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13 posts from December 18, 2013

December 18, 2013

Reps Garcia, Murphy to Sebelius: expand "commonsense solutions" for Obamacare

A letter from Democratic U.S. Reps Joe Garcia, Patrick Murphy and others:

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

As supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we write today to request that the Department of Health and Human Services prioritize fixing and expanding the direct enrollment process through health plan issuers and allowing enrollment through web-based entities (WBEs) as options for consumer who are shopping for health insurance.

The successful implementation of the ACA will provide millions of Americans across the country with the opportunity to purchase affordable quality healthcare coverage for the first time. While we commend the Administration for its recent efforts to address many of the technical issues facing HealthCare.gov, we continue to be concerned by ongoing technical challenges, specifically those associated with the transfer of enrollment information to insurance providers. These technical challenges create the real possibility that health plan issuers will not have records for people who believe that they have enrolled for coverage and, therefore, may not be able to effectuate coverage on January 1, 2014.

In light of this, we believe that additional commonsense solutions must be pursued to ensure that individuals have access to the information they need, can purchase coverage smoothly, and have their coverage available when they need it. Toward this end, we believe that HHS should fix and expand the Direct Enrollment process to create an alternative path for enrollment that is not dependent upon the receipt of information from HealthCare.gov or the accuracy of that data. Health plan issuers and WBEs could gather all of the information needed to initially provide coverage directly from the individual at the time that they select a plan.

We believe that prioritizing this alternative path is an effective interim solution for enrolling consumers while the Administration continues to resolve the issues that have limited the ability of health plan issuers to enroll individuals into the coverage that they have selected. Additionally, in keeping with the aim of the marketplaces to promote consumer choice and private competition, this alternative path has long-term advantages by providing Americans with multiple ways to find and sign up for the health care coverage that best meets their needs and the needs of their families.

We know that millions of American families will benefit from the successful implementation of the ACA. That is why it is important that we embrace reasonable fixes that make the law work for more hardworking Americans. Thank you for your consideration of this important issue, and we look forward to working with you.


[Signed by representatives Garcia, Murphy, Kurt Schrader, Marc A. Veasey, Filemon Vela, Tulsi Gabbard, Ann Kuster, Ron Barber, John Carney and Kyrsten Sinema]


Miami-Dade plans to stop paying feds for immigration detentions


Fed up with underwriting the nation’s broken federal immigration system, Miami-Dade County plans to stop paying the cost of temporarily housing undocumented immigrants in its jails.

The dramatic shift in policy comes at a time when the cash-strapped county is coping with a tight budget, but some county commissioners say they are also calling attention to what they say is a serious human-rights issue.

“Not only is it about saving money,” said County Commissioner Sally Heyman, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post. “It’s about saving people.”

At issue are Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to keep prisoners in custody for 48 hours after they are scheduled to be released so that they can be turned over to federal authorities. Detainees are often deported soon after.

The so-called “detainers” are part of the contentious federal Secure Communities program, which is intended to encourage police and ICE to share names, fingerprints and other information to identify non-citizens who have committed serious crimes. Miami-Dade has taken part since 2009.

Nationwide, ICE removed more than 400,000 individuals last year, according to the latest figures.

The feds say the program, which began in 2008, is key to protecting public safety and national security.

But immigration-rights activists say the program has ensnared foreign nationals who have been picked up for minor violations, such as traffic offenses, and extended their detentions even if charges are dropped or they have made bail.

More here.

MSNBC's Ed Schultz to speak at Broward Dems Unity Dinner


The Broward Democrats announced their keynote speaker for their March 15 Unity Dinner: MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. The dinner is the main fundraising event for county Democrats and will serve as an unofficial kickoff for activists to gear up for the 2014 election.

Broward’s dismal 41 percent turnout in 2010 was one of the factors in Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s victory over Democrat Alex Sink after she failed to excite the Democratic-dominant county.

Usually candidates aren’t the main attraction at the Unity dinner but Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar said if Charlie Crist or Nan Rich -- both Democrats running for governor -- want to speak he will allow them.

That will contradict the theme of “unity” as Rich often talks about being the true Democrat since Crist was previously an independent and Republican.

“I think this is a tradition worth breaking,” Ceasar said, explaining why he will let the candidates speak. “If either candidate for governor or both request a few minutes they will absolutely receive it.”


High school grades: no F's, more A's in Miami-Dade, Broward

@NewsbySmiley @MrMikeVasquez

The report card for Florida’s high schools is out, and the results bode well for South Florida schools.

The Florida Department of Education released its 2012-13 school grades Wednesday for high schools, and both Miami-Dade and Broward saw a far higher percentage of high schools score A’s. In Broward, 65 percent of secondary schools posted top grades, while 59 percent of Miami-Dade high schools earned A’s.

That compares with 48 percent statewide, a record number for Florida.

"With more high schools earning A’s, it is clear that our teachers are succeeding in providing Florida students with a quality education," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

Combined, close to 90 percent of Broward and Dade high schools earned an A or a B.

The results were so positive around the state that they triggered a policy that requires the rigor of Florida’s grading scale for high schools to increase this year. According to state education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the State Board of Education voted two years ago to make the scale tougher should 75 percent of high schools earn an A or a B.

More here.

After the KKK: the future and history of Jacksonville's Forrest High


When Rodney Jones and Tremain McCreary walked to school on Tuesday morning, the brothers were headed to the same classrooms, to sit next to the same students, in a building with the same façade it had on Monday.

But it was not the same school they had gone to the day before.

“It’s a relief to me to know the school name had changed. I was thinking about it: How do we have a KKK leader’s name for our school?” Jones says.

“Things are changing around this school,” says McCreary.

