SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM Leon County’s Chief Circuit Judge, Charles Francis, tossed out a lawsuit aimed at blocking the expansion of Florida’s school voucher program. The expansion allows middle income families, beginning in 2016, to receive partial vouchers and removes a requirement that students attend a public school immediately prior to receiving a voucher. After the ruling the Florida Education Association met with Senate President Andy Gardiner to discuss the issues related to this lawsuit. The FEA, which filed the suit on behalf of three sets of parents and a teacher, subsequently announced they were dropping the case. A second lawsuit, based on other grounds, is still pending.
MEDICAID CHILD HEALTH CARE LAWSUIT After dragging on for almost ten years, an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge sided with the Florida Pediatric Society on a case dealing with low-income children’s Medicaid reimbursement rates. The court concurred that the State of Florida’s Medicaid rates were unreasonably low when compared to the federal rate. The judge asserted such rates effectively rationed care because the rates drove physicians out of the program. The Agency for Healthcare Administration spoke out against the ruling saying the recent roll-out of managed care now met the healthcare needs of children while providing adequate rates. The plaintiffs’ attorneys estimate that the State will need to appropriate an additional $200 million to adequately provide care to Florida’s children. However, the judge in the case will be scheduling a hearing in late January to determine how to move forward with a resolution.
GAY MARRIAGE LEGAL Attorney General Pam Bondi threw in the towel in her effort to block gay marriage in Florida after months of appeals to various state and federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court of Appeals refused her efforts to continue the judicial stay which was set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, January 6th. Miami-Dade County was the first to allow such marriages when Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted her stay on Monday afternoon, allowing such marriages in the county immediately upon issuance of a license. Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello became the first same-sex couple to be married in Florida.
LOTTERY LAWSUITS A lottery winner who is a sexual offender is being sued by his victims. The predator was arrested in 1999 and sentenced to 13 months in prison. He recently won $3 million in a scratch off ticket game. Two victims filed a complaint seeking monetary damages for the years of abuse they endured. The defendant elected to receive a one-time payment of over $2.2 million.
In another case, the Florida Supreme Court will decide a dispute between two non-married individuals. The couple, who are no longer together, won $1 million from a lottery ticket. One claims that there was an oral agreement to evenly split any lottery winnings, while the other, who purchased the ticket, denies the arrangement. There is also disagreement as to whether they remained in a relationship when the ticket was purchased. A Seminole County judge and the 5th District Court of Appeals both ruled the purchaser could keep all of the winnings.