Monday, May 2, 2011

The final countdown - budget and bills update

Just one week remains in the 2011 legislative session, and final budget negotiations are expected to be finalized any day. If the Legislature is going to finish by Friday night, the final agreed-upon budget must be on lawmakers’ desks by Tuesday night to start the 72-hour waiting period before a vote can take place. Legislative leaders say they think they can finish “on time,” but haven’t said what time Tuesday they anticipate a final budget printing.

SB 1972, Medicaid Reform, is on the Senate Special Order calendar today; there is still no deal, but they are getting closer.

What happened last week . . .

On Wednesday, conferencing on the budget began and the House took an unfortunate position of cutting nursing home Medicaid funding by 8.5% ($245 million). Member action alerts were sent out asking for assistance with contacting key legislators in the budget decision-making process to urge them to reduce the nursing home funding cuts which threaten the financial viability of facilities and more importantly, resident quality care. Legislators must understand that cuts of this magnitude would result in facilities losing $377,831 annually, or $15.78 per patient day. Over the weekend, this issue was bumped to the Senate President and Speaker of the House.

Despite emotional testimony and debate, HB 661 by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-4) and Shawn Harrison (R-60) passed favorably out of the House Health & Human Services Committee on Monday. On Friday, HB 661 rolled over to third reading after lawmakers debated the measure, with Democrats generally opposed to it and Republicans defending the measure. Several amendments that were offered by Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville to offer more protections to nursing home residents were rejected. The Senate companion, SB 1396, is still locked up in the Judiciary Committee, but FHCA is hopeful it will be withdrawn so the bill can move.

HB 119 (Rep. Matt Hudson, R-101), which contains important nursing home deregulation, passed in the House with a 106 yes/6 no vote. It is now in Senate messages. The Senate companion, SB 1736, is still in the Budget Committee, but the Senate President said bills in Budget can be heard on the floor.

On Wednesday, the Senate amended and approved SB 1992 by Sen. Ronda Storms (R-10) on background screening. The bill contains two amendments requested by FHCA to preclude CNAs from having to undergo duplicative background screenings for both employment and testing. In addition, the bill allows employers to hire persons prior to the screening completion if they will not be working with vulnerable adults. Finally, the bill creates an interagency work group designed to address problems of duplication and coordination among state agencies conducting background screening. SB 1992 passed its third reading on Thursday and now heads to the House, where its companion, HB 7233, awaits. We understand the House bill will be modified to reflect SB 1992 with no changes.

On Thursday, the full House passed HB 311 by Rep. Ken Roberson (R-71). This good bill eliminates municipalities' ability to impose an occupational licensure tax on certain employees, including your CNAs, working within business entities already paying the tax. The House has now sent the bill to the Senate. We are hopeful its companion, SB 582 by Sen. Nancy Detert, which has been waiting in the Senate Budget Committee, will now move.

FHCA will continue to keep you posted on the final outcome of the budget and the bills we're tracking. In the meantime, please continue contacting your legislators and ask them to reduce the nursing home funding cuts and support those bills that help preserve Medicaid funding needed to continue resident quality care. Click here to TAKE ACTION!

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