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NSF MONTHLY DIGEST FOR DECEMBER 2012

MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012

FEDERAL HEALTH LAW TOUCHES OFF BROUHAHA
JIM SAUNDERS |
The first meeting of a Senate select committee on the federal Affordable Care Act turned raucous Monday, with a group of speakers saying the state should not carry out the law --- and jeering Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith after he defended the role of the federal government... Story

SCOTT ON TRADE MISSION TO COLOMBIA
MICHAEL PELTIER |
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 3, 2012......Gov. Rick Scott on Monday began a trade mission to Florida's second largest trading partner and planned a visit Tuesday with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos... Story

MCCARTY EXTENDS "USE AND FILE" RATE POLICY
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Hit with a heavy spike in requests for changes in forms, the Office of Insurance Regulation on Monday issued a rule allowing companies to go forward with changes without prior approval in certain cases. The order, signed Monday by Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, doesn't affect rate filings by insurance companies - only filings involving forms the companies must file... Story

INDIANA SUPERINTENDENT APPLIES FOR FLORIDA JOB

Tony Bennett, the superintendent of public instruction in Indiana, is among the applicants for the open education commissioner position in Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Gradebook blog...

'60 MINUTES' REPORT TARGETS HMA ADMISSIONS

A "60 Minutes" report Sunday focused on interviews with former Health Management Associates, Inc., employees and physicians who contended that the Naples-based hospital chain pressured them to admit emergency-room patients to bring in more revenues...

OBAMA WANTS DWS TO STAY ON AT DNC

President Barack Obama will ask the Democratic National Committee to keep Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the party's top official, according to media reports...

LATVALA, 5 OTHERS PREP FOR 2014 CAMPAIGNS

Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, filed paperwork last week that is a first step toward seeking re-election in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website...

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2012

HOUSE PANEL HEARS CITIZENS LOAN DEAL
MICHAEL PELTIER |
A controversial plan to loan $350 million to established private insurers to take out policies from the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. made its legislative debut Tuesday to an inquisitive House panel that will oversee insurance issues... Story

LOCAL SUPERVISORS UNDER FIRE AS ELECTIONS PROBES BEGIN
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Local supervisors of elections came under fire Tuesday as lawmakers began probing what went wrong in the 2012 elections, with state officials singling out five who reportedly deserve special scrutiny for their performance... Story

FLORIDA DOCS TO SEE HIGHER MEDICAID RATES
JIM SAUNDERS |
While Florida Republican leaders grapple with carrying out the federal Affordable Care Act, the state's primary-care physicians are poised to get a raise Jan. 1 if they treat Medicaid patients... Story

SETTLEMENT PROPOSED IN 'TAJ MAHAL' PHOTO FIGHT
JIM SAUNDERS |
On the verge of going to trial, two state agencies have reached a proposed settlement that would lead to paying more than $500,000 to resolve a legal battle about historical photographs that had been slated for the controversial 1st District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee... Story

JUDGE: LBC CAN'T PRIVATIZE ALL PRISON HEALTH CARE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A judge struck down a decision by the Legislative Budget Commission to privatize health-care at prisons across most of the state, one of the first times a court has weighed in on the power of the 14-member panel... Story

IMMIGRANT COLLEGE TUITION BILL FILED
DAVID ROYSE |
The law would guarantee that children born in the United States but whose parents are in the country illegally would be eligible for in-state tuition in Florida under a bill filed Tuesday that would codify a court decision from earlier this year... Story

NEW FUNDING FORMULA ROILS EARLY LEARNING PROGRAMS
MARGIE MENZEL |
Florida's subsidized school readiness programs for low-income working families have 68,000 children on their wait lists, but state efforts to fix the system have only muddied the waters... Story

DEUTSCH STEPPING DOWN AT DEO
DAVID ROYSE |
State Economic Opportunity Secretary Hunting Deutsch announced Tuesday that he will resign following questions about his own drawing of unemployment compensation and whether he needed it.  Deutsch received more than $25,0000 in jobless benefits from 2009 to 2011 after being laid off in a corporate merger, even though he owned two homes worth more than $1.1 million and traveled often to Europe during that period of "unemployment... Story

SCOTT SAYS DEPARTING DEO CHIEF MADE THE RIGHT DECISION

Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday that departing Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Hunting Deutsch made the right call earlier in the day by resigning his post in response to news reports that he collected unemployment benefits for nearly two years while also collecting a severance package from his former employer...

CORRECTIONS PLANS TO APPEAL RULING

The Department of Corrections will appeal a ruling striking down a plan to privatize prison health-care services across much of the state, the agency said late Tuesday...

STATE SEEKS DECISION ON MEDICAID MANAGED CARE

The federal government is expected to make a decision by the end of February about a key part of Florida's proposal to transform its Medicaid program into a statewide managed-care system...

HOUSE BILL WOULD ALLOW SCHOOL BUS ADS

The first House bill filed for the 2013 legislative session would allow "family and child friendly" advertisements to be placed on the outsides of school buses...

