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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rift widens between governor and Senate -- they now disagree about budget hole

Tensions continued to mount Tuesday between Gov. Rick Scott and the Senate as the governor blasted a Senate compromise and the governor’s Agency for Health Care administration issued a letter to the federal government suggesting that the state would not lose the $1 billion in federal money to reimburse hospitals for serving the uninsured under the low income pool as legislators previously suggested.

Agency for Health Care Administration deputy director Justin Senior sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services suggesting that “there is no need to infuse additional state general revenue to maintain current Medicaid hospital funding levels” in the 2015-16 budget year because local governments could draw down matching funds to offset the $1 billion not coming to the state.

He quotes the May 21 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which suggests that the state will get $1 billion and notes that "this level of funding for the LIP coupled with the options the state may elect at its discretion described in this letter would enable Florida to retain Medicaid investment in the state at or above the current $2.16 billion level of LIP funding.” …

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PolitiFact Florida's mailbag features a 'Jebio' edition, plus a look at 'Veto Corleone'

PolitiFact Florida readers had plenty to say about a host of fact-checks and stories about the state's two presidential contenders.

The most recent mailbag is focused on what we've written about both Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. We heard about Rubio's 1999 metaphor, his take on Iranian weapons programs and more.

Readers also focused on Bush's claims about how many poor people there are, median income in the economic recovery and more.Full Story

Gardiner says health care debate won't be tied to completing budget

Senate President Andy Gardiner promised Tuesday that legislators will “get a budget done” when they meet in special session starting June 1 for three weeks but said the debate over health insurance will not be tied to it.

"You could have a scenario where no health care bills get done and you do a budget and you go home,'' Gardiner told reporters at a media availability Tuesday. "But I have confidence in the Senate that we'll be able to address all these issues and we'll figure it out."

Gardiner's comments came after the Senate extended an olive branch to the House and proposed a modified version of the Senate FHIX health care plan (Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange) in an attempt to resolve the budget impasse that led to the House's abrupt adjournment three days before the scheduled end to the regular session.

The Senate’s proposal, referred to by Gardiner as FHIX 2.0, bypasses putting people into Medicaid starting in July as was initially proposed and instead requires those eligible for the FHIX coverage to wait until January. The state plan also would have to obtain federal government approval. …

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Club for Growth praises Alan Grayson in new ad

The Club for Growth is out with an unusual TV ad praising Alan Grayson and criticizing Patrick Murphy over the Ex-Im Bank.

"The ad will begin airing tomorrow statewide on MSNBC and other outlets in Florida, and it represents the third phase in an overall $1 million campaign, including digital advertising," the conservative group said in a news release.

Grayson, who could challenge Murphy for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, opposes the Export-Import Bank.

But what's really going on here? Unmentioned is that the Club is backing Ron DeSantis, the Republican congressman who is running for Senate.

Murphy's campaign said it shows Republicans are afraid of him. "The fact that an ultra-right-wing Super PAC that aims to privatize Social Security is attacking Patrick is the clearest sign that he's the strongest candidate in this race," said campaign manager Josh Wolf. "Patrick entered public office to fight back against Tea Party obstructionists like the Club for Growth who are intent on outsourcing Florida jobs overseas and privatizing Social Security and Medicare."

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Jeb wants more funding for Alzheimers, but he vetoed spending on it as gov

Jeb Bush's comments that he thinks the government should increase funding for Alzheimer's research are likely to resonate without countless American families who, like Bush's, are struggling with the disease.

But they also may stick in the craw of former Florida legislators, Democrat and Republican alike, who recall Bush vetoeing their budget items targetting Alzheimer's research and care while at the same time approving tax cuts often mainly for the benefit of specific businesses or wealthier Floridians

From the clips: …

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Marco Rubio on gay marriage and a 'real and present danger' to Christianity

Marco Rubio lashed out at gay rights activists in an interview aired Tuesday, saying anyone who does not believe in same-sex marriage is labeled a "hater."

“We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech,” Rubio told Christian Broadcasting Network. “Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater. ... After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and that's a real and present danger."

Rubio has made the argument before, though his tone has been different at times. …

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Carole Crist opens new shop in St Pete

Florida's former first lady Carole Crist has just opened a women's clothing boutique on Third Avenue Northeast off of Beach Drive. Goddessey Boutique carries brightly colored resort wear, from cover ups to elegant flowing gowns priced from $29 to more than $350. ...

A sign in the store window says Godessey Boutique will have limited hours through May. A tag line describes the shop's offerings as "beautiful beach and resort wear for the chic & fabulous ladies of Tampa Bay."

Katie Bohnett, Charlie Crist's former director of scheduling, is the manager overseeing the store's opening.

More here

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How Bernie Sanders qualifies for the Fla prez ballot

Bernie Sanders


Bernie Sanders

With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders scheduled to announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination this afternoon, we received an excellent question from a reader: Given Florida's 2011 "Charlie Crist Law" --- mandating that candidates seeking their party's nomination for office must have been registered members of that party at least 365 days before the start of the qualifying period - will Sanders have a problem getting on the Florida ballot? Sanders only recently declared himself a Democrat.

So we checked with Florida's top elections lawyer, Mark Herron. Presidential candidates are dfferent, he said, because they don't go through the qualifying process of other candidates.

"My thought is that statutues doesn't come into play," Herron said, speaking off the top of his head. "Basically, it's a party-driven process. The parties select the names (of primary candidates) and send the names to the secretary of state."

