Overhaul plan for medicaid clears House
The House advanced its Medicaid overhaul Thursday, approving the plan that would steer 2.7 million low-income Floridians into HMOs and provider-service networks by 2015. The sweeping House plan drew amendments strengthening the positions of doctors and hospitals fearing income losses tied to the changes. The amendments also sought to offset concerns of organizations representing Florida's developmentally disabled, whose care would fall under managed care programs en masse for the first time. In a rare stance in the highly partisan House, Democrats seem prepared to join Republicans in supporting the reform, slated for a final vote Monday. An architect of the legislation, Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, said negotiations with the Senate over its more modest Medicaid plan will consume the session's closing days.
Sex offender bill keeps restrictions
Once again, and as expected, politics rules the day when it comes to sex offender policy in the Legislature. A planned rewrite of sex offender laws to curtail excessive residency restrictions on where sex offenders live — restrictions that research shows don't work — didn't make it into the final version approved unanimously in the House on Thursday. Sponsored by Plant City Republican Rich Glorioso, HB 119 creates a so-called "circle of safety" that forbids sex offenders from loitering within 300 feet of schools, parks and other facilities where children congregate. It won support after no debate and only one question. "It's a tough bill to vote against," said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. A similar bill is moving swiftly in the Senate, though some of the controversial provisions remain.
Former House speaker in hospital
State Rep. Will Weatherford told fellow lawmakers Thursday that his father-in-law, Allan Bense, a former House speaker and GOP force, is in the hospital, suffering from a severe form of acute pancreatitis. "He will make a full recovery," Weatherford said. "But it is scary and he isn't out of the woods yet."
Bill sets standards for safe tomatoes
Gov. Charlie Crist was sent a bill Thursday designed to ensure the safety of Florida-grown tomatoes following a false salmonella scare nearly two years ago. SB 350 sets safety standards and authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to inspect farms, greenhouse and packing facilities.
Times/Herald staff writer John Frank; News Service of Florida; Associated Press