In recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida lawmakers passed a $93.2 billion budget for the 2020-2021 state fiscal year. Items on the legislative agenda included healthcare, environment, education, tourism, and tort reform, among other things.
If you have questions about the upcoming budget, contact a Florida accident lawyer for more information.
The budget included a rather typical $22 billion+ in Medicaid funding, which will not cut Medicaid-based rates for hospital services but will extend Medicaid rate enhancements to select hospitals for an additional year.
Two priority health care initiatives aimed at expanding access to health care allows advanced practice registered nurses to practice independently of physicians under certain conditions and enables pharmacists to treat and test for ailments like strep throat and the flu.
The budget included nearly $690 million for water quality projects, including more than $300 million for Everglades restoration and $100 million for the Florida Forever conservation program. Lawmakers also passed new requirements to prevent blue-green algae blooms and a bill to increase fines for environmental lawbreakers, all of which were supported by various water quality and environmental advocacy groups.
$27 billion in education funding was included in the budget, and lawmakers allocated $500 million to increase teachers’ salaries. The Legislature continued to push for expanding school choice by approving a bill adding nearly 29,000 students to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. However, lawmakers could not agree on a broad school safety bill, marking the first time since the Parkland massacre that lawmakers did not enact new school security measures.
Lawmakers continued to debate whether to maintain funding for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, even as COVID-19 was shutting down its tourism sector and crippling the hospitality industry. Eventually, lawmakers decided to reauthorize the agency through 2023, allocating $50 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, securing its future for at least the next few years.
Despite the support of various business groups, lawmakers again failed to enact tort reform legislation. Tort reform bills that did not survive included governing ex-parte communications between doctors and lawyers and another addressing truth and accuracy in damages.
Other laws that are have passed or are being considered include:
- School Bus Safety
- Alert Systems in Public Schools
- Higher Education
- Health Care for Children
- Keep Our Graduates Working Act
- Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program
- Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel
- Designation of School Grades
- Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation and Rights
- Education and the Military
- Florida ABLE Program
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services
- Children’s Mental Health
- Educational Instruction of Historical Events
- Holocaust Education Week 2020