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8 posts from September 27, 2013

September 27, 2013

Campaign for $830 million Jackson hospital bond plans $2,500-a-head fundraiser


Bigwigs from Miami's business elite will host a posh fundraising reception next month for the campaign for $830 million in public bonds for the Jackson Health System.

The Oct. 9 reception, at the Star Island home of CEO Stuart Miller, suggests a contribution of $2,500 per person to benefit Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade. That's the political arm of Jackson's Nov. 5 ballot initiative.

Carlos Migoya, Jackson's chief executive, will be the featured guest at the shindig.

"This will be the only fundraising event that our campaign, Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade, will be holding with Carlos Migoya," fundraiser Brian Goldmeier wrote in an email sent with the reception invitation.

The deep-pocketed list of reception hosts includes real-estate movers and shakers, lawyers, physicians and business executives.

Jackson's political campaign officially kicked off last week, though fundraising began over the summer. Migoya has said the committee has already raised more than $1 million -- usually considered the minimum for a countywide campaign in Miami-Dade -- though finance reports won't be submitted until next month.

Council on Economic Education, bankers advocate for "money course"

Should students statewide be required to take a semester-long course in financial literacy?

The Florida Bankers Association, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Florida Council on Economic Education think so -- and they hope state lawmakers will agree.

The groups held a press conference Friday to build support for a so-called "money course."

"Our economy depends on the ability of young Floridians to responsibly manage and grow their money into adulthood," said Mike Bell, of the Florida Council on Economic Education. "Requiring the money course to be taught as a half-credit course in high school will keep Florida competitive and grow our economy."

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public high schools to teach financial literacy principles in their economics courses. The bill, SB 1076, also required state education officials to consider creating a separate, one-half credit course dedicated entirely to the topic.

Experts, including state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, got together to discuss the idea in August. The state Department of Education is currently drafting recommendations.

The Florida Council on Economic Education says a "money course" is the clear way to go.

The council found that students in states with required financial literacy courses were more likely to save money and pay off their credit cards.

What's more, said Bell, the "money course" would be economical.

"There is a ready availability of partners, resources and trainings so that a course in financial literacy, the money course, can be implemented at little to no cost to local school districts," he said.

Rick Scott not ready to push Marco Rubio to back House flood-insurance rate fix


Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t sound ready to ask U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to change his position and back a U.S. House flood-insurance measure to temporarily halt hefty rate increases starting Oct. 1

Scott referenced the House measure in a letter last week to Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson, who then proposed legislation to delay rate increases for a year. But Rubio didn’t go that far in a Thursday response, where he expressed his concerns, but faulted the House proposal.

When asked Friday about Rubio’s response, Scott said “my concern is for our economy, our families and our state.” He mentioned the issue was discussed this week at the Florida Cabinet meeting with St Petersburg’s mayor, Bill Foster.

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UF Online, a Weatherford priority, gets the OK


University of Florida's online institute, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, will launch in January now that the state governing board has signed off. The center, called UF Online, will begin by offering seven bachelor's degree programs, all of them fully via the Web.

Read more on The Gradebook.

Former North Miami Beach lawmaker dies

@CTeproff @NadegeGreen

John Patrick Julien, a former North Miami Beach council member and one-term state house representative, was an independent thinker and fiscal conservative. A registered Democrat, critics often accused him of being a Republican at heart.

He died Friday from cancer. He was 50.

Julien, who was first elected to the North Miami Beach council in 2005 and served in the House of Representatives from 2010-2012, was in hospice care in Hollywood with his family and friends by his side when he died.

“He fought a hell of a battle,” said his best friend, former North Miami Beach council member Robert Taylor.

Julien started having stomach pains and by early September it was unbearable, said Taylor. He spent Labor Day weekend in the hospital and doctors found he had tumors in his stomach and liver.

As a North Miami Beach councilman, Julien wasn’t afraid to shoot down ideas he thought didn’t make fiscal sense, even if it meant sounding like a Grinch.

More from Carli Teproff and Nadege Green here.

In Miami, leftover elections cash helps cops


In a light moment during last week’s budget hearing, Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez conceded dropping out of the mayor’s race ultimately helped the city — financially.

As commissioners scrambled to find money to help restore lost police benefits, an unexpected $500,000 windfall appeared: cash set aside for a November mayoral runoff.

When Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz identified the money, Suarez weighed in, almost whispering.

“I get half the credit for that,” he said.

“You know what, I do thank you for getting out of the race,” Ortiz replied.

Suarez’s comment drew chuckles at City Hall.

It also put a grin on the face of Mayor Tomás Regalado, the beneficiary of Suarez’s exit from the race last month.


Lawyers urge Sen. Marco Rubio to green-light South Florida federal judgeship


Hundreds of lawyers offended by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s blocking of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William L. Thomas’ nomination to the South Florida federal bench have signed a petition urging the conservative Republican to allow the first openly gay black nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.

Rubio, who along with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson recommended Thomas to President Barack Obama almost a year ago, now says the jurist is not qualified because of his mishandling of a couple of DUI and murder cases.

But the signers of the petition, led by Miami attorney David Tucker, say Rubio has unfairly distorted Thomas’ record as soft to pander to the Tea Party and other GOP right-wingers.

“Judge Thomas would be a tremendous asset to the bench and community,” the petition reads. “He brings years of legal and judicial experience to the court. The time to act is now and therefore we request that Senator Rubio put politics aside and immediately issue a ‘blue slip’ allowing for Judge Thomas’ nomination process to move forward.”

Rubio’s hold on the so-called blue slip is the only barrier to Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearing.

Several media outlets, including the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Huffington Post, have opined that Rubio’s flip-flop on Thomas — rated “majority well qualified” by the American Bar Association — is motivated only by partisan politics because he was skewered by conservatives for backing immigration reform.

But Rubio is not budging.


Weatherford blasts Obamacare tax penalties on Fox News

Another day, another Florida lawmaker on Fox News attacking the Affordable Care Act. Last week, it was Attorney General Pam Bondi, who expressed concerns about enrollment advisors paid to help people find insurance. This morning, House Speaker Will Weatherford focused on the taxes and penalties associated with the health care law

"They said they weren’t going to raise taxes, but Obamacare is the largest tax increase on the American people and there are numerous taxes," the Wesley Chapel Republican said right out of the gate.

Politifact has rated similar statements before, each time ruling them false or even "pants on fire."

Weatherford elaborated later in the interview, looping in higher insurance premiums as he repeated his "biggest tax increase" claim. Later, his spokesman Ryan Duffy cited this piece by conservative columnist Merrill Matthews to back the speaker's claim up.

For the most of the three-minute interview, Weatherford talked to host Brian Kilmeade about several provisions intended to provide the federal government revenue to pay for new health care choices and benefits.

For example, he called the so-called "Cadillac" tax on high-cost employer health plans "ridiculous." The tax is intended to encourage employers to chose cheaper coverages and spend their savings to boost employer pay, meaning more income for the federal government. Some unions and other large employers say it's forcing them to chose less benefit-rich insurance plans to their workforce.

Weatherford also criticized the medical device tax, caps on flexible spending accounts and the law's tanning tax -- which resulted in a reference to MTV's now shuttered reality show "Jersey Shore."

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