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Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas is capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a graduate of the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. Before she became bureau chief for the Herald in 2004, Mary Ellen was Tallahassee bureau chief for Florida Trend magazine and also served as a senior writer for the Palm Beach Post. She was bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post from 1990-94, after which she worked part time for 10 years while her daughters were young. She is married to John Kennedy, senior writer for the Palm Beach Post's Tallahassee bureau. They have two daughters.

Phone: 850-222-3095

Email: meklas@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @MaryEllenKlas

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  1. Court says state can't ban slot machines in counties that approve them

    Blog

    From the Associated Press:

    Slot machines could be coming to several Florida dog and horse tracks if a far-reaching court ruling holds.

    A Florida appeals court Friday ordered state regulators to award a license for slot machines to a north Florida facility located west of the state Capitol.

    The First District Court of Appeal ruled by a 2-1 margin that the state improperly denied a slot machine license to a horse track located in Gretna in Gadsden County.

    The court said the license should have been granted because Gadsden voters approved a referendum authorizing slots.

    The ruling could have a wide impact because voters in several other counties including Lee, Brevard and Palm Beach have approved similar referendums.

    State regulators had turned down the slot machine request due to a legal opinion by Attorney General Pam Bondi....

  2. Feds raise questions about governor's plan for LIP funds

    Blog

    The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Friday that it has not signed off on the proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to rely on local governments and safety net hospitals to draw down money for the uninsured and raised concerns about the impact of the change on communities -- like Miami -- that provide the bulk of the funding for the Low Income Pool.

    "CMS continues to be engaged with Florida regarding the state's LIP proposal and the May 26 letter but has not communicated approval,'' said Ben Wakana, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in response to a question by the Herald/Times. "CMS is reviewing the proposal and public comments, and working to understand the implications of the letter as well as the viability and sustainability of the proposed funding mechanism."...

  3. Hospitals warn that governor's LIP plan could devastate charity care hospitals

    Blog

    Florida hospitals that provide the bulk of the charity care in Florida said Friday that Gov. Rick Scott's plan to draw down federal health care money by relying on them to raise funds will slash revenue to the state's teaching, public and children's hospitals by $302 million and "could put some out of business."

    The governor's proposal attempts to address the concerns of the federal government -- which wants federal money to follow the patients who seek health care, instead of following the hospitals that serve them. But, the so-called "safety net" hospitals say, that set-up now rewards for-profit hospitals that often intentionally avoid serving the uninsured....

  4. Scott's latest LIP plan avoids state money but costs hospitals

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott released details of his latest proposal to draw down $2.3 billion in federal Low Income Pool funds on Thursday. While the formula is higher than previously announced, it does not use any state dollars to backfill the loss but it cuts reimbursements to hospitals by $214 million.

    Hardest hit are hospitals that do the bulk of the state's charity care. Among those facing the deepest cuts are: Jackson Memorial (-$34.5 million), Broward General (-$22.3 million), Shands in Gainesville (-$34.5 million), Shands in Jacksonville (-$36.5 million) and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg (-$12.9 million.)...

  5. Scott all but threatens veto of Senate FHIX health care plan

    Blog

    By Steve Contorno and Mary Ellen Klas

    Gov. Rick Scott all but threatened a veto Thursday of a Senate plan aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to more than 800,000 uninsured Floridians by drawing down federal money into a privately run insurance exchange.

    “I’m not doing it,’’ Scott told the Herald/Times after a meeting of the Enterprise Florida board of directors in Tampa. He repeated his claim at the Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX) program is a tax increase but, when asked, he refused to explain how he reaches that conclusion....

  6. Scott all but threatens veto of Senate's FHIX

    Blog

    By Steve Contoro and Mary Ellen Klas

    Gov. Rick Scott all but threatened a veto Thursday of a Senate plan aimed at expanding health insurance coverage to more than 800,000 uninsured Floridians by drawing down federal money into a privately run insurance exchange.

