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5 posts from January 8, 2013

January 08, 2013

Do Hagel and Obama differ on Iran?

President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as defense secretary is expected to create a hotly contested fight about his comments on Israel and Iran.

Pro-Israel hawks have cast a portrait of Hagel as too soft on Iran and not chummy enough with Israel. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a day before the Jan. 7 announcement that if confirmed, Hagel would be "the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the State of Israel in our nation's history."

The Hagel nomination comes two months after Obama won re-election amid much debate about Obama’s relationship with Israel. Obama still won the vast majority of the Jewish vote, but by less than 2008. 

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a pro-Israel group whose board members include high-profile conservatives Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer, aired an ad in December attacking Hagel, even before Obama officially announced his pick to replace Leon Panetta who is retiring.

"Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel?" asks a disgusted sounding narrator. "President Obama says he supports sanctions on Iran. Hagel voted against them. Hagel voted against labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. And while President Obama says all options are on the table for preventing a nuclear Iran, Hagel says military action is not a viable, feasible, responsible option. President Obama, for secretary of defense Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option."

There are a lot of claims in that ad, but PolitiFact wanted to check if Obama and Hagel disagreed about military options for preventing a nuclear Iran. 

Gov. Rick Scott accused of using 'false' Medicaid expansion numbers

In a Sunday Tampa Bay Times editorial and again when speaking to the media in Washington on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott said it will cost Florida $26 billion over the first 10 years to expand Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"As you know Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration put out their estimate of what the expansion would cost just for Florida taxpayers and it's over $26 billion," Scott said Monday.

Today, PolitiFact rated that statement "False," saying "the state study relies on questionable or downright misleading assumptions to reach its eye-popping figure."

Health News Florida also reported today that the governor was warned weeks ago that he was using inaccurate numbers that could breach state law if they were utilized.

The governor's office has released a statement that defends Scott's decision to use the numbers in the AHCA report while also acknowledging that other estimates exist that paint a different picture.

“AHCA’s report concluded that adding people to Medicaid under the new law would cost Florida $26 billion over 10 years," Melissa Sellers, Scott's spokeswoman, said in the news release. "Others have asked AHCA to use different assumptions to calculate different cost estimates. We look forward to reviewing those cost estimates as well."

For example, an earlier state report said the Medicaid expansion cost over 10 years would be about $8 billion. A Kaiser Family Foundation study said Florida would only be on the hook for about $1 billion from 2013 to 2022. And even another report by the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University said the state could save up to $100 million a year because allowing people to join Medicaid would reduce the financial burden on other state-funded safety net programs.

Here is the full release from the governor's office:

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott accused of using 'false' Medicaid expansion numbers" »

Levine, Huizenga Jr., others seek coveted BOG slots

Gov. Rick Scott has an important decision to make. Six of them, to be exact.

Six of the governor's 14 appointments to the State University System Board of Governors are up for review this month. The BOG sets policy for universities, and they are among the most prestigious appointments in state government. The cluster of openings at the start of a new year gives Scott a chance to put his philosophical stamp on a vital policymaking board.

The pool of candidates includes former state Rep. Fred Costello, a dentist from Ormond Beach; Harry Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the former Miami Dolphins owner and Blockbuster Video founder; educator John Giotis of Clearwater Beach; and Alan Levine of Naples, a health care executive and senior VP of Hospital Management Services of Florida.

The four BOG members whose terms are up are Tico Perez of Orlando, Gus Stavros of St. Petersburg, John Temple of Boca Raton and Norman Tripp of Fort Lauderdale. Among those incumbents, only Tripp is seeking a new seven-year term, according to the governor's office. Two other vacancies exist because BOG members Joe Caruncho and Ava Parker resigned with parts of their terms unfilled to take other positions.

Scott said that one prerequisite for BOG appointees is that they must share his firm opposition to any more tuition increases at universities.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Scott said. "I'm going to appoint people who believe the way I do, that we've got to look at every way we can figure out how to keep tuition as low as possible." 

Scott's office says some of the appointments are imminent. The board's next meeting is Jan. 16-17 in Gainesville. 

-- Steve Bousquet

Carlos Lopez-Cantera sworn in as Miami-Dade property appraiser

New Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera was sworn into office Tuesday in a County Hall ceremony packed with a who's who of local politicians.

Amid the schmoozing mayors, commissioners, lawmakers, lobbyists and political operatives were Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Lopez-Cantera -- a former GOP majority leader in the Florida House of Representatives -- thanked for his support and advice. Lopez-Cantera was introduced by state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, and by auto magnate Norman Braman.

Braman, an early financial backer of Lopez-Cantera's property appraiser campaign, lauded Lopez-Cantera for working behind-the-scenes last year to ensure the city of Miami wouldn't have to pay property taxes on its four parking garages at the Miami Marlins' new ballpark.

Pledging to focus on customer service, Lopez-Cantera unveiled a new sign for his office that reads, "Welcome. How can we help YOU?" He said he intends to hold monthly meetings to hear from residents and touted a new online form that allows people to submit suggestions directly to him.

"I'm bringing fresh new ideas and a new energy," he said.

Lopez-Cantera defeated Pedro J. Garcia, the county's first elected property appraiser who served only one term. The relationship between the two men has been frosty; Garcia declined Lopez-Cantera's request to "transition" him into the new job, and Lopez-Cantera first toured his new office three days before being sworn in.

Garcia sent property owners a letter with their tax bills last month outlining his administration's achievements, ranging from "more accurate" property assessments to a reduction in the number of appealed assessments.

"The four years I have served as your property appraiser have been both challenging and rewarding," he wrote. "I thank you for allowing me to serve you." 

FL Health News: Rick Scott (intentionally?) touting false Medicaid-Obamacare numbers

Florida Health News:

Gov. Rick Scott keeps repeating Medicaid-expansion cost estimates that he knows are wrong, according to a series of e-mails among state officials obtained by Health News Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott says he opposes expanding Florida Medicaid because it would cost too much: $63 billion over 10 years, he says, with the state paying $26 billion of that.

But those numbers are based on a flawed report, state budget analysts say. A series of e-mails obtained by Health News Florida shows the analysts warned Scott’s office the numbers were wrong weeks ago, but he is still using them. He cited them in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed on Sunday and at at a Washington press conference on Monday (see YouTube video).

More here