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April 23, 2015

GOP won’t challenge Cuba’s removal from terrorism list

via @HeraldMimi

Republicans say they will not mount a challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met with congressional colleagues last week to map strategy to prevent the de-listing and she had planned to introduce a bill this week.

But she told Foreign Policy Wednesday that legally Congress can’t prevent the White House from taking Cuba off the list. “We can't undo it. We just got the word from the parliamentarian: It's a no-go.”

Ros-Lehtinen told Foreign Policy that 35 co-sponsors had signed on to draft legislation before the decision was made not to go forward with it.

Obama sent a report to Congress April 14 saying he planned to take Cuba off the list because it had provided no support for international terrorism during the past six months and the Cuban government had given assurances that it wouldn’t support acts of international terrorism in the future.

Cuba was placed on the list in 1982 because of its effort to promote armed revolution in Latin America. Cuban officials have always contended that Cuba never should have been put on the list.

By law, the president was required to inform Congress 45 days before his directive went into effect. Now, with no challenges, Cuba is expected to be removed from the list in late May.

More here.

Fact-checking Richard Corcoran's stat about deaths of Medicaid patients

Constituents demanding a solution to the Legislature’s budget impasse over Medicaid expansion have been emailing Rep. Richard Corcoran, who has been telling voters that the federal program is dangerous for its patients.

Several PolitiFact Florida readers have sent in an email response from the Land O’ Lakes Republican, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. In his reply, Corcoran decries the already high enrollment and expense of Medicaid, the joint state and federal health care program for the very poor, as a reason to not accept federal expansion money under the Affordable Care Act.

"Unfortunately, those Floridians belong to a troubled delivery system," Corcoran wrote. "The largest national study, conducted by the University of Virginia, found that Medicaid patients were 97 percent more likely to die than those with private insurance. Expanding coverage through a health care program that delivers questionable care is not a public policy that Florida should embrace."

Saying patients are twice as likely to die is an eye-opening statistic to cite when arguing against Medicaid, implying not only is the program delivering substandard care, it’s actually bad for patients. We wondered if the federal plan was really to blame for such a high mortality rate.

What we found is that if you’re on Medicaid and you have surgery, the study Corcoran cited did say you are more likely to die -- but it’s probably not because you’re using Medicaid to pay for treatment.

Turn to Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and see Corcoran's Truth-O-Meter record.

Quinnipiac poll: Marco Rubio bumps ahead of Jeb Bush, competitive with Hillary Clinton

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio leads the GOP field in a new national poll and runs best against Hillary Clinton, a big shot for his campaign that's just over a week into effect.

Rubio takes 15 percent of the GOP primary vote, according to the Quinnipiac poll, with Jeb Bush earning 13 percent and Scott Walker 11 percent. No other candidate tops 9 percent and 14 percent remain undecided.

Clinton naturally blows away any Democratic competition and other Republicans, except 43-year-old Rubio. In a general election matchup, Clinton gets 45 percent of American voters to 43 percent for Rubio. That's better than other Republicans, including Bush whom Clinton leads 46-39.

“The youngest member of the GOP presidential posse moves to the front of the pack to challenge Hillary Clinton whose position in her own party appears rock solid,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenalin into a campaign. Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton.”

Bush tops the “no way” list as 17 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him.Chris Christie is next with 16 percent, with 10 percent for Rand Paul.

From April 16 – 21, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,353 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones. The survey includes 567 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points and 569 Democrats with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points.

After the news got out, Rubio's campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, remarked on Twitter that polls this early "don't matter." That's true but it's also likely Rubio's campaign knows what comes with the additional attention: more media scrutiny and more overt shots from Republicans.

