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8 posts from May 13, 2014

May 13, 2014

Gov. Scott will veto 75 mph speed limit bill

Days after attending the funeral of a state trooper, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will veto a bill that would allow drivers to go 75 miles an hour on Florida highways.

“I’m going to stand with law enforcement,” Scott said. “I want everybody to stay safe. I don’t want anyone to be injured, so I’m going to veto that bill.”

Scott declared his opposition five days after he went to the funeral of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who was struck and killed by a passing car while investigating an accident on Interstate 75 in Ocala. The victim, Chelsea Renee Richard, died a week before her 31st birthday and on the day that her boyfriend, also a trooper, planned to ask her to marry him.

Richard, a nine-year veteran of the FHP, is survived by a four-year-old son. Two others, a tow truck driver and his friend, also were killed in the May 3 crash.

At Richard’s funeral last Thursday, another trooper, Tod Cloud, urged Scott to veto the bill, saying it “wasn’t a bright idea” for the state to promote faster driving and that people “do not drive with common sense” on I-75.

Contrary to pushing for higher speeds, Cloud said the state should reduce the speed limit on I-75 to 55 when the road surface is wet from rain.

Scott said Cloud made a “convincing” case, adding: “He was very passionate about it. He’s very concerned about troopers being out there on the highway and people driving too fast. By doing this, we’re doing the right thing.”

Supporters, including Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, noted that the bill only gave state DOT engineers the discretion to set the "save and advisable" speeds on interstates. But it nearly died in the House, squeaking through on a 58-56 vote, with 17 Republicans voting no.

In expected victory for FPL, Gov. Scott and Cabinet approve nuke plant and transmission lines

After a last minute settlement removed the City of Coral Gables from the communities fighting Florida Power & Light, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet gave the company everything it asked for Tuesday and granted it permission to build two nuclear generators and 88 miles of transmission lines in Miami Dade County. 

It was a victory for the state’s largest utility, but it won’t be the last fight. Local governments, who have challenged the placement of the 80- to 150-foot-high voltage towers along the line, are now preparing to sue the state.

“We’ll continue to fight it and challenge this in court in Miami,” Miami city attorney Victoria Méndez said after the two-hour hearing in the packed Cabinet room. “This entire process has been so one-sided in favor of FPL that we look forward to getting this into the court system, where justice will be served.”

Under the proposal, FPL will build two new 1,100-megawatt nuclear generators, known as Turkey Point 6 and 7, at a cost of $24 billion. The power supplied by current and future generators will be amped through two transmission lines. One will be a 230-kilovolt line running from Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove; the other will be a 500-kilovolt line, along the western edge of the county, adjacent to Everglades National Park.

Continue reading "In expected victory for FPL, Gov. Scott and Cabinet approve nuke plant and transmission lines " »

Sen. Marco Rubio: Americas’ lagging retirement needs a boost

From Chris Adams, McClatchy Newspapers/Herald Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — In his latest in a series of speeches designed to “reclaim the 21st Century American Dream,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and potential 2016 presidential candidate, proposed allowing many Americans the option of enrolling in the retirement plan for government workers.


Biz poll: Charlie Crist lead cut to 44-43% over Rick Scott, who closes gap by 3 points


Gov. Rick Scott has closed the gap with Democrat Charlie Crist in a new statewide survey from a business interest showing the two candidates are virtually tied, 43-44 percent.

Crist’s 1 percentage point lead represents a net decline of 3 percentage points since the last time the business interest polled in February; The Miami Herald reported those results as well after agreeing to keep the source of the information private.

In February, Crist led Scott 42-38 percent in a poll taken by the group. The 1,000-person likely voter survey does differ in both technique and results from Quinnipiac University’s late April poll, which showed Crist up by 10 – a net 2 point increase since January.

Continue reading "Biz poll: Charlie Crist lead cut to 44-43% over Rick Scott, who closes gap by 3 points" »

Ex-Lt. Gov. Carroll laments Scott's 'good ol' boy system'

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll continues to make noise about her rocky tenure as Gov. Rick Scott's No. 2, including new references to Scott having had "issues with HCA and Medicaid fraud."  

