« February 25, 2014 | Main | February 27, 2014 »

15 posts from February 26, 2014

February 26, 2014

Hillary at UM ducks White House question, talks Venezuela, partisanship etc.


Hillary Clinton, the once and current Democratic frontrunner for president, spoke Wednesday at the University of Miami, in an appearance where she touched on the chaos in Venezuela, climate change and the traps of partisanship.

One topic she conspicuously avoided: Whether she’ll officially run for president in 2016.

When asked about her future plans – noted in her Twitter bio as “TBD,” or to be determined, – Clinton slipped the question.

“Well, I’d really like to. But I have no characters left,” Clinton said with a laugh, referencing the 140-character limits of Twitter.

“I will certainly ponder that.”

Continue reading "Hillary at UM ducks White House question, talks Venezuela, partisanship etc." »

Carlos Lopez-Cantera earns his LG spot, headlines Rick Scott fundraiser with Miami-Dade mayor


Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 7.46.28 PM copyLess than a year after Rick Scott was elected governor, he was so disliked in South Florida that Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Carlos Gimenez said he didn't even vote for his fellow Republican.

What a difference a few years -- and the addition of Miami son Carlos Lopez-Cantera to Scott's ticket -- makes.

Behind the scenes, the newly minted lieutenant governor worked now-Mayor Gimenez to back Scott publicly and to hold a joint fundraising event for him on March 6 in Coral Gables. Here's the fundraising email from Gimenez backer Rafael Garcia-Toledo:

Continue reading "Carlos Lopez-Cantera earns his LG spot, headlines Rick Scott fundraiser with Miami-Dade mayor" »

Lawmaker short of answers after house raided by federal agents

An Orange County home owned by Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, was raided Wednesday by federal and local agents as part of a drug investigation. Among the 12 people present at the time of the raid was Stewart’s 35-year-old daughter, Amanda Endress, a high school English teacher.

Endress was not arrested. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “one of the targets of the investigation, handled by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, is Darrell Wayne Roby, a roughly 400-pound man who was previously arrested on charges of injuring a deputy.”

But it was unclear if Endress lived at the address of the raid. According to her voter registration card, the house in question was listed as her permanent address. When the Sentinel asked if her daughter lived at the home, Stewart responded with this text:  "I have done everything as a landlord in my power to get rid of these squatters. As far as my daughter is concerned, she had no drugs she was not part of this and they sent her home with me."

According to Bill Cowles, Orange County’s supervisor of elections, however, there is much to suggest that Endress did not live there. Endress changed her voter registration address to the Barcelona Street home in October 2012. But paperwork the office mailed to the home was returned on Oct. 30, 2012, with the stamp “return to sender, not at this address.” In addition, a U.S. Postal Service sticker on the envelope said “unable to forward”.

Endress did vote in the November 2012 election, but her name had been flagged “update needed”. That should have meant that a poll worker would have seen that her status was in question, and asked for her address, Cowles said. Since her address wasn’t changed and is listed at the Barcelona Street location, she most likely told a poll worker that she lived there, Cowles said.

But is that true? Or did Stewart’s daughter live elsewhere but cast a ballot so she could vote for her mother, who lived a mile and a half away. (The Barcelona Street house is in Stewart's district).

Stewart told the Times/Herald on Wednesday that Endress has a fluid living arrangement that’s hard to pin down.

Endress lived at the home in 2012, but then she and her boyfriend moved in with Stewart last year so they could rent out the Barcelona Street house. Starting in December, Stewart said, she and her husband began renting it to four people who paid about $900 a month in rent. But they didn’t pay in January or February. There also appeared to be more people living there. Stewart said when she drove by the house, she noticed several cars in the driveway.

“I saw way too many cars than four people,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know what was going on here.”

The puzzling thing is that it wasn’t all strangers living in the house.

At about the same time, the boyfriend, a handyman, moved into the Barcelona Street house with the understanding that he wouldn’t pay rent, but he would repair things like the plumbing and maintain the house, Stewart said.

“It’s a dump,” she said. “So he painted the walls, repaired things.”

What’s his name?

“Mike,” Stewart said.

His last name?

“I’d prefer not to give out names,” she said. “There hasn’t been much privacy today.”

Unhappy with the delinquent rent and what appeared to be more than five people living there, Stewart said she had filed an eviction notice in February.

“I wanted everyone out of the house,” she said.

Including Mike, her daughter’s boyfriend?

“I wanted everyone out of the house,” Stewart repeated.

Asked why she would want to evict her daughter’s boyfriend, Stewart replied only with:  “You can’t pick people’s boyfriends.”

But Mike wasn’t the only person she knew living there. Endress herself would spend several nights a week at the house as well, Stewart said.

So where exactly did she live then?

“If she wasn’t at the rental, she was at my house,” Stewart said. “She lives between the two houses.”