On Monday night, the Duval County Public School Board voted unanimously to rename Nathan B. Forrest High School.

Forrest High was originally named for Nathan Bedford Forrest — the Civil War general and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

More here.

Legislators say they destroyed documents during redistricting process

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s legislative leaders must turn over their redistricting documents in the simmering legal feud, but legislators say that before the ruling they turned over thousands of records they considered appropriate and destroyed everything else.
It was all a part of the routine document destruction process allowed by law, lawyers for the Republican-controlled House and Senate said in court documents filed on Wednesday. 
The lawsuit was brought last year against the Florida Legislature by the League of Women Voters and 11 individuals. If the court agrees with the challengers, new maps may have to be drawn for the 2014 election cycle.
The challengers are asking House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz to provide them with a detailed description of when and what records the legislative leaders allowed to be purged.  Download 2013 12-18 Coalition Plfs'

Continue reading "Legislators say they destroyed documents during redistricting process" »

Problems with Rick Scott's unemployment site worse than reported


There’s no question the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity hasn’t been publicly forthcoming about problems with the CONNECT website.

But have DEO’s top officials failed to fully inform its own staff about problems with the $63 million site?

Yep, according to newly leaked documents that show problems with CONNECT system are much more extensive than officials have disclosed.

“The transition to CONNECT has been difficult and I know that, at times, the best you can do is ask claimants to be patient,” says a Dec. 13 email to DEO staffers from spokeswoman Monica Russell, on behalf of agency executive director Jesse Panuccio. “We are working very hard to find solutions to all identified solutions to all identified issues.”

What’s most striking about the e-mail: No concrete solutions are offered. What Russell (on behalf of Panuccio) says is most important is for the continued patience of staffers.

“Please know that I am aware of how hard everyone -- in Tallahassee, in Jacksonville, in Ft. Lauderdale -- is working, and I couldn’t be more appreciative,” the e-mail states. “Please continue to be unfailingly polite, and please continue to support each other as you encounter difficult situations.”

The email, perhaps unintentionally, acknowledges that staffers have been kept in the dark on the true extent of the problems plaguing the website. Apparently, the subject came up during Panuccio’s visit to a DEO office in Orlando earlier this month.

“One of the main concerns I heard centered around internal communications,” stated the Dec. 13 email. “You need to hear more about updates to the system more often so that you can communicate with claimants more effectively. We are going to fix that…We are committed to improving our communications with you by delivering accurate information in a timely manner.”

While sounding like a no-brainer management practice to most, it comes two months after the the launch of the website and is actually at odds with a directive two months ago.

Continue reading "Problems with Rick Scott's unemployment site worse than reported" »

Poll: Charlie Crist would wallop Bill Nelson by 13, matches up better v. Rick Scott


Despite being a former Republican, Charlie Crist’s standing in his new party is so strong that he could wallop longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by 13 percentage points in a theoretical primary for governor, a new poll shows.

The survey, conducted by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s pollster, also indicates Crist is still formidable in a general election and leads the incumbent by 4 percentage points among likely voters.

Scott fares better against Nelson, who has a mere 2-point lead over the Republican in a general election matchup, according to the poll of 1,000 likely voters conducted last month by Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates.

Continue reading "Poll: Charlie Crist would wallop Bill Nelson by 13, matches up better v. Rick Scott" »

Progressive organization doles out failing grades to Rick Scott


DevaneOn the same day the state announced high school grades, a progressive group discussed its grading of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida For All, a group backed by the Democratic Governors Association, gave Scott failing grades nearly across the board. Supporting public schools, creating jobs and keeping promises, minority and Hispanic outreach, managing his employees, and public health: all Fs.

The organization did give Scott one A+, for “protecting special interest.”

“I call them corporate interest because to me the special people are our children, our workers, our public education system,” said Barbara DeVane, a well known Democratic activist in Tallahassee.

Florida for All launched in June as a political action committee after the Legislature’s campaign finance reforms caused the Florida Governance Fund, a CCE, to close. The Governance Fund's money came mainly from the Democratic Governors Association, and it's balance, $671,934, was transferred this summer to Florida for All.

The organization says its mission is to protect and promote the interest of Florida’s seniors, children and middle-class families. However, the main target appears to be Scott.

Continue reading "Progressive organization doles out failing grades to Rick Scott" »

The conservative Shark Tank feasts on Gov. Rick Scott's "unforced error" chief of staff


Bad day for Adam Hollingsworth, Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff.

The conservative Sunshine State News today ran an unflattering piece about Hollingsworth obstructing a Hispanic lieutenant governor pick, Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera. And now the conservative Shark Tank Blog is weighing in with so much more with a piece titled "Rick Scott’s Unforced Error: Adam Hollingsworth."

As noted earlier today, when the conservative press starts weighing in, Republicans start paying more attention. it also indicates that their coverage reflects what grassroots Republican activists and consultants are saying. So the Hollingsworth stories, from his apparent back-stabbing to his admitted lying, can't be dismissed as some liberal media myth.

It's real. And, in The Shark Tank's words, it's "disturbing." Here's a snippet:

Another disturbing allegation being made by Tallahassee political insiders, is that because Hollingsworth’s influence is so vast, he is trying neuter RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. 

How can Hollingsworth neuter Curry?

The office of the Governor is said to be taking a more “active” role in the messaging that is coming out of the RPOF, and has put in place “minders,” who are using Gestapo-style tactics to eaves drop on conversations of those within the hierarchy of the State Republican Party and the Governor’s office....

If Hollingsworth were a real friend to Governor Scott, wouldn’t a true friend step aside, and spare his boss/friend all of these bad headlines and stories that stem form his poor decisions.

Full piece is here