Florida legislature has a full agenda in 2024

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Jan 8, 2024.  Please note that the editorial supports “Medicaid for all” but in reality they endorse Expanded Medicaid which would allow over 800,000 uninsured Floridians to gain access to health insurance care. This includes both Floridians without access to any health insurance and those who are only eligible for plans with high out-of-pocket costs. 90% of the cost would be reimbursed by the Federal government.  DeSantis opposes this expansion.

OUR POSITION: When lawmakers officially open the 2024 legislative session in Tallahassee Tuesday their priorities should be obvious.

Legislators have a lot of ground to cover in the next two months as they begin their annual session in Tallahassee.

They will consider, or at least look at, hundreds of bills that will be floated and many of those that impact Florida’s citizens the most will be familiar. Many, if not most, of the topics legislators will work on are leftovers from 2023.

Those would include attempts to harness Florida’s runaway insurance costs, education reforms while addressing even more pay raises for teachers and how to repair and/or replace our dilapidated prisons.

The most-talked about issue, at least by Florida homeowners, would likely be insurance.

We addressed that in our weekend edition.

Lawmakers will take another stab at lowering costs that have skyrocketed as insurers fled the state after Hurricane Ian. The tide is beginning to turn as a handful of new companies have set up shop in Florida and the state has been able to drain a few policies from its insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance. People who are being stuck with higher premiums and those who are paying flood insurance that was never an issue before new flood maps came out last year, will complain that things aren’t moving fast enough.

We’d like to see lawmakers make a serious run at health insurance for all Floridians. That would likely have to entail opting in for Medicaid for all and that is something Gov. Ron DeSantis is dead set against.

We’re encouraged, however, that Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has made passing a couple of key insurance bills a priority of hers this year. Her proposals would increase the number or residency programs in the state in an attempt to keep more doctors in Florida. She also wants to keep more patients out of emergency rooms and take a more innovative approach to medicine overall.

Legislators are showing a lot of interest in a bill that would loosen regulations on 16 and 17-year-olds who work. Some of the changes would allow employers to work them longer hours and not take into account school days.

We are skeptical of the impact of these proposals on graduation rates and grades.

Social media is in the crosshairs of House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast. The Speaker believes there must be greater accountability of children’s access to social media. One idea is to require age verification in areas such as pornography — part of a proposed bill in the Senate. Restricting social media use is a slippery slope when it comes to first amendment rights, but we agree there are websites that children have no business accessing.

And, speaking of first amendment rights, there will be House and Senate bills that penalize college students in the state who back “foreign terrorists, such as Hamas. This is another danger to our rights. While we certainly don’t encourage anyone to support groups like Hamas, we fear these bills could be used to stymie free speech and even penalize students who don’t agree with certain political agendas. There are a number of other topics we believe will be and should be addressed. The health of our water and water bodies in Florida is a topic that should be foremost on lawmakers’ minds. The population growth Florida is experiencing is stressing our water supply and the health of our waterways.

It will be, as always, an interesting two months.

Image Credits: Diane Rado