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Rick Scott’s Dirtiest Deeds

By Lisa Rab Thursday, Jul 14 2011

"I’ve seen the mountaintop!" shouted a woman blowing a whistle and marching in combat-style boots down Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach.

"We shall overcome Rick Scott’s tyranny!" added a man who followed closely behind, limping a little.

Mark Poutenis

At least 50 members of the disgruntled masses gathered outside the Palm Beach County Convention Center on this brutally warm March morning, when Gov. Rick Scott was about to give a speech. Scott had just introduced some of the budget proposals that would earn him the wrath of citizens across the state. Teachers, police officers, advocates for the disabled, retirees — people from all walks of life would soon be unified in their hatred of Florida’s most powerful politician.

By May, a Quinnipiac University poll put Scott’s approval rating at a dismal 29 percent. This week, the Broward Police union is hosting a “Party to Leave the Party” protest against Scott in which cops who are Republicans plan to switch their voter registration and abandon the GOP en masse.

In response to this widespread discontent, Scott has urged supporters to send prewritten letters to the editors of local newspapers.”Rick Scott deserves our unwavering and enthusiastic support,” the letters say. He also uses recorded phone messages to tout his policy decisions, irritating voters with robocalls about pill mills and government spending cuts.

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-07-14/news/rick-scott-s-dirtiest-deeds/

07.13.11 1
This is what happens when you deregulate high schools and support only private

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2011-06-23/news/mckay-scholarship-program-sparks-a-cottage-industry-of-fraud-and-chaos/

From June 2006 through November 2010, the woefully cash-strapped Florida Department of Education (DOE) forked over $2.057 million to Julius Brown, former middle school basketball coach and cofounder of a string of obscure sports apparel businesses.

The money was in the form of tuition vouchers for kids with physical and learning disabilities to attend the South Florida Preparatory Christian Academy, the Oakland Park K-12 private school of which Brown — a looming and lean former basketball pro with a slug-like mustache — was founder, president, principal, athletic director, and boys’ basketball coach.

Christopher Vaughn spent three years in a McKay high school before discovering his credits were worthless.

06.22.11 2
Teachers sue state over ‘unconstitutional’ pay cut to balance the budget

BY MARY ELLEN KLAS

HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

TALLAHASSSEE The Florida Education Associate announced today it has filed a class action lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and other trustess of the state retirement plan for unconstitutionally imposing a 3 percent pay cut on teachers to balance the budget.

The lawsuit was filed in Leon County Circuit Court on behalf of 11 workers from across the state, including two nurses and a social worker in Miami Dade County, a custodian in Madison County, and a social studies teacher in Hillsborough County. The Police Benevolent Association, the largest union of law enforcement in the state, also joined the lawsuit. The workers are asking the court to sequester the more than $1 billion the state saves from reducing teacher pay 3 percent and ending the cost of living increase on their retirement benefits while the case moves through the judicial system.

“This pay cut was used by legislative leadership to make up a budget shortfall on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and other state workers,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “It is essentially an income tax levied only on workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. It’s unfair – and it breaks promises made to these employees when they chose to work to improve our state.”

The lawsuit alleges that the state violated its contractual obligation to state workers when it shifted money from worker pay to replace some of the state’s obligation to pay into the Florida Retirement System.The union says that state law expressly provides that the FRS is one in which employees do not have to contribute part of their salaries and the shift impairs those contractual rights.

Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators argued the change was needed to bring state retirement accounts in line with the private sector, which require workers to contribute into their retirment accounts but the money was not used to enhance employee benefits but to relieve the budget deficit. Florida was the only state that still had not negotiated a employee contribution as part of its retirement plan.

The Broward Teachers Union, which joined the lawsuit, called the legislature’s labeling the pay cut a retirement contribution “a false premise.”

“Florida’s leaders talk ad nauseam about the need to cut taxes for businesses and the state’s wealthiest residents and yet, when it comes to our police officers, firefighters and teachers, they didn’t even blink an eye when imposing this income tax increase,” said BTU President Pat Santeramo Santeramo.

The FRS collects retirement money for more than 655,000 active employees throughout the state and provides benefits to 219,000 retirees. Workers have not paid into the plan since 1974.

