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Governor Crist Highlights Top 3 Legislative Priorities


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 19, 2008

CONTACT: GOVERNOR'S PRESS OFFICE
(850) 488-5394

Governor Crist Highlights Top 3 Legislative Priorities

HEALTH CARE • EDUCATION • ENERGY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

TALLAHASSEE - Governor Charlie Crist today released his top three priorities of the 2008 Legislative Session, including health care, education and energy & economic development.

"The quality of life for every Floridian rests on the health of our people, a strong education for our children and a vibrant economy," Governor Crist said. "This past year, Lt. Governor Kottkamp and I have traveled the state and heard from many Floridians about their concerns about these issues."

Governor Crist's Health Care Package:

COMPREHENSIVE MARKET-BASED STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS THE UNINSURED IN FLORIDA

Creates the Cover Florida Health Access Act - Consumer Choice Benefit Insurance Plans.

  • The proposed legislation focuses on market-based initiatives and reforms and contains NO individual mandates and NO employer mandates.
  • Announces competitive negotiation with private insurers to develop consumer choice benefit plans, per specified criteria.
  • Plans must guarantee coverage to uninsured Floridians age 19 to 64 and must offer multiple benefit options.
  • Plans must include a robust package of preventive, primary and urgent care benefits, including hospitalization.
  • Permits competitive negotiation with carriers for supplemental coverage for vision, dental and cancer.
  • Provides $500,000 for a public awareness campaign.
  • Permits employers to offer and share the cost of consumer choice benefit plans with their employees.
  • According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2006, the average individual cost for small group health insurance was $354 per month and $957 per month for family coverage. This proposal establishes consumer choice benefit insurance plans at $150 per month or less.

Creates the Florida Health Care Access Program for a three-year pilot program ($21 million per year or $63.9 million total)

  • The pilot program is a partnership among hospitals, county health departments and health care providers for primary health care services and outreach in neighborhoods with high rates of uncompensated care and uninsured.
    • The 14 counties in the pilot program consist of Alachua, Broward, Duval, Escambia, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Santa Rosa and Sarasota.
  • A county health department visit costs on average $153 for primary care services versus an average of $1,015 in an emergency room, for a cost savings of $862 per visit.

Removes the 10 percent "full pay cap" in KidCare.

  • Of Florida's 548,000 uninsured children, 23 percent or 126,040 children are not eligible for KidCare due to the income level of their family.
  • By lifting the cap on full-pay enrollment, all children in Florida will become eligible to purchase health insurance through the KidCare program.

Ensures that policyholders can keep dependents covered until age 30.

  • Non-student dependents typically lose coverage on their parents' policy at age 19. Many parents wish to continue providing coverage for children after age 18.

Renews Florida Health Flex Plans (removes sunset) and removes income eligibility restrictions.

  • Currently, Floridians must earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to qualify. This will increase plan participation and provides individuals with additional health insurance options.

CERTIFICATE OF NEED (CON) REFORM

· This proposal reflects the goal of the Governor to increase competition and efficiency in the health care marketplace and provide Floridians with greater access to quality services. Removing the burdensome certificate of need process will foster a competitive business climate, spur economic development, and improve access and quality of care for Floridians.

· CON laws across the states have had over 30 years to demonstrate their ability to contain costs, lower prices, and provide greater quality and access to services. Fourteen other states have removed CON requirements since CON laws have failed to achieve reduced costs and greater quality of care.

· The CON process involves delays due to lawsuits by local competitors. Since the August 2005 CON batch cycle, 20 of the 27 CON applications are still in litigation.

· Costs related to the CON process can run as high as $1 million and each additional opponent can increase costs by 50 percent. These costs are passed on and paid for by all consumers.

· CON laws stifle competition and discourage current providers from offering new services.

· The proposed legislation removes current CON process for establishment of new acute care hospitals, and makes them subject to licensure.

· Ties licensure of new acute care hospitals to provision of charity care to Medicaid and underserved populations.

· Requires on-site emergency departments for these new hospitals, as emergency departments see the greatest portion of charity care.

ACCESS TO DENTAL CARE

  • The proposed legislation enhances recruitment of dentists to work in public health settings by creating a licensure by credentials process for dentists from other states to practice in Florida's public health settings. Permits these dentists to become eligible for full dental license after a period of two years of service. Florida is one of only three states that does not offer "reciprocity."
  • Maximizes the services hygienists may provide in public health settings, including sealants. Hygienists are underutilized and can provide critical care to the underserved.
  • Requires that two of the seven Board of Dentistry member dentists have public health experience. This codifies intent to ensure the Board considers unique aspects of the public health setting in future decision-making.
  • Permits Medicaid to pay doctors and nurses to provide fluoride varnish services for children birth to age three during Well Child visits.
  • Expands community dental services in rural areas for persons with disabilities: $600,000 is recommended to utilize existing dental services that are provided through local institutional facilities.
  • Increases Medicaid reimbursement to dentists by 20 percent for a total of $21.9 million.
  • Currently, 52 percent of Florida counties have only one Medicaid dentist, and 25 percent of Florida counties have no Medicaid dentists.

