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19 posts from March 22, 2013

March 22, 2013

Panhandle lawmaker with power over Dolphins deal getting an earful

A Panhandle Republican has an outsized role to play in deciding whether the Miami Dolphins’ quest for a taxpayer-supported stadium renovation is successful—and he’s getting an earful from both sides of the debate.

Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican who chairs the Economic Affairs Committee, said the team’s bill was more likely to get a hearing after the Dolphins have agreed to “concessions,” but acknowledged that opponents of the bill have his ear as well.

“I don’t know yet,” he said about whether he’d bring the Dolphins bill up for a vote soon. “I have had [many] meetings about the Dolphins bill with the stakeholders—both opponents and the proponents—and it seems like the negotiations on behalf of putting forward a package that there’s a consensus on everyday gets better and better.”

The Dolphins are backing HB 165, hoping get as much as $200 million in taxpayer aid for the renovation of Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. The team said a stadium upgrade would help lure a Super Bowl to South Florida—and recently agreed to make some of the taxpayer support contingent on doing just that.

“I am enthusiastically a big fan of Super Bowls being in the state of Florida and understanding if this is what it takes to get one, then great,” said Patronis. “But can the state afford it?”

Continue reading "Panhandle lawmaker with power over Dolphins deal getting an earful" »

Jeb returns $270k to fraudster; DNC gives back $51k, DCCC: c.$68k, DWS: c.$5k

South Florida Business Journal:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has agreed to return $270,000 that he was paid as a consultant to convicted fraudster Claudio Osorio and Osorio’s companies...

According to the agreement, Bush was paid $468,901 between December 2007 and September 2010 for consulting “plus reasonable expenses.”

Bush and his company, Jeb Bush & Associates, are repaying the money to Soneet Kapila, a court-appointed fiduciary who is collecting funds Osorio stole from other people and used to fund business operations at InnoVida Holdings, his housing panel manufacturing business.

The Democratic National Committee also agreed to repay $51,525 that Osorio donated, according to another agreement filed Thursday.

Folks in the GOP blogo-Twittersphere were quick to point out that the story didn't list two other high-profile givebacks.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair and Broward congresswoman, returned $4,800 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee returned $67,575.

Feds indicate support for Medicaid expansion alternatives

The federal government is working with states that want to subsidize private insurance for low-income families as opposed to adding them to the Medicaid program, the New York Times is reporting.

That bodes well for the Florida Senate's plan to create a new health care program for the state's uninsured while still drawing down an estimated $55 billion in federal funding. Although these alternatives to expansion may be slightly more costly than Medicaid, the federal government has indicated to several states that it is open to their ideas and will work with them to make it work.

Here is more from the New York Times' report:

The White House is encouraging skeptical state officials to expand Medicaid by subsidizing the purchase of private insurance for low-income people, even though that approach might be somewhat more expensive, federal and state officials say.

Ohio and Arkansas are negotiating with the Obama administration over plans to use federal Medicaid money to pay premiums for commercial insurance that will be sold to the public in regulated markets known as insurance exchanges.

Republicans in other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas, have expressed interest in the option since Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, a Democrat, received a green light from Kathleen Sebelius, the federal secretary of health and human services.

Valerie Jarrett, a top White House aide, has been a catalyst in talks with Ohio and other states.

Read more here.

Robo-poll asks Miami-Dade voters about MIA baggage-wrap contract


A new automatic telephone poll asks Miami-Dade voters about a contentious baggage-wrap contract at Miami International Airport that Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed last week

The robo-poll tries to gauge support for Gimenez's veto of county commissioners' decision to award the contract to Safe Wrap, the second-place bidder for the concession, over first-place bidder TrueStar USA.

The questions call commissioners' award "questionable" and the contract "controversial" and note that Gimenez said he vetoed the award because hiring Safe Wrap could result in $6 million less a year for the airport.

"We're trying to get a sense of where the community is on this issue," said Pablo Acosta, TrueStar's lobbyist.

The robo-poll went to some 50,000 100,000 people, Acosta said -- including at least one Miami Herald reporter.

Florida House votes to ban internet cafes

Via Mary Ellen Klas and Toluse Olorunnipa

Stung by a criminal investigation into an online gambling ring that poured $1.4 million into legislative campaigns, the Florida House on Friday voted 110 to 6 for a bill aimed at shutting down Internet cafes, adult arcades and Miami’s “maquinitas.”

It’s a great day in the Florida House,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill. “This will be one of the largest contractions of gaming that we've experienced in our state, certainly in the last 50 or 100 years.”

The bill attempts to clarify state law by specifying that charity organizations, adult arcades and for-profit sweepstakes operators may not operate permanent gambling centers using casino-style games that portend to be games of skill.


An internet cafe in Crystal River advertised "sweepstakes booty" on Friday. Via Steve Bousquet


Opponents blasted the measure as a knee-jerk reaction to a political scandal and warned that the bill will have the unintended consequence of sending hundreds of business owners and their employees into the unemployment lines.

“Here we are today going to outlaw something that for the past 30 years has been legal in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Jim Waldman, R-Coconut Creek. "If we're going to do that, what's next?"

The measure, (HB 155), comes a week after federal and state officials arrested 57 owners and operators of Allied Veterans of the World, a Jacksonville-based chain of 49 “Internet cafes” and charged them with illegal gambling, money laundering and racketeering.

