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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Patrick Murphy says he'll give up health care subsidy, siding with Republicans

Rep. Patrick Murphy, the freshman Democrat who beat Allen West, says he'll give up a federal health care subsidy, a move that aligns him with Republicans.

"The debates over keeping our government operating and over the health care law are separate issues," Murphy said tonight in a statement. "I have always said that Obamacare needs improvements and I have supported several measures to do just that. I agree that Congress should not have any special privileges, especially when it cannot do its job and has failed the American people. That is why I will not be accepting a subsidy for my health care and I challenge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who voted for tonight's amendment to do the same. I once again urge the leaders of both parties to sit down and work out a clean funding bill to keep our government operating."

House Republicans tonight passed an amendment to eliminate the subsidy, which was quickly rejected by the Senate. Murphy is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country.

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Movers & Shakers

State Insurance Consumer Advocate resigns

Robin Westcott, the state's Insurance Consumer Advocate, is leaving her job after two  years to work in the private sector.

Westcott turned in her resignation Sept. 24th, effective Nov. 1. She'll become vice president of the Illinois-based American Association of Insurance Services.

CFO Jeff Atwater named Westcott  to the job in July 2011. Previously, she was acting deputy of Property and Casualty in the Office of Insurance Regulation. She served on the board of Citizens Property and Casualty Corp. and served on committees looking at changes in Florida's no-fault auto insurance and workers' comp.

Sheila Hopkins leaving Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

After 11 years, Sheila S. Hopkins is retiring from her position of director of social concerns/Respect Life for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.  

During her term, she has represented the bishops on issues of "human life, dignity and social justice before the legislative and executive branches of government and community organizations," according to a press statement. …

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Rick Scott attacks Barack Obama's leadership over likely government shutdown

Gov. Rick Scott accused President Barack Obama today of not showing enough leadership to end Congress's impasse over the budget and avoid a government shutdown. Scott is siding with Republican members of the U.S. House, who say the president refused to negotiate with them to resolve the deadlock.

Of course what the GOP wants is something Obama is unwilling to do: agree to further delays to the Affordable Care Act.

Reading Scott's criticism of Obama gave us a bit of déjà vu. Isn't Scott criticizing Obama in much the same way he was criticized earlier this year?

After announcing in February that he supported Medicaid expansion, Scott seemed to show very little leadership in actually persuading House Republicans to get it done. In fact, lawmakers who wanted the state to expand Medicaid said Scott refused to play a more active and public role during the height of debate. Remember, the "Health Care for Florida Families" sticker he refused to wear on the House floor?

He refused to hold Republican leaders' budget priorities hostage and later declined to call a special session to iron out a compromise. That's what Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, did successfully. …

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Dennis Ross gets wish for vote to end Obamacare subsidies for lawmakers, staff

The latest House Republican budget maneuver includes a provision, pushed by Florida Rep. Dennis Ross, that would remove a subsidy for members of congress and staff to purchase health insurance on new exchanges.

“If our constituents must endure this law, Members of Congress must live under the full extent of it as well,” Ross, R-Lakeland, said in a statement. “We must do what is right, not only under the law, but in the eyes of our constituency.”

The move, certain to be rejected by the Senate, has been a source of concern on Capitol Hill, putting lawmakers in an awkward spot with employees, many of whom would face steep cost increases. But Ross and others (The Senate champion is David Vitter) say it’s necessary to make sure no one gets special treatment.

“I am thankful to have played a small role in introducing my amendment and elevating this serious issue and am glad that we will have a vote to ensure that Members of Congress, Congressional staff, the president, vice president, and political appointees do not get special treatment.” …

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HCA wants to trauma center fight bumped to state Supreme Court

From the News Service of Florida:

Hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain are seeking a rehearing in the 1st District Court of Appeal after a ruling this month cleared the way for challenges to the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.

Documents filed Friday also request that the appeals court send two questions about the case to the Florida Supreme Court --- a process known as certifying questions of "great public importance."

