November 11, 2014

Report: Florida hospitals could lose billions without Medicaid expansion


Florida legislators’ refusal to expand the eligibility criteria for Medicaid as called for under the Affordable Care Act might cost billions of dollars in lost funding for hospitals that treat many uninsured patients, according to a report released Monday by Florida Legal Services, a nonprofit legal advocate for the poor.

The financial impact would be felt most acutely by so-called “safety net” hospitals statewide, and in Miami-Dade, particularly by the taxpayer-owned Jackson Health System, according to Florida Legal, which estimated that Jackson could lose more than $570 million a year.

Other Miami-Dade hospitals, including University of Miami Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center, could lose as much as a combined $60 million a year, according to the report, while hospitals in Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties stand to lose more than $500 million in annual federal funding.

But if state legislators were to accept the government’s offer to spend about $5 billion a year to expand Medicaid to an estimated 760,000 more Floridians, the new revenue would more than offset the anticipated loss of federal funding for hospitals that treat many uninsured patients, Florida Legal reports.

More here.

November 10, 2014

Movers & Shakers

Dominguez takes over as regional director of external affairs in Miami

Alex Dominguez has been named the new regional director of external affairs for the city of Miami and South Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Domingues previously served as the director of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation. 

He has also had roles as the director of fundraising and membership development for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, the South Florida political coordinator for the Florida Association of Realtors and he was a Florida House Legislative Fellow.

In his position, Dominguez will handle legislative and community affairs initiatives. He will also assist with new technology deployment and infrastructure investment.

On the bench

Judge Rodolfo Ruiz II and Jason Bloch have been appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to Miami-Dade County's Eleventh Judicial Circuit.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Simmons named new Senate Rules Committee chair

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamone Springs, has been named by Senate President-Designate Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, as the new chair of the Senate Committee on Rules. 

"David is a loyal advisor, a trusted confidante and good friend," Gardiner said in a press release. "With over three decades of experience practicing law and ten years of service in the state legislature, he is well-qualified to assume this critical leadership position. Throughout his years of public service, David has exhibited sound judgment and a fair-minded, reasonable and thoughtful approach to decision making that, I am confident, will be a great benefit to the Senate over the next two years."

Simmons represents State Senate District 10, which includes all of Seminole County and portions of Volusia County. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2008 and was elected to the Senate in 2010 and re-elected subsequently. Simmons, who earned his law degree at Vanderbilt University, practiced law in Florida for more than 30 years.


Report: Law firm exploits public records law to make profit

Joel ChandlerBy Tristram Korten and Trevor Aaronson, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The nonprofit Citizens Awareness Foundation was founded to “empower citizens to exercise their right to know,” according to its mission statement. The South Florida millionaire backing the foundation hired one of the state’s most prominent public records activists to run it, rented office space, and pledged to pay the legal fees to make sure people had access to government records.

But a review of court records and internal communications obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the foundation is less interested in obtaining records and educating the public than in working with a partner law firm to collect cash settlements from every lawsuit filed.

Citizens Awareness Foundation and the O’Boyle Law Firm set up shop in the same building at about the same time. The two share more than an address. They also share personnel, money and a mandate to sue as many state and local government agencies and businesses as they can for violating Florida’s Sunshine law.

Since January, the foundation and a sister group, Our Public Records LLC, have filed more than 140 lawsuits in 27 counties, court records show. A lawyer with the O’Boyle Law Firm filed all of the cases FCIR reviewed.

The close partnership between Citizens Awareness Foundation and the law firm prompted the foundation’s first executive director, Joel Chandler, to quit over concerns that the coordination “may be criminal, fraudulent and unethical,” according to an affidavit he filed.

Both organizations are housed at the offices of the Commerce Group, the Deerfield Beach real estate development firm owned by millionaire Martin O’Boyle.

O’Boyle is best known for inundating the Palm Beach State Attorney’s office with more than 1,300 public records requests, and for suing the wealthy town of Gulf Stream, where he lives, after filing 1,200 public records requests. Story here. 

