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175 posts from June 2013

June 25, 2013

Jackson Health System board seeks $830-million bond referendum for hospital upgrades


The board that runs Jackson Health System on Monday voted to ask Miami-Dade commissioners to call a special election in November asking voters to approve an $830 million bond to pay for renovations and equipment upgrades at the taxpayer-owned hospital system.

The request from the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson came as something of a surprise, since it was not on the agenda prior to the meeting, but was added at the last minute by Darryl Sharpton, the board’s newly appointed chairman.

Though the resolution approved by the board did not mention a specific dollar amount, Sharpton said the hospital system needs a cash infusion of between $700 million and $1 billion to improve facilities, which include the main hospital in Miami’s civic center and satellite hospitals in North Miami Beach and South Miami-Dade. A spokesman for Jackson said the amount requested would be $830 million.

“We’re at a crossroads,’’ Sharpton said at Monday’s meeting of the seven-member board. “We have to do something drastically different or risk being irrelevant.’’

More here.

June 24, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Fort Lauderdale attorney becomes Florida Bar's first African-American president

Eugene K. Pettis will be sworn in as the 65th and first African American president of the 96,000-member Florida Bar at its annual convention Friday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Pettis, a civil trial attorney, is a founding member of Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. He joined the Bar's Board of Governors in 2005 and has served on the Board of Governors’ executive committee.

Pettis attended Stranahan High School and received both his bachelor’s degree and law degree from the University of Florida.

West Palm Beach attorney Gregory W. Coleman will become president-elect of the Bar during the Friday assembly as well. A partner with Burman, Critton, Luttier & Coleman, he becomes president of the Bar in June 2014.

Coleman, who is a Miami native, received his  bachelor’s and law degrees from Stetson University. He served this year on the Bar’s Board of Governors’ Budget, Communications and Program Evaluation committees.

Florida health trade group seeking new CEO

The Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc., a trade association representing Florida’s health plans,  has formed a search committee to replace Michael Garner, the association’s president and CEO.

Garner is resigning after nearly five years with the association to become vice president of government relations with Amerigroup Florida, Inc., as part of an expanded government relations team. His resignation is effective July 2013.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Federal judge delays sentencing of convicted Miami-Dade candidate linked to David Rivera


Justin Sternad, a convicted Miami-Dade congressional candidate whose Democratic primary campaign was suspected of being run behind the scenes by former Republican Rep. David Rivera, was set to portray himself as a “pawn” of others at his scheduled sentencing Monday for violating campaign finance laws.

But the judge postponed the sentencing until Sept. 23, after asking the government what other cases Sternad is helping them make as part of his cooperation agreement. The prosecutor did not want to publicly disclose that information, so the parties had a private conversation with the judge before she delayed the proceeding. Rivera’s name was not publicly mentioned.

Sternad, the political newcomer who has become a key FBI witness in the federal case against Rivera and his friend, Ana Alliegro, does not implicate the pair in a court filing in which he seeks a probationary sentence for his crime. But his lawyer, in the filing, emphasizes Sternad’s minor role in the suspected campaign plot by Rivera and Alliegro to undermine the Democratic bid of the congressman’s eventual rival, Joe Garcia, who beat Rivera in the 2012 general election.

“Justin Sternad is not a bad guy,” his defense attorney, Enrique “Rick” Yabor, wrote in court papers.

More here.

Gov. Scott signs 'landmark' foster care legislation

Gov. Rick Scott signed the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act Monday -- for the second time.

Scott initially signed HB 1036, which gives kids the option of staying in foster care until age 21, on June 14th, but Monday's ceremonial signing gave supporters a chance to celebrate a bill advocates call "landmark legislation." 

"This is the most important bill the governor will have signed all year. It immediately impacts the lives of thousands of children and I don't see a bill that's more important than that," said Senate sponsor Detert, who attended the signing at Valencia College in Orlando with House sponsor, Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, Florida's Advocate for Foster and Adoption Tanya Wilkins, children's advocates and current and foster care youths from all over Florida.

Along with giving young adults the option of staying in foster care, the new law requires a transition plan be made for those who are leaving the child welfare system. 

“This new law will ensure kids entrusted in our care have the best start possible into adulthood and provide them the opportunity to obtain the life skills necessary so they may live the American Dream,” Scott said.

About 70 percent of teens in foster care have not graduated high school or received their GED by the time they "age out" of the system.

Continue reading "Gov. Scott signs 'landmark' foster care legislation" »

U.S. Sugar, Realtors, others fortify Scott's campaign fund

While Gov. Rick Scott was in Paris last week promoting Florida as a destination for aerospace jobs, his re-election campaign fund was getting a sizeable infusion of money from sugar growers and others.

From The News Service of Florida:

Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee posted $695,447 in contributions from 91 sources during the time he was highlighting the state to foreign aviation interests as part of Enterprise Florida's trade mission to the Paris Air Show. The Tallahassee-based committee supporting Scott has drawn more than $6.6 million since the start of the year, with $1.27 million coming since the start of June.

In 2012, the group collected $4.79 million and Scott, who spent more than $70 million on his 2010 campaign, has yet to actually open his own campaign account for 2014 although he has announced he's running. The campaign committee money gives Scott an early edge over any Democratic challenger.

As for the contributions posted last week by "Let's Get to Work," $127,750 came from health-care interests and $308,798 from individuals and groups tied to real estate, development, banking, consulting and legal interests.

U.S. Sugar, one of the major agricultural businesses in the Everglades Agricultural Area, planted $100,000 into the account. The U.S. Sugar contribution came in the wake of Scott's May 28 signing of a bill (HB 7065) that alters the Everglades Forever Act by designating $32 million a year for the River of Grass' upkeep. U.S. Sugar supported the compromise bill.