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2012

SENATE UNVEILS NEW BUDGET REVIEW
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Senate leaders are asking their budget-writers to undertake an "intensive budget review" that would include more carefully weighing large contracts and asking members who propose local projects to fund them by getting rid of other initiatives... Story

COURT STAMPS OUT FIREWORKS FIRM'S CASE FROM '98 WILDFIRES
JIM SAUNDERS |
With a fierce drought sparking wildfires across the state, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles took the extraordinary step in 1998 of banning the sale and use of fireworks around the Fourth of July holiday... Story

MCCARTY TO PROVIDE INSURANCE FIXES TO LAWMAKERS IN JAN.
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Florida's top insurance official on Wednesday was given a January deadline to come up with a series of proposals to reduce the size of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and to further reduce costs in the state's auto-insurance market... Story

GOP BILL WOULD GIVE IN-STATE TUITION TO SOME IMMIGRANT KIDS
DAVID ROYSE |
Children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools could be eligible for in-state college tuition in Florida, even if they too are undocumented, under a bill filed Wednesday by a South Florida Republican... Story

UNIVERSITIES WILL FREEZE TUITION FOR MORE STATE MONEY
BRANDON LARRABEE |
University presidents pledged Wednesday not to increase tuition next year if the Legislature agrees to plow another $118 million into the State University System's budget. But leaders at the University of Florida and Florida State University would not pledge to stop pushing for legislation that would allow them to increase tuition by virtually unlimited amounts... Story

HOUSE JUDICIARY MAPS OUT SESSION TOPICS
MICHAEL PELTIER |
House Judiciary Committee members and the lobbyists and state officials who follow them got a glimpse Wednesday of what the next year will bring as the committee chairman laid out a series of topics from expert witness qualifications to foreclosures that are expected to make up the panel's work... Story

LAWMAKERS CAUTIOUS ABOUT SURPLUS REMARKS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Initial, positive indications about Florida's budget for the coming fiscal year could be overtaken by events if the Florida Supreme Court strikes down changes to state employees or the nation plunges over the fiscal cliff, the state's top economist warned Wednesday... Story

MEDICAID REFORM, ACA NOT LINKED IN STATE'S TALKS WITH FEDS

As Florida negotiates for federal approval of a proposal to overhaul the Medicaid program, officials have not linked the issue to the state's handling of the Affordable Care Act, state Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek told legislative committees this week...

DEMOCRATS: STATE MUST RESTORE ADDITIONAL EARLY VOTING

Democrats hope to work with Republicans in the Legislature on improvements to the state's voting system, but the House Democrat who will take the lead on the issue this year says the start should be restoring a 14-day early voting period that Florida had in 2010...

GAETZ RILES TEA PARTIERS AFTER OBAMACARE MEETING

Tea-party activists are angry at Senate President Don Gaetz about an email he sent after a noisy meeting Monday in which speakers called for the Senate to reject carrying out the federal Affordable Care Act...

LAWMAKERS COULD LOOK AGAIN AT ALF ISSUES

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek told a Senate panel Wednesday that the agency expects to make a legislative proposal about the assisted-living industry...

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2012

GENTING BOWING OUT OF BALLOT EFFORT, WAITING FOR LAWMAKERS
DAVID ROYSE |
Casino giant Genting is folding its effort to get a statewide gambling legalization initiative on the ballot, with the company saying it wants to support legislators' efforts to make a broad examination of gaming in the state... Story

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR REP. MIKE FASANO
MARGIE MENZEL |
First elected to the state House of Representatives in 1994, Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is returning for a fifth term. His first four included service as House Majority Whip and Majority Leader. In 2002, he was elected to the Senate and served as Majority Whip and President Pro Tempore. He was term-limited from the Senate this year, and ran for a House seat, and faced no general election opposition... Story

STEWART: FIRST YEAR OF TEACHER EVALUATIONS 'PAINFUL'
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A day after the Florida Department of Education issued and then pulled back information on teacher evaluations across the state, interim Commissioner Pam Stewart told lawmakers that the first year of a new attempt to pay teachers according to performance was "painful." Stewart's appearance Thursday followed the agency's decision to pull down information about teacher evaluations for the 2011-12 school year, saying a relatively small number of teachers had mistakenly been counted multiple times in certain categories in the state's overall numbers... Story

NO DRONE ZONE: BILL SEEKS TO LIMIT POLICE DRONE USE
DAVID ROYSE |
Police would be prohibited from using un-manned drones to gather evidence or other information, under a bill filed Thursday by a Senate Republican. The Federal Aviation Authority has begun allowing police departments across the country to use remote control aircraft, or drones, and some are starting to. Miami Police were the first agency in the nation to do so... Story

PANUCCIO TO HEAD DEO, ANTONACCI BACK IN TAL AS GENERAL COUNSEL
DAVID ROYSE |
General Counsel Jesse Panuccio will take over as secretary at the Department of Economic Opportunity in the wake of the agency's director's resignation, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday... Story

WILLIAMS SEEKS TO LEAD HOUSE DEMS IN 2014

State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, announced Thursday he will seek to become House Democratic leader in 2014, setting up a three-way race against Reps. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg...

DOH TO BE 'PROACTIVE' ON COMMUNICATIONS AFTER TB CASE

State Surgeon General John Armstrong told a Senate panel Thursday that the Department of Health has made changes in its communications strategy after a tuberculosis outbreak in Duval County spurred questions about whether the agency was upfront with the public...

SMITH FILES CALL CENTER BILL

Companies and their subcontractors doing business with the state would be required to locate their call centers in the United States, under a measure filed this week by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale...

DOT: STUDY MILEAGE CHARGE TO FUND HIGHWAYS

With gas tax collections shrinking and expected to continue to as vehicles get more fuel efficient and use more alternative fuels, the Department of Transportation is envisioning a day when it will change the source of funding for new road construction. "We want to study what the model is going to be in the future," Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad told the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday...

STATE ATTY: PROSECUTORS 'EITHER LEAVING OR LOOKING'

Representatives of state attorneys and public defenders began making a renewed case Thursday for increasing salaries, saying low pay causes many attorneys to leave for private law firms after only a few years...

