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March 25, 2015

GOP group says Patrick Murphy voted for free health care for life for Congress

The 2016 Senate race in Florida officially kicked into high gear March 23 when U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, became the first major candidate to announce he will run for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat.

Murphy, 31, has built a reputation as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, but he could face a challenge on the left from U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando. If Rubio runs for president, Murphy is still certain to face a heavyweight on the GOP side -- potentially Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera or CFO Jeff Atwater. Murphy has said he will run whether Rubio runs or not.

On the day of Murphy’s announcement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee unveiled a website attacking his positions on several topics, including the Affordable Care Act and health care for members of Congress:

"Murphy voted to keep Obamacare the law of the land but also voted to allow members of Congress to receive taxpayer-funded health care for life!"

Did Murphy vote for permanent health care for members of Congress, including himself? Actually, no. Members of Congress do not get health care for life, and Murphy has never voted to give them health care for life.

Instead, the NRSC is twisting generic votes in favor of the health care law into an entirely new -- and false -- attack. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our fact-check.

Senate Medicaid expansion plan inches forward

A third panel approved the Senate's proposed alternative to Medicaid expansion.

But things got dicey Wednesday when the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the bill (SB 7044).

As Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, walked his colleagues through the proposal, several powerful senators became engaged in intense side conversations. The discussions grew so large that the committee went into an impromptu recess.

Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, later explained that some members had expressed concerns because the plan would put some beneficiaries into Medicaid Managed Care plans temporarily until the state creates a new private health insurance marketplace.

"The options before us were to temporarily pass the bill while we worked through it and got people involved, or try to draft changes on the fly," Lee said.

Ultimately, Senate leaders decided to move forward with the plan before them, which would expand access to health care insurance to nearly one million poor Floridians. Beneficiaries would be required to pay small monthly premiums, as well as meet a work requirement.

Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, called the proposal a "major step forward toward solving a significant problem that is facing the state of the Florida and the nation."

Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rene Garcia, R-Miami, urged his fellow colleagues to "let Washington know that we are serious about taking care of our residents in the state of Florida."

"Let's not get caught up in some of the politics associated with this," he said.

The meeting wasn’t entirely a love fest.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, noted the shortage of primary-care physicians in Florida, and said the state healthcare system "does not have the capacity to treat a million new patients."

"I've got to believe you are setting yourself up for failure," Hays said.

But he, too, voted in favor of the plan.

The controversial bill is now headed to the Senate Floor.

Bean acknowledged that there was still "a long way to go." The House has said it won't consider the proposal, and it would need to win approval from the federal government.

Still, Bean was optimistic. "By sticking together, we can do a lot of great things for Florida and its citizens," he said.

Charlie Crist endorses Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate

Former Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for U.S. Senate today.

“Patrick Murphy has the energy, integrity, and work ethic we need in the United States Senate,” Crist wrote on Facebook. “I hope you'll join me in supporting his campaign.”

Crist was mentioned as a potential contender for the race for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's seat but he decided not to jump in shortly before Murphy’s final decision to jump into the race which he announced Monday. Crist essentially gave Murphy a heads-up that he wouldn’t run (not so with DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz who also recently announced she won’t run statewide).

Crist's endorsement came as no surprise since Murphy's family and Crist are longtime friends and Murphy's chief of staff, Eric Johnson, was also a former Crist advisor. But this is Murphy's first major endorsement by a former statewide office holder. Murphy has also been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

So far, Murphy is the only major candidate to announce that he will run though he could face a challenge from the left by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. That would create a primary battle because Grayson is popular with progressives while Murphy has voted as a centrist while representing his right-leaning Treasure Coast district. On the Republican side, CFO Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera are strong contenders.


In Texas, the Bush family chases campaign cash together

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush's race for cash takes him to Texas Wednesday to begin a series of fundraisers featuring his family.

George W. and Laura Bush will attend a fundraiser in Dallas today. On Thursday, George H.W. and Barbara Bush will attend one in Houston.

Per the Dallas Morning News: The invitation, with the list of about 50 Texas supporters, indicates the millionaire-business class that have been big backers of establishment Republicans in Texas.

Among those joining the event are real estate developer Woody Hunt, oil man T. Boone Pickens, attorney Mike Boone, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former ambassador to Switzerland Pam Willeford, homebuilder David Weekley, former U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler and beer distributor John Nau.

ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Wednesday: Things to know in Tallahassee

The 23rd day of the 60-day session is here. It’s not halfway yet, so there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel. But that’ll give everyone time to mull over just how far apart the House and Senate budgets are when lawmakers begin discussing them later today.

Five things:

The House Insurance and Banking Committee will debate the so-called Right to Try Act (HB 269), which would let terminally ill patients access experimental drugs. The committee meets at 8 a.m. in 404 HOB.

