The day that was in Florida politics — March 17

day in review

There’s a development in the Gerald Bailey affair I want to tell you about, but first its FSU Day. Not that I attended the school or anything, but if I’m put on a beat it’s what’s in the front of my mind, you know? Like, I’m all FSU, fascinated by Charlotte’s Web rule-making, intrigued by the personalities on the Regulated Industries Committee, and very grateful that I’m nowhere near Frank Artiles and his bathroom bill.

Tuesday morning Seminoles descended on the state Capitol for FSU Day. At a noon ceremony in the courtyard, FSU staff, alumni, and lawmakers mingled over a lunch of hot dogs, fresh-baked cookies, and soda.

Former House Speaker Allan Bense, chair of the FSU Board of Trustees, and FSU President John Thrasher sang the praises of the school. Ronny Ahmed, the student paralyzed in the November shooting at the school library, spoke to the crowd. He thanked Tallahassee (meaning the FSU community) for its support, said he was “getting stronger every day,” and the plan remains for him to get a bio-medical engineering degree from FSU.

“I am so proud of your resolve,” Seminole women basketball coach Sue Semarau told Ahmed.

Then in the afternoon a handful of senators and other politicos traveled down College Avenue to the campus for the inauguration of Thrasher as Florida State’s 15th president.

Thrasher’s colleagues from the Senate in attendance included former Senate President Don Gaetz, Tallahassee Sen. Bill Montford, and Sens. David Simmons and Garrett Richter.

Thrasher’s nomination drew fire for his lack of a terminal degree: He has a bachelor’s and a law degree from FSU but no doctorate. Although there were objections about his academic credentials, no one doubts Thrasher’s political skill. A medical school building is named after him in recognition of the funding he secured for the project.

Bense, speaking at the ceremony, said the BOT went looking for the skills Thrasher’s possessed. He said Thrasher’s judgment, and ability to listen and to make friends will validate the BOT’s decision.

One of those friends Thrasher apparently has made is Faculty Senate President Gary Tyson. He told of watching Thrasher participate in a student fundraiser and although he graded the 70-year old Thrasher dancing as average, Tyson walked away impressed by Thrasher’s interaction with the students.

”He was showing leadership,” Tyson said. “John is going to lead us there (to a top-25 academic ranking) and we’re going to make it there.”

Now on to Gerald Bailey. The Senate press room offers no privacy and Steve Bousquet is on to something. Eavesdropping on his phone conversations, it seems that former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Bailey has met with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Bailey’s ouster from the FDLE is the subject of a media lawsuit alleging a Sunshine Law violation. Apparently, though, Integrity Florida had approached the feds about the circumstances surrounding Bailey’s departure. There is more here.

Work continues on the state budget. A more accurate way of saying it is that bargaining positions for week 9 are being staked out. The Senate and House have different ideas for education, how to spend money in accordance with Amendment 1, and what to do about the federal government’s insistence on ending a hospital reimbursement program.

On the last issue, the Senate wants to expand Medicaid in a way that draws down Affordable Care Act money. House Republicans rejected that idea two years ago and show little interest in it now. The Senate is moving forward.

Tuesday the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously passed SB 7044 to create the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, and the Associated Industries of Florida applauded.

“We commend members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services for passing FHIX, a Florida-centric plan to expand health care coverage to nearly 1 million Floridians by drawing down our state’s share of federal dollars in a thoughtful and Florida-specific manner,” AIF general counsel Tamela Perdue said.

“Florida’s Health Insurance Affordability Exchange Program is a multiphased, consumer-driven approach to providing access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage to low-income, uninsured Floridians,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said.

It is an issue that will remain on the table most likely through the session’s final days. The senate is moving to replace funding that would be lost if the Low Income Pool program ends. The state is negotiating with the feds to keep the program intact. AHCA hopes to have an agreement by April 12: week 7 of the 60-day session.

More on the LIP story is here.

Monday, citizen lobbyist Amy Datz passed out committee meeting comment sheets to about 50 people at a meeting of Tallahassee Democrats. Tuesday she delivered the comments opposing fracking legislation to a House committee meeting. Then Datz watched the committee approve HB 1205, permitting hydraulic fracturing and acid fracturing.

Bruce Ritchie has more here.


James Call


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