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2012

CRIST NOW A DEMOCRAT; WHAT'S NEXT?
JIM SAUNDERS |
After months of speculation --- and a high-profile stint campaigning for President Obama --- former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist signed up Friday night to become a Democrat... Story

FPL SEEKS NEW NATURAL GAS PIPELINE
JIM SAUNDERS |
With utilities relying heavily on natural gas to fuel power plants, Florida Power & Light is pursuing a plan to add a major new pipeline that would stretch across hundreds of miles of the state... Story

SCOTT: REVIEW EARLY LEARNING FUNDING FORMULA
MARGIE MENZEL |
Responding to the unanimous request of Florida's 31 early learning coalitions, Gov. Rick Scott Friday announced that recent controversial changes to the funding formula for the state's subsidized school readiness programs would be frozen and reviewed... Story

ADVANCES: WEEK OF DECEMBER 9, 2012
STAFF |
The big news this week will come on Friday, as the Revenue Estimating Conference meets to hammer out a mid-year estimate for next year's revenue picture. It's the main forecast for available money as lawmakers start contemplating the budget, though there will be an update in the spring once legislators actually start crafting the spending plan... Read the Advances

GAETZ SAYS SENATE WILL LOOK FOR 'TRANSPARENCY 2.0' ALTERNATIVE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Senate President Don Gaetz is weighing alternatives to a $5 million budget-tracking website that the public can't currently access, he told members in a memo after two watchdog groups slammed the state for getting ready to scrap the project... Story

WEEKLY ROUNDUP: STARING UP AT THE FISCAL CLIFF WHILE LOOKING BACK AT THE ELECTION
Alternatively: GOOD BYE HUNTING DEUTSCH, HELLO LAWMAKERS
(Recap and analysis of the week in state government)
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Gov. Rick Scott bid hasta la vista to Colombia and to the head of the Department of Economic Opportunity this week as state lawmakers held a meet and greet of their own in preparation for the 2013 legislative session... Read the Roundup

OBAMACARE CREATES QUESTIONS ABOUT STATE MARKETPLACE
JIM SAUNDERS |
The long-discussed Florida Health Choices program is moving forward with plans to run a health-insurance "marketplace" catering to small businesses, but its long-term future is more uncertain because of the federal health overhaul... Story

BENACQUISTO, GARCIA TO RUN AGAIN IN 2014

Ten incumbent state lawmakers, including Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Rene Garcia, filed paperwork this week that is a first step toward seeking re-election in 2014, according to the Division of Elections website...

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2012

CRIST NOW A DEMOCRAT; WHAT'S NEXT?
JIM SAUNDERS |
After months of speculation --- and a high-profile stint campaigning for President Obama --- former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist signed up Friday night to become a Democrat... Story

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2012

FEDS SAY NO TO PARTIAL MEDICAID EXPANSION
JIM SAUNDERS |
Florida and other states will have to fully expand Medicaid eligibility if they want to tap into billions of dollars in extra money under the federal Affordable Care Act, Obama administration officials said Monday... Story

THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA HAS: 5 QUESTIONS FOR MATT HUDSON
MARGIE MENZEL |
Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, represents District 101 in the Florida House of Representatives. His district spans the state from I-75 in Collier County to Pembroke Pines on the east coast... Story

BOARD OF ED TO INTERVIEW COMMISSIONER CANDIDATES
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The State Board of Education is likely to vote this week on a new education commissioner, hoping to bring some stability to an agency that has been roiled by missteps and controversy... Story

CRISTS GAVE MONEY TO OBAMA, NELSON, MURPHY

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole, contributed $13,000 to Democratic candidates during the 2012 election cycle, including contributions to President Obama and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, state and federal records show...

NEWBORN RX PANEL NEARING FINAL REPORT

The state task force on keeping babies from being born addicted to prescription drugs met Monday in Tallahassee to review member recommendations before making its final report next month...

NO FLORIDA EXCHANGE AS DEADLINE APPROACHES

The Florida Senate on Monday launched a webpage about the federal Affordable Care Act and reiterated that the state will not run a health-insurance exchange in January 2014...

ARTILES' BILL WOULD CREATE POVERTY-BASED ED CATEGORICAL

School districts with a higher percentage of low income students would receive additional funding from the state, under a bill filed Monday by Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami...

DHSMV NIXES PLATE MAKING PRIVATIZATION

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is backing away from a plan to farm out license plate distribution to private vendors...

RULING THREATENS PLANNED SHANDS JAX HOSPITAL

A state judge has ruled that Shands Jacksonville Medical Center did not prove a need for a new 100-bed satellite hospital in northern Duval County and said regulators should deny the project...

JUDGE UPHOLDS DRIVER-LICENSE TESTING BID

An administrative law judge has sided with the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in a bid dispute about a new automated driver-license testing system...

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2012

SCOTT: ALL SCHOOLS SHOULD FACE SAME STANDARDS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Gov. Rick Scott signaled that he supports holding all schools that receive taxpayer funding to similar standards -- a stance that could open the door to administering state tests to some private school students... Story

FORECLOSURES STILL AFFECTING STATE BUDGET
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The tough housing market is expected to continue to be a drag on the state's tax collections even after the economy begins to pick up in future years, according to forecasters... Story

SCOTT CALLS FOR MORE CITIZENS CHANGES
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday called for the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to hire a full-time inspector general and submit to an ongoing third-party review of the policies it sells... Story

FLORIDA DEBT LOAD DROPS FOR SECOND YEAR

Florida's debt load will fall next year for the second time in two years, a $2 billion drop since 2010 that will position the state to go below its debt target for the first time since 2008...