At the least, the poll would seemingly validate feeling among Rubio's camp that he had a strong rollout and that Clinton's campaign announcement a day before Rubio's did not eat into his national news attention.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 22, 2015

Bradley: Gambling bills face long odds as compact discussions are now underway

Senate Regulated Industry Committee Chairman Sen. Rob Bradley said Wednesday that discussions with the Seminole Tribe and the Senate are underway over the resolution of the portion of the gaming compact with the state.

But "there is such a large distance between the two parties” that he expects it “will be very difficult to come to a meeting of the minds” before the session ends on May 1. The casualty, he said, is likely to be passage of any gaming bill this session. 

“The Senate’s position has been consistent, we think when it comes to gaming you deal with the compact first and then deal with these other issues,'' he told the Herald/Times. "We are not going to recommend to our members a deal that doesn’t make sense for the people of the State of Florida.

"Until we arrive at a situation with our negotiations with the Tribe, where we have such a deal, then we’re not going to move forward."

That could mean that any attempt by the House to schedule passage of its sweeping gaming bill, HB 1233, could be in trouble. Or it could mean that the chilled relations between the chambers over the budget and health care impasse are also interfering with progress on other priority bills. In other words, is it posturing? 

House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, has signaled the importance of the gaming bill to her this session, first by drafting a massive rewrite of the state's gaming laws that included widespread expansion of gambling options throughout the state.

Facing resistance from conservatives in the House, Young scaled down the bill and on Tuesday the House Finance and Tax Committee voted 10-8 to pass a plan to open the door to slot machines in Palm Beach and Lee counties, but only if approved by legislators, the governor and the Seminole Tribe.

Also included in the plan are two issues important to Young, the so-called "decoupling" of dog racing that makes racing greyhounds optional at tracks that operate poker rooms or slots casinos and requires race tracks to report all dog injuries to the state. 

Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said that until the compact is resolved, the Senate is not ready to take up that bill.  

“The only issue we are comfortable peeling off would be the injury reporting issue – the bill that we passed on the first day,’’ he said, referring to the dog injury reporting bill named after former Senate President Don Gaetz's wife, Victoria Gaetz.

“As far as those other gaming issues – whether it be decoupling, the Palm Beach and Lee County slots, the Senate’s position is we deal with the compact first and then we have a comprehensive package,'' Bradley. 

Fanjul family to host Marco Rubio fundraiser in West Palm Beach


Rubio invite
A series of Florida fundraising receptions to benefit U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid kick off Friday with a West Palm Beach luncheon that features deep-pocketed donors.

The event will be headlined by two generations of the Fanjul family, the Cuban-American sugar barons, and also include GOP fundraiser Gay Gaines, an early backer of Rubio's 2010 Senate bid.

Also listed as part of "host committee" are former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who attended Rubio's campaign launch in Miami last week; former Palm Beach Town Councilman Bill Diamond and former Mitt Romney fundraisers Darlene and Jerry Jordan, among others.

Tampa Rep. Narain elected to lead black caucus

Freshman Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, was elected to lead the Florida Legislative Black Caucus for a year starting this summer, just months after being elected to the House.

Narain said the biggest challenges facing black Floridians are high unemployment and poverty rates, and he intends to focus the caucus’ efforts on economic issues.

“Yes, we’ve improved our jobs in the state of Florida, but the way we measure jobs, in terms of the unemployment rate, it’s still higher in minority communities, specifically African-American communities,” he said. “And we don’t talk about the poverty rate.”

But, he said, he and the rest of the 26-member caucus remain concerned about nationwide police violence, particularly cases of black men being shot and killed, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.

Scott takes aim at hospital profits with six-page list

As Gov. Rick Scott met with senators Wednesday to increase the pressure on them to pass his tax cut package, he was armed with a document.

Holding the six-page document, compiled by the Agency for Health Care Administration, Scott points to the data on profit margins for local hospitals in each member's district.  

In one column is the operating revenue, in another is the operating margin and in the third is the total margin. His argument: How can the state be willing to send tax money to hospitals that are making a profit? 

