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7 posts from June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013

Jacksonville & Jaguars will fund stadium renovations without state funding

From the News Service of Florida:

Without new state subsidies in play, the Jacksonville Jaguars and city officials announced Wednesday they will jointly proceed with $63 million in upgrades to EverBank Field, including the installation of two massive end-zone video scoreboards that the team says will be the largest in the world.

The announcement came a day after International Speedway Corp. unveiled plans to proceed on its own with $375 million to $400 million in upgrades to Daytona International Speedway. Both venues, along with a proposal for a soccer stadium in Orlando and improvements to the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, failed to win legislative approval to direct state sales taxes into the planned construction or upgrades.

Besides the new 301-foot-long, 55-foot-high end zone scoreboards at EverBank Field, other work at the publicly-owned stadium will include additional sideline display boards and a new concession area beyond the north end zone that is to feature pools and interactive activities.

"Our determination to see this concept brought to reality was matched by Mayor (Alvin) Brown, and his impressive work on this project is why we're able to move so quickly," Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said in a release. "This is what can happen when two parties are committed to a common goal."

The two sides are sharing the cost of the $26.5 million video scoreboards, with the team covering 75 percent of the bill. The city is picking up the tab for the rest of the work from its capital projects funds.

With universities embracing small tuition increase, Scott focuses on fees

Gov. Rick Scott did some intense campaigning, but only two state universities -- Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Atlantic University -- have agreed to forgo the 1.7 percent tuition increase required by state law. Now the governor is tweaking his message, asking the state Board of Governors to think long and hard about the modest fee increases that universities have proposed. 

Here is more from Thursday's paper:

Despite Gov. Rick Scott's pleas, tuition is going up slightly at all but two of Florida's universities.

So Scott is returning to the board that oversees state universities with a new request: Be tough on fee increases.

Scott on Wednesday asked the Florida Board of Governors to carefully consider fee hikes for students next year. The board will decide what to do Thursday as it wraps up three days of meetings at the University of South Florida.

In a letter, Scott stopped just short of asking board members to reject increased fees, saying Floridians need to be able to afford a degree in order to get a good job.

Continue reading "With universities embracing small tuition increase, Scott focuses on fees" »

Big business coalitions: failure to expand Medicaid hurts business

Two business-backed health insurance coalitions sent a warning signal Wednesday to Florida’s employers about the effects of rejecting Medicaid expansion for the uninsured.

In a nutshell: brace yourselves, this is bad for business.

They argue that if lawmakers continue to turn away an estimated $51 billion in federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage, companies will restrict growth, businesses will flee to states with more competitive health insurance markets, and any company left standing that pays for health insurance will see its premiums rise as hospitals and doctors shift their losses from the uninsured to them. 

“It will further the upward pressure of the cost shift to the commercially-insured patients,’’ said William Kramer, health care policy expert from the Pacific Business Group on Health in a conference call with reporters. The coalition represents large businesses in 50 states -- from Walt Disney Company, Target, Walmart and Boeing to Wells Fargo. 

Continue reading "Big business coalitions: failure to expand Medicaid hurts business" »

Alex Sink surfacing: blasts Citizens' 'sweetheart deal' and is sounding like a candidate

In an op-ed in today's Tampa Bay Times, former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink details the reasons why she believes Citizens Property Insurance should reject what she calls a "sweetheart deal" with take-out company Heritage Property and Casualty.

And as Adam Smith reports today, Sink is not ruling out another run for governor -- but she's not quite ruling it in yet either.

In the editorial, she says "the recent Citizens Property Insurance deal with start-up insurance company Heritage Property and Casualty of St. Petersburg must be stopped immediately and thoroughly reviewed by our elected officials who appoint the Citizens board members. These officials include Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz." More here. 

Banks score incomplete grade in mortgage settlement case

Wednesday was report card day for the five largest banks that agreed to a $25 billion settlement with the 49 attorneys general, but they received mostly incomplete scores from the government-appointed monitor passing out the grades.

