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373 posts from February 2012

February 28, 2012

Marlins stadium bill causes rift, threats among Miami Republicans in House

Likely to face another Republican in a tough political race this fall, Rep. Ana Rivas Logan went rogue Tuesday, challenging other Miami Republicans over a contentious Marlins parking garage issue. Before making the maverick move, she received a threatening phone call at home warning her not to file her amendment, she said.

She filed the amendment anyway, attempting to delete language from a bill intended to shield the city of Miami from having to pay $1.2 million in taxes on the parking garages at the new stadium.

“This language is unconstitutional and throws the towel at a poorly executed agreement between the city of Miami and the Florida Marlins,” Logan said. “To have the Florida Legislature to get involved in this issue--a very local issue--is not just wrong, but it's politically incorrect.”

Continue reading "Marlins stadium bill causes rift, threats among Miami Republicans in House" »

Genshaft: USF Poly would be accredited more quickly under BOG path

Contrary to what Sen. JD Alexander has been saying around the state Capitol, separate accreditation for the University of South Florida Polytechnic under USF could not happen by July. A more realistic expectation is probably a year and a half at the earliest.

That was the message USF President Judy Genshaft brought back Tuesday from Atlanta, where she and other state higher education leaders met with the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Splitting USF Poly away from the school immediately would prolong the accreditation process even more, Genshaft said, by at least three years. And in that case, at least the first cohort of the new university's students would have to graduate from a non-accredited institution.

“We asked if there were any other models that we knew of,” Genshaft said. "And there were no other models that she brought up."

Genshaft scheduled the meeting with SACS long before the Senate voted to immediately split off USF Poly from the main campus. A priority for powerful Senate budget chairman Alexander, that proposal was slipped into a budget bill and approved 35-4 last week. 

It veers away from the USF Poly independence track already laid out by the Florida Board of Governors, which made separate accreditation a prerequisite. It also required that the school have an enrollment of 1,244 students with half of them in science, technology engineering and math, and complete at least two of the buildings on its now empty campus site.

Until told differently, that’s the path Genshaft is following. It’s also the path that’s preferred by Gov. Rick Scott, who would need to sign off on Alexander’s bill, pending approval by the House, before it becomes a reality.

Big money flows on workers comp bill

There may be few issues in the Florida legislature this year where the nexus between campaign money and public policy is more intertwined than a proposal (HB 511 and SB 668) to trim workers compensation costs by limiting what doctors can charge for dispensing repackaged drugs to workers comp patients. It's not dead yet, but the measure that Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty says would save Floridians at least $62-million annually, has met stiff opposition in the Florida Senate.

Helping lead the fight against the measure is Miramar-based Automated Healthcare Solutions, which does a lucrative business selling software to help workers comp doctors dispense medication. The company and its myriad affiliates have funnelled at least $625,000 to Republican legislators and political committees this year, including more than $370,000 to the Florida GOP. In the prior election cycle it gave more than $2-million, overwhelmingly to Republican legislators and political groups.

It's possible Automated Healthcare executives simply want to support the Republican agenda, of course. But it's curious that a similar repacked drug reform bill before the Hawaii legislature has also hit a road block after it was buried by a Democratic state Senator there who had received $35,000 in contributions connected to Automated Healthcare Solutiuons.

"Outside of the palm trees, sandy beaches, and salutary climate, there are some eerie parallels between Florida and Hawai'i, specifically the early and aggressive lobbying - and political contributions - of companies and individuals profiting from physician dispensing," workers comp consultant and frequent critic of Automated Healthcare wrote recently on his Managed Care Blog

Legislators reject 'anti-free market' Medicaid push by GOP contributors

A proposal to force Florida hospitals into contracts with Medicaid managed care plans was defeated on two fronts in the House and Senate on Tuesday, despite a push by two of the state’s most politically connected HMO operators. 

The proposal, to require all hospitals to be part of a managed care plan's network, was tucked into House and Senate bills by House and Senate leaders at the urging of lobbyists for Miguel Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners in Coral Gables, and Akshay Desai, chairman and CEO of Universal Health Care Group, Inc, is the new finance chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Desai has contributed more than $735,000 to state and federal Republican campaign committees, including $92,000 since June. In January, Fernandez gave Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign $125,000. 

Continue reading "Legislators reject 'anti-free market' Medicaid push by GOP contributors" »

Without some help, proposal to overhaul assisted living facilities could die

Efforts to reform how the state regulates assisted living facilities could be dead for this session if Senate leaders don’t do something about it.

