House and Senate Full Appropriations Committees
Both full appropriations committees’ chairs placed health insurance presentations on their agendas. The House received an overview of the state health insurance program and a review of their directive to develop new plan designs for the committee to consider. Those presentations are attached. The House presentation indicated health insurance costs are on pace to increase by approximately 7%, but currently the new forecast for the revenues dedicated for health insurance coverage is expected to have a positive cash balance. Additional cost savings from the consolidation of the retail pharmacy network has resulted in a projected savings of $5 million annually.
Senate Budget Committee met on Thursday morning to receive their health insurance update and a presentation of the Governors recommendations. Mercer representative, Tony Holmes, provided the committee with an updated Mercer report on health care costs. State employee health costs continue to trend upward, but at a slower rate than previously. No indications as to what legislative actions might result from this data, but the committee is expected to consider ways to decrease state employee health care costs in future meetings. Government costs are about $2000 more per employee than comparable sized private sector employers, who pay higher premiums, co-pays, and deductibles than state employees.
The Governor’s Budget Director presented a more detailed overview of the Governor’s recommended budget. He made clear the Governor’s focus is on making sure each governmental entity is operating in the most efficient manner possible, and committee members seemed to share that goal. Chairman Alexander called the presentation a “good start” and a “thoughtful, realistic budget.” Democratic Leader Rich expressed deep concerns about the budget’s effect on public hospitals, and commented that she and the Governor have “different priorities.” Senator Negron questioned the Governor's views regarding providing universities with the funding necessary to keep the best professors in Florida due to recent articles of academics transferring out of state. The Governor’s budget Director responded that the Governor is reviewing the information provided by the universities, to identify the areas that will allow the universities to operate more efficiently.
House Higher Education Appropriations Committee
The committee received a higher education distance learning initiative update. The presentation indicated the development and implementation of the elements for a complete distance learning online service are moving forward and have accomplished a great deal to date. A demonstration of the website was given, www.distancelearn.org, which will increase access, handle a higher volume of applications, and substantially increase the number of courses available. Final steps of the initiative include completing the implementation of financial aid procedures and electronic transfers of credits awarded by institutions, as well as, considering the recommendations of the Workgroup on Alignment and Enhancement of Online Postsecondary Academic and Student Support Web Service that is due on December 31st.
Additionally, the committee was provided an update on the consolidation of FCLA and CCLA. The task force charged with the consolidation has completed its report, which is currently being reviewed by Chancellor Brogan and Chancellor Hanna for a timely submission to the Legislature. The report provides a business plan for replacing FCLA and CCLA with a new joint library automation organization. FLCA and CCLA are scheduled for elimination June 30, 2013.
Senate Higher Education Committee
Governor Frank Martin presented the committee with the Board of Governors' State University System Strategic Plan. Senator Negron reiterated his concern of the potential of very qualified faculty leaving the state and his desire to make supporting higher education a priority. The Chairman announced the next committee agenda will include a presentation by FSU President Barron and an NCAA official regarding college athletics.
The House released their first redistricting maps for Congress and the state House this week. The House presented several options for each map and they have significant differences from the Senate maps that were released last week. It is still very early in the process and the maps, most likely, change over the next few months.