Updated: Feb 10
The House of Representatives this week approved a state budget proposal that limits spending, holds the line on taxes, and ensures that the state is saving for a rainy day. The House and Senate will meet in the following weeks to go over their separate proposals and come up with one budget to submit to the governor before the 60-day legislative session ends March 13.
Lawmakers passed several bills on the House floor this week, including one that would stop homeowner and condo associations from preventing law enforcement vehicles from parking in residential and guest spots. The next floor session is set for Wednesday, Feb. 12. Watch it live at thefloridachannel.org.
House members took part in several other meetings this week where they moved legislation through committees that will make positive changes for Floridians. Highlights from Week 4 are detailed below.
House Health & Human Services Committee votes to end surprise medical billing
Florida House Health & Human Services Committee members approved a bill Thursday that protects Floridians from surprise medical billing.
Costs associated with health care services and procedures have the potential to result in significant medical debt for patients, and even bankruptcy. Even if medical costs do not result in bankruptcy, they can weigh heavily on patients. Past legislative efforts have helped patients get more information on health care costs prior to care, but more needs to be done to empower patients and protect them from unfair billing practices.
HB 959 empowers and protects patients by requiring health care facilities to provide good-faith estimates of charges for nonemergency medical services to patients and prohibiting facilities from charging any more than the estimate plus 10% — except if in unforeseen circumstances. The bill also increases medical debt collection consumer protections.
Current law requires all hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and urgent care centers to provide each patient an estimate of charges prior to providing any nonemergency medical services – but only upon patient request. HB 959 makes these estimates mandatory and binding unless unforeseen circumstances or additional services result in the need for additional charges. If so, those charges must be explained in writing.
HB 959 increases certainty regarding the costs of recommended treatments and medical procedures and protects patients from unfair billing practices.
House Health & Human Services Committee votes to create new health care facility
Florida House Health & Human Services Committee members approved a bill Thursday that would give patients more options for post-surgery care. HB 827 creates a new licensure category for recovery care centers (RCCs), facilities for post-operative care.
RCCs are a new kind of facility that will give patients access to more options for post-surgery care. These facilities would be able to keep patients up to 72 hours after a procedure at an ambulatory surgical center, hospital, or after an outpatient medical treatment such as chemotherapy.
The bill requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to implement stringent standards for RCCs to ensure patient safety and quality care, just like any other health care facility licensure category. RCCs must have emergency care and transfer protocols with at least one hospital.
HB 827 makes way for a safe, logical, and more personal recovery option for people who need care after a surgery or treatment, but do not need to stay in a hospital.
House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee votes for open, transparent access to health care information
Health care providers have some flexibility in discussing costs with patients, but there may be cases when a provider’s contract with an insurer limits communication related to costs of care. Florida House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee members approved a bill Tuesday to ensure open communication.
HB 1205 prohibits a health insurer or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) from limiting the ability of any provider to discuss pricing information with a patient, ensures that insured patients do not pay more than an uninsured patient for a health care service, and safeguards a patient’s right to open communication with providers regarding costs of care.
As health care costs continue to rise, many health insurers are asking consumers to take on a greater share of their costs by increasing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Patients should have the information they need to be able to choose less expensive health care services – or even pay for a service themselves, rather than using insurance, if it’s less expensive.
House Subcommittee approves joint resolution to repeal public campaign financing
The House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee on Tuesday approved a joint resolution that would give voters the opportunity to decide whether Florida should continue to offer limited public financing of campaigns.
HJR 1325 repeals the provision in the Florida Constitution that allows candidates for statewide office access to public financing for their campaign via constitutional amendment. Proposed amendments require 60% voter approval to pass.
Florida’s current program provides a candidate with optional matching funds for any qualifying campaign contribution they receive. In 1998, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment to provide for public financing of statewide offices. The provision required the Legislature establish a method in law for funding statewide campaigns with public dollars and a limit on spending.
This week, subcommittee members unanimously decided that voters should be given the opportunity to reevaluate whether the Legislature should be required to allocate taxpayer dollars to statewide campaigns.
Florida House Committee approves bill to end public tax dollars funding stadiums
Taxpayer dollars will no longer be used for funding professional sports stadiums under a bill approved Monday by the Florida House Ways & Means Committee. HB 1369 ends the state’s current sport-stadium funding program. The bill also requires sports franchises to pay outstanding debts on the stadiums they no longer use.
Requests to fund a new soccer stadium in Orlando and improvements at TIAA Bank Field (formerly EverBank Field) in Jacksonville, Daytona International Speedway, and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens all failed to obtain funding from the state program. The facilities were built as they were intended, but with private dollars – thus proving financial incentives from the state are entirely unnecessary.
Taxpayer-funded sports stadiums can leave cities and counties paying billions for facilities that do little to boost the economy and help make rich sports team owners richer. HB 1369 would free up the $13 million a year that is currently set aside for stadium work – funds that could go to more worthy causes that put hardworking Floridians ahead of sports team owners.
House Committee votes to expand Sunrise Review process for regulated industries
This week, the House Commerce Committee approved a bill to ensure that proposed regulations of professions are necessary to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare.
Florida’s Sunrise Act requires a formal review and cost-benefit analysis of proposed regulations. Currently, it only applies to legislation that would regulate an unregulated profession. HB 1155 expands the scope of the Sunrise Act by requiring a formal review for legislation that expands the scope of a regulated profession to include currently unregulated activities.
Carefully designed and implemented regulation and licensing requirements can protect the health and safety of the public. However, too often, government regulations are inconsistent, inefficient and arbitrary. As a result, the price of goods and services increases, and Floridians can be left with fewer employment opportunities. Under the bill, proposed regulations will be subject to a formal review and cost-benefit analysis before they are enacted to ensure they protect the health and safety of the public, and that they are not inconsistent, inefficient, or arbitrary.
HB 1155 helps ensure that Florida residents, businesses, and industries can thrive in a regulatory environment that supports a free market.
Legislation to increase rulemaking transparency passes House subcommittee
Florida’s Administrative Procedure Act dictates a uniform set of procedures that government agencies must follow when exercising their limited rulemaking authority. On Tuesday, the House Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee heard a bill that will help streamline the rulemaking process in Florida.
HB 729 amends the Act to improve transparency and ensure that agencies reduce any unnecessary rules. The bill requires each agency to review its rules for consistency with its enabling law; if the review determines the rule does not need substantive change, the agency must reenact the rule. Among other requirements, the bill also specifies the economic impacts and compliance costs an agency must consider when it creates a statement of estimated regulatory costs (SERC). Under HB 729, agencies must have a website where the public can view all SERCs.
HB 729 keeps state government agencies transparent and accountable as they create rules that have the force and effect of laws.
State Affairs Committee votes to update public notice rules
Floridians should have simple, easy, and free access to public notices. On Thursday, the Florida House State Affairs Committee approved a bill that updates how government entities publish public notices so they can better reach Florida residents with key information and reduce the costs associated with doing so.
HB 7 gives agencies and local governments the option to publish legally required advertisements and notices on a public website if certain conditions are met. Currently, Florida law requires state and local government entities to buy newspaper advertisements to share information with the public regarding important deadlines, events, or code changes. Exceptions exist for counties that do not have a newspaper in the county. This bill updates the outdated legal notice publication requirements to better reflect how most Floridians get their information – online.
Today, the vast majority of Floridians have access to an internet connection via a computer, tablet, or cellphone. With so many people online, modernizing the public notice system will result in more residents being informed about meetings and actions that impact their lives – all while saving public dollars.