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9 posts from March 11, 2013

March 11, 2013

As debate lingers on CCEs, Cannon keeps his alive; newcomers open new ones

Former Speaker Dean Cannon is among the former legislators whose use of his political committee is raising the hackles of both his former colleagues and lobbyists.

Cannon, who left politics after being term limited out of office in November, has opened a lobbying firm in Tallahassee to lobby the executive branch but has never shut down his CCE that raised $1.1 million while Cannon was in office and spent $830,000. 

The CCE, Florida Freedom Council, spent $8,068 on personal expenses in 2012. The expenses included $2,678 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa and $2,675 on travel from GK Aviation, both in September; $485 at Shula’s 347 in Tallahassee on Nov. 12 and $2,230 on Crown Awards on Nov. 19.

In the final days of the 2012 election cycle, Cannon’s CCE gave $25,000 to the CCE of Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Ormond Beach, $25,000 to the Florida Enterprise Fund, a federally-regulated electioneering and communications organization, and $50,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.

Cannon said he is not the only person authorized to raise and spend money on the account but has asked the chairman, Scott Thomas, to shut it down.

“I have been supportive of that CCE but I do not have now, or ever had, complete control of it,’’ he said Monday. “I have asked the chairman to disperse the remaining funds to the Republican Party of Florida.” 

While Cannon hasn't closed his, the talk of abolishing CCEs hasn't stopped a few from getting into the game.

In the last two months, since legislators have begun the discussion of closing CCEs, three legislators have started new ones while dozens of others have kept theirs active. The newcomers to the table are Reps. Katie Edwards, D-Sunrise, and Sens. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach and Kelli Stargel, R- Lakeland. Reps. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, are two legislators who have closed their CCEs in 2013. 

As House and Senate compromise, mega PACs emerge as replacement for CCEs

Political slush funds will get a new name and campaign finance limits will rise for statewide candidates under a Senate campaign finance bill that won unanimous approval by a Senate committee on Monday.

The proposal by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, is intended as a compromise to a House plan that makes similar changes and is a top priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Weatherford wants to put an end to the abuse of political committees known as Committees of Continuous Existence, or CCEs, by legislators who raise unlimited funds, write checks to other candidates and finance personal entertainment, travel, meals and other lavish expenses. Former Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, who was slated to succeed Weatherford as House speaker in 2016 was voted out of office because of perceived abuses of his CCE. 

The Senate bill, SB 1382, abolishes CCEs and raises the contribution limit for candidates for statewide office from $500 to $3000, to $2000 for candidates for the district courts of appeal and leaves the cap at $500 for everyone else. The House bill, HB 569, also ends CCEs but raises the political contribution limits to $10,000. Weatherford said the committee is prepared to lower that amount when it meets on Wednesday.

Despite the changes, several senators on the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee voiced their skepticism that SB 1382 will change much behavior. 

Continue reading "As House and Senate compromise, mega PACs emerge as replacement for CCEs" »

What people are saying about Senate rejecting Medicaid expansion

Here is a round up of what folks are saying now that the Senate's Affordable Care Act committee voted to reject Medicaid expansion, same as the House did a week ago. Instead, legislators say they will create an alternative for the state's roughly 1 million uninsured.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel:

"I appreciate the Senate Select Committee on PPACA for taking a thoughtful and deliberative approach on the issue of Medicaid expansion.  Like the House, the committee gathered the facts and decided that Washington's inflexible approach to force Florida to take a 'one-size fits all' policy choice is not in our state’s best interest.

I look forward to working with Senate President Gaetz as we investigate alternatives that will strengthen the safety net while also ensuring that we do not put future funding for our schools, public safety and protection of our beaches and springs at risk."

Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale:

"Although Republicans voted against what they called  'traditional Medicaid expansion' they turned around and endorsed a program that still relies on the same federal dollars and still extends affordable health care to 1 million Floridians. Whatever name they opt to give the program, the bottom line is that money allocated by the federal government for Medicaid expansion will be the mechanism. In the Senate, the remaining question is no longer 'if,' but 'who.'"

Continue reading "What people are saying about Senate rejecting Medicaid expansion" »

Domestic partnership bill gets a second chance Tuesday

A bill that would give domestic partners certain rights, including hospital visitations, property rights and end-of-life decisions, will have another chance at passing its first hurdle on Tuesday.

At a press conference Monday, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said Senate Bill 0196 has been revised and “narrowed” to mirror domestic partnership registries outlined in 18 Florida jurisdictions, including Sarasota and Pinellas, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

A state law would “end the patchwork” of domestic partnership registries around the state and “provide legal protection,” said Sobel, who has tried to get a bill heard the past four years.

Continue reading "Domestic partnership bill gets a second chance Tuesday" »

Senate committee rejects Medicaid expansion, joins House in seeking alternative

Instead of expanding Medicaid, Florida should create its own program that helps the uninsured buy private insurance policies, the Senate select committee on the Affordable Care Act decided today.

"I oppose the Washington plan, and I want a Florida plan," said Sen. Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican who chairs the committee.

