Florida House Quits Early, At Impass Over Medicaid Expansion

Diane Webber, Kaiser Health News

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

April 29, 2015 3:54 AM ET


The Republican-controlled Florida legislature — at odds over the question of whether to expand Medicaid — abruptly ended its session three days early on Tuesday, leaving hundreds of bills that are unrelated to health care unfinished.


Andy Gardiner, president of Florida’s state Senate, says he’s disappointed with the House’s decision to stop negotiating and leave town.

“The House didn’t win, the Senate didn’t win and the taxpayers lost,” Gardiner says. “There are a lot of issues that aren’t going to make it, and it’s unfortunate.”


But Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House, says it was the right thing to do.

“We’ve made every effort we can to negotiate with the Senate on a budget,” he says, “and at this time they’re standing strong on Medicaid expansion.”

Shortly after the adjournment, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against the federal government over health care funding — a move that was promptly derided by the leadership of the state Senate.

“I don’t think it changes anything,” says the chairman of Florida’s Senate appropriations committee, Tom Lee. “Once he announced he was going to file a lawsuit against the federal government, I think everyone sort of shut down and lawyered up, and all that sort of thing.”

Here’s a brief overview of the fight: The Republican-led state House is firmly against Medicaid expansion, while the Republican-led state Senate supports it. Scott once supported expansion but is now against it. And the federal government raised the stakes of the battle by refusing to negotiate on the renewal of a $2 billion fund called the Low Income Pool, which reimburses hospitals for unpaid bills.

“The pool money was about helping low-income people have access [to health care],” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told northern Florida’s WFSU in January. “I think we believe an important way to extend that coverage to low-income individuals is what passed in the Affordable Care Act … this issue of Medicaid expansion.”

The governor’s lawsuit over the low income pool accuses the federal government of trying to coerce the state — requiring Florida to expand Medicaid or lose $2 billion. That sort of pressure was expressly forbidden by the U.S. Supreme Court, Scott says, when it upheld the federal health law in 2012.

House appropriations chief Richard Corcoran recently delivered a 20-minute anti-Medicaid speech to fellow lawmakers that underscored his side’s determination to block the expansion. “Here’s my message to the Senate,” he said. “They want us to come to the dance? We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session. We’re not dancing next session. We’re not dancing next summer — we’re not dancing. And if you want to blow up the process because you think you have some right that doesn’t exist? Have at it.”

Now, the central task that state law requires of the legislature — to pass a budget— remains incomplete. Scott tried this week to pressure the legislature to the bargaining table to craft a budget. He threatened to veto Senate priorities, but the Senate remained unmoved.

Scott has said he will call the legislature back for a special session to complete the budget.

This story is part of NPR’s partnership with WFSU and Kaiser Health News.



Strike-all filed for Charlotte’s Web glitch bill

Strike-all filed for Charlotte’s Web glitch bill

James Call

The Florida Senate appears ready to move on a “glitch” bill for the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The chamber is also preparing to consider increasing the allowable level of THC in medicinal marijuana.

Sen. Rob Bradley filed a strike all amendment Monday to increase THC limits to 15 percent, up from the current allowable 0.8 percent.

Bradley, who sponsored last year’s Act, says his top priority for this year’s session is breaking the legal logjam preventing its implementation.

The Orange Park Republican’s strike-all amendment seeks to address many of the issues believed to have been driving a series of challenges preventing the Department of Health from licensing nurseries to grow marijuana and dispense cannabis oil as medicine.

Monday’s amendment is to SPB 7066, which is currently in the Senate’s special order calendar on second reading.

The strike-all would allow products other than cannabis oil, increase the number of licenses from 5 to 15, permit numerous retail facilities and lower a performance bond from $5 million to $1 million.

Municipalities would, by ordinance, develop permitting requirements for all cultivations, processing and retail facilities.

Application for the licenses would begin seven days after Gov. Rick Scott signs the bill into law.  A committee, including representatives from the Office of Compassionate Use, the Florida Medical Association and the Drug Policy Institute of the University of Florida, would score the applications. Two licenses would be awarded to each of the state’s five water management districts. The state would then award a license to each of the next five highest scored applicants.

Unsuccessful applicants could appeal the committee’s decision to the Surgeon General, then in circuit court.

There would be a $50,000 application fee and then a $125,000 licensing fee.


SPB 7066 expands the use of medicinal marijuana to treat the human immunodeficiency virus, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, paraplegia, quadriplegia or terminal illness and to alleviate symptoms caused by a treatment for such disease.

Patient advocates and growers had been working Bradley all session to increase the THC level in order to treat more patients and increase the likelihood of creating a sustainable medicinal marijuana market.

Bradley had said they made “compelling arguments.”

We’ll know by the end of the week whether the Senate and House



Florida Pot Law Takes a Hit

Florida pot law takes a hit

 Cerise Head shot BW
Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 21, 2015

Since June 2014 medical marijuana has been legal in Florida thanks to the Florida Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 1030 that year. Unfortunately, Florida patients still wait for the law to become a reality in their medical treatment due to continuing delays in implementation of the statute.

Floridians suffering from debilitating conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, ALS, MS and Parkinson’s are left wondering what, if any, relief will come to them via Tallahassee this year. SB 1030 has been faced with setback after setback, and Florida’s frustrated patients deserve answers.

So where are we and just how far away is that from where we need to be?

After the state Department of Health rewrote the proposed rule in January — a rule that enjoyed wide approval from patients, industry professionals and legislators alike — it received three new administrative challenges, which brought weeks of progress to a grinding halt.

In an effort to fast-track the implementation of SB 1030 and make good on the promise made to Florida’s most vulnerable, the Legislature put forward a handful of bills that would expand the language of the existing statute.

These have received little attention to date. Recently, the Senate introduced a new bill, SB 7066, which makes several important changes to SB 1030 and provides an almost immediate implementation mechanism for the cannabis law.

This latter effort was provided to prevent the continuing superfluous lawsuits based on individual self-interest. The bill intends to make certain the cannabis industry is regulated within the limits and spirit of the new and old law and stresses patient safety and affordability.

If it weren’t for the current administrative law challenges, the DOH would have been in a position to open up bids for licenses in early April and the Legislature would not have been placed in the precarious position of having to intervene with this necessary fix.

If the administrative law judge decides these challenges hold no legal ground or the challengers themselves do not have legal standing — that is, “skin in the game” — we could see the implementation of low-THC cannabis by mid-May.

Should this occur, one can count on many of the current bills in the Legislature to be all but abandoned.

But, should the remaining two challenges hold up in court, the fate of Florida’s medical marijuana will remain in the hands of the 2015 Legislature and finally, the governor.

Let us hope that reason and compassion prevail.

Cerise Naylor is executive director of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.