Governor Crist's Education Package:

TRUTH IN SPENDING IN EDUCATION

  • The proposed legislation requires school districts to spend a minimum of 65 percent of operating funds on direct classroom expenditures, with an increase to 70 percent effective July 1, 2010.
  • Requires the Department of Education (DOE) to develop a uniform calculation for determining expenditures and a common format for reporting.
  • Promotes transparency and requires school districts to report the district-wide and school-by-school expenditure information to DOE and post the expenditure information on the school board Web site.
  • Requires DOE to review districts that fail to meet the expenditure requirement, receives a district grade of "C" or lower, or both.
  • Requires school boards to review schools that fail to meet the expenditure requirement, receives a district grade of "C" or lower, or both.
  • Requires DOE to provide technical assistance to school districts that fail to meet expenditure requirements and school boards to provide such assistance to schools that miss required expenditure levels. In order to meet and exceed funding for direct classroom expenditures, best practices will be analyzed and recommended across schools and school districts.
  • Requires superintendents of districts that fail to meet expenditure requirements to appear before the State Board of Education to explain the district's performance and requires principals whose schools miss required expenditure levels to appear before the school board and explain the school's performance.

TEACHER MERIT AWARD PROGRAM (MAP)

  • The proposed legislation deletes the requirement that unused Merit Award Program funds revert to the State.
  • The proposed legislation requires that the Department of Education reallocate any unused funds from the Merit Award Program to participating districts to increase teacher awards through the Program.
  • The collective bargaining unit for teachers has been willing to forego participation in MAP since it equates to a five- to ten-percent bonus for one-quarter of the teachers. Additional funds will provide for higher awards and incentivize school district participation.
  • According to the National Education Association 2006-07 Rankings and Estimates, Florida teachers are below the U.S. average, and rank 29 out of 51 states in terms of compensation.
  • The Governor's 2008-09 proposed budget allocates $120 million to the MAP program.

MIDDLE SCHOOL PHYSICAL EDUCATION

  • According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 33 states currently require physical education in middle school.
  • The proposed legislation extends the existing 30-minute physical education requirement for elementary students to sixth grade students in K-6 schools. There are 220 schools affected by this revision and approximately 19,000 students.
  • The proposed legislation appropriates $100 million of General Revenue through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) to middle schools that enroll students in a physical education course that meets at least 45 minutes per day.
  • The Governor's Commission on Physical Fitness recommended a planning year in 2008-09 prior to the implementation of mandatory middle school physical education. The appropriation provided in the proposed legislation is intended to provide an incentive for middle school personnel to enroll students in physical education.
  • Finally, the proposed legislation specifies that elementary students must be provided at least 30 consecutive minutes of physical education instruction each day. This specificity is intended to ensure that students are given sufficient time to engage in activities that promote physical fitness, rather than claiming physical fitness benefits from routine activities that occur during the school day.
  • The total number of middle school students in Florida is 603,637.

Governor Crist's Climate, Energy and Economic Development Package:

ORGANIZING STATE GOVERNMENT

  • Consolidates Florida's energy and climate change policy development within a Florida Energy and Climate Protection Commission chaired by the Governor and housed within the Executive Office of the Governor. The Commission will promote efficiency, cooperation and reduce duplication to support a more comprehensive, long-term state energy policy.

STATE GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE

  • Extends several provisions of Executive Order 07-126 to all other areas of state government beyond the Governor's direct supervision including the legislative and judicial branches of government, cabinet agencies, and the state university system.
  • Creates Florida Green Government Grants to provide incentives for local governments, including municipalities, counties and school districts to develop cost-efficient solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve quality of life and strengthen Florida's economy.

FLORIDA ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND SECURITY

  • Establishes a Renewable Fuel Standard of at least 5 percent by 2012 and 10 percent by 2015 or sooner, including the use of E85.
  • Requires utilities to obtain 20 percent of their annual energy growth through efficiency and conservation measures.
  • Encourages investment in wind energy technologies through corporate and sales tax incentives.
  • Improves building codes to increase the energy performance of newly constructed buildings, making them up to 45 percent more efficient by 2018.
  • Increases incentives for the purchase of energy efficient appliances, swimming pool equipment and water heaters for new commercial and residential buildings.

FLORIDA CLIMATE PROTECTION

  • Directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop "cap and trade" rules that use markets to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • Requires that all major emitters use The Climate Registry for purposes of emission registration and reporting. All but 11 states are currently members of the Climate Registry.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • The Governor's legislative package includes $200 million designed to stimulate economic development in the renewable and alternative energy field. The recommended budget allocation includes:
    • $50 million for solar, wind and the other renewable technologies using a combination of grants, rebates and tax incentives.
    • $42.5 million for biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, using a combination of grants and tax incentives. This recommendation also includes incentives for retail to upgrade facilities to E85.
    • $107.5 million for research and development opportunities for businesses and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify Florida's energy consumption. $100 million of this $107.5 million proposal is earmarked for the Innovation Incentive Program in the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development budget.

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