Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 264

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Florida Realtors kick off ‘Amendment 2 is for Everybody’ campaign

Florida Realtors officially kicked off its campaign to pass Amendment 2, which gives voters the chance to make a 10 percent cap on annual non-homestead property tax increases permanent. The initiative will appear on the 2018 general election ballot.

Prior to the 10 percent cap, if the value of a business owner’s property increased significantly compared to the previous year, they could see their property tax bill skyrocket. Owners of investment homes also faced steep property tax hikes, which could be passed along to tenants in the form of higher rents.

“Amendment 2 really is good for everybody because if the non-homestead tax cap expires in 2019, every Floridian will be negatively impacted in some way,” says Florida Realtors President Maria Wells. “Whether it’s a business having to increase the cost of their goods and services or tenants having their rent go up a significant amount, communities across the state will suffer.”

Florida Realtors, along with its coalition partners, is planning a comprehensive, direct-to-voter campaign over the next 14 months. The campaign theme, “Everybody is for Amendment 2, because Amendment 2 is for Everybody” signifies the importance the measure holds for every citizen of the state.

“In the current age of partisanship, it’s often difficult to find an issue that people with different viewpoints can agree on, but with Amendment 2 we did just that,” says Carrie O’Rourke, vice president of public policy for Florida Realtors. “The Florida Senate passed it unanimously, and the House was right behind them with 97 percent voting in favor of the referendum. That level of bipartisanship speaks volumes for the widespread benefits Amendment 2 offers.”

The 10 percent cap on non-homestead properties was part of the Save Our Homes portability constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008. The 10 percent cap portion of the amendment sunsets on Jan. 1, 2019.

The kick-off includes the launch of the campaign’s website, www.EverybodyIsFor2.com, which features a video outlining the benefits of the amendment.

Joe Henderson: Jack Latvala will bring a sensible GOP voice to a shrill campaign for governor

The official entry of Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala into the race for governor is welcome news to those hoping someone would come along to give them a reason not to cover their ears during the upcoming campaign. I think they just got their guy.

Whether his candidacy will attract enough support to grab his party’s nomination is an iffy proposition, but his chances might be better than you first think. If the electorate is looking for an alternative to the status quo, he could just be the “Hey, wait a minute …” candidate.

Start with the eyebrow-raising strategy employed so far by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the accepted front-runner. Putnam has the most money, name recognition, and he is just flat out folksy and likable when he isn’t trying to be a Donald Trump Mini-Me.

Sadly, Putnam has spent these early weeks of the campaign trying to show that, darn it, he can be just as obnoxious and shrill as the next Republican. He has proudly declared himself to be a National Rifle Association “shill” and stuff like that makes you want to put an arm around his shoulder and go, “Adam, dude … you are better than this.”

Latvala’s task will be to convince enough GOP primary voters that, no, Putnam isn’t better than that. Putnam’s hard-right rear-end smooch up to the almighty Republican base has left a wide stretch of highway open for Latvala’s moderate views to receive a thorough airing. At some point, if enough mud gets slung (and it will), that might sound refreshing.

That’s equally true if House Speaker Richard Corcoran gets into the race. While Corcoran and Putnam would be trying to outdo each other to convince voters that the other guy is horrible, Latvala – a plain-spoken ol’ cuss – could connect with the public by labeling his opponents as just more of the same Tallahassee nonsense.

Latvala certainly wouldn’t be more of the same. In 2014, for instance, he was out front in support of legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to receive cheaper in-state tuition at Florida universities. Nothing could be further from the ideals of the Republican base than that.

He also gets along well with labor unions. He was an outspoken opponent of Corcoran’s successful push to divert millions of public dollars to for-profit charter schools. Latvala also has been a political fixture for years and that’s not always a good thing these days. He does, however, have a reputation for working across the aisle to get things done, and people always like that – or at least say they do.

That could contrast nicely to Corcoran’s performance this year when he ruled the Florida House with a “my way or no way” type of approach.

Fundraising is one of Latvala’s strengths, so if his message resonates and he begins to rise in the polls, cash could start rolling in.

Latvala’s real challenge will be to get enough people to pay attention. Primary turnouts tend to be low and voters often go with the familiar names. But a guy named Rick Scott proved in 2010 when he beat GOP fixture Bill McCollum in the primary that conventional wisdom isn’t always wise.

Scott had the right message at the right time. We’ll know soon enough if that holds true for Latvala. If voters decide they’re ready for more solutions and less dogma, he might just be their guy.

