Beyond Septic Maintenance: a Closer Look at HB 1263

In a recent blog we discussed the signing of House Bill 1263 into law and what the new legislation meant for septic tank maintenance in Southwest Florida. It’s important to us that those throughout the state understand some of the other changes that are on the horizon as a result of this bill. While the majority of the changes are still in progress, and the implication on our budget is expected to be minimal, we’ll outline some of the language of the bill in order to help you best understand what to expect.

In an article from the Florida current website, the Department of Health reorganization was addressed by the recently appointed Deputy Secretary, Kristina Wiggins. According to Wiggins, “We are working with the Department of Management Services and Human Resources. We are going to be working on our position descriptions. Some divisions of the Department of Health will be going away and others will be combining.” In essence, the bill’s changes are focused on streamlining the Department of Health’s functions in order to better serve Floridians.

While the comments from Deputy Secretary Higgins did provide clarification as to the purpose of the DOH reorganization, a closer look at some of the changes addressed in the bill will give us more insight into some of the changes that can be expected. Beyond sewage treatment and disposal changes, which now have a dedicated informational page on the DOH website, House Bill 1263, as outlined in an analysis from the Florida Senate’s Website, will:

  • Amend ch. 391, F.S., governing CMS, to restructure clinical and financial eligibility requirements;
  • Amend ch. 392, F.S., governing the tuberculosis control hospitalization program, to remove the authority for DOH to operate a state-owned hospital effective January 1, 2013. DOH is required to contract with health care providers, including hospitals and other facilities, for treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis patients;
  • Amend ch. 514, F.S., regulating public bathing places and swimming pools, to remove authority for DOH to regulate building and construction and retain its authority to regulate water quality;
  • Amend s. 383.011, F.S., to create a multi-agency organizational structure for the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program to delegate responsibility for development of the electronic benefits cards to the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  DOH is required to establish an interagency agreement with DCF for the management of the WIC program;
  • Transfer the nursing student loan forgiveness program from DOH to the Department of Education;
  • Require the Division of Medical Quality Assurance, which regulates health professions and occupations within DOH, to develop a plan to improve its efficiency.  The bill establishes criteria for the plan, and requires plan submission to the Governor and the principals of the Legislature by November 1, 2012;
  • Remove unused rulemaking authority, defunct programs, unnecessary legislative intent and findings, and obsolete date references;
  • Remove provisions requiring the Legislature to expend funds, which have no effect on the Legislature’s budget decisions in the General Appropriations Act; and
  • Make numerous conforming amendments

There have been many staff changes and title shifts since this bill has become law. Among them, Dr. John Armstrong has been appointed the new state Surgeon General and DOH Secretary. Our main goal is to meet with the new Surgeon General and get a strong commitment from him to place an emphasis on the onsite wastewater section of the bill. We’ll continue to keep our readers informed as we learn more about the DOH reorganization and septic tank evaluation requirements as information becomes available.

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