That seems to contradict what she told the Sentinel, which reported: "Stewart said that she was in the process of evicting the renters there, and that her daughter had gone to the property to make sure there was nothing damaged on the way out."

In addition, her daughter's and boyfriend's residency status at the house wasn't mentioned in a statement released by Stewart on Wednesday. 

“Today, I learned that a search warrant was executed at a rental property owned by my husband and I. After a period of lapsed rent by the residents, we began the legal process of eviction, going so far as to serve them with a notice to vacate earlier this month. Neither I nor any other member of my immediate family has been the subject of investigation in this matter.  I am grateful for today’s swift action by law enforcement authorities. I appreciate their hard work, as well as the professionalism they have displayed throughout the investigation.” 

So if her daughter did live there, on and off, at the same time that Stewart “didn’t know what was going on” in the four-bedroom house, couldn’t she have asked her what was going on at the time? 

“How would she have known this was going on?” Stewart said. "As a landlord I have done everything in my power and get rid of the discontents. This didn't involve my daughter."

Stewart said her daughter hadn’t been arrested and wasn’t involved in any of the matters that led to the raid.

“She didn’t have anything to do with anything that happened over there,” Stewart said.

But when asked about what her daughter at least saw during the raid, or anything else about the incident, Stewart showed a stunning lack of curiousity.

Even though she had spent all day answering questions from reporters about the raid, she said she hadn’t asked Endress about what happened.

“I plan to do that,  I just  haven’t had a chance to,” Stewart said. “I definitely need to get better information and find out what she knew or did not know.”


Scott's finance chair is recipient of millions in Medicaid contracts

Mike Fernandez

By Dan Christensen @BrowardBulldog

Before the Legislature convenes in Tallahassee next Tuesday, Coral Gables healthcare tycoon Miguel B. “Mike” Fernandez will host a Sunday afternoon BBQ with Gov. Rick Scott, his wife Ann, and key members of the governor’s campaign finance team.

Fernandez, dubbed “Florida’s newest billionaire” last year by Florida Trend, was named finance co-chair for Scott’s campaign in January. In the announcement, the governor called Fernandez a “close friend.”

But Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners, is more than Scott’s friend. He’s also a huge contributor to his re-election campaign and the owner or co-owner of fast-growing healthcare companies that under Scott’s administration have been awarded multiple, multi-year state contracts potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most of those lucrative contracts involve Florida Medicaid, which is implementing managed care changes, including the Managed Medical Assistance program. The program is expected to begin in May.

Better Health Plan, which does business as Simply Better Health and is an affiliate of Fernandez’s $450 million Simply Healthcare Plans, won contracts from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) last year to provide general services in three of Florida’s 11 Medicaid managed care regions, including Broward County.

Clear Health Alliance, a Medicaid plan offered by Simply Healthcare Plans, was awarded AHCA contracts to provide “specialty” services to Medicaid patients who are HIV positive or have been diagnosed with AIDS. Story here. 



Trauma center fight moves to Legislature with proposed fix

From the News Service of Florida:

After more than two years of legal and political wrangling in the hospital industry, a Senate proposal would overhaul the way Florida approves trauma centers and could ensure that three disputed trauma facilities remain open.

The proposal, filed this week by Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, could short-circuit a debate about how the Florida Department of Health determines where new trauma centers should be allowed to open.

It also would allow trauma centers in operation on July 1 to remain open --- a proposal that likely would ensure the continued operation of trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County. Those hospitals have been at the center of the ongoing legal battles.

The proposal (SB 1276), filed a week before the start of the annual legislative session, could touch off a fierce lobbying battle.

The changes would help the HCA health-care chain, which has opened the trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Ocala Regional Medical Center and has sought to open trauma centers elsewhere. But the proposal likely will draw opposition from major hospitals in the Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Gainesville areas that have battled HCA and the Department of Health about new trauma approvals.

Continue reading "Trauma center fight moves to Legislature with proposed fix" »

America Rising: Hillary Clinton "stiffs" Alex Sink during Florida tour

Email from America Rising, the conservative political committee:

"Today Hillary Clinton is making two stops in Florida, speaking to college students and at a health care conference.

"Hillary campaigned several times last year for long-time crony Terry McAuliffe including headlining “women for Terry” events and once for her former campaign manager Bill de Blasio in New York. Yet for the 2nd time since she left the State Department Clinton has stiffed a female Democratic contender who could use the help. Last year it was Chris Christie opponent Barbara Buono, today its the Democrat candidate for the Florida 13 House Special Election, Alex Sink.

Continue reading "America Rising: Hillary Clinton "stiffs" Alex Sink during Florida tour" »

County mayor backs downtown Miami convention center

@PatriciaMazzei  Gimenez

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez threw his support Wednesday behind a convention center in downtown Miami, saying the county could use another major conference space in addition to the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The endorsement marked the first time Gimenez publicly backed making downtown’s Miami World Center project an alternative, capping years of Miami leaders pushing for a modern center to compete with the Beach.

