« January 27, 2013 | Main | January 29, 2013 »

11 posts from January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Rep. Joe Garcia welcomes Sen. Rubio's "evolution" on immigration

Newly elected Rep. Joe Garcia, who beat Sen. Marco Rubio's longtime friend David Rivera in the last election, gives the Republican a little praise for his immigration proposal.

And Garcia implicitly asks: What took you so long?

The statement:

"For years we have pushed for a solution to our ineffective and unjust immigration system and I believe 2013 will be the year this goal becomes a reality.  I wholeheartedly welcome Senator Rubio's and others evolution on this important issue and welcome with them with open arms to  join our cause."

 "The Senate's blueprint is a positive step toward this important goal and as a member of the Immigration Subcommittee I look forward to reviewing the details with the Senate. Their 'tough, but fair' approach provides a good foundation for the legislation that is needed. What is most encouraging about their plan is the earned pathway to citizenship, which must be reasonable and begin quickly. It is our hope that our Republican colleagues in the House will see this as a workable framework and be fully willing to cooperate on common sense solutions that will benefit all Americans."


Sens. Rubio and Cruz: Children of Cuban immigrants, but divided over path to citizenship

Cuban-American, young, Republican and beloved by the tea party. But on immigration, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas see things differently.

Rubio is part of the Gang of 8 that revealed the contours of an immigration overhaul, which includes a pathway to citizenship. "It is not going to be an easy process, but it's certainly going to be a fair one and a humane one and one that speaks to our nation's -- to our legacy, both as a nation of laws, but also as a nation of immigrants," Rubio said.

Cruz, in a statement, took issue with that approach. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”

Below, a transcript of Rubio's remarks. ... Read more

Posted by Alex Leary

Gov. Rick Scott, House members paying less for health insurance than rank-and-file state workers

Last year, the Florida Senate decided that it would begin paying the same amount for health insurance coverage as rank-and-file state workers. But Gov. Rick Scott, the Cabinet and the vast majority of the Florida House continue to pay the cheaper insurance rates afforded to those in management positions.

Today, the Associated Press puts those facts in the context of decisions facing the Legislature when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, mainly whether or not to expand Medicaid to reduce the number of unisured Floridians.

More from the AP:

Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators will soon decide whether Florida should extend health insurance coverage to nearly 1 million residents, and those officials all get their plans from the state, many paying less than state workers.

Scott, as well as the three other Republican members of the Cabinet, and nearly all state lawmakers are enrolled in Florida's health insurance plan.

For Scott, the cost to cover him and his wife is less than $400 a year. A total of 107 out of 120 members of the Florida House pay the same or less for coverage.

The 40 members of the Florida Senate also are covered by the state, but this month they started paying the same as rank-and-file career service employees under a proposal pushed by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Career service workers pay $50 a month for individual coverage and $180 a month for family coverage.

"The people who work here at night and clean our offices are valuable people," said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. "We shouldn't be paying less for our health insurance while they are paying more."

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott, House members paying less for health insurance than rank-and-file state workers" »

Group, DCF launch campaign to report sexual abuse

TALLAHASSEE -‑ The state’s Department of Children and Families is launching a new public awareness campaign with Lauren Book, a sexual abuse survivor and advocate, to ensure more people are reporting abuse, even if the suspect is not a direct caregiver.

The campaign is part of a new state law, which took effect in October, that was sparked by the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State. In addition to bolstering penalties for unreported crimes, the law clarifies that it’s everyone’s moral and “legal obligation” to report abuse, said DCF Secretary David Wilkins at a Monday press conference with Book, president and CEO of the Lauren’s Kids Foundation.

The state hired 47 new workers to handle more calls to the child abuse hotline, Wilkins said, noting that the number of calls jumped 16 percent from September to October. The hotline receives more than 300,000 calls a year, and of that number, 80 percent are referred for investigations.

The $262,000 public awareness campaign, called “Don’t Miss the Signs” will be a multimedia and educational approach featuring public service announcements, billboards and printed materials to highlight the age-appropriate physical and psychological clues to abuse, which include regressive behavior like thumb sucking and bed-wetting, being easily startled and missing school.

Among the reasons for concern:
   * One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
   * 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable, Book says.
   * In 2011, 126 children and infants died in Florida from verified abuse and neglect – the biggest causes were drowning and unsafe sleeping.