Carroll was on a Cocoa Beach radio station Monday where she cited "wrongdoing" by Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, and a "good ol' boy system" where it was difficult for minorities to work. She appeared on WMEL's "Seeta and Friends" program, hosted by a fellow native of Trinidad, Seeta Begui.

"I gave him 100 percent of my loyalty, even though we didn't know each other prior to running, and he had his issues with HCA and Medicaid fraud. I never asked him a question about that. Never," Carroll said. "I still followed their rules and so forth, and when it came time that I would have expected him to give me the common courtesy that he gave to his male counterparts there, his chief of staff, who had wrongdoing, he supported and defended them. Me, with no wrongdoing, (he) utilized an excuse and asked me to leave office for no reason."

Hollingsworth acknowledged in December that while in private employment, he falsely claimed a degree from the University of Alabama before he obtained it. Scott publicly supported Hollingsworth at the time. Hollingsworth helped to force Carroll from office on March 12, 2013.

Carroll continued: "It's bad enough, particularly for minorities, when you are in the good old boy system, you're trying to walk that fine line because, you know, there are little whispers that they give. You know, if you go off too much, then there's a B-I-T-C-H. If you don't do enough, you're a wimp."

Carroll, a Republican and the first African-American lieutenant governor in Florida history, wants Scott to apologize for forcing her to resign and said she plans to write a tell-all book about her experience. She was forced out when officials learned that prior to becoming lieutenant governor, she was a paid consultant to a veterans' group accused of having ties to the illegal Internet cafe gaming industry.

In response to Carroll's statements, Scott's press secretary, John Tupps, said Tuesday: “Jennifer Carroll made the right decision for her family by resigning. We appreciate her service to the state.”

The Associated Press reported recently that Carroll failed to report nearly $100,000 in income from Allied Veterans of the World, and changed two financial disclosure statements to include the payments after she was questioned by FDLE agents.

UPDATED Super PAC ad for Joe Garcia includes cameo by disgraced ex-Homestead mayor


Did a Democratic political group do more harm than good by putting together a television advertisement for Miami Congressman Joe Garcia?

Patriot Majority USA, a super-political action committee, released a pair of ads Monday for Garcia and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, praising them for opposing "the radical Tea Party agenda."

But the ad for Garcia has gotten noticed not because of its message -- but because it features a shot of Garcia with Steve Bateman, the former Homestead mayor facing criminal charges. Bateman has pleaded not guilty. (UPDATE: Patriot Majority says it will sub out the footage. The web version of the ad is no longer available, but a conservative super PAC has posted the B-roll here.)


Super PACs can't coordinate campaigns with candidates. But the Bateman link is a treacherous association for Garcia, whose former chief of staff pleaded guilty last year to attempted absentee-ballot fraud. Garcia will likely be running in the general election against former Rep. David Rivera, who has been plagued by investigations, or against Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, who's running on a platform of turning the page on scandals.

Continue reading "UPDATED Super PAC ad for Joe Garcia includes cameo by disgraced ex-Homestead mayor" »

FDP highlights Rick Scott's job-numbers flip-flop


Flip-flopping -- it's not just for Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist.

Gov. Rick Scott does it too, and the Florida Democratic Party reminds us today with a web video of how the Republican changed his tune on job creation after he won office.

"Our plan is seven steps to 700,000 jobs that plan is on top of what normal growth would be," Scott said in a 2010 TV debate.

"You want to add 700,000 jobs on top of what the economic recovery would bring," a moderator noted. "We're talking in seven years about 1.7 million jobs..."

But after taking office, Scott twice told reporters -- one with the Associated Press, another with a reporter in the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times bureau -- that his job-growth plan was not in addition to the employment forecast. Basically, Scott will take credit for every job that was created.

As with other lines of attack in this campaign, this one has been examined already. PolitiFact gave Scott a "Full Flop" rating in 2011.

ALF reforms fail again in Legislature

TALLAHASSEE -- Legislative leaders identified reform of Florida’s assisted-living facilities as one of their top goals this session, but once again lawmakers did not adopt measures to improve conditions in the 3,048 facilities around the state.