Gimenez revealed his support as part of a wide-ranging “state of the county” speech in which he acknowledged challenges over the past year. He tried to portray those challenges as new opportunities for county government to become more efficient.

“Our last year was difficult,” he told a packed house at the Milander Auditorium in Hialeah. “And I don’t mind getting some battle scars along the way.”

The mayor appeared keen on taking on his critics, who have accused him of being aloof and short-sighted, by maintaining an upbeat tone and mentioning big-ticket projects still far off in the future.

More here.

Photo credit: Douglas Hanks/Miami Herald staff

Backtracking, Scott now says he's veto anti-gay law

Hours after he repeatedly dodged the question on national TV of whether he supports or opposes an Arizona-style anti-gay law, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he would veto it. His new statement came after he was denounced on social media outlets and his likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, blasted him for not immediately opposing any form of discrimination.

At issue is a bill that the Arizona Legislature has passed that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gay customers based on religious beliefs. On MSNBC's The Daily Rundown Wednesday, Scott was asked about the issue three times and dodged the question each time. In Scott's new statement, he made reference to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who must decide by Friday whether to sign or veto the bill.

“I don’t want to tell Gov. Brewer what to do, she can do what’s best for her state," Scott said. "From my understanding of that bill, I would veto it in Florida because it seems unnecessary. In Florida, we are focused on economic growth, and not on things that divide us. We are for freedom here in Florida.  And we want everyone to come here, create jobs, and live in freedom, and that includes religious liberty. I am very much opposed to forcing anyone to violate their conscience or their religious beliefs, and of course, I’m very much opposed to discrimination. As a society, we need to spend more time learning to love and tolerate each other, and less time trying to win arguments in courts of law. Other states can spend their time fighting over issues like this, but in Florida we are laser focused on creating jobs and opportunities. It’s working, and we need to keep it going and will not get distracted by this or anything else.”

Scott trails Crist in public opinion polls in the 2014 governor's race, which will be decided in part by independent voters who often have more moderate positions on social issues. Scott's statement suggests that his advisors saw the potential for substantial political damage if he refused to address the issue immediately.

For his part, Crist rushed out a response to Scott's statement: "Being against discrimination is not the kind of issue that requires much thought, but I am glad that after the justifiable outrage to Gov. Scott's response to the issue, that he came around to the right position," Crist said.

Phony outrage and why Alex Sink's immigration comments were right. But dumb.


Republicans are shocked – shocked!

They pearl-clutched and tut-tutted Tuesday after Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink said at a candidate forum that Tampa Bay business leaders want immigration reform so that legal workers can “clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping.”

The Republican Party of Florida condemned the "narrow-minded" comments. Sarasota's Republican Party called Sink a "racist." And Twitter and blogs lit up with the tired conservative indignation-argument about “if a Republican said that…..”

Well, turns out, Republicans and conservatives have said that.

“I am not in favor of a housekeeper or a landscaper crossing the border illegally,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said April 14, 2013 on CBS' "Face the Nation” while discussing his immigration-reform bill (a bill Republicans have blocked in the U.S. House and barely voted for in the Senate).

Continue reading "Phony outrage and why Alex Sink's immigration comments were right. But dumb." »

Winners in Senate gambling bill were leaders in campaign cash

CoinsThe clear winners in the gambling bill released on Monday by the Senate Gaming Committee -- Genting, Gulfstream Park, Las Vegas Sands and the Seminole Tribe -- have also been among the most generous donors to Republican political funds this election cycle.

Senate Gaming Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, said there were "no surprises" in the 453-page SPB 7052, which rewrites most of the state's gambling laws. He had telegraphed that it would include the opportunity for two resort casinos, one each in Miami Dade and the other in Broward.

What was surprising to some is that the bill failed to authorize additional gambling options for South Florida racinos or open the opportunity for race tracks to expand their gambling offerings across the state. That is the position that another big donor to Republicans -- the Seminole Tribe -- has been seeking.

The Senate bill does allow for some reduction in dog racing, a concession to the greyhounds tracks like West Flagler's track in Bonita Springs, which wants to reduce its requirement to offer racing at the rate it was racing in 1996. But the bill didn't give the track owners what they really wanted -- the chance to offer card rooms and slot machines without offering live racing.

There remains a very strong chance that a regulatory bill passes this year with no expanded gambling -- not even a destination resort -- leaving room for the governor to hold all the cards when negotiations take place over a new compact with the Seminole Tribe next year.

Guess who that helps? The biggest contributor of all, Disney Worldwide, which gave (along with its affiliates) a whopping $1.6 million this election cycle -- including $802,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. 

Continue reading "Winners in Senate gambling bill were leaders in campaign cash " »