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7 posts from June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013

GOP wins big in Northwest Florida House district in first vote since rejecting Medicaid expansion

Florida Democrats hoping the fight over Medicaid expansion and the sequester would win them support with those who depend on federal funding won’t find much encouragement in Tuesday’s special election for House District 2.

In the first referendum since House Republicans bypassed more than $50 billion in federal aid for health care, Mike Hill, a 55-year-old tea party Republican insurance agent, won 57.9 percent of the vote in a Northwest Florida district that has an economy dominated by hospitals as well as the military -- which is weathering a sequester deal rife with budget cuts forced by congressional Republicans.

Hill’s Democratic opponent, Jeremy Lau, mustered 42.1 percent of the vote in a special election held after Rep. Clay Ford died in March. Lau, a 40-year-old aircraft mechanic for L-3 Com Vertex Aerospace, a military contractor at Pensacola Naval Station, had made Medicaid expansion his No. 1 issue.

“The failure of the Legislature to expand Medicaid has cost our district jobs,” Lau said. “It’s a huge issue here.”

A University of Florida study concluded that expansion of Medicaid would create an average of 1,619 full-time and part-time jobs in Escambia County annually over the next 10 years and help provide coverage for county’s residents, 20 percent of whom don’t have health insurance.

But Lau couldn’t overcome the district’s conservative demographics (Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the vote here in 2012) and Hill’s overwhelming financial advantage. The district, which covers parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, leans so hard right that no Democrat ran in either 2010 or 2012 against Ford. Hill raised $200,000 compared to Lau’s $29,500, getting plenty of help from the GOP, which chipped in $51,000. Democrats could manage only $1,090 for Lau.

Hill also made the Medicaid expansion a key issue, but as a way to spruce up his conservative credentials.

“I’m so proud of Speaker (Will Weatherford) and the House for turning that down,” Hill said. “We can’t afford that in Florida.”

Hill, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, becomes the first black Republican in the Florida House since Jennifer Carroll served there between 2003 and 2010. He’s also the first black legislator from Northwest Florida since Reconstruction.

“I know the historical significance,” Hill said. “But it doesn’t matter to me if I’m the first black this or that. I don’t want to be chosen based on my skin color. I want to be chosen based on my character and my value system.”

 

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Bondi criticizes judge who sentenced 'Ochocinco' to jail

Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson made national headlines this week when his courtroom antic resulted in a surprise 30-day jail sentence. Americans seemed to split into two camps: those who agreed Johnson deserved jail time for disrespecting the court and those who believed it was overkill by Broward County Judge Kathleen McHugh.

Count Attorney General Pam Bondi among McHugh's critics, according to celebrity gossip website TMZ.

"Although we never condone domestic violence, this event seems to question judicial temperament, not the subject matter before the court," Bondi told TMZ today.

Johnson's lawyer had worked out a plea deal that would have kept the former NFL player out of jail, but a playful swat on the bottom derailed everything Monday. McHugh told Johnson he wasn't taking the proceedings seriously and sentenced him to jail for violating probation on domestic violence charges stemming from a 2012 incident with his then wife, a reality show star.

Johnson's lawyer has asked McHugh to reconsider her sentencing, but for now "Ochocinco" remains behind bars.

Bondi's office did not respond to a late evening request asking whether she was working to get Johnson released or if she would conduct a formal investigation into McHugh's actions.

GOP targets Democrats with robo calls urging them to 'free Nan Rich'

Putting its money where its mouth is, the Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday launched a robo-call campaign aimed at loyal Democrats urging them to "free Nan Rich" and let the underdog candidate for governor speak at the party’s annual fundraising dinner this weekend.

“Hi. I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida,’’ the recorded female voice says in telephone calls targeting 13,000 Democrats in Miami, Palm Beach and Fort Myers. The phone campaign is part of an aggressive GOP media pitch aimed at exploiting the rift that rose when Rich was denied a speaking spot at the event.

“While our parties may not agree on most issues, we do agree when it comes to honoring those in our parties who represent its core values,’’ the recorded voice continues. “But Florida Democratic Chair Allison Tant is refusing to let Nan Rich speak for five minutes at this Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.” Download RPOF_06112013_NanRich (1)

Rich, a former state senator, was left off the roster of the dinner to be held at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood even though she has been the only Democrat actively campaigning to defeat Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

Tant said Rich’s rejection was not a snub but an attempt to streamline and energize a program that has traditionally gone on for hours. Meanwhile, the high profile attention from Repupblican Party Chairman Lenny Curry has not suppressed interest but increased it, she said, noting that the party is sold 40 more tables than last year and is ahead of its fundraising goal.

“I hope it costs them some money,’’ Tant said with a laugh. “Maybe I ought to write Lenny a thank you note.”

RPOF’s focus on the issue – in an email to party stalwarts, the robo calls and press releases – has also helped draw attention to Rich’s campaign which, until now, had been dwarfed by a focus on former Republican governor turned Democrat, Charlie Crist, and former Chief Financial Officer and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink.

“They are trying to be my best friend,’’ Rich said Tuesday, adding that the RPOF attention and the party rejection “is backfiring on everybody.

“I’ve received two to three weeks of incredible media attention I wasn’t able to get before and people recognize that I’m a legitimate candidate for governor,’’ she told the Herald/Times.

Tant said she was also “thrilled that Nan’s gotten some buzz." 

The party program, which last year included six key speeches, is designed to be kept to 90 minutes, said Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.

Speakers will include brief remarks from Tant, DNC Chairwoman Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Pembroke Pines, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and a keynote speech from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the rising star who gave a well-received speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and will help the party highlight its outreach to Hispanics.

