"Obamacare" rolls into Florida with rebate checks
"Floridians can expect to receive $149 million in health-insurance rebates this year from more than a dozen insurance companies, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation released Thursday."
The rebates come from health insurers that spent more on administrative expenses and profits than allowed under health-care overhaul laws that took effect last year.Ricky and the Teabaggers are no doubt outraged that, "nationally, consumers and businesses will receive $1.3 billion back, according the report based on preliminary estimates."
In the Sunshine State, 1.75 million enrollees will divvy up the rebates. Among those who pay for their own health insurance without the help of an employer, 38 percent should get some money back, an average of $153 per covered member, according to the Kaiser analysis.Funny how Florida's insurance companies are among the most excessive viz. administrative expenses and profits: "Florida's projected rebate of $149 million is among the nation's largest, second only to Texas, where consumers and businesses are due $186 million, according to the Kaiser report." "Floridians can expect $149M in health-insurance rebates". See also "" and "".
That means, in a family of four where everyone is covered, the rebate could exceed $600, said Gary Claxton, co-author of the Kaiser report.
Scott considers FDLE investigation of Florida Justices
"Scott is considering calling for an investigation into whether or not three Supreme Court justices are guilty of a misdemeanor in their scramble to get papers filed last week in their merit retention races. ... The controversy is another signal that the normally mundane issue of judicial retention could become a blistering political battle as a Tea Party-backed conservative group called Restore Justice 2012 mounts a campaign to oust the three sitting justices, who were appointed by former Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat." "Gov. Rick Scott weighs investigation of Supreme Court justices for misdemeanors".
"Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, sent a letter to Scott Thursday alleging that the use of court employees to help three justices -- Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, who all must stand for retention votes this year -- violated state election law."
The court was in the middle of hearing a two-hour redistricting argument when Chief Justice Charles Canady was handed a note by the court clerk. The note was prompted by a last-minute realization by Dan Stengle, the legal counsel for the judges' merit retention campaign, that the justices hadn't filed their financial disclosure forms, and asked for a recess."Legislator seeks investigation of three Supreme Court justices".
Canady said the court would stand in recess for 10 minutes, but the break lasted longer than an hour as the three justices rushed to finish the paperwork before the noon Friday deadline to qualify to run. Had they missed the deadline, Scott would have been able to appoint three new justices.
Plakon's letter cites media reports that three court employees notarized the documents, which Plakon says violates the state prohibition on using state employees for campaign activities. ...
Plakon is one of many House Republicans who blasted the court over its decisions to remove several legislatively drafted constitutional amendments from the 2010 election ballot. Plakon sponsored one of them, the so-called "health care freedom act" that would negate any federal requirement that individuals carry health insurance, and lawmakers again placed it on the 2012 ballot. Several groups, including one called Restore Justice 2012, have already begun organizing to try and defeat the three justices this fall.
The Restore Justice group sent out a fundraising solicitation Thursday referencing Plakon's letter. The group is led by Jesse Phillips, a friend of Plakon's. The Orlando-based organization incorporated in the state as a non-profit, and with the feds as a so-called 527 organization. It won't have to file state financial-disclosure reports until closer to when it actually engages in electioneering activities.
Its most recent federal quarterly filing states it raised $41,500 over the first three months of 2012 from a Miami Beach doctor named Allan Jacob.
Plakon said he "doubted" he would be working with the group to oust the judges.
What's wrong with Hillsborough?
"Foes of the Council on American Islamic Relations turned out again at Thursday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting, this time to protest the lack of action by board members earlier this month."
"We don't want an organization in our classrooms that has been linked to the funding of terrorism. It's as simple as that," said Kathy Brown of Valrico. "It's not about religion. It's not about teachers. It's about the security and safety of our children and our country. If students aren't your top priority, what is?" ...The board has sought to move on from the controversy over CAIR and guest speakers in the classroom. For the last several meetings, community members have stood to raise concerns about the appearance of Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa chapter of CAIR, in a Steinbrenner High School classroom last year."Group blasts Muslim speakers in classes".
More than a dozen speakers, many wearing red shirts as they have done in the past, showed up to blast the board for not enacting strict guidelines that would keep CAIR out of the classroom in the future.
Wendy Tai wore a red shirt that read "I Won't Be Deceived" on the front and "Infidel" on the back. She spoke of her love of God and recited a biblical verse as others in the crowd joined her saying the words. "Satan is in charge right now," she told board members.
Terry Kemple, a candidate for a countywide school board seat and the leader of the effort, referred to the local group as "Hamas Tampa."
