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Florida Democratic Party News Clips — March 8, 2013

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AS GOVERNOR SCOTT KNOWS: WHEN IN DOUBT, PLEA THE 5TH!

Scott Sidesteps Questions About Legislation [Tampa Bay Times] "When Gov. Rick Scott says his focus this legislative session is on a teacher pay raise and a tax break for manufacturers' equipment purchases, he isn't kidding. As he repeatedly demonstrated at a news conference Thursday, he's not ready to publicly take a stand on a range of other issues, or he's not ready to stake out a public position. On the so-called 'parent trigger' bill that would allow parents to take over failing schools, Scott said: 'I haven't seen it ... When I look at it, I'll give you my thoughts.' On legislation to stop utilities from passing on costs of future nuclear plants to ratepayers, Scott said: 'I haven't (taken a position) today.' On a bill requiring background checks for sales and transfers of guns, Scott said he supports the Second Amendment, adding: 'I'd have to see the bill and read it first.'"

 

Governor: No Knowledge of State Settling For $100K After Illegally Giving Away $2 Million in Trees [Florida Times Union] "After illegally giving away $2 million worth of state-owned trees in 2009, Gov. Rick Scott’s transportation department settled with a Panhandle billboard company for $100,000 to be paid over six years. The July settlement came after a series of Times-Union stories, a grand jury finding the trees were given away in “flagrant violation of the law,” and department officials admitting wrongdoing. So, what does Scott know about the issue? Nothing. 'I have not seen it,' Scott said during press availability Thursday. When told the Times-Union discussed the settlement with both his staff and the department prior to publishing a story last month, Scott still said he knew nothing about the settlement. 'I didn’t see it, no,' he said."

 

FL ECONOMISTS: MEDICAID COSTS BILLIONS & BILLIONS LOWER THAN SCOTT'S ESTIMATES

Medicaid expansion costs: Not as much as Scott thought [Orlando Sentinel] "State economists are finalizing a cost for Florida taxpayers from the federal health-care law and it isn’t as small as advocates had hoped — or as big as one-time critics like Gov. Rick Scott had claimed...In total, the health-care expansion in Florida will cost state and federal taxpayers $60 billion over the next decade. Just the optional portion — which Scott has urged lawmakers to enact — would cost a total of $54.9 billion with just $3.5 billion coming from the state over over ten years. So, by rejecting the expansion, Florida would essentially be forfeiting $51.4 billion in federal funding. House Speaker Will Weatherford this week said he did not support expanding the state-federal health-care program that already covers more than 3 million Floridians."

 

Price tag of health overhaul adjusted downward [AP] "Florida economists on Thursday came out with a new price tag for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that is dramatically lower than the one cited earlier this year by Gov. Rick Scott...State economists also now project that Florida would draw down in excess of $51 billion in federal aid over the next 10 years if the state expanded Medicaid...Scott now supports Medicaid expansion for the first three years when the federal government is scheduled to pick up 100 percent of the cost. The state's share of new Medicaid costs would then rise over several years to 10 percent. But the governor made it clear on Thursday that Medicaid expansion is not on his list of top priorities for the current legislative session."

 

FAILED LEADERSHIP FROM RICK SCOTT, GOP LEGISLATORS

Rick Scott Promised Big Ethics Reform, But Nothing Has Happened [Tampa Bay Times] "Long before the Legislature saw the need for new ethics laws, Gov. Rick Scott made a bold commitment to fight public corruption. But he hasn't followed through...After recent Times/Herald inquiries, Scott directed his general counsel, Peter Antonacci, to look back at why nothing happened...Scott in effect missed an opportunity to own the anti-corruption issue — and now the Florida Senate largely owns it. Scott may sign an ethics bill that ethics watchdogs consider too weak because it opens gaping new loopholes in laws they say are already too weak."

 

Editorial: House voting reforms don't go far enough [Tampa Bay Times] "It was designed to be a symbolic gesture of significant proportions. On the first day of the 2013 session Tuesday, the Florida House overwhelmingly approved a mea culpa bill aimed at correcting the legislative-created dysfunction of the 2012 election. Despite its good intentions, the House legislation falls short of the cure-all Republican leaders claim — particularly when it comes to early voting. Now it falls to the Senate to improve this bill and give Floridians fairer, smoother elections...House Republicans said all the right things this week about learning from the 2012 election. But actions speak louder than words. HB 7013 is step in the right direction, but it now falls to the Senate to approve a sure solution. Florida should have one common standard to ensure the greatest opportunity to vote, and early voting should be restored to 14 days statewide — including the Sunday before the election."

