Today's Top Story
by Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in August 2014, up 0.1 percentage point from the July 2014 rate of 6.2 percent, while down 0.8 percentage point from 7.1 percent a year ago.
There were 602,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9,610,000. The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in August. Florida’s unemployment rate has been less than or equal to the national rate for 14 of the...
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
During former Gov. Charlie Crist's drift from Republican to independent to Democrat, there's been at least one GOP friend who has stuck by his side: Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former longtime lawmaker.
On Thursday, after months of absence and (relative) silence, Fasano returned to the capital and lashed out at an ad backing the re-election campaign of Republican Gov. Rick Scott -- the man who appointed Fasano to his current position and is now facing Crist in the November election.
"This is as low as you can get, Rick Scott, with the type of ad and the type of lies that you're now putting out on the TV to every home in the state of Florida," Fasano said.
Later, Fasano added: "Enough of this type of campaigning, and enough of Rick Scott."
The ad in question attempted to revive questions about Crist's ties to South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, who was sent to prison for a massive Ponzi scheme. It features a "victim" of Rothstein's scam, later identified by the Miami Herald as Dean Kretschmar -- who recovered most of his losses and still lives in an upscale house in Fort Lauderdale. Crist has never been linked to Rothstein's crimes.
Fighting with Fasano, who registered to vote on his 18th birthday so he could support Ronald Reagan, is nothing new for GOP leaders. Fasano charted a maverick course in the Legislature, including sponsoring a failed measure to expand Medicaid in 2013.
And he never abandoned Crist.
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by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE— Four years after the state Senate rejected two of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s appointees to the Public Service Commission because they had no industry experience, Gov. Rick Scott has appointed state Rep. Jimmy Patronis to the same board, even though he, too, has no industry experience.
Patronis, 42, is a Panama City Republican who announced last year that he will step aside as a candidate in 2016 for the state Senate seat held by Senate President Don Gaetz, making room for Gaetz’s son, Matt Gaetz, to be the heir apparent. Patronis was also an early supporter of Scott's campaign against former Attorney General Bill McCollum.
Patronis, who is term-limited out of office this year, fills a seat now held by Eduardo Balbis on the board that has the power to approve utility rates in Florida. Balbis surprised observers in May when he announced that he would not seek a second term after being appointed to the post by Crist.
Balbis got the job after legislators sided with electric companies in 2010 to oust Crist appointees David Klement and Benjamin “Steve” Stevens, both of whom rejected controversial rate increases sought by Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy, now known as Duke Energy Florida.
On Thursday, Scott also announced the reappointment of Tampa lawyer Julie Imanuel Brown, 39, from a list of six candidates sent to him by the legislatively-controlled PSC Nominating Council.
Commissioners are paid an annual salary of $131,036 and the appointments are subject to Senate approval.
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by Lynn Hatter | WFSU
Florida’s public universities will risk more money this year in an effort to convince Florida lawmakers to give them additional funds. The state university system governing board wants the legislature to increase the public university budget by more than $200 million, half of which would be awarded based on individual schools’
Earlier this year the Florida legislature agreed to give the public universities an additional $100 million. But that money came with strings. Under a deal with the Florida Board of Governors, the institutions would put up some of their base funding. If the school failed to meet certain performance benchmarks, it would lose those dollars. If it succeeded, it could keep its money, and qualify for a slice of the $100 million, called performance funding. Board of Governors CFO Tim Jones says the Board wants to increase those performance dollars.
“First priority is our performance funding. We’re looking for an additional $100 million of new recurring funds for next year, equal to the amount of funds we received this year," he says.
While the request for performance-based funds is increasing, so is the risk to the universities. This time the universities will be asked to put up even more money. But the funds are guaranteed which worries some university presidents. But Board member Norman Tripp says he doesn’t understand the concern.
“If you’re taking the performance funding, then you recognize what you need to do to better yourself," Tripp says. "If you don’t make any change, then you take the risk, but otherwise, you should be able to improve your position.”
by JESSICA PALOMBO | WFSU
Blocks away from the Florida Capitol today, a group targeting climate-change deniers kicked off what it’s calling “Rick Scott’s Ark Tour.” The NextGen Climate Action Committee has spent more than $3.6 million so far in an attempt to inject climate change as an issue in the Florida governor’s race, according to finance records filed with the state.
Noah’s ark, or what looks just like it, was parked at a meter on a busy Tallahassee street. During the lunch-hour rush here, about two dozen college students were waving signs and handing out T-shirts to passing drivers.
