The Florida House and Senate ended the 2018 legislative session Sunday by passing a budget and a tax-cut package for the upcoming year. The session became dominated in February by the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. That led to a massive debate about how to improve school safety and whether to revamp the state’s gun laws.
Here is a recap of 10 big issues from the 2018 session:
BUDGET: Lawmakers passed an $88.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, though they were forced to extend the session by two days to finish the spending plan. The budget includes increased funding for education, with per-student spending in the kindergarten through 12th-grade system going up $101.50. The Senate also pushed through increased funding for nursing homes, while the House blocked a Senate attempt to change the way some Medicaid money is distributed to hospitals.
HEALTH CARE: After years of legal battles in the hospital industry, lawmakers approved a plan to revamp the approval of new trauma centers. They also approved a long-discussed proposal that could lead to the use of “direct primary care” agreements, which involve patients and doctors contracting directly for primary care, reducing the role of insurers. The House, however, was unable to convince the Senate to go along with eliminating the controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals.
HIGHER EDUCATION: Throughout his term as Senate president, Stuart Republican Joe Negron has made a top priority of revamping the higher-education system. Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday signed a wide-ranging bill that includes permanently expanding Bright Future scholarships. The bill also calls for expanding some need-based aid programs and would require the state university system to use a four-year graduation rate as part of its performance-funding formula, instead of the current six-year measure.
HURRICANE IRMA: Lawmakers came into the session still grappling with the effects of Hurricane Irma, which slammed into the state in September and caused billions of dollars in damage. The House and Senate took steps such as ratifying rules for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have backup generators and fuel supplies to help keep the facilities cool. Scott’s administration issued the rules after residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died after Irma knocked out the building’s air-conditioning system.
INSURANCE: The two highest-profile insurance issues of the session involved proposals to eliminate the no-fault auto insurance system and revamp a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.” In the end, however, both issues died. The House approved repealing no-fault, which includes a requirement that motorists carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage. But the proposal couldn’t get through Senate committees. Similarly, the Senate did not approve changes sought by insurers in assignment of benefits.
K-12 EDUCATION: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other school-choice supporters got a victory Sunday when Scott signed a controversial bill that will expand voucher-like scholarship programs. The bill includes creating the “hope scholarships” program, which will help pay for children who have been bullied in public schools to transfer to private schools. The bill also includes a heavily debated change that targets teachers’ unions whose membership falls below 50 percent of the employees they represent.
OPIOID EPIDEMIC: In one of the final issues decided during the session, lawmakers late Friday approved a bill to stem the opioid epidemic that has caused a surge in overdoses across the state. A key part of the bill calls for placing limits on prescriptions for opioids. In most cases, the bill would place three- or seven-day limits on prescriptions, though it includes exemptions for people who are terminally ill, need palliative care or suffer from major trauma. The idea behind the limits is to prevent patients from getting addicted to painkillers.
PARKLAND AFTERMATH: The Feb. 14 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland forced lawmakers to quickly deal with school-safety issues and spurred a contentious debate about gun laws. Scott on Friday signed a $400 million package that includes improving mental-health services and allowing trained employees to bring guns to schools. The package also raises the minimum age to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for people buying rifles and other long guns. The National Rifle Association quickly filed a federal lawsuit challenging the age restriction.
TAX CUTS: Getting ready to hit the campaign trail, lawmakers Sunday approved a bill that includes about $170 million in tax breaks. The measure includes holding a three-day tax “holiday” in early August to allow back-to-school shoppers to buy clothes and school supplies without paying sales taxes. A similar seven-day “holiday” will be held in early June for residents to buy hurricane supplies. The bill also includes tax breaks for farmers and ranchers who suffered damage in Hurricane Irma and would trim a lease tax paid by many businesses.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING: With support from Corcoran, it appeared lawmakers this year could approve a long-discussed idea to toughen Florida’s ban on texting while driving. But the proposal did not make it through the Senate, at least in part because of concerns about racial profiling of minority drivers. Currently, texting while driving is a “secondary” offense, meaning motorists can only be cited if they are pulled over for other reasons. The proposal would have made it a primary offense, with police able to pull over motorists for texting behind the wheel.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
Concerned Citizen says
Great Recap on the legislative session FL.
