1. Florida Politics

Senate sends Scott a message with freeze on nominees

Published Apr. 20, 2015

In the eighth week of the nine-week legislative session, the Florida Senate has not yet confirmed more than a dozen of Gov. Rick Scott's agency heads. All 13 remain bottled up in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, which is not set to meet again before the scheduled end of the session May 1.

Holding up confirmation of the governor's appointees to state agencies, boards and commissions is a time-honored way for senators to express their displeasure with the executive branch, and the Senate GOP's inner circle is displeased with Scott's public opposition to its plan for a modified form of Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Ethics and Elections Committee, said Monday that appointees would be moved to the Senate's floor calendar as time permits. Richter said he did not think appointees should be worried that they won't be confirmed.

Among agency heads in limbo are Secretary of Transportation Jim Boxold; Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll; Corrections Secretary Julie Jones; Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek; and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who has antagonized a number of senators by mounting a one-man lobbying effort to stop the Legislature from approving an online voter registration system by 2017.

The failure to confirm Scott's appointees is a minor nuisance for the executive branch. If the session ends without their confirmations, Scott can reappoint them within 45 days. All told, nearly 300 appointees are awaiting confirmation.

State seeks $2.2B in health funds

Florida has officially petitioned the federal government to renew a $2.2 billion program for hospitals that treat low-income patients, the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Monday.

State officials are asking the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue the so-called Low Income Pool program through June 30, 2017. They have submitted a plan created by the Senate that would distribute the funds more broadly than in the past.

The agency will allow the public to comment on the plan today through May 22, and will hold public meetings in Orlando (April 29), Miami (April 30) and Tallahassee (May 1).

Uncertainty on the funding has brought the budget process to a virtual halt.

Rubio overtakes Clinton in Florida

An April 14-16 Mason-Dixon poll finds Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush leading Hillary Rodham Clinton with registered voters in Florida. Rubio had trailed Clinton in Florida in Mason-Dixon's January survey but now leads her 49 to 43 percent, while Bush leads 47 to 43 percent.

"Clinton's early campaign struggles have made some Democratic leaders nervous and there is evidence to support that it has trickled down to rank-and-file party voters," pollster Brad Coker noted.

Times/Herald staff writers Kathleen McGrory and Adam Smith contributed.