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8 posts from May 14, 2013

May 14, 2013

Trauma center fight continues in appeals court

From the News Service of Florida:

In the latest round in a two-year legal battle, a state appeals court Tuesday heard arguments in a dispute that stems from the Florida Department of Health allowing three hospitals to operate trauma centers.

The arguments before the 1st District Court of Appeal focused on an important, though relatively narrow, issue --- whether four hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas have the legal "standing" to challenge approvals of trauma centers that opened in 2011 at hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain.

But if such standing is granted, it likely would lead to more litigation that could threaten trauma centers at the HCA-affiliated Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County. The third HCA hospital, Orange Park Medical Center in Clay County, opened a trauma center but was later required to shut it down.

The four challengers --- Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and Shands Jacksonville Medical Center --- have long operated trauma centers and argue they would be hurt by the new trauma facilities.

They won an earlier round in the fight when an administrative law judge and the appeals court found that the Department of Health used an invalid rule in reviewing proposed trauma centers. But the agency allowed the Blake, Bayonet Point and Orange Park trauma centers to open in 2011 and later ruled that the other hospitals did not have standing to mount an additional challenge.

Jeffrey Frehn, an attorney for Tampa General and Bayfront, told a three-judge panel Tuesday, that the new facilities would worsen a shortage of trauma physicians and reduce the volume of patients at the longstanding trauma centers. 

Continue reading "Trauma center fight continues in appeals court" »

Tea Party candidate Hill wins primary for vacant House seat

Mike Hill, founder and president of the Northwest Florida Tea Party, won tonight's primary for the Florida House District 2 seat and is expected to win next month's general election.

Hill received 46.5 percent of votes in the Republican primary. Second-place finisher Ed Gray III, a former Gulf Breeze mayor, received 26.8 percent of votes. Turnout was light in the special election to fill the seat left vacant since the March death of Rep. Clay Ford, R-Gulf Breeze, after a battle with cancer.

Hill faces Democrat Jeremy Lau, an aircraft mechanic at Pensacola Naval Air Station, in the June 11 general election. The district leans Republican and Hill, a former Air Force officer who is now a State Farm agent in Pensacola, is the favorite to win it all.

If Hill wins the seat, he would become the only African-American Republican currently serving in the Legislature.

Dolphins stadium proposal was failing at the polls, vote tally shows

@PatriciaMazzei and @MarcACaputo

The Miami Dolphins’ short-lived campaign for a subsidized Sun Life Stadium renovation appeared doomed from the start.

A majority of Miami-Dade voters who cast ballots in the special stadium election before it was called off opposed the $350 million makeover, according to a count the elections department released late Tuesday.

The tabulation showed that among the 60,678 voters who voted by mail or at early-voting sites, 34,780 — about 57 percent — opposed the Dolphins’ proposal, compared to 25,898 — or 43 percent — who favored it.

The vote tally, though revealing partial results for an incomplete election, provides a snapshot of the opinion of voters who voted early, despite not knowing whether their ballots would ultimately count.

The Dolphins were foundering at the polls at the time the referendum was canceled, the count shows, but a team spokesman dismissed any notion that the proposal would have failed.

More here.

State announces new initiatives to crack down on fraud

Fighting fraud that costs the state millions of dollars and impacts poor residents who rely on public assistance payments,The Department of Children & Families on Tuesday announced a new system to crack down on cheaters.

“Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft nationally,” with more than 70 percent of ID theft tied to government-related services, said DCF Secretary David Wilkins, speaking at a a press conference with Deputy CFO Jay Etheridge and Tallahassee Police Chief  Dennis Jones.

Continue reading "State announces new initiatives to crack down on fraud" »

Gov. Scott talks taxes at Miami Port, won't say when he will sign budget

Gov. Rick Scott visited the Port in Miami as part of his victory tour about the Legislature approving the sales tax break for manufacturing.

He omitted some details: the tax break is only for three years and could face a court challenge because it takes away $30 million from cities and counties.

But Scott and other local elected officials -- including County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, County Commission chair Rebeca Sosa and state representatives Eddy Gonzalez (R) and David Richardson (D) -- were on hand to celebrate.

We could sum up the presser -- held in front of dozens of Port workers and some high-heeled folks sporting flourescent orange work vests for pics -- in two words: "yay jobs!"

"This elimination of the sales tax is going to help create more jobs because we will have more manufacturing and our manufactuers export," Scott said. "We are a big exporting state -- the fourth biggest in the country. And our exports are growing -- up 18% last year."

Here is some of the press gaggle Q and A after:

Q: Are you going to be approving the budget before you go to Chile [May 20] and are you talking to legislators who are trying to convince you not to veto their projects?

