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May 07, 2015

Mickey, meet the Senate Democrats

SV Disney Event Reminder(1)
In the lead-up to a special session with the budget on the table, Senate Democrats will head to Disney World to court donors.

The annual trip to Disney is May 15-17 and gives ample opportunities for influence peddlers to have face time with members of the caucus. In an email to donors, Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said 12 of the 14 members would be in attendance.

And the Florida Democratic Party will bring in contributions before senators come back to Tallahassee to settle the budget.

Jeb Bush says poverty rate higher now than in the 1970s

When asked about the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died following an April 12 arrest in Baltimore, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush turned the subject to poverty.

"We need as a nation to have a conversation about why is it we are creating these big pockets of poverty where people are completely dependent, they can’t live a life of independence," Bush told reporters at the North Carolina GOP headquarters May 1. "And have a meaningful discussion about it -- not saying we need more money. We've had a war on poverty since the 1960s where we've spent trillions of dollars, and there are more poor people today as a percentage of our population than the 1970s."

Are there more poor people today as a percentage of our population than the 1970s? By the official measure, yes, but experts also rely on a different calculation that changes the results. 

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to read our fact-check.

Gov. Rick Scott seeks immediate action in healthcare lawsuit

ScottGov. Rick Scott took another jab at the Obama Administration Thursday, asking the court to take immediate action in his lawsuit against federal healthcare officials.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court, alleges that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to coerce Florida into expanding Medicaid by threatening to end a $2.2 billion program that helps hospitals pay for uncompensated care.

The Republican governor now wants a court-ordered injunction to stop federal health officials from tying the two programs.

"Unless this unconstitutional coercion is redressed, it will have immediate and devastating consequences for Florida, its healthcare providers, and its residents," Scott's attorneys wrote Thursday.

HHS has long maintained that Medicaid expansion is a state decision.

The agency says it is willing to work with Florida to address uncompensated care, regardless of the state's Medicaid expansion status. But top federal health officials have also said they want Florida to expand health insurance coverage, which would reduce the need for the so-called Low Income Pool, or LIP.

Florida has yet to learn if LIP will be renewed next year. The program is scheduled to end on June 30 unless the federal government approves a proposed successor program.

If no deal is reached, Jackson Health System in Miami and Tampa General could face $200 million and $86 million in cuts, respectively.

Scott made an appeal for the money to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday, but left Washington empty handed. The agency later published a statement saying the Florida proposal fell short of the federal guidelines for funding uncompensated care pools, and that Florida seemed to be asking for too much money.

WMUR poll: Jeb Bush ahead in New Hampshire


Another day, another poll in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign. This one is good for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who according to the survey is ahead of the Republican pack in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary.

The WMUR Granite State poll shows Bush drawing 15 percent of likely GOP primary voters who responded to the poll, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 12 percent, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 11 percent and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 10 percent. The survey's error margin is 3.7 percentage points, which means the crowded candidate field remains tight.

"Bush, Rubio, Walker, and Paul seem to be separating themselves slightly from the rest of the field but this is likely due to press attention rather than any real campaign work," said Andrew Smith, Director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Sixty percent of respondents hold a favorable opinion of Rubio, the best-liked candidate so far. That number is 51 percent for Paul and 50 percent for Walker. On the flip side, 34 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Bush.

Not much outside pressure to expand special session beyond budget

Special interest groups whose issues weren’t resolved before the Legislature’s regular session ended abruptly they’ll secure a spot on the agenda for the June special session. 

The budget will be the focus of the session scheduled for June 1-20, but House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner can agree to put any legislation they want on the table. That could include any number of issues left unresolved in the regular session.

Yet with the budget up in the air and a major rift between the House and Senate over health care funding, many groups aren’t pushing to put legislation they support into the proclamation that will set the parameters for a session.

“Nothing significant on energy policy is going to happen in the Florida Legislature because of the influence of the utilities,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We wouldn’t be pushing something in the special session.”

The National Rifle Association is looking to next year to renew its push to allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses.

Advocates for low-THC cannabis are hopeful they can garner attention during a special session but are relying on their supporters within the Legislature, not trying to drum up public outcry.

“We’re relying on the advocates that have been advocates for this all along,” said Ryan Wiggins, a communications consultant who’s been involved in pushing legislation to speed up the legalization of the drug, called Charlotte's Web. “For the most part it’s up to the discretion of the speaker and the president.”