BONDI ISSUES EMERGENCY ORDER OUTLAWING SYNTH DRUGS

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed an emergency rule on Tuesday outlawing 22 new synthetic drugs, commonly called "bath salts," "K-2" or "Spice."...

AHCA OFFERS 'ENHANCED' HELP TO KIDS IN NURSING HOMES

The state Agency for Health Care Administration on Tuesday said it will assign staff members to better coordinate the care of disabled children in nursing homes and help families who want to move their children out of the facilities...

STATE APPEALING DECISION ON REPORTER'S TESTIMONY

Prosecutors will appeal a Leon County judge's decision rejecting an attempt to subpoena a Florida Times-Union reporter in a criminal case against one of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's aides, the Times-Union reported Tuesday...

SCOTT: COLOMBIA TRIP TO BRING IN $40M

Florida businesses are expected to reap about $40 million in new business as a result of a recent trade trip to Colombia, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday...

CORRECTIONS APPEALS PRISON HEALTH RULING

The Florida Department of Corrections has moved forward quickly with an appeal of a circuit judge's ruling last week that blocked a plan to privatize prison health services in the central and northern parts of the state...

COURT SIDES WITH RNC IN DELEGATE REDUCTION CASE

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a Hispanic group that challenged the reduction of Florida's Republican convention delegates because of an early presidential primary...

JUDGE BACKS DOH IN LAB TESTING FIGHT

A state judge this week sided with the Florida Department of Health in a bid dispute about a major contract for providing laboratory services to the agency and to county health departments...

CRIST TAKES AIM AT GOP; NO WORD ON GOVERNOR'S RACE

Newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist made an appearance Monday night on CNN and repeated his refrain that, "I didn't leave the Republican Party - the Republican Party left me."...

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2012

BENNETT TAPPED TO LEAD SCHOOLS; FEA SLAMS CHOICE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The State Board of Education chose a rising star in the school-choice movement to be Florida's next education commissioner Wednesday, sparking a blistering condemnation from the state's main teachers union... Story

DCF TOUTS POST-BARAHONA IMPROVEMENTS TO ABUSE HOTLINE
MARGIE MENZEL |
Nearly two years after Nubia Barahona's gruesome death at the hands of her adoptive parents, the state Department of Children and Families on Wednesday held what amounted to the grand re-opening of the Florida Abuse Hotline... Story

PUTNAM: 1M CONCEALED GUNS THRESHOLD SOON REACHED
MICHAEL PELTIER |
The number of licensed concealed weapons holders in Florida is expected to top 1 million next week, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told reporters Wednesday... Story

NEW LEGISLATIVE HIRES GET RAISES

A spokeswoman for Senate President Don Gaetz on Wednesday confirmed a newspaper report that several top legislative staffers have gotten pay raises...

BILL TIES BRIGHT FUTURES TO WORKING IN FLORIDA

A House Republican filed a bill Wednesday that would require future recipients of Bright Futures scholarships to reimburse the state if they do not graduate or if they go to work outside of Florida...

NELSON: FEDS SHOULD JOIN DOZIER PROBE

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday called on the U.S. Justice Department to get involved in an investigation into graves found at the now-closed Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in the Panhandle...

FEDERAL JUDGE DENIES INJUNCTION IN PIP CASE

A federal judge in Tampa on Wednesday denied relief to a group of chiropractors, massage therapists and their customers in a lawsuit challenging bill passed by lawmakers earlier this year to rein in costs of Florida's no-fault insurance system...

DETERT BILL RESTRICTS USE OF CREDIT HISTORY IN HIRING

Employers could not use a job applicant's credit report as a factor in hiring under a bill by Sen. Nancy Detert,R-Venice The measure (SB 100) would prohibit the use of credit scores or other credit data to deny employment unless there was a "bona fide" reason to do so...

TECO PROJECT GETS KEY APPROVAL

The Florida Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved a Tampa Electric Co. project to upgrade and produce more electricity at the Polk Power Station in Polk County...

BOARD OF ED VOTES FOR ELIMINATING TEXTBOOK ADOPTION

The State Board of Education voted Wednesday to support eliminating the state's textbook adoption policy, potentially opening up a fight with publishers over the policy...

SINK CALLS FOR GOP TO RAISE TAXES ON WEALTHY

Amid speculation about whether she will run again for governor in 2014, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink aligned herself Wednesday with President Obama in the debate about the country hitting the so-called "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1...

$36M JUDGMENT TOSSED OUT IN TOBACCO CASE

A South Florida appeals court Wednesday reversed itself and rejected a $36.76 million judgment against tobacco company Philip Morris USA in a case filed by a longtime smoker who became ill...

HMO PHARMACY LAWSUIT DROPPED

The Florida Pharmacy Association this week dismissed a lawsuit against the state Agency for Health Care Administration that stemmed from restrictions on pharmacies available to some Medicaid beneficiaries...

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2012

REGULATORS APPROVE $350M INCREASE FOR FPL
JIM SAUNDERS |
After tweaking a controversial settlement agreement, state regulators Thursday approved a plan that will lead to Florida Power & Light increasing base electric rates by $350 million in January...Story

CITIZENS TO POSTPONE ACTION ON LOAN PROGRAM
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Citizens Property Insurance Corp will shelve a controversial $350 million loan program while it gathers data and looks at more options to reduce the number of policies in the state-backed insurer... Story

NOT JUSTIFIED: COURT STRIKES DOWN RADIO RULES
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Motorists are free to blast Justin Timberlake -- or any other music they choose -- as loud as they wish, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The court unanimously struck down a state law barring drivers from blaring their radios at a volume that was "plainly audible" to someone 25 feet away... Story

DILLON PARDONED FOR DRUG CONVICTION

William Dillon, who was earlier exhonerated and freed after 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit, is also now pardoned for an earlier drug conviction...

