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13 posts from February 5, 2013

February 05, 2013

Trauma study's key recommendation: moratorium on new centers

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong wouldn't say whether or not he's ready to support any of the "key recommendations" from a committee of national experts that studied the state's trauma system. And he particularly avoided saying whether or not he would support imposing a moratorium on establishing new trauma centers or granting full status to existing ones, as the committee suggested.

“We’re going to review all these recommendations and determine how we can continue to move Florida’s trauma system forward," he said when we asked him about the moratorium.

Later in our conversation, we asked him again about the recommendation from the committee representing the American College of Surgeons and if he felt he had the power to impose a moratorium if he agreed one is needed. 

"The Department of Health is going to review these recommendations and determine how we can move forward based on what the system consultation team has shared with us," he said. "Obviously, in the review we will understand what processes we have at our disposal to move forward with these recommendations."

Click here to read more about the review committee's recommendations.

Miami mayoral candidate to hold Tallahassee fundraiser

Money and support are rolling in for Miami mayoral candidate Francis Suarez.

On Wednesday, Suarez heads to Tallahassee for a 6 p.m. fundraising event at Clyde's and Costello's.

The host committee includes six Republican state representatives from Miami-Dade: Frank Artiles, Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz, Manny Diaz Jr., Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo, according to the email invitation. Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Tampa Bay-area Republican who has been tapped to become speaker in 2016, is also on the committee. (Oliva is also in line to become speaker.)

Suarez, 35, is challenging incumbent Mayor Tomas Regalado in the November election. Suarez has already raised about $500,000 through his electioneering communications organization, The Future is Now. Regalado has amassed about $160,000.

Soto plans amendment to stop 'revolving door' of investigators to companies under investigation

Remember the tweet that roared -- the one that prompted Attorney General Pam Bondi to appear at a Senate committee meeting? The issue will return. State Sen. Darren Soto has filed an amendment to the Senate ethics reform package to be voted on in the Senate Community Affairs Committee Wednesday that would revive his proposal to end the revolving door of lawyers and investigators who leave the attorney general's office and go to work for the companies they had investigated.  Download 02.05.13 amendmentdraft35850 - Integrity of Investigations in CA (1)

Soto, D-Orlando, and two other Democrats filed the proposal last year but it never got a hearing. The proposal is aimed at stopping the practice that came to light after attorneys working for former Attorney General Bill McCollum went to work for companies that specialized in foreclosure law and services that were the subject of an attorney general's investigation.

"Right now, the attorney general doesn't have the authority to stop those folks because of Florida Bar rules,'' Soto said. 

Continue reading "Soto plans amendment to stop 'revolving door' of investigators to companies under investigation" »

Alex Sink: Florida's new male-centric business brand is 'terrible'

FloridaClimateforBiz_LogoFormer CFO Alex Sink is weighing in on the state’s new proposal to rebrand itself for business, calling it “terrible” and joining a growing list of critics who are slamming the orange-tie imagery as sexist.

Here’s what Sink posted on Facebook this afternoon:

Did you see this? http://bit.ly/YB9rnx What a terrible way to brand our state. We are diverse. We are modern. And we won't stand for our state to be portrayed as having a stuffy, outdated climate for business. Share this photo if you agree and let your friends and family know that we are the state of innovators and entrepreneurs. Ditch the tie and join us. DitchTheTie_AlexSink

Sink, who fell 60,000 votes short of becoming the state’s first female governor in 2010, was defeated by Gov. Rick Scott.

Last week Scott hailed the orange tie image as “a brand that will solidify our reputation to the nation and the world.”

Enterprise Florida is standing by the brand, even as it deals with a barrage of controversy in recent days, starting with its decision to outsource a $200,000 Florida branding contract to a Tennessee-based company. When the new business brand was unveiled, several businesswomen slammed it as sexist, because it was anchored on the image of a necktie. On Tuesday, a watchdog group blasted EFI for engaging in “pay-to-play” cronyism and “corporate welfare” through its multimillion-dollar incentives program. Lawmakers are also looking to crack down on incentives, and EFI has been defending them as proven investments in economic development.