Book, who was a victim of sexual abuse by her family’s nanny from the time she was 11 to 17,  said she also wants victims of abuse to call the hotline.

“If you are having somebody touching you and it makes you feel uncomfortable, make the call,” said Book. “I know what it is to be a victim in that position, where you feel like you are all alone and no one has your back … I think it’s important kids know they’re not alone.”

Under the new law, the hotline will also accept calls about suspects who aren’t direct caregivers – in the past those callers were told to call their local law enforcement agency, which discouraged some reporters.

The multimedia effort is part of $1.5 million that Book’s foundation received from the Legislature to create an educational and outreach campaign, which includes the Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum distributed to every public kindergarten in Florida.

But Book says there’s a greater need for a “standardized educational plan”.  “It’s just as important as reading and writing.”

“Prevention is key,” Book said. “We spend zero time, before Safer Smarter Kids came along, educating our kids on prevention. Pedophiles spend 100 percent of their time thinking about how they’re going to offend against our children … We need to do more.”

To report abuse call 1-800-962-2873 or go to www.floridaabusehotline.com.

To learn more about the campaign and signs of abuse: www.dontmissthesigns.org

Rochelle Koff, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

House also creates gaming committee, puts Schenck in charge

House Speaker Will Weatherford on Monday followed the lead of the Senate and announced the creation of a Select Committee on Gaming to study the path of the state into the perilous territory of gambling reform.

Named to head the effort: Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, who also serves as Weatherford's powerful Rules Committee chair.

“The House Select Committee on Gaming will be charged with looking Florida’s gaming activity holistically to determine ways to improve the state’s oversight of the industry,” Weatherford said in a statement. “Under Representative Schenck’s leadership, I’m confident we can determine what changes – if any – are needed to develop a comprehensive policy for gaming in Florida.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, has created a similar committee and assigned Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, to head it. Richter, a newcomer to gambling regulation issues, has decided to move ahead by the end of February to hire an outside consultant to do a study of the impact of gaming in Florida and assess what economic and revenue impact any changes would have. 

Weatherford has agreed to split the cost of the study -- which Richter estimates could be as high as $400,000. His statement said the goal of the committee will be to establish a "unified, long-term policy for the future of gaming in Florida that serves the best interest of all Floridians" by the 2014 session.

Gambling issues have traditionallly been one of the most perilous hot potato issues for lawmakers to handle.

Legislators in both urban and rural areas of the state represent legacy parimutuel industries of horse and dog racing whose owners perenially ask the state to expand their gaming options to include the now-popular slot machines in order to preserve the jobs and revenue from their declining industries.

But legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott have also acknowledged the appeal of the resort-gaming industry, led by the Las Vegas Sands and Genting, which promise handsome tax revenues and swanky resorts if the state allows them to bring full casinos to South Florida. 

Finding the balance between the two arguments -- as well as deciding what to do with the exploding growth of Internet cafes and online poker -- has been stumped lawmakers in the last three legislative sessions.

Adding urgency to this issue now is the state's gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which expires in 2015. Gaetz and Weatherford have acknowledged that they plan to renew or alter that before their terms end in 2014. 

“Gaming is an issue that requires a careful consideration of existing law before any decisions are made regarding the industry’s future in Florida,” Schenck said in the statement.  “I look forward to conducting a comprehensive review to set a long term vision for the future of gaming in Florida.”


White House on Gang of 8/Rubio pathway to citizenship plan: "This is a big deal."

By @MarcACaputo

During a press conference today, White House spokesman Jay Carney sounded encouraged about the new immigration plan pushed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and other members of the so-called "Gang of 8."

Of particular interest: the pathway to citizenship that the proposal would allow. (Today's story here)

"This is a big deal," Carney said. "This is an important development."

The pathway to citizenship is a big deal for some Republicans, too, and it looks like amnesty to them.

Carney also noted the plan, as we previously reported, mirrors one offered up by President Obama in 2011

Asked about the finer points of the proposal, Carney said it was too early to discuss it all. There's no legislation yet. It won't be ready until March. And legislation, specifics, matter.

"We’re not at the stage… where we are going to negotiate details of legislations that doesn’t yet exist," Carney said.

