2017 Session - Week 3

March 20-24

 

The third week of the 2017 Session saw action on tax related bill really heat up.  Although neither chamber has formulated its final tax cut package yet, a number of tax bills cleared committees this week.  These include two bills that propose a reduction in the business rent tax (which Florida TaxWatch strongly supports) and a bill that would repeal a long-standing insurance premium tax credit that promotes creation of insurance jobs in Florida (which Florida TaxWatch strongly opposes.)

In addition, the Senate advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would create another $25,000 homestead exemption for property taxes.  The House is expected to follow suit.  Bills to implement two constitutional amendments passed in November also moved forward.  These bills provide property tax exemptions on renewal energy devices and for disabled first responders.

Committees in both chambers passed bills that originally prohibited new local business taxes and limited existing ones, but the Senate bill was amended to remove the prohibition and restriction and only provide for an exemption for veterans, military spouses and low-income persons.

The House continued to pass appropriation project bills.  More than 200 of these bills were approved in committee this week, bringing the total to 516.  This makes the local member projects in the bills eligible for inclusion in the House budget.  No bill failed and in fact, there were no “no” votes.   Senators have also filed 627 local funding requests totaling $1.9 billion.  Senate requests do not require a committee vote to be included in the Senate budget.

A number of other bills advancing Florida TaxWatch recommendations passed committees, including ones dealing with class size requirements, transportation funding and corrections reform.

For more information on these and other bills, please see below. And stayed tuned for weekly updates all through the session.

Taxes

Action this Week

Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) – SB 378 would repeal a provision that allows insurers to take a credit of 15 percent of the salary paid to Florida employees against their IPT liability.  Florida TaxWatch has researched this issue since the credit was enacted in 1987 and will be releasing a new report next week.  The report finds that repeal of the credit is not in the best interests of Florida.  It is a very large ($315 million - 40 percent) tax increase that will be passed on to consumers in higher premiums.  The credit provides a valuable incentive for the insurance industry—a “targeted industry’ in the state’s economic development efforts—to invest in Florida.  Most states provide such incentives and repealing the credit will make Florida a less attractive place for insurers.  The bill also contains a reduction in the business rent tax, which is strongly supported by Florida TaxWatch (see below).  Florida TaxWatch urges the Legislature to take up the two tax changes separately.  SB 378 was passed by Finance & Tax this week.  Florida TaxWatch presented its research findings to the committee.

Business Rent Tax (BRT) – Florida TaxWatch strongly supports the reduction/elimination of the sales tax on commercial leases and rents.  Florida is only state in the nation that levies the tax comprehensively.  A one percent reduction in the rate (from 6 percent to 5 percent) is included in SB 378, which passed Finance & Tax this week.  However, that bill also includes repeal of an insurance premium tax credit, which Florida TaxWatch research shows is unwise (see above).  The Senate is also advancing SB 704, which would exempt separately stated property tax payments from the BRT.  This would reduce taxes by $176 million annually (as opposed to $302 million annually from reducing the rate to 5 percent).  SB 704 passed the Community Affairs this week with support from Florida TaxWatch.  There are several other bills that have yet to be heard taking different approached to reducing the BRT.  SB 484 would reduce the rate to 5 percent.  SB 820 would exempt property that has annual rent payments of less than $50,000.  HB 223 and SB 838 would provide an increasing exemption from the BRT, starting at $10,000 and increasing by $10,000 a year until the tax is repealed in 2027.  The Governor has recommended a 1.5 percent reduction in the rate (to 4.5 percent.)

Tax Relief from Natural Disasters – HB 49 would create a natural disaster property tax credit for residential property rendered uninhabitable by an event for which the Governor has declared a state of emergency and sinkholes. The credit would be based on the percentage of the year during which the property was uninhabitable.   HB 49 passed the Ways & Means Committee this week.

