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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

DOC says whiste-blower testimony was erased because it allegedly violated HIPAA

Doug GlissonThe Department of Corrections concluded that the name of an inmate should be erased from the video testimony of an whistle-blower at a Senate committee because of federal HIPAA privacy laws, an agency spokesman told the Herald/Times.

Doug Glisson, an inspector with the DOC’s Office of Inspector General, testified under oath at the March 10 meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that the agency covered up potentially negligent medical care, criminal activity and sabotaged investigations to protect high ranking officials within the organization.

Among the examples Glisson cited was the case of inmate Quintin Foust, whose death was listed as “suspicious” by the medical examiner. Glisson said Foust was “undergoing medical care” at Jefferson Correctional Institution but did not provide any details about his medical condition or ailments. He said Foust “started having seizures” and “wound up dying.”  

Glisson said he and his investigator believed that a criminal investigation should have been conducted of Foust’s death but was told by “upper management at the Office of Inspector General to close that criminal case” because of a “conversation he had had with the state attorney’s office and that we would run that case administratively.” 

Foust's cause of death is now listed as "natural" on the DOC web site. 

Some time after the Senate hearing, DOC concluded that Glisson’s testimony violated the federal HIPAA privacy rule, which protects individuals from disclosure of identifiable health information, said McKinley Lewis, DOC spokesman.  

Lewis then provided the time codes from the video to The Florida Channel and asked them to scrub the name references from the audio. 

"The department notified The Florida Channel that some of the information released violated federal HIPAA law,’’ Lewis said. “We have a responsibility to protect the personal health information of all inmates and staff.” 

Glisson has been under fire at the agency since he sought and was denied whistle-blower protection from Gov. Rick Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel. Glisson attempted to alert Miguel of cover-ups within the Office of the Inspector General but she denied him whistle-blower protection. 

Lewis told the Herald/Times that Glisson was was stripped of his investigative post in February. He now has no access to DOC records and is also being investigated for violating agency rules, possibly including the alleged HIPAA violation. Full Story

DOC investigates whistle-blowers, has audio scrubbed of testimony under oath

Doug GlissonOne month after the Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones told the Senate Appropriations Committee that she had asked the governor's chief investigator to look into the claims the whistle-blowers that DOC Inspector General Jeffery Beasley impeded their investigations into suspicious inmate deaths,  three of the officers have not been interviewed by anyone looking into the matter, according to the attorney for the three.

Instead, the inspectors, who risked their careers by going public, now face intense scrutiny. 

The Miami Herald has learned that two of the DOC inspectors who testified last month before state lawmakers — Doug Glisson and John Ulm — have been stripped of their investigative posts and slapped with a pile of internal affairs complaints.

A third inspector, David Clark, who did not testify but publicly alleged Beasley tried to sabotage cases, has also been transferred, DOC officials confirmed Thursday. They are among nine inspectors currently under investigation, according to department spokesman McKinley Lewis. …

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Obama to visit Florida on Wednesday to urge action on climate change

President Barack Obama will travel to Florida on Wednesday for an Earth Day event in the Everglades to call attention to climate change.

“The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country,” Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday. “But it’s also one of the most fragile.  Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure – and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry – at risk.”

“And the fact that the climate is changing has very serious implications for the way we live now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons. The world’s top climate scientists are warning us that a changing climate already affects the air our kids breathe.  Last week, the Surgeon General and I spoke with public experts about how climate change is already affecting patients across the country. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. …

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Climate change group praises Jeb Bush for 'leadership'

Jeb Bush on Friday in New Hampshire called for the U.S. "to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.”