Ford acknowledged that this action is “making ourselves a target” of House and Senate leaders but doing the right thing “trumps the fear of legislative payback.”

He said this is “the first in what is likely to be a series of judicial challenges to some of the reckless legislation that was dreamed up by legislative leaders and heartily endorsed by our governor.”

FEA attorney Ron Meyer said the union is also planning to file a lawsuit against Senate Bill 736, known as the “Student Success Act,” which Meyer said “is anything but a student success act. It would be a fair statemtn to say we will be litigating provisions of that act.”

Meyer said they are also considering a lawsuit against the proposed constitutional amendment eliminating the “no-aid” provision of the state Constitution “which will certainly facilitate expansion of school vouchers and there are others as well.”



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/20/2275364/teachers-sue-state-over-unconstitutional.html#ixzz1PpcDI32V

06.20.11 0
Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and
PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took
trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave
themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.
04.15.11 3
Floridians Are Maybe Starting To Understand Their Governor Is A Grifte

Great read… full article here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/30/floridians-rick-scott-grifter_n_842597.html

Despite his being best known as a cartoon villain fraudster who bilked Medicare and incurred a record-setting fine from authorities, Florida Governor Rick Scott outspent and outgunned his primary opponent Bill McCollum and then slipped past Democratic challenger Alex Sink in the 2010 GOP wave.

And now, after three months in office, he’s become the very face of buyer’s remorse:

A PPP poll of registered voters released today shows that in a hypothetical re-do of last year’s gubernatorial election, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) would lose to Democrat Alex Sink by a nearly 20-point margin, 56%-37%. Scott won a squeaker of an election last year, edging out Sink by about one point.

Eye-popping as those figures are on their own, they get even starker when you start making comparisons. In this regard, Scott’s numbers vastly outpace the “do-over” figures of some of thesexier “buyer’s remorse” governors that have garnered most of the media’s attention for their battles with public sector employees and the like. (Though Scott did participate in similar exploits, such ascutting teacher pay to fund corporate giveaways and gutting benefits for the unemployed.)

A big part of Scott’s unpopularity stems from policy decisions that have managed to cheese off lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. His decision to scotch the SunRail commuter train high-speed rail project earned him the emnity of both Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Representative John Mica (R-Fla.), who had put years of sweat equity into the project. Closer to home, Scott felt the same bipartisan heat from state Senators.

Beyond the kerfuffle over high-speed rail, Scott’s planned spending reductions in education aren’t flying even with lawmakers in his own party, who see them as inhibitors to job growth.

Aside from engendering a heaping share of bipartisan ill will, Florida’s governor has revealed himself to be the person we warned you he was: the exemplar of a serial fraudster. The end result has molded Scott, in a very short time, into one of the most politically isolated governors in America.

For future reference, here are some ways that you can tell if your state’s governor is some sort of appalling grifter.

He does vaguely scammy things to the people who worked on his own campaign. Within a week of getting elected, Scott was already leaving those who dedicated themselves to his victoryfeeling like they’d been had:

A part-time campaign worker who found the job through an ad on Craigslist is upset that the campaign paid him with an American Express gift card.

Mark Don Givens told Florida’s WTSP News that he was expecting a paycheck after he made phone calls and knocked on doors for the Scott campaign, which made jobs a top issue in the election. Givens said he and other workers were upset after they were told by the campaign that they could not offer them a paycheck and given American Express gift cards instead.

He spends an inordinate amount of money on self-celebration. Lots of incoming governors noticed their constituents were doing without in this economic downturn, and scaled back on inaugural pomp. Not Scott:

Before he’s even taken office, however, some Floridians are criticizing Scott for planning an extravagant inauguration ceremony in the midst of the state’s economic turmoil. The Governor’s Inaugural Ball will take place in Tallahassee on Jan. 4, and any Floridian that can scrape together $95 can attend. So far, Scott — who won by the narrowest margin in 134 years in a Florida gubernatorial race — has raised $2 million for the ball, primarily from large corporations that conduct business in the state.

[…]

When challenged on the expensive ceremony, Scott responded that “he’s not sure what the right number is” to spend on an inauguration, and that “it’s important to have a celebration.” This is a view that was not held by his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist, who canceled his inaugural ceremony in 2006 after similar criticisms over the cost and scale of the party. “I made a mistake, and, yes, it was a doozy,” Crist said at the time. “Upon reflection, it doesn’t feel right to me when there are people having trouble paying their insurance bills and making ends meet.”

