Day trips to Everglades National Park and low-cost flood insurance are two indirect casualties of the partial federal shutdown that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. today.
A partisan showdown on funding the Affordable Health Care Act turned into a government shutdown overnight, with the fed shuttering all but essential services .
Tuesday, Oct. 1, marks the start of fiscal 2014 for local, state and federal governments. Because GOP and Democratic leaders failed to adopt a spending bill, hundreds of thousands of non-essential federal workers are now furloughed.
Just what does the shutdown mean for residents of Tampa Bay?
• U.S. mail, VA hospitals, the National Hurricane Center and air traffic control will continue to run as usual. But national sites, such as Everglades National Park and even NASA, will be closed to visitors.
• Property owners enrolled in the subsidized National Flood Insurance Program will see their rates go up starting today. An amendment to stop the rate increase was included in the House spending bill, which stalled in Congress. Flood insurance rates will be based on the certified elevation of homes and whether they are in high-risk areas for flooding.
More news this morning:
• Texting while driving is now illegal. A new statewide law that bans texting while driving also goes into effect at the start of the new fiscal year. Starting today, it is illegal to tap out text messages on your cell phone while you’re behind the wheel. Florida becomes the 41st state to adopt the measure.
It is important to note that texting while idling at a traffic light is not illegal. In addition, drivers cannot be pulled over solely for texting while driving. An officer must have stopped the driver for other reasons and observed the illegal activity to issue a citation.
Teen drivers are being targeted for a low-budget ad campaign, with schools in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties putting up signs and printing T-shirts telling students “No texting while driving. It’s the law.” At Canterbury School of Florida, young drivers signed a public pledge not to text and drive. Distracted driving is a major factor in fatal accidents among young drivers.
• Health Care Exchanges are open for business. The clash in Congress over funding health reform has not delayed the introduction of the health care exchanges, which opened online today. https://www.healthcare.gov/what-is-the-health-insurance-marketplace/
Individuals and small business owners can go online to view the exchanges and sign up. There also is a call center to handle questions.
Want to check out the exchanges? Just go to https://www.healthcare.gov/families/
Under the banner of Health Insurance Marketplace, there is the following message:
"Enroll now in a plan that covers essential benefits, pre-existing conditions, and more.
Plus, see if you qualify for lower costs." There is a big green button that folks can click on to apply.
People have until Jan. 1, 2014, to enroll. The exchanges are targeted for Americans who are uninsured or under-insured. If you already have insurance through an employer, are enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, or are a veteran, you will not need to go through the exchanges for your health care.