Joe Smith, the monitor, released a report on Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, CitiMortgage Inc., ResCap Partiers (formerly GMAC) and Wells Fargo. The banks were tested during two separate periods:  July 1-Sept. 30 and Oct 1. to Dec. 31. According to a report by Smith last month, the banks have reported distributing $50.6 billion in direct relief to more than 620,000 homeowners through the settlement.

Smith found that the banks failed eight servicing standards they agreed to in the settlement, mostly related to processing loan modifications, a sure sign that the banks aren’t providing enough staff to manage the cases.

The banks did pass the majority of the standards they were tested on, but they weren’t tested on all of the 29 areas outlined in the settlement because of delays in providing documents and agreed upon services. Bank of America was tested on only a dozen, Chase on only 11, CitiMortgage on 15, ResCap on 11, and Wells Fargo on 20.

The incomplete gaps led to some considerable holes in reporting. For instance, Bank of America has come under fire in Florida and other states for not providing timely documents or alerts during the foreclosure process. In a June 6 letter, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi slammed Bank of America and threatened to sue over the bank’s alleged failure to modify mortgages in an efficient manner.

Of the 17 categories Bank of America wasn’t tested on were two addressing this very issue.

Continue reading "Banks score incomplete grade in mortgage settlement case" »

Poll: Florida voters not happy with Tallahassee, give gov and Legislature low marks

Maybe it's the out-of-sight, out-of-mind placement of the state Capitol. Maybe it's the sluggish economy and the stubborn unemployment numbers. Whatever the reason, the latest Quinnipiac University poll sends the signal that Florida voters are not happy with Tallahassee these days -- not that they really ever are.

When asked how voters feel about the job the state Legislature is doing, voters disapprove 49 to 32 percent. The numbers are predictably partisan for the Republican-led chamber: Democrats disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing 64 to 18 percent while Republicans approve 47 to 34 percent. But the telltale signal comes from crucial independent voters, who determine the fate of all statewide races in Florida. They disapprove of the job legislators are doing 48 to 33 percent.

On controversial issues, Florida voters are pretty clear where they stand:

    *They support expanding Medicaid to cover Floridians without health insurance by 49-40 percent, virtually unchanged from a similar March poll, a clear contradiction from the firm rejection of the issue by Republican legislative leaders.

    * Voters continue to support the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing people to fight back with deadly force when threatened, 57 to 36 percent. The issue remained untouched in the last legislative session.

    * Voters want to allow path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants 58 to 24 percent, a federal issue that Florida lawmakers can only tinker with.

    * And they oppose the governor’s veto of a non-controversial bill to make it easier for children of undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, supporting the issue 59-32 percent. The governor surprised legislators by vetoing the bill which won near unanimous support. 

As for Gov. Rick Scott, voters are warming to the Republican governor but are still not thrilled: 43 percent approve of the job the governor is doing and 44 percent disapprove. That's up from a March Quinnipiac poll when 36 percent of voters approved of Scott's performance and 49 percent disapproved.


Q poll: Rubio's approval remains steady, Clinton leads in match-up for prez in 2016

Florida voters give Sen. Marco Rubio’s bad reviews for his mixed signals on immigration, don’t like his opposition to requiring background checks for gun buyers and both of those positions haven’t done much to win over voters in a 2016 match-up against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Despite that showing, Florida’s junior senator still gets a 51-35 percent job approval rating, little changed from his 48-33 percent approval by a March 20 poll from the independent Quinnipiac University.

Rubio’s numbers show that as the nation’s best-known Hispanic-American politician, he “has a  tightrope to walk between keeping the folks back home happy and serving as a high-profile symbol for the GOP nationally,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in a statement.

“A mark of an able politician is one who can keep his support among the electorate even when that politician follows his own path rather than the public’s preference on a high-profile issue like immigration or gun control,” he said.

Continue reading "Q poll: Rubio's approval remains steady, Clinton leads in match-up for prez in 2016" »