Ditchmen • NUCA of Florida - Page 27

Are They Ready to Dance?

By R. Bruce Kershner

NUCA of Florida, Director of Government Affairs

The 2015 Legislative Session will be remembered for

its unusual ending. Many bills lost momentum

when the session came to an abrupt end, and the

Legislature failed to pass its only required piece of

legislation – a budget. The session effectively ended

three days early when the House unexpectedly

declared “sine die” and went home, leaving a lot of

work undone and creatingn more bitterness

amongst lawmakers. The main reasons for the

budget stalemate – Medicaid expansion and federal

funding of the Low-Income Pool to reimburse

hospitals for indigent care.

Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol to open a Special Session in hopes of reaching an agreement on a new state budget as well as hammering out differences on major health-care issues. The call listed issues that can be addressed during the Special Session, including a series of health-care bills and House tax-cut package.

Other budget related issues the Legislature must agree on in the Special Session include funding for PreK-12 education, environmental land buying and economic programs. Lawmakers will also consider multiple budget conforming bills that involve issues such as the Florida Business Information Portal, the funding of child welfare agencies and transportation funding. It did not include some high-profile issues such as bills dealing with water policy and gambling.

The Special Session is slated to run for twenty days. Just how smoothly the Special Session will go remains questionable. There are still sharp differences between the House and Senate over the expansion of Medicaid. Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee recently stated that he's not exactly sure what to expect when the House and Senate return to the Capitol.

Finally, fearful of a state government shut down should the budget impasse between the two chambers remain unresolved; Governor Rick Scott has asked state agencies to outline services that need to keep running regardless of whether lawmakers reach an agreement. In the meantime, the Governor continues his push for a massive tax-cut package and an increase in school funding when lawmakers return to Tallahassee.

Can an accord be reached between the two chambers? Will the Governor get his priorities? Will the House dance with the Senate this summer? Only time will tell. It could be a long hot summer in Tallahassee.