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Ron DeSantis, Ted Yoho among targets for pro-AHCA ad buy

The American Action Network is putting the pressure on three Florida lawmakers to vote in favor of the American Health Care Act.

The AHCA — a proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act — is facing questions from the left and the right both, related to issues ranging from cost-effectiveness to coverage levels for indigent populations.

Florida Reps. Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis, whose districts are on the fringes of the Jacksonville media market, are two of the three targets.

The third target: Rep. Bill Posey of Melbourne.

The common thread seems to be conservative legislators in smaller, less expensive media markets.

POLITICO notes that the Florida spots are part of a $500,000 ad buy targeting thirty districts nationwide.

The ad contrasts the “job-destroying mandates,” “soaring premiums” and bureaucratic “control” of Obamacare with the AHCA, which “puts patients and doctors in charge” and offers “more choices and lower costs.”

The spot brands heavily around Donald Trump, who was wildly popular in rural areas of the state last November; it urges representatives to “vote with” him on this bill.

See the DeSantis version below:

Report: Ron DeSantis tours Jerusalem embassy sites

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis was far away from his Northeast Florida district this weekend; the Jerusalem Post reports that the Republican Congressman was in town, confidently scouting potential sites for a United States embassy.

DeSantis, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, told Israeli media that he wanted to “come out and get some knowledge about where this thing will actually be.”

DeSantis also predicted that President Donald Trump “will announce that the embassy will be moving,” a move he said would project strength, and one that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu backed, even as King Abdullah II of Jordan and a Fatah leader predicted negative consequences.

The congressman scouted four sites, and the Post asserts that one site, which currently houses the American Citizens Service Union, would be the most ideal of the options.

Hospitals hopeful on Medicaid following meeting with D.C. delegation

Florida’s congressional delegation is onboard with efforts by hospitals that provide charity care to persuade the Trump administration to treat the state more fairly under the Medicaid program, representatives said following meetings in Washington.

Members of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida met this week with senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and with House members Carlos Curbelo, Stephanie Murphy, and Ted Yoho, and with aides to other members of the delegation.

“We had a very warm reception at Sen. Rubio’s office. He was very well aware that Florida gets short-changed in our funding for the uninsured, and was energized,” Lindy Kennedy, executive vice president of the alliance, said during a conference call Thursday.

Rubio warned that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was still organizing his management team, but promised the delegation “would do everything in their power” to press the hospitals’ case.

“Sen. Nelson was very gracious, spent a lot of time with us,” Kennedy said.

“He acknowledged the challenging, rock-and-a-hard place position that Florida’s hospitals now find themselves in, having aggressively worked with the federal government as well as our state Legislature to request passage of Medicaid expansion,” she said.

“He seemed to understand that we need to move forward with sort of the hand we’ve been dealt, was the way that he put it.”

Curbelo wants to write a letter from the delegation to Price. That’s not a sure thing, but “there is some interest in trying to pull that together,” Kennedy said.

But the state’s elected representatives understand the problem and want to help.

“That was a consistent theme with Congressman Yoho and Stephanie Murphy,” she said.

The representatives met with staff for Ron DeSantis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Daniel Webster. Individual hospital representatives may have met with additional members of Congress.

“I understand they were very well received,” Kennedy said.

“We are working to follow up with Secretary Price’s new administration, and spending time with them, hopefully educating them about the disparity between Florida and some of the other nonexpansion states,” Kennedy said.

“We feel we’re uniquely positioned to maybe even lead the nation in setting policy” on supplemental funding for the uninsured, she said.

The alliance has complained that the Obama administration trimmed Florida’s reimbursement levels under the Low Income Pool program for uninsured patients from $2.2 billion to $608 million during the past three years.

It wants at least $1.6 billion during the new budget year, and more freedom in how they spend the money.

“I think that the unfairness shown to Florida in the past presents the Trump administration with an opportune platform to quickly demonstrate its new commitment to state flexibility in deployment of funding for health care to the uninsured and Medicaid patients,” Jonathan Ellen, CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and chairman of the alliance board, said in a written statement.