SCOTT: HIGH TECH JOB OPENINGS UP

The number of job openings in science and tech fields in Florida has increased by 14 percent over a year ago, Gov. Rick Scott's office announced Thursday...

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2012

WEEKLY ROUNDUP: DID HE LEAVE HIS HEART IN INDIANA?
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Indiana's top education official became the latest head of Florida public schools this week and will head a system in which stakeholders are grappling over changes to standards, school choice and a move by Gov. Rick Scott to bolster accountability among all publicly funded schools... Story

FORECASTERS: BUDGET UP SLIGHTLY, BUT DANGERS STILL AHEAD
BRANDON LARRABEE |
State forecasters added nearly $400 million to estimated tax revenues over the next year and a half -- but warned that dangers like the "fiscal cliff" could still damage a fragile economic recovery powering the gains... Story

ADVANCES: WEEK OF DECEMBER 16, 2012
STAFF |
It's the downhill run to Christmas so the agenda is light this week in official Tallahassee. One notable exception is Monday's official vote by Florida's electors in the presidential election. The state is winner take all, so all 29 electors will cast votes for Democrat Barack Obama for president... Read the Advances

NEW GAY LAWMAKERS BRING PRIDE TO LGBT COMMUNITY
MARGIE MENZEL |
With the U.S. Supreme Court considering same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama re-elected on a platform that included it, and the first openly gay lawmakers taking their seats in Tallahassee, gay voters say it's been a winning year. "We've made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go," said Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, and one of two openly gay lawmakers elected this year – the first in Florida's Legislature...Story

AT DEADLINE, NO FL EXCHANGE PLAN

With a Friday deadline for states to notify the federal government if they plan to run health-insurance exchanges, Florida officials said they do not have enough information to move forward with an exchange...

CITIZENS TO SHOW CUSTOMERS COMPARATIVE RATES

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. officials on Friday got the green light to develop a system in which prospective policies would first be presented to private carriers before being placed in the state-backed insurance pool...

INCUMBENTS LINE UP FOR 2014 RACES

Four incumbent senators and five House members filed papers during the past week as a first step toward running for re-election in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website...

BEAN TO STEP DOWN FROM HEALTH CHOICES BOARD

After getting elected to the Senate last month, Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean will leave the board of the Florida Health Choices program as of Dec. 31...

REVENUE FORECASTERS SEE SLIGHT CHANGE

State economists meeting to estimate tax revenues for the coming budget year are unlikely to make major changes to the bottom line, according to documents distributed at Friday's conference...

SCOTT CONTRASTS HIS RECORD WITH CRIST

Amid speculation that newly registered Democrat Charlie Crist will seek a return to the governor's mansion in 2014, Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Friday morning said the state lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and saw its debt soar during the Crist administration...

MIAMI GROUP MAY RECOMMEND STATE ELECTIONS LAW CHANGES

A panel in Miami that is looking into what led to long lines on Election Day will focus today in a meeting on whether state law needs any changes...

MONDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2012

crewsSCOTT APPOINTS CREWS TO HEAD UP DOC
DAVID ROYSE |
Deputy Secretary of Corrections Michael D. Crews was promoted to secretary Monday by Gov. Rick Scott, filling the vacancy created by the resignation of Ken Tucker... Story

CRITICS: MILTON ABUSE SHOWS FLAWS IN WHOLE JUVE JUSTICE SYSTEM
MARGIE MENZEL |
After two incidents of staffers charged with abusing teens at a juvenile lock-up in Milton – one caught on video – the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has frozen admissions at the facility and put two ombudsmen on every shift until further notice... Story

RACE FOR DEM CHAIR NOW DOWN TO TWO
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The decision by Annette Taddeo to withdraw from the race for Florida Democratic Party chair over the weekend has turned the race into a two-person battle, with Allison Tant of Tallahassee and Alan Clendenin of Tampa left to vie for the position... Story

connorLONGTIME AG COMMISSIONER, EX-SPEAKER CONNER DIES AT 83
JIM SAUNDERS |
Doyle Conner, who was elected to the Legislature while still a college student, became the youngest House speaker in Florida history and then spent three decades as state agriculture commissioner, died Sunday. He was 83... Story

DETZNER: ELECTIONS LEGISLATION COMING

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Monday that he has ideas on how to improve the elections process in Florida, but will wait until consulting with his staff to unveil them...

CRIST TALKS ELECTIONS ACCESS TO U.S. SENATE PANEL

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday will join other witnesses in testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on voting-access issues...

INSTITUTE HIRES LOBBYISTS AMID CONTROVERSY

Amid critical media reports and a probe by state agencies, a Hardee County rehabilitation facility in August hired three Tallahassee lobbying firms, according to lobbyist registration information...

FLORIDA OFFICIALLY GOES FOR OBAMA

The state of Florida's 29 electoral votes were officially cast for President Barack Obama at a brief ceremony Monday at the state Capitol...

DOC SUED OVER HEADQUARTERS MOVE

A firm that owned the former headquarters of the Florida Department of Corrections has filed a lawsuit contending that the agency improperly broke a lease last year when it moved to other buildings...

TAYLOR BILL UPS STATE PAY BY 2 PERCENT

Citing the fact that state employees haven't gotten raises since 2006, Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, filed a measure (HB 41) Monday that would raise state employee pay by 2 percent on July 1...

