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373 posts from February 2012

February 28, 2012

Daily Digest for Tuesday, 2/28

Daily Digest for 2/28 [Listen or Download]

[iTunes link]


 Here's what we're watching on Day 50 of the 2012 Florida Legislature.

Five Stories To Think About Today

 * Today marks the last day for committee hearings. By the end of the day, any bills that haven't made it through the committee process will be all but dead. Many proposals, however, will continue flying forward.

* The House will take up a sweeping health care bill, HB 1419, that includes new requirements for hospitals to contract with managed care providers. The lower chamber will also consider a proposal that would let local school boards place advertising on school buses. Any revenue would go back to the school systems.

Continue reading "Daily Digest for Tuesday, 2/28" »

February 27, 2012

Adkins can't add sharing language into charter school bill -- yet

This year's big charter school bill sailed through its last House committee Monday.

Rep. Janet Adkins, the sponsor, had submitted a controversial amendment that would have required school districts to share a portion of their maintenance and construction dollars with some charter schools. The catch: the charter schools would have to meet certain academic and financial requirements.

But Adkins withdrew the amendment at the last minute.

Her reasoning: "I felt it was best to pull back when I had language that was better," she said.

Continue reading "Adkins can't add sharing language into charter school bill -- yet" »

Video: Legislative Update

Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas report on the nearing end of Session from Tallahassee, Fla.


Gaffes, miscalculations toll on Romney after win in FL. MI loss would set off 'panic'

Florida crowned Mitt Romney the unofficial Republican nominee last month. Now he’s on the precipice of losing the race in Michigan, his native state.

What happened?

A better question might be: What didn’t happen?

Romney failed to take his main opponent Rick Santorum seriously this month, giving the upstart room to breathe and time to win three state races in a row. Romney, plagued by gaffes, has failed to sell a consistent a message about why he should be his party’s nominee.

And in a volatile election season, Romney has also had the misfortune of being the victim of what one Republican called “Tea Party roulette,” which has extended the primary race and kept him in the cross-hairs.

“Mitt has had a bulls eye on his back for something like two years now,” said Allan Bense, a former Florida House speaker and co-chair of Romney’s Florida campaign.

“Once the bulls eye is on your back and the mainstream and others examine you and your issues and your history, it isn’t pretty,” Bense said. “Rick Santorum is learning that now. So I think we’ll be okay once voters become educated about the other candidates.”

Bense is among the more confident Romney Florida backers. They’ve watched with dismay as the Sunshine State’s primary failed to be a deal-sealer for Romney in the race.

Last week, the campaign had to postpone a Daytona Beach fundraiser so that Romney could focus on campaigning in Michigan, a state he was expected to win handily. Now he’s essentially tied with Santorum. Polls suggest Romney should win in Arizona. Both states hold their primaries on Tuesday. The two states set up the 10-state Super Tuesday contest on March 6.

“If we don’t win Michigan on Tuesday, we will start to panic,” said one top Romney official, who didn’t want to be on record for talking out of school. “We made a few missteps. We allowed Santorum to win in Colorado, but we only really started campaigning there once it was too late.”

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/27/2664233/mitt-romney-struggles-to-win-over.html#storylink=cpy

Inside baseball over the Marlins stadium could affect two S. Fla. political races

At the epicenter of this week’s latest political moves in South Florida: Parking garages at the new Miami Marlins stadium, and the taxes that may or may not be due on them.

Earlier this month, Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, filed a bill amendment that would exempt Miami from paying property taxes on the Marlins parking garages. Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, is backing the stadium amendment, and he might be tied into this politically as well. Read on. 

Diaz’s likely political opponent in a newly drawn district, Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, R-Miami, has filed an amendment that would delete the stadium language from the bill.

Logan and Diaz are headed for what could be a political crash course to represent the newly-drawn district that includes both Republicans’ turf. Logan said her move to scratch-out Diaz’s amendment was not politically motivated. The bill heads to the floor Tuesday for a hearing.

Continue reading "Inside baseball over the Marlins stadium could affect two S. Fla. political races" »

Healthcare groups ramp up criticism of proposed hospital cuts

A long list of healthcare advocacy organizations have joined together to lobby against proposed budget cuts they say will be devastating to hospitals and have a trickle down effect to Florida families.

Operating as “The Coalition to Heal Healthcare in Florida,” the 64 partners include organizations representing hospitals, medical professionals, educators, and niche groups like the American Cancer Society’s Florida Division.