Local Tax Referenda – HB 139 and SB 278 would require that referenda to imposed a local option sales tax can only be held during general elections.   SB 278 passed the Ethics & Elections Committee this week with an amendment adding primary elections as possible vehicle for referenda.  A referendum at a primary election would require approval of 60 percent of those voting.  HB 139 is in the Ways & Means Committee.

Local Business Taxes – HB 487 and SB 330 prohibit cities and counties from levying a local business tax after January 1, 2017.  Originally the bills would also limit taxes already in effect to $25 per taxpayer, lower the transfer fee from $25 to $10, and exempt veterans, spouses of veterans and active service members, and low-income persons from paying local business taxes. These bills would reduce local revenue by $152.8 million annually.  Both bills were scaled back this week.  HB 487 passed the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee this week with an amendment removing the $25 limit on existing fees and the increase in the license transfer fee.  SB 330 passed Community Affairs, but only after an amendment that only left the exemption for veterans, spouses of veterans and active service members and low-income persons.  SB 330 no longer prohibits or restricts local business taxes.

Property Tax Exemption for First Responders - HB 455 implements a constitutional amendment that was passed last November by providing a 100 percent homestead tax exemption to first responders who became totally and permanently disabled in the line of duty. The bill also extends a 100 percent exemption to the surviving spouse of a totally and permanently disabled first responder.  HB 455 passed the Ways & Means Committee this week and SB 764 passed Community Affairs.

Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Devices – SB 90 and HB 1351 implement Amendment 4, passed by the voters last November.  The bills expand the current property tax exemption for renewable energy devices from only residential property to all property.  They also exempt these devices from tangible personal property taxes (TPP).  The new language expires in 20 years – meaning no non-residential or TPP exemptions.  The residential exemption would remain.  HB 1351 passed the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee this week.  That bill had additional language added that the sponsor says are for consumer protection but that critics contend create barriers for solar power development.  SB 90 has passed two committees and is now in Finance & Tax.

Increased Homestead Exemption – SJR 1774 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide an additional $25,000 homestead exemption.  Currently, homeowners get the original $25,000 exemption plus an exemption for the value between $50,000 and $75,000.  The amendment would exempt the value between $50,000 and $100,000 (does not apply to school property tax levies).  While Florida TaxWatch supports the concept of holding down property taxes, homestead exemptions do not provide all the expected tax savings, since millage rates can be adjusted.  When large exemptions are granted, the rolled-back rate may be a “rolled-up rate” to make up for lost revenue.  The result of this is a shift of tax burden to non-homestead property, something our property tax system does regularly due to Save Our Homes.  Florida TaxWatch is concerned the new homestead exemption could be approved by voters while the proposed amendment to abrogate the repeal of the 10 percent assessment cap for non-homestead property (see below) could fail.  This situation would not bode well for non-homestead properties.  SJR 1774 passed Community Affairs this week. 

Fee Reductions – Bills containing fee reductions recommended by Governor Scott are moving through committees.  SB 514 and HB 741 would create a flat $25 fee on delinquent professional license renewals. Currently, the fee can go as high as $260.  The bills would also cut the Florida Building Code surcharge on building permits from 1.5 percent to 1.0 percent.  This week, HB 741 passed the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.   SB 514 has passed one committee and is now in the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.  SB 164 and HB 97 would waive the $70 fee for retitling a vehicle in the case of a spouse’s death.  SB 164 has passed all its committee and is now on second reading.

 

Other Bills

Extension of the Property Tax Assessment Cap for Non-Homestead Property – Both chambers are advancing a very important proposed constitutional amendment to extended to 10 percent cap, which is slated to sunset in 2019.  If the cap is allowed to expire, non-homestead property will see very substantial tax increases.  The House bill (HJR 21) has passed its last committee and is now ready for the floor.  The Senate bill (SJR 76) has cleared one committee.  For more information on the potential repeal of the cap, see the Florida TaxWatch blog.

