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5 posts from June 5, 2014

June 05, 2014

Marco Rubio's Senate win: fire-bad-workers language added to bipartisan VA compromise


There's a good chance that the scandal-plagued Veterans Administration will finally be able to fire bad workers more easily.

And a big measure of credit goes to Florida's junior Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, who saw his legislation on that issue defeated last month only to see it resurrected today in a bipartisan VA agreement announced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and John McCain, R-Ariz. 

The legislation pushed by Rubio, which the House already passed by a big bipartisan margin before Memorial, already had 11 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, but Sanders, the chairman of the Senate's committee overseeing the VA, originally wanted to water it down.

Rubio, backed by veterans' groups, wouldn't back down. And last week, Sanders called Rubio to get him on board. Rubio appears to happy to join.

“For months, I’ve worked with Representative Jeff Miller and veterans organizations to pass legislation empowering the Veterans Affairs Secretary to fire incompetent and negligent managers," Rubio said in a written statement. "In recent days, I’ve worked with Senators Burr, McCain and Sanders to ensure that this important proposal was included in their veterans bill that the Senate will consider in coming weeks. I am pleased that real accountability measures are included in the legislation. Considering the deep debt of gratitude our nation owes our veterans, I’m optimistic that the Senate will soon join the U.S. House of Representatives and pass these important reforms. As we look forward to voting on this bill, I will be reviewing it closely to ensure it delivers on America’s promises to our veterans.”

Continue reading "Marco Rubio's Senate win: fire-bad-workers language added to bipartisan VA compromise" »

Florida sues feds to gain access to VA hospitals


The state Agency for Health Care Administration filed suit in federal court today, demanding access to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals. News of the lawsuit, requested by Gov. Rick Scott, comes as the U.S. Senate announced a bipartisan agreement that addresses ongoing issues at the network of federally run health clinics for veterans.

The Florida lawsuit information is posted here. 

Scott and AHCA officials have been bickering with the federal VA agency for the past few weeks as state inspectors have demaneded access to the hospitals under the auspices of ensuring veterans are being treated fairly. The News Service of Florida reported that state investigators claim being denied access to clinics in Gainesville, Lake City, Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach.

Scott's interest in the issue has been described as an effort to win votes from the military community as he seeks re-election. He is capitalizing off a series of negative headlines pertaining to the VA, including the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki and reports about potential cover-ups of delayed care at 26 health clinics nationwide, including at least one in Florida.

The state has also accused the federal government of failing to respond to public record requests for VA documents.

Immigrant tuition, medical pot, abortion among 105 bills sent to Gov. Rick Scott

From the News Service of Florida:

 After drawing heavy debate during the spring legislative session, a measure is now on Gov. Rick Scott's desk that would allow undocumented-immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities.

The proposal (HB 851), which Scott has promised to sign, is one of 105 bills forwarded to the governor Thursday by the Legislature.

Among the other measures is a bill (HB 1047) that would add further restrictions to Florida's abortion laws, preventing most abortions after fetuses reach "viability." Also, Scott received two bills (HB 989 and HB 7141) aimed at curbing human-trafficking in the state. 

Another bill (SB 1030) now before Scott would legalize a form of medical marijuana that purportedly does not get users high but which alleviates life-threatening seizures. That measure, which Scott has said he will sign, was pushed by parents who say the substance can help their children who suffer from a severe type of epilepsy.

Also among the forwarded legislation is a bill (HB 629) intended to crackdown on charities that may be misusing contributions, a priority issue of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. In addition, Scott will consider a bill (HB 9) that would move up the starting date of the 2016 legislative session from March to January. Sessions typically last from early March to early May, except in redistricting years. 

Continue reading "Immigrant tuition, medical pot, abortion among 105 bills sent to Gov. Rick Scott" »

Broward awaits Bogdanoff decision about Sachs rematch

With about two weeks to go until qualifying ends for the state Legislature, the will-she-or-won’t-she-run speculation about Ellyn Bogdanoff continues.

Bogdanoff is considering a rematch against Sen. Maria Sachs who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Due to redistricting the two lawmakers faced each other in a newly drawn left-leaning district in 2012 and Sachs won.

"Still meeting with folks," Bogdanoff said in a text reply Thursday in which she didn't commit either way.

Bogdanoff has attended some public events but hasn’t been a consistent presence at recent Republican meetings or events -- she wasn’t at Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign gathering to promote small businesses at a Cuban restaurant in Oakland Park last week. 

So far, Sachs has raised about $177,000 and spent $16,000 -- that doesn’t include a fundraiser she held at the Tower Forum this week that listed multiple Democratic state legislators and local elected officials on the host committee. Though Bogdanoff would start her fundraising late by launching a campaign in June, she’d have the power of the Republican Party of Florida and her past connections as a longtime state legislator.

If Bogdanoff jumps in, this will be the most competitive legislative brawl in Broward with money from both state parties. Check out Bogdanoff’s PolitiFact Florida report card (including her claim about Tampa strip clubs that made our most popular list in 2012) and Sachs’ report card.


'Team-building' party videos lead to suspension for Miami-Dade County department director


Employees booty-shaking and flashing wads of cash in Miami-Dade County government videos have gotten a department head suspended.

Since 2010, the county's community information and outreach department has produced an annual party video around the holidays intended as a team-building exercise to improve employees' morale.

In one clip, workers do the "Harlem Shake" inside commission chambers. In another, they dance "Gangnam Style" amid cubicles.

There's apparent drinking, dollar-bill waving and air humping - the latter to make fun of so-called Wednesday "Hump Days," according to what department director Henry Sori told WPLG-ABC 10.

County commissioners - and Sori's boss, Deputy Mayor Chip Iglesias - were not amused.

On Wednesday, Iglesias prohibited Sori from producing any more such videos - and handed Sori a five-day suspension without pay. 

"There was negative publicity brought upon the department and the county as a whole" by the videos, Iglesias wrote in the suspension memo, which was first reported by Local 10.

The disciplinary action will cost Sori, who makes a yearly salary of $160,000, about $3,000.