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Florida Democratic Party News Clips — April 29, 2013

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GOV. SCOTT'S FAILED SESSION

With 1 Week Left, Fate of Scott's Agenda Uncertain [Gainesville Sun] "With a week left in the legislative session and the outlook still uncertain for Gov. Rick Scott's top priorities, it was time for the governor to apply some pressure. While lawmakers did agree late Sunday to grant pay raises to teachers in 2014, he still hasn't made progress on two other key requests: Expanding Medicaid to insure some of the state's poorest residents and passing a tax cut for manufacturers." 

Scott, Lawmakers at Odds Going Into Session's Last Week [Orlando Sentinel] "Gov. Rick Scott should be at the high tide of his influence, dropping the hammer on fellow Republican legislators thwarting his agenda. The governor has made it clear he wants $2,500 pay raises for teachers and a $141 million manufacturing tax cut. But instead of browbeating lawmakers to get his way, he bolted town Friday to travel to Washington and do national-media interviews. Back in Tallahassee, his priorities are languishing. The Legislature might not come together on a plan to offer health-care coverage to nearly 1 million people who could otherwise get it through a federally funded expansion of Medicaid. Scott drove tea partyers bonkers before the session by endorsing the President Barack Obama-backed expansion....But more on point, Scott has been plainly clear in his threats to veto their priorities. And legislative leaders are clearly thumbing their noses at him."

 

LACK OF LEADERSHIP: GOVERNOR SCOTT 'ERRATIC' ON TUITION HIKES

Gov. Scott Showing Erratic Behavior with State Universities [Gainesville Sun] "Like an on-again, off-again romance, Gov. Rick Scott has been hot and cold in his interaction with state universities. His behavior has been especially erratic as it relates to university funding. Last year, he vetoed the so-called preeminence bill that would have given the University of Florida more flexibility in tuition and other areas while also signing a budget with $300 million in cuts to the state university system. That same budget anticipated 15 percent tuition increases at state universities to blunt the impact of cuts. Yet Scott made so much noise about tuition hikes that he scared UF into seeking just a 9 percent increase while so confusing the process that the Board of Governors approved a seemingly random array of increases for other universities."

Florida Tuition Increase [AP] "Florida college and universities students may have to pay more to go to school this coming fall. House and Senate budget negotiators on Friday night agreed to a 3 percent tuition hike -- despite the ardent opposition of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has constantly said that tuition had been raised too much in recent years. He will now have to decide whether he wants to veto the hike."

Senate, House Agree to 3 Percent Tuition Hike [Tampa Bay Times] "Florida lawmakers Friday agreed to increase tuition for university and college students by 3 percent, setting up a possible clash with Gov. Rick Scott. Last year, Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University the freedom to raise tuition. Scott has not said he would veto a tuition increase this year. After the deal, which came during budget negotiations, a Scott spokeswoman would only say that the governor doesn't support a tuition increase. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he doesn't believe Scott will veto the hike."

 

HOUSE REPUBLICANS REJECT MEDICAID DOLLARS AT THE EXPENSE OF FLORIDA'S UNINSURED

States' Refusal to Expand Medicaid to Cost Employers [Bloomberg] "Governors who refuse to expand their Medicaid programs for the poor may cost employers in their states as much as $1.3 billion in federal fines, a study found. A clause in the 2010 health care overhaul penalizes some employers when their workers are not able to obtain affordable medical insurance through the company. Employers can avoid those fees if their workers qualify for Medicaid as part of an expansion that as many as 22 states have rejected, according to a report by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc...In Florida, where the legislature has refused an expansion supported by Gov. Rick Scott, employers may pay as much as $219 million."

Loser of the Week: Uninsured Floridians [Tampa Bay Times] Whether you call it fiscal prudence or insanity, all but one House Republican — state Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey — voted against a plan to accept billions of dollars in federal money to help hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians obtain health insurance

John Ramano: House Republicans' Medicaid Argument Ignores Logic [Tampa Bay Times] "[...]This week's debate on the expansion of Medicaid funds was stunning for its obfuscation, bombast and sheer nonsense. By sticking to their pretend war with the federal government, House Republicans are shamelessly snubbing minimum wage-type workers as well as endangering the financial well-being of state hospitals. Who's on board with House Republicans? Not the Republican governor. He wants to expand Medicaid. Not Republican senators. They're considering a plan that would incorporate federal money. Not hospital administrators. Not the Chamber of Commerce. Not independent studies done by both the University of Florida and Georgetown University. Not the most recent polls."

 

GOING INTO LAST WEEK OF SESSION, GOP STILL FOCUSED ON WRONG PRIORITIES

Fla. House Not Backing Down on Conservative Agenda [AP] "While Republicans on the national level discuss whether the party needs to change its messaging to appeal to a broader base, members of the GOP in the Florida House are clearly sticking with a conservative social agenda. They voted to send a message to Congress and President Barack Obama to keep their hands off citizens' guns in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings. In addition, the House is considering a bill that would allow guns in schools. It already has sent the Senate three bills aimed at protecting fetuses, along with another that would speed up the death penalty. Then there's the bill the chamber passed to ban Shariah, or Islamic law, and other foreign laws from being applied in state courts, though there's no evidence judges have used foreign law against Floridians...Democrats say the focus on conservative social issues in the House distracts from more serious and immediate issues facing the state, such as the economy and unemployment."

 

PETITION TOUTED BY CORPORATE TRIGGER ADVOCATES FALSELY REPORTING SIGNATORIES

More Questions Raised About StudentsFirst Petition [Tampa Bay Times] "In defending the so-called parent trigger bill, Sen. Kelli Stargel has been referencing a petition signed by more than 1,300 Floridians who support the measure. The signatures were collected by StudentsFirst, the education think tank founded by former D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee. But questions began swirling late last week, week three people named on the document told The Herald/Times they had never signed it. On Sunday, the Herald/Times sent an email to each person who had allegedly signed the online petition. Of the 241 who responded, 212 confirmed their signatures...29 people said they had not signed the petition. 'I did NOT join my name to a petition in support of the so-called Parent Empowerment Act,' wrote John Raymaker, of Tallahassee. 'Instead, I signed a petition OPPOSING this act. More deceitful, incredibly dishonest tactics!'...StudentsFirst Regional Press Secretary Calvin Harris said the organization 'stands by the authenticity of the signatures.'"

 

A STUDY IN HYPOCRISY: TOP FISCAL CONSERVATIVES BRING IN PORK

Weatherford and Gaetz School Legislature in Taking Home Bacon [Tampa Bay Times] "The two most powerful men in the Florida Legislature are steering millions of dollars to community colleges in their districts. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, helped approve a list of allocations for state college projects that included $14 million for the advanced technology center at Panama City’s Gulf Coast State College. That amount grew from an original Senate offer of a mere $300,000, but bloomed to $17.5 million and then was reduced back to $14 million Sunday night with little discussion.  Another $6.9 million was approved for a new Pasco-Hernando Community College campus in Wesley Chapel, the home of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford...Despite a promise by Gaetz and Weatherford that they would bring an unprecedented level of transparency to budget negotiations, lawmakers quietly approved the expenditures Saturday and Sunday nights. Both projects are tucked in a $74 billion budget draft that is due in final form on Tuesday. Lawmakers vote on it Friday."