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7 posts from August 21, 2013

August 21, 2013

Eliminate Obamacare? That's up to Cruz, Rubio and Congress, Scott says

It doesn’t look like Gov. Rick Scott will be following other members of his party, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in calling for a last-ditch effort to eliminate Obamacare with defunding the federal government after Sept. 30.

During a four-minute Wednesday interview on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Scott was asked twice if he supported the latest tactic to eliminate the Affordable Health Care Act, which 2016 presidential contenders Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, do.

Twice, Scott said he would support this elimination attempt, but added he wants Obamacare replaced with another policy.

“I don’t hear them talking about a replacement bill,” Tapper asked Scott. “Are you suggesting that if Republicans move forward with trying to repeal Obamacare, they need to have a substitute there to fill the need of all the unemployed, all the uninsured rather?”

Scott replied that some policy, if not Obamacare, needed to fill the void.

“We need to have a policy,” Scott said. “Let’s replace it with what’s good.  Reduce the cost of health care, improve access, improve quality, give people the right to choose the health care they want.”


Continue reading "Eliminate Obamacare? That's up to Cruz, Rubio and Congress, Scott says" »

Charges dropped against former aide to Lt. Gov. Carroll

The Associated Press is reporting that criminal charges against a former aide to then-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll have been dropped. Carletha Cole was accused of giving a reporter an illegal recording of a conversation between Carroll's chief of staff and her.

Carroll resigned in March after being questioned about her relationship with a non-profit accused of operating an illegal gambling operation.

Read more here.

Wasserman Schultz says sequester hurting poor kids and seniors


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, held a presser today at the National Council of La Raza in Miami to highlight how the sequester is hurting the poor in Florida.

"Because of these across the board cuts Florida is looking at losing 750 teachers," she said, and Head Start "will likely have to serve 1,200 fewer children across Florida." Wasserman Schultz mentionned that some Head Start programs have shut down -- she didn't immediately know whether that included any in Florida.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released data Monday showing that Head Start will be cut for about 57,000 children nationwide including about 1,200. Before the sequester took effect, the feds estimated that up to 70,000 children could lose access.

HHS has not yet answered specific questions as to whether this means 57,000 children have been kicked out or whether that refers to slots in the coming year. 

Wasserman Schultz didn't offer very many specific ideas about how to reduce the deficit to cancel the sequester other than ending tax loopholes for big corporations.

The sequester has led Broward Meals on Wheels to reduce meals by 500 a day, said Mark Adler, executive director of the agency. An interesting tidbit about the  Hispanic population in Broward: last year about 21 percent of Meals on Wheels clients were Hispanic, while this year it rose to 27 percent.

Earlier this year the Broward County Commission had agreed to cover sequester cuts for air traffic controllers at a small airport in Pembroke Pines though that ultimately wasn't necessary when the planned cut was reversed. Commissioners were concerned about safety in the heavily populated area.

Adler hasn't asked the mostly Democratic county commission to fund the $476,000 gap to feed poor seniors.

Wasserman Schultz said that it's not the local or state government's responsibility to replace federal dollars and Adler said that Broward County currently provides the required local match for the program.

Broward Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief said in an interview that the county commission hasn’t talked about backfilling the Meals on Wheels federal cut.

“We have lots of unfunded mandates from the state,” she said. “Having them from the federal level is getting to be too much.”




Margolis files bill to diversify juries

Observers were quick to raise questions when six women, five of whom were white, were impaneled in the recent George Zimmerman trial. 

"It was the first time I’ve ever heard of a jury that all looked the same," state Sen. Gwen Margolis said. "It was disturbing."

In response, the Miami Democrat has filed a proposal that would make future panels less homogeneous.

The bill, SB 94, would require the juries in capital and life felony cases to "reflect the demographics of the county in which the case is to be tried."

"Not that I don’t love women, but there should have been a variety of perspectives up there," Margolis said Wednesday. 

What's more, the bill would require a 12-member panel for life felony cases like Zimmerman's. Under current law, only capital cases are heard by a dozen jurors. The panels for all other criminal cases have half as many members.

"With six people on the jury, one person can dominate, which seemed to be the case in the Zimmerman trial," Margolis said.

Names of dead children invoked at legislative meeting in Broward to reform DCF

By Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch

One by one, Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel read the names or initials of 20 children — children who died this summer while on the radar of the state’s embattled child welfare agency.

Some were beaten savagely. Others suffocated or drowned. One was strangled, and another run over by a car,.

The listing of the dead was a dramatic way to launch a town hall meeting designed to bring reforms and save lives.

The Tuesday night meeting, at Broward College’s South Campus, drew a crowd of hundreds of judges, city officials, police officers, children’s advocates and foster parents. At least 15 lawmakers sat shoulder to shoulder on the dais, listening.

“We have a moral imperative to save lives,” said Sobel, who organized the event.

The Miami Herald reported Sunday that, since mid-April, at least 20 children known to the Department of Children & Families have died, mostly from abuse or neglect, some of them in particularly brutal ways. Faced with the rising toll, Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Children, Families & Elder Affairs, convened a town hall to ask hard questions about DCF’s ability to meet its mandate of protecting children from danger.

More here.

DCF gets grilling from Miami-Dade judges

By Carol Marbin Miller

Miami-Dade County’s entire child welfare bench presided over a virtually unprecedented hearing Tuesday in which the five judges grilled lawyers and an investigator with the Department of Children & Families over “systemic” failures that have left children dead or gravely injured.

They used the plight of a 4-year-old boy to pull back the curtain on problems occurring throughout the state. The boy was not present.

The 4-year-old has not been killed or tortured, as some Floridian youngsters have. He has simply been subjected to a “violent, unstable and dangerous home” with the agency repeatedly refusing to remove him for his own safety. His parents, allegedly, have engaged in fistfights, stalking, a knifing and a kidnapping, the judges said. The boy’s father has ignored court orders to stay away from the child’s mom, who has a bad drinking problem. DCF’s abuse hotline has received at least three calls that domestic violence left the boy in peril.

Through it all, DCF has taken no action to place him in a safer environment. The judges, some of whom have presided over the family’s travails, wanted to know why.

More here.

Plan to reopen historic Miami playhouse clears Florida Cabinet

By Andres Viglucci and @MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a joint plan by Florida International University and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to salvage and reopen the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse as a working regional theater.

The approval now triggers a tight deadline for FIU, the county and the state to sign a formal lease for the state-owned theater while clearing several outstanding debts and claims on the property. If that doesn’t happen by Oct. 15, the state is required by ironclad rules to put the property up for sale to the highest bidder.

One of the biggest claims is about $500,000 in mounting fines for building code violations from the city of Miami. Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff told Scott and the cabinet that the city is willing to “do away’’ with the fines and a city lien once the deal is formally inked.

Scott and cabinet members, meeting at Miami-Dade College’s downtown Wolfson Campus, praised the deal, which doesn’t require state funding. The state last year re-took ownership of the 1927 theater from a non-profit group that closed it abruptly in 2006 amid mounting debt and administrative disarray.

More here.