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Friday, May 22, 2015

Fresh Squeezed

A Florida Politics Blog

Made fresh, never frozen, here's the juice on local and state politics from the staff of The Tampa Tribune and The St. Petersburg Tribune.

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Gov. Scott approves 44 more bills

James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed another 44 bills from the recently concluded legislative session into law, including 10 relating to exemptions from the state’s open government laws.

One of the bills (SB 290) approved by Scott will allow concealed weapons to be carried for 48 hours during a mandatory evacuation, such as before a hurricane.

It was sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

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Fla. Supreme Court: Medical malpractice caps aren’t retroactive

The Associated Press

A 2003 law capping medical malpractice lawsuit awards at $500,000 can’t be applied retroactively, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision was in a Miami-Dade County case in which a woman suffered permanent damage to her leg from what she claimed was unnecessary surgery.

A jury awarded Kimberly Ann Miles $1.5 million, but Dr. Daniel Weingrad appealed the case.

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Feds relent on funding indigent care for Florida hospitals

Published:   |   Updated: May 21, 2015 at 11:38 AM
Matt Dixon in Tallahassee

Federal officials have tentatively approved roughly $1 billion for supplemental hospital funding, an issue that had halted state budget talks and forced lawmakers into a special session.

The level for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, is roughly half the funding level from current year levels.

LIP is a mix of federal and local money used by hospitals to pay for indigent care.

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Pasco GOP Chairman Jim Mathieu resigns

By Laura Kinsler

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco GOP Chairman Jim Mathieu abruptly resigned his position — just a week before the party’s annual Reagan Dinner fundraiser.

Mathieu’s email said he was stepping down for personal reasons, but the decision comes shortly after state Sen. John Legg returned his Reagan Dinner tickets and called for the party leadership to “do some self-evaluation.”

The county’s Republican Executive Committee voted in March not to renew the West Pasco Republican Club’s charter despite its long history and deep community ties. Legg, R-Trinity, is a lifetime member.

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Hospital group rejects Gov. Scott’s call for increased tax

Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2015 at 04:37 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

The Florida Hospital Association is telling Gov. Rick Scott “no more taxes.”

In a letter released Monday, the group said the answer to the state’s health care funding crisis isn’t to raise the tax that hospitals pay on any surpluses they make in a given year.

Scott suggested that as a way to make up money in the Low Income Pool, or LIP, a federal-state funding source that reimburses hospitals for the charity care they provide.

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Letter: GOP House member is ‘open’ to form of Medicaid expansion

James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

Small cracks are starting to form in the GOP-controlled Florida House’s united front against Medicaid expansion.

In a letter to the editor printed Sunday in The Tampa Tribune, state Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa Republican, said he was “open to a plan for private health coverage that draws down federal dollars with reasonable review, opt-out and sunset provisions included.”

“Perhaps that can be some trial version of the Senate plan,” he added, mentioning his position on expansion isn’t new.

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Lawmakers add Medicaid expansion to agenda for upcoming special session

Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2015 at 06:57 PM
James L. Rosica and Matt Dixon in Tallahassee

The heads of the state House of Representatives and Senate late Friday said they had agreed on an agenda for the June special session to finish the state’s 2015-16 budget.

Of note: Medicaid expansion made the cut, according to the joint proclamation by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

Lawmakers made their announcement days before Gov. Rick Scott said he was going to formally call lawmakers back to Tallahassee.

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Fasano, Pasco’s tax collector, works as consultant for Florida Hospital Tampa Bay

Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2015 at 06:30 PM
By Laura Kinsler

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, champion of “little guys and gals,” has maintained a lucrative consulting contract with Florida Hospital Tampa Bay since being appointed to his position in 2013.

In addition to his nearly $138,000-a-year public salary, Fasano also earns $52,000 a year from the nonprofit hospital company.

Fasano said he kept his word to resign from his job as director of public affairs for the hospital — a position he had held since 2006. The consulting contract pays Fasano about half of what he was earning when he was employed by the hospital. “They reach out to me for insight, knowledge and advice,” he said.

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Political podcast: Wetherell weighs in on special sessions

Tribune staff

With a special session looming, we get some perspective this week from Florida political icon T.K. Wetherell. He served as speaker of the House in 1992, the last time lawmaker’s adjourned regular session without passing a budget.

That year, lawmakers not only had to deal with declining revenues but one of the most contentious redistricting processes in state history.

We also talk about the U.K. elections with a Florida politico who played a helping hand, and hear from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

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Putnam fundraising groups shift campaign cash

James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

A political committee aligned with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently soaked up nearly $395,000 when another of his fundraising groups disbanded.

Sunshine State Leadership Project closed its doors late last month, records show, dumping its money into another Putnam panel, Florida Grown.

The difference under state campaign finance law is that Sunshine State Leadership Project was an electioneering communication organization (ECO); Florida Grown is a political committee (PC).

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