Last Call for 8.15.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shots

Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski emerged Tuesday evening from what has been a rough-and-tumble primary to be the Republicans’ likeliest nominee for the Oct. 10 special election to fill the open seat in Florida’s House District 44.

Early voting and mail-in voting, but no election day returns from the district’s 38 precincts, show Olszewski with a significant lead over three rivals, John Newstreet, Bruno Portigliatti, and Dr.Usha Jain.

While final returns may not be in for hours, the early-voting and mail-in voting totals of 4,079 votes, about 10 percent of the GOP electorate, stands to make up a sizable portion of the final vote tally, and it gave Olszewski a seven-point lead heading toward the finish.

So if, according to the AP, the “number of tourists visiting Florida continues to grow,” does that make Rick Scott’s case for VISIT FLORIDA?

The Governor on Tuesday said almost 61 million tourists came to Florida the first six months of this year—a respectable 4 percent jump over numbers for the first half of the previous year.

Let’s not forget earlier this year, when Scott was playing the state’s “MC” for tourism marketing spending, with VISIT FLORIDA chief Ken Lawson acting as hype man.

At one Capitol rally, Scott told a crowd, “We need to remain the tourist capital of the world,” with Lawson hollering in the background, “That’s right!” and “Yessir!”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran aimed to deep-six the public-private tourism marketing agency, then proposed reducing its budget to $25 million for 2017-18. Scott wanted $100 million; a deal was brokered and it got $76 million in funding.

Since then, Lawson has been going around the state to mend relations with partners and has rolled out new marketing partnership opportunities.

As to the latest numbers, did VF’s marketing help? Would the Sunshine State’s tourism have prospered without it? Perhaps time will tell…

Evening Reads

The help Trump promised hasn’t come. So this ‘dying city’ is determined to save itself” via Robert Samuels of The Washington Post

“Federally qualified clinics call for changes to new Medicaid waiver” via POLITICO

Lack of command stymied response to airport shooting” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Rick Scott: state will help UF prepare for white supremacist’s visit” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants special legislative session to remove Confederate statue” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

State budget aided by new gambling deal with Seminoles” via The Associated Press

“Joe Negron shakes up power structure for 2018” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“We’re giving additional opportunities for senators to work in areas where they’ve shown competence and expertise.” —Senate President Joe Negron on Tuesday, explaining his shuffle of committee chairmanships. That included stripping David Simmons of his leadership of an education budget panel after it was reported Simmons worked behind the scenes to “endanger legislation that contained … Negron’s education priorities.”

Bill Day’s Latest

 

Breakthrough Insights 

 Wake Up Early?

Even though we learned the answer last week, all eyes will be on Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala as he formally announces his bid for governor. The Pinellas Republican’s three-city tour stops at Fire Station #7 in Hialeah at 9 a.m., Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m. and Sun Harbor Marina in Panama City at 5 p.m. central time.

The only other lawmaker who will be easy to wrangle Wednesday is Sen. Wilton Simpson. He’ll be at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee for an 11:30 a.m. speech to the Tiger Bay Club. Plenty of state agency and board meetings are bookending the talk for the Tallahassee crowd.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will meet at 9 a.m. to go over budget requests – an important step in setting the Governor’s recommendations – for Veterans Affairs, FDLE, DHSMV, and OIR. The Agency for Health Care Administration will talk Low Income Pool, or LIP, at their headquarters at 2:30 p.m.

Those interested in seeing what a real backlog looks like should plan to hit up the Betty Easley Center at 9 a.m to see the Commission on Offender Review discuss parole cases for crimes committed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Over on the First Coast, AIF will unveil the “Manufacturers Marketplace,” a web-based service to connect buyers with American manufacturers. The kick off starts at 3 p.m. at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Jax, and those taking U.S. 301 to the Bold City event might even be able to squeeze in some financial safety education on the way.

Starke, about 45 minutes southwest of Jax, will play host to one of the Department of Financial Services’ “Be Scam Smart” workshops, which aim to help seniors avoid ripoffs and fraudsters. It starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Bradford County Senior Center.

Joe Negron shuffles Senate leadership ahead of Session

Senate President Joe Negron is shaking up budget-related and other panels, embarking on an aggressive round of leadership changes in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Negron appointed new heads of five budget subcommittees, while changing the leaders of committees that oversee policy areas involving the environment, agriculture, utilities and elections. Also, Negron added members to numerous committees.

“In the era of term limits, I believe it is important for each Senator to be considered for the opportunity to participate in the committee process based on demonstrated competence, expertise, and interest,” Negron, a Stuart Republican, wrote in a Tuesday memo to senators.

Perhaps the biggest changes announced Tuesday will affect appropriations subcommittees, which play an important role in drawing up the state budget.

