January 12, 2022

Session Preview: FPI Priority Legislative Agenda for 2022

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Florida Policy Institute (FPI) supports measures that help make the state a place where families can build a healthy future and where both workers and businesses can thrive. The bills highlighted below are at the top of FPI’s priority list for the 2022 legislative session.

SUPPORT: Expanding Medicaid to all adults with low income (HB 27/SB 1504)

Florida is one of only 12 states that has not expanded its Medicaid program to adults ages 19-64 with income under 138 percent of the federal poverty level. (For reference, this works out to $17,774 for a single person and $30,305 for a three-person family.)  Medicaid expansion would help nearly 800,000 uninsured Floridians access affordable health care, which is especially critical amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. 

FPI supports HB 27/SB 1504, legislation sponsored by Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) and Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) that would expand the state’s Medicaid program to all adults with income under 138 percent of the poverty level. 

Additionally, the U.S. House included in the federal Build Back Better Act funding to close the health care coverage gap through 2025 for people with income below the poverty level. There are currently 425,000 Floridians in this “coverage gap” who would benefit from this provision. (As of the time of publication for this legislative update, the bill still awaits action by the Senate.)                                                                                                                                                    

SUPPORT: Using a data-driven approach to reduce health care disparities (HB 855/SB 1258)

Health and health care disparities in the United States lead to certain groups being at higher risk of more limited access to care, experiencing poorer quality of care, and ultimately experiencing worse health outcomes. It also makes health care more expensive for everyone by triggering excess health care costs, estimated to be $93 billion annually.

Florida's Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program (SMMC) provides a valuable opportunity to reduce health disparities and unnecessary costs. Over 3 million beneficiaries are enrolled in the program.  When it created the SMMC, the Florida Legislature recognized that health plan performance measures are a key tool for gauging quality of care. Current law requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to collect from the health plans and publicly report performance measure data. AHCA reports that quality of health care provided under the SMMC is steadily rising as demonstrated through improvement on performance measures. However, there is no requirement in Florida law that AHCA collect and report this data broken down by race, ethnicity, primary language, sex, or disability. Experts agree that collection of this data is an essential first step for developing targeted strategies to eliminate disparities.  Moreover, this will help ensure greater transparency of the $23 billion annual public investment in the Medicaid managed care program.

FPI supports HB 855/SB 1258, legislation sponsored by Rep. Robin Bartleman (D-Weston), Rep. Nick Duran (D-Miami), and Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami) that would require AHCA to report on Medicaid managed care quality performance measures disaggregated by race, ethnicity, primary language, sex and disability. 

SUPPORT: Reducing occupational licensing barriers for returning citizens (HB 87 and SB 1118) 

Florida law prohibits persons with certain criminal offenses in their background from obtaining occupational licenses, and occupational licensing boards can broadly factor criminal backgrounds into licensing decisions through “good character” provisions. This creates an arbitrary barrier for returning citizens to gaining access to dozens of occupations, increasing both financial insecurity and recidivism.

FPI supports HB 87, legislation sponsored by Reps. Kevin Chambliss (D-Homestead) and Scott Plakon (R-Longwood), along with SB 1118, legislation sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), which would help reform Florida’s burdensome occupational licensing system. 

Specifically, these bills would:

  • shorten the period of time from five to two years in which licenses can be denied, for certain occupations, solely on the basis of a past criminal conviction;
  • remove “good moral character” as a disqualifying criterion for certain types of occupational licenses; and
  • create a pipeline program that allows applicable licensing boards to approve the credits applicants received from the Department of Corrections’ educational programs to be counted towards licensing training requirements.

SUPPORT: Lifting the ban against certain returning citizens from receiving SNAP and TANF (HB 7069/SB 762)

People who are reentering their communities after being incarcerated face enormous barriers to fiscal stability. Yet, despite an overwhelming need for basic support to assist with rehabilitation, Floridians who have been convicted of drug trafficking are prohibited by state law from ever participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This short-sighted lifetime ban impacts their ability to meet critical needs, such as food and housing, and increases their likelihood to re-offend and return to prison. 

FPI supports the Food Security Upon Reentry Act (HB 7069/SB 762), legislation sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami), Rep. Travis McCurdy (D-Orlando), Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral), and Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) that would remove the draconian lifetime ban on SNAP and TANF benefits for formerly incarcerated Floridians with past drug trafficking convictions.

SUPPORT: The Working Floridians Tax Rebate (HB 613/SB 234)

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is already one of the nation’s most effective tools for reducing poverty and countering income inequality. In 2019, more than 2.1 million Floridians received $2.9 billion through the federal EITC, with the average credit amount totaling $2,492. The federal EITC is a common-sense tax break that helps people with low income make ends meet, which benefits their families, communities, and local economies.

Thirty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and localities such as New York City and Montgomery County, Maryland, have enacted their own versions of the EITC to further build on the success of the federal EITC.

FPI supports HB 613/SB 234, legislation sponsored by Rep. Felicia Simone Robinson (D-Miami Gardens) and Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens) that would implement the Working Floridians Tax Rebate (WFTR), a state-level EITC set at 20 percent of the federal credit. A recent FPI report found that the WFTR would benefit 2.1 million Floridians with low-to-moderate income and provide an average annual rebate of $500.

OPPOSE: Automatic corporate tax refund and rate reduction

Over the past couple of years, policymakers have reduced the Corporate Income Tax (CIT), costing the state billions. The last time policymakers voted to increase the CIT was in 1984. In contrast, policymakers passed a bill in 2018 that created an automatic downward adjustment to the CIT rate if net collections exceeded forecasted collections. The same bill instructed Florida’s Department of Revenue (DOR) to refund excess collections. The bill had an immediate impact: CIT collections exceeded forecasts for tax year 2018-19, and so the CIT rate went down from 5.5 percent to 4.458 percent, and DOR had to issue $543.2 million in corporate refunds before May 1, 2020.

In 2019, policymakers extended the automatic rate adjustment and refund mechanisms for an additional two years. There was no downward adjustment or refund triggered for tax year 2019-2020 due to decreased CIT collections amid COVID-19. However, for tax year 2020-2021, collections exceeded forecasts such that DOR is set to distribute $624 million as corporate refunds before May 1, 2022. Although these mechanisms expired January 1, 2022, they have already cost Floridians around $2 billion thanks to the CIT rate reduction and refunds. Fortunately, policymakers did not pass any legislation to extend the automatic adjustment and refund during the 2021 session. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if new adjustments will be introduced during the 2022 session.

FPI will oppose any legislation that extends the CIT downward adjustment and refund mechanisms.

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