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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

John Romano column: Gov. Rick Scott is putting politics above people in need

Rick Scott knows best.

It doesn't matter what the president says. It doesn't matter what laws Congress passes. It doesn't matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rick Scott knows best.

It doesn't matter how many millions of Floridians are without health insurance. It doesn't matter how high your insurance premiums climb. It doesn't matter that emergency rooms have been turned into standing-room-only free clinics.

Rick Scott still knows best.

Haven't you figured that out yet?

Florida's governor is a one-man think tank. He is a walking legal precedent. He is going to tell you what is best for you even if you didn't bother to ask.

Let's be very clear about this:

Rick Scott is so danged smart, he is willing to play with people's lives. He is telling Florida's most desperate citizens that he's not going to expand health insurance through Medicaid even though the federal government is paying almost entirely for the plan.

Sadly, this has become a problem in Florida. Not the idea that people may have differing opinions, but the idea that Scott ignores every viewpoint that does not agree with his.

Column here.

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Rubio's launches campaign, er book, swing today

Wth this big, attention grabbing bus (he posted this photo on Twitter) 41-year-old U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio embarked this morning on the start of a promotional tour for his new book that will take him through not only Florida but Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Tampa Bay fans can catch him tomorrow evening at Inkwood Books in Tampa.

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Gov. Scott says Florida will not implement 'Obamacare'

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that he will not support implementing federal health care reform in Florida, making up his mind roughly 36 hours after the Supreme Court ruling to uphold to law.

"We're not going to implement Obamacare in Florida," Scott told Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren late Friday night. "We're not going to expand Medicaid because we're going to do the right thing. We're not going to do the exchange."

As late as Friday afternoon, Scott was telling Florida media that he had not yet made up his mind about whether or not to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But he continued to pan the law, which he opposed even before he was elected. And he said the Medicaid program as it exists now is already too costly.

Because the Legislature sets the budget, it will ultimately decide whether or not to allocate money to implement provisions of the law. So far, leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate have not said whether or not they agree with Scott.


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Gov. Scott wraps up a day in the Tampa Bay area at Pasco Ronald Reagan Day Dinner

Gov. Rick Scott, who began Friday at the Pasco County emergency operations center, made one final appearance in the county before heading off to an interview with Greta Van Susteren, joining about 350 Republicans for the Pasco's annual Ronald Reagan Day Dinner. 

He recognized Pasco Republicans as a linchpin in electing conservative leaders, and urged them to keep that tradition alive.

"We've got to win the presidency," Scott said. "We've got to have another Republican senator in this state. We have got to make sure we've got primarily, it would nice to have 100 percent, Republican members in the House in this state."

The stakes are high, Scott reminded the party faithful. He talked about the need to reduce taxes and improve the business climate as a way to add jobs.

Then he pulled out two red meat issues for the crowd to cheer.

"How many people in this state say non-U.S. citizens should be voting in our elections? Give me a break," Scott said to jeers. …

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Video: How Florida's top Republicans go from joy to confusion over health care

Our erstwhile colleague Mike Bender, now with Bloomberg, captured this key moment at yesterday's clemency hearing where AG Pam Bondi gets word, erroneously, that the Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate. She then tells Scott. CFO Jeff Atwater must know, too, as he's seen grinning and heading quickly for the doors.

Alas, it was not to be. And that's caught on video, too.

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Floridians help Romney raise millions off health care ruling

Mitt Romney's campaign says it raised $4.6 million in 24 hours after the Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare.

A campaign official says, "In Florida alone, close to 4,000 donors contributed more than a quarter million dollars in the first 24 hours since the ruling. More than 60% of all donations came from Floridians who had never donated to the Romney campaign before, and the average donation was less than $90."

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Scott appoints new DMS head

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Craig J. Nichols as the new secretary for the Department of Management Services, the state's administrative arm.

“As we work during the next two years to launch major productivity and efficiency initiatives, Craig will bring to the agency a combination of large-organization experience, strong operational and strategic focus, and executive leadership,” Scott said in a press release. “I am confident his corporate experience will ensure state government remains focused on making Florida the best state for the private sector to grow and create jobs.”

Nichols replaces Jack Miles, who resigned in February.

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Nelson votes yes, Rubio no on highway bill

The U.S. Senate approved a sweeping highway bill that will spend more than $100 billion on highway projects over two years and includes other provisions such as a deal preventing a doubling of interest on student loans and the Restore Act sending billions to Florida and other Gulf states.

Sen. Bill Nelson, who helped shepherd the Restore Act, voted yes. Sen. Marco Rubio voted no. The Senate vote was 74-19. The House cleared the measure by a 373-52 vote.

“This is going to send billions of dollars in fines against BP directly to Florida and the other Gulf Coast states that were harmed by the oil spill,” Nelson said. 

Rubio, the only Gulf state senator to vote no, posted a long explanation on his website. "Today, Congress continued its all too familiar custom of making up for months of wasted time by lumping in a wide range of unrelated ideas into one giant bill," he wrote. "As a result, I voted against final passage because, while it contains some policies I support and that are good for Florida and our nation, as a whole, the bill spends too much and relies on budget gimmicks as spending offsets that will ultimately lead to a federal bailout down the road."

"Below are my views of several key issues contained in the legislation that was voted on today:


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Report: Florida ranks 4th in child welfare

Florida's child welfare system is among the best in the country for reducing abuse in foster care and responding quickly to abuse allegations, according to a free-market think tank report released today.

