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16 posts from February 6, 2013

February 06, 2013

Dade delegation leaves Dolphins stadium off list of 2013 priorities

The Miami-Dade delegation of state lawmakers decided not to list the Miami Dolphins stadium deal among its legislative priorities for this year.

During a Wednesday meeting to plan out legislative goals for 2013, the Dolphins’ proposal was not even brought up, several members of the delegation said.

“The Dolphins bill is one of many member bills that was not discussed," said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami. “Not one legislator moved to make the Dolphins bill one of our priorities.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens and Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, would provide the Dolphins with a multimillion-dollar tax deal to help fund a $400 million renovation of SunLife stadium.

The measure cleared its first hurdler earlier this week with a unanimous vote in the Senate Commerce and Tourism committee.

It’s not clear whether the delegation’s decision to not prioritize the Dolphins stadium will affect the bill's chances of making it through the Legislature. The Dolphins deal already faces long odds in the Miami community because of the much-maligned Marlins deal that left taxpayers on the hook for a new baseball stadium near Little Havana. Miami-Dade County commissioners and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce have thrown their support behind the project.

Diaz said the delegation decided to focus on broader issues like education, property insurance rates and funding for Jackson Memorial hospital.

“These are the things that our constituents want us to concentrate on right now,” he said. 


Sen. Bob Menendez went to bat for FBI-raided donor over Medicare over-billing

While Politico talks about Sen. Bob Menendez's pushback on the "smears" against him, The Washington Post breaks the news that he went to bat for the South Florida eye doctor whose office was raided by federal agents:

Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday.

Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.....

Menendez, who became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month, is under scrutiny because of his close relationship with Melgen. The doctor donated more than $700,000 last year to Menendez’s reelection campaign and other Senate Democrats. And when Melgen needed help with a port security contract in the Dominican Republic last year, Menendez urged U.S. officials to press the country to carry out the multimillion-dollar agreement.

More here

In the battle over eye doctors, senators take lobbyist out for a 'thank you dinner'

The setting was a private room at Shula's 347 Grill on Wednesday, arguably the swankiest venue in Tallahassee, and the dinner list included six senators and head of the optometric association and its lobbyist.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, sponsor of a bill to give optometrists the ability to prescribe oral medications, joined five of his Senate brethren for what they described as a social "thank you" dinner. The lobbyist: Dave Ramba. The client: Dr. Kenneth Lawson, a Bradenton optometrist and head of the Florida Optometric Association. The check? Paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.

Among the guests: Senate Majority Leader Lisbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, Sens. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Anitere Flores, R-Miami, Aaron Bean, R-Ponte Vedra Beach and Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.

"This is just a legislative thank you for their fundraising,'' Benacquisto said, when a reporter reminded her that any talk of legislative business would render it an open meeting.

Continue reading "In the battle over eye doctors, senators take lobbyist out for a 'thank you dinner' " »

Charter bill makes it easier to establish new schools, more regulations for existing ones

Today, the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee voted along party lines to approve a massive charter school bill that has already drawn the ire of school districts and Democrats.

The bill’s components can generally be divided into two themes: new regulations intended to rein in problematic charter schools (we’re looking at you, North Star High School in Orlando) and regulations that make it easier to open and operate charter schools. 

Here an overview of some of what the bill, currently known as PCB 13-01, accomplishes based on the amended language approved during today’s meeting:

Continue reading "Charter bill makes it easier to establish new schools, more regulations for existing ones" »

Lawmakers ask AHCA to tweak new Medicaid formula for hospitals

Saying they want teaching and safety net hospitals to come out as winners instead of losers, members of the Senate’s Health Policy Committee have asked to state to provide more options for implementing a new Medicaid payment system for hospitals.

The new diagnosis-related group payment model, or DRG, was developed by the Agency for Health Care Administration to replace the current cost-based system starting in July.

For-profit hospitals are the biggest gainers under DRG as it currently stands, and several senators said that shouldn’t fly.

Committee Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said he wanted AHCA to run new simulations that redirects about $50 million in Medicaid spending so that is is once again funnelled to teaching hospitals. Gov. Rick Scott has set that money aside in his budget to be allocated to teaching hospitals separately, but senators said they want the money in the Medicaid formula because they worry a separate line item would be subject to the whims of future elected officials.

“That hits all of the safety net hospitals that incorporate teaching physicians how to be future doctors, which is important to everybody,” Bean said. “That’s the big one.”

But others asked for even more changes.

Continue reading "Lawmakers ask AHCA to tweak new Medicaid formula for hospitals" »

Marco Rubio to rebut President Obama's SOTU in English and Spanish

Marco Rubio won’t just give the Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s state of the union speech on Tuesday night.

The Florida Senator will give two.

One in English. Otro en Español.

It’s the first time such a high-profile speech will be given in two languages by the same person, and it’s a sign of how crucial the Rubio has become in the GOP efforts to draw more Hispanic support and rebrand the party.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family’s dreams come true in America,” Rubio said in a written statement.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio to rebut President Obama's SOTU in English and Spanish" »

Daily Caller: FBI probe of Sen. Bob Menendez moves from Miami to NJ

From the Daily Caller, a conservative website:

Two FBI sources have told The Daily Caller that the bureau’s inquiry into Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is now based in New Jersey, not Miami. One added that pressure is mounting from the highest levels of the Justice Department to pursue the investigation.

The change of focus away from the bureau’s Miami field office indicates that the government is focused primarily on Sen. Menendez — and not on his longtime donor Dr. Salomon Melgen, as political observers have speculated.

Menendez is embroiled in a scandal sparked by allegations that he slept with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

More here

What Univision’s alleged-hooker story didn’t say about Sen. Bob Menendez

When Univision interviewed a woman it suggested was named in a prostitution scandal tied to Sen. Bob Menendez, the Spanish-language powerhouse network didn’t disclose how it determined if this woman was even the right person.

It also didn’t note that the Yaneisi Fernandez the network spoke to didn’t match the description of one of the alleged prostitutes.

Turns out, there’s more (or less, actually) concerning Univision and Menendez: Univision Communications Inc. is a member of an organization called the United States-Spain Council, of which Menendez is an honorary chair.

Continue reading "What Univision’s alleged-hooker story didn’t say about Sen. Bob Menendez" »

Rep. Joe Garcia talks immigration on MSNBC

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami, has entered the fray on immigration on Capitol Hill, appearing on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with NBC's Chuck Todd.

“[The Republicans] have evolved [on immigration]. I think this is important,” Garcia told Todd. “We’ve got to find a pathway forward and I think that’s the sticking point.”

For the video, click here

On Monday, he penned an Op-Ed column in the Miami Herald

Committee passes out Ethics Reform bill, delays AG-aimed amendment

The Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously passed the high-priority Senate bill out of committee this morning, only after deflecting some controversy.

The committee adopted an amendment that Ethics Committee chairman Sen. Jack Latvala said was intended to provide more flexibility to city and county officials who want to take a job on the public payroll after being elected to office. One size doesn't fit all, was the argument, and Latvala said the so-called revolving door provision in the sweeping ethics reform was the one issue he's heard the most heat about.

Officials in small cities and counties argued that they often need to take jobs in other branches of government and opposed the blanket ban on post-election employment in a new public job. 

Continue reading "Committee passes out Ethics Reform bill, delays AG-aimed amendment " »