While the rest of the Capitol buzzed about Gov. Charlie Crist vetoing the teacher performance pay measure, the House assembled to hammer out a reform package for Medicaid and pass a number of non-controversial bills.
The afternoon session focused on a plan to reform Medicaid and proved to be surprisingly harmonious. With 2.7 million Floridians on Medicaid and that number looking to rise dramatically, members of both parties in the House worked together to set the stage for passing Medicaid reform.
The House Medicaid reform sets up a statewide managed-care program. Dividing the state into six regions, the House reform allows Medicaid participants to choose from up to 10 different plans.
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, vice chairwoman of the Select Policy Council on Strategic & Economic Planning and a registered nurse, was out front and center during the session, guiding the measure through questions and debate.
Republicans and Democrats said before the session that this was a bipartisan effort, and Grimsely welcomed amendments from Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, Rep. Charles Chestnut, D-Gainesville, and Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.
Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa, who was vocally unhappy with the proposal in a briefing held in the House Majority Office on Wednesday, was pleased with the amendments. This bill keeps getting better and better, he said during the amendment process.
While some of the Democrats offered friendly amendments to the measure, there was some Democratic opposition to the Medicaid reform.
The speed at which this bill is moving does not make much sense, said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who tried but failed to push the reform implementation back a year. This bill moves way too fast.
Republicans pointed out that the council had been grappling with the issue since October and rejected Paffords amendment and attempts to send the reforms back to committee.
Medicaid continues to grow. While Medicaid took up 18 percent of the state budget 10 years ago, it now makes up more than 28 percent of it. Estimates have Medicaid costs consuming 33 percent of the budget in five years.
The measure appears headed to passage inthe House next week.
The House tackled other issues during the session. Bills concerning wastewater recycling, restructuring the Department of the Lottery, exempting aircraft hangars from transportation concurrency requirements and tweaks to sexual-offender laws passed with no opposition.
Two bills introduced by Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, passed the House on unanimous votes. Crisafullis bill authorizing stricter inspection rules for tomato production and his measure restructuring the board of Space Florida passed on 114-0 votes.
The House also welcomed a new member Thursday. Having won a special election Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, took his seat in the House, replacing former Speaker Ray Sansom who resigned in disgrace after his involvement in a number of scandals emerged. Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the father of Matt, and a number of senators were on hand to watch the newest member of the Legislature join the House.
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