FILE - Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee, Fla.

A proposed constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level has become the third possible 2020 ballot measure to qualify for a Florida Supreme Court review.

Florida Decides Healthcare, Inc., the political committee sponsoring the prospective ballot measure, submitted 81,690 valid petition signatures to the state Division of Elections to qualify for the review.

State law requires petition drives to collect 76,632 signatures from verified Florida voters to trigger a Supreme Court review. If justices sign off on the proposal’s language, supporters must then submit 766,200 signatures by Feb. 1, 2020, to get it on the ensuing November’s ballot.

The prospective constitutional amendment’s ballot summary reads: “Requires State to provide Medicaid coverage to individuals over age 18 and under age 65 whose incomes are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level and meet other nonfinancial eligibility requirements, with no greater burdens placed on eligibility, enrollment, or benefits for these newly eligible individuals compared to other Medicaid beneficiaries. Directs Agency for Health Care Administration to implement the initiative by maximizing federal financial participation for newly eligible individuals.”

Florida Decides Healthcare’s listed chairperson is Whitney Untiedt, an attorney who leads Miami-based Freidin Brown’s “Whistleblower/Qui Tam” [pro bono] practice, and listed treasurer is attorney Kenneth R. Hartmann, a partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Coral Gables.

The initiative was approved for circulation in December. As of April 30, its campaign contributions and spending amount to $493,328 in in-kind services.

Since 2014, states have been allowed under the Affordable Care Act [ACA] to extend Medicaid to residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. While 42 states to varying degrees have opted to do so, Florida has rejected the prospect, choosing to fill “coverage gaps” with Section 1115 waivers.

Five states expanded Medicaid this year, or will do so in 2020, as a result of actions in previous years. Four did so by ballot – Idaho, Nebraska, Utah in 2018; Maine in 2017 – and one through legislation last year, Virginia.

The only state legislature to consider expanding Medicaid under the ACA this year was Kansas, where the measure failed to meet a 60-percent approval requirement by one vote in the state senate.

About 4.5 million Floridians are covered by Medicaid, including about 1.78 million who are enrolled in the federal health-insurance exchange offered under the ACA, according to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services [CMS] as of last December.

In 2014, the Florida Policy Institute said extending Medicaid coverage to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level could provide health insurance to as many as 567,000 Floridians.

Also reaching preliminary thresholds for the 2020 ballot is a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 and by an additional $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour on Sept. 30, 2026.

Led, and primarily financed, by Orlando attorney John Morgan and his law firm – who led the 2016 petition drive that resulted in the constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana – the Florida For A Fair Wage political action group passed the signature threshold in March and received its Supreme Court review in April.

As of May 31, it had garnered 225,832 signatures. As of April 30, it had received $1.454 million in campaign contributions.

The other is a prospective “energy choice” ballot measure that would grant customers of investor-owned utilities the right to choose their electricity provider and to generate and sell electricity.

Sponsored by Citizens for Energy Choices, the measure secured the necessary signatures for a Supreme Court review in January.

However, on March 1, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody petitioned the Supreme Court to determine if the proposed measure’s summary is misleading and if it complies with the state's single-subject rule. No ruling has been issued.

As of May 31, Citizens for Energy Choices had garnered 289,835 signatures. As of May 28, it had received $2.275 million in cash contributions and $120,779 in in-kind contributions.

There are 20 petition drives qualified by the Division of Elections to collect signatures for prospective 2020 ballot measures. At least three more may soon qualify for Supreme Court review.

Florida Citizen Voters, which seeks to change the state Constitution from “every” qualified citizen can vote to “only” a qualified citizen can vote, has secured 75,413 signatures.

Sensible Florida, Inc., has collected 64,573 signatures in its attempt to get a recreational marijuana legalization ballot measure before voters in 2020.

Ban Assault Weapons Now’s drive to get a measure banning “assault weapons” on the ballot has collected 60,838 signatures.