Negron appointed Sen. Kathleen Passidomo to replace Sen. David Simmons as chair of the Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees public-school funding. Simmons will shift to the chairmanship of the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, replacing Sen. Denise Grimsley.

Similarly, Sen. Rob Bradley will leave the chairmanship of the Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and become chairman of the Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Sen. Lauren Book will replace Bradley as leader of the Environment and Natural Resources budget panel.

Sen. Jeff Brandes is shifting from the leadership of the Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee to replace Sen. Aaron Bean as chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

While Grimsley and Bean will stop chairing the budget subcommittees, Negron appointed both to lead policy committees.

Grimsley, who is running for state agriculture commissioner next year, was appointed to chair the Agriculture Committee. In that role, she replaces Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican who was named by Negron to replace Passidomo as head of the Ethics and Elections Committee.

Bean, meanwhile, was appointed chairman of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee. That position was held for much of the 2017 session by former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned from the Legislature in April amid a controversy about vulgar and racially charged remarks he made at a private club. Sen. Kelli Stargel finished the 2017 session as chair of the committee after Artiles’ resignation.

Negron also named Bradley, who played a key role on Everglades-related issues during the 2017 session, to serve as chairman of the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Bradley will replace Book in that role.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

WUSF’s Carol Gentry retiring from Health News Florida

Culminating a multi-decade career covering the complex topic of health care, Carol Gentry is retiring from WUSF Public Media’s Health News Florida.

Gentry single-handedly created Health News Florida in 2006 as an independent nonprofit health journalism publication, and in 2012, Gentry joined the WUSF family when she brought Health News Florida into the fold of WUSF Public Media.

Since the publication’s beginning, Gentry has asked the tough questions and informed consumers about the health care systems that impact people’s lives.

Her most recent story was an analysis of Florida doctors whose insurance companies have paid out multiple times on malpractice claims and exemplifies the kind of watchdog journalism she has conducted her entire career.

“It’s been a privilege to have Carol as part of the WUSF family,” said WUSF General Manager JoAnn Urofsky. “For years, she has been a trailblazer in the realm of non-profit health journalism. She not only helped shed light on the exceptionally complex topic of health care, she was able to untangle and explain how this important subject affected the lives of our audience. We will miss her wealth of knowledge and passion for investigative reporting, and we wish Carol only the best in her next chapter. Congratulations on a truly wonderful career.”

Gentry has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy. She has worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel.

Tear down AHCA’s roadblocks to health centers’ delivery of quality care

Last week, the Trump administration approved Florida’s request for the long-anticipated Medicaid 1115 waiver. The waiver increases funding in the Low Income Pool to $1.5 billion, which will help cover the costs of uncompensated care in our state.

Tucked into that significant budget is a comparatively small – but incredibly important – budget crumb of $50 million per year for the next five years. This budget item goes to help provide funds for the state’s 40-plus federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), which provide health care to the poorest of the poor in Florida, with a requirement to take all comers.

The Legislature has identified community health centers as a key part of the health care safety net, and they operate on razor-thin margins. For many health centers, accessing these additional dollars is crucial to being able to provide quality care and a reliable medical home to more patients – for some, it could tip the scales on whether they are able to continue serving communities at all.

But the state Agency for Health Care Administration has erected an impossible obstacle in the FQHCs’ ability to access this money by injecting managed care organizations as a funding hurdle.

Managed care organizations have no incentive to make the payment process easy. If FQHCs don’t successfully clear all compliance hoops, the managed care organizations can keep the funds for themselves, padding their own bottom lines.  And there is no single standard applied uniformly by all managed care organizations, and it’s apparently difficult for AHCA to police or enforce the payment process.

Some centers are currently owed more than $1 million for care they previously provided to patients, and that’s a big deal for small centers. It’s definitely appropriate for AHCA to be a demanding authority that insists on accountability for every dollar these health centers spend. But it doesn’t make sense for AHCA to allow managed care organizations to hold this $50 million hostage.

The bottom line is that these health centers are required to treat just about every patient who walks in the door – that’s the law. Whether they get this $50 million or not, they will still continue to treat patients every day.

What is at stake, and is something the folks at AHCA need to look at carefully, is the viability of these health centers if they don’t get this money. These health centers already operate on slim margins of just a few percent – if they don’t receive this money they’ve already been promised, people in communities across the state who look to these centers for quality care will feel the consequences.

This fact should get the attention of state lawmakers: Health centers save the state more than $650 million each year by giving patients some option other than expensive emergency room visits. If just a handful of these centers experience tighter budgets and have to lay off physicians and staff or close down, it could cost the state millions.