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Parent trigger, charter-school expansion bills headed to the House floor

The controversial parent-trigger bill won the support of a third House committee Friday morning, meaning it is now headed for the House floor.

For the third time, HB 867 passed in a party-lines vote.

The bill would enable parents to petition changes at failing public schools, including having a charter school company take over. It would also prevent children from being assigned to ineffective teachers for two years in a row.

“By not passing this bill, you are saying you don’t want parents to have a seat at the table that is perennially failing,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican.

“Parents already have a seat at the table,” countered Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat. “There are preexisting laws that allow school advisory councils. This bill is problematic on many levels. It will have some unintended, or rather intended consequences, that will result in the disruption and dismantling of schools that will likely harm... schools and communities.”

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PIP wars heating up, in court this time

 The PIP wars are back on.

After a lengthy legislative battle over Florida’s 2012 personal injury protection auto insurance reform, stakeholders are battling it out in court over whether HB 119 went too far.

Acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors scored a win earlier this week when a circuit court judge placed a temporary ban on the part of the law that restricted them from receiving payment for treating auto accident patients. The judge also put a hold on the part of the law that reduced maximum PIP payouts from $10,000 to $2,500 in non-emergency cases, saying it was likely unconstitutional.

Gov. Rick Scott, who backed the law, immediately filed an appeal—which effectively halted the injunction, leaving the status quo in place while the court challenge plays out.

On Friday, the acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors filed a motion to vacate the stay on the injunction, another legal maneuver to strike down parts of the law. 

In the motion, they said the “stay works an injustice on the Plaintiffs and the citizens of Florida and should be vacated for compelling circumstances.”

The plaintiffs argued that more harm would be done to them by continuing with the status quo than would be done to the state if the injunction went into effect. 

Continue reading "PIP wars heating up, in court this time" »

Five things to look for in Friday’s legislative session

TALLAHASSEE Political junkies will find plenty of fodder from Friday’s legislative agenda, which tackles issues from gun rights to pension reform, to keep them talking all weekend. Here are five things to watch:

The House is in session again and representatives are expected to vote on two controversial issues, changes to the Florida Retirement System (HB 7011), a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford’s that’s been opposed by Democrats and organized labor, and a ban on Internet cafés (HB 155) prompted by the arrests of 57 individuals affiliated with Allied Veterans. The $300 million for-profit operation allegedly donated only 2 percent of its proceeds to charity.

Expect a lively House Education meeting as the so-called parent-trigger bill (HB 867), officially called Parent Parent Empowerment in Education, comes up. The controversial bill, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, enables parents to petition for dramatic changes, including the conversion of a public school to a charter school.

An Omega Omega sorority service for former state Sen. Larcenia J. Bullard, D-Miami, who died Saturday, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Church of the Ascension, 11201 SW 160th St., in Miami. It will be followed by a litany service at 7 p.m. At 11 a.m. Saturday, a funeral service will be held at the South Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St. Bullard is survived by her husband, former Representative Edward Bullard; children Senator Dwight Bullard, Vincent, and Edwina Simms; and four grandchildren.

  While there have been more than two dozen gun control bills filed in the Legislature this year, House Memorial 545, which comes up in the Local & Federal Affairs Committee, sends a message to the federal government that any gun control measure violates the right of the people of Florida to keep and bear arms. The bill, sponsored by Neil Combee, R-Polk City, has more than 50 co-sponsors.

A 2011 executive order from Gov. Rick Scott allowing suspicionless drug testing for all state workers goes before a federal judge in Miami Friday. Challengers of the program filed a lawsuit saying it violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on improper search and seizure.

By Rochelle Koff, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

On offense with Ryan budget, GOP bashes Joe Garcia vote in opening '14 salvo


Yup, it's 2014 already. A conservative Super PAC is up with an ad already bashing new Congressman Joe Garcia for voting against the latest iteration of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's plan.

What makes the ad intriguing is that the GOP is on offense over the Ryan plan, something that caused them to scurry in the 2012 election cycle. Democrats pointed out changes it made to Medicare and that spooked Republicans.

Now Republicans seem ready to counter the attack by making it a debate about debt (and, yes, there's an argument to be made that Ryan's plan has its own financial problems).

The press release is after the ad

WASHINGTON - The Congressional Leadership Fund (@CLFSuperPAC ), the super PAC exclusively dedicated to protecting and growing the House Republican Majority, released today their first ad of the 2014 cycle against Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26) for voting against balancing Washington’s budget yesterday.

The House-passed budget would balance Washington’s budget, preventing our coming debt crisis and growing the economy. The ads will run on cable shows targeting women and will be accompanied by a similar paid digital ad campaign.

"Joe Garcia refused to support balancing Washington’s budget even though Florida families have to every month," said CLF Communications Director Dan Conston. "South Florida moms deserve to know why Congressman Garcia thinks Washington shouldn't follow the same rules they do."From 2011-2012, CLF raised a combined $55 million with their sister-organization the American Action Network, a 501c4 primarily focused on advocating for center-right policy solutions and the center-right movement.

Additionally, the Sunlight Foundation rated the $21 million in independent expenditures spent by AAN & CLF the #1 and #2 Highest "Returns on Investment" of conservative groups.