FMHCA 2011-2012 Legislative Wrap-up & Review By Corinne Mixon of Mixon and Associates
Out of the 2,186 bills that were filed in the 2011 Legislative Session, only 295 passed through both the House and Senate to await the approval of the Governor. The vast majority of all bills died and now await another chance in the 2012 Legislative Session should they be re-filed. While not directly effecting FMHCA, a few sweeping measures did pass that will impact all Floridians including, requiring public employees to pay 3% into their retirement, cutting public education funding by $1.35 billion and handing Medicaid over to managed-care.
Below is a recap of several legislative items we followed for FMHCA throughout Session, as well as some information on Redistricting and the 2012 Session.
The bill filed by Senator Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, that would have required a physician to refer a minor to an appropriate specialist for screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder died for the third year in a row. Prior to the FMHCA amendment, Licensed Mental Health Counselors were not listed in the table of “appropriate specialists” alongside psychiatrists, psychologists and neurologists. We were successful in working with Senator Ring to amend LMHCs into the list of appropriate specialists. However, the bill later died due to its fiscal impact.
Senator Ring’s staff has suggested that FMHCA members visit the district office sometime during the summer to discuss the legislation and where we go from here. Mixon and Associates will set up the meeting and will be asking a FMHCA member from the Southeast/Broward area to attend as well.
Another bill relating to autism also died in the final days of the 2011 Legislative Session. The bill sought to create the Autism Spectrum Disorder Study Committee. The focus of the committee would be to address the needs of families - where English is the second language - with members on the spectrum. The bill will likely be back next year, and will hopefully pass. In the meantime, FMHCA has been working toward finding a qualified candidate to join the committee. Only one LMHC, LCSW or LMFT will be approved to take part in the committee if the bill is passed this coming year.
Mixon and Associates will be setting a summer meeting with the Sponsor of this measure, Senator Garcia, R-Hialeah. FMHCA members may ask the Sponsor to offer an amendment that would allow for two or three 491 Licensees included as members of the committee, as opposed to only one.
The bill that sought to make it illegal for health care providers to ask about gun ownership did pass, but it did so without the “teeth” that it once had. The final version of the bill requires that practitioners "refrain" from asking about guns in an ongoing, irrelevant manner, but the measure no longer has a complete ban. LMHCs and other mental health providers are still permitted to talk about guns as long as the discussion is relevant to the care of the individual.
Mental Health Budget:
The mental health and substance abuse treatment programs survived the threat of losing all of their funding. In the late days of Session, the Health and Human Services Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate were forced to negotiate. The House was unwilling to give up its position to fund the programs completely. The Senate eventually conceded.
Hypnosis and Scope of Practice Threat:
Early on in Session a bill was filed that appeared to take away the ability of LMHCs to practice hypnosis or to train others in hypnosis. It also appeared to limit the legality of the practice to psychologists only. The bill was withdrawn soon after it was introduced when several groups, including FMHCA, raised concerns. There was never a staff analysis done on the bill, and therefore the full extent of its impact is not known.
It is possible that the bill will be filed in the coming Session. FMHCA will be meeting with last year’s sponsor, Rep. Diaz R-Miami, to try to see that bill is not filed, or to come up with a compromise which would not limit the scope of practice for Licensed Mental Health Counselors.
Redistricting and 2012 Legislative Session:
Every ten years Florida must redraw the legislative districts. Legislators will be taking public testimony regarding redistricting during the summer, and in the fall will begin holding committee meetings. The 2012 legislative session will start earlier than normal in order to finish redistricting so that candidates have time to qualify for spring primary races. This makes it increasingly more important that we address any legislative priorities early. The 2012 Legislative Session will begin in January rather than March; thus bills will be begin to be introduced in the mid-fall.