Health Care Reform – Both the Senate and House have now rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to include Floridians at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. Senate Committee Chairman Joe Negron (R-Stuart) said he would like to pursue a “Florida Plan“, a voucher-like alternative that would make coverage available through private insurers via premium subsidies. SB 7038 would require a waiver from the federal government before implementation. The federal Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has indicated some degree of flexibility with regard to health care expansion and related funding.
Gaming – The federal gambling probe that led to the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll has sparked new interest in permanently outlawing the state’s internet cafes. Last year the House of Representatives passed legislation to ban internet cafes only to see it die in the Senate. This year Senate President Gaetz has said he expects to see legislation pass before the end of session. The bills are HB 155 by Representative Carlos Trujillo (R-Doral) and SB 1030 by Senator John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine). HB 155 passed the House on March 22nd and will be heard in committee in the Senate this week.
Criminal Justice Reform – SB 148 by Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) and its companion HB 961 by Representative Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) would make major changes to the state’s capital punishment system by requiring a Florida jury to unanimously recommend the death penalty. Of the thirty-three states that impose the death penalty, only Florida and Alabama do not require a unanimous vote of the jury.
Sales Tax Holiday – SB 916 by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and HB 419 by Representative Larry Ahern (R-St. Petersburg) are sponsoring this year’s Sales Tax Holiday bills. Clothing costing less than $75 per item, school supplies costing less than $15 each, and computer purchases and computer accessories priced at $750 or less made during the 3-day period beginning August 2 – August 4, 2013 will be exempt from state and local taxes. The estimated lost revenue is $23.9 million.