There’s only one solution: These two things must be separate. The $50 million in LIP funding must be provided to the health centers, and then everyone must be brought back at the table to work out a streamlined payment process that works for everyone – especially the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on this care.

This issue represents an opportunity for AHCA Secretary Justin Senior to implement the Legislature’s vision and make the right choice.

AHCA is hosting a meeting on LIP funding later this week, so it will be interesting to see if the sides can come together to find a solution that works for everyone.

Meenan PA could earn as much as $328K in Q2 lobbying compensation

With more than two dozen legislative and executive branch clients, the government affairs team at Meenan PA could bring in at least a quarter of a million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

The four-person lobby team earned the firm at least $229,000 — an average of $194,000 for legislative work and $35,000 for executive branch work — during the second quarter of the year, which included the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a brief special session.

The firm could earn a maximum of $328,980 — a maximum of $258,987 for legislative work and $69,993 for executive branch work — during the second quarter of the year, according to an analysis of compensation reports conducted by FloridaPolitics.com

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

Led by Timothy Meenan, the team of Stephen McDaniel, Sarah Niewold and Joy Ryan juggled 27 legislative clients and 26 executive branch clients during the second quarter.

Ethos Group clocked in as the top paying client during the second quarter, paying the team $59,000 for legislative work. Three clients — Brookdale Senior Living, Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, and SilverRock Group — paid the firm an average of $25,000 for legislative work; while Tower Hill Insurance Group paid an average of $15,000 for legislative work. Nine more clients reported paying an average of $5,000 for legislative work during the second quarter.

When it comes to executive branch clients, seven clients — AHIP-American’s Health Insurance Plans, Asurion Corporation, Brookdale Senior Living, Inc., Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, Metlife, Prime Therapeutics LLC., and SilverRock Group — paid an average of $5,000 for the team’s services during the second quarter.

Mike Haridopolos could earn nearly $500K for Q2 lobbying fees

Mike Haridopolos is going strong, preparing to report strong second quarter earnings when it comes to his work in both the state’s legislative and executive branches.

Haridolopos earned at least $300,000 — approximately $155,000 for legislative work and $145,000 for executive branch work — during the second quarter of the year, which included the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a brief special session. He could earn a maximum of $429,974 — approximately $219,987 for legislative work and $209,987 for executive branch work — during the second quarter of the year, according to an analysis of compensation reports conducted FloridaPolitics.com

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

The former Senate President might be a sole practitioner, but his plate is far from empty. Haridopolos had 20 legislative clients during the second quarter and 22 executive branch clients.

The Stronach Group clocked in as his highest paying client, paying approximately $35,000 for legislative branch work and $35,000 for executive branch work during the second quarter.

Two clients — Floridians for Access to Health Care and Trava — paid an average of $25,000 for legislative work; while two clients — Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and South Central Florida Express — paid an average of $15,000 for legislative work. Eight more clients paid an average of $5,000 for legislative work.

Five clients — CyberFuels Inc., Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Floridians for Access to Health Care Inc., Rivada Networks, and South Central Florida Express Inc. — paid $15,000 for executive branch work during the second quarter; while seven clients paid an average for $5,000 for executive branch work.

Capitol Alliance Group’s Q2 earnings could reach $719K

With a client roster that includes everything from local governments to energy organizations, Capitol Alliance Group posted strong quarterly earnings during the second quarter.

The boutique firm of Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl reported earning at least $460,000 — $230,000 for their legislative work and $230,000 for their executive branch work — during the second quarter of 2017, which included the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a brief special session.

Capitol Alliance Group’s maximum earnings could reach $719,588 — a maximum of $359,974 for legislative work and $359,974 for executive branch work — during the three-month period, according to an analysis of compensation reports conducted by FloridaPolitics.com.

Lobbyists who are registered to represent clients before Florida’s legislative or executive branches are required to submit reports detailing their client roster and compensation each quarter. Reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

Sharkey and Biehl had 41 legislative clients and 40 executive branch clients during the second quarter. The Energy Freedom Coalition of America clocked in as the top paying legislative client during the second quarter, paying the firm at least $25,000 for its services. The organization was also its top paying executive branch client, also paying an average of $25,000 during the second quarter for Capitol Alliance Group’s services.

Other top legislative and executive branch clients included the City of St. Petersburg, Codio Ltd., First Green Bank, the Leon County Board of Commissioners, Medishine Resources, Space Exploration Technologies, and Tesla Motors. The companies paid the firm an average of $15,000 for both their legislative and executive branch work.

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