1.) Texting while driving should be a primary offense. There’s absolutely no need for it when behind the wheel of a vehicle. As a former Law Enforcement Officer and Fire Fighter/EMT I have seen the end results. I can’t understand why there is even any opposition to it. I promise you can wait to send that text and make a difference with road safety.
2.) I think arming school teachers is a bad idea. If you have an active shooter situation how are First Responders going to Identify Friend Or Foe? We need increased school security but arming teachers isn’t it. At least not with more work on the program.
@Take a closer look – a few bites at a time
“…HEALTH CARE: After years of legal battles in the hospital industry, lawmakers approved a plan to revamp the approval of new trauma centers. They also approved a long-discussed proposal that could lead to the use of “direct primary care” agreements, which involve patients and doctors contracting directly for primary care, reducing the role of insurers. The House, however, was unable to convince the Senate to go along with eliminating the controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals…”
Controversial? Says who? CON exists for real reasons: Certificate of need https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certificate_of_need Follow the freakin money – the trail of slime leads straight back to koch brother fronts and a few greedy CEOs.
If “we” diverted 10% of what is spent on street crime to investigating and prosecuting white collar crime – a goddamn world of ills would be cured – that I can tell you.
“…HIGHER EDUCATION: Throughout his term as Senate president, Stuart Republican Joe Negron has made a top priority of revamping the higher-education system. Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday signed a wide-ranging bill that includes permanently expanding Bright Future scholarships. The bill also calls for expanding some need-based aid programs and would require the state university system to use a four-year graduation rate as part of its performance-funding formula, instead of the current six-year measure…”
This is truly choice – coming from the party of dropped out of multiple schools and/or never graduated ever. See for yourself: https://votesmart.org/ To the list of did not finish – add graduates of bible schools. The only places with more religion biased leaders than Florida (and the Republican party) are places that pray to Mecca – I believe that is what is known as irony. No doubt, Florida will be improved when ALL faiths get in line for your taxes.
And too, coming from the party of hereditary wealth that provided prep schools and a chauffeured ride through undergraduate and graduate school complete with ghost writers and any other convenience desired by those born to never experience a college loan. God bless their trust funds and big hearts. Aw shucks fellers – we’re just like all you folks.
Randy Jones says
BUDGET, HEALTH CARE, HIGHER EDUCATION, HURRICANE IRMA, INSURANCE, K-12 EDUCATION, OPIOID EPIDEMIC, PARKLAND AFTERMATH, TAX CUTS, TEXTING WHILE DRIVING. Which one of these issues was responsible for the most deaths in Florida last year? Anyone, anyone?
Racial profiling on texting and driving? Just pass the bill! We cant pass a bill because a minority may be texting and driving ? So its only ok to pull over a majority (white people) for texting and driving? Vote out these idiots and put someone in that will do something for the good instead of worrying about minorities. We are no a sanctuary state!
Did not make it thru the Florida Senate on texting with Driving Ba.39 states prohibit drivers from texting while driving. At 55 MPH if you are texting for 5 seconds you have driven the length of a football field without looking at the road. Teens who text while driving spend 10% of their time outside their lane,but Adults do it,too!!! 13% of drivers 18-20 involved in car wrecks admitted to texting or talking at time of crash.More than 3,000 teen deaths every year ,leading cause of teen deaths!! 300,000 injuries! Higher than Drunken Driving!! The main hold up the Florida Senate said was at least in part because of concerns of Racial Profiling of Minority Drivers!!! Tell this to a family who has lost a family member due to texting while driving ,their is no profiling of race or minorities in DEATH!!! Wake up America and the Florida Senate!! I thought we were trying to save our young lives in this state of ours,not only to gun Violence!!