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13 posts from March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

Groups say reform of child welfare laws needs to include money for more services

A Florida House committee on Tuesday passed the first draft of a massive rewrite of the state’s child welfare laws, but the organizations on the front lines serving troubled families and vulnerable children warned that they want to see more money follow.

“The real proof in the pudding is how does this policy drive the Legislature to put the resources into services,’’ said Kurt Kelly, president of the Florida Coalition for Children, which represents the state’s community-based-care providers. “We are woefully underfunded.”

Although the Department of Children & Families oversees investigations of child abuse, as well as the lawyers who represent dependent children, all of the services that flow to children in state care are managed by the so-called CBCs, which administer parenting classes, case management and treatment to parents regarded as unfit. The CBCs also provide care to abused and neglected children themselves, such as trauma counseling.

Kelly said DCF is spending less today that it was in 2007 on CBC services aimed at child protection, and the claims by the agency that it has increased the CBC budgets are accurate only if you take into account the “pass-through” money the agency receives to give to parents of adoptive children.

“It was not usable dollars for services,’’ he said.

Continue reading "Groups say reform of child welfare laws needs to include money for more services" »

Tallahassee gushes over David Beckham

BeckhamDavid Beckham hasn’t given up on the idea of state subsidies for his proposed soccer stadium.

To prove it, the world’s biggest soccer star traveled to Tallahassee on Tuesday to meet with Gov. Rick Scott, along with House and Senate leaders.

Wherever Beckham went, female legislative aides and lobbyists followed.

Even lawmakers — both male and female — took a break from crafting legislation to catch a glimpse of Beckham’s famous face. By late afternoon, Scott, Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, House Speaker Will Weatherford, Sen. Anitere Flores, Rep. Dana Young and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz had all Tweeted their selfies with Beckham.

Beckham characterized the day’s meetings as “very positive.”

He said lawmakers hadn’t made him any promises. “I know that it’s going to be fair and I know that their decision will be what’s best for the state,” he said.

Read more here.

Verbatim: Mike Fernandez's email, in its entirety

Here is the complete email sent by Gov. Rick Scott's former campaign finance co-chairman, health care executive Mike Fernandez, to three top campaign officials.

He sent it at 10:53 p.m. on Feb. 20, with the subject header: "This is what I learned on Tuesday and Weds." That week, Fernandez had organized a two-day fly-in in Miami for key members of Scott's fund-raising circle. The content of the email follows:

1- I never met a harder working man than the Governor and I love the fact that he is not a professional politician.

2- the team is united but homogenous in its thinking and seems to be feeding off each other and scared of disagreeing with the Governor

3- Luis works with me, he is my partner and it's culturally insensitive for him to hear a  senior staff members mimicking a Mexican accent on the way to Chipolte. It shows that the team does not understand the culture YOU need to win.  Would you hire me to manage a campaign in Mississippi for a country bumpkin? I hope not. We have one Texan, one guy from Wisconsin, I don't know where Tim (a brilliant guy) is from, but I guarantee you he is not from Florida, and  one smart mercenary strategist. I truly believe that the difference in this race is the Hispanic vote. But what do I know, I have only made over a billion selling to this population.

4- As we heard at every stop, the Governor's life is not known, and it's his most powerful story. People need to know that he understands them... That he lived what they are living through. We must define him early IN March as a feeling, sensitive , caring man who has come from nothing to where is is today. That he is doing this not for money but for the love he has for the people of Florida. He needs to be defined before he is defined for us.

5- Orlando and Miami are different from the rest of the State. Miami especially is as close to the US as you can get!!!  

6- We need a  centralized strategy but we should be using the local talent in each of these communities. Who was the firm that has won the last two referendum in Miami Dade? Why not use them?  They know how that population thinks, with all due respect... let's cover the weakness by using available resources. Ana is good but that's not enough.

7- Meredith and her team (I have never seen a better supporting cast) are drinking out of a firehouse! They need more resources.

Lastly ... I asked the Governor a few weeks ago, that I would like to put together a small committee to measure how the money is being spent. As a businessman, I would not want to spend $100mm without third party validation that monies are being spent wisely. Clarity and accountability and very important to ME  as I am asking people for their money, so that you can spend it. Last week three of you argued with me ad nauseam as to why we should not do this: We don't have the resources. It will be a distraction. We are already doing this. It will delay media buys.

I told you that all I needed was an hour with whoever is handling the finance a month and there was still push back. Then my partner, Luis, tells me that this week, during the fly-in, he was approached once again about why we do not need the oversight. That is unacceptable.

I would appreciate if you would give a copy of this email to the man we work for.

I am not the Chief of Staff, I am not the Campaign Manager, I am not a Strategy Consultant. I will say this again, I am not a Yes Man and don't mistake my smile and courteous nature as a weakness. So I will continue to speak my mind as I owe it to Rick. Anytime you want me out, just tell me and I will go away with a smile.

I would appreciate if you give a copy of this email to the man we work for.





