June 10, 2015

Judge denies Gov. Scott's request for mediation over LIP program


A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request from Gov. Rick Scott that the court intervene in the state’s ongoing negotiations with healthcare regulators over the extension and revamping of a $1 billion government program that pays hospitals for caring for uninsured and under-insured patients.

In denying Gov. Scott’s request, Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court in Pensacola M. Casey Rodgers cited a June 19 hearing in the state's lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will require “extensive preparation on the part of all parties.’’

If the court were to compel mediation in the federal-state negotiations over the hospital payment program known as the Low Income Pool or LIP, then such an order “would be unduly burdensome, expensive, and not likely to advance the process any faster than the expected proceeding currently scheduled,’’ Rodgers wrote.

Gov. Scott issued a written statement following the judge's order, lamenting what he has repeatedly alleged are coercive tactics by the federal government to pressure Florida to adopt Medicaid expansion. 

Continue reading "Judge denies Gov. Scott's request for mediation over LIP program" »

Elections conference could put Gov. Rick Scott's chief in hot seat

via @stevebousquet

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, could get an unfriendly welcome Wednesday when he appears before the annual mid-year conference of state election supervisors in Kissimmee.

Tensions are still high between Detzner and the supervisors after he spent the regular legislative session unsuccessfully trying to defeat their top priority: creation of an online system for voters to register and update their voting information by 2017. 

The Herald/Times first noted Detzner's invitation to the conference last month. To complicate matters for Detzner, the new president of the supervisors' group is one of his toughest critics, Pasco Supervisor Brian Corley, the outspoken son of a former New York City police officer and a tenacious advocate of making it easier to vote in Florida. 

Detzner has been working to repair the damage from the regular session, in which senators were so dissatisfied with him they refused to confirm him, forcing Scott to reappoint him.

On Sunday, after a budget conference committee, he was seen engaged in an animated conversation with Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who was the sponsor of the online voter registration bill that Scott recently signed into law. Clemens declined to discuss their conversation, but he said during the session that he was offended that Detzner didn't tell him to his face that he was trying to kill his legislation.

Clemens is vice-chairman of the budget conference committee with jurisdiction over the Department of State's budget, and the chairman is Latvala, who also had harsh words for Detzner during the spring session. Asked what the discussion was about, Latvala said: "I just want everybody to love everybody."

Detzner must report to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2016, on the progress his agency is making to begin implementation of the online registration system.

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

June 08, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott defends time away from budget battle

In Tampa on Monday morning, Gov. Rick Scott defended spending time away from the Capitol during the special session and said he still intends to go to Paris for the air show later this week.

"I'll be going to the air show. I'll go Friday night and come back Monday. So I'll shorten my trip. But it's an important trip. We have the second-most number of aviation and aerospace establishments in the country. I'll have an opportunity to meet with a lot of the companies over there. A lot of them have added jobs and some of them we're still talking to them about adding jobs. So it's a good place where I can meet with all of those companies at one time and continue to build the relationship and answer any questions they may have to get more jobs. We're going to continue to work with the House and Senate to get a good budget for everybody."

Asked in general terms about spending time away, he echoed his theme about how Florida is adding jobs.

Then he said: "We're working with the House and Senate during the special session. They know my priorities. I've been very clear about our priorities. I've always let them know they can just pass my budget that I gave them back in January."

After the event, Scott staffer Jeri Bustamente called to say that she wanted to make it clear that the governor is watching what is happening in Tallahassee.

"We're continuing to monitor the process," she said.

UPDATE: A Scott spokeswoman said Monday afternoon whether or not the governor will travel to Paris will be a "game time decision" depending on what is happening in Tallahassee. Budget talks between the Senate and House broke off abruptly Monday following a dispute over spending for Scott's job incentives program.

-- JEFF HARRINGTON, Tampa Bay Times

A Pants on Fire for Rick Scott's environmental funding claim

Gov. Rick Scott says that Florida has invested big bucks in the environment.