The remarks at a "Politics & Eggs" event brought praise from billionaire Tom Steyer's group NextGen Climate, which has spent millions in recent elections blasting Republicans on climate change. …

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Hillary Clinton staying away from Fla, but her supporters get rolling

From Alex Leary and me:

Florida Democrats are ready for Hillary, even if Hillary Clinton is not yet ready for them....The Clinton team is in no rush to start organizing and campaigning in America's biggest swing state, even though Barack Obama's re-election campaign started at this point four years ago. But Clinton supporters are aggressively raising money and nearly unanimous that she can win the state even if Republicans nominate Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

"Florida is in play for Hillary no matter who the general election candidate is for Republicans. And if Hillary wins Florida, that's it," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson...

Mindful of what went wrong with her campaign in 2008, the Clinton team wants to avoid looking presumptuous and signaling that she's a lock as the Democratic nominee. So the campaign is concentrating on the early voting primary and caucus states such as New Hampshire and Iowa....

..."To start putting staff in states that aren't early states could send the wrong message to those early states," said Ashley Walker, who ran Obama's Florida 2012 re-election campaign that kicked off in April 2011 and helped run the 2008 Obama campaign in Florida that kicked off in June 2008. …

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Tallahassee gift 'ban' no end for freebies

The chief advocate of a 2005 gift ban prohibiting Florida lawmakers from having meals, drinks and trips paid by special interests now has meals, drinks and trips indirectly paid by special interests.

Sen. Tom Lee, who vowed that his ban would change the behavior of legislators, has received more in personal reimbursements from his political committee than any other state senator since 2013.

The Brandon Republican's committee, called The Conservative, raised $1.8 million over the past two years from corporate interests such as Anheuser-Busch, U.S. Sugar, Duke Energy and Walt Disney. Exploiting a loophole, The Conservative paid Lee $15,511 in a series of reimbursements during the same period, according to state Division of Elections records.

Lee is just one example of how powerful lawmakers in both parties still get special interests to cover personal expenses — even after the gift ban and a subsequent reform in 2013. …

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Rubio disputes his positions are 'yesterday'

Step inside the press gaggle with Marco Rubio today in New Hampshire, with video courtesy of Michael C. Bender of Bloomberg News.

He's asked about evolution (it should be taught) and addresses a point we wrote about today: Whether his positions on gay marriage, climate change and Cuba are the stances of "yesterday." He also talks about Jeb Bush.

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Americans for Prosperity launches ad against Medicaid expansion

Americans for Prosperity said Friday it is launching a statewide ad that calls Medicaid expansion "bad for Florida."

The group, which has previously gone after Republicans supporting the expansion for budget reasons, did not detail the scope of the ad. UPDATE: "We have scheduled to run this as a digital ad statewide through the end of session, promoting on all the major policy websites and via social media and have not ruled out using other forms of media," spokesman Andres Malave said.

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Ethics commission recommends fines for Rivera

Without any debate, members of the state ethics commission on Friday agreed that former U.S. Rep. David Rivera should pay $57,821.96 for improperly accepting state money for travel when he served as a state representative.

It will now be up to the Florida House to decide whether to penalize its former member.

Rivera, who was in Tallahassee Friday but did not attend the ethics hearing, declined to comment on the final order from the ethics commission. But his attorney Leonard Collins called it "expected," and said he planned to appeal to the First District Court of Appeal.

"This is a really unfortunate case," Collins said, raising a host of concerns about how the ethics commission handled Rivera's case.

Read more here.

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What happend to the sword Jeb Bush gave Marco Rubio?

Marco Rubio with the sword Jeb Bush gave him in 2005

Associated Press (2005)

Marco Rubio with the sword Jeb Bush gave him in 2005

We were wondering the other day what happened to the sword Jeb Bush gave Marco Rubio, a symbolism of Bush passing the conservative torch as Rubio prepared to take over as Florida House speaker. A spokewoman said she'd find out.

Today, Rubio answered the question.

“I have it somewhere at home," he told reporters in New Hampshire. "I have young kids. I don’t want them to run around with a sword." (h/t Zeke Miller, Time)

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Yes, a Bush/Rubio ticket is legal but it won't happen

From Jon Greenberg at PunditFact:

Lawrence O’Donnell said the president and vice president can't be from the same state. That’s incorrect, there is no law or regulation preventing a ticket from coming from the same state.

