Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with MiamiHerald.com.

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

May 08, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott asks hospitals to consider profit sharing

Gov. Rick Scott is pitching a new idea to help Florida hospitals handle the potential loss of federal funds: profit sharing.

"This would be similar to how large market baseball teams share revenues with small market baseball teams," the Republican governor wrote in a Friday letter to hospital executives. "With the hospital industry's record-high profits, it does not make sense for the hospital industry to ask state taxpayers to back fill funding the Obama Administration has elected to terminate."

A spokeswoman for the Florida Hospital Association said her organization was still reviewing the letter.

Jackson Health System in Miami had not yet done so late Friday.

Scott's suggestion comes as lawmakers are struggling to build the state health care budget.

Federal health officials have said they will not renew a $2.2 billion federal-state program that reimburses Florida hospitals for charity care. The state proposed a successor to the so-called Low Income Pool, but has yet to hear back from the feds.

In his Friday letter, Scott suggested that the federal government was unlikely to continue the funding, and said state lawmakers should "begin preparing a state budget without any LIP funds from the federal government."

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott asks hospitals to consider profit sharing" »

Jeb Bush's planned commencement speech will hit Obama on religious freedom

via @lesleyclark

LYNCHBURG, VA — Jeb Bush will deliver the commencement address Saturday at Liberty University, criticizing the Obama administration for being “small minded and intolerant” of religious freedom.

The address comes as the presumed presidential contender seeks to boost up his standing among conservatives and religious evangelicals and excerpts released ahead of the speech by his campaign committee show he will deliver a defense of religion, saying that “whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice, there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action.”

He will tout Christian charity at the school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, saying that “every day in the life of this nation, uncounted people are comforting the lonely, aiding the ill and discouraged, serving the weak and innocent, giving hope to the prisoner, and in every way they know, loving mercy and living with integrity.”

The former Florida governor who converted to Catholicism, also proclaimed he is pro-life in the excerpts, noting that “wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love.”

His remarks are also critical of the Obama administration, accusing it of “supporting the use of coercive federal power. What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it.”

Continue reading "Jeb Bush's planned commencement speech will hit Obama on religious freedom" »

Rick Perry to travel to Florida next week

@PatriciaMazzei

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's flirting with making another White House run in 2016, has scheduled three Florida events next week. None are in South Florida. Perry ran in the 2012 Republican presidential primary.

According to his political action committee, Perry will attend the Okaloosa County Republican Executive Committee Dinner in Fort Walton Beach on Tuesday, a "cocktails and conversation" event hosted by the Collier County Republican Executive Committee in Naples on Wednesday, and a St. John's County "public forum" in St. Augustine on Thursday.

Nineteen Republicans are running or thinking of running for president next year.

Gov. Rick Scott signs executive order to reform Florida prisons

From Gov. Rick Scott's office:

Governor Rick Scott today signed Executive Order 15-102 which makes significant reforms in Florida’s prison system to improve safety, transparency and accountability. The measures included in Executive Order 15-102 were recommended by Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones and various stakeholders. Many of the included reforms are currently being implemented by the FDOC to increase safety.

Governor Scott said, “The steps outlined in today’s executive order present a clear path forward for the Florida Department of Corrections. The Department’s number one focus is the safety of Florida’s correctional officers, communities and the inmates in state custody and supervision. I would like to thank Secretary Jones for advancing the Department’s mission by increasing transparency and accountability in all Florida correctional institutions.” 

“The Florida Department of Corrections is committed to progress and reform through data-driven initiatives and actions,” said Secretary Julie Jones. “Looking forward, it is critically important that this Department continues in our efforts to be accountable to the people of Florida, our employees and the hundreds of thousands of inmates and offenders under our custody and supervision.”

Read the governor's four-page executive order here.

Miami Democrats, Jackson hospital workers rally for Medicaid expansion

via @dchangmiami

Democratic state representatives and Jackson Health System nurses and doctors on Friday called for Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott and House leaders, to expand Medicaid healthcare coverage for more low-income Floridians and also preserve a federal program that funds hospitals that treat large numbers of uninsured patients.

The rally — hosted by Jackson’s labor union for doctors and nurses, SEIU 1991, in front of the state’s busiest public hospital, Jackson Memorial — drew several hundred hospital employees and at least three House Democrats who support a plan approved by the Republican-controlled Florida Senate but rejected by House leaders.

The plan would expand Florida’s restrictive eligibility criteria for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, and renew a hospital funding program called the Low-Income Pool, or LIP, that provides about $1.3 billion for hospitals but is set to expire on June 30.

The healthcare issue is at the center of a stalemate between the two chambers that led House leaders to abruptly end the legislative session without adopting a budget — the one job they are constitutionally required to complete.

More here.

Has there only been one bank formed since Dodd-Frank as Jeb Bush says?

At an appearance in Concord in mid-April, former Florida governor Jeb Bush talked banking -- and the legislation meant to reform it.

"On my last trip to New Hampshire I think I met the guy who founded the first and only bank since Dodd-Frank passed, since the financial crisis," Bush said at hisspeech at Saint Anselm College’s Politics and Eggs event April 17. "One bank in the country."

The banking reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank became law on July 21, 2010, nearly five years ago. We decided to look into Bush’s statement that only one bank had been founded since that time.

We checked with Bush’s camp and according to spokesman Matt Gorman, Bush met with businessman Bill Grenier when he was in the state March 14. Greiner, of Bedford, filed last year with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to charter an entirely new bank named Primary Bank.

