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15 posts from October 1, 2013

October 01, 2013

Joe Garcia, House Democrats to move forward with immigration plan

@MarcACaputo

Miami's Joe Garcia looks like he might be taking a leading role in a House Democrats' plan that they'll discuss tomorrow in a DC press conference.

It's unclear what Garcia and unspecified "House Democratic leaders" and members plan to discuss at noon, but the caucus has already started pushing plans now that efforts of a bipartisan group have stalled in the House. Two leaders of that effort were Garcia's Miami colleague, Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez.

If Garcia takes a leadership role, he'll be the third active Miami congressman to tackle the national issue behind Diaz-Balart and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped pass a bipartisan Senate plan that the House refused to consider.

Continue reading "Joe Garcia, House Democrats to move forward with immigration plan " »

Miami-Dade commission allows Obamacare navigators on county properties

@PatriciaMazzei

On the first day that consumers could shop for Obamacare insurance plans, the Miami-Dade County Commission quietly took steps to defy Gov. Rick Scott’s order banning federal coordinators from local health departments.

Commissioners unanimously approved a last-minute proposal Tuesday to allow so-called “navigators” on county-owned facilities. But it stopped short of mandating that the navigators work at county-owned health buildings run by the state.

Instead, the board asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration to review the county’s health-department leases with the state and, over the next 30 days, come up with options to allow the navigators entry to those properties to educate people and help them sign up for insurance.

Commissioners also formally asked the Florida Department of Health, which is under the governor’s direction, to repeal its ban.

In addition, commissioners instructed administrators to draw up a list of county properties, including office buildings, libraries and parks, where navigators could hold activities, and to let navigators use those facilities if they want.

“We have nearly 35 percent of Miami-Dade’s population that’s uninsured,” Commissioner Jean Monestime, who sponsored the measure, said after the meeting. “It’s important to allow these individuals to seek access to healthcare.”

In neighboring Broward County, a commission made up almost entirely of Democrats flouted the Republican governor’s ban last week to much fanfare, ordering county-owned facilities run by the state health department to let the navigators in.

Not so in Miami-Dade, where a commission with a GOP majority treaded more carefully, even though several members called the ban a bad idea. The mayor and commission posts are nonpartisan.

More here.

State Rep. Darryl Rouson hit with $155,000 tax lien

State Rep. Darryl Rouson and his wife failed to pay more than $155,000 in federal income taxes from 2008 through 2010, according to a lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service.

In one of those years, Rouson, a St. Petersburg attorney, made $565,000 working for the powerhouse law firm of Morgan & Morgan.

The IRS lien is the latest setback for Rouson, who recently came under fire from fellow House Democrats for creating a party-related fundraising committee only he could control. His colleagues ousted him as incoming Democratic leader on Sept. 23, the day before the IRS filed its lien in Pinellas County circuit court.

“I don’t take this lightly,’’ Rouson said Tuesday. “I am working with my CPA and my tax attorney, and I’m very optimistic this will all get resolved.

“It’s been a tough summer,’’ he added. 

Continue reading "State Rep. Darryl Rouson hit with $155,000 tax lien" »

Senate leaders put the brakes on release of the final gaming report

UPDATE: Faced with omissions and confusing data in the 464-page draft report on gaming in Florida, the chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee on Tuesday said that legislators will give a month-long extension the Spectrum Gaming Group so that the company can refine the final draft that was due today.

"It’s more important to me that we get an accurate study as opposed to meeting some time deadline,'' said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, in an interview. "My rationale is if this is going to be the foundation we use to seek any policy it ought to be accurate."

Richter's announcement was followed by a letter to all senators by Senate President Don Gaetz, indicating that the delay is not intended to allow Spectrum to change any results of their report but to clarify their economic models.

Continue reading "Senate leaders put the brakes on release of the final gaming report" »

Rubio joins with Dems to seek a solution to flood insurance hikes but they have no plan

Senate_floodpresser2013-10-01_8col@@learyreports

A bipartisan group of senators, including Florida’s Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, said this morning they are seeking a solution that would prevent steep flood insurance rate hikes for homeowners.