Four hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas have waged long-running legal battles against the trauma centers at the HCA hospitals in Manatee and Pasco. The Florida Department of Health allowed the trauma centers to open in 2011, despite a ruling by an administrative law judge that the department had used an invalid rule in approving the facilities. …

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George Sheldon to leave HHS to return to Florida

George Sheldon, former Secretary of Florida's Department of Children and Families who was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced he is returning to Florida. He has served as acting assistant scretary for the Administration for Children and Families.

Sheldon, a Democrat who was also a long-time aide and deputy attorney general under former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, has been rumored to be considering a challenge to Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014.

Here's the note from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week about Sheldon's decision:

From: Sebelius, Kathleen (HHS/OS) 
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:47 AM
To: OS - Political Staff; ACF - All ACF Staff
Subject: Important Staff Announcement

 Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to share the news that our colleague George Sheldon will be stepping down as Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, effective October 18.  …

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Jeb Bush: States that want out of Common Core need to raise standards

Jeb Bush continues his campaign in defense of Common Core with a piece today in Human Events. He offers a challenge to states that have wobbled (Florida included) on the academic standards:

Some excerpts:

The full column is here.

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Lawmakers see $$$ in shutdown fight

For all the finger-pointing over who is to blame for a possible government shutdown over Obamacare, politicians have seen an upside to the fight: Fundraising. Take these two appeals from Florida:

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach: "The GOP is no more - now all they want to do is kowtow to the Tea Party, and last night they crossed the line.  In addition to holding our nation hostage with demands that don't make sense, they added a new layer to it last night.  They added a conscience clause to their list of demands that we must follow if we want to avert certain economic disaster.  What is a conscience clause?, you may ask. Well it says that an employer or insurer has the right to deny women access to safe and affordable birth control for "religious" reasons. The Tea Party must be stopped- we worked far too hard to let our seat go back into the hands of another radical whackadoo like Allen West.  The deadline that we are facing at midnight tomorrow is far too important to do anything but surpass.  We must stop this insanity here and now. Can you click here and contribute before it's too late and the Tea Party has another vote in Congress that will do anything to score dumb political points?"

Sen. Marco Rubio (via Terry Sullivan, his PAC director): "Yesterday Harry Reid called those who disagree with him on ObamaCare "extremists", "anarchists" and "fanatics." But these attacks on our efforts won't change the fact that millions of small business owners and families across the country are experiencing firsthand the negative impacts of this disastrous law. The U.S. Senate will vote this week to fund ObamaCare, but we can stop it and send a strong message to Harry Reid that the days of Washington infringing on our liberties are over. Take action today and sign our Not One More Cent to ObamaCare petition to show you stand with Senator Rubio. ... Then once you sign the petition, pitch in $5, $10 or $20 today to help us with our goal at Reclaim America PAC – to replace Harry Reid with a conservative Majority Leader."Full Story

How prisoners give Panhandle voters more more say than other Floridians

Fred Grimm highlights Florida's dubious policy of counting prisoners as part of local populationa for redistricting purposes. Two Panhandle districts - District 5 represented by Marti Coley and 7 represented by Halsey Beshears - stand out. Their large prison population means their state House members represent significantly fewer voters than everywhere else in the state.

...Best of all they don’t go around town grumbling that folks should vote for that other candidate. They can’t. They can’t vote. They’re state prisoners.

They’re the great gift urban counties ship up to state representatives in Florida’s rural prison belt, whose districts encompass Sumpter or Bradford or Baker or Hardee or Calhoun and other counties where incarceration is a major local industry and inmates represent a sizeable chunk of the local population.

Come time to redistrict, every 10 years, those inmates — most of them big city homies — are counted along with the local population, making prisoners a valuable political commodity and consigning elected officials, particularly state reps, political power out of whack with their actual voting constituency...