He’s got something of an itching palm. Soon after the election, Scott fielded a call from Republican Governor’s Association head Haley Barbour, where he made it pretty clear he wasn’t too happy about that time the RGA funded ads on McCollum’s behalf truthfully depicting Scott as a massive fraudster.

But it wasn’t really a matter of principle to Scott — it was a matter of cost:

Scott cut him off at one point, according to sources who remember the following exchange:

"Haley, you shouldn’t have gotten involved," Scott said.

Barbour: “But….”

Scott: “Haley, you cost me more than $7 million — $7 million.”

Wasn’t Scott some kind of multi-millionaire self-funding candidate? Well, that lost $7 million was Haley Barbour’s fault. And Scott’s basic message was, “Screw you, pay me.”

Barbour poured on the Southern charm and tried to steer the conversation to letting bygones be bygones. But sources said, Scott wanted to make sure that the RGA felt his pain - after all, it helped underwrite ads calling Scott a “fraud.” Scott also wanted to make sure the RGA would support him and make good on its promise to spend $8 million in Florida.

"Haley, we want the $8 million," Scott said at one point.

Haley tried to tap dance around it, but Scott repeated himself. “Haley, you cost me more than $7 million,” Scott reportedly said, repeating it a third time for emphasis.

He seems to want to make it easier for other serial fraudsters to commit serial fraud. Earlier this month, Scott moved to get rid of “an anti-fraud database that would track the fraudulent distribution of addictive prescription drugs in Florida” entirely funded by “federal money and private donations.”

The governor claims the database—which allows doctors to search patient drug purchases for potential abuses—would amount to an invasion of privacy, as the New York Times notes in a story about state Republicans who are at war with Scott. Lawmakers from both parties and patient advocates who fought for the creation of the database are flabbergasted: some view the resource as a critical tool in combating black-market drug traffic, the proliferation of pain clinics, and the abuse of prescription drugs.

That’s from Mother Jones' Suzy Khimm, who points us toward this article in the St. Petersburg Times:

"This is a step in the wrong direction," said Capt. Robert Alfonso, head of the narcotics division of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. "We were looking forward to using it…"

"It makes no logical or rational sense," said Paul Sloan, a Venice-based pain clinic owner and president of the Florida Society of Pain Management Providers. "It’s absolutely absurd. This is the most important weapon in the fight against prescription drug abuse…"

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has been a champion of efforts to fight prescription drug abuse and sponsored the drug monitoring legislation, rapped the governor for sliding his proposal into his mass of budget recommendations.

"I’m extremely, extremely disappointed with the governor and his administration for sneaking this into a…bill," Fasano said.

That’s not all, of course! Scott’s plan to privatize as much of the public school system as he possible can is, in the words of Stephanie Mencimer, a “fraud magnet.”

As soon as the state starts handing families $5500 a year, it’s virtually assured that enterprising thieves will devise various schemes to help them part with those funds, including by starting “independent” for-profit virtual schools, charter schools, and other predatory “educational” institutions. While the idea of privatizing the education system may seem like a big money saver, and no one really loves school bureaucracies, putting that much taxpayer money out there without adequate oversight (i.e. bureaucracy) is a formula for disaster.

It’s not just a hypothetical harm, as charter schools in many states have demonstrated. Charter schools get paid by the number of kids they enroll, and they are free from much of the bureaucracy Republicans like to bash so much. All that money mixed with all that freedom hasn’t produced much in the way of an education boost: Charter schools perform no better and often much worse than traditional ones. But they have produced a bumper crop of fraudsters.

In recent years, the US Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General has been raising red flags about charter school fraud and embezzlement, a problem that is increasing. In March, the OIG wrote that it had opened more than 40 charter school criminal investigations that resulted in the convictions of 15 charter school officials, with 24 cases still pending. Most of the cases involved charter school operators and employees who falsely increased enrollment figures and used the extra money to bankroll lavish lifestyles. They often engaged in testing and grade-fixing antics to ensure the money kept rolling in. At the time the report was released, prosecutors had recovered more than $4 million stolen by charter school employees and operators since 2005.

