Fall 2013 Legal Updates

VOTER PURGE. As previously reported, the Governor announced his intention to continue with the removal of non-citizen registered voters as a result of a Supreme Court decision allowing such activities.  Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the elected Supervisors of Elections, began a tour called ‘Project Integrity’ to explain the new procedures.  Florida now plans to use a federal database to determine potentially illegal registered voters.  Opposition by civil rights groups will continue, and some Supervisors have stated they will not participate.

NO FAULT INSURANCE.  The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee intends to file a bill which would remove Florida’s no fault insurance coverage requirement.  This is a continuation of the process begun last session when the Legislature voted to limit coverage and establish a time period of 14 days to seek treatment in the event of injury.  The efforts by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater were aimed at curtailing or eliminating fraud estimated to total over $1 billion.  Portions of the law have been deemed unconstitutional by a Leon County circuit judge.

INTERNET CAFES. The attorney at the center of the Allied Veterans of the World scandal involving a statewide internet café gambling operation has been found guilty by a City of Sanford jury.  Kelly Mathis was prosecuted on 104 counts and found guilty on 103 of the charges.  He was the first of 57 people charged to go to trial.  Among the remaining defendants are the former and current head of the organization, as well as the owner of the company who provided the software for the internet cafes.

APALACHICOLA BAY. October 1st marked the day Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi filed suit against the State of Georgia over its use of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. For over 20 years Georgia, Florida and Alabama have been fighting over water rights of this basin.  In 2011, a three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling from a federal judge ordering metro Atlanta to drastically reduce their withdrawals, finding that metro Atlanta could use the reservoir for water with restrictions.

TRAUMA CENTER FIGHT. The legal fight continues between the trauma center at the Ocala Regional Health and the University of Florida Shands hospital. The Department of Health approved the opening of the Ocala trauma center a year ago without input from Shands.  A court of appeals has ruled that the DOH erred by not giving Shands the opportunity to be heard during the application process.  The owners of Ocala Health are appealing the ruling.  The key issues at hand are the rules governing new trauma centers and whether the DOH followed them as directed by legislation passed in 2004.

MEDICAID WAIVER EXTENSION. The Agency for Health Care Administration held public hearings around the state as part of its efforts to get feedback to extend the federal Medicaid waiver needed for the managed care program.  Currently, the waiver ends June 30, 2014.  If approved, the extension would last from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017, and would also address the continuation of the State’s Low Income Pool program, which provides additional money to hospitals and other health care providers that serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients. Also at issue is the waiver request for those in the Medically Needy program, which serves tens of thousands of people with serious medical conditions.

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