Sink is one of a handful of potential 2014 challengers to Scott, who is facing dangerously low poll numbers.


Jackson Health System, Kendall Regional battle over trauma, in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee

Kendall Regional Medical Center lost one battle in the trauma wars Tuesday at the Miami-Dade County Commission, but has launched a new attack in Tallahassee, asking state regulators to reject a Jackson Health System request that Kendall maintains would force it to close its trauma center.

With about 100 supporters packing commission chambers wearing red T-shirts saying “Kendall Trauma Saves Lives,” Commissioner Javier Souto asked his colleagues to reconsider a Jan. 23 resolution, passed 10-0, authorizing Jackson to take legal action to protect its trauma programs.

Jackson has been complaining that its Ryder Trauma Center has been losing about $28 million a year since the state allowed Kendall Regional to open a second Dade trauma unit in November 2011. State regulators, meanwhile, have delayed granting licenses for trauma centers at Jackson North and Jackson South hospitals.

Souto said his office had been bombarded by 4,000 emails complaining that the commission had acted hastily in granting Jackson legal approval. “A big chunk of people are very offended.”

Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said many of the “thousands” of emails he received quoted a Kendall executive as saying that the commission resolution was intended to “force Kendall to close its trauma center.”

“That’s a lie,” Diaz said. The commission simply gave Jackson an ability “to defend itself.”

The motion to reconsider died on a 6-6 vote.

Mark McKenney, medical director of the Kendall center, issued a statement calling the commission vote “a shame.” During his center’s first 15 months, “we have seen more than 2,550 trauma patients. ... Kendall Regional is dedicated to providing care to a community of 2.5 million people that, as the seventh most populated county in the U.S., has been greatly underserved. The facts are clear about the need for trauma services, and we will continue to fight to provide these vital medical services.”

Meanwhile, the fight at the state level continues.

House Republicans open up new line of attack on Scott's teacher pay plan

Despite calling Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $74.2 billion budget “thoughtful” and “fiscally sound”, Florida House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel said the varying ways it provides raises among different groups of employees is raising concerns of fairness.

Scott is recommending giving each teacher a $2,500 across-the-board pay increase. For non-supervisory state workers, he is recommending an across-the-board bonus – not a permanent pay raise – of $1,200. Depending on the type of evaluations they get, these employees could receive an additional $2,500 or $5,000. Corrections workers, because of a drop in prisoners who return upon release, would get increases of between $500 and $1,000.

“It seems to treat different employees differently,” said McKeel, R-Lakeland, during Tuesday’s meeting with Scott’s budget director, Jerry McDaniel. “And we have consternation about that.”

Afterward with reporters, McKeel went further criticizing the proposed compensation, which is one of the budget’s key platforms.

“There are three different ways, and I’m concerned if that’s a defensible mechanism for dealing with employee pay,” he said.

That’s apparently a new line of attack for state Republican lawmakers, who initially opposed Scott’s hike in teacher pay because every teacher received it. They prefer hitching teacher pay to SB 736, which was the first bill Scott signed as governor and was championed by Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is now House Speaker.

The bill eliminated teacher tenure and added a merit pay plan tied to student achievement on standardized tests.

McKeel said told reporters Tuesday that “clearly, we think that merit is a viable solution.”

But the fairness doctrine – should all employees get the same type of pay increase – appears to be a new concern.

McDaniel explained Scott’s rationale for the pay. The raises for the corrections officers is for the drop in recidivism. Scott likes merit pay for state workers. And teachers, McDaniel said, deserve a pay raise because they just do, striking a note of support for teachers that would have seemed unimaginable two years ago when Scott cut lower education by $1.3 billion.

“He believes that one of our most valuable assets are our teachers,” McDaniel said. “They spend more time with our children than many of our parents do. He believes, across the board, they are underpaid. They make an average of $45,000, and they spend inordinate amounts of time, not only in the classroom but in their homes and on weekends, preparing for classes and spending time with students in terms of remediation.”