    “I’m not doing it,’’ Scott told the Herald/Times after a meeting of the Enterprise Florida board of directors in Tampa. He repeated his claim at the Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange (FHIX) program is a tax increase but, when asked, he refused to explain how he reaches that conclusion....

  7. DOC settles lawsuit, agrees to change treatment of mentally ill inmates

    Blog

    By Julie K. Brown

    Inmates with mental illnesses who were once confined around the clock to a cell block filled with feces, rotten food and insects — and sometimes allegedly beaten, tortured and starved by staff — should be treated more humanely under a landmark lawsuit settlement reached this week between the Florida Department of Corrections and a statewide disability advocacy group....

  8. Judge clears way for Charlotte's Web strain of medical marijuana in Florida

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators said they expect to provide access to a limited strain of non-euphoric marijuana for medical purposes by the end of the year after a Tallahassee judge on Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the long-awaited rule.

    The Florida Department of Health, which developed the rule, is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for the strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabidiol, or CBD. Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry" within months....

    A special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web grows inside a greenhouse, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. The Florida Department of Health is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for the marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry'' within months. [Associated Press]
  9. House offers up health care bills aimed at cutting costs but they could also ignite turf battles

    Blog

    After spending the last legislative session knocking down Senate proposals for expanding health care coverage while offering no alternative of their own, Florida House Republicans filed a series of bills Wednesday that attempt to take a rifle-shot approach to lowering the spiraling costs of health care in Florida.

    Many of the proposals are not new, and some have been passed by key committees in the state Senate, but all embrace the belief of many House leaders that the state must inject free-market competition into the health care marketplace to lower costs of health care before expanding access to the uninsured. Opponents, however, claim that many of the proposals just unleash turf battles within the health care industry that will not suppress costs....

  10. Judge ends challenge to marijuana rule, low-THC strain could be sold by end of year

    Blog

    Florida regulators said they expect to provide access to a limited strain of non-euphoric marijuana for medical purposes by the end of the year after a Tallahassee judge on Wednesday dismissed the final challenge to the long-awaited rule.

    The Florida Department of Health, which developed the rule, is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for the strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Growers could start selling to eligible patients who are put on a state-run "compassionate use registry" within months.

    "I am one happy legislator,'' said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, one of the sponsors of the 2014 legislation that attempted to expedite the development and cultivation of the so-called "Charlotte's Web" strain of low-THC marijuana to help people suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer and other ailments.

    Legislators had intended for the medical strain of cannabis to be available to Floridians by January of this year but regulators had their first rule rejected, and then faced a series of legal challenges. On Wednesday, they offered patients new hope....

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

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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 reports at a media availability with reporters Tuesday. "But I have confidence in the Senate that we'll be able to address all these issues and we'll figure it out."...

  13. Senate offers to fund private lawyers in redistricting challenge

    Blog

    Faced with subpoenas for information in a second redistricting lawsuit, the Florida Senate is offering to reimburse 21 senators up to $5000 to allow them to hire private lawyers to defend themselves in public records requests.

    The $105,000 allocation is on top of the more than $1 million taxpayers are already paying to defend the Senate in redistricting challenges brought by the League of Women Voters, and a group of Democrat-allied citizens, which challenged the congressional plan and are awaiting trial on a lawsuit challenging the Senate map....

  14. Florida Supreme Court rejects appeal to the blind trust law

    Blog

    In an unanimous ruling, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to review a lower court decision upholding the state's blind trust law.

    The former chief of staff to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, Jim Apthrop, filed the appeal after the First District Court of Appeal rejected his lawsuit as "speculative," since no official was currently using the 2013 blind trust....

  15. Is there a way to bridge the legislature's health care divide? Some new thoughts

    Blog

    Florida legislators may have ended their stalemate last week when they agreed to convene a three-week special session to resolve the budget crisis in June, but they didn’t agree on the hard part: how to resolve stark differences over health care.

    Some compromise ideas are emerging — from using $600 million intended for tax cuts to bail out hospitals that treat poor patients, to seeking a one-of-a-kind federal waiver, to drawing federal money without passing it through Medicaid....