Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

Scott is not entitled to his own facts

"Gov. Rick Scott repeatedly cites a state analysis that says the federal health care law would cost Florida taxpayers $26 billion over the next 10 years. PolitiFact Florida says he’s wrong."

But using a study to say that the expansion of Medicaid would cost Florida taxpayers "over $26 billion" is False.
"Rick Scott ignores flaws in state study, says Medicaid expansion will cost Florida $26 billion".

Here's the thing, "Scott was warned his Medicaid math was wrong". But he keeps on lying anyway. See also "Analysts question Scott health reform estimates".

The Sun Sentinel editors: "We keep hearing Gov. Rick Scott has softened his stance against Obamacare and is open to helping uninsured Floridians gain access to affordable health care, while keeping costs affordable for businesses, taxpayers and everyone else."

But things aren't always as they appear.

First, the governor missed last month's deadline for agreeing to create a state health insurance exchange that would make it easy for Floridians to compare the costs and benefits of health insurance plans offered here. Instead, he's letting the federal government do the work for him.

Now we learn the governor has inflated the projected costs of covering another 1.2 million Floridians under Medicaid. Of Florida's 4 million uninsured, these are the folks who live just above the poverty line.

Scott says it will cost $63 billion to expand Florida Medicaid over 10 years, and the state will have to pay $26 billion of that.

But as Health News Florida reported Tuesday, Scott knows his number is wrong. In a series of emails obtained by the website, legislative analysts warned the governor that his number was way off — by a factor of three.

"The governor is entitled to his opinion, but is he entitled to his own facts?"
Or is it possible that, as he did in rejecting $2 billion for a high-speed rail line and millions more to implement health insurance exchanges, he will again reject Florida's share and send our money to other states?

Florida families are struggling. Some of us have friends and family members who are dying because they can't afford health care. All of us are paying higher health insurance premiums or taxes so the poor can get treated at emergency rooms or safety net hospitals.

We deserve better.

Besides helping our neighbors, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy says expanding Medicaid would bring more than $20 billion to Florida over the next decade.

Jim Zingale, an official with the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, told the Times: "This is going to be one of the largest economic booms in the state."

After President Obama won re-election, Gov. Scott said: "I don't think anyone involved in trying to improve health care should say 'no, no, no.' Let's have a conversation."

But to have a productive conversation, we must be honest with one another.

And if the governor refuses to stop spinning the numbers on health care, how can we trust him?

"Gov. Scott's fuzzy math".

Today at the Capitol

"Today at the Capitol for Monday, Jan. 8".

Everglades Caucus

"With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the 'Everglades Caucus' in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort." "Fla. lawmakers revive Everglades caucus".

Wealthy Floridians whine

"Taxes rising for affluent married couples in S. Fla.".

"Voting is not a trip to Disney World"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "The long lines of voters leading up to and on Election Day were an embarrassment that must not be repeated."

It shouldn’t be lost on voters that Mr. Diaz de la Portilla’s committee was instrumental in changing the early voting days to eight last year. To his credit, the legislator is pushing for opening up the Sunday before the election for early voting and extending the hours of the early voting days overall to a maximum of 126. Right now, the law allows 96 hours.

Still, the question begs: Why not simply return to 14 days of early voting?

If the rationale is “saving taxpayers money” you have to wonder what price to put on democracy. It costs $20,000 a day to run early voting sites in Miami-Dade, according to the county. Surely, when the budgets are in the billions of dollars, that kind of money is well worth ensuring access to the polls.

The advisory task force also is recommending that people who use absentee ballots should be able to drop them off at their polling site on Election Day. Right now, a voter showing up at his or her precinct on Election Day with a filled-out absentee ballot will likely be asked to get in line, then give it to poll workers to destroy so that the voter can fill out a regular ballot in person at the precinct. Seems to be just one more time-consuming obstacle that’s meant to turn away voters not help them.

Gov. Rick Scott, who refused to expand early voting hours or extend the number of days even as it became clear that voting lines were stretched to the streets not only in South Florida but in the Tampa area and other metropolitan areas throughout Florida, now says he’s open to suggestions. Here’s an easy one: Just bring back the 14 days.

Meantime, the county task force is working on adding more early voting sites (the county now uses 20 out of a potential 85). Parking may be a problem at many of those sites, which should push the county to find creative ways — bus shuttles to nearby parking lots? — to help people get to the polls. . . .

Voting is not a trip to Disney World. It’s a right that’s fundamental to our democracy.

"No more Mickey Mouse lines". The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Now that the flaws have been exposed, lawmakers have a chance to craft voting laws that are perceived by all as inclusive and that eliminate any whiff of partisan politics intruding upon one of our most sacred rights as citizens." "Scott, lawmakers confront election reform reality". Related: "Detzner to Meet with Legislators on Election Reform as Bill Filed to Extend Early Voting Hours".