He avoids scrutiny like a vampire avoids sunlight. Scott very quickly went to war with media — he’s hidden outclamped down, and stifled coverage.

About the only thing that can be said in Scott’s favor? It was Joe Biden who stuffed an Orlando Sentinel reporter in a closet. Though that event prompted these reflections:

Biden’s office later apologized, but the incident resonated in Tallahassee among a press corps that feels the new governor is shutting them out of the party.

"We have never had a governor who was this reluctant to talk to the press corps," claims St. Petersburg Times reporter, Lucy Morgan.

Morgan has covered ten Florida governors over the last 40 years. She says Rick Scott’s office delays requests for documents, tries to hand-pick pool reporters, and has forbidden his agency heads to talk to the media on their own.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Associated Press confronting the issue of transparency in state governments found Scott to be particularly wanting:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has taken a step back from his state’s generally strong record on transparency. His office has announced plans to charge a fee to fulfill open records requests, a practice allowed under state law but waived by the previous governor, Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist. Scott’s spokesman said the decision was made to save taxpayer money, not to block access to information.

As is typical in this day and age, both sides were reduced to sparring on Twitter.

Oh! And he basically crafts policy for the sole purpose of personal enrichment. If there’s one word that could account for Scott’s dramatic fall from — we hesitate to use the word, but, okay — “grace,” it is Solantic. That’s the name of Scott’s post-HCA company, a chain of urgent care facilities in which he had a $62 million stake.

But rather then divest himself of the company, he shifted his share to his wife, a move that met “the letter of Florida ethics laws, if not the spirit.”

He then set about crafting policy designed to ensure that Solantic would do very, very well:

Scott and Florida Republicans are currently trying to enact a sweeping Medicaid reform bill that would give HMOs and other private health care companies unprecedented control over the government health care program for the poor. Among the companies that stand to benefit from the bill is Solantic, a chain of urgent-care clinics aimed at providing emergency services to walk-in customers.

[…]

Florida Democrats and independent legal experts say this handover hardly absolves Scott of a major conflict of interest. As part of a federally approved pilot program that began in 2005, certain Medicaid patients in Florida were allowed to start using their Medicaid dollars at private clinics like Solantic. The Medicaid bill that Scott is now pushing would expand the pilot privatization program to the entire state of Florida, offering Solantic a huge new business opportunity.

"This is a conflict of interest that raises a serious ethical issue," says Marc Rodwin, a medical ethics professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. "The public should be thinking and worrying about this."

In addition, he signed an executive order that would force “many state employees and job applicants submit to mandatory drug tests.” Alongside that mandate, Scott’s been seeking legislation that would require the same of welfare recipients. Naturally, Solantic “conducts drug-testing for employers and employees alike and stands to profit from this proposal.”

Scott also apparently does not use email — or he claims to not use it, anyway. Serial fraudsters know it’s best not to leave much of a paper trail, electronic or otherwise.

So there you have it: the more he reveals himself as the grifter he is, the more Florida voters turn against their governor. All the classic signs of a scammer are right there on the surface, they’ve just been largely obscured by the sort of P.R. Scott’s money can purchase.

Maybe he finds a way to turn this around, maybe he doesn’t. All we can say to Floridians is this: wewarned you!

04.07.11 0
Even Firemen want to FIRE Rick Scott

Dear Representative Plakon,

I’m writing in response to House Bill 1023 (HB1023) which you have sponsored.  First,  I want you to know I oppose this Bill for all the obvious reasons.   More importantly,  I want you to withdraw firefighters  as an exclusion from your Bill.  As a firefighter for almost 30 years and the President of Orlando Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF L-1365, a labor union, we do not wish to be excluded from your attack on unions.  Although I do not speak for the entire State of Florida and its firefighters, I do speak for Orlando Fire Fighters IAFF L-1365 and know that many firefighter union leaders share the same opinion of HB-1023 and object to the exclusion of firefighters unions.

Professional Fire Fighters are proud labor unionist and we stand with the rest of labor during this unjust and ideological attack by you and the right wing of your party.  To exclude us is a mistake, we will not show favor to those who attack labor and the working class, excluded or not. I would prefer you not hide behind firefighters in your ideological and self serving attack on labor and the working class of this State.