Scott, a former hospital executive who became a millionaire buying and selling for-profit hospitals, argues that hospitals are shielding their profits. 

It's an argument that Senate leaders say is appropriate -- but not as part of the ongoing budget battle and decision over health care policy. House Appropriations chairman Richard Corcoran disagrees and argues that the discussion is "imperative."

Here's Scott's hospital list.  Download Hospital Profits 4.22.15

GOP senator says Scott's use of 'nuclear option' makes no sense

Republican senators swapped stories on the Senate floor Wednesday after they held one-on-one meetings with Gov. Rick Scott. Lawmakers said Scott reminded them of his priorities of tax cuts and school spending and threatened to kill their bills and veto their budget items.

One GOP senator who was not invited to Scott's inner sanctum was Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who has criticized Scott for shifting his position on Medicaid expansion and for Scott's unwillingness to negotiate a resolution to the health care budget stalemate. 

"He's not the first governor to threaten vetoes if he doesn't get his way on priorities. That's well within the rules," Gaetz said. "The problem is, that's the nuclear option. When the governor says, 'All your bills are dead and all your appropriations will be vetoed,' then there's really nothing else to talk about ... It has a tendency to stop productive conversation at that point."

Gaetz has been most critical of the Scott administration's failure, for nearly a year, to send an alternative plan to the federal government in anticipation of the end of a hospital funding program known as LIP, or the low-income pool. Gaetz calls the inaction "governance malpractice." Scott did send the feds the Senate's modified Medicaid expansion plan earlier this week.

"The meetings that have been held today lose him some ground in human relations," Gaetz said of Scott. "There are some senators who will not take kindly to being threatened."

Shield for police video passes Senate

Senators on Wednesday voted 36-2 to keep some police body camera videos out of public light.

The bill (SB 248) by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Ft. Lauderdale, would shield any footage taken by officer-worn cameras inside a private residence, hospital, mental health care facility, social services agency or “a place that a reasonable person would expect to be private.”

The upshot: Privacy protection if police come into your home or hospital room wearing body cameras.

“If it’s in your home, your hospital room, your hotel room, a place where you deem to be private,” Smith said in debate Wednesday, “that video can only be released with your consent … you are the only one that can give permission for them too see it.”

But opponents worry exemptions could make public scrutiny of police work more difficult even as police departments turn to cameras to introduce more transparency and accountability to their work.

Only two senators voted against the bill: Sens. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay.

There is no companion in the House, but the language could be tacked onto other body camera legislation moving there.

An earlier version of the bill also exempted any medical emergency video from public record disclosure but was changed after open-government advocates, including Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, said it could make it harder for police brutality cases to be aired publicly.

Scott calls senators in, threatens vetoes, challenges hospital profits

Gov. Rick Scott used the threat of his veto pen on Wednesday and privately called several Republican senators into his office individually, threatening to veto their priorities, reminding them he wants tax cuts, and showing them a list of local hospitals which he suggests are making unreasonable profits.

The message, according to several senators who spoke with the governor: Why aren’t we cutting taxes if we are willing to send taxpayer money to profitable hospitals?

“It’s a legitimate question,’’ said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, one of the senators Scott called in for a meeting Wednesday. “We’re  passing out taxpayer money and asking the working poor to pay too. People looking at their hospital bills don’t think the hospitals are suffering as much as they say they are.”

Detert said that Scott discussed vetoes “because that is the only tool in his toolbox” and “demonstrated that her local hospital had a profit of $93 million.”

Other senators said the governor told them he wasn’t pleased at the standing ovation the Senate Appropriations Committee gave Senate President Andy Gardiner on Tuesday, a gesture of appreciation for his position on the health care issues.

The Senate has proposed a way for the federal government to extend the $2.2 billion federally-backed LIP program for hospitals and other health-care providers, and has remained firm in its support for a private insurance program that would use $2.8 billion in Medicaid expansion funds to help low-income Floridians.

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