Scott blames Obama for jobs flop

"Rick Scott: Federal Health Care Law ‘Horrible’ for Medical Device Company Adding Jobs". Related: "Scott highlights medical jobs on South Florida visit as industry frets about taxes".

"2011 law exposes local officials to fines and removal from office if they enact local gun ordinances"

"Legally there is nothing stopping county commissions and city councils. Realistically none of them is likely to do so, because a 2011 law exposes local officials to fines of $5,000 and removal from office if they enact local gun ordinances that do not jibe with state law."

That threat has kept counties and cities from enacting gun controls — especially those pertaining to background checks — that are more strict than state laws.

“It’s political bullying by threatening the personal pockets of individual commissioners,” said Senior Assistant County Attorney Amy Petrick, who filed the suit for the Palm Beach County Commission against Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida House and Senate. Petrick said the 2011 law has a “chilling effect” on the ability of local elected officials to do their jobs.

“In order for them to exercise their authority, they need to feel free to operate without being an in atmosphere of fear,” Petrick said. Among the gun control efforts local governments could address: gun shows, like the ones held monthly at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

Broward County has joined in the lawsuit and other counties are watching closely, she said.

"With public settings like gun shows in mind, Palm Beach County pushes for right to restrict guns".

"First raises since the Great Recession"

"It may be too early to declare that happy days are here again, but public employees — school teachers, library and parks employees — are starting to see their first raises since the Great Recession." "Public employees seeing first raises".

'Ya think?

"Election Snafu: Was Ballot Too Long?".

Bush push

"Ken Mehlman has a history with Florida, notably 37 days spent in Tallahassee during the 2000 election debacle, deep ties to the Bush family and a vast knowledge of national politics. . . . 'I believe there is no one more able, more principled or committed and a better man than Jeb Bush,' Mehlman told a lunch crowd at the Economic Club of Florida at the Leon County Civic Center." "Ken Mehlman: I’m Out of Politics, but Jeb Bush ‘Still Doing a Great Job’".

Rubio prepared to go after Hagel?

"President Barack Obama nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for defense secretary, starting what could be a difficult confirmation process."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has another concern: Hagel's position on Cuba. Hagel once called U.S. sanctions against the communist country "outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy."
"Rubio looks at Hagel's stance".

Bondi, jilted Romney surrogate, needs to do her job

The Palm Beach Post editors: "According to Ms. Bondi, South Florida is “ground zero” for Medicaid fraud, which costs Florida up to $2 billion a year. So what took the attorney general so long to act? Perhaps she was more concerned with her mostly unsuccessful war with the federal government and her campaign work for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney."

Ms. Bondi only recently turned her attention to filling the 23 vacancies in the fraud unit that a recent report from her office and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration attributes to budget shortfalls. Those shortfalls resulted in a loss of $1.89 million in federal funds to the state.

Ms. Bondi told Pinellas County Republicans last September that Medicaid fraud would be “the next thing that we can tackle.” The “hardest thing” about being attorney general, she said, is that “you wanna do everything at once and you can’t.”

The problem is that “everything” included fighting the Affordable Care Act. The state’s lawsuit against the health care law, which the Supreme Court mostly upheld last summer, earned Ms. Bondi numerous appearances on Fox News but did nothing for the state. Ms. Bondi also dragged Florida into a suit with six other states against the federal requirement that employers offer health insurance that covers birth control. She sued the Environmental Protection Agency over water-quality standards.

When Ms. Bondi wasn’t battling the feds during her first two years, she was touring the country for Mitt Romney as a surrogate. She told those Republicans in Pinellas County, “You’re going to be hearing me talking about Medicaid fraud a lot.” Florida would be better off if Medicaid had been a priority earlier. If Ms. Bondi has designs on higher office, her chances will be better if she focuses first on running as well as possible for Florida the office she already holds.

"Bondi’s priority should be Florida, not GOP politics".

Capping Citizens

"Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Sen. Anitere Flores, both Miami Republicans, have filed bills to cement the 10 percent cap on annual rate increases for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., whose board members floated the idea of breaking the cap for new policies." "House bill filed to solidify Citizens rate cap".

New Rep "Prepared to Take a Scalpel to Obamacare Exchanges"

"Cary Pigman: Emergency Room Doctor Prepared to Take a Scalpel to Obamacare Exchanges".

It coulda been "a national scandal"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Most people would just as soon forget last year’s election messes in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties, which had officials in Palm Beach manually copying thousands of ballots and officials in St. Lucie fighting in court and recounting disputed early-voting results. . . . [B]oth counties got lucky in November. A closer presidential election could have blown these problems into a national scandal. Technical fixes and better management can reduce the odds that Florida will suffer a repeat of 2000." "Editorial: State right on voting fixes for Palm Beach, St. Lucie counties".

Doctors dispute a workers' comp report

"Doctors are disputing a state report saying drugs dispensed by physicians directly to patients are raising workers' compensation rates." "Doctors dispute Fla. workers compensation report".

"5 things to know"

"5 things to know in Florida for Jan. 9".