The Florida Realtors PAC dropped $75,000 into the fund, FCCI Services of Sarasota was good for $50,000 and St. Petersburg designer Ronald Wanek, Arcadia consultants KT Brightwaters LLC, the Campaign Account of Carlton Fields, Palm Beach developer Howard Leach and St. Petersburg developer Mel Sembler each gave $25,000. Scott recently gave a "Great Floridian" award to Sembler's wife Betty.

-- Steve Bousquet

UPDATED Dolphins owner Stephen Ross begins campaign vs. Miami lawmakers who opposed stadium deal

@PatriciaMazzei IMG_2743

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hinted at political revenge last month against the Florida House of Representatives lawmakers who stood in the way of a proposed renovation to Sun Life Stadium. It didn't take him long to follow through.

Last week, voters in three districts received fliers attacking state Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, Carlos Trujillo and Michael Bileca, three Miami Republicans who opposed the $350 million stadium redo that would have been partly funded by public dollars. The mailers were sent by Florida Jobs First, a new super PAC created by Ross, Politico reported Monday.

The political action committee will support Republican Gov. Rick Scott's reelection next year and play a "nonpartisan" effort in other Florida races, according to Politico. The governor all but endorsed the Dolphins' proposal.

Ross, a billionaire real-estate developer, is a longtime GOP fundraiser. But he was incensed at some in his own party who blocked the stadium legislation during this year's session, chief among them House Speaker Will Weatherford. The legislation was required to allow Miami-Dade to ask voters whether public money should be spent on the stadium upgrades. 

IMG_0729The night that the session ended without a House vote on the Dolphins bill, Ross blasted Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican. Ross claimed Weatherford had pledged a floor vote. Weatherford denied it and cited a split Miami-Dade delegation on the bill as a principal obstacle in its passage.

Continue reading "UPDATED Dolphins owner Stephen Ross begins campaign vs. Miami lawmakers who opposed stadium deal" »

June 21, 2013

'Are you fat?' 'Are you ugly?' Video captures exchange between Hialeah mayoral candidate, rival's supporter


With election season approaching in Hialeah, a familiar character in the city's cast of political players has already started stirring the pot.

Glenn Rice, a former Hialeah cop who often appears with the mayor in public, harassed mayoral candidate Juan Santana at his home Thursday morning. Santana is challenging current Mayor Carlos Hernandez's re-election bid.

In a video Santana took as he confronted Rice, who was standing on the sidewalk taking his own cellphone video, Rice is shown calling Santana fat, cursing and mocking his candidacy.

 "This is disgusting," Rice said, looking at Santana's house. "How can you represent the people of Hialeah?

Rice, who worked on Hernandez's last campaign, said Santana's home has several code violations. When Santana pressed Rice about whether he was a city employee, Rice would not answer. Once Santana said he was going to call the police, Rice backed off and said he was planning on leaving anyway.

Neither man could be immediately reached for comment.

Watch the video below.


After Herald/Times report, Division of Blind Services introduces new staff, reforms


The state's Division of Blind Services has hired a new director and installed tough rules for bidding out contracts, pushing back on nonprofit groups that previously could charge taxpayers $2,000 for a phone call and $58 per hour to drive to a blind person's house.

The changes virtually eliminate the free reign by groups that get state dollars to serve blind people, banning them from contacting Blind Services staff about contracts and revising rules to prevent the state from getting overcharged.

Now anybody can bid for the opportunity to provide services, and an impartial contract specialist will decide who offers the best services for the lowest cost. Previously, only Lighthouse for the Blind groups and a few other vendors had access to no-bid Blind Services contracts, and critics say the groups named their own price.

Continue reading "After Herald/Times report, Division of Blind Services introduces new staff, reforms" »

Back home, Scott brags of Heat win at Texas' expense

A jet-lagged Gov. Rick Scott arrived back in Florida Friday after a week-long trade mission in France, drumming up business at the Paris Air Show. With his wife Ann at his side, Scott met briefly with reporters at Tallahassee Regional Airport.

For Scott, the Miami Heat's NBA champinship victory in Game 7 of the finals Thursday was even better because it came at the expense of a team in Texas, the home of Scott's alter ego, Gov. Rick Perry.

"It's great that they beat the Spurs and it's especially even nicer that they beat a Texas team," Scott said. "I haven't talked to Gov. Perry yet but I'm going to make sure he knows how that score came out."

Scott touted the planned move by a French firm, Vision Systems, to establish a U.S. base in Melbourne with about 40 jobs, as well as a Virginia aerospace firm, firm, ATR North America, that plans to add 40 jobs in Miami Springs.

He sidestepped several questions about his search for a lieutenant governor, the latest Quinnipiac poll numbers that show slight improvement in his popularity, and about whether he'll sign a bill that bans people with mental health issues from getting guns. "We're still reviewing it," Scott said of the bill (HB 1355).

Scott's next trade mission is planned for November, when he plans to go to Japan.

-- Steve Bousquet

Putting the unemployment numbers into context: 'hole is deeper than it looks'

Governor Rick Scott returned today from his trade mission to France and was greeted with good news: the statewide unemployment rate for May 2013 dropped to 7.1 percent, the lowest rate since September 2008 and down 0.1 percentage point from April’s rate of 7.2 percent.

That means Florida's jobless numbers are below the national average, which went up to 7.6 percent in May.

But the devil is always in the details and the governor's press release doesn't include a few shades of gray. Those came out on Wednesday when the state's top economists at the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, a non-partisan arm of the Legislature, issued its latest Economic Overview. Here are some stats straight from the report: Download FlEconomicOverview_6-19-13 

The good news:

Continue reading "Putting the unemployment numbers into context: 'hole is deeper than it looks'" »