Carney wouldn't comment on the idea of linking border security to the eventual citizenship for newly legalized undocumented immigrants. Under the plan, ultimate citizenship wouldn't be granted until the border is declared "secure" by a task force of Southwestern officials. But The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported that anonymous Senate staffers drafting the legislation said the declaration from the task force was "advisory" and "nonbinding."

Carney also rejected "a suggestion that the Senators trumped Obama who plans to give an immigration speech tomorrow in Las Vegas.

"This is not a new issue for the president," he said.


Mario Diaz-Balart likes Gang of 8/Rubio immigration plan

From U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and key House member on immigration:

“Although we have not seen the legislation text, the principles released today are compatible with the discussions in the House. The prospect of true immigration reform can only happen with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and today’s news is a step in that direction. I commend the dedicated efforts of the group. We look forward to working with the Senate and President Obama to find a real, permanent solution.”

Note: If Diaz-Balart, a longtime friend of Sen. Marco Rubio's didn't support the plan of his fellow Republican, it would be big news. Diaz-Balart was on CNN talking about the issue.

"If this was an easy lift it would have been done a long time ago," Diaz-Balart said. "We've been hammering out our differences, we've been hammering out what needs to be fixed."

Florida's other Senator, Bill Nelson, lauds 'principles' of Marco Rubio, Gang of 8's immigration plan

By @MarcACaputo

Sounds like senior Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, likes what Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is doing with immigration:

“I support the principles of a bipartisan group of senators seeking immigration reform and U.S. border security.  We simply cannot deport 11 million people.  That would be unreasonable.  It would ruin our economy.  But anyone who is here must follow the rules, pay taxes, learn English and go to the end of the line.  If they do that, they should have a shot at citizenship.  And those who are unwilling to do that, they should be sent home.   We also need to make sure that children who through no fault of their own know no other country but ours can stay here to go to college or serve in the military.  The bottom line is: we’re talking about fairness."

Story here on the plan so far.

State demands showdown with high-salaried DJJ vendor

Gov. Rick Scott's administration is demanding a face-to-face meeting to seek "immediate cost concessions" and refunds of "excessive administrative costs" with a state vendor that pays its top executive $1.2 million a year.

The showdown follows this report by the Times/Herald on the compensation a non-profit Tallahassee foundation pays its chief executive.

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters called for the meeting, at 10 a.m. Monday at DJJ headquarters, with officials of the Henry and Rilla White Foundation, a non-profit that has more than two dozen contracts across the state to care for troubled juveniles in state custody. 

DJJ is protesting what it claims is a dramatic increase in compensation for White Foundation CEO William Schossler -- most of it paid by Florida  taxpayers. The foundation's most recent 990 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, for 2010, shows that it paid Schossler $1.2 million, more than half of it in deferred compensation.

The state's highly unusual action also comes at a time when the leadership of the Senate is calling for intensive review of long-term contracts embedded deep in the state budget which are not usually reviewed or questioned by state legislators.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the Senate budget subcommittee that includes DJJ, said he learned of Schossler's pay package through news coverage, and he agrees with the actions Walters is taking. "I agree with DJJ's approach to the issue. I think the compensation is clearly excessive," Bradley said. 

DJJ rejected a request by the Times/Herald that a reporter be allowed to sit in on the discussions. "We have concluded that it would set an inappropriate precedent to allow a third party to be involved in such a discussion with a contract provider, even if only as an observer," DJJ spokesman C.J. Drake said in an email.

-- Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Forbes: Miami Marlins deal most costly stadium disaster, taxpayers 'hosed'


Miami-Dade county taxpayers must be wishing Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria had stuck with his original game plan.

For years Loria ran a low-budget baseball franchises and made a fortune by successfully maneuvering through Major League Baseball’s financial system. Loria’s strategy: rely on welfare from richer baseball teams and every now and then spend enough to have a contender (the Marlins defeated the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series) so fans stay at least somewhat interested. During the five years through the 2011 season the Marlins posted a staggering $153 million in aggregate operating income.

But then Loria decided to switch to a different form of welfare: taxpayers. Last year the Marlines opened $639 million, publicly-financed  ballpark and parking complex. Usually teams thrive when they first move into a new stadium because of higher attendance, splashy amenities and luxury seating boost revenue. But the Marlins stadium has been a disaster and Mami-Dade county taxpayers are getting  hosed like nobody before them.

More here