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23 posts from April 10, 2013

April 10, 2013

Arcade owners hire constitutional lawyer Bruce Rogow, prepare for legal challenge

Just hours after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law legislation that immediately outlawed machines operated by Internet cafes and senior arcades in Florida, more than 100 members of the Florida Arcades Association met in Pompano Beach with constitutional law expert Bruce Rogow and prepared to take the state to court.

"I think that there is probably no choice but to file a lawsuit," Rogow told the Associated Press after the 4 p.m. meeting called by Gale Fontaine, head of the arcades association.

Rogow said he believes that in their haste to give law enforcement additional tools to crackdown on illegal machines at Internet cafes throughout the state and maquinitas parlors in Miami, lawmakers also targeted arcade operators with vaguely-worded language that he considers arbitrary and irrational.

"It's not that they made these machines illegal; they just had to slow them down and hobble them,'' Rogow told the Herald/Times on Wednesday.

Rogow, an attorney based in Fort Lauderdale, said he believes there are several flaws in the law Florida lawmakers passed in reaction to the federal and state probe into Internet cafes operated by Allied Veterans of the World.

Continue reading "Arcade owners hire constitutional lawyer Bruce Rogow, prepare for legal challenge" »

Marco Rubio dines with President Obama

Sen. Marco Rubio is headed to dinner at the White House.

A frequent critic of President Obama's, Rubio accepted an invitation to dine with the president and a handful of other Republicans. It's the second time since the election Obama has reached out to Republicans.

The New York Times said Obama asked Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia to put together the invite list, which includes Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Thune of South Dakota.

--Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

A peek at CorcoranCare, the FL House's Rubio-flavored alternative to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion


As many as 150,000 low-income Floridians could get state subsidies to afford private insurance under a new plan Florida House Republicans plan to unveil Thursday as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

Maximum future pricetag to state taxpayers: as much as $300 million, two sources indicated. However, a third source said that estimate is high and would likely be lower once the legislation is drafted.

Under the proposal, pushed by future House Speaker Richard Corcoran, childless adults and disabled people receiving Social Security Insurance could receive about $2,000 annually from the state as long as they pay a $25 monthly premium.

Continue reading "A peek at CorcoranCare, the FL House's Rubio-flavored alternative to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion " »

Rep. Daphne Campbell to press: Nevermind

To speed up the political process, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to highlight a bill she's sponsoring that expands the authority of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order the involuntary committment of a patient who could hurt themselves or others under the state's Baker Act.

Under current law, a physician, police officer and counselor can commit someone who might be mentall ill, but not nurse practitioners, who have additional training and education, Campbell said.

 "A police officer on the street can Baker Act a patient and not a nurse practitioner, who has two licenses?" said the Democratic legislator, who is a registered nurse but not a nurse practitioner. "They're well, well educated."

Continue reading "Rep. Daphne Campbell to press: Nevermind" »

Senators agree to change hospital Medicaid formula

For the past week, safety net hospitals have blasted the Senate's formulas for reimbursing hospitals under a new Medicaid payment system. Today, senators begrudgingly approved the new formula while vowing to change it during the budget process.

Four South Florida senators voted against SB 1520: Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables. It was approved 35-4 after an hour of questions and debate.

"I think many of us standing up questioning the bill we’re trying to defend our public hospitals, I know I am," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

Members will get that chance starting next week as the House and the Senate work together to iron out a budget compromise. Safety net hospitals have said they prefer the House's formula for the new payment system, known as diagnosis-related groups or DRG. This is one of the few areas of the budget where the House and the Senate have taken markedly different approaches.

Safety net hospitals, including teaching and children's facilities, would earn $136.5 million less in the Senate's proposal compared to the Houses, according to the most recent analysis by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate's proposal gives for-profit hospitals $42.3 million more compared to the House's.

Amy Maguire, a vice president at St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital, said she was encouraged to hear both Republicans and Democrats says the Senate's formula needed changes.

"I think they're in recognition now of the impact this would have on hospitals, especially our high Medicaid providers and children's hospitals," she said.

Lawmakers raise hella-cash while calling for increase in campaign-finance donation limits

@MarcACaputo via the News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 10, 2013.........As the House and Senate consider changing Florida's campaign-finance laws this spring, they are debating whether to increase a longstanding $500 cap on contributions to political candidates.

But new records show that many incumbents are doing just fine collecting $500 checks.

Already preparing for the 2014 --- and, in some cases, the 2016 --- elections, incumbents raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions during the first three months of the year. Contributions particularly poured in shortly before the March 5 start of the legislative session, as incumbents are barred from raising money during the session.

