Florida GOP wants to limit testimony
"The Republican Party of Florida is asking a judge to bar ousted party chairman Jim Greer from asking wide-ranging questions of its chief financial officer, Richard Swarttz, saying he's an accountant and as such, the information he knows about party finances is privileged."
Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, alleges that Swarttz's testimony will damage the state's criminal case because the CFO will testify that he never sent Victory checks to Greer, only to Johnson."Florida GOP to judge: Don't make party CFO answer Greer's questions".
"If there is a bad guy, it's Delmar," Chase said.
But prosecutors allege that Greer had the Tallahassee office of Gray-Robinson set up Victory Strategies and hide his involvement by keeping his name off official corporate documents and having Johnson serve as its only officer.
Greer is suing the party, former chairman John Thrasher and Mike Haridopolos, president of the Florida Senate, in state circuit court in Sanford, alleging they cheated him out of a $123,000 severance package after he agreed to resign in early 2010 following disclosures about lavish party spending.
That's the case in which Greer wants to depose Swarttz. Lawyers for the GOP contend Greer's attorney should only be allowed to ask Swarttz about signing the party's checks to Victory and the party's contract with Victory.
"A disappointing end to a first year in office for West"
"In a year of congressional brinkmanship, freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West surprised many supporters and critics in July by endorsing a debt ceiling deal that aligned him with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and against the tea party and Sen. Marco Rubio."
But the conservative firebrand's support for compromise only goes so far."West influential, 'most buzzworthy' in first year, but disappointed at end".
When House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders agreed Thursday to accept a two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday rather than the yearlong extension the House approved, West blasted the agreement as a triumph for "the politics of demagoguery."
Neither West nor anyone else formally objected, however, when the House quickly approved the deal on a voice vote Friday. It marked a disappointing end to a first year in office for West, who was one of the most visible and influential rookies in a GOP caucus where freshmen wielded unusual clout.
"Health-care executives want to scrap current system"
Aaron Deslatte: "A new group called Patients for Fair Compensation is pushing here for transformative changes to the medical malpractice system."
The group, founded by Georgia health-care executives, wants to scrap the current system that sees injured patients battle it out in the courts with hospitals, doctors and insurance companies."Group aims to move medical malpractice claims from courts to review boards".
Florida lawmakers have attempted for years to reduce awards and plaintiff-lawyer fees in medical malpractice cases. Gov. Jeb Bush won passage in 2003 of reforms that capped the "non-economic" losses that injury victims could collect in court.
But a recent report by The James Madison Institute, a conservative Tallahassee think-tank, noted that while the caps "slightly lowered" doctors' insurance premiums, "this did not directly reduce the cost of care in Florida."
The Patients group wants to replace the current tort system with a medical review board of practitioners, much like what's used in the Workers' Compensation system. Patient complaints would be reviewed by medical experts, settled and paid without going to court. ...
Instituting such a sweeping change in litigation-rich Florida would be a major coup — although its supporters concede the idea is likely a multiyear endeavor. State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City Beach, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, have agreed to sponsor the legislation for the 2012 session that starts Jan. 10.
The group has an inside track with Gov. Rick Scott, a former Hospital Corporation of America executive. One of its founding members is Charles Evans, a former HCA regional president and board chairman for Solantic, the chain of urgent-care clinics Scott founded after he left HCA.
The governor has expressed support for their concept, they said.
In Florida, trial lawyers are staying mum for the moment.
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Ending his first year in office, Gov. Rick Scott points to the creation of more than 120,000 new jobs in the state in 2011 as a significant step toward fulfilling his signature campaign promise to create 700,000 new jobs over seven years."
But the jobs added during Scott’s first year in office were about half the roughly 243,000 net needed annually for Scott to meet his pledge."During his successful 2010 campaign — underscored by the theme 'Let’s Get to Work' — Scott said he would create 700,000 jobs in seven years, in addition to what the economy would normally produce, which experts say is roughly 1 million jobs over that period. That would have been 1.7 million total jobs."
But in the fall, Scott backed off the campaign promise, saying instead that he was focused on the “creation of 700,000 jobs over seven years regardless of what the economy might otherwise gain or lose.”"Controversy in Rick Scott’s jobs pledge".
Despite comments to the contrary during the campaign, including during a debate, Scott has insisted more recently that he has not backed off his campaign pledge, but had only ever promised to create 700,000 jobs — period. “Look at the ad,” he said.
