Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

April 20, 2015

Negotiations over hospital funding inching along

Florida has officially petitioned the federal government to renew a $2.2 billion program for hospitals that treat low-income patients, the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Monday.

State health officials are asking the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to continue the so-called Low Income Pool program through June 30, 2017. They have submitted a plan created by the Florida Senate that would distribute the funds more broadly than in the past.

"We are expediting our submission of this LIP model in order to help CMS speed up their decision," Secretary Liz Dudek said in a statement. "CMS knows that our budget depends on their rapid response to this model."

The agency will allow members of the public to submit comments on the plan from April 21 through May 22, and will hold public meetings in Orlando (4/29), Miami (4/30) and Tallahassee (5/1).

The uncertainty surrounding the Low Income Pool has brought the budget building process to a virtual halt in Tallahassee. It has also become part of a larger debate on whether to extend subsidized health care coverage to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians.

Last week, Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced his plans to sue the federal government for saying the future of the LIP program would be tied to the Legislature's decision on Medicaid expansion. Scott called the move "a coercion tactic."

The politicking continued Monday, when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott commended Scott's decision "to take legal action to protect these important constitutional principles."

"Texas will support Florida in its litigation against the federal government," said Abbott, a Republican whose state is in a similar situation. "Medicaid expansion is wrong for Texas. Florida's approach should be determined by Floridians, not coerced by federal bureaucrats."

On immigration, Marco Rubio 'folded like a cheap shotgun,' Democratic senator says

via @lindsaywise

WASHINGTON — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill slammed presidential hopeful Marco Rubio on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, saying the Florida senator “folded like a cheap shotgun” on immigration.

“If you look at Marco Rubio’s record, he took a principled, courageous stand on immigration reform and we passed a comprehensive bill in the Senate,” said McCaskill, a Democrat. “Then the minute his party’s base started chewing on him about it, the minute Rush Limbaugh criticized him, he folded like a cheap shotgun.”

McCaskill said Rubio’s decision to stop pushing for an immigration overhaul because of political necessity was “old politics” and “the stalest trick in the book.”

Rubio said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation over the weekend that the immigration system would have to be fixed in incremental steps, rather than in “a massive piece of legislation.”

McCaskill’s comments came in response to host Martha Raddatz asking for her response to Rubio’s critique of Hillary Clinton as “a leader of yesterday.”

McCaskill is expected to take a vocal role in the Clinton campaign.

Continue reading "On immigration, Marco Rubio 'folded like a cheap shotgun,' Democratic senator says" »

Jeb Bush to visit Europe in June


Jeb Bush plans to visit Germany, Poland and Estonia in early June as he continues his all-but-declared 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

Among other things, the former Florida governor plans to speak at an economic conference organized by Germany's ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union, a Bush aide said. His trip was first reported by Reuters.

In Poland and Estonia, Bush will meet with government and business representatives as well as civic and charity groups.

The Bush aide said he has taken 89 foreign trips since leaving the governor's mansion in 2006. He last visited Germany in 2011 and will be traveling to Poland and Estonia for the first time.

This post has been updated, confirming the earlier Reuters report.

Updated: Florida Channel agreed to mute name of inmate from Senate testimony

The Florida ChannelThe state-run public television channel agreed to remove the name of an inmate from the audio file of a Senate hearing in which a Department of Corrections whistle-blower alleged that potential criminal activity was ignored or cover-up at the agency, the executive director of The Florida Channel told the Herald/Times.

Doug Glisson, an inspector with the Department of Correction’s Office of Inspector General, testified under oath at the March 10 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency covered up potentially negligent medical care, criminal activity and sabotaged investigations to protect high ranking officials within the organization.

Among the examples Glisson cited was the case of inmate Quintin Foust, whose death was listed as “suspicious” by the medical examiner. Glisson said Foust was “undergoing medical care” at Jefferson Correctional Institution but did not provide any details about his medical condition or ailments. He said Foust “started having seizures” and “wound up dying.”  

Beth Switzer, executive director of The Florida Channel, said that "approximately two weeks after the meeting was held and subsequently archived on our site" she received a call from DOC spokesman McKinley Lewis "telling me that an 'inadvertent HIPAA violation' had occurred in the 3/10/15 meeting and asked if there was anything we could do to keep the person’s name from being repeated over and over again in violation of HIPAA."

The federal HIPAA privacy rule protects individuals from disclosure of identifiable health information.

Continue reading "Updated: Florida Channel agreed to mute name of inmate from Senate testimony" »

Annette Taddeo staffs Miami congressional campaign


Annette Taddeo, the Democrat challenging freshman Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, has put together a campaign team that includes veterans of Florida races and national congressional campaigns.

Here they are, according to a press release:

Shaun Daniels will serve as Campaign Manager. Daniels is a battle-tested, veteran campaign manager who has overseen victory in a top-target, diverse congressional district. In 2012, Shaun guided Alan Lowenthal across the finish line in CA-47, and in 2014 he managed John Foust's campaign in VA-10. Shaun starts this week.

Lindsay Pollard will serve as Finance Director. Pollard worked closely with Taddeo as the South Florida Finance Director for Charlie Crist’s 2014 campaign for governor. Previously, she served as the Finance Director for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.  Pollard is a proud Florida A&M alum. 

Ralph G. Patino will serve as campaign Treasurer and Finance Chair. Patino is the managing shareholder and president of Patino & Associates, P.A and a South Florida philanthropist, contributing his time and treasure to the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the Mourning Family Foundation and the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.  

