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Florida Democratic Party News Clips — April 12, 2013

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'BARE-BONES' HOUSE GOP ALTERNATIVE TO MEDICAID EXPANSION LEAVES $50 BILLION ON TABLE, INSURES FAR FEWER

FL Dems Statement on House GOP's Alternative to Medicaid Expansion [Florida Democratic Party Press Release] The Florida Democratic Party released the following statement in response to the House Republican's proposed plan for Medicaid expansion. Statement from Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant: "Today Speaker Will Weatherford offered a resounding rebuke to a fiscally responsible approach to providing health insurance coverage to Floridians with their alternative health care proposal. Instead of accepting the $51 billion dollars of federal funds over the next decade to insure nearly a million Floridians, the GOP offered a plan that would reject the federal dollars. With only three weeks left in session, the House GOP's proposal is a day late and a dollar short. Lives are literally at stake and this paltry alternative illustrates the House Republican's failure to put the people of Florida before political points. I urge Republican lawmakers to put aside ideological posturing and find a solution that doesn't give away the billions in federal dollars and expands Medicaid to as many Floridians as possible. Speaker Weatherford's failed leadership on this key issue is another example of politics at its worse."

House Medicaid Alternative Would Subsidize Far Fewer Poor Floridians Than Expansion Plan [Miami Herald] "House Republicans offered a bare-bones alternative to expanding Medicaid on Thursday, bypassing more than $50 billion in federal aid while setting up a clash with Gov. Rick Scott and the more moderate Senate. The House’s plan would cover up to 130,000 disabled adults and adults with children, far less than the estimated 1 million Floridians who could be covered by federal money. The plan would offer enrollees $2,000 a year in state assistance to help them purchase insurance on a state-run health exchange. It would cost the state as much as $266 million annually."

House Offers a Bare-bones Alternative to Medicaid Expansion [The Florida Current] "The Florida House Thursday released a low-cost alternative plan to Medicaid expansion...The House plan would provide 115,000 Floridians with insurance coverage and cost the state $237 million. It would expand a health insurance program pushed by former House Speaker Marco Rubio. That plan -- known as Florida Health Choices -- currently insures no one."

Florida House, Rejecting Obamacare, Proposes Scaled-down Health Plan for Poor [Palm Beach Post] "Weeks after Republican legislative leaders defied Gov. Rick Scott and refused to expand Medicaid, the House rolled out a health insurance plan Thursday that parallels a long-shot proposal gaining little traction in the Senate...With just over three weeks remaining before the Legislature’s May 3 adjournment, the battle lines are clear on the big-ticket health coverage issue in a state that has one of the nation’s largest populations of uninsured residents...Democrats, hospitals and health-care organizations have joined advocates for low-income Floridians in pressing Republican leaders to embrace the Medicaid expansion allowed states under the Affordable Care Act. Florida stands to draw $51 billion in federal aid at a cost to taxpayers of $3.5 billion over the next decade — with the first three years of the expansion fully paid for by the federal government."

  

WHILE BILL NELSON IS LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST TAX FRAUD, GOVERNMENT WASTE, AND THE GOP SEQUESTER...

Tampa Detective Testifies on Tax Fraud Before Federal Panel [Tampa Tribune] "Tampa’s role as “ground zero” in the national tax refund fraud epidemic was in the national spotlight again today as a city police detective testified for the second time in front of a U.S. Senate committee investigating possible solutions to the fraud that has cost federal taxpayers billions nationwide. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., convened a meeting of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging to focus on how senior citizens and others who aren’t required to file tax returns are vulnerable to identity thieves who use their information to file phony tax returns. Nelson has championed legislative proposals to address the problem, and is now pushing a bill with two co-sponsors aimed at protecting victims, shutting down identity theft schemes, protecting Social Security numbers and improving enforcement efforts."

Watchdog to Probe Florida's Use of Bailout Money: Senator [Reuters] "A federal watchdog will probe whether the state of Florida misused a fund that was supposed to help homeowners hurt by the 2007-09 recession, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said on Thursday. Nelson said the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which investigates fraud and waste in 2008 federal bailout of the U.S. financial sector, had agreed to his request for a probe. Nelson, a Democrat, said Florida underutilized the bailout's 'Hardest Hit Fund,' which has given money to state and local housing finance agencies to help troubled borrowers. 'The state of Florida would never spend the money,' Nelson said during a hearing."

