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The Week Ahead in Tallahassee: Florida Cabinet, School Financing and Nukes

| July 31, 2011

florida state capitol The Aug. 2 deadline for extending the national debt ceiling has mostly sucked all the political air out of the nation – while the Cabinet is meeting in Tallahassee, most eyes will be on the world markets to see what happens if the nation’s politicians don’t reach some kind of deal by Tuesday.

It’s generally a quiet week in Tallahassee, although the Cabinet does return from its summer break. An execution that had originally been scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed at least a month as wrangling continues over the state’s lethal injection drug protocol. A hearing on that issue is expected to be wrapped up in Miami by Tuesday, but there may then be more appellate fighting.

Also, AHCA, the Agency for Health Care Administration, has an Aug. 1 deadline for submitting the its proposal for a waiver from Medicaid for the new statewide Medicaid managed-care system. Lawmakers have spent the last few years working toward this goal, and the broad contours of the plan are widely known. Still, there’s no guarantee the feds will grant the waiver, though they likely won’t make a decision right away.

But mostly the nation will be watching the unfolding drama in Washington over deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling with anxiety over the possible impact of failure to reach an accord. Analysts are predicting economic disaster unless Congress and President Obama agree on plans to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by Tuesday. In Washington, the Republican Party has been torn in two over the House Republican tea party caucus’s hard-line stance against congressional action, necessary to raise a $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, that doesn’t include sufficient spending cuts. GOP leadership has pleaded for some leeway, but even as the House passed its bill Friday evening, the contours of a compromise with a Senate were unclear. Democrats have largely despaired of the targeted tax increases they had championed for months of deliberations, while Republicans risk political blowback if they are seen as beckoning a double-dip recession. If the nation defaults on its debt, August is likely to be filled with news of the negative impacts of that action throughout the economy and in government.

MONDAY, AUG. 1, 2011

MEDICAID EXPANSION PROPOSAL DUE: The Agency for Health Care Administration has until Aug. 1 to turn in its proposal for a waiver from Medicaid restrictions to take statewide what has been a pilot project shifting most Medicaid recipients into a private managed care plan by October 2014.

TUESDAY, AUG. 2, 2011

CABINET: Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet convene for the first time since June. The most controversial item originally before the Cabinet has gotten less so with the Department of Veterans Affairs promising a revised list of proposed inductees into the Veterans Hall of Fame from one proposed earlier that had drawn fire as racially insensitive. Also, the State Board of Administration is requesting approval to sell a total of $636.3 million in bonds for a range of purposes including the refinancing of previous debt at lower interest rates. Included in the request is $345 million in refunding bonds for the Florida Forever Program and $268 million in refunding bonds for the Florida Lottery/State Board of Education bonds. Both bond sales will pay off earlier bonds sold at higher interest rates. The Cabinet will also be asked to approve a new slate of governors to the Florida Workers Compensation Joint Underwriting Association and get an update from state insurance officials on money services fraud. The panel will hear an annual review of the Division of Administrative Hearings. (Tuesday, 9 a.m. Cabinet Room, The Capitol.)

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TAKES ON SCHOOL FINANCING: The State Board of Education, which oversees Pre-K-12 and the college system, will take on the topic of the state’s budget and school financing at a workshop. The board will receive a briefing from state revenue forecaster Amy Baker and consider briefings from the state college system, school superintendents and charter schools on “budget efficiency” and tackle topics such as legislative budget requests for next year. Among the invited guests are Andy Ford, the president of the Florida Education Association, and Patricia Levesque, the head of the pro-school choice group backed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. (Tuesday, 9 a.m., Tampa Airport Marriott, 4200 George J. Bean Parkway.)

PANEL PONDERS FLORIDA’S NUCLEAR ENERGY FUTURE: The Village Square is sponsoring a discussion on Florida’s nuclear energy future, with heavy-hitting panelists including Mary Bane, an adviser on energy policy to Gov. Rick Scott, Mike Halpin, director of air resource management for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, John Kelly, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear reactor technologies for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, among others. Nuclear energy has been a particularly hot topic in recent months after an earthquake caused a meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Florida has three operating nuclear power plants. The Village Square encourages civic dialogue on a range of issues, with the goal of getting beyond divisive partisan discourse. (Tuesday 7 p.m., Miller Hall, University Center Building C on the west side of Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State University, Tallahassee.)


DEP PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED NEW WATER POLLUTION STANDARDS: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection holds the second of two formal public meetings to present its proposed draft rule and receive public comments on possible revisions to Chapters 62-302 and 62-303, regarding numeric nutrient standards for Florida’s surface waters. The federal EPA had made rules setting out numeric standards for how much pollution could go into Florida freshwater bodies, but it led to an uproar from Florida businesses and others, and the state DEP backed those who opposed the new federal rules. EPA told Florida it could back off the rules if Florida creates its own numeric standard for nutrients going into streams and lakes. The rulemaking hearing is just that. (Wednesday, 9 a.m., Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, 2600 Blair Stone Rd., Room 609, Tallahassee.)

CITRUS COMMISSION TO NAME NEW COMMISSIONER: The Florida Citrus Commission has an emergency meeting of commissioners by conference call on Wednesday to address the resignation of executive director Ken Keck. Keck’s term expired June 30 but the commission kept Keck on as interim director after his term ended. During Keck’s tenure, orange juice sales have declined by more than 30 percent, despite increases in a tax on growers that goes to pay for marketing. (Wednesday, 10 a.m., 1-888-808-6959, code 4992373#.)

KIDCARE COUNCIL MEETS: The KidCare Coordinating Council meets to begin mapping out a legislative agenda for the 2012 session. The panel will receive updates on Medicaid reforms, Florida KidCare enrollment and federal appropriations as well as federal outreach efforts. (Wednesday, 1 p.m. Department of Health, 4025 Esplanade Way, Room 301, Tallahassee.)

–The News Service of Florida

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