It is the third year the Legislature has not passed reforms proposed after a 2011 Miami Herald investigation that revealed the neglect, abuse and death of residents at some in ALFs.

The most recent Senate and House proposals fell apart in the final days when the House attached other health care related bills to the Senate’s ALF bill and they couldn’t resolve their differences.

“We still have the same antiquated, dangerous system that was in place when the Miami Herald wrote its series,” said Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care. The state “has not fixed the abuse and neglect, and residents are still in trouble.”

Getting rid of the “bad apples” in the ALF industry and adding more oversight affects not only the elderly who live in facilities that can house a total of more than 80,000 residents, but also Florida’s economy and future generations, said Jack McRay, advocacy manager for AARP Florida.

“Florida seniors pay more in taxes than they get back in services,” McRay said. “It’s essential that they are able to remain and stay in Florida... We need to get it right.”

What happened this session “is a classic example of politics again trumping policy,” McRay said. “It became part of a healthcare ‘train’ that became a train wreck.”

The Senate unanimously passed SB 248 early in the session. The House passed its version, HB 573, at the end of April. While House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz identified ALF reform as one of their session goals in their “Work Plan 2014” program, it failed to make any progress.

Gaetz blames the House, and the ALF industry, for the bill’s demise.

“It wasn’t the trains that killed the bill. It was the House that killed the bill,’’ he  told the Herald/Times. “Speaker Weatherford gave me his commitment they would try to do this. The ALF industry lobbied very hard against reforms. They lost a lot of credibility. It’s a real shame.”

He said that when the House bill began to be “picked apart” in that chamber, he urged the Senate prime sponsor, Sen. Eleanoer Sobel, D-Hollywood, to start attaching it to several high priority House bills. In retaliation, the House attached language to the ALF bill that the Senate didn’t want -- language about surgery centers and visitation rights for grandparents.

“Healthcare is a complex issue, and we just weren’t able to get agreement between the two chambers,” Weatherford said after the session ended May 2.

Gaetz said he vowed to be Sobel’s first co-sponsor and will work to pass the bill next year.

"Frankly,’’ he said. “Those of us who support her efforts need a little bit more enthusiastic help.”

Sobel and House sponsor, Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, both vowed to renew their efforts next session.

"I’m very disappointed,” said Sobel, who also blamed “special interests” for the bill’s failure. “I believe we were very close and got further than we have in previous years,” she said.

Ahern said the important thing for next year “is to agree on something the first month of session and get this done early.”

Among the provisions, the ALF bill would have required facilities with one or more, rather than three or more, state-supported mental health residents obtain a limited mental health license; authorized ALF staff members, with increased training, to perform additional medication-related duties; and to assist with the self-administration of medication with increased training.

The most contentious issue was a new rating system for all licensed ALFs, similar to the system used for nursing homes. It would help consumers pick the best home for their loved ones. Family members often find themselves in a quandary when the hospital discharges a patient who cannot go home, McRay said.

“The consumer doesn’t know where to go or which ALFs are good and which are bad. A rating system has worked very well with nursing homes.”

The idea of a ratings system rankled the ALF industry. One industry group, the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA), raised objections that people could post anonymous, possibly damaging comments on a website that would be managed by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

The ratings system, along with a change in the fine structure that FALA said could affect smaller homes, were among the group’s key objections, said  Shaddrick Haston, its CEO, but he contends that members were not trying to sabotage the bill.

“Actually, most of the bill had great things to help residents age in place,” said Haston, who is AHCA’s former head of licensing for assisted-living facilities. “The industry wanted an ALF bill this year.”

One concern of Lee's, director of Families for Better Care, was a change that would reduce monitoring visits for homes that met certain criteria. Even a home that has had a good reputation can falter, he said.

In the fall, he noted, the state fined the Royal Palm Retirement Centre, an ALF in Port Charlotte, $22,500 for several violations found during a visit. AHCA’s inspection report noted that among resident-care problems, the facility “failed to provide adequate nursing supervision in providing care for four insulin-dependent diabetic residents.”

AHCA, Lee said, “needs to put more boots on the ground in ALFs, not fewer.”

Herald/Times staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Contact Rochelle Koff at rkoff@miamiherald.com