Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

CNN reports political favors led to 13K kids losing coverage; Chris King calls for probe

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is calling for an independent investigation after CNN report Friday alleging the Florida Department of Health used faulty processes and political motives to kick 13,000 chronically sick children out of the state’s Children’s Medical Services program.

“I’m calling for an independent investigation into the Florida Department of Health and the administrative actions that led to this systematic decision to rip CMS health coverage away from more than 13,000 sick children and what influenced this decision,” King said in a news release issued by his campaign.

The Florida Department of Health responded Friday by contending the cable news network used misunderstanding and outdated information to inaccurately characterize the program, and that the claims that politics  played any role “is 100 percent false.”

“CNN’s reporting demonstrates a misunderstanding of Florida’s Medicaid system, the health insurance industry and the ethical standards of the State of Florida,” the DoH statement said.

Yet the department’s response largely defends what has happened since 2015, not responding much to what happened in 2015. What appears to not be at issue is that in 2015 Florida removed more than 13,000 children from the Children’s Medical Services program, a state-run Medicaid program set up for chronically-sick children, and referred them to other, private, Medicaid insurers.

The CNN report contends that the CMS program was nationally respected and designed to handle the sickest of kids, but claims those transferred off included many children with serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness. It network reports that many of them were unable to find services under the new insurance plans which did not specialize in severe and chronically-sick children, which and which were not accepted by certain pediatric specialists.

CNN then cited experts and researchers in children’s health programs who said the data analysis, screening tools, and processes the Florida Department of Health used to decide which children would be dropped from CMS were deeply flawed, “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science,” in two comments.

The report then cites experts, including Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who allege the children were switched to the private Medicaid insurers to reward Republican contributors. CNN also breaks down campaign contributions from the private insurance carriers to the Republican Party of Florida and other Republican political committees.

“Local and national experts in the medical field have expressed concern that this may have been done for political reasons, which, if true, would be deeply troubling,” King stated, first on Facebook, and then in a news release from his campaign. “The bottom line is that these children went without critical and oftentimes life-saving medical treatments and services because the state of Florida dropped them from CMS.”

King, a Winter Park developer, faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahasse and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater are running for the Republicans.

The Department of Health addressed CNN’s allegations one-by-one, dismissing them all. Yet the DoH’s overriding concern is the argument that the processes and tools used in 2015 were discarded and in 2016 new and better tools were used. The department said all of the families of children removed from the program in 2015 were sent letters encouraging them to re-screen their kids for possible re-enrollment in CMS.

The department argued there would be no benefit to the private insurers to pick up the chronically sick children, so it clearly was no reward for anything.

“According to the state’s Medicaid agency [Agency for Health Care Administration,] it is not true that health insurers benefit from having higher risk patients on their plans,” the DoH statement said. “This is a claim CNN makes and then contradicts with the fact that sick children are costlier for insurance companies because of the care they need. There was no financial impact or plan profit from any change. Plans do not receive an individual rate for each enrollee, but rather one overall rate for the entire plan.”

At least since early 2016, the screening tools CNN reported on, which were used for about two years, were no longer in use, the department stated.

“Beginning on January 11, 2016, the department resumed clinical eligibility screening using the process defined by Rule 64C-2.002, Florida Administrative Code. The process includes a two-part approach to clinical eligibility screening – a physician-based, auto-eligibility process using diagnostic codes for chronic and serious conditions and a parent-based survey to ensure that all financially eligible children with special health care needs are given the option to enroll in the CMS Plan,” the DoH reported. “At any time, a parent or physician can request that a child be screened or rescreened for the CMS plan – a fact CNN omits from their story.”

And finally, the department contended, “Since the time CNN is speaking of, more than two years ago, there have been multiple changes in department and CMS Plan leadership.”

Rick Scott: Florida unemployment down to 4.1 percent

Gov. Rick Scott announced the creation of more than 26,000 private-sector jobs in July, with the unemployment rate remaining at “the lowest rate in a decade, 4.1 percent.”

“Over the past six and a half years, we have worked relentlessly to cut taxes, reduce burdensome regulations and completely turn around Florida’s economy,” Scott said in a statement. “Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years and while we were proud to reach that ambitious goal three years early, we did not slow down.

“I am proud to announce today that after cutting taxes more than 75 times, Florida businesses have created more than 1.4 million new jobs, officially doubling our promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.”

Scott, who released the latest jobs numbers at Morgan Auto Group’s Brandon Honda location, also plugged his latest priority: A constitutional amendment “to require a supermajority vote by future state legislatures to raise any taxes or fees.”

“Together, we can make sure future generations are not burdened with unfair taxes and that our state remains a national leader in job creation and opportunity,” Scott said.

