Today's Top Story
by ADAM LIPTAK | ny times
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Obama’s health care law may provide nationwide tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the 6-to-3 decision. The court’s three most conservative members — Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented.
The case concerned a central part of the Affordable...
by TRISTRAM KORTEN | FCIR
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a steering committee to address climate change. The commission maintains computer modeling programs that show how climate change will affect water and land crucial to wildlife. It holds regular seminars to educate staff on the latest climate science.
On its website, the commission has a “Climate Change 101” page that addresses key challenges the state faces.
Eight miles from the state commission’s Tallahassee headquarters, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which bills itself as the state’s “lead agency for environmental management and stewardship,” states that it is only monitoring sea-level rise. That is its sole effort to address climate change.
As Florida Center for Investigative Reporting first reported, the emphasis on “climate change” within the DEP has declined over the past five years during Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in office. For instance, a Web page titled “Climate Change and Coral Reefs” hasn’t been updated since Nov. 18, 2011 — the year Scott took office. That was also the year a DEP spokesperson told the Tampa Bay Times that “DEP is not pursuing any programs or projects regarding climate change.”
One likely explanation for the different priorities at the two agencies is that FWC, created by voters in 1999 as an independent commission and run by an autonomous board, does not answer to the governor. The DEP, on the other hand, does report to the governor’s office.
Prior to Scott’s election, DEP was aggressively studying climate change. When Scott, a climate change skeptic, took office in 2011, the terms “climate change” and “global warming” began to disappear from DEP reports, according to a previous analysis by FCIR. Former DEP employees recounted to FCIR meetings where they were ordered not to use the terms. In emails, DEP officials instructed employees and volunteers to stay away from the subject.
Scott and DEP officials have denied the existence of any policy prohibiting the terms, but they have never attempted to explain or dispute FCIR’s findings.
» Read more
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida has dodged hurricanes for the last decade, but the state's largest property insurer says it needs to keep hiking the rates paid by those customers who live along the coast and in heavily populated South Florida.
The board of Citizens Property Insurance voted unanimously Wednesday to raise rates an average of 3.2 percent statewide, although the actual rates paid by homeowners could vary widely depending on where they live. Many inland customers with Citizens, for example, are expected to see a slight decrease.
Citizens officials approved the rate hike without any debate or discussion. State regulators must still sign off on the rate hike, but if it is approved the higher rates would take effect in February 2016.
Nearly half of the state-created insurer's 600,000 customers will actually see slight decreases in their rates according to figures drawn up by Citizens staff.
But those customers who live near the coast could pay an average of 8.6 percent more. Citizens officials say rate hikes are needed for homeowners in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Citizens officials say there are several reasons for the need for higher rates in South Florida. One reason is that Citizens is shrinking in size due to an aggressive push by the insurer to have policyholders switch to privately run companies. That leaves Citizens with customers who are at a higher risk of storm damage.
Another reason cited by Citizens is that there has been a rise in South Florida claims associated with water damage that is not storm-related.
» Read more
by Tia mitchell | Politijax
TALLAHASSEE | Lawmakers critical of Gov. Rick Scott’s record number of vetoes say the cuts in state spending have real impact in Florida communities that now face loss of jobs and resources dependent on now-eliminated funding.
At one point during the budget negotiation process, all new money for Cecil Spaceport had been zeroed out. Representatives from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority worked with local delegation members to plead their case and ultimately got $1.5 million approved to pay for more infrastructure at the Westside Jacksonville facility marketed as Florida’s horizontal launch pad for space travel.
Scott vetoed the money, saying it circumvents the due diligence and review process of Space Florida, a public-private agency that facilitates industry growth.
That was news to state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, who noted Scott allowed similar funding a year ago. “When did Space Florida have a due diligence process?” she said. “I’ve never heard of it.”
Gibson said Scott’s vetoes appeared to be payback to lawmakers who opposed him over the last year. He publicly feuded with the Senate over Medicaid expansion and hospital funding.
“When you call yourself the ‘jobs governor ‘or you’re the ‘keep Florida working’ governor, there is nobody who knows better what the jobs would be in their communities than the people who represent their districts,” Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said.
Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Janet Adkins, both Fernandina Beach Republicans, celebrated too early about the $1 million in state funding for the St. Johns River Ferry they successfully lobbied to include in the budget. The duo issued a new release about the funding Monday; Scott vetoed it the next day on the grounds that the $1 million allocated last year was enough.
» Read more
by sean rossman | tallahassee democrat
In a near unanimous vote, the Florida House passed a more than $400 million tax-cut package this morning, sending the bill to Gov. Rick Scott's desk.
The House passed the plan by a vote of 91 to 2, about two hours after the Senate passed an amended version.
