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Tallahassee Roundup: Week 5

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BRADENTON – The rapid pace of the legislative session continued this week with several key issues continuing to move through the chambers. The parent trigger bill passed the Senate Education Committee; a second Senator's alternative to Medicaid expansion is more to the House's liking; a domestic partner bill passed committee; and Governor Rick Scott signed the first 2013 bill into law.

The Senate's parent trigger bill made it through committee along party lines. SB 862 differs from its counterpart in the House, which prevents students at struggling schools from having ineffective teachers for two years in a row. The Senate bill only requires schools to notify parents when students are assigned to low-performing instructors.

Despite a study by economists from the University of Florida that said accepting federal money and expanding Medicaid to those under 138 percent of the poverty level would add 122,000 jobs in the state, House Republicans are said to prefer a plan by State Sen. Aaron Bean that offers benefit accounts, but not insurance, to those at 100 percent of the poverty level, while rejecting the extra federal funds.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Joe Negron's "Healthy Florida" plan seems to have federal blessing. The recently released rules regarding Medicaid expansion leave the door open for plans like Negron's which uses the federal funds to expand the state's Healthy Kids program to uncovered adults unable to afford health insurance.

Venice Senator Nancy Detert joined Democrats on the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee in a 5-4 vote to approve the creation of a domestic partner registry that would give unmarried partners visitation rights in hospitals and correctional facilities, allow them to make each other's funeral arrangements, and provide at least some health care and real estate rights. The bill is not expected to go further, though equal rights advocates cheered the symbolic progress.

Governor Scott signed HB 7059 into law on Tuesday, the first bill of the session to be codified. The law is a repeal of a previous statute that required foreign visitors to pay $25 for an international driving permit. The law violated an international driving treaty and Canadian visitors fought to have it revoked.


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