Judge orders feds' response on LIP funding mediation


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A federal court in Pensacola has ordered the Obama administration to respond by noon Tuesday to Florida's request to have its dispute with the federal government over the continuation of Low Income Pool dollars mediated.

In a brief one-page order released Monday, U.S. District Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers said before ruling on Florida's request for mediation the federal government needed to file an expedited response to the request by Tuesday.

On Monday, attorneys for the governor filed a five-page motion with the federal court in Pensacola that, if granted, would require the state and federal governments to go to mediation. Scott's lawyers argue that the mediation is allowable under "home rule."

"Under the circumstances court-ordered mediation would be appropriate to faciliate a decision within a timeframe that allows the Florida Legislature to pass a budget that ensures that state healthcare providers, ranging from trauma centers to children's hospitals receive the funding necessary to provide critical medical services to needy residents," the motion reads.

"By introducing a neutral mediator and insulating the process from extraneous influences, court-ordered mediation could facilitate a long overdue conclusion to these negotiations quickly, equitably, permanently, and -- perhaps most importantly -- constitutionally, and do so in a timeframe that respects, rather than deliberately frustrates, the state's impending budget deadline."

The federal government advised Florida in late May that the state could expect to receive a $1 billion supplemental Low Income Pool program for the 2015-16 fiscal year and, additionally, a $600 million program for the 2016-17 year. The tentative green light for a $1 billion program returns LIP funding to prior year levels but would cut it in half from current year spending.