The LIP program was launched 11 years ago under a waiver from the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, allowing Florida to put Medicaid recipients into managed care. Following two extensions, the state’s authority for that program ends on June 30.

The feds have been shortchanging Florida on the program for years, alliance president Tony Carvalho said — the state gets $401 per uninsured patient, compared to $1,612 for California, $1,934 for Texas, and $4,007 for New York.

“The federal government has treated Florida very unfairly,” Carvalho said.

“Florida’s Low Income Pool was reduced over the last several years as a strategy to pressure Florida to expand Medicaid coverage under ACA,” he said.

“We certainly support ACA expansion. But we believe the strategy really hurt the safety net hospitals and hurt the safety net in general — the people who are uninsured in this state.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s health aides are negotiating with the Trump administration but, with the Legislature settling into its session next week, and the state budget deadline looming, “time is running short,” Carvalho said.

“Whatever they do settle on, the Legislature would have to appropriate the money,” he said.

With the state House, particularly, looking for budget cuts this year, “we are concerned that the Legislature may be looking at rate cuts in the Medicaid program,” he said.

“Every dollar that they cut in hospital rates, if that should happen, the state saves 38 cents and we give back to the federal government 62 cents. If we’re starting from a basis in which we believe Florida is already in a very inequitable position in terms of its share of federal dollars, those types of cuts just are penny wise and pound foolish.”

Particularly if Washington Republicans enact major reforms, such as turning Medicaid into a block grant program, he said.

“The clock is ticking,” Kennedy said.

“We do need the Legislature and our federal delegation to work together with CMS to address this issue before sine die of our regular session, so the waiver can be renewed June 30 with increased flexibility and an increased amount,” she said.

“Everyone we met with (in Washington) and explained the different time-table, they acknowledged their understanding. They were very receptive, and I’m optimistic we will be able to move quickly with their help.”

Ron DeSantis sees political risk unless Republicans repeal and replace ACA

Congressman Ron DeSantis warned Wednesday that his fellow Republicans would take a political risk in failing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and settle for tweaks to the health insurance expansion.

“The system’s architecture is flawed,” the Republican from Marineland, in Northeast Florida, said during an interview on MSNBC.

“It will not lead to lowering costs. Remember, that was the key promise that was made — that you’d see a $2,500 reduction in premiums for the average family. If you’re just nibbling around the edges — my concern is, I don’t agree with Obamacare, but I just don’t think that’s going to lead to putting a downward pressure on costs,” DeSantis said.

“It’s also the case that Republicans for six years have said, first the law wasn’t going to work, and then the law’s not working, and then that we were going to repeal it and replace it with our own patient-centered reform.

“To the extent you’re doing something that’s not really living up to what you promised, I think that runs into problems with the voters. Because Republicans would not have taken the House in 2010 and they would not have taken the U.S. Senate in 2014 if they had just run on minor tweaks to Obamacare.”

DeSantis praised President Donald Trump’s approach during his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening.

“I actually thought the president hit it exactly right. He was specific enough to offer guiding principles and contours to what a replacement would look like, but he didn’t get lost in the minutia, which I think would have put people to sleep,” he said.

“Particularly on the health care angle, I think what he did was thread the needle, where Republicans are probably going to be able to unify around those principles,” DeSantis continued.

“Particularly the fact that he linked the tax credits to health savings accounts. A lot of conservatives believe that the monies going to a health savings account, the individual can then play their premiums tax-free, and then, obviously, use the health savings account for other medical needs. That is one of the ways you put downward pressure on the cost of both insurance and medical care.”

DeSantis endorsed a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients.

“If you’re an able-bodied, childless adult, there at minimum has to be a work requirement in order to receive that benefit,” he said.

“I think Medicaid should be used to do its intended purpose, which is people who are disabled, who are poor. With the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, you are putting childless, able-bodies adults on Medicaid,” he said.

