With three days left before the 2014 Legislature adjourns, lawmakers should pass three commonsense measures to help ensure that injured Floridians aren't exploited, sick children can find relief and ambitious young people can afford college.
Trauma center response fees
Legislators should end the financial exploitation of trauma center patients. A month after the Tampa Bay Times published a report showing some patients pay $33,000 just to enter a trauma center, the House has approved legislation limiting the admission fee trauma centers can charge to $15,000. That's still too high but better than the status quo.
Even that fee cap is at risk because the two chambers are still fighting over broader trauma center changes sought by the Hospital Corporation of America. The for-profit chain wants to protect its three newest trauma centers, including Bayonet Point in Pasco County, from legal challenges. Lawmakers should let this fight play out in court. Medical professionals — not state lawmakers — should be the ones to decide whether trauma centers pass muster. And no trauma patient should face a $33,000 bill before receiving a bit of medical treatment.
The Senate has voted to legalize Charlotte's Web, a noneuphoric strain of marijuana that might help children with epileptic seizures. The House should approve it and Gov. Rick Scott should sign it into law, which would provide legal relief for 125,000 severely sick children.
Charlotte's Web contains an extract of marijuana that has high amounts of cannabidiol, an ingredient used to treat seizures, but low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that causes euphoric feelings. It is usually applied as an oil or taken in pill form. The Senate bill, SB 1030, provides tight controls, requiring doctors to prescribe the drug to patients with chronic seizures who are listed on a compassionate use registry. It would be distributed through state-regulated dispensaries. The House would expand the list of treatable conditions to include diseases such as Parkinson's. This is a narrow bill that should not be confused with the broader issue of medical marijuana, which will be on the November ballot.
In-state tuition for undocumented students
The futures of 175,000 undocumented students in Florida's public schools and at least one law school graduate depend on whether lawmakers recognize the state's diversity or pander to narrow minds. These issues are about recognizing the public investment that has been made in successful young people and preparing them to continue to contribute to their communities.
The Senate should follow the House's lead today and approve legislation that would let Florida high school graduates illegally brought here as young children pay in-state tuition at colleges and universities. These high-achieving teenagers have lived in our neighborhoods for years and succeeded in our schools. They came here illegally through no fault of their own, and it's in Florida's best interest to help them continue to succeed by making college more affordable.
In that same spirit, the House should approve legislation passed by the Senate that would enable Jose Godinez-Samperio of Largo to be admitted to the Florida Bar. Godinez-Samperio graduated from Florida State University's law school and passed the bar exam but cannot practice law in Florida because he is not a U.S. citizen. The state licenses doctors and other professionals who are not U.S. citizens, and Godinez-Samperio is here legally. Florida needs bright young people like him, and he should be allowed to practice law.