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Winner and loser of the week in Fla politics

Winner of the week

Tea party. Last week, while tea party hero Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was infuriating GOP leaders in Washington over Obamacare funding — and rising to the top of one national GOP poll on 2016 presidential prospects — Gov. Rick Scott blew a big kiss to the tea party by calling for a review of the Common Core education standards and railing against federal "intrusion" into Florida education policy.

Loser of the week

Darryl Rouson. The Florida House member from St. Petersburg had been pulling in as much as $565,000 annually from Morgan & Morgan until the law firm let him go earlier this year, citing the amount of time the Florida House Democrats' incoming leader had to spend on legislative races. Last week, Democrats in the House canned him from that position after Rouson secretly set up his own fundraising committee because he feared (accurately) that state party leaders were hostile to him.

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Florida reaction to House vote to delay Obamacare

Reaction from Florida's House delegation on the vote to delay Obamacare for one year, a move Harry Reid has pledged to reject.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach: “The Obama administration has delayed or waived numerous portions of the law for businesses and other interests. Burdens cannot be imposed on society at large and then relieved for segments that are politically-connected without doing great damage to constitutional government.  Accordingly, all of Americans must be given the same reprieve from the negative effects of ObamaCare as has been given to powerful interests.  I also gladly voted to make sure that military personnel continue to receive pay in the event that the resolution is not enacted before October 1.” …

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Al Cardenas: 'I'm not playing nice anymore'

Al Cardenas, the former head of the Florida GOP, isn't going to take it anymore. Addressing CPAC in St. Louis:

“To the mainstream media and Democrats in Congress, I apologize: but I'm not playing nice anymore.

“I hope and pray that each of you leaves here today more determined than ever to join the fight, even more committed to the restoration of America's greatness, emboldened by the knowledge that God will bless our mission just as God blesses all of America.”


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The hardest decision Alex Sink ever had to make - and w/out Bill McBride

She had hoped to decide by January. Then she said summer, which turned into September. All year, she had agonized: Should she run for governor again?

Finally, with time to launch a campaign running out, Alex Sink broke the news last Friday: She would not try in 2014 for the job she almost won in 2010.

Instead, she would continue to work with entrepreneurs through her Florida Next Foundation and support candidates "who I believe share my vision."

The announcement wasn't entirely unexpected. It was widely known that Sink's kids, both in graduate school in Gainesville, didn't want her to run. Neither did her 90-year-old dad. They knew how much money she would need, how ugly campaigns could be.

But there was another, more private factor that weighed on Sink's decision, and she thought about it every time she walked into her closet and forced herself not to look to the right.

• • •

This is the story of Sink's nine months without her husband Bill McBride, the private journey of a public person working out her next role.

Story here

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John Morgan cameo in Hugh Jackman flik

If you catch the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal thriller “Prisoners”, which supposedly takes place in Pennsylvania, you may be surprised to see a billboard in the background for Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan.

Turns out the scene was filmed in Atlanta, where Morgan & Morgan does have a presence. John Morgan - boss of Charlie Crist and leader of the campaign to legalize medical marijuana - received a letter awhile back asking him to sign a release form granting permission for the billboard to appear in the film.

“I would have paid for it to appear,” he laughed, noting that he’s telling most people that the billboard made it in because he’s best buddies with Hugh Jackman.


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Florida bankers: Show me the money course

Should students statewide be required to take a semester-long course in financial literacy?

The Florida Bankers Association, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Florida Council on Economic Education think so -- and they hope state lawmakers will agree.

The groups held a press conference Friday to build support for a so-called "money course."

"Our economy depends on the ability of young Floridians to responsibly manage and grow their money into adulthood," said Mike Bell, of the Florida Council on Economic Education. "Requiring the money course to be taught as a half-credit course in high school will keep Florida competitive and grow our economy."

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public high schools to teach financial literacy principles in their economics courses. The bill, SB 1076, also required state education officials to consider creating a separate, one-half credit course dedicated entirely to the topic.

Experts, including state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, got together to discuss the idea in August. The state Department of Education is currently drafting recommendations. …

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