At the current pace, Florida would not even regain the more than 900,000 jobs lost since the start of the Great Recession within seven years. ...
Many of the jobs added this year pay far less than those they replaced, raising questions about how robust Florida’s economic recovery will be. ...
Florida is tied for the sixth-highest unemployment rate in the country, well above the national average of 8.6 percent. ...
[C]ritics fault Scott for backtracking on his original jobs stance. They contend that, entering his second year, Scott is guiding the state toward an economic future based on low-paying jobs. ...
Much of the job growth was in lower-paying sectors such as retail stores as well as restaurants and bars, with average annual salaries in the mid-$20,000 range, according to a 2010 labor survey in Florida.
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*With apologies to Neil Young.
"No idea where Bondi's information is coming from"
"Billie: No idea where Bondi's information is coming from".
"A vital shield against exploitation and poverty"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "For 37 years, home health care aides who are hired to look after elderly or sick people and help them live at home have been shut out of basic federal labor protections."
Their hard, physical, low-paid work has been considered on a par with that of a babysitter and exempt from federal minimum wage laws and overtime rules. Finally, that is about to change. This month, the Obama administration has proposed regulations to bring home care workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The move is long overdue. ..."Health aide protections overdue".
Republican lawmakers and business groups are opposed to the change and are fighting to get the rules modified before they are finalized. Opponents claim that the cost of providing service would rise and that the proposals might cause staffing agencies to cut back on each worker's hours to avoid paying overtime. Of course, those general arguments could be made for any worker in any industry. There is nothing new in Republicans opposing an expansion of minimum wage laws and other labor protections. But as has been well established from many decades of experience, those laws provide a vital shield against exploitation and poverty.
Another Dorworth mess
"The bank holding the $1.5 million mortgage on the Heathrow mansion of future Florida House Speaker Chris Dorworth is pushing again to take it away from him."
The Bank of New York Trust Company N.A. sued him and his now-estranged wife in 2008, saying they had failed for months to make their $9,700-a-month mortgage payment."Bank again pushes judge to foreclose on Dorworth's Heathrow mansion".
After years of delays, the bank on Monday asked a judge to enter a summary judgment — a formal finding that Dorworth is in default. It's the next step toward selling it at a courthouse auction.
"Republicans remained disgruntled"
"An agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits for two more months brought a sense of relief to members of both parties on Thursday, though Republicans remained disgruntled." "Florida members relieved by tax-cut extension".
"Standing up to bullying"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "So the Board of Governors is 'extremely displeased' that University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft had the audacity to replace an administrator she could no longer trust."
The board that oversees the state university system could learn a lesson from her about standing up to bullying instead of acting like a bully itself."State board of bullying".
Genshaft replaced the chancellor of USF's Lakeland campus this week with good reason. Marshall Goodman answered more to state Sen. JD Alexander than to his boss as the two steamrolled their way toward severing the campus' ties with USF and making it an independent university. It would not have come to this if the Board of Governors had firmly rejected Alexander's scheme. Instead, the board created a long road map to independence for USF Polytech that Genshaft pledged to follow and that Alexander still does not like.
Next up, ads on high school football jerseys
"Fla. lawmakers considering allowing school bus ads".
Absentee ballot changes cut participation
"Absentee ballots for the Republican presidential primary will start hitting the mail Tuesday, but thousands of Florida voters who think they've signed up to get one may be surprised."
Elections supervisors say they fear many voters aren't aware that a 2010 election law change eliminated a provision that automatically sent an absentee ballot to every voter who had requested one in the previous election. And some blame ignorance of the change for a big drop in applications in advance of the Jan. 31 primary."Election law changes may be confusing absentee voters".
"Jacksonville cracks down on Occupy protesters".
"Other Republicans politely questioning if it was too much"
"Scott is a conservative Republican and the Legislature is overwhelmingly conservative Republican, but the sides clashed at the beginning of the year as Scott came in as a political outsider vowing to change Tallahassee. He surrounded himself with a team also made up of outsiders, announced his proposed budget at a tea party rally in a central Florida church and set an agenda that even had other Republicans politely questioning if it was too much." "Rick Scott has same goals, new approach".
Turkey Point expansion
"Federal regulators approved the design of a next-generation reactor that FPL has selected for a proposed Turkey Point expansion, but critics contend a 'fast-track' process could compromise safety of the AP 1000." "Reactor approval clears path for FPL".