legislature 2014

Nearly a million Floridians have gained insurance though federal exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act. Many of those people are seeing big savings on their insurance costs, courtesy of subsidies they’ve received from the federal government, but hundreds of thousands more have been left with nothing.

Stories From Those In The Medicaid Gap

It was supposed to be simple.

An election year with the state’s top job at stake—no one really wanting to ruffle any feathers. Pack a budget with tidbits like more money for education and the environment—to help woo leery voters. Throw a couple of red-meat items like school vouchers and gun-bills to fire up the state’s Republican base—and wrap it up. A budget surplus promised to help grease the skids. But in the words of the Notorious B.I.G, "more money, more problems".

Florida State University

Florida lawmakers are once again eyeing big changes to the state’s public universities and a few senators have set their sights on the Florida A&M and Florida State joint College of Engineering.

Engineering Divorce Between FAMU, FSU A Serious Possibility

FAMU’s Board of Trustees is struggling to understand how a plan to split the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering appeared in the Legislature before they caught wind of it, and some on the board believe a conspiracy is afoot.

JRHarding.com

JR Harding is a quadriplegic who regularly gets gas from a station in Tallahassee where they know him. For years, he’s been using the stations call button to get help when filling up. But that button could soon go away, and Harding says he is concerned.

“It preempts Leon County’s rule and Brevard County’s rule and prevents any other county from implementing a better accommodation at the gas pump,” he says about a proposal in the state legislature that would replace gas station call buttons in favor of a phone number customers can dial if they need assistance.

It’s still early in the 2014 lawmaking session, but already gaps between the House and Senate are starting to emerge.

The Legislature has passed some high-priority bills, but other proposals are starting to stall out.

Florida lawmakers tinkering with the state employee health insurance program are poised to revamp the entire system. If the proposal is okayed by the legislature, it’s uncertain whether state workers would see their insurance costs go up or down.

Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) says the state health insurance program is outdated and doesn’t give employees what they want. Brodeur says workers who have chosen the state’s HMO plan get more benefits, yet pay the same rates as those on the state’s PPO plans, which have fewer.

Florida House of Representatives

Florida lawmakers have rolled out their education spending proposals for the upcoming fiscal year, and according to the raw numbers, there’s more money in there for the state’s public schools. But as the legislature looks to up the ante, much of the increase is coming from local property owners.

LHatter / WFSU News

State lawmakers want to turn Florida’s public school classrooms into digital oases. To make sure it happens, they’ve set goals for increasing bandwidth and reducing regulations on textbook adoption to make room for other learning systems in classrooms. But many school districts in Florida have a long way to go in realizing that digital dream.

More students could get scholarships to go to private school next year under a planned expansion of the state’s corporate tax scholarship program. But those students may also be subjected to state exams.

Florida lawmakers are eyeing the state’s biggest source of revenue to boost private school scholarships for low-income students. The House plan would create the sales tax scholarship program and allow businesses to steer sales tax dollars to fund more scholarships.

The children of undocumented immigrants could soon be eligible for the in-state tuition rate at Florida’s public colleges and universities. A House bill allowing the change is heading to the chamber floor, signaling a change of heart by Republicans who have opposed the measure in years past.

KFF.ORG / Kaiser Family Foundation

Florida has stood on the sidelines for more than a year as other states have taken the federal government up on its offer to provide more funding if more people are added to Medicaid rolls. Last year, the House and Senate flirted with the idea but failed to reach an agreement. But the conversation continued even after lawmakers went home.

The nation’s health care delivery system is undergoing major changes, and the lines between what different healthcare providers do is beginning to blur. That’s the backdrop for fights between doctors, nurses and pharmacists, and those fights have become an annual occurrence at Florida’s Capitol, as each group tries to increase or maintain its scope-of-practice.

To put it plainly, these are turf battles. At the center is this debate: access, versus quality. 

*Correction: The Tax Credit Scholarship provides low-income students with a tuition subsidy to attend private schools. The subsidies are not based on whether a student previously attended a low performing school, as originally stated in this article.

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Many of the education priorities outlined by House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz were already in the works before the two met with reporters. But the changes got a boost when the leaders pushed them to the top of a fairly long list of legislative priorities.