Local Government Fiscal Restraint and Transparency – A pair of bills putting increased fiscal limitations and requirements on local governments are moving forward in the House.  HB 7063 would not allow property tax increases when a local government has excess special revenue fund balances.  It would also prohibit local option tax increases if the local government has adopted a millage rate that exceeded the rolled-back rate in the last three years.  Voter approval of new debt issues that pledge revenues beyond five years would also be required.  HB 7065 would add a number of requirements for local governments including making more data publicly available—such as  property tax history at the parcel level and voting records on tax and debt issues. Additional public meetings and a debt affordability study prior to new bond issues would be required.  There are many sound concepts in the two bills, but there are technical issues and local government objections need to be fully explored. Both bills have passed the Ways & Means Committee. 

Veterans Sales Tax Holiday – SB 1202 and HB 263 would create an annual one-day (November 11) sales tax holiday for veterans.  During the holiday, vets would be able to purchase clothing and footwear with a sales price of less than $60 tax-free.  This would save veterans an estimated $1.4 million annually.  SB 1202 has passed the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee.  HB 263 has also passed one committee.

 

 

More information of the Governor’s tax relief recommendations is here.

 

Education

Action this Week

Maximum Class Size – Schools that are not in compliance with class size requirements have their class size categorical funding reduced. HB 591and SB 808 would reduce that penalty by calculating it at the school average, repealing an increase in the penalty and providing a district may not have its allocation reduced during the next two years if it meets certain requirements.  The change is supported by Florida TaxWatch research.  This week, HB 591 passed two more committees this week and SB 808 passed the Education Committee.

Reading Instruction – The percentage of 3rd grade students performing below grade level in reading has exceeded 40 percent over the past several years.  In an attempt to address decreasing reading scores, HB 79 aims to help schools identify struggling readers sooner and implement effective interventions and provide increased training for teachers.  The bill was approved by the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee last week.   SB 468 and HB 757 wants to do the same thing in the Voluntary Pre-K system.  The bills appropriate $10 million for training of VPK through grade 3 teachers, reading coaches and school principals on research-based reading instructional strategies and interventions.  HB 757 passed the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee this week.

 

Other Bills that are Moving

“Excellence in Higher Education” – The full Senate approved one of its first major pieces of legislation last week.  One of Senate President Joe Negron’s priorities, SB 2 expands financial assistance for students, including restoring Bright Futures to funding 100% of tuition and fees, plus $300 for textbooks and other expenses.  It requires universities to implement a block tuition policy by the Fall 2018 semester.  It attempts to strengthen Florida’s 2+2 articulation system to promote student retention and on-time graduation.  It upgrades performance metrics for Preeminent Universities, Distinguished Colleges and Performance Funding programs.  It also establishes a World Class Faculty Scholar Program to fund university efforts to recruit, recognize, and retain star faculty.  It passed the full Senate with only one “no” vote.  The prospects for SB 2 in the House is uncertain.  The House Appropriations Committee has focused on university spending and indicated the House believes too much money has been put into the system in recent years.

 “College Competitiveness Act of 2017” – After passing its Excellence in Higher Education bill, the Senate is also advancing its community college overhaul.  SB 374 reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System, tightens the bachelor degree approval process, expands 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, and attempts to maximize programmatic offerings and resources already available at state universities, community colleges, and technical centers.  The bill changes the name of the Florida College System back to the Florida Community College System.   SB 374 passed its second committee last week.

Fewer, Better Tests - HB 773, would (among other things) move state-mandated student assessments to the last three weeks of the school year. In addition to providing more time for instruction, HB 773 will also provide teachers and parents with more useable and timely information regarding student performance.  It would also allow the education commissioner to consider replacing parts of the Florida Standards Assessment with other exams. TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro stood with Senator Anitere Flores and Representatives Manny Diaz, Jr., and Chris Sprowls at a February 15 press conference at which legislation addressing the need for fewer and better tests was unveiled. Florida TaxWatch supports the concept of ‘fewer and better tests,’ as well as other measures that afford school districts greater flexibility and control over how student achievement is measured.  Last week, the winner of Florida TaxWatch’s Principal Leadership Award as the most outstanding high school principal—Carlos Alvarez—spoke in support of HB 773 at the House PreK – 12 Quality Subcommittee meeting.  The bill passed and now goes to the PreK-12 Appropriations SubcommitteeThe Senate companion (SB 926) was workshopped in the Education Committee. 

