July 31, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott highlights hospital infection problems

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is using new infection control data released this week by a consumer magazine to provide further justification of his call to create a commission to review the state’s hospital system.

On Wednesday Consumer Reports said St. Petersburg General Hospital, UF Health Jacksonville and Venice Regional Bayfront Health were among the 12 worst hospitals in the nation in preventing infections. The magazine looked at infection rates for MRSA and clostridium difficile, two of the most common and deadly types of bacterial infections in hospitals. The used dates from October 2013 to September 2014, the most recent data available.

“The news that three Florida hospitals are the worst in America for preventing infections is troubling and unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement to the media. “The study also further demonstrates the importance of the work being conducted by the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to shine a light on the services provided at these facilities.”

Scott wants the commission to investigate how taxpayer-supported hospitals spend their money, especially when it comes to lobbyists, political campaigns and advertising. The idea for the panel arose in April when the state was wrestling with a potential $1 billion budget shortfall after the federal government sought to end a program, called the Low Income Pool, which provides funding for state hospitals.

Continue reading "Florida Gov. Rick Scott highlights hospital infection problems" »

July 29, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott orders investigation of Planned Parenthood sites

via @kmcgrory

Amid a growing controversy over the alleged sale of fetal tissue, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called for an investigation of Florida’s 16 Planned Parenthood offices that perform abortions.

The investigation comes two weeks after the release of an undercover video in which a Planned Parenthood official in California discusses the use of fetal organs for medical research. The anti-abortion group that took the video says it is proof Planned Parenthood sells human tissue.

Planned Parenthood has said the footage was heavily edited, and that it does not profit from tissue donation.

Still, Scott called the video “deeply troubling.” He said he has asked Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek “to evaluate the 16 Planned Parenthood offices in Florida that perform abortion procedures to ensure they are in full compliance with the law.”

“It is against the law for any organization to sell body parts,” he said. “If a Planned Parenthood office is not following the law, we will move quickly to take legal and regulatory action against them.”

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, called the governor’s action “politically motivated.”

More here.

Gov. Scott and Cabinet will settle Mansion-area property lawsuit

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will settle a lawsuit over access to property the state wants to acquire as part of a development project to enhance the Governor's mansion.

The four officials plan to approve the settlement of three separate cases at a Cabinet meeting next Wednesday in a legal battle begun three years ago by Tallahassee lawyer Steve Andrews, who tried to prevent the state from acquiring the land that houses Andrews' law office to create a park adjacent to the Governor's Mansion. As the case unfolded, Andrews raised claims that Scott was using a private email account for official business. The public records issues remain unresolved and are not part of the proposed settlement.

Under the settlement, the state will be able to buy Andrews' land at 822 N. Monroe Street in Tallahassee, and Andrews will grant the state a permanent parking easement. Each side will pay its own costs and fees. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office immediately released the 13-page settlement document in response to a public records request.

The three Cabinet members were not named as defendants in the litigation, but Andrews sued them and Scott in the role as trustees of the state Internal Improvement Trust Fund, which votes on land acquisition decisions at Cabinet meetings.

July 24, 2015

Governor Scott's biggest campaign donations in 2015

@JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has had hundreds of political donors to his campaigns for governor and a political committee he runs.

But some are more generous than others. Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee has received at least $100,000 or more from 12 different donors since the start of 2015. Here is a list of those big donors, ranked by most money given.

1. $580,000 Republican Party of Florida – While listed as a donation, this money actually represents Scott removing money he helped raise for the party, but removed after his choice from RPOF chair was rejected.

2. $252,503 Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts – This was an in-kind donation for travel, food and beverage to help Scott have an economic summit with candidates running for president earlier this summer.

3. $200,000 Jeffrey Vinik  Tampa Bay Lightning owner who is leading a $1 billion redevelop plan for downtown Tampa near Amalie Arena.

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Gov. Rick Scott's healthcare commission meets in Miami, urges price transparency

via @dchangmiami

Hospital profits have crept up over the past decade, thanks in part to taxpayer support, yet patients continue to struggle to find price and quality information — issues the governor’s healthcare commission vowed to tackle during its meeting in Miami Thursday.

“We’ve got to make the costs for procedures available to consumers,” said Carlos Beruff, president of a home building company and chairman of the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding created by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “But that needs to be in conjunction with quality.”

Created to cast light on the finances of Florida hospitals and their use of tax dollars, the commission — meeting at Miami Dade College Medical Campus — focused much of its discussion on transparency as a way to empower consumers and lower healthcare costs.

Commission members also reviewed the early performance of Florida’s switch to managed care for more than 3 million residents on Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people.

But first came presentations from Carlos Migoya, chief executive of Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s public hospital network, and from Steven Sonenreich, CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, a nonprofit.

More here.

July 22, 2015

Governor Scott wants military recruiters armed

@JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already ordered neighborhood military recruitment centers in Florida moved to armories, now he wants to assure National Guard members are armed and ready to respond if they are attacked like what happened in Tennessee earlier this month.

During a press conference in Jacksonville today, Scott said he has asked the leader of the Florida National Guard, Adjutant General Michael Calhoun, to make sure all qualified soldiers are armed so they can defend themselves, including during recruitment work.

