In a final flurry of activity from the legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott this week will take action on heavily debated health, education and tax bills.
Scott faces deadlines to act this week on 25 bills, including 22 of them on Thursday. After that, one deadline will remain next week for a controversial bill about overhauling the state's alimony laws.
As of early Monday afternoon, Scott had signed 245 of the 272 bills approved by the House and Senate during the session that ended March 11 and had vetoed only one -- a local bill dealing with Gainesville Regional Utilities, according to a Senate tally. After each legislative session, House and Senate leaders gradually send bills to Scott, who then has 15 days to take action.
The batch with a Thursday deadline include bills that were closely watched during the session by health care and education interest groups and lobbyists.
As an example, Scott will take action on a proposal (HB 423) that would allow advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe controlled substances. Advanced registered nurse practitioners have lobbied for years for the prescribing authority but have faced opposition from doctor groups. The bill would place some limits on the authority, such as restricting the prescribing of what are known as "Schedule II" controlled substances, such as codeine and oxycodone, to seven-day supplies.
Among other health-care measures, Scott will take action on a proposal (HB 221) that addresses an insurance issue known as "balance billing." The issue, which drew lobbying from health insurers, doctors and hospitals, primarily deals with patients who have preferred provider organization, or PPO, coverage and go to hospitals for emergency care.
Patients have sometimes gotten unexpected bills because doctors at the hospitals are not part of the insurance plans' networks. The legislation, at least in part, would set up a dispute-resolution process that supporters say would help shield patients from unexpected bills and leave it to health-care providers and insurers to work out payment issues.
Also facing a Thursday deadline is an omnibus education bill (HB 7029) that includes a plan to allow parents to transfer their children to any public schools in the state that are not at capacity. The bill ties together a variety of other education issues, ranging from performance-funding formulas for colleges and universities to changes in high-school athletics.
Among the other proposals set for action is a $129.1 million tax cut package (HB 7099). Perhaps the most-notable parts of the package are a permanent sales-tax exemption on manufacturing equipment and a three-day sales-tax "holiday" for back-to-school shoppers this summer.