“The problem with that is, fewer and fewer physicians are willing to accept Medicaid now. So you’re expanding the number of people who are trying to access care on this program. I think that ends up undermining the ability of the truly poor and indigent who we need to be helping, for them to access care. I think giving governor’s the flexibility to do this makes a lot of sense.”

He liked Trump’s suggestion that an infrastructure program contain private investment.

“If it’s an Obama-style trillion-dollar bill, I think, obviously, Republicans are going to have a lot of problems with that,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of details that are obviously going to be important, but I’m one that definitely would like to incentivize private infrastructure development. And that’s not just roads and bridges. That’s dealing with our electric grid, that’s dealing with pipelines and things like that.

“The details are obviously going to be important. The higher the price tag is, the more difficult it will be to get it through the Congress.

With its Lego project, the Tampa Bay Times crushes my hopes and dreams

Last week, the digital geniuses at the Tampa Bay Times debuted a multimedia presentation that used animated Lego figures and constructions to tell a complicated story about a planned toll road on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

“How the plan to fix Tampa Bay’s most important bridge fell apart, told in Legos” from Eli Zhang, Caitlin Johnston, Anthony Cormier, and Martin Frobisher is an absolute must-click for its combination of shoe-leather reporting and “Everything Is Awesome” visualization.

It’s a great read.

It’s visually stunning.

It’s also — to me and only me — heartbreaking.

Please allow me to explain, without taking anything away from the great work of the Times reporters, while also knowing that many in the Times newsroom will take some pleasure in my agony.

Back in May, I wrote in a Facebook post: “it hit me what my next project will be. The next enterprise of Extensive Enterprises, so to speak. People won’t get it at first. They’ll think it’s silly. Then it will get the right people’s attention. And then everyone will say, ‘How much does it cost to do that for us?'”

My excitement originated from a video from Bloomberg: “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Legos.

The introduction was — “Curious how the White House Correspondents’ Dinner works? We explain … with Legos.”

It’s that simple.

As soon as I finished, I had a Eureka moment. Why not bring the Lego video concept to Florida politics? Isn’t that what I’ve done before — take a national idea and make it Sunshine State-sized?

My plan was straightforward. I would first produce a video about some storyline involving Florida politics. From there, I would partner with public relations firms who needed a new way to tell their side of a food fight happening in the Florida Legislature.

“Marion Hammer wants 18 year-olds to bring guns to college campuses … told in Legos.”

“The Workers Comp food fight … told in Legos.”

“Why you can’t get Uber in Miami … told in Legos.”

Whatever. You get the point.

A team of folks (much funnier than I) would help write the scripts. I’d build the Lego sets. Kevin Cate would shoot the videos.

It’s ratings gold, Jerry.

Except for one thing — Lego sets are not very easy to build. At least not the interesting ones.

And, like the Times, finding the right Lego Minifigures is next to impossible.

Kristen Hare of The Poynter Institute details the roadblock the Times team faced.

“We’ve found many Lego-people-packs online,” said (Adam) Playford, director of data and digital enterprise at the Times. “But they all have too many weirdos, like Lego Bananaman and Lego Grim Reaper. Regular Lego people are apparently no longer in vogue.”

Playford and Co. solved their Lego-people-problem by putting out an all-hands-on-deck request to the staff at the Times. I, of course, do not have that luxury.

So … and here’s where some of the agony begins to set in … I worked with a firm in London to create custom Lego Minifigures.

For the script of the first video, I would tell the story of Marco Rubio and the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

I ordered Minifigures resembling Rubio, Donald Trump, Patrick Murphy, Alan Grayson, Carlos Beruff (in a trademark black shirt), Ron DeSantis (pictured here in a Navy outfit, of course), and David Jolly.

As for the sets; well, let’s just say what the Times built for its very nice story about a bridge is, um, child’s play.

I started by building the small city building sets:

Soon, I became more ambitious, building bigger sets:

I assembled cars, planes, and trucks (including a replica of one the U.S. Senator drives) so we could shoot the pivotal scene from outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando where Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera tells Rubio he should re-enter the race.

