R- Lake Wales. “We wanted to do our best to make sure no matter what your situation, you have the ability to access our courts.”

That would cost the state about $4 million a year.

Motorists

Drivers will pay more than $800 million in dozens of higher fees, including:

•A new license plate will rise from $12 to $28, though it will last 10 years instead of six. The plate-replacement fee increases from $2 to $2.80. And the “reflectorization” fee rises to $1 from 50 cents.

•Registering a vehicle for the first time will be $225, up from $100.

•Annual tag-renewal fees will go up 35 percent.

•Processing fees for specialty and personalized tags goes from $2 to $5.

•Renewing your license goes up from $20 to $48.

•A commercial drivers license will cost $75, up $8.

•Replacing your drivers license goes up from $10 to $25.

•The DUI administrative fee is increased from $115 to $130.

•A $12 fee for court-ordered ignition-interlock device is imposed.

•Reinstating a drivers license goes up $12.50, to $60.

•The cost of getting a copy of a crash report will rise from $2 to $10.

•The service charge for getting a license reinstated for failing to pay a fine, attend a driver-improvement school or appear at a hearing will go from $47.50 to $60.

•The fee for failing to file to transfer a title within 30 days goes from $10 to $20.

•The fee for obtaining a new certificate of title goes from $24 to $70; getting a duplicate rises from $3 to $49.

Other fees

•State prisoners would see their co-payment for nonemergency health care increase from $4 to $5.

•Anglers who cast along the shoreline will have to buy a $7.50 state license in order to meet a federal mandate.

5/5/2009

Jeb Bush’s Medicaid legacy frets lawmakers – Florida must adopt managed-care for Medicaid statewide or could lose federal funding, lawmakers were told.

Source:  MARC CAPUTO, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers learned this week that former Gov. Jeb Bush’s controversial Medicaid reform plan from 2005 includes a time bomb for hospitals: A $300 million penalty.

That’s the amount Florida could lose in federal charity health care money if legislators don’t reorganize Medicaid statewide within two years. This is about an experimental program designed to shift more Medicaid patients to managed-care plans and make the public health system run more like private companies. It currently operates in Broward County and the Jacksonville area.

The state receives about $1 billion a year from the federal government to reimburse hospitals for charity care. If the state doesn’t take managed-care Medicaid statewide by 2011, it would lose $300 million of the money.

Just informed of the penalty, legislative leaders now are scrambling in the waning days of the lawmaking session to pass special budget language that asks the federal government to give the state more time.

They’ll also decide whether to bank about $246 million in surplus hospital money. Tampa General Hospital and Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, which would be hit particularly hard if Medicaid funds are cut, want the state to bank the money so it could help fill the $300 million hole if the state fails to broaden the managed-care program statewide.

Some legislators want to kill Medicaid managed-care entirely.

”We’ve done the experiment. It has failed,” said Durell Peaden, the Senate’s health care budget chief. “The reports are unsettling. People couldn’t get to specialists, couldn’t get adequate care. And they couldn’t do it cheaply.”

But supporters point out that a recent University of Florida study found that Medicaid managed-care patients are highly satisfied with the program.

Former Bush health chief Alan Levine, said the state needs time to make the program work. He said the federal government would likely grant an extension to Florida if it doesn’t expand Medicaid managed-care across the state in two years.

”There are things that work in Medicaid reform,” said Levine, who now heads Louisiana’s hospital system. “There are other issues that will take time to figure out.”

The threat of the $300 million loss in the 2010-11 budget year, however, has added a new dimension to the fight. It renewed a behind-the-scenes battle between private hospitals such as the Hospital Corp. of America and big charity-care hospitals like Jackson Memorial and Tampa General.

The public hospitals want the state to save the surplus money this year in case of a future deficit. The private hospitals would rather see the state give each hospital its current share of the $246 million in surplus Medicaid cash now.

The reason for the difference in opinion lies in complicated Medicaid funding formulas. Basically, the charity-care hospitals get proportionately more Medicaid money. But if there’s a deficit, they stand to suffer a proportionately deeper cut than those who treat fewer poor people.

So Tampa General and Jackson could face a larger cut two years from now than they stand to gain this year from the current surplus. But HCA and other private hospitals face the opposite situation: they stand to suffer a smaller cut in two years and gain a larger share of the surplus right now.