Sincerely

Steve Clelland, President
Orlando Professional Fire Fighters IAFF 1365

04.07.11 0
Pollster: Gov. Rick Scott is a ‘four-letter word’ to half of voters

I would have guess “F*CK”

HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

TALLAHASSEE — Rick Scott is so far one of the least popular Florida governors in recent memory with almost half of registered voters saying he’s doing a bad job in office, a new poll shows.

Only 35 percent voters give the Republican newcomer a positive job-approval rating, according to the latest Florida survey of 1,499 registered voters conducted by Quinnipiac University.

The reasons for Scott’s popularity problems are varied: an economy on life support, power scuffles with lawmakers from his own party, a newly energized left that deeply dislikes him and a hard-right governing style that seems to estrange middle-of-the-road independent voters who swing elections.

“Today, Scott is a four-letter word to many Florida voters, but political popularity can change with time,” Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown said.

“The fact that Scott is as unpopular as the State Legislature, which has a 47 – 35 percent disapproval rating, is evidence of the depth of his problem,” Brown said in a press statement. “It is exceedingly rare for an unindicted governor or president to ever be seen as poorly by the electorate as his legislature or Congress.”

Compared to his predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, Scott’s poll numbers are in the cellar.

Also weighing on Scott: his proposed budget, which calls for deep cuts and as many as 6,000 actual state-worker layoffs. More than half of voters, 53 percent, say the proposed budget and its cuts are unfair to people like them. About 37 percent say it’s fair.

Almost half of voters say Scott’s budget cuts go “too far;” 16 percent want more cuts and 29 percent say the cuts are “about right.”

The Legislature has largely ignored Scott’s big ticket budget and tax cuts in the meantime.

But the Quinnipiac poll is not all bad news for Scott. Voters overwhelmingly approve of his plan to drug test current state workers and job applicants. The poll says 78 percent like the idea; only 20 percent are opposed.

In a February Quinnipiac poll, roughly the same percentage of voters – 35 percent – favored Scott’s job performance. Only 22 percent had a negative view. Now, those with a negative opinion have more than doubled – to 48 percent.

But do the poll results really matter? Probably not at this point.

Consider the case of Charlie Crist, who enjoyed a “stratospheric” job-approval rating of 73 percent three months into his first term, according to a March 2007 Quinnipiac poll. Only 9 percent said he was doing a bad job.

Yet, slowly, Crist’s popularity eroded as the economy deteriorated and he was unable to win election last November in his U.S. Senate race.

The Quinnipiac poll isn’t the only survey that finds Scott deeply unpopular. Last week, Public Policy Polling said just 32 percent of voters approved of Scott’s job performance – compared to 55 percent of voters who disliked the job he was doing.

The firm, associated with Democratic candidates, noted that Scott took office with poor job-approval ratings. Scott, compared to each of the other three Republicans elected statewide to the Florida Cabinet in November, received the fewest votes and barely beat his Democratic rival.

“You could say Rick Scott’s honeymoon is over…but that would suggest he had one in the first place,” Tom Jensen, a public policy polling analyst wrote last week.



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/06/2153239/pollster-gov-rick-scott-is-a-4.html#ixzz1Il107LIT

04.06.11 0
Deregulation bill would cost Fla. $6M loss, 100 jobs

What happened the last time we deregulated something? Oh yeah, subprime mortgage, enron, and the whole economy collapsing…

HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

As lawmakers seek to close a budget gap and eliminate “job-killing regulations,” a vast deregulation bill would free auto repair shops from providing customers with written estimates that break down the cost of parts and labor.

It would halt inspections of business that sell ice, and stop state reports on how charities use their contributions.

Twenty different businesses are targeted in the bill, including movers, interior designers, talent agents and sports agents that recruit and represent student athletes.

And how much money would the state save with these changes?

None.

In fact, if the House bill became law, it would cost the state more than $6 million in lost revenue and result in more than 100 layoffs, most of them in a call center in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that fields consumer complaints.

That doesn’t sit well with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“We think it’s important that there remain a consumer hot line,” Putnam said. “That 1-800-HELP-FLA is sort of a universal hot line. People report wildfires to that. People report being ripped off to that. People report problems at the gas pumps with that. So it’s an important function that goes away.”