But the lawmakers said they do not have a plan and even if they did, the government shutdown complicates things.

“There simply has to be relief and we will pass the relief,” said Nelson, a Democrat. “Now the question is finding the legislative vehicle and opportunity to do that given all of the stuff that is going on in the shutdown of the government.

The senators spoke on the same day the rates hikes are to go into effect. In Florida, 268,000 policy holders could face steep increases.

Continue reading "Rubio joins with Dems to seek a solution to flood insurance hikes but they have no plan" »

Rep. Joe Garcia: 'extremist elements, this Taliban' is blocking budget deal

@MarcACaputo

Looks like the era of conflating terrorism and budget talks isn't going away anytime soon in Congress.

In a speech on the U.S. House floor, Miami Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia called on Republicans to jettison conservative "Taliban," who have insisted on passing a budget resolution that defunds, delays or degrades Obamacare.

The Democratic controlled Senate says it wants a "clean" budget bill. Neither side is budging. So the government at midnight Tuesday started partially shutting down with the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.

"The time has come to put these guys aside," Garcia said, reading his remarks. "We just need our colleagues to step up, push aside these extremist elements, this Taliban."

Garcia's reference is the latest terrorism-related metaphor in the House, where Texas Rep. John Culberson endorsed a GOP plan to fight on by reportedly saying: “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!’” Liberal outrage ensued.

The last time a congressional Taliban reference made news in Florida was in 2010 when Rep. Alan Grayson ran a misleading ad calling Dan Webster "Taliban Dan." Webster went on to win the race, Grayson has since been reelected to another seat.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican Party of Florida took exception with the comments.

“Congressman Joe Garcia's remarks on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, equating some of his colleagues to the Taliban, is reprehensible and disgusting,” RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry said.

“Congressman Garcia needs to apologize to his colleagues and all Floridians.”

Garcia said he wasn’t specifically referring to any congressional member or group in congress.

“I’m not referring to any member. I was talking about extremism,” Garcia said. “If anyone is offended, I’m sorry.... As much as people want to call me a bomb-thrower, look at my record. I’m have one of the most, if not the most, moderate voting records in Congress in the Florida delegation.”

PolitiFact: Gelber says Floridians' paychecks don't go as far today

Gov. Rick Scott is using "gimmicks" to take credit for an economic recovery in Florida, Miami attorney and former state Sen. Dan Gelber writes in an article for the online website, ContextFlorida.

"Scott’s self-congratulatory claims of success simply don’t comport with the harsh facts that for the last decade, Floridians’ salaries have shrunk substantially while the cost of living has increased," Gelber wrote.

First, however, we have to clear up some confusion Gelber created with his statement.

Taken literally, Gelber argues that salaries in Florida decreased over the past decade, while the cost of living increased.

But what Gelber was trying to say is that Floridians’ paychecks don’t go as far today as they did a decade ago. Put another way, salaries "have shrunk substantially" when adjusted for inflation. Inflation is another way of saying cost of living.

 PolitiFact investigates Gelber's claim.

As Obamacare is launched, Bondi back on Fox News to provide help

No one has been more critical of the Affordable Care Act than Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi, so it was perhaps no surprise to find her on Fox News on Tuesday morning -- the first day people could sign up for the subsidized health insurance.

But rather than play her usual role as the law’s main antagonist, Bondi instead sounded no loud alarms about how the law would be detrimental to Floridians. Instead she sounded more concerned about how the law was being implemented during a five-minute interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum.

“There’s still so much uncertainty involved in this,” Bondi said. “And you know the technology is still very very complicated, and whether people can get accurate information about plans available and what federal subsidies exist or they qualify for, that’s yet to be seen -- how they’re able to navigate this.”

Navigate?

It was Florida’s Department of Health that issued an order last month to prohibit navigators from county health departments out of privacy concerns that Bondi has shared repeatedly at Cabinet meetings and on Fox. The federal Health and Human Services Department called the state’s order “another blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups” helping those seeking health care.

And on Tuesday, while Bondi shared her privacy concerns again, she also seemed concerned that the navigators would be able to do their jobs.

