January 23, 2015

Scott plan doesn't address disparities in Bright Futures scholarship program

ScottGov. Rick Scott on Thursday proposed spending $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures scholarships, but did not address recent criticism of the program — namely, that new eligibility standards put in place to control costs have kept thousands of low-income and minority students from receiving the awards.

Scott’s plan would direct new money to help students with Bright Futures scholarships pay for summer courses.

"By expanding Bright Futures scholarships to include summer courses, we are offering more flexibility for students to achieve their goals," said Scott, who held a press conference at the University of North Florida to announce his plans.

Board of Governors Chairman Morteza Hosseini said the proposal would help students finish their degrees faster, "reducing their debt and quickening their entry into the state workforce."

But Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, called it "odd."

"I haven't heard any constituents complaining about not having access to summer school," Rodríguez said. "What I have been hearing is that students at Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University who would have been eligible for Bright Futures scholarships [under the old standards] are no longer eligible."

Read more here.

Zogby online GOP-voter poll: Bush and Rubio tied at 13%, trail Romney at 16%


Zogby Analytics, which conducts online surveys (note: they're controversial/experimental), is out with a new poll. From its website: 

A new Zogby Analytics of likely Republican primary voters shows that the 2012 nominee is in the lead for 2016, but only three points ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Florida Senator Marco Rubio.The poll of 223 likely primary voters was conducted online January 16-18 and has a margin of sampling error of +/-6.6 percentage points.

Romney is on top with support from 16% of the voters, followed by Bush and Rubio with 13% each. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is next with 11%, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 9%, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 6%, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl with 4%, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz all at 3%. Other names included South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum --- all receiving less than 1%.

At South Beach pow-wow, Marco Rubio's team looks like White House campaign-in-waiting


6a00d83451b26169e201b7c71e57ae970bIn another sign of his White House ambitions, Sen. Marco Rubio hosts an election-strategy powwow today at the Delano Hotel with a finance team that looks like a presidential campaign-in-waiting.

None of the new major financiers of "Team Marco 2016" has deep Florida ties, a sign that his re-election for his Florida U.S. Senate seat in 2016 is looking more toward Pennsylvania Avenue.

George Seay III: the Texas finance chair of former Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. A co-founder and CEO of Annandale Capital, he’s the grandson of former Texas Governor Bill Clements

Wayne Berman: a top advisor to the Blackstone Group and Republican Jewish Coalition, the New York resident has held a variety of posts and transition team spots affiliated with eight GOP presidential campaigns, from Ronald Reagan in 1981 to George W. Bush in 2000.

Jim Rubrich: an Atlanta resident and former CEO of a paper and packaging company called RockTenn, he served on Georgia state leadership committees for George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney's presidential campaigns.

Anna Rogers: the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative political group founded by President Bush advisor Karl Rove. It raised more than $200 million for presidential candidates since 2012. ABC reports she’ll start working for Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC on Feb. 1.


We'll see who shows up today and tomorrow. But just from the few names that have dribbled out, it's a safe to guess that Rubio's not just going through the motions to make it look as if he wants to sell his latest book (yes, campaigns help sell books and vice-versa). Rubio will more than likely run for president -- but when and for how long are two unanswered questions.

Coincidentally, the Delano meeting happens just as a new Zogby Analytics online poll (again: online) indicates Rubio ties Gov. Jeb Bush in second place among GOP primary voters (13 percent), though former GOP nominee Mitt Romney is the nominal frontrunner at 16 percent.

** This post has been updated

A Hialeah ZIP code leads nation in Obamacare enrollment

@chabelih @NickNehamas @dchangmiami

In one Hialeah ZIP Code, where signs selling “Obamacare” are plastered across storefronts and cover freeway billboards, more people have selected a plan on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange than in any spot in the country, according to the data release by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday.

Despite the political rancor associated with the healthcare reform law, residents of Hialeah signed up in record numbers for coverage in 2015. A total of 12,330 people in Hialeah’s 33012 ZIP Code selected a plan or were re-enrolled as of mid-January, the highest number in any ZIP Code in the 37 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform.

The number illustrates a 19 percent increase in enrollments in the 33012 ZIP Code from last year. The data reflects plan selections between Nov. 15 and Jan. 16 and could change if consumers fail to pay their monthly premiums. The enrollment period opened Nov.15 and ends Feb. 15.

The other ZIP Codes in the top five: 33126 in Miami, 33313 in Fort Lauderdale, 33015 in Hialeah and 33165 in Miami, each with enrollment between 8,000 and 9,000.

More here.