The coalition’s main focus has been advocating against proposed cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals. These reductions, added to cuts implemented in previous years, could affect quality of care statewide, the group has argued through a series of press conferences, news releases and videos that encourage people to lobby lawmakers to oppose the budget reductions.

Tampa resident Tish West and her 15-year-old daughter Caroline are featured in videos sharing their story of Caroline’s lifelong battle against a rare neurological disease called alternating hemiplegia of childhood. Caroline gets most of her treatment at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital's Chronic Complex Clinic. Her family used Medicaid to supplement their private health insurance as Caroline's hospital bills piled up.

Budget talks underway, informally and privately

Senate and House budget-writers began informal and private talks over the weekend with a mutual goal of resolving all differences in time to end the regular session on time March 9. The clock is starting to be a factor, as it is every session.

"We're working back and forth with the House. We're having a good discussion, making good progress on lots of issues," Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander told senators. Without being specific, he cited a couple of major areas of disagreement "that we haven't quite resolved, but I think they're resolvable."

"Our conversations have been very fluid and ongoing," House Appropriations Chairman Denise Grimsley told reporters. "There has not been any particular hangup ... We're very close on most things."

Two areas of disagreement involve road-building and higher education. The Senate wants to shift $417 million in car and truck tag fees to the transportation trust fund to expand the road building program. That's not in the House budget. Neither is the Senate's one-time use of $400 million from universities' cash reserves for a variety of programs. Nor has the House signed off on the creation of Florida Polytechnic as an independent 12th state university.

Neither side has yet appointed conferees yet -- a necessary step before public negotiations can be held -- and lawmakers have about a week to agree on everything. The state Constitution requires a three-day "cooling-off" period between the time the final budget is agreed upon and the time lawmakers take a final vote, so the budget would have to be done no later than next Tuesday, March 6, for the session to end on time.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos said the weekend talks were general and informal and emphasized he has not held private meetings on the budget with House Speaker Dean Cannon. "The speaker and I are not meeting. We're going to respect the Constitution," Haridopolos said. -- Steve Bousquet

Bill would have taxpayers pay damages for Amtrak crashes in Florida

A 2008 train crash in California’s San Fernando valley drew national headlines for its grim toll: 25 killed, more than 100 injured.

It gained notoriety later when a federal investigation found that the train’s engineer had run a red light after texting. Operators of the train paid $200 million to compensate the victims — the maximum under federal law but only half the total claims.

Under a bill advancing through the Florida Legislature, the state’s taxpayers could be asked to pick up the tab for damages caused by Amtrak even if the operator error was as egregious as in the 2008 crash.

“It’s a horrible public policy,” said Jamie Holland, a Jacksonville lawyer who specializes in railroad issues. “It puts the Florida taxpayer on the hook.”

A similar protection was awarded to CSX, the freight railroad operator, in 2009. Lawmakers made taxpayers liable for potential accidents caused by CSX on the 61-mile SunRail commuter line in Orlando. Story here.

George LeMieux's "Two-and-a-half Macks" video seeks to make Connie Mack a mockery

In the increasingly tough Republican race for U.S. Senate, George LeMieux released a scorcher of a web video that seeks to make Connie Mack an object of mockery for all his past court troubles (Background story here). Two errors stand out:

1) It says Mack "stiffed his lawyer." She said he didn't. He paid her $30,000 tab after she filed a charging lien

2) It says Mack "failed to pay his child support." Actually, Mack was late with a temporary support payment of about $1,700.

Regardless, the web ad could be the precursor to a devastating line of attack by LeMieux, who's fending off Mack for his role as a top advisor to former Gov. Charlie Crist. It also dovetails with a Super PAC's whack at Mack (here). Right now, this is just baseline chatter, something aimed at the news media, donors and activisits. The question: What happens if LeMieux puts money behind this?


Florida insiders skeptical about Marco Rubio as VP

Inside the Washington Beltway and among Republican activists across the country, it often sounds like there’s only one home run pick for vice president — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida....

But what about the politicos who know Rubio best? The latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll found significant skepticism about putting Rubio on the presidential ticket.

"All my optimism about Rubio comes with the caveat that he weather the intense scrutiny he will face as a VP nominee. There are small skeletons in his closet that, if handled properly will remain small. If not, they will be devastating," said on Republican.

Among more than 100 Florida lobbyists, activists, political operatives and fundraisers who participated in the survey, Rubio was most frequently named as the best pick for vice president, regardless of the nominee.

More here