The House staff analysis, though, says the bill “has a positive fiscal impact on the private sector.”

“This is the direct result of removing requirements for various professionals and businesses to pay various fees and to submit applications and disclosures,” reads the analysis.

Nearly all of the businesses slated for deregulation pay fees of less than $300 a year.

But Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, who voted in favor of the bill when it came before the Business and Consumer Affairs subcommittee, said that’s money that perhaps the state shouldn’t have been collecting in the first place.

“We want to turn this over to the private sector,” Young said.

Businesses that continue to serve consumers well will thrive, she said. Others won’t.

As for written estimates from auto repair shops, she said: “People can ask for those.”

Nearly half of the businesses affected by the legislation are regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We’re continuing to work with members of the Legislature to deregulate those things which are appropriate to deregulate and in the other areas maintaining a level of consumer protection that the people have come to expect and deserve,” Putnam said.

He expressed particular concern about the deregulation of telemarketers, saying that most of the department’s complaints come from consumers reporting violations of the “do-not-call” list.

Putnam also said he worries about deregulation of charities.

“We’re seeing a lot of pseudo charities out there, particularly ones raising money in the name of veterans and not really giving the money back to the veterans,” he said.

And Putnam said the auto repair shops should continue to be monitored, though not necessarily by his department. “Someone ought to be keeping an eye on that just to make sure the people aren’t victimized,” he said.

Putnam said he shares the Legislature’s passion for deregulation. “But we want to be smart about it,” he said.

Rep. Esteban Bovo, a Republican from Hialeah, sponsored the bill, but he resigned last week to run for the Miami-Dade County Commission.



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/30/2141987/deregulation-bill-would-cost-florida.html#ixzz1ICCIWvYn

03.31.11 1
Gov. Scott to call for deep cuts at agency for disabled

BY MARC CAPUTO

Due to a shockingly large deficit, Gov. Rick Scott is planning to invoke his emergency powers and make deep cuts to the rates charged by group homes and case workers who help the developmentally disabled.

Scott could announce a 15 percent rate cut as early as Thursday to close the $170 million budget gap in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, according to lawmakers who were briefed Wednesday.

The deficit — which exceeds the agency’s spending authority by nearly 20 percent — is partly the legacy of lawsuits, poor planning by the Legislature and a nearly $20 million veto by Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, who starved the program of savings when he refused to trim provider rates last summer.

SYSTEM SHUTDOWN

Those who provide services to the nearly 30,000 Floridians with cerebral palsy, autism and Down Syndrome said they aren’t concerned with the origin of the deficit as much as the effect of deep rate cuts.

“This would be a catastrophe,” said Kingsley Ross, an advocate and lobbyist for Sunrise Community, a Miami-based group home operator.

For the past three years, Ross said, providers have shouldered rate cuts. They’re now operating on the thinnest of margins.

“The system can’t take this,” Ross said. “Eventually, we will have to cut jobs and reduce services.”

Scott’s spokesman, Brian Burgess, said the governor doesn’t want to harm the developmentally disabled. However, he said the state has put off tough choices for too long and the bill is due.

Burgess said paring the budget now will put the state in a better position to pay future expenses on the neediest. “Yes it’s painful,” Burgess said. “But we’re trying to alleviate the pain long term.”

Florida has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, but federally created Medicaid-related entitlement programs can go into deficit from time to time if the number of recipients increases or costs for needed services rise.

The Legislature estimated that next year the entire state budget will have a $3.75 billion shortfall. So lawmakers are trimming programs.

Troubled by the deficit in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Scott ordered an inquiry. The results of the investigation are scheduled to be released Thursday.

RECIPE FOR DISASTER

The Legislature tried to cut the program for the developmentally disabled last year, but Gov. Crist refused. He vetoed a 2.5 percent provider rate reduction.

Meantime, lawmakers didn’t budget enough money for the program to account for the fact that thousands of recipients had sued to block a system of service reductions and cuts to the program.

When times were flush five years ago, legislators expanded the rolls of the Medicaid program by about 5,000 — a move that brought cheers from advocates for the disabled. They had fretted that about 15,000 developmentally-disabled people were on a waiting list but unable to receive services.