A: I'm reviewing the budget and I haven't decided when to finish that

Q: Are you talking to legislators about whether you are going to veto their projects or not? Have they been trying to lobby you not to?

A: I think every day somebody lobbies me

Q: You said something about Allen West being a great pick [for Lt. Gov]. Can you elaborate on that?

A: There are a lot of great Floridians. We have 19.2 million great Floridians. There are a lot of individuals that would be great lieutenant governors. So I am starting the process now.

Q: So he is one of them?

A: He did a great job.

Q: Is it true that you asked Weatherford to take up the Dolphins bill?

A: I put out some guidelines back before the session started. The Dolphins made all those guidelines. I think it was going to help us get Super Bowls. So I was disappointed when that didn't happen.

Q: Did you ask Weatherford...

Press person interrupts to say "We are heading out to West Palm."

On that question about getting lobbied by legislators not to veto their pet projects, Rep. Gonzalez joked with Scott at the event: "we hope you don't veto a lot of our things." Gonzalez said in an interview that he talked directly with Scott near the end of the session about Miami-Dade projects he wants to stay in the budget and that since then has been sending information to Scott's staff. Among the projects Gonzalez is promoting for Miami-Dade: Bay of Pigs museum, hot meals for elderly and water drainage improvements.





Florida university president salaries remain high

via @MrMikeVasquez

Florida public colleges and universities have spent the past few years absorbing huge cuts in state funding. To balance the books, schools repeatedly raised tuition, and in some cases reduced class offerings or even postponed maintenance projects.

But there’s one budget line item that hasn’t taken much of a hit, and at times has even grown: college presidents’ salaries.

A pair of reports issued this week, one from The Chronicle of Higher Education and one from Florida’s Office of the Chief Inspector General, highlight how high six-figure salaries, along with hefty bonuses, car allowances and other perks, continue to be the norm in American higher education. University of Florida President Bernie Machen earned $834,562 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the Chronicle’s annual Executive Compensation analysis. That number was enough to make Machen the nation’s ninth-highest-paid public university president. (On campus, he falls far behind UF men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan, whose salary is $3.3 million, according to Forbes).

Machen’s compensation was roughly 55 percent higher than what he made the previous year, when he earned $539,007.

More here.

Miami-Dade GOP to candidates: Stop using absentee-ballot brokers

via @kikeflor and @msanchezMIA

The head of the Republican Party of Miami Dade County said on Monday that all local candidates under his wing will be given strict guidelines to avoid using ballot brokers in their campaigns.

“The party will not employ people to collect absentee ballots,” said chairman Nelson Díaz. “We can’t allow people to take advantage of voters and fill out their absentee ballots.”

Diaz’s announcement came as a response to stories published by El Nuevo Herald over the weekend about the contents of three notebooks that were apparently kept by Deisy Pentón de Cabrera, who was charged last summer with ballot fraud in Hialeah.

According to her own notes, Cabrera maintained updated, handwritten lists of more than 550 voters, mostly elderly Hispanics from Hialeah, whom she visited each election cycle. She also followed directives written by others to visit particular groups of absentee voters.

More here.

Rep. Frederica Wilson gets 4 a.m. deportation of dad stopped

There wasn't much time.

The hour was getting late at the North Miami immigration forum. The four members of Congress were hungry.

But 18-year-old Carlos Rivas had something to say.

“My dad, he was two months ago arrested by ICE. I have my family right here: my mom and my three brothers and sisters. We don’t know what to do,” Rivas said.

“He’s about to be deported tomorrow at 4 a.m.” he said. “And I wanted to know what you could do for us. … What can you do? Is there any help you can try to give us?”

It was just after 9 p.m. Monday. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Miami Democrat who hosted the forum, was floored.

“Oh my God,” she said. “Four a.m., in the morning? Why are you just telling us? We could have helped you perhaps. It’s too late.”

Someone from the audience of 200 or so citizens at Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church chimed in: “It’s never too late.”

It wasn’t.

Wilson ultimately delivered, rousting an immigration official out of bed and getting the deportation of Rene Rivas, an undocumented immigrant and father of four, stopped with just a few hours to spare.

Still, his time in the United States is in doubt.

"Obviously, I want to thank Congresswoman Wilson. And we're less stressed out,” Carlos Rivas said. “But this isn't over."

Court records indicate Rene Rivas could remain here until at least June 10, the deadline for an appeal. The family thought he might only have a week.

Full story here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/14/3396564/how-rep-frederica-wilson-spared.html#storylink=cpy