Legislative Update from Rep. Steve Crisafulli
By Space Coast Daily // September 30, 2013
Crisafulli Assesses Obamacare
TALLAHASSEE FLORIDA — In his monthly legislative update letter, State Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) addressed several issues, including the start of Committee Weeks, as well education and the impact of the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
Crisafulli’s letter is posted below.
Committee Weeks Begin
Preparation for the 2014 Legislative Session began this month as the first round of interim committee hearings were held in Tallahassee. For the upcoming session, I have the privilege to serve as the House Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Legislators will continue to meet frequently in Tallahassee in the upcoming months in advance of the start of the 2014 Legislative Session in March.
Please remember my office is always open and here to help you. I appreciate hearing the issues you face so that I may be of better assistance in the district and in Tallahassee.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
I do not support the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “ObamaCare”), as I believe the federal law is deeply flawed, financially unsustainable, and harmful to job creation. However, PPACA is a federal law, so it is not something I can address directly at the state level. Because several key provisions of the law begin on October 1, I wanted to share some important information about it with you.
As part of the continued implementation of PPACA, October 1st begins the process of open enrollment for insurance plans available on the newly created federal health insurance exchange. The exchange is an online market of federally subsidized health coverage. While the exchange is set to launch on October 1st, there is skepticism over whether it is ready for public use. There have been reports of glitches in the calculator function as recently as two weeks prior to the launch date. The calculator is what provides consumers with accurate premium costs and subsidy amounts. While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continually insists that the exchange will be ready to launch on October 1st, the calculator is a main component of its functionality and would severely limit the capabilities of the exchange if it continues to give inaccurate prices.
The navigator program is another component of the exchange that has made recent headlines. The navigator program was designed to help consumers learn about their options for coverage in the marketplace. The program has come under scrutiny because, although the navigators will be dealing with consumers’ private information, PPACA does not require navigators to have a background check or extensive training.
However, last session the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1842, which requires navigators in Florida to register with the Department of Financial Services and undergo a criminal background check. These requirements are designed to safeguard Floridians while they attempt to navigate the new exchange. Recent reports regarding releases of individuals’ private data by navigators in other states highlight the critical importance of privacy protection. And, while PPACA itself only refers to navigators, HHS recently created other categories of people to help with plan selection. These “assisters”, “certified application counselors” and “champions for coverage” are not subject to state registration and background screening.
October 1st also marks the deadline for employers subject to the Federal Labor Standards Act to begin providing notice to their employees of the existence of the health insurance exchange marketplaces. Notification must be done within 14 days of an employee’s starting date. For businesses not fulfilling this requirement, PPACA imposes a $100-a-day penalty for non-compliance. This penalty might be surprising for small businesses that were under the impression that PPACA regulations would not impact them prior to 2015.
Unemployment Continues to Drop
This month, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released employment figures for August. Overall, the numbers are positive and reflect an economy that continues to improve. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was 7.0%, down 0.1% from last month, and down 1.6% from this time last year. The state’s August rate was the lowest since September 2008 when it also was 7.0%. Florida’s unemployment rate was 0.3% lower than the U.S. rate for August and was below the national rate for the sixth consecutive month.
While there was a slight decrease in jobs from last month, compared to this time last year the number of jobs in Florida increased by 131,400. This is an increase of 1.8%, while the national increase was just 1.6%. August 2013 was the 37th consecutive month with positive annual job growth after the state lost jobs for over 3 years.
Florida’s economy continues to improve at a greater pace than the national economy and we have done this while reducing the state’s debt and turning our budget deficits into projected surpluses. As Florida’s economy continues to improve, tough choices and good policy decisions made by Legislature have set the stage for long-term sustainable economic growth.
Great education news keeps rolling in for Florida. Last month, many of our state colleges were recognized as some of the best in the nation, and this month, it is our universities’ turn. U.S. News and World Report just released their 2014 rankings for the top public national universities, and both the University of Florida and Florida State University were ranked among the top 40 universities in the nation. UF improved 3 spots to No. 14, closing in on their goal of becoming a Top 10 institution of higher learning. FSU rose 2 spots to No. 40, marking the 4th year in a row the university has seen an improvement in its ranking.Great states must have great public universities, and we should be proud of the recognition our universities are receiving.
In other news, the state Board of Education tapped interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to lead the Department of Education on a permanent basis. Stewart has spent over 30 years in education in positions ranging from teacher to principal to deputy superintendent, and her experience will benefit Florida’s education system.
Finally, Governor Rick Scott recently issued an executive order regarding the implementation of the Common Core standards in Florida. The Governor’s executive order ends Florida’s relationship with the controversial PARCC testing consortium, which crafts assessment tests for students. By doing this, the Governor has given Florida more control in creating appropriate testing for our students.