There are another pair of bills (SB 964 and HB 1249) that sponsors say will go even further in reducing testing.  The Senate bill was also workshopped held in the Education Committee.

Scholarships for Education Options – HB 15 would expand access to the Gardiner Scholarship Program (GSP) and the John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities and increasing the base award in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.  The bill provides a $200 million appropriation for GSP.  HB 15 has passed the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee.  


Economic Development

Action this Week

Transportation Funding – SB 654 would shift $125 million in motor vehicle license tax revenue that is currently deposited in the General Revenue Fund to the State Transportation Trust Fund to provide more funding for the state transportation work program. Fifty percent of the revenue will be shifted in FY 2019-20 and 100 percent will be shifted annually beginning in FY 2020-21.  A Florida TaxWatch report, Meeting Florida’s Transportation Investment Need, highlighted the value of transportation projects to Florida and concluded available revenue was insufficient.  This was one of the options proposed by the report.  The bill passed the Senate Finance and Tax Committee this week.

Other Legislation that is Moving

Economic Development Programs – The House has passed HB 7005 to eliminate Enterprise Florida and 23 economic development programs.  This controversial bill is fiercely opposed by the Governor and looks to be one of the major battlefronts of the 2017 Session.  House Speaker Richard Corcoran has worked to line-up support for an override of a probable veto by the Governor.  Florida TaxWatch believes the elimination of Enterprise Florida would be detrimental to the state.

Visit Florida – Also against the Governor’s objections, the state’s tourism marketing agency was also targeted for elimination by the House. It now looks like Visit Florida (VF) will survive, but the House still wants it scaled back and more closely controlled by the Legislature.  VF was originally in HB 7005 but was later put it its own bill (HB 9).  HB 9 would place more requirements on VF, limiting its expenses, compensation and travel.  More of its information would have to be publicly available.  Contracts over $750,000 would have to be approved by the Legislature. The House originally proposed elimination of the agency, but later placed a $25 million limit on its appropriation.  That language is not in HB 9 but it does require that only 25 percent of its operating budget be released on July 1st, with the remainder released in accordance with a detailed operating budget submitted to the Legislative Budget Commission each year by August 15th, if approved.  It is likely the House budget will contain a major budget cut for VF.  HB 9 has also passed the full House. 

Many of the accountability reforms are needed, but Florida TaxWatch research has shown how valuable funding for tourism marketing is to the state.  Visit Florida must not be crippled to the extent it cannot be successful.

See Florida TaxWatch’s statement on this legislation.

Sports Franchise Facilities – HB 77 would prevent sports franchises from building or renovating stadiums on public land. It would also require sports franchises to pay any outstanding debt the state incurred on the facilities if the sports franchise permanently leaves the facility.  The bill has cleared all its committees and now goes to the floor.  A similar bill in the Senate (SB 122) has not been heard.

Rural Economic Development – SB 600 would restructure the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a program to promote the expansion of economic development projects in rural areas. The bill changes the membership of REDI, changes its scope to include encouraging job creation, improved community infrastructure, the development and expansion of workforce, and improved access to healthcare. It expands the definition of a qualifying rural area and increases reporting and accountability requirements.  The bill has passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Veterans Employment Small Business Grant Program

- SB 152 creates this program to encourage small businesses in Florida to hire veterans. A small business in Florida that hires a veteran as an employee may receive a one-time grant of $1,500 for each veteran hired, or $3,000 for each disabled veteran hired. These awards are limited to $10,500 per fiscal year for a qualifying small business.  SB 152 has passed the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee.