The state, which delivers foster care and related services through private community agencies, was ranked as the country's 4th best child welfare system overall, says the report, which uses federal data compiled by the Foundation for Government Accountability.

"Child welfare is a very emotional business, by definition, but it's also important to run it like a business," said David Wilkins, secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families. "Because you have to have accountability, you have to have metrics, and you have to measure those metrics and always demand improved and better performance."

The report, which does not consider child deaths, comes after Hillsborough Kids Inc. failed to prevent nine deaths within the past two years. The agency, serving Tampa for about a decade, lost its government contract and will be replaced by Eckerd Community Alternatives/Hillsborough on July 1. 

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Even after Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Scott suggests he will fight to prevent Obamacare from becoming law

TAMPA -- The day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the bulk of the federal health care law, one of its chief opponents, Gov. Rick Scott, suggested he would still fight against its implementation.

After a speech in downtown Tampa, Scott said he told employees at an unnamed business that he strongly opposes the Affordable Health Care Act, which was approved in Thursday's 5-4 ruling.

"I think they had about 20 employees, and they said, 'Governor, will this bill become law?' And I said, ‘I hope not. And I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t.’

"Because they said, 'We will have to close. We cannot afford the penalty for this.' But we’ll see what happens.”

(From his description of the business, however, Scott seems to be confused. Under the law, companies with fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide health insurance, nor are they subject to fines.)

It's not clear when he had this conversation with the employees. He said he made the comments "the other day."

Scott said he didn't know what his next move would be. …

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Gov. Rick Scott assesses Debby's damage in Pasco County

Gov. Rick Scott visited Pasco County on Friday morning to survey the damage from Tropical Storm Debby, saying workers are assessing the damage throughout the region to see if Florida can qualify for federal disaster aid.

Scott said 20 teams of state and federal crews are fanned out across nine counties to document the damage from the storm, which dumped more than a foot of rain in some areas. Earlier this week, Pasco officials estimated the storm had caused $1.5 million in damages to homes and $4 million in damages to businesses — both figures they expect to rise as crews continue to assess the flooded areas.

"Hopefully there are some federal additional dollars available," Annette Doying, Pasco's director of emergency management, told the governor as he attended a briefing Friday morning at the county's emergency operations center.

Scott nodded and said "yes."

He later told reporters "we are going to see" about obtaining federal dollars, noting crews are doing assessments now to see whether the state qualifies for such aid. The effort includes three teams examining beach erosion, he said. …

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Ron Paul to hold free rally at USF Sun Dome before RNC

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will hold a free rally for thousands of supporters at the University of South Florida Sun Dome on the day before the Republican National Convention, USF announced Friday.

Doors will open at 11 a.m. Aug. 26 for the event, which starts at noon and is open to the public. It is not a ticketed event. The Sun Dome has seating for 10,400.

Earlier this month, Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton said the rally would celebrate the Texas congressman’s accomplishments in the cause of liberty set a tone of “professionalism and respect” for Paul’s delegates at the RNC, which takes place from Aug. 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

In addition, separate groups of Paul supporters are planning two other festivals for the days before the convention.

Paul Festival 2012 is being planned for the Florida State Fairgrounds, just east of Tampa, to celebrate Paul’s life, philosophy and service. …

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Bill Nelson won't skip Democratic convention

nelson.jpgSen. Bill Nelson plans to attend at least some of DNC in Charlotte, his office says.

A number of other Democrats across the country have opted to skip, not wanting to draw to close a tie to President Obama as they face tough re-election battles back home. Some say they just can't spare the time off the campaign trail.

The AP reported: Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri is the highest-profile Democrat to announce she'll skip the September shindig in Charlotte, N.C. At least 11 Democratic incumbents and front-running challengers will be no-shows, according to a count by The Associated Press.

All hail from conservative-leaning or toss-up states where President Barack Obama, whose speech accepting the party's presidential nomination will be the climax of the three-day convention, could be a drag on down-ballot Democrats.

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Board of Governors denies FGCU's tuition appeal

Nice try, Florida Gulf Coast University.

In a quick conference call Friday morning, and with a unanimous vote, members of a Florida Board of Governors appeals committee denied FGCU's request that its be allowed to increase tuition next year by the 14 percent it originally asked for -- instead leaving that hike amount at the 12 percent the board voted on last week.

It was the only university out of 11 to appeal the decision.

"I am hard pressed to overturn an action of a full board by an appeals committee when there isn't anything new being presented to us," said Board chairman Dean Colson.

FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw and university Board of Trustees chairwoman Robbie Roepstorff had told Colson and five other members of the state university governing board that even the extra revenue from the full requested hike wouldn't make up the budget cut the university is about to shoulder.

With a 14 percent increase, the university's current budget shortfall would total $215,000, Bradshaw said. That's in addition to the $3 million FGCU is about to be slashed as part of a $300 million cut across the system this upcoming fiscal year.  …

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TBTimes' editorial: Time for Scott, Bondi to stop stalling

Tampa Bay Times editorial Friday on the SCOTUS health care ruling: "..Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, having lost the legal fight, were less than graceful in defeat Thursday. Florida already is far behind other states in moving to set up state insurance exchanges. Scott also has rejected millions of dollars in federal dollars flowing from the law, risking the health of Floridians to make a political point. It is time for the governor to stop stalling, recognize the authority of Congress and the Supreme Court, and carry out the law that will benefit millions of Floridians...."

Read full editorial here.

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