Rivera's "dizzying maze of questionable practices"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "After an 18-month investigation of U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s political finances, frustrated prosecutors have concluded that they can’t justify charging him despite uncovering a dizzying maze of questionable practices. It brings to mind an old adage about political scandals: The outrage is not the violation of law, but what’s (apparently) legal."
The 16-page “close-out memorandum” prepared by the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle after an investigation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement delved into various areas involving payments and reimbursements to Mr. Rivera. It said he “essentially live[d] off” campaign contributions for almost a decade."A separate area of investigation involved dubious income disclosure."
During that time, most of which he served in the Florida Legislature as a part-time lawmaker, Mr. Rivera never held a full-time job or earned more than $28,000 a year. Yet he managed to pay mortgages on four different properties and led a peripatetic life attending entertainment events and shows that he insisted were campaign-related, according to FDLE.
“Essentially, he was campaigning every day for years,” the prosecutors said, and even paid for travel by girlfriends. Mr. Rivera has disputed charges of wrongdoing and blasted FDLE for “dishonest and unprofessional behavior.”
The state attorney’s report says that he justified paying for expenses connected to girlfriends because “as a single man running as a political conservative it was necessary for him to appear at campaign related events with a female escort.” Mr. Rivera called that a “libelous statement and fabrication” and insisted he had never said that.
Mr. Rivera, the investigation found, was working as a “political strategist” for a Miami-Dade gambling initiative when he was in the Legislature, but his work was not disclosed at the time."Still a third area of investigation involved Mr. Rivera running simultaneous campaigns for state Republican committeeman — for which he collected at least $175,000 in largely unregulated funds — and public office."
Gambling interests gave a company created by his mother over $500,000. At least $100,000 was traced back to Mr. Rivera. In amended filings, he later called it a loan, and prosecutors said they could not determine whether the “backdating” was falsified.
For nearly a decade, prosecutors said, Mr. Rivera claimed to be “campaigning for public office as well as campaigning for committeeman; moving from one task to another seamlessly, on a daily basis.”""Doesn’t pass smell test".
"Another abortion skirmish"
"This fall Florida voters will be asked to take sides in the seemingly perennial battle in the state capital over abortion rights. They'll be presented with Amendment 6, which has two elements."
One element would take a current federal and state ban on using public funds to pay for abortions and enshrine it as part of the Florida Constitution. That would make the ban much harder to repeal."Another abortion skirmish looms".
The other element would exempt abortion from the state constitution's privacy clause. In 1989 and 2003 rulings, the Florida Supreme Court cited that clause in striking down laws requiring parental consent and parental notification for minors seeking abortions.
FlaBagger battles country clubber
Scott Maxwell goes with the country clubber: "Adams' tactics smack of desperation. And probably for good reason. Because while she's long on criticisms of Mica, she's short on positive things to say about herself. Quite simply, Adams hasn't accomplished much." "In John Mica vs. Sandy Adams, it's record vs. rhetoric".
"Illegal, in Florida, depends on geography"
Fred Grimm writes that "illegal, in Florida, depends on geography. We’re using the old Mississippi bootlegger ethic to decide whether to pretend illegal gambling joints aren’t illegal. Just depends on where you are." "In Florida, gambling is gambling, except when it’s not".
"Republican leaders need to abandon Big Brother obsession"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "It's bad enough that Gov. Rick Scott insists on infringing on Floridians' personal liberty. But he even expects taxpayers to pick up the tab."
On Thursday, a federal judge became the second in a year to deem one of Scott's drug testing schemes an unreasonable search and seizure. And just like before, Scott promised to appeal, proving to be more interested in political posturing than in respecting the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Republican leaders need to abandon this Big Brother obsession and respect Floridians' privacy. ..."Scott's penchant for invading privacy".
If only this bad idea could die now. But Scott's insistence on appealing just means more taxpayer money will be wasted on defending a scheme that is clearly unconstitutional in a nation that prizes personal liberty. Scott swore to uphold the entire U.S. Constitution when he became governor 15 months ago. It's time to start.
Scott is a seriously sore loser: "Rick Scott: I Will Appeal Drug Test Ruling". See also "Gov. Scott vows appeal of judge's rejection of his state employee drug-testing order".
More: "Court rejects drug tests", "Federal judge tosses Scott's drug-testing order". See also "Judge blocks state employee drug testing" and "Judge: Gov. Rick Scott’s order to drug test state workers ruled unconstitutional".
"Glaring, potentially multimillion-dollar pothole"
"In their haste to meet one of Gov. Rick Scott's top priorities, Florida lawmakers left a glaring, potentially multimillion-dollar pothole in legislation revamping the state's no-fault auto insurance." "No-fault auto insurance bill has major gap".