The House approved its own version of the bill in the first week of the special session, but Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, made several changes including upping the number of tax-free back-to-school shopping days from three to 10 and erasing tax cuts on college textbooks for a full year, compared to the three separate sales tax holidays offered in the House version.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34 to 2, the only no votes coming from Democratic senators Jeff Clemens and Geraldine Thompson. The House immediately took it up at its 11 a.m. meeting.
» Read more
by News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers agreed on hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental spending during a meeting Sunday night, but disappointed supporters of a land and water conservation amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall.
The deal struck by Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, was announced after a 34-hour break in public budget negotiations between the two sides. The Legislature is working to resolve its budget differences by the scheduled Saturday end of a special session --- 10 days before Florida has to have a spending plan in place to avoid a government shutdown.
In all, the deal sets aside $81.8 million for Everglades restoration, $55 million to buy land and $47.5 million in funding for restoration of the state's natural springs. The Senate helped to constrain those numbers by pushing back on House attempts to bond some of the money, which would have allowed the state to spend roughly $10 for every dollar used for bonding.
"Without bonding, we weren't really able to do anything too robust in any particular area," Lee told reporters after the meeting.
The largest share of the land-buying money, $20 million, will go toward improvements to the Kissimmee River, while another $17.4 million will go to the state's Florida Forever land acquisition program. The state will also spend $15 million on protection easements and agreements on private land.
In a new item that emerged Sunday evening, lawmakers also agreed to use $2 million for a project on Howell Creek in Central Florida. That watershed is in the district of Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
» Read more
by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post
The House’s half-dozen bills aimed at easing regulations on hospital expansion and other health care issues will not be going before a Senate committee, the panel’s chairman said Monday.
Senate Health Policy Chief Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said he didn’t think the Legislature’s 20-day special session was an appropriate venue for considering the sweeping changes proposed by the House.
Instead, Bean said he wants a House-Senate task force formed to study the issues and more in coming months.
“I believe this approach will provide the opportunity for the House and Senate to debate, discuss and take public testimony on comprehensive short and long term solutions to Florida’s health care challenges,” Bean said.
Bean’s committee last week held a workshop on proposals to eliminate certificate of need requirements for hospitals looking to expand or open new facilities, another measure that would let nurses and physicians’ assistants prescribe certain medications, and other steps House leaders say will reduce the cost of health care.
The legislation sailed through the House days after the chamber killed the Senate’s proposed Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX), a privatized form of Medicaid expansion.
Despite the snub on FHIX, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said his side was open to hearing the House’s proposals.
Now, that isn’t going to happen.
» Read more
by News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE -- A federal judge Wednesday rejected a request by Gov. Rick Scott for mediation in a legal battle between the state and federal government about health-care funding.
Chief U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued an order that said she has already scheduled a hearing next week on a Scott motion for a preliminary injunction in the case. "The hearing is scheduled for June 19, 2015, and will require extensive preparation on the part of all parties,'' Rodgers wrote. "Requiring them, on even shorter notice, to also attend court-ordered mediation, which is not guaranteed to result in any resolution of this case, would be unduly burdensome, expensive, and not likely to advance the process any faster than the expedited proceeding currently scheduled."
Scott filed the lawsuit in April, contending that the Obama administration was trying to unconstitutionally link continuation of the state's Low Income Pool health-funding program with expansion of Medicaid. The federal government has called those arguments "baseless" and has indicated that the state will receive about $1 billion in Low Income Pool funding for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
While the $1 billion is a reduction from the current year's funding for the so-called LIP program, state lawmakers are using that number as they negotiate a budget during an ongoing special session.
» Read more
by patricia mazzei | miami herald
CNN announced Wednesday that it has scheduled a Republican presidential debate to take place March 10 in Florida, five days before the state's 2016 primary.
The debate had previously been listed as "pending." CNN is hosting two GOP debates this year, in September and December. Six others have been sanctioned by the party, hosted by others.
"Given the size and competitiveness of the GOP primary field, at this time it does not appear as though the party will have chosen its presidential nominee by March 10," CNN said.
» Read more
by Michael Auslen | Tampa Bay Times
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights are suing the state of Florida after Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed into law a bill that will require women to see a doctor and wait for 24 hours before they can receive an abortion.
Court documents requesting emergency action to stop the law from going into effect July 1 call it " a sweeping restriction on Florida women’s ability to access abortion services, unprecedented in this state." The lawsuit further argues that the new law represents an undue burden, which puts it in violation of the state Constitution's privacy rights.
“It’s clear that the sole purpose of this law is to make it more difficult for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to get one, and to punish and discriminate against those who do,” said Renée Paradis, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, in a statement.
» Read more