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Pharmacy Bill, FL Budget Taking Shape


A Senate panel Thursday unanimously approved a proposal that calls for increased restrictions on out-of-state "compounding" pharmacies that ship medications into Florida.

Compounding pharmacies became a high-profile issue in 2012, when drugs produced at New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts caused hundreds of cases of fungal meningitis in Florida and other states. In general, these facilities create medications that are supposed to be tailored to the needs of individual patients.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a bill (SB 662), filed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, that would require out-of-state compounding pharmacies to get permits to ship medications into Florida. Also, the bill would require the pharmacies to meet or exceed standards, Bean said.

Also at the Capitol:

A broad budget outline released by the House late Thursday would provide more funding for schools than Gov. Rick Scott's proposal, while also reducing taxes and stashing away $1.2 billion in reserves.

The allocations provide House budget-writing committees with a guideline for spending in their areas. Those panels will work next week to produce a spending plan by Friday.

"Due to improved economic conditions and the continued fiscal constraint of the Legislature, our state is well on the road to financial recovery," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, wrote in a memo accompanying the allocations. "It remains vitally important to maintain the disciplined fiscal principles that led us to where we are today but also recognize that the state can now afford to return revenues to the taxpayer in addition to funding state priorities."

The memo says that the boost for public school funding is "in excess of a 3 percent increase in per student funding" but doesn't specify the exact amount. Anything more than 3 percent would be higher than Scott's plan, which calls for a 2.96 percent increase. Overall, lawmakers would spend almost $10.8 billion of general revenue on public education, a shade under $8.2 billion on health care, more than $3.8 billion on justice-related areas of the budget and almost $3.6 billion on higher education.

Another $467.8 million would go to agriculture and the environment, while $298 million would flow to a catch-all category known as "government operations."

For transportation and economic development, the House has set aside $136.3 million, not including most of the funding for road-building projects.

Senate subcommittees are also expected to work on spending plans next week, said Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Negron said he has given the committees a general idea of the amount of money they will have, but the chamber hasn't released hard allocation amounts.

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