Florida Statutes require the parties by November 30 to provide the secretary of state a list of candidates to be included on the next year's presential preference primary election ballot. …

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Scott Walker suggests he could sit out Florida primary

UPDATE 3:13 p.m.: A Walker spokeswoman writes: "Governor Walker is not a candidate. Should he decide to move forward, that decision will be made at the appropriate time."

Scott Walker suggested in a radio interview with Laura Ingraham today that he could sit out Florida's March 15, 2016, Republican presidential primary.

"I don’t think there’s a state out there we wouldn’t play in -- other than maybe Florida, where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are in some of the polls essentially tied and they are going to eat up a good amount of that financial advantage that Gov. Bush is going to have. Remember, Rick Scott spent something like $100 million running for governor there last year."

That comes from a hopeful who in March implied he was the front-runner. Walker is scheduled to attend Scott's presidential forum in Orlando next Tuesday.

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Could June be when Jeb Bush finally makes it official?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers the commencement address at Liberty University this month in Lynchburg, Va.

[Getty Images]

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivers the commencement address at Liberty University this month in Lynchburg, Va.

When, Jeb, when?

It has been five months since Jeb Bush announced he was “actively” exploring running for president. Five months. Tens of millions of dollars raised. Thousands of miles traveled. And still no official campaign. All we got was Bush saying he is running, then quickly correcting himself.

But surely he’s close.

Judging from statements Bush and his allies have made, June could be the month. Bush will embark on a trip to Europe the second week of the month and could make an announcement when he returns.

He’ll also have built up a massive campaign war chest — having exploited his non-candidate status to work directly with the Right to Rise Super PAC.

That’s brought FEC complaints and growing criticism among his own party. Last week, two Republicans deeply familiar with election law — Celeta Mitchell and Nancy Watkins — suggested to Breitbart News that Bush is acting improperly.

“We’ve always thought of Jeb Bush as being a proper and very upstanding person, if you ask anyone who knew him when he was governor,” Watkins said. “This seems a bit out of character for him…coloring outside the lines is not his normal m.o. at all.” …

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Rep. Jeff Miller, eyeing Senate run, wants more progress on VA issues

SEMINOLE — Whenever U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller attends a public event, veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs employees find him for short, intense conversations about one VA issue after another. It happened after his Memorial Day speech at the Bay Pines Veterans Cemetery, where a short line of people waited to get a minute with the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee.

This is life for one of the VA's biggest Capitol Hill critics, who told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday he remains frustrated by the slow pace of reform at an agency hit in the past year by the worst scandal in its history.

"The VA did not get into the situation that exists today overnight," Miller said. "And it's not going to be resolved in a year's time. It is going to take an entire culture change within the department. There has to be transparency and accountability."

The scandal has lifted Mil­ler's profile as he has become a sought-after quote by journalists reporting on the agency's deficiencies. And Miller, 55, is considering a 2016 Senate run for the seat expected to open as Marco Rubio seeks the presidency.

Full story here.

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Seeking breakthrough, Senate offers changes to its health plan

"These adjustments are the product of feedback from senators, constituents and other stakeholders and together represent a continued effort by the Senate to advance solutions and build consensus around a fiscally responsible expansion of health care coverage," Gardiner said in a statement. "This Florida solution will improve access to health care for low income Floridians and mitigate the impact to our economy as we transition from LIP to a more sustainable solution to the health care challenges facing our state. The amendment maintains, but strengthens, the core principles of the FHIX plan which earned the overwhelming bipartisan support of the Senate, as well as the endorsement of an extensive coalition of business and community leaders across Florida."

The Legislature will reconvene June 1 to resume unresolved budget talks and consider the Senate's health care proposal. The Senate FHIX plan is scheduled to be discussed in a House workshop at 3 p.m. that day.

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Why the 'Pawn Stars' host is backing Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio celebrates his 44th birthday in Las Vegas on Thursday and what better way than a fundraiser? Rubio is getting a hand from Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars.”

The two bonded over lunch in Los Angeles recently. “The entire time I talked to him, all he wanted to talk about was people and he never mentioned the party once. Which was a really big deal to me," Harrison told Fox and Friends.

“This guy honestly cares about American people and free enterprise. … This guy wants to make it easier to do business. It will bring people out of poverty. It will do things for the economy, so I’m behind him.”

Rubio lived in Las Vegas for a number of years as a child.

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What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of May 25

What Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are up to the week of May 25.

Rubio is attending fundraisers in Chicago and Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday then heads to Nevada on Thursday and Friday. Rubio turns 44 on Thursday and he’ll celebrate with a Las Vegas fundraiser hosted by Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars” and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who his chairing Rubio’s effort in the state.

Bush will deliver a keynote speech Thursday before Republican groups in Bath, Mich. On Saturday, Bush will land in Nashville to address the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner. We assume Bush will fit in time for fundraising during the week.

Previous week here.

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Romano: Is this a new way for people to take back the power in state government?

ICYMI over the holiday weekend: Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano suggests a way to give folks outside Tallahassee more power.

People occasionally say the political process in Florida is broken.

Not to sound disagreeable, but that's a wimpy euphemism. As if we accidentally dropped Tallahassee on its head.

The problems of this state were not born of fluke or chance. The corruption of Florida was planned. Carefully. Deliberately. Cynically.

The process didn't just break.

It was rigged.

How else do you explain elected officials who hold their constituents in such contempt? Legislators who defy the electorate, and a governor who routinely makes up bogus facts?

It's all been made possible by absurd campaign finance laws, gerrymandered voting districts and politicians whose ambitions dwarf their consciences.

So how do we fix it?

By taking back what should rightfully be our ours.

Read more here


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