The 2016 Florida Legislative Session concluded “Sine Die,” on Friday, March 11, ending the 60-day session on time after legislators passed the $82.3 billion state budget bill with a nearly unanimous vote. In what came as a surprise, Governor Rick Scott offered an early release of his veto list before even receiving the budget from the legislature, cutting a little more than $256.1 million in local projects and other spending initiatives.
This relatively “light” use of his line item veto authority put to rest a potential showdown with state lawmakers, who had reportedly been discussing a return to the Capitol to override some vetoes – a move not seen since 2010 under Governor Charlie Crist. Speculation was fueled by legislators rejecting many of Governor Scott’s tax-cut priorities and a request for a $250 million “Florida Enterprise Fund” of business incentives.
For a good rundown on legislative initiatives, see the Tampa Bay Times: “What passed, what failed in the 2016 Florida legislative session”
For a list of local projects that didn’t survive the veto pen, see The Florida Times-Union: “Northeast FL projects mostly spared from Scott’s veto list”
The 2016 Legislative session can only be categorized as a success for the priorities outlined in Florida United Ways Consensus Legislative. Below is a rundown of those priorities and where we ended up.
After two years of advocacy, which had its genesis in trying to replicate the success of our own RealSense program statewide, the United Ways of Florida made this a top priority, which was carried in the Senate by our Duval delegation’s Audrey Gibson and in the House by Representative George Moraitis of Broward.
This appropriation will help our network assist more than 12,500 low-income Floridians and will generate more than $19 million in tax refunds, resulting in increased economic activity and prosperity for working Floridians. It will also help decrease the over $1.1 billion in tax credits that go unclaimed by Floridians every year. From here, we are working to develop a contract with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity that meets our statewide objective and allows us to build on this appropriation next legislative session.
The biggest move in early learning was the passage of HB7053, which conformed Florida statutes to meet requirements of the new federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which greatly increased public information available on child-care programs and required background screenings of child-care workers.
While the Legislature didn’t touch the third rail of expanding health-care coverage and drawing down federal Medicaid expansion dollars, they did shore up the loses expected when the Federal Low-Income Pool (LIP) funding, which covers under-insured or indigent patients, is reduced to a little more than $600 million in the upcoming budget year, down from $1 billion. What that means for our own UF Health is, in the best-case scenario, the hospital would only need to absorb a $1.8 million funding reduction, according to analysis by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. In a worst-case scenario, the hospital would take a $17 million hit.
All in all, it was a good year for United Way policy priorities. Not only did the United Ways of Florida put some issues in the win column, but they grew their capacity and are better positioned for success in subsequent years. United Way was even included in a list of session winners in a Florida Politics blog post. Read it here: Winners & Losers of the 2016 Legislative Session