A subcommittee adjourned Tuesday without taking up SB 2074, which increases state oversight of these facilities. A second Senate proposal is also stuck in committee, and no more meetings are scheduled after Tuesday.

That means unless procedural actions are taken on the Senate floor to revive either proposal, changes won’t happen this year. The efforts to reign in assisted living facilities result from a Herald investigative series called "Neglected to Death.”

Continue reading "Without some help, proposal to overhaul assisted living facilities could die" »

Rick Scott applauds Obama

Usually a reliable critic of the president's job performance, Gov. Rick Scott offered Barack Obama a compliment during his visit to the White House with other governors Sunday.

The reason? Obama's announcement last week that he will seek to lower the corporate tax rate.

"Allow me to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate your recent proposal to reduce the corporate income tax rate to help spur private sector job creation," Scott wrote in a Sunday letter.

The rest of the letter will be familiar to Scott trackers, as he details Florida's tax-reducing, job-creating advances during his first year at the helm. He mentioned the letter in an interview with national radio host and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett on Monday.

Read it here.

‘Frustrated’ Grimsley says budget talks have collapsed with Senate

The budget talks between the House and the Senate are suddenly in bad shape and the question is whether the 2012 session is headed for a meltdown.

After what appeared to have been a productive weekend of discussions, the lines of communication have “gone very quiet,” according to Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who’s leading the budget talks for the House.

Grimsley said conversation with Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales,  her counterpart in the Senate, was nearly non-existent on Monday, a crucial day for the negotiations.

Continue reading "‘Frustrated’ Grimsley says budget talks have collapsed with Senate" »

1Miami's back in D.C. Will they get a meeting this time?

They're back. A delegation that traveled to Washington unsuccessfully in December to land a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio will try again.  

The South Floridians, led by the community organization, 1Miami, didn’t get their meeting in December, although they were able to meet with Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson. But they're trying again, to "demand that Senator Marco Rubio begin serving the regular people of Florida instead of powerful corporate interests and the wealthy."

Their aim is to meet with Rubio and talk to him about the challenges they've faced as a result of the recession. Many are unemployed, underemployed or working parents who are struggling to care for their families while critical programs were being cut, 1Miami spokesman Jose Suarez said in an email. 

"We were very disappointed that Senator Rubio would not give us a moment of his time after we traveled all the way from Miami to Washington. Many of us shared his hometown, his Cuban-American heritage and beliefs he pledged during his election. Most in the group had voted for him," Suarez said.

He added that they will "continue to call out politicians until they stop ignoring the people in favor of the powerful few."

Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez to push commission on term limits, more charter reforms

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is geared up Tuesday to throw his weight behind eight-year term limits for county commissioners as he pushes an agenda of economic development and government reform in his first state-of-the-county address.

Gimenez will urge commissioners to place a term limit question on the November ballot or alternately support a citizens’ petition drive to get the issue before voters.

Other key reforms Gimenez said he will push for are making the county inspector general and the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust more independent — especially regarding their budgets — to protect them from meddling.

The 10 a.m. Tuesday event at County Hall — typically an affair flush with pomp and circumstance and drawing hundreds of community leaders to the Commission chambers — will provide Gimenez with a powerful platform to tout his accomplishments and to lay out his vision going forward.

Gimenez appears to have enjoyed his frenetic eight months as mayor since his special election last June to fill the vacancy created by the historic recall of Carlos Alvarez. He faces another election in August, vying with Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and a slew of others. More from Martha Brannigan here.

Jeb Bush foundation helps shape Florida education policy

When Sen. David Simmons needed his colleagues’ support on the education budget last week, he dropped a powerful name on the Senate floor.

“I had a conversation last week with former Gov. Jeb Bush in which we discussed this and his support of it,” Simmons said of the provision to spend $119 million on reading programs at low-income schools.

The name comes up more than you might think. The former governor, who served from 1999 to 2007, still plays a significant role in shaping state education policy.

This session, Bush and his nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Florida’s Future, have helped to fast-track a stream of legislation that could reset the education equation in Florida. The bills, moving steadily through both the House and Senate, could gradually shift the financial and competitive advantage away from traditional public schools to private schools and charter schools, which are often managed by for-profit companies. Other proposals push virtual-learning initiatives.

Read more here.