 

Andrew Gillum: Get rid of Capitol’s Confederate memorial

Ed. Note — This story, originally published Wednesday, was updated Thursday night.


Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum has called for the removal of a Confederate monument in front of the Historic Capitol.

“In the wake of Charlottesville, people all around the country are grappling with how we deal with our nation’s history and its uglier elements, including slavery, racism and the Confederacy,” he said in a Wednesday statement.

“Floridians must be a part of this work because our own history is checkered, and today I am calling on Gov. Rick Scott to immediately remove the Confederate monument … It is long past time. If he refuses, and I sincerely hope that he does act, I will do so on my first day as Governor.”

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, which reports to Scott and acts as the state’s real estate manager, said it’s not the governor’s decision to make.

“This monument is listed as a permanent exhibit of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, which is managed by the Florida Legislature,” spokeswoman Maggie Mickler said late Thursday. “The Department of Management Services would not take any action regarding the Florida Historic Capitol Museum or any of its monuments or exhibits without Legislative approval.”

Records show the memorial was dedicated in 1882, and was moved to its current location near Monroe Street in 1923. It honors “the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War….”

“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to acknowledge that while we cannot change history, we do not have to glorify its ugliest moments with displays on public lands,” Gillum added. “And most certainly not in our state’s capital, and not in front of our historic statehouse. This weekend’s tragedy calls all decent people to act with courage, and I hope the Governor will do so.”

The Florida Senate has already removed a Confederate flag from its official seal and took down a mural outside the entrance to its public and press galleries that included a depiction of a Confederate general.

But with lawmakers taking no action last session, a bronze statue of a Confederate general representing Florida remains in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Two competing bills died in the 2017 Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place.

Art Graham, Ronald Brisé win nominations to be returned to PSC

Art Graham and Ronald Brisé on Thursday won nominations to be returned to their seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state.

If selected, both men would serve third terms; each was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council also decided on six people to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer. Patronis’ term is up at the end of 2018. Those candidates are:

— Bill Conrad, former mayor of Newberry in Alachua County.

— Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler. The Office of Public Counsel represents the interests of ratepayers before the commission.

— Ted Schrader, a former Pasco County commissioner and Tampa Bay Water board member.

Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who served in the House 2004-2012.

Gary Clark, the Department of Environmental Protection’s deputy secretary for land and recreation.

— Ritch Workman, a former state representative. The Melbourne Republican lost a bruising primary battle last year to fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.

The council also recommended another four for Graham’s and Brisé’s seats; their terms are up at year’s end. Those candidates include Conrad and:

— Former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Littlefield is a former PSC member himself, having been put on the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist replaced him the following year.

— Anibal Taboas, an Illinois-based consultant and former U.S. Department of Energy official.

— Jody Ann Newman, who chairs the Florida Board of Nursing.

Taboas and Newman won their nominations in a runoff vote, after initially not capturing the required seven votes.

Losing candidates include Greg Evers, a Baker Republican who left the Senate to run last year for northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, losing to Matt Gaetz; and current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican who chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights subcommittee and is term-limited next year.

Another noteworthy applicant, former state Comptroller and retired Marine general Bob Milligan, was shut out early in the process, receiving no votes to move forward when the council met in Tampa last week.

The council will forward its recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott, who will decide on the appointments, subject to final approval by the Florida Senate.

Rick Scott, Cabinet members OK Venezuela investment ban

With no discussion, Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet Wednesday approved a policy to forbid any investments benefiting the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Scott, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi sit as Trustees of the State Board of Administration, which oversees state investments.

The state currently has no investments that involve Venezuela, Ash Williams, the SBA’s executive director & chief investment officer, told reporters.

Scott, widely expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, has championed opposition to President Maduro, calling out the government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo López under house arrest after he was released from prison following a 3-year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said Tuesday. “Maduro needs to step down; he needs to release all political prisoners; we need democracy again.”

The policy bans any investments by the state’s $193 billion pension plan that would benefit the government of Venezuela, including “any securities issued by the government of Venezuela or any company that is majority-owned by the government of Venezuela.”

It will last “until such time as the SBA determines it is otherwise prudent to do so,” it says. Legislation (SB 70) also has been filed for the 2018 Session that would ban the state from doing business with the Maduro government or companies financially tied to it, including Goldman Sachs.

Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the Miami-Dade Democrat who filed the bill, released a statement later Wednesday that, as of June, “the SBA holds 687,581 shares of Goldman Sachs stock worth $147,135,458 and $171,071,885 in Goldman Sachs bonds/paper and the SBA has several agreements with Goldman Sachs to manage funds.”