“One thing that concerns us still in Florida is we have, it’s been widely reported that there are well over half a million Hispanics who qualify for uninsured and who qualify for this plan, yet the Spanish speaking website isn’t up and running yet,” Bondi said. “So we hope they get that site up and running as soon as possible. I do not know know if any of the navigators speak Spanish. We do have 34 registered navigators currently in Florida. We are a very big state, and again, this is all going to vary from state to state.”

 

Continue reading "As Obamacare is launched, Bondi back on Fox News to provide help" »

Scott blames Obama for congressional inaction on flood insurance

Gov. Rick Scott used the onset of flood insurance rate hikes Tuesday to call attention to the impact a federal law could have on thousands of homeowners who could be locked into their homes because of soaring flood insurance rates.

But at a press conference in Clearwater today, Scott refrained from placing the blame on Congress, which has failed to halt the Oct. 1 effective date of a key provision of the Biggett Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, despite widesperad acknowledgement from the law's supporters that an unintended consequence is harming the real esate recovery. Instead, Scott turned to a familiar line and blamed President Barack Obama.

“We are calling on President Obama to take immediate action to prevent these flood insurance rate hikes on Florida’s families, and families across the state,'' Scott said, according to a press release from his office. "This is unfair and could devastate the Tampa Bay area’s real estate market. The buck ultimately stops with the President. The time for leadership is now.”

Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, called Scott's blaming of Obama "a publicity stunt." Within the hour, Nelson is joining U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), David Vitter (R-La.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D) at a press conference to discuss national flood insurance reform. Rubio has rejected calls for a delay but has said he opposes the rate hikes. 

“Sens. Nelson and Landrieu have succeeded in getting a bipartisan group together that is working on a legislative fix right now,'' McLaughlin said. "We have told Gov. Scott it would be less of a distraction, and more of a help, if he would contact members of his own political party that are blocking action in Washington.  His request of the president should be seen for what it is – a publicity stunt.” 

 

 

Scott and Bondi file suit over Georgia's water use

Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi followed through on their threat to sue Georgia over its water use that they blame for decimating Apalachicola's oyster industry. Here's the release:

Florida Takes Historic Legal Action Against Georgia in Fight to Save Apalachicola Bay

TAMPA, FL – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that the State of Florida has filed suit against Georgia to stop its unchecked and growing consumption of water that continues to harm the families of Northwest Florida. 

Governor Rick Scott said, “Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia’s unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Georgia’s over-consumption of water threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region.  Generations of Florida families have relied upon these waters for their livelihood, but now risk losing their way of life if Georgia’s actions are not stopped. Through this historic legal action we are fighting for the future of Apalachicola Bay and its families. After 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia, this is our only way forward in securing the economic future of Northwest Florida.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "I am proud to join Governor Scott in this fight to protect Florida's fair share of water from Georgia's over-consumption, which is devastating Apalachicola Bay's ecosystem."

Florida and Alabama have each sought relief from harm caused by reduced flows and increased Georgia consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins over the past 20 years through legal challenges, without success.  Florida now proposes to address the problem squarely – an Original Action filed with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking injunctive relief against Georgia’s unmitigated and unsustainable upstream consumption of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint River Basins. 

Apalachicola River water levels are impacted by withdrawals from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at all times. The Metro-Atlanta area primarily obtains its water from the Chattahoochee River, with withdrawals totaling 360 million gallons per day. Georgia’s consumption is expected to nearly double to approximately 705 million gallons per day by 2040, as Atlanta’s population and associated water withdrawals grow unchecked. That estimated daily consumption represents the approximate water volume of the entire Apalachicola Bay on an annual basis.

 

Historically-low water levels brought about by Georgia’s excessive consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity, increased disease and predator intrusion in the Bay. Until recently, Apalachicola Bay accounted for approximately 10 percent of the nation’s Eastern oyster supply.  However, the oyster industry in Apalachicola collapsed in 2012 after years of reduced flows of freshwater into the Bay, leading Governor Scott to seek and obtain a Commercial Fisheries Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this year.