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8 posts from July 3, 2013

July 03, 2013

Miami's Jackson Health System assembles political team for $830 million bond referendum


Jackson Health System is preparing to wage an expensive countywide campaign to persuade Miami-Dade voters to approve $830 million in hospital upgrades financed by a property-tax rate hike.

The public health system has created a political action committee to raise money, and Carlos Migoya, Jackson’s chief executive, has hired a campaign manager who is assembling a political team to lead the fundraising and outreach effort for the Nov. 5 special election.

Though county commissioners only just approved the referendum on Tuesday, Jackson has been gearing up for the bond initiative behind the scenes for months. A privately funded poll whose results have not been made public gauged voters’ interest a year ago in raising additional public funds for the hospital. Jackson registered its fundraising committee, Citizens For A Healthy Miami-Dade, in May.

“After years of painful neglect, it is abundantly clear that without modern facilities, Jackson will always struggle to compete,” Darryl Sharpton, chairman of the Public Health Trust that governs the hospital, told commissioners Tuesday.

More here.

Delay in health care mandate defuses pressure, but doesn't end Medicaid debate

The Obama administration’s decision to delay the Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate on employers has lessened some of the leverage advocates of expanding Medicaid in Florida had on lawmakers, but it won’t end the debate.

On Wednesday, House Republicans cast the one-year delay as proof that lawmakers are right to worry about the consequences of the law, which they say is deeply flawed.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, said the decisions of the federal government and the Legislature are unconnected.

“If it’s not ready for prime time, why are they trying to jam it down America’s throat?” House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesely Chapel, said told the Herald/Times. “I think it just clearly shows that the whole thing is just half-baked.”

The Obama administration announced the year-long delay late Tuesday, saying businesses need additional time to comply. As part of the law, businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health care coverage to their workers or face steep fines. More here. 


Big Sugar fliers sent to South Florida voters strike sour note with environmentalists


A Big Sugar ad campaign has struck a sour note with environmentalists.

In fliers mailed to thousands of South Florida homes and a television spot, the industry touts legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott in May that extends a $25-an-acre tax on cane fields to help pay for an $880 million expansion of projects to reduce the flow of farm pollution flowing in the Everglades, as a "historic partnership" with environmentalists and the state that will "put the final phase of restoration into place."

The ad boasts that "smart farming techniques" have helped preserve the Everglades and proclaims farmers the "largest private funders of Everglades restoration" with some $400 million invested in the effort to date.

The state's three largest growers -- Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar and the Florida Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative -- bankrolled the ad targeting key communities and residents in South Florida, said Brian Hughes, president of Tallahassee-based Meteoric Media Strategies, which created the ad. He wouldn't discuss the cost or say how many people will get fliers but called it a "modest" effort.

Continue reading "Big Sugar fliers sent to South Florida voters strike sour note with environmentalists" »

Florida DCF worker tied to child death in Miami lacked credentials

By Carol Marbin Miller

The Miami child abuse investigator who resigned under pressure last May after an infant she declared “safe” was later baked to death in a sweltering car had been working for two years without required certification — a violation of state law.

Shani Smith, a Department of Children & Families child protective investigator in Miami, was accused in May of concocting the results of a substance abuse evaluation that concluded the mother of Bryan Osceola did not have a drinking problem. The mother, Catalina Marista Bruno, had been found in February passed out at the wheel of her car — after striking several buildings — with an unsecured Bryan sprawled on her lap in the front seat of the vehicle, which was still running. The Florida Highway Patrol had called DCF’s abuse hotline to report the incident.

Smith is apparently not the only DCF abuse investigator or supervisor who lacks the required certification. A department email refers to Smith as “one of the individuals” who had maintained a full investigative caseload while failing to complete the requirements for certification.

More here.

Ties to David Rivera hurt Marco Rubio's VP chances, book says


From Collision 2012, the new book by the terrific Dan Balz:

"...Everyone on the short list had issues, pros and cons. Ryan came with all the controversy surounding his budget and its radical changes to Medicare. Pawlenty lacked the charisma that would help to energize conservatives and make them feel better about Romney. Christie, in addition to pay-to-play, had a personality guaranteed to overshadow Romney. Portman had the Washington experience that Romney lacked, but was tied to the Bush presidency. Rubio was talented but untested. But he had another issue. As a Florida legislator he had brushed up against a financial scandal involving the Florida Republican party. In addition, then-representative David Rivera, a close friend and fellow office-holder, was under federal investigation for for campaign irregularities.. There was no evidence of wrongdoing by Rubio, but among at least some Romney advisers there was concern that Rivera would be indicted before the election, and if that were to happen the story would become a major distraction. Myers said, however, that issue did not keep Rubio off the short list of contenders. "Mitt received a number of completed vets, all of which were viable candidacies, and Marco was one of them," she said.