"Our military needs to be safe," Scott said.

Calhoun said there was no policy to arm recruiters until know, unless they were in a state building and had their own personal weapon.

"We just want to reassure our recruiters and the individuals that come to those centers are protected," Calhoun said.

Scott is also looking at other options, including bullet proof glass at recruitment centers and calling for more local police patrols of recruitment centers and armories to assure safety of soldiers.

"I do hope the president is taking notice of what we are doing here," Scott said.

Guess who's coming to dinner (with Gov. Scott at the mansion)?

Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott are holding another of their community leaders dinners at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee on Wednesday evening. Like similar events, they include a mix of public officials, political appointees, community leaders and personal friends of the first family. (Mrs. Scott will not attend this dinner, Scott's office said).

Among the more notable names on this list are Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, a Scott appointee to the board of Enterprise Florida and a possible Republican candidate for Congress in 2016; Matt Carlucci, a Scott appointee to the Commission on Ethics; Scott Thomas, a Scott appointee who chairs the Florida Elections Commission; Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs; John Browning of the Florida Transportation Commission, a Palatka businessman and long-time donor to the Republican Party and its candidates; Citrus County Superintendent of Schools Sandra Himmel; and the sheriffs of Columbia and Sumter County, Mark Hunter and Bill Farmer.

Below is the full list of invited guests and their affiliations as provided by Scott's office.

 

Continue reading "Guess who's coming to dinner (with Gov. Scott at the mansion)?" »

July 21, 2015

Gov. Scott will visit Guardsmen as states debate arming recruiters

On the heels of his order closing storefront National Guard recruiting centers and authorizing recruiters to carry guns, Gov. Rick Scott will visit the Guard's 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday where he will meet with an estimated 100 Guard members.

Two of the shuttered Guard storefronts are in Jacksonville and nearby Orange Park. The others are in Brandon, Temple Terrace, Orlando and Miami.

Scott's order directed the state adjutant general, Michael Calhoun, to arm all Guardsmen, including providing them with weapons if they don't own them. That has touched off debate in other states, as Republican legislators in Missouri are urging Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to allow Guard recruiters in that state to be armed, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. 

In New York, police have stepped up patrols at Guard recruiting centers, such as in Times Square. But a spokesman for the New York National Guard, Eric Durr, said recruiters won't be carrying weapons in that state. The Department of Defense opposes arming all troops and the Army's chief of staff, Raymond Odierno, has publicly questioned the wisdom of the new policy.

Governors in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas have also authorized recruiters to carry firearms, and South Carolina is considering a similar step.

Scott's executive order last Saturday came two days after a Kuwait-born gunman killed four Marines and a sailor in two separate attacks at military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn. The governor directed Calhoun to relocate about two dozen Guard personnel to nearby armories and to work with police to improve security. Scott also has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff until sunset of the last day of funeral arrangements for victims of the Chattanooga shootings.

July 20, 2015

Scott and Lopez-Cantera: We oppose diplomatic relations with Cuba

US CubaGov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera took time out of their schedules Monday -- which each listed "no scheduled events" -- to denounce the revival of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States.

The Cuban government reopened its embassy in Washington Monday, flying the Cuban flag over the building for the first time since 1961. Scott and Lopez-Cantera had previously been vocal about their opposition to the move. 

“I stand in firm opposition to the reopening of the Cuban embassy in the United States and the American embassy in Cuba,'' Scott said in a statement. "Last week, the Castro regime arrested 100 peaceful protestors in Cuba. Reestablishing diplomatic ties will only serve to legitimize this sort of oppression. The arrests of peaceful protesters in Cuba have also doubled in the past year and President Obama continues to make concessions to the Castro brothers.

"This move by President Obama will further tie our great nation to the oppressive Castro regime. As Governor, I will continue to stand with the people of Cuba in their pro-democracy movement.” 

Lopez-Cantera, who last week announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, echoed the sentiments. 

“Today, the Obama Administration capitulated to the Castro regime with no regard for the human rights or liberty of the Cuban people,'' he said in a statement. "I, along with Governor Scott, stand firmly against reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba.”

Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP

July 18, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott orders National Guard recruitment centers to move to armories, citing Chattanooga

via @stevvebousquet

Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Saturday ordering all six Florida National Guard recruitment centers to be moved to Guard armories. The order comes in reaction to Thursday's shooting rampage at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., that left four Marines and a U.S. Navy sailor dead.

Scott directed the state adjutant general, Michael Calhoun, to take three immediate steps:

* Relocate all Florida National Guard personnel working at storefront recruitment centers to move to the nearest armory as soon as possible.

* Begin discussions with local law enforcement agencies to arrange regular security checks at all Florida armories.

* Ensure that all qualified full-time guardsmen are armed for their personal protection.

In signing Executive Order No. 15-137, Scott said: "The state will take any every measure available to secure military personnel against the planned attacks of ISIS, including but not limited to securing the work areas and recruiting stations for the Florida National Guard, which the state directs."

The order also says Scott's administration will streamline the application process for military men and women to apply for concealed weapons licenses to ensure that they "can also adequately defend themselves at home."

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau