Friday, August 09, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Floridians may pay unreasonable health insurance rates under Obamacare because of a law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott"

Rick Scott is doing his best to ensure that Floridians don't like the Affordable Care Act: "Floridians may pay unreasonable health insurance rates under Obamacare because of a law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, says U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch."

In a letter co-signed by Florida's nine other House Democrats, Deutch says the law takes away Florida's ability to "negotiate lower rates with companies or refuse rates that are too high."

The Aug. 1 letter goes on to ask the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to "protect Florida consumers — since Gov. Scott, the Florida Legislature and Insurance Commissioner (Kevin) McCarty will not."

Did the governor and Legislature prevent the commissioner from negotiating lower rates?

According to Politifact, the allegation is "true". Politifact summarizes the issue as follows:
Florida's U.S. House Democrats say the governor and legislators refused to allow the state insurance commissioner to "negotiate lower rates with companies or refuse rates that are too high." We rate the claim True.
"A new state law suspends for two years Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty’s power to negotiate lower rates or refuse rates that are too high under Obamacare.".

Is Medical Marijuana group just a front for Charlie Crist?

"Libertarian political consultant Roger Stone has had a falling out with a Florida medical-marijuana group and accused it Tuesday of acting like a front for Democrat Charlie Crist if he decides to run for governor next year."

“No Republicans or Democrats who aren’t supporting Charlie Crist need apply,” Stone wrote on his Stone Zone blog Tuesday, noting Crist works for the head of People United for Medical Marijuana [("PUFMM")].

PUFMM’s de facto manager, Ben Pollara, denied Stone’s claims as “untrue” and disputed his interpretation of a proposed constitutional amendment that allow the medical use of marijuana in Florida.

“Roger is a complicated character, as you know,” Pollara said, declining to discuss the falling-out with the libertarian consultant once known for being a GOP dirty-trickster.

Stone’s criticism comes at a tough time for PUFMM, which is struggling to collect more than 683,000 valid voter petitions in just a few months in order for the amendment to make the 2014 ballot.

With petition-gathering as a focus, Pollara said, the group has rebuffed paying consultants from all ends of the political spectrum, including Stone, because “we’re on a shoestring budget.”

But Stone, an early backer of the effort, wrote that he noticed a change in PUFMM after it was recently taken over by trial lawyer John Morgan, a major Democratic fundraiser who employs Crist in his legal office.

"Political accusations, intrigue nag medical-marijuana group". See also "Florida's Faux Medical Marijuana Movement - Morgan's Phony Scam Exposed" .

The cash flows for Enterprise Florida employees

"Scott defends Enterprise Florida bonuses". See also "Enterprise Florida board approves $70,000 bonus for CEO".

Brogan outa here

"Frank Brogan, a higher-education executive and former Florida lieutenant governor, was picked to be the next chancellor of Pennsylvania’s 14-university State System of Higher Education." "Florida ex-Lt. Governor to lead Pennsylvania university system".

Scott transition team member, president of Florida League of Cities arrested in FBI sting

"In March, Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño and lobbyist Jorge Forte dined at a local restaurant with a couple of supposed Chicago businessmen. At the end, the dessert was green — as in $10,000 in cash hidden inside a notebook on the table that Forte accepted and split with the mayor, federal authorities say."

In July, Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi met with lobbyist Richard Candia in an office closet at Medley Town Hall, where Pizzi worked as the town’s attorney. The reason for the clandestine encounter? For Pizzi to collect an envelope stuffed with a $3,000 cash kickback, according to authorities.

What the mayors and Forte didn’t know was that they were targets of an FBI undercover operation — and the money exchanging hands was soon to be used as proof of political corruption in Sweetwater, Miami Lakes and Medley.

Miami federal prosecutors said the two mayors and two lobbyists accepted thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for championing purported federal grant applications for their towns. But in reality, the men were in cahoots, intending to line their pockets with the grant money — not to bring dollars into municipal coffers, the feds said.

Many of their conversations were recorded by undercover agents and on phone taps.

The two corruption cases, which started with a confidential tip to the FBI two years ago, were remarkable even by South Florida’s standards, because the crackdown snared two municipal mayors and two lobbyists on the same day. Attempts to take down other public officials in the same sting were unsuccessful because they wouldn’t bite. . . .

Pizzi is accused of breaking the law with Candia, who resigned from Becker & Poliakoff after the charges were filed Tuesday. Candia was a legislative aide for state Sen. Mario Diaz-Balart in the mid-1990s. Pizzi allegedly received $5,000 in cash kickbacks for the Miami Lakes grant deal and an additional $1,000 cash and $750 in campaign contributions for the Medley deal. . . .

In Sweetwater, people also expressed shock about the mayor’s arrest.

Maroño, a member of the city commission since 1995, was elected mayor in 2003.

Like Pizzi, Maroño also has a prominent profile for a small-town official. He is currently serving as president of the Florida League of Cities[*], with a membership of more than 400 cities, towns and villages in the state. In 2011, Maroño also played a role on Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team.

"Miami Lakes and Sweetwater mayors ‘stung’ by FBI for taking alleged kickbacks".

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida’s disgraceful distinction: corruption". More: "Fabiola Santiago: 'Hidden gem' city had secrets".

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*Maroño has apparently been dumped as League of Cities President, and scrubbed from the League's website.

The next purge

The Miami Herald editors: "Hang on to your proof of citizenship. You may need it if the state’s latest effort to purge voter rolls is as inept as the last one." "Another voter purge".

True colors

"Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans have repeatedly expressed indignation about critical comments made last week by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. And judging by the governor’s inbox, the indignation is playing well." "Residents back Gov. Rick Scott’s stance against Jesse Jackson".

Florida a "hotspot" for human trafficking

"Although hard statistics are elusive, Florida is often seen as a trafficking hotspot. An estimated 385 teen girls are involved in the sex trade in Florida each month, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade, and the state ranks third in terms of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line." "Florida a magnet for traffickers".

Even Sopchoppy?

"Sopchoppy, "a small Panhandle town best known for its annual Worm Gruntin' Festival is at the center of an investigation into charges the white city clerk suppressed the black vote in an election where the black mayor lost by a single vote and a black city commissioner was also ousted."

Both losing candidates and three black voters have filed complaints, now being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, that City Clerk Jackie Lawhon made it more difficult for blacks to cast ballots by questioning their residency.

The candidates also allege Lawhon abandoned her duty to remain neutral and actively campaigned for the three whites on the ballot.

"Candidates: Clerk in Panhandle town suppressed black voters".

Orlando SA will review shooting during FBI interrogation

"Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton confirmed his office is reviewing the death of Ibragim Todashev, a friend of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, who was killed during an interrogation in a condo in Orlando."

Todashev, 27, was killed May 22 while he was being questioned by a Boston-based FBI agent, Massachusetts state troopers and other law-enforcement officers. The FBI has released little information about the shooting.
"Ashton to review shooting during FBI interrogation".