But the waiting list has only grown. Medical costs have increased. But state tax collections plummeted and then flat-lined.

Add all those factors together, and the deficit in the $850 million program for the developmentally disabled is about $170 million, according to the Florida House’s proposed budget. The budget proposes to fix this year’s deficit by shifting money from special accounts. But the Senate offers no such solution, leaving Gov. Scott few choices. Neither he nor his fellow Republicans want to raise taxes to fill the deficit.

Scott’s proposal to reduce rates by 15 percent should save about $34 million. The rest of the deficit would be plugged by shifting agency money and reducing the rates of South Florida providers who get slightly higher reimbursements.

Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who chairs the Senate’s health budget committee, and Rep. Matt Hudson, chairman of the House health budget committee, said they were briefed on the plan and support Scott.

“The governor wants to fix a problem,” Negron said. “And this deficit is a big problem.”



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/30/2142265/gov-scott-to-call-for-deep-cuts.html#ixzz1ICBwzf5u

03.31.11 0
Blind woman challenges Gov. Rick Scott’s new rules

HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

A blind woman from Miami seeking to reapply for food stamps has filed a petition in the Florida Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Rick Scott’s rule-making freeze.

The freeze was one of Scott’s first acts as governor, included in an executive order signed less than an hour after his Jan. 4 inauguration.

More than 900 rules on their way to approval were affected. Many have received an okay from the governor, but many more are still on hold.

Rosalie Whiley, plaintiff in the lawsuit, said one of the stalled rules will make it easier for her to apply for food stamps online. She wants the executive order revoked.

“Because of my visual handicap, I have to get someone to come in and put in information for me online. I feel like it’s important for me to do it by myself,” said Whiley, 54, who lost her vision due to glaucoma, which she has suffered with since age 16.

Whiley said she has to reapply for food stamps every six months.

“I’m really concerned,” she said of Gov. Scott. “He’s coming in and he’s disrupting a lot of things that are going to affect a lot of people. A lot of people.”

It’s the second lawsuit filed in the Florida Supreme Court this month charging that Scott has exceeded his power. The first came from state Sens. Sens. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, over Scott’s decision to reject federal money for high-speed rail. The court rejected that suit.

“I’m very comfortable that I have legal ground,” Scott said of the latest court challenge. “And we’ll continue down this path of reviewing existing regulations and doing whatever we can to amend regulations that are killing jobs.”

In addition to freezing all rules in the works, Scott’s order created the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform. No new rules can move forward without approval by the office.

Former Florida State University president Sandy d’Alemberte, who represents the Times in some First Amendment cases, is part of Whiley’s legal team.

He said Scott is overstepping his constitutional authority on several fronts with the executive order.

Creating a new state office requires legislative approval, d’Alemberte said. Plus, Scott is usurping the power of agency heads to make rules, say court papers.

“He has no authority to do that,” d’Alemberte said. “The Legislature gives rule-making authority to those agencies, not to the governor.”

The lawsuit also alleges the standards for reviewing agency rules are too vague. And it says the order keeps the Secretary of State from publishing rules as required by Florida law.

“The Administrative Procedures Act lays out the ways in which rules should be adopted,” d’Alemberte said. “He basically displaces all of that.”

Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Bradenton, has filed a bill based on Gov. Scott’s executive order that would add a section to the Administrative Procedures Act allowing the governor and other Cabinet members to repeal rules already in place.

“Because the governor has done this, the thinking was to lay out a process,” Roberson said. “If there’s going to be a rule review, there has to be a process that the Legislature authorizes.”

HB 993 would allow Cabinet members during their first six months in office to repeal rules if they are obsolete or if they conflict with policies they are trying to implement. The repeal could be challenged, but Cabinet members could individually override the challenge. An objection to the override could be filed with the First District Court of Appeals.

Scott is currently reviewing more than 11,400 existing rules, according to his website, FloridaHasARightToKnow.com. He has targeted more than 1,400 for repeal and or revision, and more than 1,200 for revision. Most of those are in the departments of Business and Professional Regulation and Environmental Protection.

Roberson’s bill still has two committee stops before going to the House floor. It has no companion in the Senate.



Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/29/2140346/lawsuit-challenges-constitutionality.html#ixzz1ICBkx2Lx

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