The Florida Senate on Monday approved a bill that would ensure the continued operation of three disputed trauma centers, but it remains unclear if Senate and House plans will agree before the legislative session ends Friday.
The Senate tacked the trauma issue onto another health-care bill (SB 1354), which it then approved in a 33-3 vote. Meanwhile, the House has included a similar trauma care proposal in an omnibus health-care bill (HB 7113) that is far different from the Senate bill.
Senate sponsor Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said she is not sure how the trauma debate will be play out and that it probably will be one of the final issues resolved during the session. "We'll decide on Friday,'' Grimsley said Monday night.
The issue centers on long-running legal and political battles about the Florida Department of Health's decisions in 2011 and 2012 to allow trauma centers to open at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County.
Other hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Gainesville areas challenged the decisions, and courts found that the department used an invalid rule in granting the approvals.
Amid continuing legal challenges, the House and Senate bills would ensure that the trauma centers can remain open. While the House and Senate appear to agree on keeping the facilities open, their trauma proposals include some differences.
The bigger challenge, however, might be determining how to move forward with the trauma issue when it is tangled in the broader House and Senate health-care bills.
Senate leaders oppose other parts of the overall House bill, such as a proposal to give new powers to advanced registered nurse practitioners. Meanwhile, the House has not moved forward with a bill that is similar to the overall Senate measure, which primarily deals with health insurance issues.
Senate to Add Charges for Burglars Who Cross County Lines
Home burglars will face an added penalty if they cross county lines to commit break-ins, under a proposal expected to be approved Tuesday by the Senate.
Senators on Monday teed up the measure (SB 550), which would make it a third-degree felony for people who commit burglaries in counties where they do not reside.
The bill would also require people charged with the new offense to appear before judges before receiving any pretrial release. The bill was crafted in response to the "pillowcase burglars" in Martin County, where Sheriff William Snyder, a former state representative, noted an increase in people traveling Interstate 95 to break into homes and quickly flee to other counties.
The House on April 1 approved a similar proposal (HB 427) in an 81-36 vote.