The debate was very similar to what played out in the House one week ago. Once again, Republicans spoke against Medicaid and voted against expansion while the Democrats, who are in the minority, took the other point of view. The committee vote was 7-4 against Medicaid expansion.

Compared to the House, the Senate has expressed more of a willingness to find an alternative program that still would allow Florida to draw down billions of federal dollars currently intended for Medicaid. The House is pursuing alternatives, too, but said the loss of federal funding won't be a deciding factor.

Negron outlined five "guiding principles" he believes should be contained in the Senate's alternative:

Continue reading "Senate committee rejects Medicaid expansion, joins House in seeking alternative" »

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez to visit Congress


Yoani Sánchez, the dissident Cuban blogger who since last month has been on an international tour after being granted a passport, will meet with U.S. senators and representatives on March 19, Sen. Bill Nelson's office announced Monday.

Nelson, of Florida, and Miami Rep. Joe Garcia, both Democrats, invited Sánchez to visit. She plans to spend a couple of days in Washington D.C., and she is scheduled to stop in Miami in April.

"I look forward to this meeting and her unique view of the realities of life in Cuba," Nelson said in a statement.

Read the full statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez to visit Congress " »

Next health care fight: limiting liability for doctors and hospitals


A year ago this month, Michael Lawley of Melbourne disconnected the respirator that was keeping his brain-damaged daughter alive.

Shannon Lawley had entered a Brevard County emergency room suffering from what an autopsy would later determine was acute pancreatitis. She waited five hours as the understaffed team failed to monitor her vital signs or transfer her to intensive care, her father told the House Subcommittee on Civil Justice last week.

Doctors eventually administered heart medicine without realizing Shannon’s heart was functioning properly, he recalled. She went into cardiac arrest. Her lung collapsed as the medical team attempted resuscitation and her brain was deprived of oxygen for seven minutes, causing irreversible brain damage and gangrene, he said.

“After multiple tests and second opinions, I took her off the respirator and she died two days later,’’ Lawley told the panel. “My daughter deserved better. She didn’t get it. The health care system in Florida failed her.”

Lawley, 60, a certified public account, has no recourse. The state’s medical malpractice laws were rewritten by lawmakers in 2003 and included changes that prevent parents of adult children from recovering most damages. Shannon, a University of Florida graduate with a degree in chemistry, was 31 years old and had no spouse or children.

Now, Lawley wants the law changed, and he’s speaking out.

Bills moving quickly through the Republican-controlled Florida House, and under review in the state Senate, would expand Florida’s medical malpractice laws, adopt legal standards used in other states, and shield hospitals, doctors and nursing homes from lawsuits under certain conditions. Story here. 

Education proposals have Gov. Rick Scott stuck between a rock and Republicans

Gov. Rick Scott is in a tight spot with teachers.

To score points with rank-and-file educators, Scott has made $2,500 pay raises for classroom teachers a top budget priority.

But to stay in their good graces — and possibly win their votes in 2014 — Scott will need to bat down a number of education proposals moving through the Florida Legislature, including the hot-button “parent trigger” bill and a pitch to increase facilities funding for charter schools.

There’s just one problem. Opposing those bills will land Scott in the doghouse with Republicans and put him at odds with former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose nonprofit foundation has driven Florida’s education agenda for more than a decade.

What’s a governor with sagging poll numbers to do?

“He can’t do everything the teachers’ union wants or he would lose support among Republicans,” said Brian Peterson, a Florida International University professor and editor of The Miami Education Review, an online newsletter. “But he is going to have to take a more moderate stance on education issues.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Five Things to Watch in Tallahassee on Monday, March 11

TALLAHASSEE Will they or won’t they? That is the question before the Florida Senate Monday as a select committee discusses whether or not to join Gov. Rick Scott and endorse the expansion of Medicaid in Florida.

The chamber is quietly divided, with Senate President Don Gaetz suggesting that the opposition of House Speaker Will Weatherford is enough to sink the proposal. Others are looking at new numbers that show the state will draw down $51 billion over the next 10 years if it spends $5.2 billion and are not willing to walk away from it. Alternatives will be part of the discussion for the issue that will shroud every other this session.

Here are five things to watch in Tallahassee Monday:

The Senate Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will discuss their recommendations on Medicaid expansion.

Campaign finance takes center stage at the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee with SB 1382 by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, that will raise campaign contribution caps from $500 to $3,000 for statewide offices such as governor, Cabinet and Supreme Court merit retention races but leave the cap at $500 for legislative and countywide races.

Advocates for domestic partnerships hold a press conference featuring Janice Langbehn of Miami, who was denied access to her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, for over eight hours as she lay a coma died at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Lanbehn’s story led to a Presidential Memorandum prohibiting any hospital that receives federal money from denying a domestic partner access to their loved one. Legislation before lawmakers would provide limited protections for domestic partnerships.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee takes up SB 86 which deals with distribution of pornographic material at schools and SB 1216 which would modify the laws governing wage theft.

A House select committee continues it work on revising the state’s claims bill process, which pays victims who have been injured because of negligence by a state or local government action. The committee is focused on making the process less arbitrary.