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467 posts from March 2011

March 21, 2011

Senate's higher ed chairwoman downplays proposed suspension of Florida Prepaid

Sen. Evelyn Lynn said she had wanted only to give the state some “breathing room” when she pitched a controversial proposal last week to close the Florida Prepaid College program to new participants.

Last week, Lynn, the Ormond Beach Republican who heads up the higher education appropriations committee, called for suspending sales of new contracts in the program. She did not say for how long but said she was worried about the state’s guarantee of the contracts and called it a “huge liability.”

On Monday, she added the word “temporarily” to her draft proposal and gushed over the program’s success.

She also released a four-paragraph statement that said she had pitched the idea “to allow the fiscal situation to stabilize and help purchasers be aware of what their current contracts cover and what additional investment products they might need to add to cover the increasing costs of higher education.”

Continue reading "Senate's higher ed chairwoman downplays proposed suspension of Florida Prepaid" »

Miami-Dade mayoral candidates back reforms

Three of the leading candidates for Miami-Dade County mayor threw their support Monday behind an eight-point reform plan proposed by billionaire businessman Norman Braman, who led the successful recall of former mayor Carlos Alvarez, as the race for a new mayor picked up steam and county commissioners tried to regain their footing after last week’s stunning recall vote.

Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and former state legislator Marcelo Llorente all signed a pledge authored by Braman in which they promised to push for a raft of changes in how county government operates. The proposals include eight-year term limits for commissioners on a board that’s long lacked turnover; a ban on outside employment in exchange for a salary increase; reducing the commission from 13 members to nine, and creating two at-large districts to foster a more regional approach on a dais filled with commissioners often criticized for being too parochial.

Full story from Matthew Haggman and Martha Brannigan here.

Movers and Shakers: Gov. Scott filling out administration

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has hired veteran Florida political strategist Sally Bradshaw. Bradshaw told the Herald/Times that she is joining the Barbour campaign and will be doing work for his political committee. "If he becomes a presidential candidate I'll work for him here," she said. A native of Greenville, Miss., Bradshaw, 45, was former Gov. Jeb Bush’s top political adviser for more than a decade and in 2008 worked on the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Shane Strum, the chief of staff for former Gov. Charlie Crist who has stayed on to help with Gov. Rick Scott's transition, has been named vice chancellor of business development at Keiser University.

Tallahassee insiders form communications consulting firm
Robert Sparks and Rich Ramos have partnered to form Ramos & Sparks Group, a Tallahassee consulting firm specializing in communications and strategic planning. Sparks was previously communications director for the Republican Party of Florida. His public-sector experience includes working for the Department of Environmental Protection and Crist when he was attorney general and governor. Ramos worked for former U.S. Rep. Ray McGrath, R-NY, Charter Schools USA and  the Broward Republican Party as executive director. He formed Global Strategies Consulting after serving as Crist's policy director in the attorney general's office and leading the Council on Efficient Government.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, who lost to tea party candidate Allen West, joined Holland & Knight's public policy regulation group as a partner. He will work in offices in South Florida and Washington, D.C., the firm announced last week.

Scott picked corporate head-hunter Elaine Jordan for a new position in the governor's office: director of personnel and appointments. Before taking the state job, Jordan was managing director of Fiderion, a management-consulting firm specializing in executive search and advisory services, and a senior associate with Korn Ferry, another executive search firm.

Scott knocked off two agency head appointments Monday: Dr. Frank Farmer will be the state's surgeon general. The role makes him the state's chief medical officer and gives him control of the Department of Health. Scott also announced that Liz Dudek, interim secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, will keep her job.

Scott named two women to the Governor's Mansion Commission last week. Susan H. Mullican, 51, a community volunteer and consultant for the Carlise Collection, will finish the term of Carol Price, which ends in September. Kathleen C. Rooney, 55, will succeed Mary Ellen Stipanovich. Her term ends Sept. 30, 2014.

Send your personnel announcements to ksanders@sptimes.com.

House won't do gov's prop tax cut but will ask voters to do it

A move to give all Florida property owners a deeper property tax cut continued to gather steam in the Florida House Monday as a committee voted to put the measure on the ballot as early as 2012.

The bill, approved by the House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee, would give commercial property owners and those with investment homes in Florida, a tax break that would match the one residential property owners now have under the Save Our Homes provisions of the state constitution.

If approved by voters, the maximum increase in the assessed value of commercial and non-homestead property would go from 10 to 3 percent. First-time home buyers would get a one-time $200,000 tax credit and all other homeowners would not see their taxes rise unless their property values increased.

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Thrasher's 'paycheck protection' bill moved to be heard by his committee

Senate President Mike Haridopolos notes, almost every time he talks to the media, that all bills hitting the Senate floor will go through three committees to show the openness of the Senate process. But that can make for some tricky maneuvering in getting controversial bills to the Senate floor. Take SB 830, Sen. John Thrasher's 'paycheck protection' bill. The bill squeaked through Community Affairs 5-4 with hearings still to go in Budget and Government Oversight and Accountability.

Getting through the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee -- with Republicans like Jim Norman (who already voted against the bill), Mike Fasano and Jack Latvala -- might have been even more difficult.

Luckily for Thrasher, the bill isn't going there anymore. It's third committee is now Rules. Who chairs that committee again? That'd be Thrasher.

