2016 JMI Sine Die Update

JMI VP of Policy Sal Nuzzo participates in a press conference with Sen. Jeff Brandes on civil asset forfeiture reform. See all photos from JMI by clicking here.

Statement by Dr. Bob McClure, President and CEO, The James Madison Institute:
“During the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, we saw significant progress on a number of policy priorities that move Florida further in the direction of free markets, liberty, and limited government. From expanding school choice options, to implementing sound and practical solutions for our water challenges, to reforming Florida’s civil asset forfeiture statute, our legislators continue to show the rest of the country how liberty can be advanced at the state level. We offer sincere appreciation to both Speaker Crisafulli and President Gardiner as they complete their terms, and welcome incoming Speaker Corcoran and President Negron as they place their stamp on the leadership of the Florida legislature over the next term.” — Update from William Mattox, Director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at JMI: Educational Choice: The first piece of legislation passed during the 2016 Florida Legislative Session — the Gardiner Scholarship for special needs students — proved to be one of the most important to Florida students, parents, and taxpayers. This highly-innovative program makes it possible for parents of special needs students to acquire unbundled educational services from multiple providers, thereby ensuring that the education these students receive is customized to their unique needs, interests, aptitudes, and learning styles. Moreover, by sending per-pupil funds directly to Gardiner Scholarship accounts that parents manage, the Legislature has established a new taxpayer-friendly model for financing K-12 education that is apt to help Florida students excel academically. Hopefully, in years to come, we will see all Florida K-12 students become eligible for a Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) patterned after the Gardiner program. In addition to the Gardiner Scholarship, the Florida Legislature distinguished itself during the 2016 session by expanding educational options in a number of other ways: (1) passing open enrollment policies that allow regular students (and student-athletes) to transfer, without penalty, to any public school that has open seats; (2) allowing high school students to fulfill the foreign language requirement for an advanced diploma with computer language programs; and (3) adopting policies that make it easier for students interested in attending high-performing charter schools to do so. Finally, the Legislature took some important steps to encourage further innovation — like adopting a pilot project in mastery-based education (that should help our state move away from seat time requirements for student advancement). In addition, the legislature resisted the temptation to adopt one-size-fits-all requirements (like mandatory recess) that underscore the folly of the state constitution's uniformity clause. William Mattox’s Context Florida columns on education choice issues:

Celebrating Florida School Choice Month
Bang-for-buck study should inform Florida’s per-pupil spending debate
Legislators should allow students to select computer coding as language option
Debate about mandatory recess exposes folly of ‘uniformity’ in education
Legislators should let high-school athletes attend school of their choice


Update from Dan Peterson, Director of the Center for Property Rights at JMI: Civil Forfeiture: Through education efforts like those of JMI and the Institute for Justice, legislators were shocked to learn that a person could be stopped by law enforcement and have their private property seized as contraband without an arrest being made. Approved legislation, which is now on the way to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature, would now make it so that an arrest must now be made before property can be seized. This is a positive step to protect property and individual liberty. Dan Peterson’s column on civil asset forfeiture appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, TCPalm, Naples Daily News, Florida Times-Union and Tallahassee Democrat. Read it by clicking here. Justin Pearson, managing attorney at the Institute for Justice's Florida office wrote a guest article in The Journal of The James Madison Institute, which can be read by clicking here. Amendment 1 Funding Allocation: Maintenance of government owned conservation lands and ecosystems restoration, particularly those in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, were made a priority. Specifically, the Florida Legacy bill will authorize recurring allocations to remedy the polluting of these two critical estuaries. This will pay dividends, not only to those ecosystems, but also to local economies. Dan Peterson’s columns on Amendment 1 allocations ran the Orlando Sentinel and Sun-Sentinel:

Focus Amend. 1 Money on Everglades and Rivers
Simple Purchase Won't Save the Everglades
Amendment 1 Funds Letter to the Editor

