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10 posts from November 4, 2013

November 04, 2013

DEO's Panuccio deflects blame for glitches with $63 million website

How do you explain your agency’s troubled roll out of a new $63 million unemployment website that has triggered thousands of emails and angry phone calls to Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers, along with  calls for investigation by two lawmakers?

If you’re Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, you blame the media.

“Some of the press stories about CONNECT have been incomplete and focused on a narrative that is more likely to grab readers than to accurately report facts,” Panuccio said during a Monday hearing before the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee.  “My hope is that through today’s presentation we can provide hard facts and dispel some of the fictions that have been presented about CONNECT and DEO.”

What were those fictions? Which media outlets reported these incomplete stories? By incomplete, was Panuccio hinting at the failure of his own agency to disclose all relevant facts about CONNECT?

Panuccio didn’t provide senators with details. But what he did do -- in the next sentence -- is substantiate the concerns media outlets have reported about the CONNECT website since it launched on Oct. 15.

“The first two weeks of implementation have been rockier than expected,” Panuccio said.

Buried deeper into Panuccio’s presentation, about 25 minutes in, it was revealed that the new CONNECT system has failed to match the performance of the system it replaced two out of the three weeks it has been operating.

The old system was so slow and inefficient that about 45 percent of staff time was spent waiting for the system to respond to commands. Still, it managed to process and pay an average of 77 percent of claims. Only once, in the second week, did CONNECT surpass that performance level when it paid 80 percent of claims. The other two weeks it fell below that mark.

“For ($63 million) we better be a whole lot better than 77 percent,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

When Hays asked when the state can get its value back, the vendor’s consultant replied: “It’s the time frame from a go live to the actual true optimization of performance is not Day 1.”

Huh? Asked to clarify, the consultant, Jessica Blume, the U.S. Public Sector Leader for Deloitte, said between a month and three months.

Later, Hays asked Blume what performance level the state’s contract required from the vendor. If Florida had 77 percent of its claims processed and filed with the old system, what would it be with the new one?  

“We have service level attainments that are after go live, I mean the go live/implementation date, we have certain things we are supposed to meet, to receive part of the payment that’s in that contract,” Blume told Hays. “Ok? I don’t remember what all five of those are, but they are around claimant processes, they are around performance improvements, doing things better than you do today. So yes.”

Got that?

Senators apparently understood that and other vague answers given during the DEO’s presentation.

“We’re trying to respond to problems we see in our community,” said the chair, Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. “We have called you folks here today to explain the computer problems and other problems. You could be a sample of how to testify before a Senate committee. We’re tricky people. We ask mean questions. We want real answers. We don’t like to be glossed over and I want to congratulate you on your honesty in your answers.”

Let’s see if the questions are any tougher during Tuesday’s Economic Development and Tourism committee in the House when Panuccio et al have to do it all over again.

Miami Beach commission candidate to remain on ballot


Miami Beach Commission candidate Sherry Kaplan Roberts on Monday survived a legal attempt to kick her off of Tuesday’s general election ballot.

A local blogger filed a lawsuit against Roberts on Friday, claiming she didn’t live in Miami Beach – a requirement to run for office there.

“I am very pleased, not only for myself but for my supporters in Miami Beach,” Roberts said. “The judge made a declaratory judgment that I am a resident of Miami Beach. That I have done community service for years and I am an active member. It couldn’t have gone any better.”

John P. Morgan brought the complaint against Roberts. He has also filed an election complaint with the state.

More here.

Former FIU Prez Maidique declines universities chancellor nomination, Criser clear front-runner


Marshall Criser III wants to become the next state university system leader, and the path just got a little easier.

Former Florida International University President Modesto "Mitch" Maidique declined an opportunity to apply for the chancellor job. He said he was humbled to be nominated for the post by former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart but wants to focus on his efforts leading FIU's Center for Leadership.

That leaves Criser, president of AT&T Florida, as the front runner for the post and the most recognizeable name among 18 applicants. Perhaps the second most notable applicant is James "Jim" Purcell, the Louisiana commissioner of higher education.

Here is full text of Maidique's letter declining the nomination for chancellor as written to Board of Governors chief of staff Randy Goin:

Continue reading "Former FIU Prez Maidique declines universities chancellor nomination, Criser clear front-runner" »

Panel: Economic impact of marijuana "cannot be determined"

Legalizing medical marijuana could cost the state in excess of $1.1 million to operate each year, but any other financial or tax impact of offering the drug to the seriously ill is still unclear, according to a state economic panel.

The Office of Economic and Demographic Research’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference finished its analysis of the medical marijuana ballot initiative on Monday and concluded that “increased costs from this amendment to state and local governments cannot be determined.”