But staff for Gardiner say leadership hasn’t had any requests for legislation other than the budget to be on the agenda.

“The president hasn’t received any official correspondence asking for specific bills to be added to the call,” said Gardiner spokeswoman Katie Betta.

Meet Ron DeSantis' Senate campaign finance team


U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who kicked off his 2016 Republican U.S. Senate campaign Wednesday, announced his fund-raising team Thursday.

According to a press release, fund-raising duties will be divided by geography and type of political donors: Gretchen Picotte and Rick Porter of the Political Capital firm -- Florida fund-raising; Erika Sather of Right Solutions Partners -- national fund-raising; Gula Graham -- political action committee fund-raising, and Targeted Victory -- digital fund-raising. Targeted Victory worked for Marco Rubio for Senate in 2010 and for Mitt Romney for President in 2012.

"I know it is critical that we raise the resources necessary to spread my message of changing Washington, securing America from threats abroad, and fighting for economic opportunity," DeSantis said in a statement. "In the Senate I will stand for Florida families who have seen wages decline and jobs disappear."

Read more about the fund-raisers after the jump.

Continue reading "Meet Ron DeSantis' Senate campaign finance team" »

Broward legislators, hospital execs to discuss Medicaid fallout

Broward state legislators, hospital CEOs and community leaders will discuss the financial impact of the state budget fallout over Medicaid expansion.

The meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

Participants include Broward legislative chairman Jeremy Ring, Mayor Tim Ryan, Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce President Dan Lindblade and officials from the county’s two public hospitals: Broward Health and Memorial Health Care.

Lawmakers plan on a three-week special session starting June 1 to finish the state budget by June 30. Broward's predominantly Democratic legislative delegation is unlikely to play any major role in hammering out a budget agreement in Tallahassee, but they can play the important role of the minority party in terms of raising issues.

Disagreement over how to handle the Low Income Pool money which hospitals use for charity care, which the federal government is phasing out, led to the stalemate last month. While Senate leaders want to expand Medicaid, the House leadership refused to do which led them to end the session a few days early in April.

Gov. Rick Scott met with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Wednesday in Washington D.C. to ask her to approve the state's proposal for LIP funding, but that meeting led to no resolution.

Alan Gross favors Cuba rapprochement at Miami Beach fundraiser

via @ngameztorres

The newly formed New Cuba political action committee, which will raise money to promote travel and trade with the island, has found an unexpected spokesman: Alan Gross, the USAID subcontractor who was imprisoned for five years in Cuba and wants to return to play "a constructive role" as the two countries resume closer ties.

"Alan would like to return to Cuba to assist in the rebuilding of the relationship between our countries and to play a constructive role and I applaud him for that," said his attorney Scott Gilbert.

"He has a great fondness for the people of Cuba. In fact, when I visited him in jail and talked about these issues, he told me clearly and consistently that he bears no ill will of any kind toward the people of Cuba and he supports more open relationships between our countries,” Gilbert said. “Like other great individuals in history, Alan has transcended his imprisonment, his particular situation, and he has tried to look forward and make the world a little better."

Gross was released from prison along with a Cuban informant who worked for the United States and three Cuban intelligence agents jailed in the U.S. last Dec. 17, as a precursor to the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in five decades.

Gilbert hosted the inaugural event of the New Cuba PAC on Monday night at his residence on Miami Beach. Gross did not make any public comments during his visit to South Florida.

More here.

Fact-checking Bill and Hillary Clinton

We bring you our two most recent fact-checks of Bill and Hillary Clinton from PolitiFact.

Hillary Clinton said at the recent Women in the World Summit that It’s "hard to believe that so many women are still paid less for men than the same work, with even wider gaps for women of color. If you doubt what I say, look to the World Economic Forum, hardly a hotbed of feminist thought. Their rankings show that the United States is 65th out of 142 nations and other territories on equal pay. Imagine that. We should be No. 1."

See what Louis Jacobson found about her statistic and here is her full Truth-O-Meter record.

Bill Clinton said on NBC news "When we moved into the White House, we had the lowest net worth of any family since Harry Truman." See what Katie Sanders of PunditFact found and here is his full Truth-O-Meter record.