Special Session Update
Special Session Adjourns
Friday, June 19, 2015
The Legislature adjourned the 2105 Special Session Friday evening at 6:50 p.m after passing the new state budget for FY 2015-16. Earlier in the week, the Legislature passed a $400 million tax cut package.
With the House defeating the Senate Medicaid expansion proposal late in week 1, conference committee negotiations began in week 2. Those lasted into the third and final week, with the last conference meeting of the appropriations chairs ending just before midnight on Monday. That meeting included two supplemental funding lists, one by each chamber, which included $300 million in new spending. The lists were not explained or debated, with the two chairs simply agreeing to the other’s list. Many of the projects had not previously been discussed in public.
The conference report on the budget was printed on Tuesday and was delivered to legislators at 5:27 p.m, beginning the 72 hour period before a vote can be taken. Thursday saw explanation of budget on the floor, followed by questions and debate. Many good things in the budget were highlighted, but some lawmakers complained about what was not included and any others cited a lack of transparency and criticized the late addition of projects.
The budget was finally adopted on Friday evening, along with the budget implementing bill and a series of budget conforming bills on subjects including Medicaid, transportation, state employees and the implementation of Amendment 1.
The new budget total $78.698 billion dollars, which is $1.625 billion more than current spending. It is less than the Senate’s $80.425 million budget and more than the House’s $76.154 proposal.
The Legislature agreed to bring PreK-12 per-pupil spending to $7,097 per student. The additional funding will be $207 (3 percent) more per pupil from the previous year's budget.
On Monday, the Legislature also passed it tax cut package which, depending on how you count it, totals approximately $400 million. It is less than the $690 million tax package the House passed during the regular session, but slightly more than the one it passed early in the Special Session. The Communications Services Tax (CST) cut is still the cornerstone of the plan, with a 1.73 reduction in the rate. This has been a recommendation of Florida TaxWatch for several years.
2015 Florida Tax Cut Package
FY 2015-16 Impact
State - $348.4 million Local - $27.3 million Total - $372.1 million
Annual Impact of Permanent Cuts
State - $250.0 million Local - $ 3.5 million Total - $253.5 million
Total Value of Non-Recurring Cuts
State - $174.3 million Local - $25.8 million Total – $200.1 million
Tax Cut Provisions
Communication Services Tax:
Reduce Rate by 1.73% $226.1m
Back-to-School Holiday – 10 day $67.8m
Agriculture-related Exemptions $13.4m
College Textbooks - 1 year $43.7m
Gun Club Membership Fees $ 1.2m
Boat Repairs - Capped at $60,000 $ 5.5m
Motor Vehicles/Overseas Military $ 0.8m
School Concessions $1.7m
Brownfield Credits - 1 year increase $16.6m
Research & Development – 1 year $14.0m
Enterprise Zone Extension – 3 years $1.4m
Community Contribution - 2 yr extension $49.8m
Aviation Fuel Tax:
Higher Ed Exemption $0.2m
Insurance Premium Tax:
Title Insurance $4.6m
Several cuts in the original House package did not make the final bill, including a reduction in the sales tax on commercial rents, a Small Business Sales Tax Holiday and an increased property tax exemption for widowed, blind and disabled persons.
Other Health Care Legislation
In addition to the budget and budget related bills and the tax package, the Special Session call included several health care bills. Last week, the House passed six health of these. However, the Senate did not take up any of those bills. The bills are:
◦HB 21A would provide more options, at different premium levels, for state employees in the State Group Insurance. This would give employees a choice between better benefits and lower costs.
◦HB 23A changes the allowable stay in an ambulatory surgical center from less than one working day to no more than 24 hours, which is the Federal Medicare length of stay standard. It also creates a new license category called Recovery Care Centers, in which patients could stay for up to 72 hours. This could save patients money by being able to stay longer in an ASC or an RCC rather than a hospital.
◦HB 25A provides that a direct primary care agreement is not insurance and not subject to regulation under the Florida Insurance Code. Direct primary care eliminates third party payers from the doctor-patient relationship.
◦HB 27A authorizes advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to prescribe, dispense, order, and administer controlled substances under a supervising physician’s protocol. Expanding scope of practice for ARNPs and PAs is a priority of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging and the Center for Government Efficiency.
◦HB 29A requires a hospital to notify obstetrical physicians before closing an obstetrical department.
◦HB 31A would repeal the state certificate of need approval process for new and expanding hospitals.