The House Higher Education and Workforce Committee will take up a proposed committee bill at 9 a.m. that would prevent universities from raising graduate school tuition above the rate set by the state (PCB HEWS 15-01). The proposed measure is a priority for Gov. Rick Scott. (102 HOB)


The House Justice Appropriations committee will consider a proposal on sexting by new state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale. The proposal (HB 845) fixes a 2011 law that inadvertently made underage sexting a crime that can't be punished. The committee meets in 17 HOB at 9 a.m.


Yes, Florida still has growth management laws. But perhaps not for long. The House’s Economic Development and Tourism subcommittee will meet at 10 a.m. at 12 HOB to consider HB 933, sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud. A companion to SB 832, which is sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, the bill eases an assortment of land regulations, including allowing aerial photographs  to substitute for a survey in defining conservation easements on large developments, a new requirement for a protection for private property rights in comprehensive plans, and scrapping an extra layer of scrutiny for large projects called “Developments of Regional Impact”, or DRI.


The main event -- both the House and Senate appropriations committees will take up their respective budgets. The Senate goes first, meeting at 9 a.m. to consider the $80.4 billion budget bill, SB 2500 at 412 Knott. There will be about two dozen amendments to consider as well. Then at noon, the House will ponder its $76.2 billion appropriations bill, APC1. Both budgets are scheduled for floor votes next week.

--MICHAEL VAN SICKLER, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

March 24, 2015

Legislators advance different prison plans while some House members seek compromise

As the Florida House and Senate advanced vastly different prison plans on Tuesday, some House leaders hinted that there may be room for compromise.

The full Senate advanced SB 7020, a proposal to create a Florida Corrections Commission, an independent oversight board with the power to hold Department of Corrections officials accountable for prison budgets, discipline and investigations. The Senate adopted a handful of amendments to the bill and will take it up for a final vote as early as next week.

Meanwhile, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted unanimously for it modest prison plan, PCB CRJS 15-07, that serves as a counter-point to the Senate proposal by stripping out all prison oversight and penalties. But, moments after the committee passed that measure, two influential Republican lawmakers said they want the House to consider alternatives. 

“There is a need for a practical outside oversight -- with reputable people -- that can make strong recommendations,’’ said Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, a retired law enforcement officer, after the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted unanimously for a modest prison bill, PCB CRJS 15-07, that serves as a counter-point to a broad Senate plan. 

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, chairman of the committee, said he hopes to see some changes in the House bill that will serve to provide more safeguards for inmates who have died as a result of homicides in prison.

Continue reading "Legislators advance different prison plans while some House members seek compromise" »

Fretting privacy violations, lawmakers advance drone bills

Trying to preempt privacy concerns with the growing technology, the Florida House and Senate are moving forward with bills regulating the use of drones.

The unmanned aircraft have wide-ranging possible uses, including for a same-day delivery plan announced by, storm chasing, search-and-rescue missions and recording overhead video.

It’s this last possibility that has state lawmakers worried: How can personal privacy be protected, especially on private property, while still allowing the technology’s possibilities to be explored?

Committees in both chambers advanced bills (SB 766 and HB 649) Tuesday seeking to answer that question.

“This is a real this is a real issue,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, the sponsor of the Senate bill. “Just within the last month, we had a drone that crashed into the bedroom window of a Hialeah, Fla., residence.”

Continue reading "Fretting privacy violations, lawmakers advance drone bills" »

Scorecards so far for Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton and other presidential contenders

Ted Cruz announced his intention to run for president on Monday, formally kicking off the 2016 race for the White House. In the coming weeks and months, we expect more candidates to announce.

While we wait, we thought it was a good time to look at the scorecards of some of the people we believe are likely to run.  Below, you’ll see a snapshot of where their Truth-O-Meter scorecards stand today. Click the links on their names to access their dynamic scorecards, which update automatically when we post new fact-checks.

Turn to PolitiFact to see the scorecards for former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio and more.

Carlos Curbelo to formally kick off reelection campaign


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will officially launch his reelection campaign in South Miami on Monday, a day before the end of the year's first fund-raising quarter.

The event, at Shula's 347 Grill at Sunset Place, will be the first one the Miami Republican freshman's campaign formally hosts. But Curbelo has been meeting privately with political donors since last month. Like most members of Congress, he had to begin gearing up for a new campaign after being in office for barely a month.

For Monday's event, organizers are asking for contributions ranging from $1,000 to $5,400. Among the top donors already listed are former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart -- Curbelo's one-time employer -- and Jeb Bush Jr., according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. Curbelo has yet to endorse any potential Republican presidential contenders but is expected to back former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, given his close ties to Bush and his supporters.