The two legislators in charge of negotiating the issue this weekend, Miami Republican Rep. Marcelo Llorente and Lake Wales Republican Sen. J.D. Alexander, say they’re both concerned with Medicaid reform.

”This issue is so complicated that we’re going to need some time to figure it out,” said Llorente.

5/4/2009

Source: Tallahassee Democrat Editorial May 4, 2009

KidCare wins – Lawmakers avoided a big error

Florida lawmakers stepped back from the brink Friday and, to their credit, did not scuttle a bill that would make it easier for low-income working families without health insurance to buy KidCare insurance for their youngsters.

The legislation’s bipartisan sponsors, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, and Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, succeeded in persuading the Florida House to remove some administrative barriers from this state-federal health insurance program that is paid for mostly by federal dollars.

SB918, which goes now to Gov. Charlie Crist for his almost certain signature, would decrease the time that working families who have lost private health insurance must wait before switching to KidCare. It also shortens the length of time they must wait to reapply if they’ve been dropped from the program for failing to pay the small monthly premium, about $20 per child.

The legislation also increases outreach efforts so eligible families — those earning about 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $44,000 for a family of four — will know about the program.

House members finally saw that there would be no additional budget burden from the bill, because an extra $15 million in state money available for KidCare in Florida has gone unspent — largely because of the complicated enrollment processes SB918 addresses.

There is certainly no shortage of children who need insurance — more than 800,000 Florida children have none, including about 3,000 in Leon County. KidCare now reaches about 176,000 children, providing them with quality medical and dental coverage. With the passage of this bill, Florida will see an increase in federal matching money, enough to cover an additional 46,000 Florida children.

Mr. Crist’s signature will help the program to do the good work it was created to do.

5/1/2009

Source: Sherron Long, president Florida Cultural Alliance
Post Office Box 2131; West Palm Beach, Florida 33402-2131
Telephone: 561-848-6231    E-mail: FLCULALL@aol.com     Web site: www.FLCA.net

URGENT ADVOCACY ALERT – Arts, Cultural, and Historical Grant Line Items Back in State Budget

Status:  As you know, both the Senate and the House had recommended zero funding last night for arts and cultural grants.  They changed their minds this evening.  The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Budget Conference members changed its zero recommendation from last night to

$1 million for Cultural & Museum Grants and $200,000 for Historical Preservation Grants.

This evening, the Senate also agreed to accept these budget recommendations for the state’s FY 2009-2010 budget.

Even though these are modest amounts, we’re still in the state budget.  We can build from these amounts in the future when the economy begins to turn around.  Many people, including you, have worked hard to keep arts, cultural, humanities, and historical grants funding in the state budget — THANK YOU.

Please take some time now to quickly e-mail the members of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Budget Conference a thank you for keeping these line items funded in the state’s FY 2009-2010 state budget. The members are listed below.

The legislature is working now to finalize the FY 2009-2010 state budget, and it should be available for your review this coming Monday or Tuesday.  We’ll let you know when it is posted on the Web and if there are changes you need to be aware of that deal with our issues.

We’ll send you an update on Monday, May 4, with greater details about the state budget and the bills we’re tracking.

Again, many thanks to all of you for your tireless advocacy efforts.

Members of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Budget Conference Committee:
HOUSE Representatives Who Serve (senators are listed below):

Chairman Rich Glorioso R-62  (850) 488-0807
rich.glorioso@myfloridahouse.gov
Hillsborough, Pasco

Gary Aubuchon R-74  (850) 488-7433
gary.aubuchon@myfloridahouse.gov
Charlotte, Lee

Esteban Bovo R-110  (850) 487-2197
esteban.bovo@myfloridahouse.gov
Miami-Dade

Jennifer Carroll R-13  (850) 488-5102
jennifer.carroll@myfloridahouse.gov
Clay, Duval

Brad Drake R-5  (850) 488-4726
brad.drake@myfloridahouse.gov
Holmes,Jackson,Okaloosa, Walton,Washington

Greg Evers R-1  (850) 488-8188
greg.evers@myfloridahouse.gov
Escambia,Okaloosa,Santa Rosa

Joe Gibbons D-105  (850) 488-0145
joe.gibbons@myfloridahouse.gov
Broward

Audrey Gibson D-15  (850) 488-7417
audrey.gibson@myfloridahouse.gov
Duval

Mike Horner R-79  (850) 488-8992
mike.horner@myfloridahouse.gov
Okeechobee,Orange,Osceola,Polk

