Florida Republicans in the legislature got most of what they wanted in the session that just ended. And, they could have gotten even more by closing more special interest tax loopholes and tapping the “rainy day” fund to an even greater extent. But, instead they forecast a worsening economy ahead and went with $4 billion in budget cuts. Public Education suffered the biggest cuts ever:$2.3 billion. The legislators , however redirected more money to private schools through vouchers.
In a last minute decision, the Legislature adopted a plan that for the first time requires private insurance companies to cover persons with autism, not those with any other developmental disability. At first the house wanted to include every developmental disability. But the Senate objected that the house didn’t spend enough time studying how much the coverage for the additional disabilities would cost and what effect hey would have on insurance premiums. The Senate then kicked back an autism only proposal back to the house with less than an hour to go in the 60 day session. The House Speaker Mario Rubio called the Governor asking him if he would be willing to call a special session on the developmentally disabled He said yes, but lets pass this and then do it.
Rubio then surprised everyone with less than 10 minutes left he said “ If this issue is about anything else -taxes, anything-I would tell you ‘don’t do it. But it has to do with children and families and I think we need to take a step forward.”.
The proposal requires health insurance companies to cover $36,000 a year in autism treatment capped at $200,000 over a lifetime. It also requires the Office of Insurance Regulation to work out an agreement with insurance companies to cover other developmental disabilities.
The black caucus walked away with a few victories. Among them was an official apology from the state Legislature for Florida’s role in slavery.
Marc Caputo, Mary Ellen Klas, Gary Fineout, Bradenton Herald, May 3, 2008, P.1
Congresswoman Karen l. Thurman, Chair, Florida Democratic Party, April 16, 2008,pperry@ fladems.com
Breanne Gilpatric, Bradenton Herald, May 3, 2008, P.9A