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The Florida Department of Health responded Friday by contending the cable news network used misunderstanding and outdated information to inaccurately characterize the program, and that the claims that politics  played any role “is 100 percent false.”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

Jack Latvala vows more mental health, substance abuse money, rips Richard Corcoran

Speaking before a crowd of mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala promised more money for their causes and lashed out at Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Republicans for neglecting them.

Latvala, the Republican state Senator from Clearwater who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said Florida has neglected mental health and substance abuse funding because the House is too interested in cutting taxes to consider funding necessary services.

Speaking to the Florida Behavioral Health Conference at Walt Disney World, Latvala vowed he’d do a better job of getting money for those programs.

“Since 2000 we’ve cut $2.7 billion in recurring taxes. That’s $2.7 billion more each year that could be spent on mental health, substance abuse, education, environment, all of the things that we have to provide as a state for our citizens,” Latvala said.

“This area that you work in has not been properly death with, has been actually neglected,” he added.

At one point Latvala recognized Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford, the chairman of the House Health Care Appropriations Committee, and said the lack of funding for mental health and substance abuse programs was not Brodeur’s fault, but his boss’s. And then he ripped into Corcoran, who may announce a campaign to run for governor himself.

For now, Latvala’s rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Richard Corcoran, what he knows about real-life problems like you deal with every day, he reads in a book. He also reads in that same book, the Koch brothers’ manifesto, about how you first cut taxes, and how people should help themselves, and the government should not people,” Latvala said.

Latvala accepted some of the blame for limited funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, confessing he was new at appropriations and “maybe we dropped the ball a little” in dealing with the House budget proposals this year. But he said it would not happen again.

“I will guarantee you Senate support for any budget amendment that calls for increases in substance abuse funding,” he said, drawing thunderous applause.

He then spoke of the heroin and opioid epidemic and said “This is not satisfactory to have 20 or so Floridians dying every day from opioid overdoses.”

Firefighters in Orlando, Miami back Jack Latvala for governor

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala has picked up endorsements of two major firefighters unions in his quest for the Republican nomination to run for governor next year, his campaign announced Thursday.

The endorsements come less than 24 hours after Latvala formally kicked off his campaign Wednesday in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City.

Latvala received the endorsements of the Miami Association of Firefighters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 589; and of the Orlando Professional Firefighters, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1365.

“Local 1365 is grateful for the support that you have given to firefighters and other first responders during your time in the Florida Legislature,” Orlando Professional Firefighters President Ron Glass stated in a letter to Latvala quoted in a news release from Latvala’s campaign. “Your ability to reach consensus with members of both parties was instrumental in providing firefighters from across the state of Florida with stable careers, better working conditions and a pension that allows them to retire with dignity.”

Latvala faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination. Democrats running include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“The firefighters of this state have forged a very strong bond with you and you have proven capable of making the difficult decisions to ensure that your firefighters are afforded equitable safety condition and benefit levels,” Miami Association of Firefighters President Freddy Delgado stated in a separate letter quoted by the campaign. “Some of those decisions have included protection of our current defined benefit retirement and fighting for firefighter cancer presumption in the State of Florida.”

Latvala kicked off his campaign outside Fire Station #7 in Hialeah.

“I stood with more than 100 first responders when I kicked off my campaign outside Fire Station #7 in Hialeah yesterday to show my continued support for the men and women who work so tirelessly to protect all Floridians,” Latvala stated in the release. “I am humbled and honored to have their support and thank the Miami Association of Firefighters Local 587 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365 for joining me in my campaign to be the state’s next governor.”

Top Senate Republicans holding Big Apple fundraiser Thursday

If you’ve ever dreamed of slurping spaghetti with state senators, top Florida Republicans have an offer you can’t refuse, so long as you can snag a flight to the Big Apple pronto.

Senate President Joe Negron will make a fundraising trip to New York Thursday with the two senators set to succeed him in his role, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. Also attending are Senate budget chief and gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala as well as Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Anitere Flores.

Don’t worry about accommodations, either – the last minute invitation to the fundraiser says the powerful cadre of politicians has organized a discounted rate at the Ritz Carlton. It’s not home, but it’ll do for a night.

Whoever manages to get to New York by 6:30 p.m. Thursday will have the opportunity to sit down with the Tallahassee elite at the city’s “Quality Italian” restaurant which, for whatever reason, is a steakhouse. Don’t worry, the menu includes a handful of classics from the old country.

Those fortunate enough to be able to spend a Friday evening in the city can also drop by a cocktail hour at the posh Ascent Lounge. A drink will set you back about $20, and you better be a fan of vodka.

To RSVP, call Kelly Schmidt at 407-415-2879. You might need to call her from the plane.

