Broward County Legislative Priorities
Broward County had several important state legislative priorities this year. As a result of the tragic events on February 14th at Stoneman Douglas High School, much of the conversation during the legislative session came to an abrupt halt and refocused on making several changes to protect our community. Most of the County’s legislative priorities did not come to fruition. Some of these priorities included Affordable Housing, Nursing Home Regulation, the State Beach Management Program, Opioid and Heroin Abuse and Coral Reef Conservation. However, these issues will be a top priority for the upcoming Legislative Session.
As the number one priority for Broward County, the County’s Intergovernmental Affairs/Boards team (IABS) strongly lobbied both the House and Senate leaders to resist sweeping the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund. Initially, the House proposed a $212 million sweep, while the Senate proposed no sweep at all. Considering the tragedy, the Senate agreed to a compromise to sweep $182 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for FY 2018-2019 during the budget conference process. This process must end if we are to seriously address the lack of affordable/workforce housing inventory in Broward County.
Nursing Home Regulation
After the tragic and unnecessary deaths of twelve seniors at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma, one of our top priorities was to make sure this never happens again. The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) filed an Emergency Rule to require assisted living facilities (ALFs) to install genera-tors and enough fuel to ensure that temperatures in the facility be maintained at 80 degrees or less for at least 96 hours in the event of a power outage. As of January 19, 2018, 138 ALFs have indicated they follow the emergency rule. On March 26, 2018, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7099 and SB 7028 which ratify rules relating to ALFs and Nursing Homes. By June 1, 2018, such facilities will be required to install an alternative power source that can keep temperatures at 81 degrees for at least 96 hours and to have 72 hours of fuel on site. The Agency for Health Care Administration may grant an extension until January 1, 2019 for any provider demonstrating necessary delays. Personal responsibility by the owners of these facilities must also be required by our state agencies, because human lives are at stake.
State Beach Management Program
One of my top priorities remains actively working with stakeholders to pass the Coastal Management known as the “Beach Bill” filed by Representative Peters and Senator Hukill. Both HB 131 and SB 174 would have directed $50 million in recurring Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) money to beaches and inlet management and established new criteria for project rankings, including the return on investment for each project. I made multiple trips to our State’s Capital to meet with the leaders of our legislature, specifically Senate President Negron. The bill passed the Senate unanimously but was not considered in the House. Ultimately, the Legislature appropriated $50,000,000 ($29.5 million in recurring and $20.5 in non-recurring) from the LATF for the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Beach Management Funding Assistance Program in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) HB 5001.
Opioid and Heroin Abuse
The opioid epidemic was a priority of the legislature during this past session. Both House and Senate leadership recognized the need for additional funding and regulations related to prescription painkillers. Broward County supported SB 8 by Senator Benacquisto, along with HB 21 by Representative Boyd, titled “Controlled Substances Regulation.” The bill imposes new restrictions on prescription opioids. In addition, it appropriates $53.5 million in state and federal grant funding for treatment programs and updates the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). Some initial prescriptions would have a limit of three days; however, doctors maintain the discretion to prescribe up to seven days for acute pain under certain circumstances. Additionally, the legislation does not place medication limits for trauma cases, chronic pain or cancer. This legislation was presented to the Governor on March 14th, 2018 and approved by the governor on March 19th, 2018.
Coral Reef Conservation
An important environmental and economic priority to Broward County, HB 53 by Representative Jacobs/SB 232 by Senator Book on Coral Reefs, establishes the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area and was the second bill to pass the legislature this session. The bill was unanimously supported by both chambers, presented to the Governor on March 9th and approved on March 19th, 2018.
If you have any thoughts on how I can be helpful for you throughout next year’s legislative session, please feel free to contact me.
As always, it is my honor to serve you.
Commissioner Chip LaMarca