GMMB’s Nicole Harburger and Greg Pinelo will serve as media consultants and communications strategists. Harburger is an award-winning communications and media strategist who has helped elect representatives and Governors and worked with major independent expenditure campaigns. A key member of the Obama for America media team in 2008 and again in 2012, Pinelo is also the architect of award-winning campaigns on a host of issues. 

John Anzalone and Molly Murphy of Anzalone List Grove Research will handle polling for the campaign. Anzalone has over twenty years of experience as a pollster helping candidates, associations and corporations with message development and strategic planning, including President Barack Obama. Murphy has done extensive research work for progressive issue organizations including Center for American Progress, Third Way, and helped pass guaranteed paid sick days for workers in Connecticut in 2014. 

MackSumner’s Dylan Sumner and Eric Van Horn will oversee direct mail and serve as communications strategists. Sumner served as the lead mail strategist for President Obama’s campaigns in Florida and for Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Bob Graham, and Congresswoman Lois Frankel.

Testing troubles persist in Florida schools

Standardized testing in Florida has come to a halt. Again.

The state Department of Education told school districts early Monday that the testing company's servers were down. The technical troubles affect students in grades 5 through 8 who were scheduled to take the new computer-based Florida Standards Assessments.

Just last month, similar problems plagued the rollout of the state's new computer-based writing tests. State education officials said cyber attacks were also to blame.

State lawmakers, who have been mindful of the issue throughout the legislative session, passed a bill this month suspending school grades until the new tests are deemed valid. It was signed into law last week. But many parents and teachers have said that more dramatic action needed to be taken. They are likely to renew those calls in light of Monday's testing woes. 

Stay tuned.

Florida lawmakers considering telehealth, prescribing powers

While a contentious debate over Medicaid expansion has overshadowed much of the 2015 legislative session, it isn't the only health care issue under consideration.

A proposal that would allow doctors to make better use of digital communications technology is gaining steam late in the session, as are bills seeking to expand the prescribing powers of nurses and encourage medical tourism.

Lawmakers are also advancing a plan that would broaden the list of vaccines that pharmacists and pharmacy interns can administer (HB 279/SB 792).

"We’re working on all kinds of things," said Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. "There are a lot of ways we can improve access and quality of care."

More here.

Republican Carlos Curbelo says well-known Democrats back his re-election


Before Annette Taddeo gets a chance to woo Democratic elected officials and activists to back her 2016 congressional campaign, incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has cobbled together a coalition of Democrats who he says already support him.

The list of 22 Democrats includes the mayors of Homestead and Florida City, which are in Curbelo's 26th congressional district. Both Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace backed then-Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat, last year. Also on the list is Democratic consultant Freddy Balsera, a past Garcia supporter.

The Miami Herald couldn't reach everyone listed Monday morning, but the ones who were contacted did confirm they're behind Curbelo.

In a statement provided by Curbelo's campaign, state Rep. Kionne McGhee of South Miami-Dade said he and Curbelo are part of "a generation that is sick and tired of the endless cycle of partisan bickering and gridlock in government that has left many in our country frustrated and disillusions with our political system."

"The people of South Dade desperately need solutions for our transportation challenges, and Carlos and I are committed to working together on this critical issue," McGhee said.

Curbelo has raised more than any other freshman Republican -- $705,000 -- for his re-election, which is still 18 months away. But he will likely need the money -- and the Democrats -- to hold on to his seat. Florida's southernmost district, which runs from Westchester to Key West, narrowly favors Democrats, and in presidential election years, more liberal-leaning voters tend to go to the polls.

"I am most grateful for this support from Democratic elected officials and community leaders who like me believe we should always put our community and the country above partisan political interests," Curbelo said in a statement.

The freshman congressman has co-sponsored legislation with Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and opposed GOP-led effort to de-fund the Department of Homeland Security over President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

See the list of 22 Democrats after the jump.

Continue reading "Republican Carlos Curbelo says well-known Democrats back his re-election" »

Hillary Clinton in no rush to organize eager Florida Democrats

via @adamsmithtimes @learyreports

Florida Democrats are ready for Hillary, even if Hillary Clinton is not yet ready for them.

“In my 35 years in politics I’ve never seen anything like it. Every day my email box is filled, people asking, ‘How do I get involved, how do I help?’” said Alan Clendenin of Tampa, vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and leader of Florida’s Ready for Hillary committee, which has spent more than a year raising money and signing up volunteers.

The Clinton team is in no rush to start organizing and campaigning in America’s biggest swing state, even though Barack Obama’s re-election campaign started at this point four years ago. But Clinton supporters are aggressively raising money and nearly unanimous that she can win the state even if Republicans nominate Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

“Florida is in play for Hillary no matter who the general election candidate is for Republicans. And if Hillary wins Florida, that’s it,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

More here.

Marco Rubio on Face the Nation: 'Sexual preference is something that people are born with'

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday on Face the Nation that he thinks people are born with their sexual orientation but that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"It's not that I'm against gay marriage. I believe the definition of the institution of marriage should be between one man and one woman," Rubio said." "States have always regulated marriage. And if a state wants to have a different definition, you should petition the state legislature and have a political debate. I don't think courts should be making that decision."

"I don't believe same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. I also don't believe that your sexual preferences are a choice for the vast and enormous majority of people. In fact...I believe that sexual preference is something that people are born with."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times