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6 posts from October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

Election of Pasco Democrat in GOP district carries lesson for governor in 2014

The budget shutdown that wounded the Republican brand last week also inflicted pain on the GOP in Florida: The party lost a seat held for decades by Republicans, and Gov. Rick Scott was hit with a hurdle to his reelection strategy.

The governor has spent the last six months distancing himself from his February decision to embrace taking $51 billion from the federal government to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and the disastrous enrollment rollout appeared to help Republicans keep the issue from returning in the next legislative session.

That might have been easy if Republican Bill Gunter had won last Tuesday’s House District 36 race. Instead, the Pasco County seat was won by Amanda Murphy, a Democrat and political newcomer with impeccable timing.

The governor stayed away from the race, as polls showed his popularity in the district was painfully low. But, while special elections are rarely bellwethers in Florida, the results suggest that among a significant slice of the electorate — especially independents — support for the Affordable Care Act can be a winning message. That’s a troubling sign for Scott, who remains strongly opposed to Obamacare, though he supports taking the federal money.

“What it means in 2014 is the issue of Obamacare is going to be front and center during the legislative session. It’s on everybody’s minds,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, the head of the House committee on healthcare reform and architect of that chamber’s hard-line opposition to Medicaid expansion. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/20/v-fullstory/3701629/democrat-upset-in-house-special.html#storylink=cpy

Suspended Miami Lakes mayor: Plot against rival just 'silly' talk

@DavidOvalle305 @jayhweaver

Three years before he was arrested on federal corruption charges, Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi met a political ally in the parking lot of Shula’s Steak House.

The topic of conversation: getting rid of Pizzi’s nemesis on the town council.

What Pizzi did not know was that his ally, Tom McGrath, wore a bug and was secretly working with Miami-Dade County detectives.

The men spoke about planting cocaine on then-Councilman Richard Pulido, a plot intended to get the man arrested. Pizzi, spewing F-bombs, said he was open to other schemes, promising $100,000 in cash to get Pulido off the council.

“I don’t care what you do. Rig the f------- brakes on his car. F------ take him out. I don’t want to see him anymore,” said Pizzi in the July 30, 2010, undercover recording obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request.

In a series of meetings over the next month, however, Pizzi never expanded upon the threats toward Pulido. He soon told McGrath, a retired Hialeah cop who at the time chaired the town’s planning and zoning board, “Forget about him; he will self-destruct himself.” Not long after, police suspended the investigation without charging anybody with anything, officially closing it earlier this year.

More here.

Miami-Dade voters to weigh in on Jackson Health System's $830 million bond plan


In the three months since Jackson Health System first proposed asking Miami-Dade voters to approve $830 million in upgrades to be paid entirely with taxpayer funds, proponents of the project have emphasized the public hospital network’s need to update its aging facilities and become more competitive with private and nonprofit hospitals in South Florida.

Jackson officials say the overhaul is necessary in a healthcare market facing rapid change under the Affordable Care Act, which will increase the number of Americans with health insurance and give them a choice of where to seek medical care.

Increasingly, Jackson officials say, insured patients have been choosing other hospitals with more modern facilities and medical equipment.

“Right now, there are still many people out there that say, ‘Jackson is an old hospital. It’s a public hospital. I don’t want to go there’,’’ said Carlos Migoya, chief executive. “We don’t have to look like the Taj Mahal, but we need to look like the academic center that we are.’’

Jackson is in a unique position among local teaching hospitals. Through its partnership with the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, Jackson offers South Florida patients the widest array of highly specialized services — excelling in organ and bone marrow transplants, spinal and neurosurgery, neonatal intensive care, trauma medicine and other services.

But the hospital system needs more than a highly-regarded medical reputation to thrive. Jackson also needs to attract more patients seeking elective surgeries, such as a knee replacement, or other traditional services in order to offset the high cost of its mission to provide care to all county residents, particularly the uninsured.

More here.

Coconut Grove waterfront plan goes to Miami voters

By Andres Viglucci and @ChuckRabin

On Coconut Grove’s picturesque but cluttered waterfront, a ramshackle marina, a seafood restaurant well past its prime and a funky if beloved watering hole known as Scotty’s Landing today occupy seven acres of choice public land next to Miami City Hall.

Now their leases are up and their long run is over. And what’s in the offing to replace them could forever change the spot’s simple, old-Grove vibe, which is sticking in the craw of village denizens with long-held Bohemian views and a default antipathy toward glitz and development.

The city and developers who won a bid to remake the place have ambitious plans for it: The developers would spend $18 million in private money to sweep away much of what’s there now, reconfigure and expand boat racks, and build a Shula’s steakhouse and two other new restaurants. They would also put a marine store in a refurbished hangar dating from the days when Pan Am flew seaplanes out of Dinner Key next door.

Their site plan would do something else Grove residents have long clamored for: open up water access and direct vistas from South Bayshore Drive to Biscayne Bay by creating a pedestrian promenade that would end at a new public pier.

More here.

The political-disaster math: Government shutdown > Obamacare website woes.


A mathematical comparison of the latest political disasters is straightforward: Government shutdown > Obamacare website woes.

That = bad news for the GOP.

Polls show the public disapproves most of congressional Republicans after they precipitated the partial shutdown to stop the Affordable Care Act. Tea party poll numbers are lower than ever.

Continue reading "The political-disaster math: Government shutdown > Obamacare website woes." »

Rep. Joe Garcia's ex-chief of staff to head to jail in phony absentee-ballot requests case


Congressman Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff will head to jail for orchestrating a fraudulent, online absentee-ballot request plot during last year’s elections.

Jeffrey Garcia, the Miami Democratic congressman’s longtime political strategist, will spend 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal reached with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, the Miami Herald has learned.

The deal, which is expected to be inked Monday, will require Garcia, 41, no relation to the congressman, to plead guilty to requesting absentee ballots on behalf of voters, which is a felony.

His attorney, Henry Bell, noted Garcia never “touched a ballot, manipulated a vote or otherwise interfered with anyone's vote.”

"He accepts responsibility for his conduct which involved requesting absentee ballots for voters when it was the voters themselves who are required to make the requests," Bell said in an statement. "Jeff is a good person who made a mistake. He is sorry and is doing the right thing in admitting this and accepting responsibility."

Prosecutors tied Jeffrey Garcia to hundreds of phony ballot requests submitted for last year’s elections on behalf of unsuspecting voters without their permission. Though none of those ballots were mailed, forged or cast, Joe Garcia’s campaign planned to target those infrequent voters with telephone calls, fliers and visits to try to persuade them to vote for the candidate.

Investigators reopened their probe into the ploy in February after the Herald reported that almost 500 of the August 2012 primary ballot requests in Garcia’s congressional district could be further traced through Internet Protocol addresses that originated in Miami. Florida elections law prohibits anyone other than voters or their immediate family members from submitting online ballot requests.

In June, the Herald found that Jeffrey Garcia might have secretly funded bogus tea party candidate Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo in 2010 as a way to siphon conservative votes from Republican David Rivera, who defeated Joe Garcia that year but then lost to him in 2012.

The FBI is now investigating Jeffrey Garcia and Arrojo. Rivera is also under criminal investigation for his possible ties to another ringer candidate, Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad, who ran against Garcia in 2012 and has pleaded guilty to federal campaign-finance crimes.

More here.