As he boasted about the state’s record during his economic summit for GOP presidential contenders in Orlando June 2, Scott reeled off a bunch of statistics about Florida’s budget and economy including this one: "If you care about the environment, we've got record funding."

Scott’s record on the environment has been scrutinized since he first ran for office in 2010. Since that time, news reports detailed how state officials under his watch have been banned from using terms such as "climate change,"  environmental fines have nosedived, and Scott has boasted about reducing the number of days to get anenvironmental permit.

But despite that record, does Florida now have "record funding" for the environment? No, it doesn’t. See what PolitiFact Florida found. 

June 05, 2015

Governor softens veto threat talk on state support of hospitals

Now that Florida legislative leaders have agreed to spend state tax revenue to supplement a hospital payment system being scaled back by the federal government, will Gov. Rick Scott go along?

Scott wrote a letter March 4 to Obama administration officials in which he said he would not support a "backfill" of the low-income pool (LIP) program with Florida tax dollars. But a close reading of that letter makes clear that Scott's threat was tied to a federal decision to "decline to accept a new LIP model and therefore terminate this program." The feds have put Florida on notice that LIP's days are numbered, but it will continue for two more years.

Asked whether he would veto a health care budget "backfilled" with state money, Scott told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday: "What they (the Obama administration) are doing is, they’re walking away from an existing low-income healthcare program for low-income families, which I was shocked by. So I’ve been working to try to make sure they don’t do that. Our agency, our health care administration, has continued to work with them, so we’ll see if we can come to an agreement with them."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said Friday he does not expect a veto from Scott on the LIP funding issue.

"You are wise to keep one eye on what might or might not be acceptable at the plaza level," Lee said, referring to Scott's first-floor suite of Capitol offices. "But they're going to watch us work. They know we're up here doing our job and if they have input, they've got my number and I'd love to chat with them any time. But I don't have any real concern about it at this moment, based on the conversations I had with them in the regular session."

June 03, 2015

In Orlando GOP candidate forum, it's Team Governors vs. Team Senators


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The governors think little of the senators but can’t get enough of Gov. Rick Scott — or at least of Scott’s influence over Florida’s prized Republican primary delegates.

The 2016 GOP presidential candidates and would-be candidates, all but one of them a sitting or former state chief executive, descended Tuesday on Disney World at Scott’s invitation to discuss the Florida governor’s favorite issues: jobs and the economy.

The contenders were short on specifics but long on their praise of Scott, who starred as the forum’s host and seemed to enjoy his elevated national profile.

“Anything I can do to suck up to him and his donors, by God, I’m going to do,” said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He was only half joking.

Scott’s presence kept the focus on executive experience, an angle the governors present were only happy to play up.

“The next president has to do what we’ve done in Florida to turn around the nation’s economy,” Scott said by way of introduction.

More here.

June 02, 2015

Scott signs 17 bills, including guardianship reforms

Gov. Rick Scott today signed another 17 bills into law, including provisions to make abuse of elders by their guardians much rarer.

The goal of the guardianship bill (HB 5) is to change how courts appoint guardians and ensure their wishes are protected.

“The reforms in this bill help to improve how guardians are appointed, better protect the wishes and rights of an incapacitated person once a guardian assumes power over them and clarify the responsibilities of guardians,” Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, told the Times/Herald after the bill passed the House and Senate unanimously in April.

Here are the other bills signed into law by Scott today. He has so far approved 100 from the Legislature's regular session.

Continue reading "Scott signs 17 bills, including guardianship reforms" »

Climate change group gets cheeky in Gov. Rick Scott critique

Climate change group Forecast the Facts is taking jabs at Gov. Rick Scott with a website targeting the governor and his Wisconsin counterpart Scott Walker for their positions on global warming.

Dubbed "#ScottAway the Truth," the site subs out words like "climate change" from sentences about climate change. Scott and Walker have reportedly instructed people who work for their environmental agencies not to use the "C" words.