"We’re going against the grain, and we’re okay with that because we see a need," he told the Wall Street Journal in December.

So would Primary Bank be the nation’s "first and only" since Dodd-Frank? Not exactly. Depending on the data set you choose, it’s either the second, fourth, ninth or 20th.

The Journal  and other media sources have said the first bank founded after the law’s passage is in fact the Bank of Bird-in-Hand, Pa. It mainly serves the area’s Amish community. And yes, it includes a drive-through window for horse-and-buggy.

Turn to Clay Wirestone's fact-check from PolitiFact New Hampshire and see Bush's full Truth-O-Meter record.

Kansas, Texas say Florida lawsuit is 'more than an isolated dispute'

For those of you following Republican Gov. Rick Scott's lawsuit against the Obama Administration, here's a copy of the amicus brief filed by Texas and Kansas.

The two states announced their plans to join the suit earlier this week.

The opening line of their brief: "This lawsuit is more than an isolated dispute between Florida and a federal agency."

Download Amicus

Democrat Martin O'Malley makes Miami pit stop for private fundraiser

@PatriciaMazzei

Martin O’Malley, a relative unknown in the 2016 Democratic presidential race, will likely remain that way for a while — by his own choosing.

O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who wants to mount an underdog challenge to juggernaut candidate Hillary Clinton, spent Friday morning in blue, voter-rich Miami — not with average voters, but at a private fundraiser.

He met behind closed doors at Perricone’s Marketplace & Café in Brickell with a robust crowd of suits assembled by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, a 2008 Clinton supporter who now backs O’Malley, his friend from when O’Malley was Baltimore mayor.

O'Malley posed for photographs and made his pitch about bringing executive experience and urban agenda to the White House if he runs, according to several people in attendance. A Miami Herald reporter who showed up and was initially let into the fundraiser was kicked out before O'Malley's remarks. His campaign said he would not hold any public events or media interviews while in South Florida, though he has been accessible to reporters so far during his unofficial campaign.

Attendees described O'Malley as forceful, optimistic and eager to "stay in touch" with them. He asked people to raise their hands if they were better off than their parents. Most did. When he asked again if their children would be better off than them, most didn't.

O'Malley emphasized increasing wages, closing the inequality gap and revitalizing cities. He was "careful," however, when addressing the recent unrest in Baltimore, one attendee said. Another said O'Malley "distanced" himself from the riots that erupted after the death of Freddie Gray under police custody.

O'Malley has defended his tenure as mayor, which included enforcing "zero-tolerance" policies that lowered city crime but, critics say, fueled distrust between communities and the police. On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a wide-ranging investigation into Baltimore's police department.

At one point Friday, O'Malley noted that Perricone's was struggling for business before downtown Miami's boom -- a compliment to Diaz, who was mayor at the time but faced criticism about over-development when he left office and the real-estate market went belly-up.

The breakfast was attended by a cadre of moderates-to-liberals from Miami's civic elite. Several people conceded they showed up more for Diaz than for O'Malley but said they left "intrigued" about how O'Malley would play against Clinton. Diaz had billed the event as a meet-and-greet rather than one requiring a political contribution to O'Malley's political action committee.

Here's a photo of the event posted to Twitter by radio-show host Fred Menachem and provided to the Herald as a courtesy. From left to right, the photo shows Menachem, O'Malley, Diaz and Menachem co-host Julio Avael.

20150508_085908

Police camera advocates to push for state funding in 2016

In the wake of nationwide protests over police violence in the past year — most recently in Baltimore — some lawmakers set out this session with the goal of increasing the number of Florida police officers wearing body cameras.

The fruits of their labor: A bill passed by the House and Senate will make some videos captured on camera exempt from public disclosure.

It’s a move some body camera supporters say will encourage more Florida police departments and sheriff’s offices to implement the technology, widely embraced by law enforcement agencies and their critics as a way to introduce more accountability and solid evidence. Open-government advocates aren’t convinced, saying all body camera video should be easily accessible to members of the public and press.

Still, the larger agenda for people like Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, is to put a camera on every officer in the state. Several agencies, including the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department have already started using cameras.

To get every officer wearing a camera will take time.

Jones’ attempt this year to equip every agency with cameras fell flat fast as lawmakers instead opted for language requiring that local agencies choosing to implement cameras set up clear policies for privacy, data retention and when the cameras should be worn and turned on. That bill passed the House unanimously but was never taken up by senators.

So Jones has started looking to next spring’s session, when he hopes to find a way for more police officers to wear the cameras, even if Florida can’t afford to equip every agency in the state.

“I would want to look at whether or not the state would entertain maybe allowing agencies to apply for some type of grant funding,” he said.

Police departments across the state have expressed interest in trying out the cameras, Jones said, but many want the state to help them fund pilot programs.

“I want to see what’s the possibility of letting some of  the agencies try it out,” he said. “I think it’s worth a shot."

Miami-Dade judge who told store owner 'Go f--- yourself' agrees to stiffer sanction

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County Judge Jacqueline Schwartz has accepted a 30-day unpaid suspension and $10,000 fine as part of her punishment for cussing out a Coconut Grove convenience store owner last year.

Schwartz had earlier acquiesced to a public reprimand and apology letter, but the Florida Supreme Court opined last week she deserved a harsher sanction. The judge had told the Kwik Stop owner "Go f--- yourself" in a campaign sign dispute. She was also found to have interfered with a case file by writing notes on the margin that were only available to one of the parties to the lawsuit.

Schwartz's attorney had indicated after the state high court's ruling that she would follow the justices' recommendation.