Tia Mitchell, State House Bureau Chief with The Florida Times Union, and Gary Fineout, Capitol Press Corp Reporter with the Associated Press, join the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line to give their perspective on Florida’s 2015 Legislative Session. From healthcare issues to the possibility of a special session, Mitchell and Fineout discuss the issues that matter.
The Midway Point Assessment:
“We haven’t really done very much. There’s a big divide in a lot of places, particularly in the healthcare arena and on the budget. Frankly, as anyone’s whose watched this process knows, the budget is sort of the grease that gets the gears to turn. And as long as there is a big sort of, conundrum, with the budget, it kind of affects the progress of the session. Essentially we are here at the midway point and they’ve only passed, really both sides, have only passed one substantial bill… overall, there’s a lot that has not yet been done.”
On Florida’s Budget:
“If you believe what they say, you have to couch that, because again, this is a little bit of posturing, but I do kind of believe what they say, mainly because the House has said for three years straight that they do not want to use federal dollars to expand Medicaid. So you can believe that they really don’t want to do it and that they are dug into that and so far, there has been no compelling reason from the Senate to make them change their mind. But what’s different this year is the Senate says it’s really dug in. Before, the Senate would say ‘hey, we want to expand Medicaid, we did it on our side, they wouldn’t do it on the other side’ and just shrugged it off. This year the Senate is saying ‘no, we think it needs to be done, it’s our highest priority.’ And that’s really different this year.”
On the Possibility of a Special Session:
“I see someone is going to have a fairly major retreat, in order for things to be worked out. it’s not that that’s not possible between now and the end of the session but it just doesn’t seem that’s where we’re going. The situation is basically, when you have a top person in the House, which is the budget chairman Richard Corcoran, when you have him get up on the floor and give a passionate speech defending their positions saying that one chamber cannot dictate to anther chamber, that kind of affects the pace and where things will go into the future.”
On Water and Amendment 1:
“I think the water debate; the policy is progressing pretty well- they are working on implementing Amendment 1. I see two things happening. I think the environmentalists that pushed Amendment 1 are going to not be happy at the end of the day, because they want much more money spent on purchasing conservation land and the Amendment 1 dollars are going to be spread out for various water issues, various water projects, that don’t all fit under what the Amendment 1 supporters really wanted. The actual projects are going to be a part of the budget debate, and so we don’t know yet exactly what they are going to use Amendment 1 dollars, the specific projects, but I think there’s going to be a lot more variety than perhaps what the conservation groups would like.
“I think we can all agree. I think the House as already expressed the thought that they want to do something about access to care. It would not surprise me if the House, as a result of all of this, pushes ahead with several of those issues, especially the scope of practice and nurse practitioners bill. They might want to try to package them all as ‘this is our answer to how to deal with healthcare. And we don’t think that we need to do what you’ve offered in terms of the Medicaid alternative expansion plan that the Senate has crafted, instead we think you should do these other things to improve access.’ And we’ve heard a little bit about that, we’ve heard about the graduate medical education and increasing the number of doctors and things of that nature, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that becomes a part of the mix when all of this is said and done. And as you know, again, Richard Corcoran, the budget chief for the House, has made it abundantly clear that we need to quote ‘challenge the status quo.’ So I can see all of that becoming part of that dynamic and eh dialogue between now and the end of session.”
“I think at this point in time, the main outcome that I could foresee possibly, and I still don’t know if this is guaranteed, is something that just simply allows the status quo to continue as is. I think the Senate has showed that it is potentially interested in that dynamic. In other words passing something that merely says the existing compact kind of stays in place a little while longer. Is it a year, is it two years, I don’t know the answer to that . But I think you’ve seen the Senate warming up to that. So what does that mean for the House bill? I mean, the House bill still hasn’t passed one committee yet…So I think at this point in time it is kind of hard to imagine that we would have a major gambling bill get passed this year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think that something still can’t happen between now and May 1.”
“I just think that the House’s gambling bill, people just thought it was dead on arrival because there’s just so much in it so there’s so much for people to hate. You’ve got the greyhound industry, doesn’t like decoupling- that’s in the bill. You have Disney and the Restaurant and Lodging Association, don’t want destination resorts- that’s in the bill. You have the Seminole Indians, don’t want the compact to go away- that’s in the bill. So there’s so much opposition to that House proposal because it’s so heavy, it’s just kind of sinking under its own weight.”