Here are a couple sentences, as they look after being Scotted Away:

"Due to MAGIC WEATHER, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world - including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa."

"In the U.S., FREE OUTDOOR HEATING is predicted to cause more heat waves, flooding, wildfires, sea level rise and drought."

The website was launched Tuesday, when both governors were in Orlando for a Scott-sponsored forum of GOP presidential hopefuls.

Scott's tax cuts take major hit in House's slimmed-down package

Gov. Rick Scott picked a good day to be out of town Tuesday, as the Florida House eviscerated his proposed package of tax cuts.

The House Finance & Tax Committee approved tax cuts with a two-year value of $436 million, far short of the nearly $700 million Scott proposed in January and the $690 million the House itself advocated during the regular session. But shifting political winds over health care and hospital reimbursements demanded changes.

"We have revised that number," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, the panel's chairman. "We had to fish with the lures that we thought would get bites."

The House figure of $436 million involves creative math, as the value of the tax cuts next year is $299 million, with $137 million more counted in cuts set to take effect the following year.

Scott's proposed cell phone tax cut, which he promoted during the regular session with the gimmickry of a "tax cut calculator," took a severe hit. He wanted to cut the tax on cell phones and satellite TV by $43 a month, and the House bill cuts it by $10 a year in the first year and $20 a year the second year.

"We're looking at 83 cents a month," said an unimpressed Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando.

Scott also wanted to repeal the sales tax on college textbooks, but the House bill calls for a three-day textbook holiday on Aug. 21, Jan. 8 and May 13. Scott wanted to permanently repeal the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, but the House does not include that.

The House dropped a one-day sales tax holiday for camping equipment on July 4, saying that in a June special session, the Department of Revenue wouldn't have enough time to implement it and Florida businesses wouldn't have enough time to promote it.

The House bill includes a three-day back to school sales tax holiday (Aug. 7-9), a slight reduction in the sales tax on business rents and a reduction in the tax on pear cider, which had been classified as wine and taxed at a higher rate.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully to create a new revenue source by taxing profits of multinational corporations with operations in Florida. Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, the amendment's sponsor, said closing tax "loopholes" is a matter of tax fairness and would generate $500 million a year in state tax revenue to fund health care expansion, increase reimbursement rates to hospitals and lessen reliance on local property taxes to pay for health care.

Republicans said the tax would be bad for business and would eliminate jobs and they killed the amendment on an 11 to 6 party-line vote. The tax cut bill passed 12-5 as Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, sided with Republicans.

The Senate, which continues to advocate a health care expansion plan funded with federal Medicaid money, has shown less enthusiasm for cutting taxes than the House or Scott. The Senate Finance & Tax Committee is tentatively scheduled to vote on a tax cut bill next week.

Economic Growth Summit: Rick Scott


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott opened his Republican candidate forum in Orlando with a short video touting his administration's economic record. He then took the stage, under a large banner reading "RICK SCOTT'S ECONOMIC GROWTH SUMMIT."

The crowd at the Walt Disney World Resort Convention Center is made up largely of business people, with a robust media contingent seated in the back.

HIS PITCH, IN BRIEF: "The next president has to do what we've done in Florida to turn around the nation's economy."

FRIENDLY COMPETITION: Scott, as he tends to do, compared Florida to Texas. He boasted that Florida has "added 271,000 jobs" in the past year -- more than the Lone Star State, he said: "That's the first time in years that we've done that."

UNFRIENDLY COMPETITION: Scott also got in a dig at New York state government. He has openly recruited businesses there.

BIGGEST APPLAUSE LINE: "If you don't live in Florida, I hope you move here, and while you're here, spend every dime you have."

FUTURE AMBITIONS?: "We believed any one of us could be president," Scott said of his childhood. For now, he's said to be considering a U.S. Senate run in 2018.