Smart Justice

This Week

Florida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force – SB 458 would create a 28-member joint legislative task force to do a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice system, court system, and corrections system.  The task force members will include legislators, judges, county commissioners, a victim’s advocate, a former incarcerated person, faith-based organizations, the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Corrections and Juvenile Justice, lawyers, and law enforcement.  The task force will submit proposed reform legislation to the 2018 Legislature.  Such a task force is a recommendation of Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.  The bill was approved this week by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

Sentencing of Youthful Offenders – SB 892 would allow the court to sentence as a youthful offender someone who commits a felony before they turned 21.  Current law requires the person to be under 21 at the time of sentencing.  The bill was approved this week by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

Elderly Inmates -  HB 535 would create a program for supervised conditional release of certain elderly inmates if they meet standards regarding their age, the nature of their conviction, percentage of sentence already served, parole eligibility, and behavior while incarcerated. Release must be approved by the Florida Commission of Offender Review.  The bill also requires implementation of healthcare standards that specifically consider the needs of inmates older than fifty years of age.  This is a recommendation of both Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.  Our research has found that despite only making up roughly 20% of the population, the elderly prisoner population accounts for $200 million of the $400 million healthcare budget for the Department of Corrections. The release of just 750 elderly prisoners would save Floridians up to $40 million annually.  Next week, Florida TaxWatch will stand with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katie Edwards, at a press conference on the legislation.  The bill is currently in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

 

Other Legislation that is Moving

Adult Prearrest Diversion Programs - SB 448 and HB 367 encourage communities to implement a prearrest diversion programs and offer a model program that local communities may adopt. The model program allows a law enforcement officer, at the officer’s sole discretion, to issue a civil citation to an adult who commits a nonviolent misdemeanor offense, admits to committing the offense, has not previously been arrested, and has not previously received an adult civil citation. An adult is ineligible for a civil citation if the misdemeanor involves a victim and the victim objects to the issuance of the citation.  If the adult completes a program that includes interventions and community service hours, there would not be an arrest record. SB 448 has been approved by the Criminal Justice Committee. HB 367 has also passed one committee.

Juvenile Justice – SB 196 creates civil citation programs for juveniles in every county in the state.  Civil citations would be mandatory, except when offenders have a previous felony already pending on their record. The bill has passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.  Florida TaxWatch supports the increase use of juvenile civil citations, but law enforcement officers need to have discretion in their use. 

HB 205 was nearly identical to SB 196 until it was amended to remove the mandatory civil citation provision and allow a minor’s record of a first-time misdemeanor crime to be expunged upon completing one of four diversion programs.  The juvenile would be able to deny that they were ever arrested for the misdemeanor.


Health & Aging

Action this Week

Food Deserts – HB 1083 and SB 1592 create the Healthy Food Assistance Programs to increase the availability of healthy foods in underserved communities—often referred to a ‘food deserts.”  Assistance to small food retailers would be available for projects that increase the availability and sales of fresh and nutritious food.  Approved project could receive funds for refrigeration, display shelving, or other equipment (up to $7,500 per retailer); materials and supplies for nutrition education and healthy food promotion; and initial purchases of healthy foods, including dairy products, and fresh produce (up to $2,000 per year).   Florida TaxWatch will released a report on food deserts next week. Both bills cleared committees this week.

Other Bills that are Moving

Scope of Practice for ARNP and PAs – Florida TaxWatch research has long supported increasing the scope of practice for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) and Physicians Assistants. Recent sessions have seen improvement in this area and legislation is moving this year as well.  HB 129 authorizes an ARNP or a PA to serve as the medical director of a health care clinic.  Under current law, health care clinics must appoint a medical director that agrees to accept legal responsibility for performing certain administrative activities.  HB 129 has been approved by the Health and Human Services Committee.   HB 7011 allows APRNs who meet certain criteria to practice advanced or specialized nursing without physician supervision or a protocol by registering with the Board of Nursing. These “independent advanced practice registered nurses” would also be authorized to act as a patient’s primary care provider and perform additional services. The bill also authorizes PAs to perform certain examinations that APRNs are now authorized to perform, file death registrations and certify a cause of death, and participate in the Public School Volunteer Health Care Practitioner Program. This bill was approved as a proposed committee bill and is now in the Ways & Means Committee.