“The people of Venezuela need us to side with them not just in word, but also in deed,” Rodríguez said in the statement. “I welcome the SBA’s initial step and look forward to continuing to work with them on taking concrete steps to support the Venezuelan people during a deepening political and economic crisis of Maduro’s making.”

Williams said the pension plan is roughly 85 percent funded; the “unfunded liability” is the difference between the money it has and the money it needs to cover current and expected future payouts.

But financial experts generally call pension plans healthy if they’re at least 80 percent funded. That’s because employees retire at different times, making a virtual ‘run on the bank’ unlikely.

The latest guidance will be incorporated into the state’s Investment Policy Statement, Williams added. “It doesn’t have to be there, but we think it’s better that it be there,” he said.

“I think what we have done today, based on an analysis of the facts, the law and our fiduciary obligations, is completely appropriate,” Williams told reporters.

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million

Protecting Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds cost the state nearly $3 million last fiscal year, up from $2.6 million the year before.

The annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services, issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, showed the cost to safeguard the governor alone rose roughly $218,000 from 2015-16, to almost $2.3 million in 2016-17.

Also last year, 75 “protective details were performed” at a cost of $304,000, the report says. All costs include agents’ and officers’ salary and any overtime, plus the cost of transportations and other expenses.

Those include “dignitary protection” details at the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit in Miami this May ($33,578), the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Orlando last November ($63,674) and a visit to Jacksonville that same month by former President Bill Clinton ($402).

Another $137,000 was spent to protect individual governors, their wives and other family members who attended the Orlando conference, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ($5,646, who came without wife Mary Pat).

Joe Henderson: We’re heading for a defining showdown in the battle against hatred

Sometimes you just have to get away, and for the last month or so I tried to do just that. I really did. I went to the U.S. Virgin Islands to watch my oldest son get married, and I highly recommend the island of St. John to anyone considering a Caribbean trip.

It’s the place to go if you want to unplug for a while.

To be honest, though, the events of last weekend prove that suspicion, hatred and mistrust doesn’t take a vacation.

Neither does racism, so here we are — still fighting the Civil War, with some Republicans still making excuses for Donald Trump, and with Democrats still unable to turn all of this into a coherent vision of how things would better if they were in charge.

This time it was Charlottesville’s turn to be in the bullseye of the insanity that seems to be boiling toward an eruption that can only deepen the divide that exists in this country. The same level of hatred and violence that was on display there could easily have happened in any major Florida city though.

For instance, the debate is still raging in Tampa over what to do about the Confederate war statue that is being moved from its current location in front of the county courthouse. As Mitch Perry reported for SaintPetersBlog, a new survey by St. Pete Polls showed a majority of Hillsborough County residents support the county commissioners who voted to keep the monument on public property.

Yes, that will be an issue when Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Sandra Murman run for new commission seats in 2018.

There’s a guy out by the junction of Interstates 4 and 75 in Tampa who for years has flown a humongous Confederate flag, visible to thousands of motorists driving past it every day. I wonder how many people quietly give that display a thumbs-up when while motoring down the road. I’m thinking that number would be a lot higher than many of us want to believe.

It has been encouraging to see many prominent members of President Trump’s party condemn is tepid response to the hate on national display in Charlottesville. On Twitter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said it was important for the president to describe the events there for what they are — a terror attack by white supremacists.

Gov. Rick Scott noted, “We must be very clear — FL stands against all forms of racism & bigotry. The hatred displayed in VA is despicable & has no place in America.” And House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote, “We must fight against evil whatever form it takes….”

Good words, all.

It’s going to take more than a few well-expressed tweets to really change attitudes though. Bigotry is a learned behavior, reinforced by decades of ignorance and suspicion, and now it has a toehold with a president who seems oblivious to the damage he is causing. Alt-right supporters have already vowed that Charlottesville was just the first act in the chaos they have planned.

This is heading for a showdown, folks, in the streets and at the ballot box. The outcome will define who we are as a people.

Richard Corcoran, Paul Renner support tax amendment

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he supports Gov. Rick Scott‘s call for a “constitutional amendment requiring super majorities to pass any future tax increases.”

“For almost seven years we’ve worked alongside our Governor to bring common sense back to governing. We cut taxes. We cut regulations. We cut fees. Now we need to make sure the taxpayers’ pocketbooks are protected,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a Monday statement.

“Requiring in the Constitution a super majority to raise any tax or fee will do this,” he added. “It’s pro-family, pro-future, pro-worker, and pro-taxpayer. It’s anti-government waste, anti-politician, and anti-pork barrel spending. I’m proud to offer my support to Gov. Scott on this bold initiative and will do all I can to see that it is successful.”

