THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 12, 2011 -
A giant health-care deregulation bill drew little attention as it moved steadily through this year’s legislative session --- free of an abortion-ultrasound provision that caused a veto in 2010.
But about 10:45 p.m. Friday, with the House and Senate melting down in the final hours of the session, the bill aimed at easing regulations on nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other providers got killed again.
Senators tacked amendments onto HB 119 that House sponsor Matt Hudson,
R-Naples, wouldn’t accept. Lawmakers didn’t have time to work out the differences, leaving health-industry groups disappointed.
“What dies with it is a lot of good deregulatory activity,’’ said Hudson, who sponsored a similar measure last year that former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed because it would have required women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions.
HB 119, which totaled 150 pages before going to the Senate, included a series of somewhat-arcane changes to regulatory and licensing laws.
As an example, Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said the bill would have eliminated a requirement that nursing homes submit reports to the state about staffing levels. She said homes keep that information in their facility records, making the state reports duplicative.
Similarly, Knapp said the bill would have eliminated a requirement that deals with nursing homes submitting liability-claim information to the state. The industry argues such information is already available in court records.
Issues about nursing-home staffing and lawsuits have been controversial for years. But as an indication of the lack of controversy about the deregulation bill, the House approved it 106-6 on April 29, and the Senate approved the amended version 36-1 on Friday.
The bill also went far beyond nursing homes. For instance, Pat Lange, executive director of the Florida Assisted Living Association, said the bill included a licensing change that would have allowed a limited amount of nursing in some ALFs where it is not currently allowed.
It is fairly typical for lawmakers to stick amendments onto bills in the final hours of a legislative session, particularly bills that deal with wide-ranging issues.
“A health-care bill picks up some riders along the way as it looks like it is moving,’’ said Sen. Jack Latvala, a St. Petersburg Republican who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
But the Senate amendments to HB 119 came as the legislative session spiraled toward a rancorous end. Along with amending the health bill, the Senate also had voted down an unrelated business-deregulation measure --- angering House leaders who wanted that bill.
With that as a backdrop, Hudson took the microphone on the House floor and announced he would not agree to the Senate amendments, dooming HB 119. The disputed amendments dealt with prescription-drug ingredients, a nursing-home pilot project and Medicaid.
Hudson and Latvala disagreed Wednesday about whether they had worked out the amendments before the Senate added them to the bill. Latvala said he and Hudson discussed a number of amendments earlier in the day and that he killed those that Hudson didn’t want.
“Anything he told me was problematic during the day, I fought off,’’ Latvala said.
But Hudson said he never approved the amendments that passed the Senate.
“He fought off some, yes, but not all of them,’’ Hudson said.
Both lawmakers demurred when asked whether they would try to resurrect the bill next year.
“I have no idea,’’ Latvala said.