The invitation is below:

Sometime surly senator enters Florida’s governor’s race

Jack Latvala — a powerful, sometimes surly state senator seen as a moderate Republican voice — entered the race for Florida Governor Wednesday, taking on a better-known, more conservative and better-funded primary opponent Adam Putnam for the GOP nomination to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

Latvala publicly announced his candidacy at a fire station in a Hialeah, a Hispanic-majority city that borders Miami. In the crowd were groups of senior citizens, police officers and state employee union members. He also was joined by his son Chris, who is a state representative. He later planned to stop at a Tampa Bay-area aquarium in his hometown of Clearwater before ending the tour at a Panama City marina.

Latvala is considered a moderate Republican and told the group he is proud to have friends on both sides of the political aisle.

Republican challenger Putnam is the incumbent agriculture commissioner. Democrats seeking the seat Scott must leave due to term limits include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Leading up to his announcement, Latvala has spent time talking about the need to make sure rural Florida is also benefiting from the state’s economic rebound, and he’s spoken out about the need to treat opioid abuse as a crisis.

Latvala, 65, has served two stints in the Florida Senate, the first from 1994 to 2002, when he left because of term limits. He returned to the Senate in 2010 and will again be term-limited next year. He is the current Senate budget chairman and has previously led the chamber’s efforts to tighten ethics in state government and require political candidates to be more transparent about fundraising and campaign spending.

“He fights very hard for the issues he cares about, and sometimes that puts him at odds with some fellow party members, but he cares passionately,” said Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County GOP.

He’s not afraid to buck his party’s leadership and has taken more moderate views on issues such as immigration. He helped fight back an effort to change the state’s pension system that was supported by top Republicans and opposed by state workers, and helped kill a bill that would have opened Florida to fracking, an effort that was supported by many in the GOP.

But he will be entering the race as an underdog to Putnam, 43, who first ran for office 22 years ago and has seemingly spent his entire adult life building toward a run for governor.

“Commissioner Putnam has positioned himself well for this race and he’s been working for it, and I think he has the infrastructure at the early end to have that place as the front-runner,” said Power, whose group hosted Putnam Tuesday night.

Putnam was asked Tuesday night about Latvala’s entry into the race, and he chose not to discuss the new challenger.

“I’m focused on the race that I’m running. If you ain’t the lead dog in the fight, the view never changes,” Putnam said. “I’m just going to be working grass roots, pig-pullings and fish fries from Key West to Chumukla.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is also considering running for governor, wouldn’t say a word when asked about Latvala getting in the race, simply shaking his head “no” as the Leon County GOP barbecue wrapped up

Latvala, however, hasn’t been shy about poking Putnam, using Twitter to jab him even before submitting paperwork to get in the race last week.

After Putnam attended a Possum Festival, an annual event in a small Panhandle town that’s popular with politicians, Latvala tweeted, “While there will be a time to pose with possums, I am more focused on jobs in NW FL.”

And when Putnam said he was a proud “sellout” to the National Rifle Association, Latvala tweeted a political cartoon mocking Putnam, adding his own message, “I will never sell out to anyone, anytime.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Chris King calls for removal of all Confederate monuments

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Tuesday for the removal of all Confederate memorials in Florida.

Taking to Facebook, King posted, “It’s time to remove all the Confederate monuments in Florida. These monuments should be removed because we should not celebrate literal anti-American ideology or any ideology based on the oppression of any group of people.

“And to those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history. As we’ve seen in Charlottesville this weekend, we live with the legacy of this history every day,” he added.

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. The Republican field has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater who’ve filed, with Latvala planning to make an official announcement Wednesday. Others, including Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran are raising money but have made no commitments.

Gillum also called for action on the monuments, but first called for conversation on them. Last week he also informed Walton County he would not be visiting their community until they took down the Confederate flag in front of the courthouse.

“Like many people, I want local governments to take action to remove these monuments. But more than just the necessary step of removing them, we need a real conversation in Florida about inclusion and building community,” Gillum said in a statement. “I created the Longest Table initiative in Tallahassee so neighbors could sit at a table together and discuss the most pressing issues facing them and their communities. Tough but honest conversations will help heal this state and country.”

King was more succinct.

“It’s time for Florida to put its fealty and energy not toward monuments to a divided past, but toward a vision of the future that provides for common growth. Florida values diversity, but simply saying so understates the case,” King continued. “Florida’s economic engine is built on diversity. We are a state of many races, faiths and languages, each making our state a great place to live in, and each underpinning our economy. But our economic engine has been held back for far too long by the ghosts of the past.”

Confederate memorials have been sources of racial tension for generations, but recently their presence has evoked public demonstrations and demands for their removal, notably in Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, and now in Jacksonville, while supporters of the monuments contend they are part of the state’s history. Last weekend efforts seeking removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Va., led to a protest march of white supremacists and the killing of an opposition protester, setting the heat even higher.

On Monday Gov. Rick Scott said the time will come for conversations on Confederate monuments. King said in his Facebook post the time is now.

“Removing Confederate monuments is not just the right thing to do for Florida values and its citizens, but the smart thing to do for Florida’s economy,” King continued. “In order to unleash Florida’s economic potential, and attract the jobs and investment we need to grow into the national leader we should be, it’s time to position Florida as a state with eyes set on the future.”

Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I

Adam Putnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit.

The Florida agriculture commissioner and former state lawmaker and former U.S. Congressman running for governor spun his theme of Florida being the greatest state, where everyone wants to visit or live, while pressing conservatism, urging that Florida must be “the launching pad of the American dream,” and warning of liberal uprisings, with “The left is coming for us!”

And, most of all, the candidate turned on his folksy side, reminded everyone he’s a fifth-generation Floridian with a ranch outside of Bartow, and strove to connect with Republicans in too-often-ignored rural areas and small towns from the Keys to the western panhandle.

Putnam, alone in the Republican race for governor until Friday, now has serious competition for the Republican primary nomination. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater filed to run Friday and addressed the Republican convention Friday night. Potential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach was to address the crowd Saturday afternoon. House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes also is a real prospect.

On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate.

He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business.

“I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”

From there, he appeared to respond to Latvala’s comments Friday night, when the House Appropriations Committee chairman lashed out at other candidates, whom he didn’t name, whom he accused of forgetting the needs of the Republican Party of Florida while they pursued their own careers, and of raising money for their own causes, without contributing to the party.

“We’re going to bring this state together. And this party is a part of that. It’s an integral part of that,” Putnam said to the party loyalists at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. “It’s not us against them. It’s not Bradford versus Highlands. It’s not the party versus the electeds. You have seen me at your meetings and in your Lincoln Days…. I can’t succeed as a governor if we don’t succeed as a party.”

 

Jack Latvala: ‘I have never forgotten the party, I will never forget the party’

It’s got to be tough trying to explain why you are running for governor when you don’t actually want to say that you’re running for governor.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater tried that out Friday night at a dessert reception he hosted for about 200 people at the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. Earlier in the day he had filed his paperwork to run for governor, so that he might begin spending money to prepare for an announcement, but he’s holding off actually announcing his run until next week.

Yet these people wanted to hear from him, and there was a stage, microphone and public address system set up, so the longtime party loyalist and current powerful chairman of the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee took his place there, and then railed against elected Republicans who forget the party and don’t contribute money or time to the party.

“I have never forgotten the party. I will never forget the party,” he declared to the gathering in a five minute address.

“That’s one of the reason I’m looking so hard at doing what I’m doing,” he said.

On Friday Latvala joined Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as a major Republican filing to run for governor. Putnam gets his turn to talk to the state Republicans gathered at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort Saturday morning, hosting a breakfast meeting. Two other major Republicans assumed to be mulling runs are House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Corcoran will not be attending the weekend meeting. There were mixed reports about DeSantis’s plans.

In his remarks, Latvala also went after elected officials and candidates who’ve spent their whole careers in public office, saying they don’t know what it’s like to deal with real-world business problems, a reference to the printing business he founded. He praised President Donald Trump as someone like him who came to government after running a business.

“We nominated a candidate who was an outsider who had good business experience instead of people that had been life-long politicians,” he elaborated later with reporters. “I thought Republican primary voters are going to want to continue that same trend.

“I’m like Donald Trump in that I have run a business, a successful business, I have signed both sides of paychecks, I have paid worker’s comp premiums, I have real-life experience. I haven’t always just gotten a government paycheck. That’s the similar area. There probably are some things that aren’t similar.”

Latvala intends to formally announce his candidacy next Wednesday in Hialeah. When asked why he didn’t just go ahead and explicitly talk about running for governor Friday night, he replied:

“I might want people to show up on Wednesday.”

It’s official: Jack Latvala opens up campaign account to run for Florida governor

As if we should be surprised, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Friday opened a new campaign account and filed paperwork with the state’s Division of Elections to run for Florida governor.

“My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!” the newly minted candidate tweeted shortly after noon, including a picture of a smiling boy wearing a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding Latvala’s paperwork.

Latvala still plans to make an official announcement about his 2018 plans next Wednesday. Still, these filings are necessary first steps under Florida law for him to launch a gubernatorial campaign.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate’s influential Appropriations Committee, had said he would announce his future political plans on Aug. 16. He’s term-limited in his Senate District 16 seat next year; Latvala was previously in the Senate 1994-2002.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala has said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

The announcement was certainly expected. A clear signal of a gubernatorial run came when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Last week, Latvala sharply criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran, particularly over the House’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, say9ing it was “all about making political points, all about trying to make headlines, trying to raise your name identification, whatever.”

Corcoran defended the legislation as an effort to bring “more transparency and accountability” to the marketing program.

Although Latvala is a fixture in Tampa Bay politics, he has never run a statewide race, and first must overcome a relative lack of name recognition throughout Florida.

Moreover, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he wasn’t actively running for office in 2018, Latvala had no on-hand campaign funds.

The only major Republican now officially running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Also considering a gubernatorial run are Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has a supporting committee that raised nearly $1.3 million through the end of July.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, with permission.

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