Rich, a former Senate Democratic leader, agrees there is a need to shorten the speechifying. "I have sat there for hour after hour and there have been too many speakers,'' she said. But she is not persuaded they couldn’t make room for a five-minute speech from the only Democrat who has been campaigning to unseat Scott.

“We have a different view what the purpose of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner is,’’ she told the Herald Times. “I believe I’ve earned the right to speak and it is totally appropriate for me to speak. The truth is people all over the state are expressing that.”

Curry clearly sees the advantage in exploiting the disagreement. In the robo-call to Democrats, the recorded voice quotes Democratic activists and a newspaper columnist and urges people to call the Democratic Party.

"To make your voice heard, call the Florida Democrats at 850-222-3411 Tell them to free Nan Rich and let her speak,’’ the caller says.

Here’s the RPOF script:

“Hi. I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida.

"While our parties may not agree on most issues, we do agree when it comes to honoring those in our parties who represent its core values. But Florida Democratic Chair Allison Tant is refusing to let Nan Rich speak for five minutes at this Saturday’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.

"Maggie Davidson, state Democratic committeewoman from Broward, told the Sun-Sentinel that “Nan Rich should be allowed to speak. She’s a high-level Democrat and she should be highlighted.”

"The Sun-Sentinel’s Gary Stein, wrote that “Jefferson and Jackson themselves would be all in favor of letting Nan Rich speak.”

"To make your voice heard, call the Florida Democrats at 850-222-3411 Tell them to free Nan Rich and let her speak."

War on drugs casualty: private RX info of thousands in FL database gets leaked

@MarcACaputo

To keep dangerous prescription drugs controlled, the government maintains a database to make sure that it monitors who gets what pills from what doctors and how often.

The database has probably helped cut down on doctor shopping (and perhaps overdose deaths), but it also has exposed the privacy of thousands of Floridians.

Here's the ACLU press release:

Tallahassee, Florida – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida today sent public records requests to the Florida Department of Health and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office to learn how and why approximately 3,300 Floridians’ confidential prescription drug information, stored in a state-wide prescription drug database, ended up in the hands of third parties without the knowledge or consent of the individuals whose prescription drug information was released.

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Marco Rubio: newly legalized need to speak English

@FrancoOrdonez

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants to make sure newly legalized immigrants can speak English. On Tuesday, he’s introducing an amendment to his own immigration bill to ensure those applying for permanent residency are proficient in English.

"You cannot flourish in our economy -- you cannot flourish in our country -- if you are not proficient in English," he said. "We're going to require that."

Under current law, English proficiency is only required for citizenship, not permanent residency.

The requirement will have an interesting effect in Rubio's home of Miami-Dade County, a Spanish-speaking bastion where many immigrants legal and illegal can get by for years without having to speak English.

Senators began debate this week on the massive immigration overhaul that Rubio helped write. But he said the current version of the legislation has a loophole that makes it easy to dodge the English requirement. His amendment strikes a provision in the legislation that stipulates the English proficiency requirement can simply be met by being enrolled in an English course.

If passed, those applying for legal status would be required demonstrate, possibly by a test, “ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage.”

Rubio said last week that the legislation still does not have the support of 60 Senate members needed to pass. He said Republican colleagues have told him the bill needs stronger border security to win their support.

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a motion to proceed with the immigration bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said members will have three weeks to offer and debate amendments. He expects a vote in the Senate by July 4.

Obama's coming for Miami-Beach fundraiser, and you're paying for it

@MarcACaputo

President Obama travels to Miami Beach on Wednesday to fundraise for the Democratic Party at a private event where donations could reach as high as $32,400 per person.

But everyone will pay for the president’s visit to the waterfront home of businessman Joseph W. Blount.

It costs federal taxpayers about $180,000 per flight hour just to take Air Force One. Locally, there’s a cost as well.

The city of Miami Beach budgets about $100,000 yearly for presidential visits and local taxpayers on the peninsular city shelled out roughly $18,000 to cover security costs for the president’s June 2011 fundraiser at another exclusive waterfront mansion.

In 2011, Miami Beach paid about $49,000 to cover the visits.

"We are NOT reimbursed for this expenditure," city police spokesman, Robert Hernandez, said in an email where he estimated the cost of presidential visit security at $10,000 to $55,000, "depending on the venue and length of stay."

Countywide, there’s a cost, too, even if the president goes to a municipality.

The Miami-Dade Police Department said the president’s Oct. 11, 2012 visit cost county taxpayers about $28,978.18, said Detective Javier Baez. Florida Highway Patrol chipped in $6,490 and City of Miami Police another $5,727.

More here

In election scandal, Rep. Joe Garcia targeted in NRCC Spanish-language radio ads

@MarcACaputo

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced it's running Spanish-language ads on three Miami stations bashing Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia for the election scandal that engulfed his office (some background here).

The script:

"Voter alert.  Political corruption and fraud are looking to plague our community. The Chief of Staff for Congressman Joe Garcia and his campaign manager are being investigated for carrying out an unprecedented plan to falsify hundreds of absentee ballot requests with the intention of manipulating Garcia's election. What's Garcia's reaction?  He says it was a well-intentioned effort.  A well-intentioned effort?  Committing fraud?  Garcia had the nerve to say that it's all part of how we do politics in our community.  No Mr. Garcia, fraud is not acceptable in our community and it's shameful for you to say that.  Call Joe Garcia today. Tell him that we are tired of the corruption and the fraud.  If he can't tell us the truth, the right thing to do is resign.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee paid for and is responsible for the content of this advertising. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee

Here it is in Spanish:

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