05/22/15 State Roundup
For Gov. Rick Scott, the campaign never ends.
He can't run for governor again, but he's still collecting six-figure campaign donations from special interests that have a direct stake in legislation he will sign or veto. The money buys TV ads featuring Scott, still looking and sounding like a candidate, walking across a big green cutout of Florida, "where dreams come true."...
While the Senate and House scrambled last week to agree on terms of a proclamation for a special session, Gov. Rick Scott had followed through on a threat to draft his own proclamation -- and on his terms.
Those terms specifically excluded any discussion of Medicaid expansion that the Senate wants. Scott's document said "specifically excluding legislation expanding Medicaid eligibility." The Senate would never agree to such a blanket restriction, and besides, lawmakers didn't want Scott setting the agenda for a session that will be dominated by the development of a budget that is a legislative duty. Here's Scott's special session draft proclamation.
The "black and tan" are about to get a new leader.
Col. David Brierton is retiring after a 32-year career at the Florida Highway Patrol, including the past four as its director, and he will officially leave the state payroll on May 31. Brierton attended his last trooper graduation ceremony Wednesday in Tallahassee and had some inspiring words for the latest crop of state troopers patrolling Florida's highways....
TALLAHASSEE — The federal government told Florida on Thursday that the state will need $1 billion next year to maintain a hospital payment program that's at the center of a political stalemate preventing passage of a new state budget.
In a letter to state health officials, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said the $1 billion would "maintain stability while the system transitions" to new ways of compensating hospitals for the high cost of treating poor patients, a program known as LIP or low income pool....
05/21/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Federal health officials told Florida Thursday that the state should expect big reductions in future years for a hospital payment program that's at the crux of a political stalemate blocking passage of a new state budget.
In a letter to state health officials, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the state may justify needing about $1 billion in government funding for uncompensated care next year, or less than half of what it got this year, and even less in subsequent years. That's a clear message from Washington that Florida needs to reform its hospital payment system....
Florida lawmakers want the upcoming special session to get off to a smooth start, but the Senate first needs to overcome a procedural speed bump.
The goal is for the House and Senate to start joint budget conference committee negotiations as quickly as possible after June 1. But under Senate rules, a bill (in this case, the budget and related measures) cannot be debated on the Senate floor without any committee deliberations in a special session unless all senators agree because the budget is being carried over from the regular session, when the Senate voted for it (a 36-0 vote on April 1)....
TALLAHASSEE — Justice isn't blind after all.
Florida's highest-ranking jurist, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga of the state Supreme Court, has laid down the law: Every judge must wear a solid black robe in court at all times, and with no "embellishment."
From now on, colored robes are banned in courtrooms, and no embellishment means nothing else — not even a cross or tiny American flag....
Gov. Rick Scott's daily schedule for Tuesday contains this unadorned entry: "11:30 a.m., meeting with Tim Goldfarb, Gainesville, FL."
Oh, that Tim Goldfarb. Scott agreed to meet with the health care executive, but he dissed Goldfarb when he asked to be appointed to the governor's new Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. News accounts have noted that the nine-member commission includes a real estate developer, Carlos Beruff; a banker, Tom Kuntz; a former parks and rec director, Eugene Lamb; and an "integrated beef consultant," Ken Smith....
State agencies on Monday met Gov. Rick Scott's deadline to list critical services that could be affected by a possible government shutdown if lawmakers cannot agree on a budget for the state by June 30.
Scott got a hodgepodge of responses. Some of the documents paint a picture of what agency heads see as the most essential functions that shouldn’t be interrupted by a budget stalemate, while others highlight what could be cut in the event of a shutdown....
They sound angry, disappointed and embarrassed.
But they still have hope.
Floridians are writing to their legislators to tell them how they blew it by ending a regular session with no budget, and without addressing the state's long-term health care needs.
Their clicking keyboards reflect their frustration.
"I would hope that you legislators can get your act together," Larry Risk of Lake Placid wrote to Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. "Pass a budget bill and expand Medicaid for the good of the state of Florida."...
Florida Senate and House leaders said late Friday that they have agreed to the scope of a special session starting June 1.
The session became necessary after the two chambers failed to reach an agreement on a budget last month in a standoff over health care spending.
In a joint proclamation issued shortly after 6 p.m., Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the session will include the budget “and conforming bills which were poised for conference” during the regular session that House leaders ended early....
05/15/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — In their first tangible sign of progress in weeks, legislative leaders Friday set the agenda for a June special session to include a budget, Medicaid expansion, tax cuts and several other issues.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, issued a joint proclamation that specifies issues to be considered during a three-week session starting at 1 p.m. June 1....
For election supervisors across Florida, the good news Friday was that Gov. Rick Scott signed the online voter registration bill.
But that could be bad news for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Scott's appointee to oversee statewide elections, because now Detzner is in the awkward position of having been overruled by his boss, the governor. Detzner opposed the online voter registration bill that all 67 supervisors supported, and he issued a statement Friday promising a "110 percent effort" to implement it smoothly by October 2017, as the law now requires....
05/15/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Citing "some hesitation," Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that requires Florida to have an online voter registration system by 2017.
The decision was a pleasant surprise to legislators and county election supervisors because Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, had run an aggressive one-man campaign to kill the proposal.
In a signing letter, Scott expressed concern about "the timing of required deliverables" that coincide with ongoing efforts to upgrade the state voter database. ...
Gov. Rick Scott, citing "some hesitation," signed legislation Friday requiring Florida to create an online voter registration system by 2017.
In a signing letter, Scott expressed concern about "the timing of required deliverables" that coincide with ongoing efforts to modernize the statewide voter database. "This system has been experiencing maintenance issues, which election supervisors have rightly cited as a challenge to their duties," Scott wrote. "Another concern relates to cyber security because added technology results in added challenges and vulnerabilities. Cyber attacks are on the front pages almost every day, and fraud and identification theft issues arise whenever a new avenue for information transmittal is created. While these challenges exist, I am confident that the Department and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will act carefully and prudently in developing needed protection for citizen information." ...