Senator Nelson Fighting FAA Tower Shutdowns [WOKV] "[...]'I can't imagine the FAA didn't have a better places to take this small amount of money from other than closing towers and jeopardizing public safety,' says [Northeast Florida Regional Airport Director Ed] Wuellner. He describes losing their tower as taking away a stop sign from the busiest intersection in town. Senator Bill Nelson is in town today to hear Wuellner's concerns and to strengthen his own efforts to keep the 14 effected towers in Florida open. 'The loss of air traffic controllers at these towers poses a real public safety issue and a threat to local business and commerce,' said Nelson." 

...RUBIO 'CRASHES AND BURNS' ON GUN FILIBUSTER, PLAYS PARTISAN POLITICS WITH IMMIGRATION "HEARINGS"

Hard Right’s Gun Filibuster Crashes and Burns [Washington Post] "After a lot of bluster from a handful of hard right Senators who vowed to block debate of gun legislation, their filibuster was just defeated by a solid margin in the Senate. The vote was 68-31...[M]ore than two dozen other Senators, including Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. According to Dave Weigel, these Senators all voted against debating gun violence while Newtown families looked on."

Republicans Consider GOP-only ‘Hearings’ for Immigration Bill [Washington Examiner] "Sen. Marco Rubio, considered the key Republican on the bipartisan Gang of Eight immigration working group in the Senate, has famously called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold “multiple” hearings on the new comprehensive immigration reform bill, once it is finally finished and made public...But committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, who wants to push the bill to the Senate floor as quickly as possible, has said no, he will allow only one hearing. So what to do?...Rubio is also discussing the possibility that the Republican Policy Committee, a GOP group headed by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, might hold hearings of its own. Of course, any Republican Policy Committee hearings would be more accurately described as 'hearings,' since they would be a partisan exercise and not the work of an actual Senate committee."

 

HOUSE GOP SLASHES FIRST STATE WORKER PAY RAISE IN 6 YEARS TO PAY FOR PALTRY ALTERNATIVE

To Make Room for Health Care Plan, House Republicans Shrink State Pay Raises [Miami Herald] "House Republicans are shrinking a proposed pay raise for state workers -- the first one they’ve had in seven years -- to make room for future policy initiatives, such as a long-awaited health care plan that was unveiled Thursday...Asked several times on Thursday if this change was made to free up money for the [Rep. Richard] Corcoran plan, [Rep. Seth] McKeel responded with the vague answer that the change was made to free up millions for “further policy initiatives” and for any new proposals that might arise in budget conferences between the House and Senate. 'What’s happened here is (Republican leaders) had to find the money to pay for some program that they will later unveil today and at next week’s (Patient Protection and Affordable Act committee),' said Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. 'Where they are taking it from? They’re taking it from state workers.'"

Amendment Decreasing House's State Worker Raises Sparks Partisan Clash [Florida Times Union] "Remember the kumbaya moment Republicans and Democrats found on pay increases for state workers? Well, consider that gone. An amendment tacked onto the House’s $74.4 billion budget Thursday sparked a partisan smack down. The plan reduced a planned $1,400 across-the-board pay hike for state workers to a $1,000 raise and $400 one-time bonuses." 

House Reduces Worker Pay Raise [Herald Tribune] "The Florida House has approved an amendment to a budget bill that reduces a proposed $1,400 pay raise to state workers. The House approved the change to a budget bill (HB 5001) on Thursday. House budget chair Seth McKeel said employees instead would get a recurring increase of $1,000 a year in their paychecks but a one-time $400 bonus based on merit. It caught several  members off guard. Republican Rep. Mike Fasano said voting for the measure would be like reneging on a promise. McKeel said the original $1,400 figure was only a suggestion. Democratic Rep. Mark Pafford even suggested McKeel was attempting to pay for the House Medicaid expansion alternative by stiffing state workers. State employees have not received a raise since 2006."

 

PALM BEACH POST: PARENT TRIGGER 'SHAM,' BOUGHT A PAID FOR BY CHARTER COMPANIES

Editorial: No Need for “Parent Trigger.” Florida Has “Parent Empowerment.” [Palm Beach Post] "The image of crusading parents turning around their children’s failing public school is compelling. That’s why advocates of so-called “parent trigger” laws invoke it. But in most cases, the image is a simplistic sham...For-profit charter companies also have made generous contributions to legislators. The result is a wave of legislation, including “parent trigger,” to ease regulations on charter schools. That boom has produced an increase in charters that misuse the public money they receive."