Scott, a Naples Republican considered to be planning a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has not yet exactly outlined what would be covered by the proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed. He wants the measure to go before voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

If the amendment is passed by 60 percent, state legislators could not pass any future taxes or fees without a supermajority legislative vote. Several other states, including California, have similar restrictions.

Scott wants the Florida Legislature to place the amendment on the ballot. But the governor said he may also ask the Constitution Revision Commission to consider the proposal.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican slated to take over the Speakership in 2022-24, also supports the plan.

“I look forward to working with the Speaker and my colleagues to provide Floridians the opportunity to vote on this much-needed amendment,” he said. “Florida is a place of prosperity and opportunity because we have put our trust in free people and free markets … This amendment, along with our requirement to balance the budget, will help protect Florida’s long-term economic future.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

Greg Evers, Ritch Workman, others move ahead for PSC opening

Former lawmakers Greg Evers, Rich Glorioso, and Ritch Workman and current Rep. Tom Goodson have been selected to be interviewed to replace Jimmy Patronis on the Florida Public Service Commission.

Another noteworthy applicant, former state Comptroller and retired Marine general Bob Milligan, was shut out of the process, receiving no votes from the Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which met Wednesday in Tampa.

The 84-year-old had said he was only interested in serving out Patronis’ current term, which is up at the end of 2018. Patronis stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as Florida’s chief financial officer. Atwater left for a similar job at Florida Atlantic University.

Other applicants picked to be interviewed for the seat on the panel, which regulates investor-owned utilities, include:

— Former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Littlefield is a former PSC member, having been put on the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist replaced him the following year.

— Bill Conrad, former mayor of Newberry in Alachua County.

— Clay Lindstrom, who until recently was director of the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority. Lindstrom was fired recently after a controversy over businesses not paying utility deposits.

Anibal Taboas, an Illinois-based consultant and former U.S. Department of Energy official.

— Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler. The Office of Public Counsel represents the interests of ratepayers before the commission.

Jody Ann Newman, who currently chairs the Florida Board of Nursing.

Ted Schrader, a former Pasco County commissioner and Tampa Bay Water board member.

Evers, a Baker Republican, left the Senate to run last year for northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, losing to Matt Gaetz.

Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served in the House 2004-2012.

Workman, a Melbourne Republican, lost a bruising primary battle last year to fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.

Goodson, a Brevard County Republican, chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights subcommittee and is term-limited next year. He’s a “road contractor” by trade, according to his House member page

Also Wednesday, the council decided to interview Commissioners Ronald Brisé and Art Graham, who have re-applied for their seats; their terms are up at year’s end.

Also selected to be considered for those seats were Conrad, Lindstrom, Littlefield, Newman and Taboas, who cross-applied.

The council ultimately will make its recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott, who will decide on the appointments. Interviews and a “final selection” for the three vacancies will be held next Thursday in Orlando. The council “shall nominate no fewer than three persons for each vacancy,” according to its rules.

Over salmon, Rick Scott thanks Seminole Tribe representatives

A month after ending a long-running blackjack dispute, Gov. Rick Scott met with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida on Monday in what was called a “social visit.”

A luncheon, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion, was posted on Scott’s daily schedule.

A governor’s spokesman said those in attendance included Tribal Council chair Marcellus Osceola, vice-chair Mitchell Cypress, Big Cypress Reservation director and council member Mondo” Tiger, Seminole Gaming CEO and Hard Rock International chairman Jim Allen, and tribal in-house lawyer Jim Shore

Tallahassee-based Greenberg Traurig attorney Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside counsel, and lobbyist Will McKinley of Tallahassee’s PooleMcKinley firm also attended.

The state of Florida last month ended its legal battle with the Tribe over its estimated $2 billion a year gambling operation.

The two sides last month agreed to end an ongoing lawsuit over whether the tribe can keep blackjack tables at its casinos in the state. The settlement will allow the tribe to keep blackjack, but also guarantees that the state will continue to receive payments.

Over salmon, the governor “expressed his appreciation for the Tribe’s working with the Governor’s Office and thanked us for agreeing to settle,” Richard later reported in a telephone interview.

Also there was the Tribe’s D.C.-based lawyer, Joe Webster, who represents the Seminoles on matters before the U.S. Department of the Interior, Richard said.

“There was no discussion of any of the issues,” he added. “It was a social visit.”

In 2016, a federal judge ruled that state regulators allowed dog and horse tracks to host card games that mimicked ones that were supposed to be exclusive to tribe-owned casinos for a five-year period.

As part of his decision, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the tribe could keep blackjack tables in place for another 14 years. The state had appealed that decision.

(Background from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.)

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