I even built The White House (which was very difficult because it’s from the “Architect” class of Lego sets, which is basically Lego’s way of saying “A lot of f*cking pieces are in this box.”

I’ve been building and collecting Lego sets for nearly seven months, thinking the entire time that no one else would bring an idea I first saw on Bloomberg to Florida politics.

And then my bitter rival, the Tampa Bay Times, unveils its pretty little story about a bridge.

When I read the first tweet about the story, I knew what it was about without clicking on the link. My heart sank to a depth deeper than those caissons that hold up the Howard Frankland.

Sure, as my wife and other friends have said, I could continue my Lego project — and I still might.

But that’s like making “Deep Impact” after you learn that “Armageddon” is in production.

“Deep Impact” is probably the better film, but everyone remembers “Armageddon.”

If I do a ” … as told by Legos” video now, critics will say, “but didn’t the Times do that first?”

And screaming “but Bloomberg did it before either of us” does nothing to solve the problem.

Now I am stuck with a whole lot of Legos — which is OK, since my daughter, Ella Joyce, loves building with them.

In fact, Legos are one of the things we’ve been able to do together.

Just yesterday, Ella became sick on our way to a Christmas event replicating a train ride to the North Pole (it’s awesome, and I recommend it to every parent.) We were forced to turn around, missing one of our favorite holiday traditions.

To make up for it, I finished building this — bringing the North Pole to Ella:

If this episode has taught me anything, it’s that, as an entrepreneur, when a light bulb goes off, move quickly. That’s what worked for Sunburn, Florida Politics, INFLUENCE Magazine and everything else I’ve done.

I moved too slowly on this project and, subsequently, I lost out.

That won’t happen again.

Speaking of which, I have an idea for a …

 

Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz to introduce Congressional term limits amendment

U.S. Rep, Ron DeSantis and Sen. Ted Cruz collaborated on a Washington Post op-ed Friday with a simple message regarding “draining the swamp.”

The secret: a Constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

“As soon as the 115th Congress convenes,” the legislators write, “both of us will move to restore accountability among the entrenched Washington establishment by introducing a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that a member of Congress can serve to three in the House and two in the Senate.”

“We believe that the rise of political careerism in modern Washington is a drastic departure from what the founders intended of our federal governing bodies. To effectively ‘drain the swamp,’ we believe it is past time to enact term limits for Congress,” Cruz and DeSantis add.

The chase for seniority, a consequence of a lack of term limits, nettles Cruz and DeSantis both.

“With term limits,” the legislators write, “we will have more frequent changes in leadership and within congressional committees, giving reformers a better chance at overcoming the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.”

The time is now to push this through, Cruz and DeSantis opine.

“With control of a decisive majority of the states, the executive branch, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Republican Party has the responsibility to respond to the voters’ call to action.”

Blaise Ingoglia rolls out more endorsements in Florida GOP Chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia has received the backing of nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress in his re-election campaign for GOP chairman.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday that 11 Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation have endorsed his re-election bid.

“The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect (Donald) Trump and Senator (Marco) Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the State Senate and State House,” said Rep. Ted Yoho in a statement. “I am proud to support his bid for re-election and with his continued leadership our party will be more than prepared for the 2018 cycle”

The announcement comes just days after Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, formally launched his re-election campaign. On Monday, he also rolled out a list of more than 100 grassroots leaders backing his re-election.

In addition to Yoho, Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Dan Webster endorsed Ingoglia. He also received the backing of incoming Reps. Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford.

“The operation that was built in Northwest Florida, under Chairman Blaise Ingoglia’s leadership, was crucial in helping my team as well as delivering the State of Florida for President-Elect Trump,” said Gaetz, who was elected in November in Florida’s 1st Congressional District and a former state representative. “We are grateful for his leadership and I am proud to support him for re-election as RPOF Chairman.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy earlier this month.