Aside from the Department of Health, which estimated that it would cost an estimated $1.1 million yearly to regulate the medical marijuana industry, most agencies said the cost would not be significant or did not yet have any hard numbers.

The report stated the health department’s costs “will likely be offset through fees charged to the medical marijuana industry and users."

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriff's Association stated there will be increased costs based on the experience of other states, but did not offer any numbers.

The report estimates that about 417,000 to 452,000 will use medical marijuana based on figures from other states. It was also estimated that about 17,178 to 41,271 snowbirds may apply for ID cards to use medical marijuana.

The campaign to put a medical marijuana amendment on the ballot was launched by United for Care, spearheaded by high-profile, Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, whose law firm employs Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

Continue reading "Panel: Economic impact of marijuana "cannot be determined"" »

Public opinion on gambling expansion "like succotash"

Industry officials, experts and members of the public travelled to Tallahassee on Monday to offer feedback on a new report examining the potential economic and social impacts of expanded gambling in Florida.

The report, by the New Jersey-based research firm Spectrum, found that additional casinos would have a “moderately positive impact” on the state economy and could create tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

The social costs would be minimal, the authors concluded, “especially since gambling opportunities are already widespread across Florida.”

The speakers at Monday’s Senate hearing had varying viewpoints on the study.

Terry Kasberg, a real estate broker and internet café owner from Spring Hill, said big casinos would hurt local restaurants owners and hotel operators.

“It’s like putting a Super Wal-Mart into a small town and watching the other little stores just go bye-bye,” Kasberg said.

But Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for the casino company Las Vegas Sands, said a destination casino would not cannibalize surrounding businesses. Iarossi recommended state lawmakers allow casino operators to compete for a limited number of destination-casino permits. He also wants the state to better regulate the industry.

“My client would advocate for a strong regulatory environment here with the addition of a gaming commission, similar to what Nevada or New Jersey has,” he said.

Iarossi said Las Vegas Sands was hoping to set up shop in South Florida.

The tart reply from Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami: “Don’t come to Miami-Dade County, my friend.”

Other speakers expressed a similar distaste for casinos.

Sergeant Wiley Meggs, of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said new casinos would cause the crime rate to spike.

“Any time you get a casino, you end up with higher rates of burglary and theft, higher [rates of] fraud and more violent crimes…” Meggs said. “The brunt of it falls on local law enforcement.”

Jennifer Campbell, of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, implored the committee to consider the problem of compulsive gambling.

Adam Giery, of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, raised concerns about Florida's "family-friendly brand."

"We as a business community must stand and do everything we can to protect that brand,” he said.

A handful of other speakers addressed how new laws would affect racinos and pari-mutuels.

When the public testimony finished, the members Senate Committee on Gaming declined to weigh in.

The meeting was one of several recent public hearings on gambling. The committee solicited public input in Coconut Creek and Lakeland last month. Additional hearings are scheduled for Pensacola on Nov. 14 and Jacksonville on Nov. 15.

Sen. Garrett Richter, the Naples Republican who chairs the gaming panel, said the public comments have run the gamut.

"It's like succotash," he said. "There's peas, there's carrots. I don't have any sense that the committee, at this point, is developing a united front on a solution."

He added: "The work in front of us is not going to be obvious. It is going to be a challenge. But I think the committee is up for the challenge."

Gov. Scott heads 24-member trade delegation to Japan

Gov. Rick Scott is in Japan all week for a trade mission to promote economic ties with Florida. The week-long trip, organized by Enterprise Florida, features one of Scott's smaller trade delegations. From EFI, here's the list of participants, including the president of Florida Power & Light:

 Ivan Barrios Vice President, Trade Development, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
 Phillip Brown Executive Director, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
 Fred Glickman Vice President, International Operations
 Mike Garavaglia Florida Citrus Commission / Packers of Indian River
 David Hart Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce
 Victoria Jaramillo Director-Marketing, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
 Bill Johnson Director, PortMiami
 T.P. Kennedy Vice President, Kennedy Holdings
 Frank Kruppenbacher Chairman, Greater Orlando Aviation Department
 Wes Maul Special Assistant to the Governor
 Manny Mencia Sr. Vice President, Trade Development, Enterprise Florida
 Tom Mitchell Vice President, Riverfront Packing Company
 Carrie O’Rourke Director, External Affairs, Executive Office of Gov. Scott
 Luis Perez-Codina Manager, Business Development, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
 Griff Salmon Chief Operating Officer, Enterprise Florida, Inc.
 Michael Schadler Florida Department of Citrus
 Jackie Schutz Traveling Press Secretary, Executive Office of Gov. Scott
 Ann Scott First Lady, State of Florida
 Rick Scott Governor, State of Florida
 Eric Silagy President, Florida Power & Light
 Trey Smith CEO & President, Leroy Smith, Inc.
 Gray Swoope Florida Secretary of Commerce and CEO, Enterprise
 Sam Tabuchi Director, Enterprise Florida, Inc.-Japan
 Dave Woodward Executive Director, SEUS/Japan Association 