Senate panel votes to let nurse practitioners prescribe drugs, not practice independently


A Senate bill that would give highly trained nurses more authority, but not the independence they truly want, passed narrowly at its first committee stop today.

SB 1352 would allow specialized nurses with graduate degrees to prescribe controlled substances and involuntarily institutionalize patients with mental health issues. The Health Policy Committee approved the bill on a razor thin 5-4 vote with Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the issue.

A separate proposal in the House, HB 7071, would allow nurse practitioners to practice without a supervising doctor. But that bill is an even tougher sell in the Senate, where members have strong ties to the Florida Medical Association that is dead-set against these measures.

Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said the changes in SB 1352 are needed to address Florida's doctor shortage and implement changes that virtually every other state has already adopted. "We are the last state in the nation to pass this legislation," she said.

But other senators disagreed that expanding the scope of practice for highly trained nurses is the best way to address Florida's health care workforce issues. Doctors have attended medical school and received the training needed to perform certain duties that nurses have not, said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, the Hollywood Democrat who voted against the bill.

Continue reading "Senate panel votes to let nurse practitioners prescribe drugs, not practice independently" »

Marco Rubio's claim about repealing Obamacare

Many Republican legislators commemorated the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on March 23 by calling for its repeal.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke out against the law in a video message to his supporters.

"We cannot give up," he said. "Obamacare is not something that’s set in stone. It can be repealed —and Americans increasingly want it to be repealed — and that’s what we’ll continue to do."

PolitiFact wanted to know if Rubio’s assessment of polling on the law is accurate. Do more and more people want the law repealed? Read here to learn the answer.

Despite assurances from Panuccio, feds say issues with CONNECT remain

TALLAHASSEE — To make the case that senators should allow him to keep his $141,000 job leading the Department of Economic Opportunity, Jesse Panuccio has testified this month about remarkable progress in fixing the state's glitch-prone unemployment benefits website.

What he hasn't mentioned is that a key feature of the $63-million CONNECT system — fast, automatic processing of claims — still doesn't work, according to a recent letter from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The DEO "reported that the auto-adjudication function, which is expected to improve DEO productivity with regard to claims processing, is still in development and projected for implementation this month," DOL administrator Gay Gilbert wrote March 20.

She went on to note that the state will "retain most of the additional staff you have hired to manage the workload and backlogs temporarily until the auto-adjudication system is operational."

In other words, not only does the system not work, the state is paying people to perform what should be automated tasks.

Read story here.


Fact-checking Rick Scott's ad about Obamacare and Charlie Crist

PolitiFact fact-checked two claims in a new attack ad by Gov. Rick Scott's political committee. 

The ad repeats snippets of Crist’s March 9 interview on CNN when he called Obamacare "great." Here’s part of the ad script:

"Great?" the narrator says. "News reports say 300,000 health plans cancelled. Obama says patients may lose their doctors. The federal government says less work hours for American jobs," the narrator says, as an apparent quote from a February Congressional Budget Office report appears on the screen: "Obamacare will drive 2.5 million Americans out of the workforce."

Are 2.5 million Americans being driven out of the workforce due to Obamacare? Read here for the answer.

Did Obamacare result in 300,000 plans being cancelled? Read here for the answer.

Fernandez's private email ripped Scott's advisers

Before he abruptly resigned as a top fund-raiser for Gov. Rick Scott, health care executive Mike Fernandez let loose with a litany of complaints in an email obtained by the Herald/Times. He described a "homogeneous" team of campaign advisers who are too scared of Scott to disagree with him and who don't understand the culture of Hispanic voters whose support he needs to win re-election.  
The aftershocks of Fernandez’s resignation remain a distraction for Scott's campaign, and it underscores a key part of the Democrats' opposition strategy, that Republicans can't relate to Hispanic voters. The most explosive part of Fernandez's Feb. 20 email was his claim, first reported in The Miami Herald, that two Scott campaign aides imitated a Mexican accent while driving to a Mexican restaurant.
When Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said Monday there was "no validity" to the Herald report, it prompted Republicans sympathetic to Fernandez to release a copy of the email, which in broader terms reveals Fernandez's uneasiness with the direction of Scott's campaign.

Fernandez's email indicates that he never heard the comments he complained about. His business partner, identified in the email only as Luis, apparently did on the way to a Chipolte Grill, a Mexican restaurant.

“It's culturally insensitive for him to hear a senior staff members [sic] mimicking a Mexican accent on the way to Chipotle. It shows that the team does not understand the culture YOU need to win,” Fernandez wrote on his iPad.

Dismissing the accusation, Lopez-Cantera said Monday: “There's no validity that we can find to any of those comments, or what was written. This is a diverse organization. We don't tolerate inappropriate comments and I don't believe they even happened.”
Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, chairman of Scott's re-election campaign, acknowledged turmoil in the campaign and Fernandez's level of frustration."You get high-powered people like Mike Fernandez who's a CEO and used to being in charge," Thrasher said. "But there can only be one person in charge and that's the governor ... Sometimes there's frustration with that." 