 

Republicans steamroll to win U.S. House races

Republican incumbents strolled to victory Tuesday over their Democratic opponents in three U.S. House races.

District 6

Republican Ron DeSantis, a two-term Republican incumbent who ran for the U.S. Senate this year before dropping out this summer, won Florida’s 6th Congressional District race to defend his seat. DeSantis, of Palm Coast, beat Democrat Bill McCullough, a political newcomer from DeLeon Springs.

DeSantis won with 59 percent of the vote or 212,923 votes to McCullough’s 41 percent or 150,447 votes.

CD 6 runs heavily Republican and stretches from Jacksonville’s southern suburbs south to New Smyrna Beach.

District 8

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, who is completing his fourth two-year term in Congress, held on to his seat. He defeated Democrat Corry Westbrook, lead specialist for oceans policy at the World Wildlife Fund, by a wide margin in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.

Posey won 244,097 votes, or 63 percent, while Westbrook took 125,698, or 33 percent of the votes.

CD 8 includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties along with a section of east Orange County including parts of Avalon Park, Bithlo, Christmas, and Wedgefield.

District 11

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster will continue his long career as a lawmaker, but in a new district.

Webster, a three-term Republican incumbent in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, beat political newcomer Dave Koller for Florida’s 11th Congressional District.

Webster won 256,541 or 65 percent of the vote, while Koller had 123,649, or 32 percent.

Webster switched to CD 11 after redistricting last year. His Orlando-area district was redrawn to favor Democrats so he decided to run in the heavily Republican 11th District.

Webster’s experience in the state Legislature and his six years in Congress gave him strong name recognition over Koller.

CD 11 encompasses parts of Lake, Sumter, Marion, Hernando, and Citrus counties.

National Taxpayers Union gives Marco Rubio an A, Patrick Murphy an F

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, is out with its new grades of federal lawmakers, drawing a clear distinction in assessments of candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got an A, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy an F.

“Patrick Murphy’s F-rating from the National Taxpayers Union should come as no surprise after his years of casting liberal votes in Congress. Murphy supports higher taxes, a carbon tax, and wants to make it easier for the federal government to create new regulations. With a record like that, no wonder Murphy never actually worked as a CPA. Murphy’s liberal policies don’t work, and Florida families can’t afford them” Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens stated in a news release issued by Rubio’s campaign.

Both candidates are in good company within their parties. The taxpayers union’s annual Taxpayer Score also gave Fs to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and every other Democratic member of Congress from Florida except U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who got a D. Among Florida Republicans, U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, and Ted Yoho also got As. The worst grades among Florida Republicans were the Cs that went to U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Letinen.

Murphy’s 25 percent score from the taxpayers union was in fact the second-highest among Florida Democrats, after Graham’s 33 percent. Nelson got a 17 percent score. Rubio got an 87 percent score, tied for best among Florida’s congressional delegation.

The National Taxpayers Union was founded in 1969 and calls itself the”The voice of America’s taxpayers.”

“The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers,” according to the organization.

CD 6 longshot candidate will stump at Jacksonville’s Tiger Bay Friday

The resource gap in the Congressional District 6 race between incumbent Republican powerhouse Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger William McCullough defies belief.

DeSantis, who was an energetic fundraiser during his discontinued campaign for the United States Senate, had $2,604,630 on hand as of his October quarterly filing.

McCullough? He’s $1,269 in the red.

In what seems like a curious decision given that it’s outside of CD 6, McCullough will be in Jacksonville Friday stumping at the First Coast Tiger Bay meeting at the University Club.

DeSantis had another engagement, claimed the local political discussion group in its newsletter.

McCullough’s remarks are one part of the program.

The part with more local relevance: a debate between the two general election candidates in the red-hot House District 13 race between Republican Mark Griffin and Democrat Tracie Davis.

FloridaPolitics.com posted an extended interview with Davis on Friday morning, in which she discusses the unprecedented nature of her campaign, re-launched earlier in October after Rep. Reggie Fullwood resigned from the state House and abandoned his re-election bid.

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