No wonder the Villages and its developer have given $150,000 so far this year to Gov. Rick Scott's re-election effort. All developer Gary Morse wants is to bypass state law and win approval to build a nursing home in the sprawling retirement community. Legislators representing the community are sponsoring a bill that would make an exception just for the Villages, and with a friend in the Governor's Mansion there is little doubt that legislation would become law if it gets to Scott's desk.
The sweetheart deal shouldn't get that far, no matter how many political checks Morse and the Villages write.
In 2001, the Legislature approved a moratorium on new nursing home facilities to better control Medicaid costs. The moratorium has been extended to at least 2016. But HB 1159 would carve out an exception to the moratorium for any deed-restricted retirement community of at least 8,000 residents located in a county where at least 25 percent of the population is at least 65 years old. The county could have no more than 16.1 nursing home beds per thousand residents 65 or older. As the Legislature's own staff analysis concludes, only one community in the state of Florida fits that precise description. Guess which one.
Normally, developers who want to obtain a permit to build or expand a nursing home facility can petition the Agency for Health Care Administration for a certificate of need. That's what developer Steve Bogomilsky did to build the Villages Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center just east of the Villages. Bogomilsky followed the rules. But Republicans Rep. Marlene O'Toole and Sen. Alan Hays, whose districts include the Villages, introduced legislation that only benefits their most prominent constituent while putting Bogomilsky at an economic disadvantage. That's simply unfair.
If Morse wants a new nursing home for the Villages, he should do what any other developer does: Follow the law. But Morse isn't that patient. It apparently is easier for him to push legislation that benefits only his development and lavish campaign money on the governor who would sign it into law. The Florida Legislature is one big conflict of interest, but such brazen self-entitlement ought to be too much to stomach even in Tallahassee.