Fernandez, a million-dollar donor to Scott who helped raise $35 million for his re-election campaign, has declined to comment to The Herald since Friday and didn’t release the email. He sent it to Scott's campaign manager Melissa Sellers. senior advisor Curt Anderson and fundraiser Meredith O’Rourke after an event in Coral Gables.

The email, one of a number of Fernandez missives, offers a rare glimpse into the internal friction in the Scott campaign and mirrors concerns voiced by other Republicans that Scott isn’t doing well enough in the polls against his likely challenger, Democrat Charlie Crist.

Fernandez used the comment about Mexican-accened English as a jumping-off point to complain about how Scott’s top team is new to Florida and that he fears for its Hispanic outreach.

“Would you hire me to manage a campaign in Mississippi for a country bumpkin? I hope not. We have one Texan, one guy from Wisconsin, I don't know where Tim (a brilliant guy) is from, but I guarantee you he is not from Florida, and one smart mercenary strategist,” Fernandez wrote, referencing deputy campaign manager Tim Saler.
Saler has worked as a Republican activist in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and Mississippi.

“I truly believe that the difference in this race is the Hispanic vote,” Fernandez wrote. “But what do I know, I have only made over a billion selling to this population.”

Fernandez didn’t raise this issue as his top concern. He first fretted, for instance, that “the team is united but homogenous in its thinking and seems to be feeding off each other and scared of disagreeing with the Governor.”
With reporting by Marc Caputo, The Miami Herald

Dems continue to bash governor for Hispanic slur, call on him to fire staffers for 'bigotry'

Former Republican state Representative Ana Rivas Logan and Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo joined in the party bashing of Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday and called on the governor to fire the staff whose anti-Hispanic slurs prompted his campaign finance chair to resign last week.

"Rick Scott’s campaign staff mocked Florida Hispanics like school children. That’s unacceptable from the people trying to elect a governor in one of the most diverse states in the nation,'' said Rivas Logan, now a Miami Democrat, in a conference call with reporters. "These anti-Hispanic comments are exactly the kind of comments that made up my mind to leave the Republican Party."

She criticized the governor for failing to apologize and move on and suggested that his passiveness "shows the culture of the campaign."

Rivas Logan urged the governor to fire the staff who allegedly made the offensive remarks mocking Hispanics. "He needs to take a stand on this,'' she said. "He needs to fire these people and hold them accountable and say that bigotry does not have a place in politics."

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera told reporters yesterday that the campaign believes "there's no validity that we can find to any of those comments, or what was written."

Taddeo commended the push this legislative session to give Dreamers the opportunity to pay in-state tuition rates at state universities and colleges but she chastised the governor for "window dressing" by supporting it. 

"It's very obvious he doesn't support Dreamers,'' she said, noting the governor's push for the Arizona-style immigration reform bill when he ran for governor in 2010, his veto of a bill to allow immigrants to obtain state drivers licenses last year, and the cuts to the Bright Futures Scholarship program.

Rivas Logan recalled how Lopez Cantera met with Republican legislators when a version of the Arizona immigration legislation was moving in the House and Senate in 2011.

"I said, 'Carlos,  my parents taught me you never forget where you came from,''' she said. She said by opposing the bill she was punished by leadership. "I said I will not support this bill and sanctions ensue....There were leaders willing to spill blood in the chambers to get it across the finish line."

Miami Dade Republican Chairman Nelson Diaz criticized the Democrats for "phony outrage."

"Where was the outrage from Floroida Democrats when Charlie Crist insulted the Cuban-American community or Alex Sink made her offensive comment about immigrants?" he said.



Senate panel guts charter school bill

The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday gutted a controversial education proposal aimed at creating a more favorable environment for charter schools.

The original bill, filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, sought to require school districts and charter schools to use a standard contract developed by the state. SB 1528 also would have required local school districts to make unused facilities available to charter schools, and awarded special privileges to high-performing charter schools.

But Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity, filed an amendment removing all of that language, and instead creating a process for administrative law judges to hear disputes over charter school contracts.

Legg also added a provision stating that a charter school cannot remove a student against his or her wishes unless the child has violated the school's code of conduct.

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, had been advocating for a similar measure. Montford said he knew of several charter schools that had withdrawn children for poor academic performance or bad behavior. In November, the Herald/Times reported that an Orlando-area charter school had threatened to dismiss students for failing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests.

"If there are some out that that adhere to those practices, this will stop that," Montford said.

There was practically no debate on the bill.

Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Miami Democrat, cast the lone vote against the proposal.

It's too early in the session to predict what will happen to the charter school proposal.

Even though the model contract is no longer in the Senate version, it doesn't mean the language is off the table entirely. The House version, which won approval in the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Monday despite concerns from Democrats, still includes the model-contract and space-sharing provisions. 

The Senate version has two more stops. But the Legg amendment, coupled with Sen. Bill Galvano's decision to pull his controversial voucher bill last week, sends a strong message to the House: the upper chamber does not want any controversial education bills this session.