Photo: Joel Chandler

Raquel Regalado: I'm "considering" a run for Miami-Dade mayor


School board member Raquel Regalado confirmed the speculation on Monday by saying in a radio interview she is "considering" a run for Miami-Dade mayor in 2016. 

Fresh from a high-profile victory in the defeat of a courthouse ballot initiative, the radio and television host said she is "considering my options, which obviously include mayor."

Her remarks to the 880 AM Gray Zone radio show Monday morning make Regalado, 40, one of only two prominent elected officials to confirm publicly they are eyeing a run against Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in 2016.

The other is County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, 65, a former mayor of Miami. Both Gimenez and Suarez backed the $390 million courthouse plan, which would have raised property taxes to replace the current 1928 facility. 

Regalado, the daughter of Miami's current mayor, Tomás Regalado, would bring a famous name to the race, as well as an outsider's narrative in a run against Gimenez, 60, who was first elected mayor in 2011. But the intellectual-property lawyer lacks management experience or a track record for political fund-raising. 

Regalado has already said she will not seek reelection to her seat on the school board. She told the Gray Zone hosts she's also thinking about a run to succeed her father as Miami mayor in 2017.  I am "considering both," she said. 


Daughter of attorney Pat Gleason dies in car crash

The daughter of prominent Tallahassee attorney Pat Gleason, Erika Marie Kubik, died Friday night in a one-car accident on Florida's Turnpike in Sumter County. Kubik, 33, was a third-grade teacher in Tallahassee and was on her way to meet her mother and brother in Orlando.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Kubik's 2005 Honda Accord was in the left lane when it veered into the median, struck a guardrail, crossed back onto the southbound lanes and collided with a speed detection device.

Gleason, special counsel to Attorney General Pam Bondi on open government issues, has worked for state government for decades and is considered a leading authority on open records issues in Florida. In a statement, Bondi said: "We are devastated by the loss of Pat Gleason's daughter Erika. Pat is a beloved member of our team and a champion of Florida's Sunshine Law. Her loss is heartbreaking and we will continue to keep Pat and her family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time of mourning."


Perspective: Why Democrats are in trouble heading into 2016

The single biggest benefactor of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign also was crucial in clinching races from Maine to Michigan, bringing the number of Republicans in governor's mansions to a nearly two-decade peak.

The Republican Governors Association contributed $18.5 million to Scott, a record amount from the Washington, D.C., fundraising organization, but a fraction of the $130 million it spent nationwide.

RGA spent $14 million to help re-elect Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. It helped secure another four years for embattled Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback by contributing $5 million. And it spent $27 million flipping what had been Democratic strongholds in Massachusetts, Maryland, Arkansas and Illinois.

With RGA's massive fundraising, Republicans picked up two more governor's mansions Tuesday, padding their lead over Democrats to 31-18, the most lopsided balance in 17 years.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court 2010 ruling in Citizens United allowed unlimited contributions to third-party groups like RGA, Republicans have taken the upper hand over Democrats in steering money into races for governor, state legislature and attorney general.

Read story here

Report: Energy drink company wanted to avoid lawsuit so worked relationship with Bondi

From the New York Times: 

Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida, after taking a free ride on a chartered jet last year to a resort island far from her home state, made an unusual offer to one of the corporate lawyers from Washington who helped foot the bill: an invitation to stay at her Tampa home while recuperating from surgery.

The hospitality was extended to Lori Kalani, a lobbyist and lawyer from Dickstein Shapiro, the Washington-based firm that specializes in building personal relationships with state attorneys general to help corporate clients avoid becoming targets of investigation.

The circumstances of the trip to Mackinac Island, Mich., and the subsequent offer to host Ms. Kalani in convalescence were uncovered as part of a continuing investigation by The New York Times into the relationship between private lawyers and state attorneys general. They make vivid how aggressively Dickstein and firms like it have worked in recent years to try to influence top state law enforcement officials.

The Florida Commission on Ethics is reviewing a sworn complaint filed by a Florida resident asking it to investigate whether Dickstein violated state law by not registering as a lobbying firm in the state.

