Florida Legislature

  Democratic candidate Judithanne McLauchlan, who was inspired to run for Florida Senate District 22 against incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes because he was the only vote in the Senate against an alternative to Medicaid expansion, lost 57 percent to 43 percent.

During the 2013 Legislative session, Brandes was the lone vote against state Sen. Joe Negron’s alternative to Medicaid expansion. The plan, which would have drawn down $51 billion in federal funding over 10 years under the Affordable Care Act, was ultimately defeated by the Republican-controlled House.   

Advocates and foes of the upcoming medical marijuana amendment aren’t talking much about the role Florida’s Legislature would play if it becomes law, the Miami Herald reports.

Lawmakers have a significant say in the rules about who obtains and distributes medical marijuana but the campaigns are focusing on what voters want, according to the Herald.

Medicaid expansion is an issue in the race for Florida’s Senate District 22, a swing district that covers most of Pinellas County and extends to South Tampa.

"This is an issue that propelled me into the race because I am running against the only senator that voted against the Medicaid expansion,” Democrat Judithanne McLauchlan said.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Democratic candidates were the only ones to show at a legislative forum organized by the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative. And each one said Florida needs to take federal funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The participants included Lorena Grizzle (D) – House District 66 candidate; Steve Sarnoff (D) – House District 67 candidate; Scott Orsini (D) - House District 69 candidate; and Judithanne McLauchlan (D) – Senate District 22 candidate.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist says if he’s elected, he wants a special session to expand a state-run health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Crist says Florida could cover an additional one million people by expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The chair of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee wants all child deaths - not just suspicious ones - to be reported in Florida, the News Service of Florida reports. As of July 1, under legislation pushed by State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, the state Department of Children and Families has to produce a report that includes deaths of children in cases where abuse has been documented. But Sobel says it’s not enough: cases of neglect could still be slipping through the cracks. As Margie Menzel with News Service reports, Sobel will introduce a bill next session requiring all deaths of children to be reported.


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has come out in support of the non-euphoric medical marijuana approved by the Florida Legislature, the Miami Herald reports. 

The Florida Medical Association recently gave $300,000 to a political committee running attack ads in a closely contested state legislative race, the News Service of Florida reports. The money went to the “Better Florida Fund Corp.,” which is running ads that criticize Sarasota County Republican Richard DeNapoli. He’s competing against fellow Republican Julio Gonzalez, who is a doctor, to replace term-limited Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, in the House District 74 race.

Dr. Larry Floriani

The Florida Medical Association surprised many this week when word came that its House of Delegates embraced a resolution calling for the legislature to expand Medicaid, the state-run program that's supposed to cover low-income people.

The money to do so, an estimated $51 billion over 10 years, had already been set aside by the federal government to begin in January this year, but the state House of Representatives refused to take  it. The FMA delegates want the Legislature to change its position.

New laws and a continued crackdown on corrupt doctors helped reduce Florida’s prescription drug deaths significantly a few years ago. However, a new plague has broken out and needs to be addressed as well, the Orlando Sentinel editorial board reports.

While many didn’t notice Gov. Rick Scott’s line item veto of funding to investigate Medicaid fraud, the chairman of the Criminal & Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee certainly did.

The number of health insurers willing to compete in the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace for Florida enrollees for 2015 has grown, according to forms filed with a state agency by Friday's deadline. One that stayed out last year, giant UnitedHealthcare, is among them.

It's the Law: No E-Cigs for Kids

Jun 27, 2014

   A new state law banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors goes into effect next week.

Under the bill, it also is illegal for minors to possess e-cigarettes.

Some e-cigarettes look like traditional cigarettes. But instead of tobacco, e-cigarettes vaporize a mixture of flavorings - and nicotine.

Still, they are addictive and until recently, there were no laws in Florida banning their sale to people under the age of 18. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t issued any official rules concerning them.

The Department of Children and Families is now responsible for the inspection and certification of “safe houses” for victims of human trafficking, under one of two new laws signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The bills signed Tuesday help establish screening tools to identify if a child has been sexually exploited and allow DCF to create the safe spaces in communities where none currently exist, according to the News Service of Florida.

Over the next few days, Gov. Rick Scott will examine the state’s $77 billion budget and decide, what if anything to veto. Among the health items in the budget is an increase in the personal spending allowance for long-term care Medicaid patients from $35 to $105 a month, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports. Advocates say the increase is 25 years overdue.

