Scott Signs Health Care, Renewable Energy Bills
Gov. Rick Scott late Friday signed 13 bills, including a 59-page health care bill that is linked to the new state budget.
The so-called “conforming” bill includes issues such as a plan for moving forward with up to $1.5 billion in funding for the Low Income Pool program, which provides extra money to hospitals that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients.
Lawmakers did not include the Low Income Pool, or LIP, money in the budget because state and federal officials continue working out details. But the bill signed Friday sets up a process for the state Agency for Health Care Administration to ask legislative leaders to release the money after a final agreement is reached with the federal government.
The wide-ranging bill also deals with issues such as revamping the way nursing homes will be paid in the future in the Medicaid program. The issue, known as moving to a “prospective payment” system, drew debate during this spring's legislative session, at least in part because of disagreements in the nursing-home industry.
Scott on Friday also signed a measure that will carry out a constitutional amendment aimed at boosting the use of solar energy in the state.
Lawmakers passed the renewable-energy bill (SB 90), after nearly 73 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment during last August's primary elections. The amendment called for extending a renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties and making renewable-energy equipment exempt from state tangible personal property taxes.
The amendment, which had widespread support from business and environmental groups, needed lawmakers to approve a bill to carry it out.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who sponsored the bill during this spring's legislative session, said in a prepared statement that Scott “answered the will of the voters” in signing the measure Friday.
“I look forward to continuing our work to diversify Florida's energy economy, so we can live up to our title as the Sunshine State and lead in renewable energy,” Brandes said.
Among the other bills signed Friday was a measure (SB 118) that includes sealing criminal-history records in situations when people are arrested but not found guilty of crimes. That could apply, for example, when charges are dropped or defendants are acquitted at trial.
Lawmakers unanimously passed the bill, but the First Amendment Foundation open-government group asked Scott to veto it.
Another bill signed Friday (SB 1726) directs the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to oversee industrial-hemp pilot projects at the University of Florida and Florida A&M University. The bill said the purpose of the projects is to “cultivate, process, test, research, create, and market safe and effective commercial applications for industrial hemp in the agricultural sector in this state.”