In reversal, Miami-Dade commissioners back reinstating 14 early-voting days -- not just nine

Miami-Dade commissioners did an about-face Tuesday and decided to ask the state for two full weeks of early voting days in future elections — five more days than the board had requested in December.

The latest reversal on voting came after Gov. Rick Scott’s administration called for 14 days of early voting — a flip by the Republican governor, who had refused to extend the pre-Election Day ballot-casting period last year, leading to long lines.

In the wake of the election, and the outrage of many Miami-Dade residents who waited more than six hours to vote, some commissioners wanted to advocate for 14 days of early voting, the period that existed in 2008.

But Mayor Carlos Gimenez and a majority of commissioners argued that request would not pass muster with the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, which had reduced the number of days in the first place. They asked the state only to restore voting the Sunday before Election Day instead.

“I’m not sure that you’re going to get 14 days out of the state Legislature,” Gimenez said in December.

Then the tide turned in Tallahassee.

More here.

Rev. Richard P. Dunn is not impressed


Upon learning that five pastors endorsed his opponent Tuesday, the Rev. Richard P. Dunn II took a cue from Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney.

“Five pastors? That’s it?” said Dunn, a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Miami City Commission. “I’m not impressed.” (Maroney was famously unimpressed by her silver medal at the 2012 Olympics.)

Dunn is challenging sitting Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones -– and plans to file a lawsuit questioning her eligibility. He says Spence-Jones should be banned from running because she has already held the seat twice. The Miami city charter limits commissioners to two terms.

“Term limits are for a reason,” Dunn said. “Even our beloved president can only serve two terms.”

Continue reading "Rev. Richard P. Dunn is not impressed" »

Dolphins get unanimous support for stadium tax deal in first Senate hearing

The Miami Dolphins started off the legislative season 1-and-0 in their attempt to get lawmakers to approve a multi-million dollar deal to upgrade its 25-year-old stadium.

Lawmakers in the Florida Senate Commerce Committee gave unanimous support to a bill that would clear the way for higher hotel bed taxes and a new sales tax rebate to help fund a $400 million renovation of the Fins’ digs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, has cleared its first hurdle, but it still faces an uphill climb. There will be several more committee stops and the bill also has to clear the Florida House, where Braynon acknowledged that there’s still some heavy lifting to do.

“In the Senate, I don’t think that we’re going to have as many problems as we’re going to have in the House,” he said.

The bill would allow the Dolphins to collect an annual $3 million in sales tax rebates from the state for 30 years, as well as millions more in new bed taxes.

Several stakeholders came up to Tallahassee to support the bill at its first committee hearing, including Miami Gardens mayor Oliver Gilbert,  SunLife stadium CEO Mike Dee and Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President Bill Diggs.

All supporters pitched the same message: This tax deal is a smart economic move for the state, and would lead to Super Bowls, college championships and other major tourism events. 

Continue reading "Dolphins get unanimous support for stadium tax deal in first Senate hearing" »

Sen. Bob Menendez one-time aide might benefit from company of FBI-investigated donor

A former aide to Sen. Bob Menendez might benefit from a major overseas port deal that’s supported by the powerful Democrat and is tied to a South Florida donor whose offices were raided last week by the FBI.

The one-time aide, Pedro Pablo Permuy, is a key official in the security firm ICSSI, according to a defender and relative of Dr. Salomon Melgen, an investor in the company.

Melgen is under FBI scrutiny, partly for his relationship with the New Jersey senator, who ran afoul of Senate ethics rules by once taking freebie flights on the eye-doctor’s plane to the Dominican Republic.

In the fallout of the criminal investigation, Permuy has become tight-lipped and denied being a board member or employee of ICSSI, according to an email he sent the New York Times on Monday night. Permuy refused to return calls or emails to the Miami Herald.

Continue reading "Sen. Bob Menendez one-time aide might benefit from company of FBI-investigated donor" »