January 22, 2015

Upon further review, Scott's response to FDLE questions raises more questions


So Gov. Rick Scott, or rather his office, has responded to inquiries about his Dec. 16 ouster of Gerald Bailey from his job as Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the allegations that were subsequently made by Bailey.

But hold on. Upon further review, the two-page “FDLE FAQs” that Scott released on Thursday, falls far short of filling in the blanks.

The release, which is organized in a Q & A format, lists 10 questions followed by bullet points.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Q: Is it true that Gerald Bailey was forced to resign?

-- Prior to December 16, 2015 (sic), the Governor’s staff notified cabinet staff (including the offices of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Commissioner of Agriculture) that the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE. Cabinet staff raised no objection.

-- On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, cabinet staff were notified that Gerald Bailey would be met with that day about the Governor’s desire for new leadership at FDLE. Peter Antonacci, then general counsel, met with Bailey and said the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE and requested his resignation.

-- Bailey sent a letter to the Governor saying he was “stepping down” that same day, December 16th.

(Ok, where shall we begin? Let’s start with the obvious: None of the three bullet points directly answer the above question. The first bullet point implies in broad language [“the Governor wanted new leadership at FDLE”] that yes, Bailey was forced out. The second bullet point actually acknowledges that Scott’s general counsel, Antonacci, told Bailey that “the Governor wanted new leadership.” That’s at least more than what Scott initially told reporters on Jan. 13 when first asked if he forced Bailey out. A day later, asked again if he forced Bailey to resign, Scott replied: "In business, you often make changes because it's the right thing for that organization," he said in Tampa on Jan. 14. Nevermind that he’s the head of a government, not a business, but that doesn’t directly answer the question either. Was he forced out? Yes, but Scott still can’t say it. Also notable here, Scott isn’t disclosing names. Why? The “governor’s staff notified Cabinet staff...Cabinet staff raised no objection.” Who is “Cabinet staff”? "Governor’s staff?" Can we get a couple of names? Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has provided names. He has told the Times/Herald that Scott’s Cabinet affairs aide, Monica Russell, relayed to Putnam’s Cabinet aide, Brooke McKnight, that Scott wanted to make staff changes in his second term, including at FDLE. But Putnam said he wasn’t given any more details, making it hard to figure just exactly what Scott was doing. "We were given a heads-up on a staff level that there was an interest in making changes going into the second term, including at FDLE. Period," Putnam told the Times/Herald last week. "That's all that was conveyed to me.” So the governor’s office doesn’t advance anything here. It mainly repeats established facts that no one is disputing [Antonacci met with Bailey, Bailey sent a letter to the Governor saying he was stepping down.] The public still has no clue from Scott if he forced Bailey out and, more importantly, why, beyond a vague “Governor wanted new leadership.” Well, duh.)


Continue reading "Upon further review, Scott's response to FDLE questions raises more questions " »

Another assistant warden gets fired at prison with record of inmate deaths

Julie JonesAn assistant warden at a troubled Florida women’s prison where two inmates died last year under suspicious circumstances has been fired, the Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

Julie Jones, the department’s new secretary, said Marty Martinez, assistant warden at Lowell Correctional, was discharged for conduct unbecoming an officer and was not dismissed in connection with any inmate death.

“I don’t know what the exact charge was, but in my terminology, conduct unbecoming. It had to do with his demeanor and his attitude on the job,’’ Jones said.

Martinez was ousted Jan. 15, a few days into the tenure of Jones, who replaced former secretary Michael Crews. Crews, who fired at least 32 corrections officers for excessive force last year, stepped down in November amid a scandal over a series of brutal and unexplained inmate deaths reported by the Herald and other news media. Story here. 

Photo: Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones


Sobel doubts ability of admnistration to do transparent review of child deaths

Eleanor SobelFrustrated that state officials have scrubbed crucial, and often embarrassing, details from a state report on children who have died from abuse, the head of the key Senate oversight committee said Thursday that it may be time to take the job away from the administration.

“It seems they are less transparent that they have been in the past,’’ said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, referring to an annual report from the the Child Abuse Death Review Committee that went this year from nearly 200 to 17 pages and failed to include a discussion of the state’s role in the child deaths

“If they are not going to change their ways, maybe we need an alternative,” Sobel said. Her suggestion: change the law to take the job away from the governor’s agency and require an independent panel to review the fatalities, such as the newly-created Florida Institute for Child Welfare, which is housed at Florida State University. 

Current law requires the Florida Department of Health to produce an annual report of the Child Abuse Death Review Committee which reviews each child death, as required under federal law, in order to determine what changes needs to be made to try to prevent future deaths. Until this year, the report had been a robust 197-pages. At the same time the report was scaled back, several veteran and well-respected members of the committee were removed by Surgeon General John Armstrong.