Those advisers wary of Rivera/Rubio were clearly correct. Even without an indictment, the Rivera scandal popping with revelations in the Herald practically every other day would have been an enormous distraction for the Romney campaign.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

Brow Mayor Kristin Jacobs faces former Rep. Steve Perman in house race

With state Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, facing term limits in 2014 two Democrats who have served in office are poised to battle in a primary.

Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs who faces term limits recently filed to run for District 96. She will face Steve Perman, who served as a representative in 2010-12 until he lost a primary challenge to another former state legislator Kevin Rader. Perman served in District 78 which spanned more than 100 miles over five counties including a slice in Broward. He lived in Boca Raton at the time but now lives in Coral Springs where he has owned a home for several years.

Jacobs, a vocal advocate for addressing climate change, is viewed as one of the more liberal members of the county commission. In a 2012 race, she jumped in late against Lois Frankel, a Democrat who won a Broward/Palm Beach seat in Congress. In that race, Jacobs seemed reluctant to criticize her Democratic opponent -- but she seems more fired up this time.

When asked how she differs from Perman, Jacobs said, "Steve Perman gets up there and votes for school vouchers. I'm sorry, that is something I am never going to support."

Perman said that in 2011 he voted for a bill that allowed businesses to direct tax credits to scholarships for low-income children. 

"I had contacted FEA [the Florida Education Association] at the time and they said it wasn't on their radar. ... No way, no how would I have voted for it if it took one thin dime away from public education."

Jacobs, who lives in Pompano Beach, doesn't live in the district but says it encompasses much of the county commission district she represents now. 

Perman's endorsements including Waldman and Frankel.

So far no Republicans have filed to run in this left-leaning district.

Prison guards' union accuses state of unfair labor practice

The Teamsters Union on Wednesday filed a new complaint against the state Department of Corrections, challenging time-off restrictions instituted by Gov. Rick Scott's administration dealing with earned time off for more than 20,000 correctional officers.

In a news release, the Tampa-based Teamsters Joint Council 75 accuses the state of an unfair labor practice "by enforcing illegal working conditions against the officers ... which have prevented officers from taking earned time off."

Under the policy, the Teamsters said, officers are required to work holidays, for which they are given what is known as special compensatory time. But the policy requires officers to use the special comp time within six months or they lose it, and the Teamsters say officers are not being allowed to take the time due to critical staffing shortages at many prisons. The Teamsters said they tried to get the Legislature to revise the policy in the 2013 session but lawmakers declined to intervene (state law requires legislators to resolve bargaining impasses between the state and labor unions).

The union filed its complaint with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) in Tallahassee.

Ann Howard, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said the agency was not yet aware of the complaint. Recently, the agency agreed as part of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor to give more than $600,000 in back pay and comp time to more than 700 officers at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford who were denied part of their shift pay over a two-year period.

-- Steve Bousquet

Racing truce ends: Gulfstream wages war on Calder for summer events

Marty Wolfson has spent the past 35 years training thoroughbreds at Calder Race Course and remained dedicated to South Florida’s traditional “summer” race track.

Come Sunday, that will all change.

Wolfson will put his stable of horses on a van and ship them a few miles east to Gulfstream Park. For good.

In a brewing, head-to-head battle between Calder and Gulfstream for horses and bettors, Wolfson is switching sides.

“I hope Gulfstream squashes Calder,” Wolfson said.

Minutes later, the veteran trainer’s horse — Heiko — won the fifth race on the first day of Gulfstream’s summer meet. Monday marked the first time horses kicked up dirt in July at a track that’s been a Hallandale Beach fixture since 1939.

For decades, Calder had the summer and fall all to itself on the year-round racing calendar in South Florida. Gulfstream and, at one time, Hialeah divvied up the lucrative winter dates, when northern tourists arrive and feed dollars through the pari-mutuel windows.

Now, Gulfstream has decided it wants the summer dates, too, and has scheduled a racing meet that runs in direct competition — at least on Saturdays and Sundays — against Calder.