STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS: WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
STATE ENDS LAWSUIT SEEKING ACCESS TO VA HOSPITALS
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration on Wednesday dismissed a nearly year-old lawsuit aimed at giving state inspectors access to federal Veterans Affairs medical centers and documents. AHCA and two individual plaintiffs filed a notice in federal court in Tampa that they were dismissing the case, and U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell formally approved the dismissal. The federal government fought the lawsuit, arguing last year that the U.S. Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause,” bars states from regulating federal activities without consent. Gov. Rick Scott’s office said the dismissal came after Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald fulfilled state requests for access to information about VA medical facilities, which became embroiled in controversy last year because of reports of substandard care and conditions. The governor’s office released correspondence indicating Scott and McDonald spoke on the telephone March 18. McDonald, in a May 4 follow-up letter, expressed willingness to provide reports about inspections of the facilities and information about remedial actions by the VA. In a letter Wednesday, Scott said he appreciated McDonald’s willingness to provide audit reports to AHCA. “We have said for some time that Veterans Affairs was not taking our requests for information seriously, and your commitment demonstrates a fundamental shift from how the federal department previously operated,” Scott wrote. “It is imperative, however, that the VA follow through on its commitments; no doubt greater transparency and accountability will benefit our veterans.”
BROWN WANTS FEDS TO TALK TO JACKSONVILLE
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown is asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to negotiate directly with his city if a state showdown with the federal government endangers funding for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program. In a letter dated Wednesday, Brown emphasized the importance of LIP to UF Health Jacksonville, a major component of the area’s health-care system. LIP provides money to hospitals and other medical providers that care for large numbers of low-income patients. “Jacksonville and other communities with safety-net hospitals must not be held hostage by the actions or inactions of decision-makers in Tallahassee. … If our state government cannot or will not act, the city of Jacksonville and other local governments should have the opportunity to bypass Tallahassee and work directly with the federal government to find innovative LIP and Medicaid solutions,” wrote Brown, who is running for re-election in Tuesday’s municipal elections. The future of the $2.2 billion LIP program has become ensnared in a debate over whether to use Medicaid expansion funds to help low-income Floridians purchase private insurance. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, who opposes any plan drawing on Medicaid expansion money, released a letter to Burwell dated Tuesday requesting information for a commission he’s set up to consider health-care funding in the state. That commission has scheduled its first meeting for May 20 in Tallahassee.
ASKEW, MATHIS, DAVIS ADDED TO CIVIL RIGHTS HALL
Former Gov. Reubin Askew and civil-rights leaders Sallye B. Mathis and Edward Daniel Davis were inducted Wednesday into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Capitol. Askew, who died last year, was elected governor in 1970 and served two terms. He was named to the hall of fame in part because of his support for desegregation and his appointments of top black officials, including the first black justice on the Florida Supreme Court. Mathis, who died in 1982, was a longtime teacher in the Duval County school system and a civil-rights leader who was elected to the Jacksonville City Council. Davis, who died in 1989, served as president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and was an educator who fought for equal pay for black teachers. Askew’s widow, Donna Lou, accepted the honor on the late governor’s behalf. “Reubin would be so pleased to be with these two wonderful people, Ms. Mathis and Mr. Davis. What a group to be together. Maybe they are having a little meeting today,” she said, drawing laughter. Gov. Rick Scott announced the hall-of-fame selections in March.
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