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Miami Dolphins' stadium renovation will go to voters


The Miami-Dade County Commission approved Wednesday asking voters to raise hotel taxes for a renovation of Sun Life Stadium, a $289 million payout that Mayor Carlos Gimenez said breaks new ground in how government subsidizes sports facilities.

The decision sets up what the county elections chief said would be the fastest referendum ever held by Miami-Dade, with voters on May 14 considering a plan that was released in detail late Tuesday. The urgency is driven by the contest between Miami Gardens and Santa Clara, Calif., for Super Bowl 50, which the National Football League awards no later than May 22.

“I want the public to understand that for the most part, they’re getting their money back,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district houses the stadium. “That is unheard of.”

After nearly five hours of discussion, commissioners cast two votes: one to set the special election, and the other to give conditional approval to the stadium renovation deal.

Voting for the referendum in a 9-2 vote were Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime, Dennis Moss, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata. Voting against were Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Xavier Suarez. Vice-chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioner Audrey Edmonson were out of town and absent from the meeting.

The vote for the deal was 8-3, with Zapata switching to “no.”

That vote is tentative, pending voter approval and two additional commission votes to hike the hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent. The second of those votes, which Sosa said would take place after May 7, would include the first and only public hearing in the County Hall commission chambers.

More, with Douglas Hanks, here.

House to unveil Medicaid expansion alternative Thursday

The Florida House will detail its long-anticipated alternative to Medicaid expansion some time Thursday, Rep. Richard Corcoran said today.

The Times/Herald caught up with the Land O'Lakes Republican after he finished a 15-minute meeting with Gov. Rick Scott. Corcoran said he shared concepts of the House plan with Scott, but this was just one of a series of meetings the two men have had over the past eight weeks.

"He is very knowledgeable of the direction we're heading," Corcoran said.

Corcoran declined to provide specifics about the House plan or say whether it would qualify for federal dollars set aside for states that expand Medicaid or create other eligible plans for the uninsured.

During the meeting, he and Scott also talked about improving access to health care, lowering costs and improving quality. "There are few people you can talk about health care that are more knowledgeable than the governor," Corcoran said.

Truth-O-Meter explores: Did Frederica Wilson prompt the FAA to reverse course?

When the budget sequester started in March, the Federal Aviation Administrationannounced that it would soon shutter 149 airport towers nationwide.

Enter U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the South Florida Democrat best known for her sequined hat and matching ensembles. Wilson is also famous for her passion -- whether speaking out for inner city children, Haitian refugees, or, in this case, air traffic controllers facing layoffs.

On April 4, Wilson held a press conference to protest the threatened closing of the North Perry airport in Pembroke Pines. Wilson gave a rousing speech -- sometimes over the noise of airplanes flying overhead -- against the FAA’s plan.

Wilson said fighting the sequester was "the civil rights movement of 2013 ... It's going to hurt people, people will die, people will suffer, people will lose their homes, people will lose their tax break."

The next day, the FAA announced that it would delay closures slated for Florida and other states until June 15. Lots of politicians expressed relief including U.S. Reps Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores.

But Wilson’s press statement had a different tenor: she took credit for the FAA’s decision though only for the airport in Pembroke Pines:

"Congresswoman Frederica Wilson successfully postpones closure of the North Perry airport tower," announced the headline.

The press release continued: "Following the Congresswoman’s month-long campaign to save the tower, which included fact finding, speeches, official requests, and legislation, Congresswoman Wilson was notified, this morning, by FAA officials that the tower had been granted a temporary reprieve from closure...."  

There is no dispute that Wilson fought the closure and a day after her press conference, the FAA announced the closure delay. But should she get credit here for prompting the FAA to act? Read PolitiFact's analysis.

House Democrats firmly against budget, for now

House Democrats have agreed to oppose Speaker Will Weatherford's budget because it does not including Medicaid expansion dollars. That could change once the Republican leadership unveils its plan for helping Florida's uninsured.

There are many indicators that it's coming soon: the House committee studying the health care law just scheduled a meeting for Monday, Chairman Richard Corcoran got a last-minute meeting with Gov. Rick Scott today, and details have begun to leak.

Depending on the details of the health care proposal, Democrats may be willing to support the budget, Minority Leader Perry Thurston said today.

"We've got to do something, but to answer your question we're always willing to continue to discuss," Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said.

As of now, Democrats are saying the House budget needs to include a plan that makes Florida eligible for more than $50 billion over the next decade. The Senate has two proposals on the table, one that includes the federal money and another that does not. 

Although the details of the House alternative have not been released, Weatherford has indicated he would not support a plan that draws down all of the federal money.

Continue reading "House Democrats firmly against budget, for now" »