First Miami-Dade mayoral candidate debate set

The Latin Builders Association will be hosting a debate Friday in Miami between the top hopefuls to replace recalled Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez and former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente will appear at the LBA's meeting at the Big Five Club. The event begins at noon, with the program beginning at 1 p.m.

The debate will happen a day after county commissioners are scheduled to discuss setting a special election, likely in May, for voters to pick a successor for Alvarez and recalled Hialeah-Miami Lakes Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

One more signs up for presumed Hialeah state House race

The dominoes are falling quickly in the aftermath of last week's recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas.

Under the assumption that Republican state Rep. Esteban Bovo of Hialeah will jump in the race to replace Seijas, not one but two hopefuls declared their candidacies Monday for Bovo's seat. We already have two posts up, here and here, on one candidate, Rafael Perez.

We just heard from the second, Jose Oliva, who said he filed Monday for the race. (We have not been able to reach a third candidate, Francisco J. Lago, for comment.)

Oliva, a cigar business owner, had submitted paperwork to seek state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera Miami-based seat next year. But Oliva lives and works in Hialeah, in Bovo's district.

"My business is in the district, I met my wife here, we got married here, we live here...My intent has always been 110," Oliva said of Bovo's district. He previously put in the paperwork for a different district, he said, "so that I could begin to establish myself."

A former Hialeah Housing Authority Commissioner, Oliva briefly ran in 2005 for the city commission seat being vacated by Julio Robaina, now the Hialeah mayor seeking Alvarez's former county post. But Oliva dropped out of the race before the election, citing personal reasons.

Budget tidbits. DCF, the biggest loser. Docs the biggest winners

In the parade of horribles that is the Senate’s health budget (gutting services to transplant patients and the aged and disabled, whacking reimbursement rates to hospitals and homes for the developmentally disabled), one series of cuts stands out: The Department of Children and Families.

Compared to the current year, DCF suffers the biggest bottom line cut of $396 million, with 1,089 positions lost.

Senate health budget chairman Joe Negron said that doesn’t mean 1,000 people will lose their jobs, and points out that at least 300 jobs in just one subsection of DCF’s budget are unfilled. Still, some people will be out of work.

Overall, Medicaid spending (and therefore the Agency for Healthcare Administration) is probably getting the biggest cut of nearly $1 billion, but it doesn’t readily appear in the budget because enrollment in the program is up. As a result, AHCA’s bottom-line budget actually grows by $393 million.

In all, the entire health proposed budget weighs in at just under $28.4 billion, slightly less than next year. The cuts are everywhere: mental health, nursing homes, pharmacy services, county health departments, Medicaid HMOs, hospitals….. But, Negron said, he wanted to spare doctors because they’re the core of the Medicaid program and they’ve had rates steadily reduced over the years.

Continue reading "Budget tidbits. DCF, the biggest loser. Docs the biggest winners" »

Fla. House hopeful has ties to David Rivera

Rafael Perez, the former Marco Rubio aide we mentioned in an earlier post about candidates lining up to replace state Rep. Esteban Bovo, also has ties to U.S. Rep. David Rivera.

Perez was most recently in the news in our story last year about old attacks plaguing Rivera, a Republican former state representative and now congressman from Miami.

In his first Florida House run, Rivera was involved in a curious collision on the Palmetto Expressway with a truck carrying his opponent's attack ads. Rivera said the accident occurred as he was trying to retrieve a batch of his own mailers from the truck -- an account disputed by the mailing company's current owners.

Perez, a former Rivera campaign aide, told The Herald he picked up Rivera's mailers from the truck on the highway, but he could not recall any more details about the incident. Perez said the same thing Monday, after he announced his own House run.

"It wasn't that significant," he said of the incident. "I can't even remember what the mailer was about."

Perez said he was a volunteer -- "a peon" -- and did not think his involvement in the incident would be used against him in his upcoming race.

One other candidate has filed so far for Bovo's seat: Francisco J. Lago, chief of staff to Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, an early supporter of Gov. Rick Scott.

Union dues bill headed for House floor

Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, on Monday sold his bill that would prohibit payroll deduction of union dues for public workers and require annual approval to use dues for political purposes as one that will "empower" union members. That claim prompted derision from union leaders and Democrats, but the bill was approved by the Republican-heavy House Appropriations committee. It now heads to the House floor. Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.

Dorworth said he doesn't believe governments should be in the business of handling payroll deductions for union dues. That can be taken care of by private vendors, he said. And the written approval for political expenditures, he said, gives individual union members control over how their money is spent.

Democrats criticized the move as politically motivated and a waste of time.

"How many jobs is it going to create? How is it going to reduce our deficit? What is the public good that's going to be served by this bill?" asked Franklin Sands, a Democrat  from Weston who earned applause for calling Dorworth's proposal a "union busting" bill.

House Democratic leaders Ron Saunders from Key West pledged to make a stink about the politics at play when the bill comes up for debate on the House floor. "Why are we here on a bill that is supposedly to protect union members and not a single union member has spoken in support of it," Saunders said. "I don't see the reason for this bill." 

Indeed, as has happened as the proposal has been discussed in recent weeks, several union members exprssed outrage and disgust for the measure.

"I don't know who everyone thinks the union is. The union is the membership. They vote to take positions. They vote to spend their money on things. And if they don't want to, they opt out of it," said Lisa Henning, legislative director for the state Fraternal Order of Police. The bill, she said, "is a true blue attempt at shutting us up."

Others called attention to the bill's staff analysis, which concluded it would be more difficult for unions to collect dues.