Scott proves "he can be just as big a hypocritical phony as JD Alexander"
The Tampa Bay Times editors write that Rick Scott has "embraced the fantasies of the egomaniac who championed this foolishness and stands accused of fostering a hostile work environment at the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland. Former USF Poly chancellor Marshall Goodman locked arms with Sen. JD Alexander to insist that USF Poly become an independent university, and the Legislature and the governor meekly met their demands. The more the spotlight shines on Goodman's little fiefdom, the worse the governor's judgment of people and policy looks."
USF's two-month ethics review of USF Poly reveals an arrogant operation with no regard for purchasing rules or respect for taxpayers. ..."Boondoggle and baggage".
USF's investigation was triggered by an anonymous complaint from the Lakeland campus about Goodman and the business incubator. The more investigators looked, the more irregularities they found and the more USF Poly employees came forward to describe Goodman's intimidation and culture of fear. The report reveals how the former chancellor ran the campus like his personal playground, spending freely, hiring his son for a job he was unqualified to perform and bullying anyone who dared to complain. No wonder Goodman and Alexander were outraged when USF president Judy Genshaft removed Goodman in December and replaced him with accountant David Touchton, who had sought to slow down the rush to independence for USF Poly. The last thing they wanted was a fresh look from someone who would play by the rules and could be trusted by USF Poly employees to listen to them.
Goodman's supporters complain about the timing of the release of the report, just days after Scott signed into law the creation of Florida Polytechnic University. They're right. It should have become public during the legislative session. Perhaps then a few more legislators would have stood up to Alexander, the powerful chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who muscled millions into the state budget for the new university and was not going to leave Tallahassee without it.
Instead, generations of Florida taxpayers will be paying for a new university the state cannot afford. Two high-ranking USF Poly administrators who worked under Goodman face being fired. Goodman, who should be under further investigation, has more explaining to do. So does the governor. Scott met privately with Goodman and Alexander before he signed the bill into law that creates the new university. Now he shares their boondoggle and their baggage.
Daniel Ruth: "A few days ago, blowing off the advice and counsel of people who have the audacity to know what they are talking about, Gov. Rick Scott allowed himself to become the personal hot walker for lame duck state Sen. JD Alexander. He signed a piece of legislation allowing USF Poly to be spun off as an independent, unaccredited state university."
During his run for the Governor's Mansion, Scott touted his keen business credentials, his aversion to politics as usual and his pride in being an outsider above the nasty partisan infighting and dealmaking of Tallahassee. Phftt!"Florida's school for scoundrels".
Now, less than two years into the job, he has proven he can be just as big a hypocritical phony as his new best buddy JD Alexander, the Little Lord Fauntleroy of Lake Wales.
Scott to ink tuition increases
"Scott must decide whether he wants to let two major universities raise tuition higher than what is currently allowed. Scott is expected on Friday to either sign or veto a bill that would let the University of Florida and Florida State University increase tuition rates above the current 15 percent a year cap. Scott earlier this week said he remained undecided on the bill (HB 7129)." "Scott to sign or veto bill allowing FSU, UF to raise tuition". See also "Rick Scott Studying Unlimited Tuition Increases for STEM-Degree Programs".
Scott dithers on Cuba
"Rick Scott Reviewing Bill to Prohibit Contracts with Businesses Trading in Cuba".
Alleged harasser entertains USF College Republicans
"Former presidential contender Herman Cain told a group of University of South Florida students Thursday they should be conservatives because 'the alternative is the destruction of this country.'"
Conservatives, he said, believe in "less taxes, less government and more individual responsibility. Liberals believe in more taxes, more government and less individual responsibility. It's just that clear.""Herman Cain addresses students, GOP women during Tampa stop".
Speaking to a gathering of USF College Republicans, Cain vehemently denied what he called the "false charges" of sexual harassment that led to the end of his presidential campaign in December. ...
Asked whether the group considered whether it should invite someone accused of sexual harassment as speaker for the dinner, organizer April Schiff said, "What we considered was that he's a national figure and executing a new campaign, and willing to come here. We've got a good crowd."
"Buzz increasing that Rubio could end up on ticket"
"With buzz increasing that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio could end up on the Republican presidential ticket, the junior senator from Florida looked to highlight his conservative credentials this week on foreign and domestic policy, even as a prominent figure from Florida politics [Joe Scarborough] said he did not have the necessary experience to be vice president." "As VP Buzz Continues, Marco Rubio Pushes Conservative Legislation in Senate".
Counties Challenge Medicaid Funding
"47 Counties Challenge Medicaid Funding Law".