Also awaiting Scott’s signature:

State Democratic leaders say that Florida’s Legislature failure to pass major health laws this spring may trigger a drop in federal matching money for treating low-income residents in the hospital.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services right now is willing to extend temporary agreements related to the so-called Low Income Pool, the Florida Current reports.

The Legislature’s failure to fix Florida’s lingering trauma center debate means the hospitals in the dispute are headed back to court, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. 

Bills that would have protected centers at Ocala Regional Medical Center, Blake Medical Center and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point collapsed during the final day of the 2014 Legislative session.

It will be “quite a while” before Floridians know whether Florida's Department of Children and Families is headed in the right direction, editorials in the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel say.

Some people wanted the big bill of the 2014 legislative session to be Medicaid expansion, accepting federal funds to cover the low-income uninsured. Indeed, interfaith groups were still running phone banks and staging demonstrations up to Friday, the last day of the session.

But it was clear even before the 2014 Florida Legislature opened two months ago the measure would be ignored. Instead, lawmakers spent a lot of time debating ways to stretch the supply of primary-care providers as demand increases.

There’s a flurry of health policy activity as Florida’s 2014 Legislature comes to an end tonight.

On Thursday, the Senate didn’t budge on its ongoing opposition to giving nurse practitioners more authority.

The Senate rejected proposed changes to the "stand your ground" law that would have prevented people who start an altercation or seek revenge from using it as a defense.

Democratic Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale tried amending another gun bill Thursday to include the changes.

Smith pointed at the Trayvon Martin case, a Tampa-area movie theater shooting and a Jacksonville case where a man fatally shot a teenager after an argument over loud music.

Florida Department of Health

Surgeon General John Armstrong may not like the idea of the state giving out medical marijuana, but it looks as though he’s stuck with it. (UPDATE: The Senate passed the House bill as-is around 12:30 p.m. Friday)

The House, Senate and governor have reached agreement to make a cannabis extract available to cancer and seizure patients through a tightly-regulated state-run program. And they have placed responsibility for developing that program squarely in Armstrong’s hands at the state Department of Health.

Florida lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the state to provide attorneys to foster children with special needs.

The Senate passed the bill (SB 972) Wednesday after unanimous support in the House last week. The bill recommends the state set aside $4.5 million to hire attorneys for roughly 1,400 foster youths. Some of the money will also fund expert witnesses.

Hope Remains for Child-Welfare Reform

Apr 30, 2014

It’s still unclear what the final version of Florida’s child-welfare reform legislation will look like this year, as the session draws to a close.

Several provisions that concern transparency and accountability could still be in play – both for the Department of Children and Families and for the community-based care agencies that provide adoption and foster-care services at the local level.

On Friday, an amendment to the Senate’s reform bill would have stripped out language requiring more oversight of the child-welfare system.

Mylan Specialty


 A bill that would increase access to epinephrine auto-injectors used for treating allergic reactions is headed to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

The measure allows businesses to stock and administer epinephrine auto-injectors, also known as EpiPens, to someone experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The measure passed in the Florida House unanimously last week; it passed in the Florida Senate unanimously Tuesday.

House OKs Guns for School Officials

Apr 28, 2014

The Florida House has passed legislation that would allow trained officials to carry guns in schools.

The bill (HB 753), sponsored by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, passed 71-44.

This issue has been argued nationwide since school shootings at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary, Virginia Tech University, Columbine High School in Colorado and others. One side believes armed officials are better equipped to handle emergency situations. The other argues that more guns in schools increases the odds of something happening.

In a column in the Tampa Bay Times, John Romano writes that more than a year ago, lawmakers claimed they were going to look for a solution to help low-income Floridians get health coverage after the House  turned down  a Senate bill to accept $51 billion in federal funds -- money made available through an alternative to  Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The Florida Senate rejected a last-minute amendment supported by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration that would have severely weakened a bill meant to overhaul child welfare laws,  the Miami Herald reports.

Where Things Stand in Capitol

Apr 28, 2014

Both the House and Senate meet today (Monday), the first day of the last week of the legislative session. Leaders of both chambers say they expect to end on time Friday.


The Florida House passed a huge bill full of controversial health issues on Friday shortly after lunch, sending it on to a Senate that may not be friendly.

The "train" -- legislative jargon for a bill that carries many unconnected issues -- was a signal defeat for the Florida Medical Association, which had opposed two of the biggest issues. HB 7113 would give nurse practitioners the right to practice independently and would allow telemedicine consults with doctors in other states who don't hold Florida licenses. 

The vote was 74-42.