Monday, August 19, 2013

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

Tallahassee for Sale

"Wondering what makes Florida's state government tick? To turn a cliché, money does a lot of talking."

And it leads from mega-companies like Walt Disney and U.S. Sugar through a cadre of lobbyists that help design, delay and deter legislation and regulation in Tallahassee.

All told, companies, local governments, trade associations and other advocacy groups have spent $120.4 million to lobby the Legislature and state agencies so far this year – making it one of the Sunshine State's enduring growth industries, according to a Sentinel analysis of lobbying data.

"$120 million spent so far this year on lobbying in Tallahassee" (subscription required). See also "Publix, Disney lobby to cut the size of lawsuit awards". Background: "Florida lobbying firms showing big profits".

"The Apprentice" flop thinks Florida deserves him

"Jose Felix Diaz doesn’t rank as one of the senior Republicans in the Florida House but he is one of the more visible ones as speculation continues that he will run for Congress. The son of Cuban exiles, Diaz was born in South Florida and he returned there after studying law at Columbia University in New York. He earned a little national spotlight early on when he appeared as a contestant in Donald Trump’s 'The Apprentice' reality show." "Rising Star Jose Felix Diaz Has Choices to Make for 2014".

Rubio dissembles on Obamacare

"Rubio said that for people who currently have health insurance, "They have a doctor they've been seeing for the last 15 or 20 years, they won't be able to keep going to that doctor," due to Obamacare."

Rubio ignores the fact that without Obamacare, patients can lose access to their doctor when their employer switches plans or they switch (or lose) jobs. [Ed. Note: Or the employer just cancels health insurance, which they are free to do if there is no union]

Some patients who buy health insurance through the exchange could lose access to their current doctor, but it's difficult to predict how many.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

"PolitiFact Florida: Marco Rubio says patients won't be able to keep their doctors under Obamacare".

Pasco's finest empty suits

"The race to replace former Rep. Mike Fasano in the Florida House is starting to take shape, with two candidates filing last week to enter the race to represent parts of Pasco County while a third won the backing of the House Republican leadership. Fasano was appointed Pasco County tax collector by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this month." "The son of Cuban exiles, Diaz was born in South Florida and he returned there after studying law at Columbia University in New York. He earned a little national spotlight early on when he appeared as a contestant in Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality show.".

Ricky can't find a running mate

"Scott in no rush to pick new lieutenant governor".

"Handily riding the coattails of rising politico"

"Except for a stint as manager of tiny North Bay Village, lobbyist and consultant Jorge Forte stayed pretty much under the public radar."

But that didn’t stop him from handily riding the coattails of rising politico and Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, Forte’s longtime friend and business partner. Forte leveraged the relationship to push through city legislation, get government contracts — and haul in tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents, prosecutors alleged last week.
"Lobbyist Forte wasn’t shy about being Sweetwater Mayor Maroño’s ‘right-hand man’".

Insurance cost games

"When Florida officials declared that premiums for individual health plans could spike 40 percent due to the federal health reform law, David Payne was startled. Not by the projected increase but by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation statement showing insurers expect to charge an average of $278 to $412 a month. Payne wishes he paid those rates."

Some states that started their own exchanges have announced what plans will cost. But it's still unclear what exactly the plans — and premiums — in the Florida marketplace, which will be run by the federal government since the state refused the job, will look like. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was in Tampa last week, said the federal government is still signing contracts with insurers. Rates should be available just before the marketplace goes live on Oct. 1 to sell policies that take effect Jan. 1.

The report on the projected premium increases that Florida insurance regulators produced this month didn't fully account for the fact people will be buying policies very different from what they could get in 2012.

In one comparison, regulators took the single statewide average insurance premium for 2012 — $243 — and compared it with what various insurers said their average premium will be next year under the new rules.

For instance, Cigna's $377 average premium for next year is reported as a 55 percent increase — because it's compared with the statewide average, not with what Cigna customers actually were paying in 2012, noted the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation declined to comment further on her agency's report.

"With health insurance law, premiums to change for many". Background: "Uncovering Coverage Opportunities In Health Insurance Marketplace".