Scott's schedule for Monday, as posted on his official website:

Monday, November 4
-- Steve Bousquet


Mario Diaz Balart joins the #FreeElCritico fight


U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is lending his voice to the online campaign to free jailed Cuban rapper, Ángel Yunier Remón, the subject of a Twitter campaign that bears the hashtag #FreeElCritico.

Earlier this year, Diaz-Balart and other exile leaders criticized U.S. rapper Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce, for visiting Cuba, being tools of the Castro regime and not meeting with dissidents.

Here's the press release and more:

Continue reading "Mario Diaz Balart joins the #FreeElCritico fight" »

Charlie Crist: Rick Scott's "trying to bully me by waving around his $100 million checkbook."


Get ready for the most-negative Florida governor's race we've ever seen.

Yes, we could probably say that every year. But this time it will likely be disproportionately nasty.

A full 365 days before Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott announced his first ad -- a negative one -- against predecessor and new rival Charlie Crist on the day the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat announced his candidacy.

And Crist made sure to mention all the bad that Scott has done to the education budget (cut more than $1 billion in his first year) and as a businessman, when the Scott-led Columbia/HCA hospital chain was investigated for Medicare fraud and ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion fine.

Said Crist this morning in St. Petersburg at his kickoff: "Governor Scott has led like this: Embrace the ideological fringes, take care of his friends, bully his opponents, hide from the public and the press and run from tough issues. Shouldn't really come as a surprise, though. Think about it: he hid from federal investigators as a businessman and his company had to pay the largest fine at the time for fraud in the history of America."

Note: the fine was the biggest Medicare fraud fine at the time, but not the largest fraud-fine ever.

Continue reading "Charlie Crist: Rick Scott's "trying to bully me by waving around his $100 million checkbook."" »

Rick Scott's Let's Get to Work donor lays people off


Rick Scott was elected as Florida's jobs governor and is running for re-election with the same slogan and political committee: Let's Get to Work.

But the governor who frequently trumpets and takes measures of credit for big hiring news is often silent on the opposite: Layoffs. And that's doubly true when it comes to donors to Let's Get to Work who let people got to the unemployment line.

Here's the Miami New Times:

"Bill Edwards is one of Rick Scott's top individual donors. He wrote a $500,000 check to Scott's Let's Get to Work re-election PAC. Ironically, almost 500 of Edwards' employees will not get to work soon. One of his companies, Mortgage Investment Corp. (MIC), abruptly announced yesterday it's laying off 476 workers, including 256 people at its St. Petersburg headquarters. Fewer than 40 people will remain employed as the company winds down.

"Of course, Edwards' MIC has not been without its controversy. It's been accused of misleading customers and violating National Do Not Call Registry rules. In fact, in June the company was hit with a $7.5 million fine, the largest fine handed down for violating the Do Not Call law. What's worse is that many of those misled customers were military veterans.

"From the Tampa Bay Times:

"The FTC said telemarketers from Mortgage Investors misled service members that the company was affiliated with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and that they could receive low-interest, fixed-rate mortgages at no cost. In reality, regulators said, the company was only offering adjustable rate mortgages that left consumers liable for higher payments with rising interest rates. It also required consumers to pay closing costs."

Rick Scott uses Dem criticisms in first TV ad attacking "opportunist" Charlie Crist


Just as Charlie Crist made his official announcement for governor, Gov. Rick Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee is up with its first paid attack ad of the 2014 election season that uses the words of Democrats to bash the newly minted candidate.

The ad buy is small, about $525,000, but the significance is large: It's 365 days until the November elections, and Scott is doing what we all said he would: Carpetbombing Crist.

Scott's unwitting/incidental allies: Florida Democrats Alex Sink, Karen Thurman, Bob Buckhorn and Kendrick Meek as well as former Vice President Al Gore. None of whom had much good to say about Crist when he was a Republican.

Expect Meek, still licking his wounds over Crist's decision to run as an independent in the 2010 Senate race, to exact a measure of revenge.

Crist still needs to get past Democrat Nan Rich, and Meek is expected by many to endorse her. Scott's team might also give Rich a boost to make her competitive.

Scott is expected to have $100 million to spend. How much can Crist raise? It's an open question. But allegedly President Obama's backers will help Crist, who helped the president, stay competitive.