Telehealth – HB 7011 promotes the use of telehealth in Florida, as recommended by Florida TaxWatch.  The bill authorizes Florida health care professionals to use telehealth and articulates a standard of care. It authorizes out-of-state providers to use telehealth for Florida patients if they register, meet certain requirements, and pay a fee.  It further allows health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances to use telehealth to do so, with certain limited circumstances.  The bill also creates a tax credit for health insurers and HMOs that cover services provided by telehealth.  One tenth of one percent of total insurance premiums received on certain accident or health insurance policies issued or delivered in Florida may be applied against corporate income or insurance premium taxes due.

State Employees Prescription Drug Program – HB 993

directs the Department of Management Services to implement cost-saving measures in the Prescription Drug Program.  It is estimated that drug formulary management techniques that regulate which drugs are included could save the prescription plan $55 million. The bill provides that these techniques cannot restrict a plan participant’s access to the most clinically appropriate, clinically effective, and lowest net-cost prescription drugs.  HB 993 has passed the Health Innovation Subcommittee.


Government Efficiency & Cost Savings

Public Records Lawsuits – SB 80 requires a court to award attorney fees and enforcement costs if the court determines that a state agency unlawfully refused access to a public record and the plaintiff provided written notice identifying the public records request to an agency records custodian at least 5 business days before filing the court action. However, if the court determines that a plaintiff made the request for an improper purpose, the court must award reasonable costs and attorney fees against the plaintiff.   These changes are directly in line with Florida TaxWatch research concerning predatory public records requests.  In a research report Florida TaxWatch released in January 2016, TaxWatch recommended that the Public Records Act be amended to more equitably share risks of attorney fees and other related court costs depending on the validity of the lawsuit to better protect the use of taxpayer dollars. SB 80 has cleared all its committees and is scheduled for a floor vote next week.

Maximum Class Size – Schools that are not in compliance with class size requirements have their class size categorical funding reduced. HB 591and SB 808 would reduce that penalty by calculating it at the school average, repealing an increase in the penalty and providing that a district may not have its allocation reduced during the next two years if it meets certain requirements.  The change is supported by Florida TaxWatch research.  This week, HB 591 passed two more committees this week and SB 808 passed the Education Committee.

Florida Criminal Justice Reform Task Force – SB 458 would create a 28-member joint legislative task force to do a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice system, court system, and corrections system.  The task force members will include legislators, judges, county commissioners, a victim’s advocate, a former incarcerated person, faith-based organizations, the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Corrections and Juvenile Justice, lawyers, and law enforcement.  The task force will submit proposed reform legislation to the 2018 Legislature.  Such a task force is a recommendation of Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.  The bill was approved this week by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

Elderly Inmates -  HB 535 would create a program for supervised conditional release of certain elderly inmates if they meet standards regarding their age, the nature of their conviction, percentage of sentence already served, parole eligibility, and behavior while incarcerated. Release must be approved by the Florida Commission of Offender Review.  The bill also requires implementation of healthcare standards that specifically consider the needs of inmates older than fifty years of age.  This is a recommendation of both Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.  Our research has found that despite only making up roughly 20% of the population, the elderly prisoner population accounts for $200 million of the $400 million healthcare budget for the Department of Corrections. The release of just 750 elderly prisoners would save Floridians up to $40 million annually.  Next week, Florida TaxWatch will join bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katie Edwards, at a press conference on the legislation.  The bill is currently in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Maximizing Federal Funds - SB 612 would require every agency’s legislative budget request to include information on available federal funds. Specifically, they would be required to identify each program that does not maximize available federal matching funding and the amount of state or local funds that would be required to maximize federal matching funds.  The bill also requires a list of federal funding programs that the agency does not participate in and an estimate the amount of federal funds the agency or state does not draw down as a result of non-participation.  Florida TaxWatch has long reported on Florida being a “donor state” for federal grants and has recommended steps to maximize federal revenue. SB 612 passed the Judiciary Committee this week.

