Today's Top Story
Top Florida senators are offering up a revamped health care coverage plan in an effort to end a stalemate with Republican House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott.
Senate President Andy Gardiner announced Tuesday that the Senate was changing its proposal to offer coverage to 800,000 Floridians. The House and Senate have been at odds over coverage and the dispute derailed the regular session.
Gardiner said that the Senate is making changes based on criticisms aimed at...
by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
For Gov. Rick Scott, the campaign never ends.
He can’t run for governor again, but he’s still collecting six-figure campaign donations from special interests that have a direct stake in legislation he will sign or veto. The money buys TV ads featuring Scott, still looking and sounding like a candidate, walking across a big green cutout of Florida, “where dreams come true.”
Scott travels near and far, chasing jobs, and by his side is videographer Nathan Edwards, capturing it all on tape to be played for audiences at upcoming Cabinet meetings. Scott is Florida’s first governor with a videographer on the public payroll to produce campaign-style videos, such as his recent visit to a new Wawa convenience store in Fort Myers.
Scott has a networking program in his office called Proactive Outreach in which state employees comb through business journals and magazines in search of people whose achievements merit letters of congratulations, from entrepreneurs to Eagle scouts. After a paragraph of phrase on official state letterhead, Scott switches to campaign mode, boasting about “our low-tax, pro-growth strategies.”
“We need to continue to get our message out and make sure that we continue to promote our state,” Scott says of his salesmanship. “I think it’s important to continue to talk about what’s important to our state: education funding, make sure we continue the tax cuts, and make sure we continue to grow jobs.”
Scott is not always consistent on matters of substance. Take education funding or Medicaid expansion, for example. But he is on matters of style.
The strategy that helped him win two elections is the essence of his approach to governing: Repeat a simple message over and over, raise lots of money and use TV to talk directly to people in 30-second commercials, avoiding the filter of the news media.
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by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Presidential candidates have something in common with proposed changes to the state Constitution: There’s already a slew of them.
With almost a year and a half till the next election on Nov. 8, 2016, there are 25 proposed amendments vying for a slot on the ballot.
That’s more than the roughly 20 declared or likely candidates from both major parties, including Florida’s former Gov. Jeb Bush and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
Only a few amendments may get before voters, but that doesn’t mean backers won’t try. In 2012, there were 11 ballot questions; last year there were only three.
Florida allows state lawmakers or citizens, through the initiative, to submit constitutional changes to a vote. Amendments need 60 percent approval to pass.
Some groups try for decades to get on the ballot, including the grandfather of all current amendments. It would create a single-payer health care system in the state; it’s been in the works since September 1995.
John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer behind last year’s failed medical marijuana amendment, refiled a new one this January for the 2016 election.
And two more appeared just last Wednesday on the state Division of Elections website.
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by matt dixon | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — As the clock ticked closer to midnight, lawmakers became more anxious. A six-month legislative session featuring near fist fights, budget vetoes and intense racial politics was winding down, yet they still had not figured out how to keep the lights on.
If lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the June 30 end of the fiscal year, it triggers a government shutdown. That means mass state worker furloughs, a suspension of most government services, and a body blow to the state economy.
Yet, after 128 days in legislative session, the second longest in state history, that’s where lawmakers found themselves on June, 30 1992 as the clock’s hour-hand crept closer to “12.”
“We had someone turn back the clock. They actually got up and set it back,” said state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Hollywood Democrat who served as senate president during the 1992 session. “Things were really, really tense.”
Lawmakers missed the midnight deadline by roughly 30 minutes, but technically avoided a government shutdown through an executive order signed by Gov. Lawton Chiles.
It’s the last time that lawmakers adjourned a regular session without passing a state budget. More than two-decades later lawmakers have again adjourned without passing a spending plan. The 2015 Legislature did not pass a budget after a billion dollar health care funding fight hijacked the session. They are set to come back June 1 for a three week special session to finish their work.
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by keith morelli | tampa tribune
TAMPA — Climate change may be triggering an evolution in hurricanes, with some researchers predicting the violent storms could move farther north, out of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where they have threatened coastlines for centuries.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins Monday, and forecasters are predicting a relatively quiet season. They say three hurricanes are expected over the next six months, and only one will turn into a major hurricane.
