Welcome to the first day of spring, a perfect time to review some of the seeds planted by the recently concluded 2012 Florida Legislature — seeds that Gov. Rick Scott should stamp out before they take root.
Among the bills that Scott should veto:
�—� HB 5301, which forces counties to pay the state millions of dollars in disputed Medicaid bills.
Counties are required to pay for their share of the cost of certain Medicaid services. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) provides each county with a monthly bill that lists Medicaid residents for which the county is responsible for paying. Counties review the information to determine whether the bill is accurate. If the county agrees that the bill is correct, it sends payment to the AHCA that is deposited into the General Revenue Fund.
Since the state implemented a new computer billing system in 2008, though, counties increasingly have disputed those bills, alleging incorrect addresses, duplicative charges and incorrect rates. As a result, they have withheld payments to the state while the AHCA researches each bill to determine who is responsible for the patient. That has created a backlog of payments. Tallahassee is tired of waiting.
HB 5301 requires counties to pay 85 percent of what AHCA says they owe. Instead of sending out a bill, the state would deduct payments from each county’s revenue sharing checks. AHCA estimates that Bay County owes $536,000, the Florida Senate analysis says it is about $881,200 and the House analysis says about $945,000 or more. For larger counties, those payments run in the millions of dollars.
That’s merely the state shifting its budgetary burden onto local communities. Furthermore, it’s an unacceptable resolution to a legitimate billing dispute: Pay us now, and sue us later if you think we’re wrong.
�—� HB 1403 would make it easier for student-athletes to transfer high schools. They no longer would have to sit out a calendar school year; instead, they could play sports immediately with their new school. Local school boards, not the Florida High School Athletic Association, would determine student eligibility. This likely will lead to more recruiting scandals as schools seek to poach the best athletes from their competitors. Keep the emphasis on academics, not athletics.
�—� SB 98 allows school boards to permit student-led “inspirational messages” at school functions. This is a thinly disguised school-prayer bill, a back-door attempt to get around court rulings that prohibit sectarian proselytizing. The measure is unnecessary — students already are free to pray in schools — and would open a legal can of worms that will detract from schools’ primary objective: educating students.
�—� HB 1205 would allow state agencies to randomly drug test up to 10 percent of their workforce every three months. Aside from the constitutional issues of suspicionless testing, the measure is suspect because of who is conspicuously exempted from testing: the governor and lawmakers. Nothing is more hypocritical than passing laws that you will not be subject to.
It’s unfortunate that lawmakers found time to pass these stinkers yet were unable to pass legislation that would’ve reformed Citizens Property Insurance and the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, toughened ethics laws and ensured citizens could speak at public meetings.