All the Constitution does is prevent electors in the Electoral College from voting for a president and vice president who are both from their home state.

In many elections, that actually wouldn't matter. President Barack Obama could have picked a running mate from Illinois in 2008 and 2012 with no ill effect. Ditto for Bill Clinton's victories in 1992 and 1996, George H.W. Bush's 1988 win and Ronald Reagan's victories in 1980 and 1984.

But in a close election, the Electoral College quirk could matter (as well as the hoops people might try to work around it). That makes the possibility of an all Florida ticket risky, but not illegal or impossible.

We rate the claim False.

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Looking back over Marco Rubio's position on a federal marriage amendment

A report on MSNBC earlier this week said Sen. Marco Rubio contradicted himself by saying he had never backed a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage on the national level.

In a Tuesday interview with Kasie Hunt, Rubio said "I’ve never supported a federal constitutional amendment on marriage." Rubio on Monday announced a run for the White House.

The network pointed out a Christian Coalition voter guide from 2010 that said he did favor such a change. It seems to be the only place that mentions that position, however.

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Fla poll: Marco Rubio catches Jeb Bush in Fla

A newly released Mason-Dixon Florida poll shows Marco Rubio no lags Jeb Bush among Republican voters in Florida and that his approval ratings are stronger than the former governor's. Here's the full analysis by pollster Brad Coker:

In the wake of his formal announcement as a candidate for president, Senator Marco Rubio has leveled the playing field in Florida with former governor Jeb Bush. Statewide, 31% of registered Republican voters now say they would vote for Rubio and 30% would back Bush.

All of the other candidates seeking the nomination in a high profile manner only managed to register single digit support — Ted Cruz 8%, Ron Paul 7% and Scott Walker 2%. An additional 5% indicated they prefer one of the many other potential candidates who have kept a lower profile so far. Finally, a sizeable 17% said they were undecided.

With the poll’s margin for error at 5%, the race is a statistical tie, but it is relatively clear that Florida will be a battle among favorite sons. None of the other candidates are likely to invest much time in the state absent a dramatic turn of events.


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Capitol Buzz: Things to watch today in Tallahassee

Silence is golden on the legislative front on Friday as feuding legislators retreat to their respective corners and schedule no public, or official, meetings. With no end in sight over the festering health insurance policy battle, however, there are a couple of other issues to watch. They are:

* The Florida Ethics Commission takes up the case of former state lawmaker and Congressman David Rivera who is being ordered by a judge to pay nearly $58,000 in fines and restitution for violating state ethics laws relating to his travel reimbursements and financial disclosures. The hearing takes place at 8:30 a.m. at the 1st District Court of Appeal building.

* Gov. Rick Scott will travel to Miramar and the offices of Kellstrom Defense to announce the latest job numbers for the month of March.


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Jeb Bush: Feds, Tallahassee should 'try to forge a compromise' on Medicaid expansion, hospital funding

CONCORD, N.H. -- He's been traversing the country building the foundations a juggernaut 2016 presidential campaign, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush still keeps an eye on Tallahassee.

Bush commiserated with Republican voters -- and enjoyed a piece of blueberry pie, breaking his ongoing paleo diet -- Thursday evening at a clubhouse on the outskirts of New Hampshire's state capital. Then he took questions from reporters, including one about what how the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott might overcome a stalemate over funding hospital charity care and expanding Medicaid. 

The standoff has effectively halted the annual lawmaking session, with no state budget deal in sight. Scott said Thursday he intends to sue the Obama administration over its threat to withhold federal funds for hospitals that treat the poor.
Bush hadn't heard of the yet-to-be-filed lawsuit, but suggested all sides sit down and find a solution.
"The feds and the executive branch and representatives from the House and Senate ought to get together and try to forge a compromise," he said.  …

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