Florida hasn’t been hit by a hurricane in a decade, and researchers are increasingly pointing to climate change as a potential factor.
There is a consensus among atmospheric researchers studying the connection between global warming and hurricanes that centuries- old patterns may be shifting, said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“There are a few things we agree on,” he said, “and a few things we don’t know much about.”
He said researchers generally agree that the frequency of high-intensity storms, Category 3, 4 and 5, will increase as the planet warms. “By how much? There’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said.
The second generally accepted theory is that with rising sea levels, storm surge could become more of a threat than wind. “The sea level is going up and will continue to go up,” he said.
Rain also is expected to increase during hurricanes, he said. “It’s in widespread agreement that as you warm the climate, hurricanes will rain a lot more.”
Other theories of how climate change affects hurricane activity are still being researched, he said, and there is some disagreement among scientists. One is the frequency of less intense hurricanes, the Category 1 and 2 storms.
“We don’t know if that will go up or down, but it doesn’t really matter,” Emanuel said. “Eighty percent of the damage done by hurricanes over the past 50 years was done by major storms anyway.”
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The number one killer from a hurricane is water, not wind. A hurricane warning, however, has always been issued for the wind, not the water. This conflict of messaging has prompted the National Hurricane Center to re-think their products in recent years. Social science research and upgrades in GIS technology have enabled them to better define where and when the water might be life-threatening, and this is not always at the same location or at the same time the hurricane force winds may arrive.
FEMA Director Craig Fugate called attention to the newly released weather products by NOAA in a recent press conference.
“You can’t focus on the category of a storm to tell us what it’s going to potentially be, as far as risk and hazard", Fugate said. "The one hazard that we do know we can do the greatest good to reduce that loss of life is storm surge and evacuating at risk populations...”
And according to the National Hurricane Center, water accounts for nearly 80% of all deaths from a tropical storm or hurricane.
New this year is a more “user friendly” map that will highlight the areas at risk of life-threatening conditions from storm surge. National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb says these graphics are intended to encourage awareness and evacuations on a much smaller scale and with much greater detail,
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by devin golden | Daily news
Even if the much-debated bills to revamp Florida high school athletics won’t be passed in 2015, the ideas aren’t dead.
The bills – House Bill 7137 and Senate Bill 948 – would’ve created more-lenient eligibility rules for transferring student-athletes and revamped the Florida High School Activities Association. The House passed 7137, but its premature adjournment three days before the regular session ended last month halted both bills in the Senate.
Two Florida government blogs, SunshineStateNews.com and PoliticalFixFlorida.com, reported last week the policy aspects of 7137 and 948 will be added to one of State Senator Don Gaetz’s bills, 2508, which would be part of the special session starting Monday to handle appropriations and funding.
Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County School District superintendent and the area’s state senator, said that is “unlikely” – he did acknowledge some financials-based aspects of 948 will be added – because the policy changes don’t deal with funding.
However, Gaetz said the ideas are likely to emerge for next year’s session.
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by MATTHEW PEDDIE | WUSF
Film industry leaders are making another push to get an incentives deal through the Florida legislature. They’re banking on its inclusion in a tax package when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for a special session next week.
Film incentives bills - designed to lure production to Florida - died in the House and Senate when the regular session ended early. But Representative Mike Miller, who sponsored the House Bill, says there’s still hope.
“What is still alive is the incentives program through the tax package that has been presented in the call by the speaker of the house and the senate president”, said Miller.
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by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post
The state Senate’s rewrite of its health insurance expansion in a bid to win support from the House and Gov. Rick Scott has drawn the endorsement of a business-backed coalition, which also is stepping up its TV campaign behind the effort.
A Healthy Florida Works coalition, which has been a heavy backer of the Senate’s Florida Health Insurance Exchange (FHIX) proposal, said the revamped plan unveiled Tuesday still meets “conservative guardrails and strengthens personal responsibility measures.”...
A Healthy Florida Works also has stepped up a TV ad campaign that it has been running much of this month. TV spots this week began airing across most of Florida in advance of the Legislature’s special session, set to begin June 1 on crafting a state budget and dealing with health care financing.