Last year, the report helped to underscore the state’s failure in protecting the children in its custody as the Miami Herald documented the deaths of 477 children whose families were known to DCF in a series of reports, entitled Innocents Lost.

Continue reading "Sobel doubts ability of admnistration to do transparent review of child deaths" »

Headlined by Donna Shalala, Ready For Hillary PAC to raise Miami $ in Bush/Rubio country


Ready4HillIs Miami ready for Hillary Clinton?

The Ready for Hillary PAC is about to find out Feb. 12, when the political committee holds its first major South Florida fundraiser.

It’s headlined by the former Secretary of State’s close friend, outgoing University of Miami President Donna Shalala, the former health secretary under President Clinton.

This is only the beginning of the 2016 fundraising season, so expect more because Miami-Dade has some of the deepest pockets for Florida fundraisers, making it a regular stop on the political money-grubbing circuit.

This fundraiser is set to be held at the home of philanthropist Adrienne Arsht (after whom the county’s performing arts center is named). The host committee includes Hispanic-outreach wiz Freddy Balsera, fundraiser-lawyer Mitchell Berger, former DNC treasurer Bob Farmer, former U.S. Rep. Hon. Joe Garcia, lobbyist Alex Heckler, and former Clinton White House aide and current Arsht Foundation executive Suzanna Valdez.

The Miami fundraiser has an added dose of political interest because it’s being held in the home county of potential Hillary Clinton rivals, former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

As the state’s most-populous and most-Hispanic county, Miami-Dade is also one of the most hotly contested, although it has trended more and more Democrat in recent years. Bush is the only Republican in at least 15 years who has one a majority of the vote in Miami-Dade County (53 percent in 2002). Rubio in his 2010 bid for Senate won the county with 43 percent of the vote, but that’s partly because then-U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and then-independent Gov. Charlie Crist.

Last year as a Democrat, Crist won a greater share of the Miami-Dade vote in his failed bid for governor, 58 percent. But in raw votes (541,000) and in percentage terms (62 percent), President Obama in 2012 firmly established Miami-Dade as a Democratic bulwark.

With margins like that, it’s not easy to see how Bush or Rubio could beat Clinton in their home county. But both speak Spanish, unlike Clinton and unlike 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney lost the county by more votes (208,459) than any other recent Republican candidate. That margin helped cost Romney must-win Florida and, therefore, the White House. Romney's hardline positions on immigration likely helped cost him a significant portion of the Hispanic vote, the state and nation's fastest growing major demographic that promises to be even more influential in 2016.

So it's a good bet that Miami, and perhaps Florida, is far less likely ready for Mitt than Hillary

Meggs: Cabinet members should investigate FDLE themselves or shutup


Amid calls for a third-party investigation into allegations made by ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said he won't be getting involved.

"The Cabinet members are big boys and girls," Meggs said Thursday. "They can do whatever they want. They all have investigators. Go investigate. If they don’t, shut up. It’s that simple."

Meggs said he won't even consider investigating until he receives a criminal complaint from Bailey himself.

"If Gerald Bailey wants to come into the office and file a complaint that someone has violated the law, then I'll take a look at it," Meggs said. "I generally don't take complaints from the media. If there is something, we need to handle it in the proper fashion."

But Meggs said one of the first questions he would ask is why Bailey only made the allegations recently and not when he observed the incidents taking place.

"I would be extremely disappointed that he came in to tell me about a crime he knew about when he was commissioner," Meggs said.

He didn't think that would happen, he added.

"I was told this morning that he's moved on with his life," Meggs said. "I heard he won't be filing a report, that he just wants to move forward."

Meggs said Bailey's allegations don't reach the level of a crime, anyway.

"It's much ado about nothing," Meggs said. He said the allegation that Bailey received pressure from Scott's office is far from surprising.

"This is nothing more than a squabble," he said. "I only have disagreements like this every day in my office. I really don't see a story here."


As RPOF changed guard, it paid $580,000 back to Scott

As his candidate for chair of the Republican Party of Florida was losing support, Gov. Rick Scott was given back $580,000 by the party on Jan. 16, campaign finance records show.

The money, which was deposited in Scott’s Let’s Get to Work campaign committee, was delivered the day before the governor’s preferred candidate, Leslie Dougher, lost her bid to remain chair to Rep. Blaise Ingoglia on Saturday.

As the Political Fix reported, the move came after Senate President Andy Gardiner, who also supported Dougher, pulled out $800,000 for the Senate’s majority committee.