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14 posts from April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013

Biz group fights to keep insurance industry's $220 million tax cut with new TV ad

Associated Industries of Florida has launched a campaign to save a $220 million tax break for insurance companies, releasing a new 30-second spot recently.

The influential business group is protesting the proposal of Florida’s Senate Budget Chairman, Joe Negron, who surprised many last month with a plan to eliminate the tax break in order to lower car registration fees for consumers.

The tax break was created in 1987 to help recruit insurance companies to Florida. Negron questioned whether it had outlived its usefulness and said the lost revenue could be used to lower the cost of car registrations (the Legislature hiked those fees in 2009).

The insurance industry—which normally gets along with the business-friendly Legislature--protested the proposal, calling it a “tax hike.” It passed through the Senate Appropriations committee anyway.

Now, the business lobby is making its appeal directly to consumers in a campaign-style TV ad. 

“Major employers are coming to Florida, and hiring. That’s growth our economy needs” the ad’s narrator says as images depicting booming commerce flash across the screen. “But now, some in Tallahassee want to end it.”

The ad says the tax cut helped create the 40,000 insurance jobs that have been added in Florida in the last five years. It closes with the slogan, “Keep the working tax cut. Keep the Jobs.”

Words you won’t hear in the ad are: “insurance companies” or “lower driver’s license fees,” as the commercial does not lay out the details of the “working tax cut” or why lawmakers are considering scrapping it.

See the ad here.

Five Things To Know for Monday's Legislative Session

TALLAHASSEE State lawmakers return to Tallahassee on Monday with much remaining on their legislative plate and just three weeks to clear it. From health care to house parties, here's what's happening at the Capitol.
 The House committee focused on implementing the nation's new health care law will decide whether to formally introduce a proposed alternative to Medicaid expansion. The plan, sponsored by Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, would create state subsidies to help up to 130,000 people afford basic health coverage. This plan rejects federal funding, leading Gov. Rick Scott to call it "a double-hit to state taxpayers."
 The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee takes up a long list of the governor's appointees up for confirmation. Two are expected to draw some heat: Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar and Barbara Stern, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who has been appointed to the Florida Elections Commission. Stern rents an apartment to Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, to help her establish residency in her district.
 The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up 15 bills trying to get to the Senate floor by session's end. They include a measure requiring physicians to provide medical care to a baby who survives an attempted abortion (SB 1636) and another that expands the definition of open house party to include property. SB 874 states that a property owner must take reasonable steps at a party to prevent underage attendees from drinking alcohol or taking drugs on their property.
 The Senate Criminal Justice Committee takes up a bill that would lead to approval for a five-year pilot program to legalize syringe and needle exchange programs in Miami-Dade County. The Senate version (SB 808) is sponsored by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami. The aim is to increase public safety by reducing the transmission of diseases among injection drug users.
 A bill allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order the involuntary examination of a person under the Baker Act (SB 110) is slated for a hearing among a slew of other bills in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. Currently, only physicians, clinical psychologists and other social workers and therapists are allowed to issue the examination.

(Katie Sanders, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau)

The rise and fall of GOP money man and HMO founder, Akshay Desai

From the Tampa Bay Times:

In August, Universal Health Care Group was crumbling. Regulators circled. Bankruptcy loomed.

Still, founder and CEO Akshay Desai didn't publicly hint at any problems.

"As a businessman, I know all too well what it takes to make it in the private sector," he bragged at the time.

It was vintage Desai — supremely confident, selective with the facts. The 55-year-old son of Indian educators built Universal on smarts and ambition. He was charming when he needed to be, domineering when he wanted. One day he was persuading investors to part with tens of millions of dollars, the next he was berating employees to tears.

He rose high into the Republican fundraising ranks, dining with President George W. Bush at his Texas ranch. Eventually he realized his dream: a $1.5 billion health care company, with more than 140,000 members in 23 states.

But his success was largely an illusion. Story here.

Charlie Crist vulnerabilities are fueling speculation over Nelson running for governo

From @AdamSmithTimes

Major Democratic financial backers, including trial lawyers and teachers, are gushing about Charlie Crist and his prospects for 2014. Crist has not announced plans to run for governor again, but polls show him trouncing Republican Gov. Rick Scott by double digits.

The lifelong Republican-turned-Democrat at this point looks like he could grab the Democratic nomination without even a serious challenge. But oh-so-quietly, veteran Democratic fundraisers and strategists across Florida worry about another scenario: a Charlie Crist train wreck that would ensure a second term for one of America's most vulnerable Republican governors.

The wariness and even downright hostility to Crist's candidacy are part of what's fueling speculation about Sen. Bill Nelson entering the race. Story here.