SCOTT: REVIEW SCHOOL EMERGENCY PLANS

Three days after a shooter killed 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday urged Florida schools to review their emergency procedures and look for ways to improve security...

SCOTT: START OVER ON BUDGET WEB PRODUCT

Gov. Rick Scott wants to re-open bids for a public website for tracking the budget, rather than use one that was already developed but hasn't yet been used...

CONNER TO LIE IN STATE AT CAPITOL THURSDAY

Funeral arrangements for former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner were released Monday and will include a public visitation Thursday at the Old Capitol building, where Conner's body will lie in state beginning at noon...

BILLS WOULD PREVENT FUNERAL PROTESTS

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, filed a bill last week aimed at preventing protests that would disrupt funerals, burials or memorial services...

SACHS BILL TARGETS 'MALICIOUS' CAMPAIGN TACTICS

After winning one of the state's fiercest legislative elections last month, Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton, has filed a bill that would crack down on malicious attacks against candidates...

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2012

SO FAR, NEW GUN PROPOSALS FEW IN FLORIDA
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The tragic mass killing at a Connecticut school last week has produced a stream of ideas on gun control and school safety at the national level -- but reaction in Florida has been muted, at least in the form of concrete legislation... Story

SCOTT COMMITTEE BUILDS BANKROLL FOR 2014
JIM SAUNDERS |
After collecting $100,000 from a firm backing resort casinos in South Florida, a political committee closely tied to Gov. Rick Scott has already raised more than $5 million as it prepares for the 2014 gubernatorial race... Story

BILL: HOMESTEADERS HIT BY 2012 STORMS TO GET RELIEF

Homeowners whose properties were left uninhabitable following Tropical Storm Debby or Hurricane Isaac earlier this year would be eligible for property tax breaks of up to $1,500 under a bill introduced Tuesday...

SMITH TO WITHDRAW BRIGHT FUTURES BILL

A proposal to require Bright Future's recipients to return their scholarships if they drop out of move to another state will be mothballed this session, its sponsor said in a statement Tuesday...

WPB LAWYER WILL HEAD BAR IN 2014

West Palm Beach lawyer Gregory W. Coleman was named this week as president-elect designate of the Florida Bar after no one came forward to challenge him...


WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2012

STATE ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS SENATE MAP CHALLENGE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Lawyers for the Legislature asked a Leon County judge on Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to scrap the current districts for the Senate because the Florida Supreme Court had already rejected a challenge to the lines... Story

SMITH FILES STAND YOUR GROUND PROPOSAL
MICHAEL PELTIER |
BArmed citizens would not be able to automatically cite "stand your ground" protections if they provoke or pursue their assailants following confrontations, under a measure filed Wednesday by the Senate Democratic leader... Story

SCOTT: CONSIDER MORE EARLY VOTING, SHORTEN BALLOT
DAVID ROYSE |
Gov. Rick Scott said in media interviews Wednesday that the state must consider adding early voting days and shortening the ballot to avoid the long lines that plagued elections in some counties this year... Story

SCOTT UNFAVORABLES STILL HIGH, CRIST POLLING WELL AMONG DEMS
DAVID ROYSE |
Gov. Rick Scott continues to suffer from poor approval ratings despite an improving economy and lowering unemployment, and a majority of voters say they wouldn't vote to re-elect him, a new poll shows. The poll found, among other things, that many voters are crediting the Obama administration with an improving economy, rather than Scott... Story

 

BROWN SEEKS TRIAL ON EARLY VOTING LAW

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and other plaintiffs are seeking a trial next year in their challenge to a controversial Florida early-voting law, but Secretary of State Ken Detzner contends the lawsuit should be put on hold, according to a federal court filing...

BONDI BACKS OFF EFFORT TO FORCE REPORTER TO TESTIFY IN COLE CASE

Attorney General Pam Bondi has withdrawn an appeal seeking to force a reporter for the Jacksonville-based Florida Times Union testify in a criminal case involving an aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll...

FLA CONCEALED WEAPONS LICENSES TOP 1 MILLION

Sometime Tuesday, the number of active concealed weapons licenses issued in Florida topped 1 million, the Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday...

ATWATER: CABINET SHOULD OVERSEE IG AT CITIZENS

Following up on comments made last week, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Wednesday urged Gov. Rick Scott and fellow Cabinet members to appoint an inspector general to investigate management practices at Citizens Property Insurance Corp...

SMILE: FIRST LICENSE PLATE BILL FILED

In a sign that the 2013 legislative session can't be far away, Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, filed a bill Wednesday that would create a "Sun, Sea and Smiles" specialty license plate...

BILL WOULD CLEAR WAY FOR AUTISM DIAGNOSES

Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, filed a bill Wednesday aimed at making it easier for parents to find out whether their children have autism spectrum disorder...

NRA BACKED FL GOP CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES

The National Rifle Association's key political committee contributed at least $59,350 to Florida Republican congressional candidates during the 2012 election cycle, federal records show...

SCOTT DECLINES TO ANSWER GUN CONTROL QUESTION, WANTS TO STUDY

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that he isn't ready to say what changes, if any, to the state's gun laws might need to be considered in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, insisting in an interview on CNN that the time for that investigation can come later after mourning the deaths...