Local Pension Plans - SB 428 closes the Florida Retirement System pension plan for employees of a governing body of a municipality, metropolitan planning organization, or special district that applies to the Florida Retirement System on or after January 1, 2017. Instead, they must be enrolled in the defined contribution program.  Existing employees may continue in the pension plan.  Florida TaxWatch has researched public retirement systems extensively and concludes this a tool that can help local governments get a handle on unsustainable retirement costs.  The bill has passed the Community Affairs Committee.

State Employee Health Insurance Options - HB 7007 would give state employees four different health insurance “benefit levels” to choose from starting in 2020.  If the state’s contribution exceeds the cost of the selected plan selected, employees could put that money toward health savings accounts, purchase additional benefits or increase their salary.  The bill also requires the state to contract for online health care price and quality information.  Enrollees could shop for health care using the information provided to select higher quality, lower cost services and providers.  Savings would be shared with the enrollee. The bill directs DMS to recommend employee contribution rates for standard plans and high deductible health plans for the 2018 plan year reflecting the actual benefit difference between the HMO and the PPO plans for both self-insured and fully insured products.  This bill has cleared all its committees and is awaiting a floor vote in the House.

Adult Prearrest Diversion Programs - SB 448 and HB 367 encourage communities to implement a prearrest diversion programs and offer a model program that local communities may adopt. The model program allows a law enforcement officer, at the officer’s sole discretion, to issue a civil citation to an adult who commits a nonviolent misdemeanor offense, admits to committing the offense, has not previously been arrested, and has not previously received an adult civil citation. An adult is ineligible for a civil citation if the misdemeanor involves a victim and the victim objects to the issuance of the citation.  If the adult completes a program that includes interventions and community service hours, there would not be an arrest record. SB 448 has been approved by the Criminal Justice Committee. HB 367 has also passed one committee.

Scope of Practice for ARNP and PAs – Florida TaxWatch research has long supported increasing the scope of practice for Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) and Physicians Assistants. Recent sessions have seen improvement in this area and legislation is moving this year as well.  HB 129 authorizes an ARNP or a PA to serve as the medical director of a health care clinic.  Under current law, health care clinics must appoint a medical director that agrees to accept legal responsibility for performing certain administrative activities.  HB 129 was approved by the Health and Human Services Committee this week.   HB 7011 allows APRNs who meet certain criteria to practice advanced or specialized nursing without physician supervision or a protocol by registering with the Board of Nursing. These “independent advanced practice registered nurses” would also be authorized to act as a patient’s primary care provider and perform additional services. The bill also authorizes PAs to perform certain examinations that APRNs are now authorized to perform, file death registrations and certify a cause of death, and participate in the Public School Volunteer Health Care Practitioner Program. This bill was approved as a proposed committee bill and is now in the Ways & Means Committee.

Telehealth – HB 7011 promotes the use of telehealth in Florida, as recommended by Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.  The bill authorizes Florida health care professionals to use telehealth and articulates a standard of care. It authorizes out-of-state providers to use telehealth for Florida patients if they register, meet certain requirements, and pay a fee.  It further allows health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances to use telehealth to do so, with certain limited circumstances.  The bill also creates a tax credit for health insurers and HMOs that cover services provided by telehealth.  One tenth of one percent of total insurance premiums received on certain accident or health insurance policies issued or delivered in Florida may be applied against corporate income or insurance premium taxes due.

 

Not Yet Heard in Committee

State Employee Wellness – HB 797 and SB 1380 would establish a state employee health and wellness clinic pilot program, as recommended by Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.

Centralized Fleet Management –

SB 92 requires the Department of Management Services to prepare a plan regarding the centralized management of state-owned motor vehicles,

as recommended by Florida TaxWatch and the Government Efficiency Task Force.

 

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