Dorothy Hukill R-28  (850) 488-6653
dorothy.hukill@myfloridahouse.gov
Volusia

Janet Long D-51  (850) 488-6197
janet.long@myfloridahouse.gov
Pinellas

Dave Murzin R-2  (850) 488-8278
dave.murzin@myfloridahouse.gov
Escambia

Lake Ray R-17  (850) 488-4388
lake.ray@myfloridahouse.gov
Duval

Maria Lorts Sachs D-86  (850) 488-1662
maria.sachs@myfloridahouse.gov
Palm Beach

Robert Schenck R-44  (850) 488-6641
robert.schenck@myfloridahouse.gov
Hernando, Pasco, Sumter

Richard L. Steinberg D-106  (850) 488-0690
richard.steinberg@myfloridahouse.gov
Miami-Dade

Perry Thurston D-93  (850) 488-1084
perry.thurston@myfloridahouse.gov
Broward
—————————— ————————————————————————————

Senators Who Serve:

Chairman Mike Fasano  R-11   (850) 487-5062
fasano.mike.web@flsenate.gov
Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas

Alex Diaz de la Portilla R-36  (850) 487-5109
portilla.alex.web@flsenate.gov
Miami-Dade

Paula Dockery R-15  (850) 487-5040
dockery.paula.web@flsenate.gov
Hernando, Lake, Osceola, Polk, Sumter

Andy Gardiner R-9  (850) 487-5047
gardiner.andy.web@flsenate.gov
Orange, Osceola, Seminole

Tony Hill D-1  (850) 487-5024
hill.tony.web@flsenate.gov
Duval, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Volusia

Chris Smith D-29  (850) 487-5112
smith.chris.web@flsenate.gov
Broward, Palm Beach

Ronda Storms R-10  (850) 487-5072
storms.ronda.web@flsenate.gov
Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk

5/2009

Source: Institute for Justice

Florida Political Speech

Broward Coalition v. Browning
Taking on Florida’s Political Speech Police
In May of 2009, the Insitute for Justice secured a federal court decision striking down Florida’s so-called “electioneering communications” law.  That law made it illegal for any group to merely mention a candidate or ballot issue, let alone express an opinion, without registering with the state as an “electioneering communications organization.”  Once registered, groups had to appoint a campaign treasurer, make regular reports, record expenditures and disclose all donors—even those whose contributions were not intended to support political speech.

There were almost 100 possible violations of the law, and failure to comply could have led to fines and jail time. The time and money required to navigate this bureaucratic red tape was too much for many citizen groups and non-profits, leaving them no choice but to stay silent. That is why the Broward Coalition, University of Florida College Libertarians and National Taxpayers Union joined with IJ to challenge Florida’s law as a violation of First Amendment rights.

 

Essential Background

Images
Backgrounder: Taking on Florida’s Political Speech Police: Challenging Campaign Finance Laws That Create a Statewide “No Speech Zone”
Client Photo – none available
Client Video – none available
Latest Release: Final Victory for First Amendment Rights in Florida: State Declines to Appeal Ruling Striking Down  “Electioneering Communications” Law (June 29, 2009)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: Institute for Justice Complaint
Launch Release: Taking on Florida’s Political Speech Police: Federal Lawsuit Challenges Campaign Finance Laws That Create a Statewide “No Speech Zone” (October 8, 2008)   Download: Motion for Preliminary Injunction
Download: Order Granting Summary Judgment 
Download: Order Granting Preliminary Injunction (October 29, 2008).

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:

October 8, 2008

Court Filed:

 

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida

Decision(s):

 

May 26, 2009: District Court struck down law

Next Key Date:

TBA

 
Additional Releases Maps, Charts and Facts
Release: First Amendment Victory: Federal Court Strikes Down Florida’s “Electioneering Communications” Law (May 26, 2009) Campaign Finance Red Tape:
Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate
Release: First Amendment Victory: Federal Court Suspends Florida’s “Electioneering Communications” Law (October 29, 2008)   Disclosure Costs: Unintended Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Release: Citizen Groups Ask Federal Court to Suspend Florida’s “Electioneering Communications” Law Before Election Day (October 14, 2008) none available

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