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2012

SUPREME COURT: NO PRIVATE TALKS IN MED MAL CASE
JIM SAUNDERS |
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday blocked an insurance-company attorney from speaking privately with a doctor who treated a plaintiff in a medical-malpractice case, ruling that state law "creates a broad and expansive physician-patient privilege of confidentiality."... Story

HOMES SALES "SIZZLED" IN NOVEMBER
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Florida's housing market continued to rebound in November, with existing home sales and median prices making double digit increases over last year... Story

POLL TAKES PULSE ON TUITION, OTHER ISSUES
DAVID ROYSE |
Florida voters are overwhelmingly against charging college tuition based on what people study, skeptical that degrees can be offered for $10,000 and strongly against setting different educational goals based on race, a new poll has found... Story

SCOFLA: COURTS NEED 63 NEW JUDGES
DAVID ROYSE |
Foreclosures continue to clog courtrooms, and judges have to take on the work that former staff used to do, leading the Supreme Court to say Thursday that 63 new judges and one new appeals court judge are needed in the state... Story

SCOTT TO MEET WITH HHS CHIEF SEBELIUS JAN. 7

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will meet with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Jan. 7 to discuss health care issues, as the state decides how to deal with key parts of the federal Affordable Care Act...

FLA CITIES DOMINATE FORECLOSURES IN SEPTEMBER

Florida cities captured nine of the top 10 spots in the percentage of homes in foreclosure in September, according to data released Thursday by the non-profit Center for Housing Policy and the Urban Institute...

STATE APPEALING FEMA DENIAL OF SANDY RELIEF

Gov. Rick Scott is appealing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency not to provide aid to Florida for the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, the state announced Thursday...

NUMBER OF SEX OFFENDERS IN FLORIDA INCREASES

The number of sex offenders in Florida has increased dramatically in recent years even as the number of offenders who can't be found by law enforcement has decreased, according to a new report...

LIP COULD CONTINUE UNDER STATEWIDE MANAGED CARE

As Florida seeks approval of a statewide Medicaid managed-care system, federal officials have signaled they could approve continuing a key program that helps hospitals and other health providers care for poor and uninsured patients...

BENNETT DOES ABOUT FACE, NOW WANTS MORE EARLY VOTING

Former Sen. Mike Bennett, now the newly elected supervisor of elections in Manatee County, has done an about-face on how much access to early voting people should have...

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

TRAUMA REVAMP BEGINS; ANOTHER LAWSUIT FILED
JIM SAUNDERS | 
A day after getting hit with another legal challenge to the opening of a trauma center, the Florida Department of Health on Friday began an effort to revamp the way the state approves new trauma facilities... Story

FLA JOBLESS RATE DROPS NEARLY HALF PCT
MICHAEL PELTIER | 
Florida's jobless rate fell in November to 8.1 percent, its lowest rate since late 2008, sparking optimism from Gov. Rick Scott who outlined a list of economic bright spots Friday. The November rate was a 0.4 percentage point drop from October and 2 percentage points lower than November 2011, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday... Story

SPEECHLESS IN WAKE OF SCHOOL SHOOTING, BUT TALKING ABOUT ELECTORAL CHANGE
(Recap and analysis of the week in state government)
DAVID ROYSE | 
Policymakers react, and often over-react, to the most recent incomprehensible tragedy all the time. In fact, it seems that much of what legislators do is respond to the parade of terrible things that scroll across our TV screens, from terrorist attacks to children abused to death to anecdotes about the latest dangerous drug... Read the Roundup

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA HAS: FIVE QUESTIONS FOR DENNIS BAXLEY
MARGIE MENZEL | 
Rep. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been all over the news this week. On Monday, responding to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, he said all remedies must be "on the table" legislatively, including allowing teachers and principals to arm themselves on school grounds... Story

FASANO CALLS FOR COP IN EVERY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, on Friday called on Gov. Rick Scott and fellow lawmakers to place an armed school resource officer in every Florida elementary school as a way to prevent a repeat of the tragic mass shootings are Sandy Hook Elementary School last week...

HOSPITALS WIN CASE ON UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

A judge Friday sided with a coalition of hospitals that challenged the state Agency for Health Care Administration in a dispute about payment for emergency services provided to undocumented immigrants...

DJJ MOVES RESIDENTS FROM MILTON FACILITY, PROVIDER ENDS CONTRACT

After two recent accusations of abuse at the Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility, the contract between the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the lock-up's private provider is ending...

MIAMI GRAND JURY: EXPAND EARLY VOTING

The state should expand early voting to a minimum of 120 hours, start 15 days before an election, make it illegal for anyone to be in possession of more than two absentee ballots, and restore a requirement that someone must witness in person an absentee voter's signature on a ballot, a grand jury in Miami-Dade County said Thursday... Read the full grand jury report

SUNDAY, DCECEMBER 23, 2012

MCBRIDE, EX-GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, DIES
JIM SAUNDERS | 
Bill McBride, a powerful lawyer who unsuccessfully tried to unseat then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 and later watched his wife, Alex Sink, also run for governor, has died. He was 67... Story

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2012

HIGH COURT FACES PENSION, MED MAL DECISIONS
JIM SAUNDERS | 
Leaving behind months of political turbulence, the Florida Supreme Court in 2013 could decide a series of high-profile cases dealing with issues such as the state pension system and medical-malpractice lawsuits... Story

BAXLEY, LEE BRING BIZ EXPERIENCE TO JUDICIARY ROLES
MICHAEL PELTIER | 
Stacked with lawyers from both parties, the Legislature's judiciary committees are again expected to address a host of perennially controversial topics such as civil litigation, foreclosures and malpractice that often pit businesses against trial attorneys... Story

INMATE RE-ENTRY BILL RE-EMERGES

Many nonviolent felons would be funneled into substance-abuse programs and work re-entry training instead of serving out their sentences behind bars, under a proposal filed Wednesday by Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami...