Early in committee weeks, JMI released an Issue Commentary on responsible spending of Amendment 1, “Priority Restoration Projects Deserve Amendment 1 Funding,” as well as a Journal article, “A Lottery Called Amendment 1.”
Water Policy: We were pleased to see as a part of the water policy bill (which passed early in session) the formalization of Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). It just makes sense that, when addressing issues surrounding the improvement of water quality in local springs, local stakeholders should be the ones to address local problems and make local decisions based in sound, scientific research. We look forward to observing their formation and actions. Government Owned Lands: We applaud the initiative to include all government (federal, state, and local) owned conservation easements and lands into one inventory computer program. We think it wise to periodically evaluate the way state lands are being used and make prudent adjustments. It also makes sense to consolidate the procedures of land acquisitions and dispositions under one law. These and other provisions in proposed legislation will make state management more efficient and better use tax dollars. Location of Utilities: We were pleased to see the passage of a critical bill that defines the difference between easements which have property rights attached and right of ways which are part of franchise agreements regarding contracts between local governments and utility providers. This legislation will eliminate cumbersome and expensive litigation between utility providers and local governments. Dan Peterson’s column on utility easements ran in Sunshine State News, “A Case of Property Rights: Easements and Utilities.” — Update from Sal Nuzzo, Director of the Center for Economic Prosperity and JMI’s Vice President of Policy: Juvenile Records Expunction: Legislation on its way to Gov. Rick Scott changes the age for juveniles to have records expunged from 24 to 21. It also provides a mechanism for juveniles to have records expunged at the age of 18 for offenses committed prior to the age of 15, provided no additional offenses have been committed. This policy reform provides for greater long-term economic progress by allowing minors who have committed juvenile offenses, but who have turned their paths around, the ability to move past their records. JMI released an Issue Commentary on this issue topic, “Second Chance at a First Impression Into Adulthood.” Healthcare Cost Transparency: Legislation on its way to Gov. Rick Scott will increase the level of transparency in healthcare costs by requiring the Agency for Health Care Administration to work with a vendor to develop an online portal for healthcare costs and quality measures. While this will not serve as a silver bullet or panacea for increased healthcare costs, it is one important step in the right direction for greater market forces in healthcare. Sal Nuzzo spoke with The Heartland Institute on this issue, “Florida Legislation Would Require Greater Price Transparency.”

Nurse Practitioner Expansion: This policy reform will expand the scope of practice for advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), allowing them the ability to prescribe certain medicines. Florida is currently the only state that does not allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances, which include painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, and amphetamines used for ADHD. Florida is also one of two states that does not permit physician’s assistants the same privilege.
For Future: As with most years, the last few days of the session proved to be a race against the clock on policy efforts. With respect to JMI’s policy priorities, several issues made it through one of the two chambers of the legislature, but didn’t make it across the finish line in time. These include: Insurance Reform (Assignment of Benefits): We are disappointed that proposed policy reforms that would help curb abuse in the insurance industry were not passed. Such legislation would create safeguards for consumers and insurers with respect to the “assignment of benefits” clauses in policies. Florida currently has the 43rd worst legal climate in the U.S., and “assignment of benefits” abuse is one of the reasons for this abysmal ranking. The legislature did pass a reform requiring additional information to be provided to policyholders concerning “take outs” from the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation rolls. During committee weeks, JMI in partnership with R Street Institute, released, “Shoring Up Florida’s Property Insurance Market.” Uber/Lyft Preemption: Under proposed policy reform, the state would prohibit local governments from enacting regulations restricting citizens from using ride-sharing applications such as Uber and Lyft. The policy reform would have also set minimum insurance requirements (state-level) for providers of ride-sharing services. While the reform made it through the House, it unfortunately did not make it through the Senate. Direct File Reform: For the past two sessions, policy reforms to enact an improved checks and balances system for direct filing juveniles into the adult criminal justice system have been promoted by a broad coalition of partners including JMI. Policy reforms would have revised the process by which children were sent into the adult court system, expanding the role of judges in the process for non-violent offenses. This legislation unfortunately died in the last moments of the session when time ran out on negotiations between the two chambers. JMI in partnership with FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice released the Policy Brief: “No Place for A Child: Direct File of Juveniles Comes at a High Cost; Time to Fix Statutes.” Additionally, JMI’s position was reported by dozens of media outlets in Florida and the following editorial boards came out in favor of our policy reform recommendations: Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, El Nuevo Herald, Gainesville Sun, TC Palm, Ocala Star Banner, Ft. Myers News Press and the Tallahassee Democrat. Direct Primary Care: This policy reform is a pillar of JMI’s proposed market-based health care solutions. The policy reform, which passed unanimously out of the House but couldn’t make it through the Senate, would have codified a practice currently allowed in Obamacare, and exempt it from any existing or future insurance regulation from the state. Under direct primary care, an individual (or employer) enters into a contract with a primary care physician to provide a set portfolio of services for a monthly fee. The concept, when paired with a catastrophic care plan (and HSA) has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of health care access in the state. Telehealth Expansion: This proposed policy reform, which died in the closing moments of the session, would have increased access to care for patients in rural areas and those unable to get to a doctor’s office. It would allow diagnoses from remote locations using innovations in technology. While the concept would be a new policy to Florida, it is already being used expansively in states such as California, New York and Texas.

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