The complaint was filed after an earlier article in The Times reported that Ms. Bondi and other attorneys general had taken actions favorable to Dickstein’s clients after intervention by its lawyers. Continue reading the main story

Termed-out Seth McKeel lands a gig as Southern Strategy lobbyist

What do Florida lawmakers do when they are termed out? Well, if you're Seth McKeel of Lakeland, who served as House appropriations chair under House Speaker Will Weatherford, you become a lobbyist with one of the most powerful firms in the state.

McKeel and Laura Boehmer, a partner with the firm, will open a new Tampa office for Southern Strategy, according to Monday release by the firm. Making a surprise cameo in the release is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, who lauds McKeel, a Republican.

“Seth has been a great leader for Tampa Bay," Buckhorn says in the release. "He’ll be an asset to businesses and organizations throughout our region in his new role and I’m proud to welcome him and Southern Strategy Group to the Downtown Tampa business community.”

Now if we only knew what Weatherford planned to do next.

Here's the release:





Florida’s largest and most influential lobbying firm, Southern Strategy Group, announced today that it has tapped Seth McKeel to be Managing Partner of its Tampa office, heading up the firm’s local and regional lobbying practice.  McKeel will join veteran lobbyist and partner Laura Boehmer, and the team will open a new office in Downtown Tampa later this month.


Paul Bradshaw, the firm’s founder said, “Seth is respected as a leader at the local and state levels, and we are thrilled to have him leading our Tampa Bay team and helping clients in that important region of Florida.”


McKeel said “I’m honored to have been asked by the partners at Southern Strategy Group to lead the Tampa Bay office and so thankful for their trust in me.  Kim and I are thrilled to begin to this exciting new chapter in our lives.  Being a legislator was an extraordinary experience, but I’m looking forward to new opportunities and challenges in the private sector, to working in Tampa Bay and, most importantly, to being a more present husband and father.”


Tampa Mayor Buckhorn applauds the announcement and said: “Seth has been a great leader for Tampa Bay.  He’ll be an asset to businesses and organizations throughout our region in his new role and I’m proud to welcome him and Southern Strategy Group to the Downtown Tampa business community.”



About McKeel

A small business leader and a 14-year veteran of public service in our state, McKeel is a fifth-generation Floridian.  In 2006, McKeel was elected to the Florida House of Representatives following a five-year term on the Lakeland City Commission.  Early in his legislative career McKeel tackled important issues facing Florida including natural resource development, energy independence, and higher education reform. 


A commitment to fiscal responsibility earned him the trust of House Speaker Will Weatherford and in 2012 McKeel was named Chairman of the Florida House Appropriations Committee, a position he held until the conclusion of his term this year.


A graduate of the University of Florida, McKeel recently was awarded the Presidential Medallion, one of UF’s highest awards, for his contributions and service to UF and higher education in our state.  He’s a Graduate of Leadership Florida, Leadership Lakeland and a member of Florida Blue Key.  Seth and his wife Kim live in Lakeland and have one son, Seth III (8) and one daughter, Caroline (5).


About Southern Strategy Group

Southern Strategy Group is a full-service lobbying firm that was established in Tallahassee, Florida in 1999. It is the largest lobbying firm in the state with offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Tampa Bay and has been referred to as “the most powerful lobbying firm in Florida” by the St. Petersburg Times.  For more information, visit

November 09, 2014

The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election


Those who ignore history are condemned to look like Florida Democrats in a midterm election.

Before Tuesday’s Republican drubbing of Democrats at the polls, there were warning signs — lessons that should have been learned or heeded — that were either ignored or downplayed by Democrat Charlie Crist, his campaign or his supporters.

Take, for instance, an August column headlined “Florida Democrats’ biggest problem is ... Florida Democrats,” where I noted how poor primary turnout, especially in South Florida, was a potentially bad sign for Crist.

One Democratic reader told me on Twitter that the column was full of “histrionics.”

Continue reading "The takeaways and lessons of Florida's 2014 election" »