 

WEATHERFORD STILL UNDER FIRE FOR MEDICAID HYPOCRISY

Health Care Workers Criticize Weatherford on Medicaid Expansion [Tampa Bay Times] "[...] health care workers rallied at the Capitol today in support of Medicaid expansion...The harshest words were saved for House Speaker Will Weatherford, who opposes accepting federal dollars to grow Medicaid even after the revelation that his own family once utilized the program to pay medical bills. 'It's really about fairness and equity. Let's ensure that people in this state who make $26,000 or less will have the same health care that the speaker's family had,' said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, to cheers from the crowd. The rally was sponsored by the South Florida chapter of union SEIU, and over 300 people attended. 'Let's not be a hypocrite,' executive vice president Monica Russo said later. 'Your family needed health care at a very critical and difficult moment in the life of their family. And hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt could have been the answer, but Medicaid covered their expenses. We're not asking for anything more than what the Weatherford family had access to.' Sen. Oscar Braynon,  a Miami Gardens Democrat, said the Legislature needs 'political courage' to ensure health care for the people of Florida. Democrats in both chambers support Medicaid expansion but, especially in the Florida House, many Republicans remain skeptical."

 

Health care workers rally to expand Medicaid coverage [Palm Beach Post] "About 400 health care workers crowded the Florida Capitol on Thursday, singing, chanting — with even a few in costume — to urge legislative leaders to endorse the Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. Margie Forrest, a 35-year nurse who works at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, was among those who addressed the gathering, pointing out that many of the  certified nurse assistants, aides and food service workers who came to the Capitol are uninsured themselves...'Speaker Weatherford, find your brain. Pass the legislation needed,' Forrest said...None of Florida’s Republican leaders came out to meet with workers at Thursday’s rally. But earlier in the day, Scott told reporters that he wasn’t worried about the House’s stance. He also didn’t indicate that he planned to press hard for passage of the legislation, maintaining that a $2,500 teacher pay raise and a tax break for manufacturers amounted to his only session priorities."

 

Will Weatherford Admits Medicaid Helped His Family, Stands By Speech Against Florida Medicaid Expansion [Huffington Post] "Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford was cheered when he railed against the expansion of Medicaid in his inaugural address to the legislature on Tuesday. He's since been forced to admit that Medicaid paid a "mountain" of his own family's medical bills. Weatherford told legislators expanding Medicaid benefits to about 1.3 million poor Floridians 'crosses the line of the proper role of government.' But he did express support for a safety net in general, sharing the story of how his uninsured family was helped...When reporters asked for particulars of the program that helped his family, Weatherford didn't answer directly, saying, 'I don’t want to get into the specifics of what my parents had to deal with.' A spokesperson later called the Palm Beach Post to say the assistance had come from a hospital charity. But when reached by the Times/Herald, Weatherford's father said Medicaid paid for more than $100,000 of the family's medical bills. Weatherford reportedly told the Times/Herald again that Medicaid had not paid the family's bills and that he thought his father was mistaken. Wednesday, Weatherford released a statement acknowledging that it was the Medicaid-backed Medically Needy program that helped his family."

 

JEB'S BUSH LEAGUE BOOK TOUR

Clumsy book tour shows Jeb Bush still untested on national stage [Tampa Bay Times] "Maybe, after all the gushing about his policy chops, strong executive record and ability to broaden the appeal of conservative Republicans, Jeb Bush isn't ready for the national stage. Certainly anyone watching the clumsy kickoff of his book tour this week — where he pushed the 2016 presidential door wide open — had to acknowledge that his political skills are a bit rusty six years after leaving Florida's Governor's Mansion. It's one thing to make an off-hand comment that requires backpedaling or clarification on a hot-button issue. It's another to co-author a book on a controversial topic then make a carefully planned publicity tour that prompts much of the political world to question not only where you stand but what your motives are."

 

SEN NELSON CONTINUES TO FIGHT THE GOP SEQUESTER

Pair of Senators Wants Congress to Pay For Its Budget Failures [Money Talks News] "Last week we pointed out that Congress’ pay is immune to the budget cuts they’ve inflicted upon much of the nation. Well, here’s a political breath of fresh air: two senators agree that’s absurd. Bill Nelson and Claire McCaskill plan to introduce a bill called the Congressional Overspending Pay Accountability Act, which would cut Congress’ pay by either 20 percent or an amount equal to the highest percentage cut from a federal worker’s pay. Here’s what Nelson said: 'What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You’re going to dock all of these civilian employees who have lives, who have children, who have expenses, who have families. You’re going to dock them their pay because of the inability of Congress to do what should have been done a year and a half ago."

 

Florida's unemployed will take 2 hits as sequestration's bite is felt [Herald Tribune] "Once a worker in Florida has gone through 19 weeks of unemployment compensation, federal emergency compensation checks kick in. But because of the automatic budget cuts now winding their way out of Washington to various direct providers through the so-called 'sequestration,' those checks will be about 11 percent less by the end of March, according the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, the operations of the Sunshine State's 24 primary job-assistance agencies, or workforce boards, are likely to see cuts to the money they receive from the federal government by way of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, or DEO. The National Employment Law Project estimates that roughly 115,000 Floridians will see their unemployment checks shrink under federal budget cuts."