PSC TO GET UPDATE ON PROGRESS NUKE PLANT

The state Public Service Commission has scheduled a Jan. 7 meeting to get updated information about Progress Energy Florida's idled nuclear-power plant at Crystal River...

NEW HOUSE DEMS PREPARE FOR 2014

Four freshman House Democrats from South Florida have filed paperwork to seek re-election in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website...

APPEALS COURT TO HEAR ONLINE TRAVEL CASE
The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in February in a long-running tax fight between counties and online-travel companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.com...

DEAL FINISHED FOR MEDICAID HMO AMERIGROUP

The health insurer WellPoint, Inc. this week completed the acquisition of Amerigroup Corp., one of the largest managed-care companies in Florida's Medicaid program...

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2012

SCOTT, PORTS CALL FOR RESOLUTION AS STRIKE LOOMS
MICHAEL PELTIER | 
Gov. Rick Scott and executives of Florida's largest ports Thursday called on negotiators to avert a strike that could cripple the majority of container shipments along the eastern and gulf coasts as early as this weekend... Story

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA HAS: FIVE QUESTIONS FOR SEN. JACK LATVALA
MARGIE MENZEL |
This is Sen. Jack Latvala's second time around in the Florida Senate. First elected in 1994, the Pinellas County Republican rose to leadership, was termed out in 2002 and returned to the Legislature in 2010. In November; Latvala easily won the redrawn Senate District 20 seat... Story

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE UNCHANGED IN DECEMBER
DAVID ROYSE | 
Consumer confidence among Floridians was unchanged in December, down a bit from a peak in the fall, the University of Florida reported Thursday. The UF Survey Research Center at the university's Bureau of Economic and Business Research said conservatives who were unhappy with the November presidential election outcome generally remain gloomy about the economy, while those who supported President Obama are more upbeat. ... Story

FPL SEEKS APPROVAL OF BIOMASS ENERGY PLAN

Florida Power & Light is asking state regulators to approve a proposal that would eventually lead to the utility buying electricity from renewable-energy plants in Clay, Martin and Okeechobee counties...

CREWS WANTS MORE STAFF IN HIGH-RISK PRISONS

Outlining his goals and vision for the Department of Corrections, new Secretary Michael Crews said in a video address Thursday that the agency's top legislative priority is to increase staffing in 12 high-risk institutions...

BILL: YOUNG DRIVERS SHOULD PUT AWAY PHONES

Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, filed a proposal Thursday that would bar drivers under age 18 from using wireless phones or other communications devices while they are behind the wheel...

MEDICAID COSTS LOWER THAN EXPECTED

Florida's Medicaid program likely will spend about $400 million less this year than what lawmakers expected when they drew up the state budget, according to updated estimates by state analysts...

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2012

BIG MEDICAID, OBAMACARE ISSUES FACE STATE IN 2013
JIM SAUNDERS | 
Dealing with issues that affect the health care of millions of poor and uninsured residents, Florida leaders in 2013 could move forward with a long-awaited overhaul of the Medicaid system and likely will decide how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act... Story

JUDGE ORDERS STATE TO PAY ATTY FEES IN DRUG TEST CASE
MICHAEL PELTIER | 
Florida's attempt to drug test employees will cost taxpayers $190,589.74 after a federal judge in Miami on Friday ordered the state to pay attorney fees in a case challenging an executive order issued by Gov. Rick Scott last year... Story

REPORT: FAMU HAZING CONTROLS WERE WEAK
BRANDON LARRABEE | 
Safeguards against hazing at Florida A&M University were not strong enough in the lead-up to the 2011 death of drum major Robert Champion, but inflammatory accusations that university leaders recklessly ignored calls for action by the former band director can't be proven, according to a new report by a Florida Board of Governors watchdog... Story

YEARLY ROUNDUP: NEW DISTRICTS, NEW VOTING PROBLEMS, NEW ECONOMIC HOPE
(Recap and analysis of the year in state government)
DAVID ROYSE | 
In an election year and a redistricting year, you might have expected this. The biggest stories of 2012 ended up being an election and redistricting... Read the Roundup

FLA. MINIMUM WAGE TO RISE 12 CENTS ON JAN. 1

Florida's minimum wage on Jan. 1 will increase 12 cents to $7.79 an hour for the estimated 210,000 minimum wage workers across the state...

MANY SCHOOLS OVER CLASS SIZE, THOUGH MOST COMPLY

Class size restrictions are exceeded by at least 10 percent in nearly one out of five school districts across the state, according to data for the 2012-13 school year compiled by the Florida Department of Education...

PORT STRIKE AVERTED FOR AT LEAST 30 DAYS

A shutdown of major ports along the gulf and east coast was delayed for at least 30 days after federal negotiators on Friday announced that parties would continue talks beyond a Saturday strike deadline...

DJJ TAKES AIM AT NON-PROFIT EXEC'S PAY

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is objecting to a million-dollar compensation package for the top executive at a non-profit organization that has two dozen state contracts to care for troubled youths, the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reported...

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2012

FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE OVERTON DIES
DAVID ROYSE | 
Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ben F. Overton, the first justice appointed by the governor after the switch in the 1970s from elected justices, has died from complications of heart surgery, a spokesman for the court said. Overton, who retired in 1999, was 86... Story

HUNGRY AT MERCY OF WASHINGTON FOR FARM BILL ACTION
MARGIE MENZEL | 
Florida's anti-hunger advocates are watching Congress warily, fearing lawmakers will cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by billions of dollars as they wrangle with the fiscal cliff... Story

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