The ark is part of a narrative spun by the NextGen Climate Action Committee, which is part of a national effort by billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer to defeat candidates who fail to act on climate change. At Tallahassee’s Florida tour kickoff, the group played a video with a movie-trailer voiceover saying, after years of denying climate change science, Scott comes up with a plan to flee.
“Rick Scott has built an ark. Will there be room for you?” the voice booms.
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by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
A federal judge has reduced the punitive damages that a Tampa jury imposed in June on national drug-testing firm Millennium Laboratories after finding that it engaged in unfair competition by breaking anti-kickback laws in Florida and two other states.
But Millennium Labs, based in San Diego, still owes more than $11 million to its rival Ameritox Ltd. after the reduction. In Friday's 29-page order, U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew called Millennium's conduct "fairly reprehensible."
She denied Millenium's request for a new trial or a set-aside of damages. She did, however, reduce punitive damages by $3.5 million to $8.5 million -- which are in addition to actual damages of $2.7 million.
As Health News Florida reported in June, the jury decided that Millennium Labs gave doctors an illegal inducement -- a kickback -- when it offered them plastic urine-specimen cups with test strips built into them, at no charge. As Millennium had hoped, many of the doctors who had been using Ameritox Ltd. for the lucrative confirmatory follow-up tests switched to Millennium. The cups cost Millennium just $5 apiece.
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by MIKE SCHNEIDER | AP
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Floridians became a little better educated last year, were middle-of-the-pack in having access to the Internet and had the nation's highest concentration of retail workers.
The U.S. Census Bureau released new figures Thursday that capture the lives of Floridians last year and how they changed from 2012.
Overall, 2013 wasn't much different from 2012. Many factors such as the poverty rate, income inequality, the rate of residents without health insurance and the home vacancy rate remained unchanged. Florida was at or near the top of states with the nation's highest concentrations of vacant homes, retail workers in the labor force and rates of residents without health insurance. Florida also was near the top in concentrations of residents who spoke Spanish in their homes.
Here is what the one-year 2013 American Community Survey tells us about the residents of the Sunshine State. The survey only includes counties with populations greater than 65,000 residents.
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by jane musgrave | palm beach post
The state has agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims arising out of the 2011 death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona and the horrific injuries suffered by her twin brother, Victor, at the hands of their adoptive parents.
But there’s a catch.
The Florida Department of Children and Families already has paid $1.25 million to Nubia’s estate and to Victor to repair the deep psychological wounds he suffered even before he was found near death alongside his sister’s decomposing body in their adopted father’s pesticide van on Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach.
However, to get the remaining $3.75 million, agency officials told those representing the children they must get the historically tight-fisted state Legislature to approve.
Further, the parents accused of killing Nubia are first in line for some of the payout.
State lawmakers this year ignored a bill that would have authorized the $3.75 million payment.
“We hope that the new Senate and House leadership will show more compassion,” said Coral Gables attorney Neal Roth, who negotiated the settlement.
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by DARA KAM | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
In a new twist on man vs. machine, more than a dozen Florida campaign whizzes are matching wits against a computer program, taking shots at predicting the outcome of state legislative races for charity.
Tallahassee lobbyist and Republican consultant Brecht Heuchan hand-picked a bipartisan crew to play what he's dubbed "DecisionLink 2014 Man vs. Machine." Participants get two "ballots" -- an early guess and one closer to the election -- and a point for each correct selection.
The winner's bounty will go toward a charity chosen by one of the 16 consultants who plunked down $100 to participate in the contest against DecisionLink, a program that's the brainchild of Heuchan. He is matching the participants' entry fees, meaning a $3,200 pay-off for the winners' charity.
Starting this week, Heuchan is letting the public in on the picks. He wants Capitol insiders, social scientists and campaign staff to cast their votes -- for free -- in House and Senate races. Heuchan plans to get corporate sponsors to bankroll the public ballots, which will cost $1 each to underwrite. Anyone who thinks they're savvy enough to beat Heuchan's complicated computer algorithm -- or the campaign gurus -- can enter the contest by clicking here.
So far, Miami-based lobbyist and consultant David Custin has proved himself to be the cream of the crème de la crème -- thanks to a Jacksonville Republican House race won by two votes. Custin edged out Marc Reichelderfer, who was consulting for the losing House District 15 candidate's campaign, by a single point.
The grand winner will be selected based on results from the primary and the general-election races, and since DecisionLink will only come into play after the November election, there's no way the computer can be the ultimate winner.
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