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Staff Reports

State announces Medicaid managed care bid date

The Agency for Health Care Administration said Thursday it will post material for the next bidding for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program “on or around July 14.”

That’s when the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the re-procurement will go live on the Florida Department of Management Services’ Vendor Bid System website.

Companies who put in a proposal will be subject to a 72-hour blackout period, in which they can’t contact “any employee or officer of the executive or legislative branch concerning any aspect of this solicitation,” according to a state law.

“Violation of this provision may be grounds for rejecting a response,” the agency said. “… Due to the upcoming re-procurement, we will not have any discussions relating to the scope, evaluation or negotiation of those procurements.

For more information about the SMMC program, click here.

Report: Richard Corcoran raises $608K for new Watchdog PAC

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $600,000 in one month to a newly formed political committee.

The Miami Herald reported that Corcoran’s newly formed Watchdog PAC raised $608,000, half of which came from contributions from political committees run by Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo. The committee, the Herald reported, also received $100,000 from Norman Braman.

According to the report, Oliva’s political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, gave Watchdog PAC $250,000; while Trujillo’s committee, Conservative and Principled Leadership for Florida, gave it $100,000.

The committee raised about $183,000, according to the Herald, before a fundraiser hosted by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

Corcoran is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. He launched the political committee in May, and it could help fund a run for statewide office.

Tampa Police seek to seize $298K found in suspicious package, without an arrest

Tampa police are looking to seize nearly $300,000 from a suspicious Oregon-bound package found at a UPS Customer Center in Tampa, despite the lack of an arrest for any crime.

On May 25, a man dropped off a 65-pound package a UPS Customer Center at 5100 Acline Dr. E, Tampa. The man, later identified as Junction City, Oregon resident Donald George “Don” Penvose Jr., arrived at the UPS center driving a newly-purchased 2002 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

According to witnesses, Penvose – who had been acting suspiciously – asked staff to pick the package up and bring it into the center, allegedly refusing to touch the package.

When security personnel opened the package, they found a Panasonic microwave oven taped shut with several foil bags inside – a frequent practice for concealing marijuana and other drugs from X-ray machines and drug-sniffing dogs.

The Tampa Police Department later found $298,410 in cash bundles inside the bags.

A search for the package’s UPS tracking number says it is being “delayed due to a Government regulatory agency hold.”

Tampa police say they sent cash seizure notices to several addresses – including two local addresses – associated with Penvose.

One seizure notice went to a rental home owned by Pedro and Marta Angulo at 5409 N. Ninth St. in Tampa. A second notice went to a mobile home owned, but not occupied, by Theresa Lemon at 6539 Ruth Dr. in Port Richey.

According to TLO.com, Penvose’s name is linked to a vacant property at 18054 Crawley Road in Odessa.

In a petition filed June 12, the TPD is seeking permission to keep the cash under Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Although police have not arrested Penvose, the department argues the money is linked to the illegal sale of marijuana.

A 2016 amendment to the forfeiture act says a seizure may occur “only after the owner of the property is arrested” for a related criminal offense. TPD is asking the court to make an exception on several grounds, including that “Mr. Penvose’s failure to claim the package is a denial of ownership.”

Apparently, the judge agreed, issuing an order June 14 that found probable cause for the seizure.

Hard Rock names three new top executives

Hard Rock International, controlled by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Wednesday announced three new top executives.

Lucas

Jon Lucas will be the company’s new chief operating officer and “will oversee key company departments, in addition to brand operations,” according to a press release. He will report directly to Chairman and CEO Jim Allen.

He was previously executive vice president of hotel operations, where “he helped acquire Hard Rock casino and hotel rights throughout the western part of the U.S. and major international markets, spearheaded casino entry into Canada and entered the hotel management sector.”

The company is opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.

That follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada. The company also wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey just outside New York City.

Hipsh

Also, Dale Hipsh was promoted to senior vice president, “overseeing the entire hotel portfolio for Hard Rock International,” the release said. He previously served as vice president for hotel operations development.

And Sean Caffery joins the company to locate “new development locations, countries and partners for the casino business throughout North and South America.”

The Tribe last year consolidated its control over the rock ‘n’ roll-themed Hard Rock hotel and casino brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

In Florida, Hard Rock-themed properties are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Updated 3 p.m. — The company later on Wednesday announced that Stephen K. Judge, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, will serve as president of cafe operations.

He will “oversee daily operations for the brand’s 176 worldwide corporate and franchise cafe locations, and steer Hard Rock’s world-renowned branded retail merchandise, while strengthening the Hard Rock Cafe portfolio.”

Tampa Bay Rowdies release Deshorn Brown to sign with D.C. United

The Tampa Bay Rowdies have released forward Deshorn Brown, allowing him to sign with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, the club announced Tuesday.

“We wish Deshorn the best of luck in D.C. United,” said Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell. “He’s a very talented player, who will be an asset to any club he joins in his career. It’s been a privilege to coach him in his time at the Rowdies. We knew this was an opportunity Deshorn couldn’t turn down, and as a club, we didn’t want to stand in the way of his ambitions to return to MLS.”

Brown scored three goals in 15 appearances for the Rowdies this season after signing with the club in March.

Brown came to the Rowdies after playing for Shenzhen in the China League One. He previously played for the Colorado Rapids in MLS and Vålerenga in Norway.

 

Florida Chamber endorses Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 race

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

In a statement Tuesday, Marian Johnson, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political strategy, said the Miami Republican has put Florida families and businesses first.

“Representative Jose Felix Diaz continues to put Florida families and businesses first, and has remained an advocate for free enterprise and job creation,” she said.” The Florida Chamber is proud to endorse Representative Jose Felix Diaz for the Florida Senate.”

Diaz faces former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the July special primary to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal.

The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

A government law attorney at Akerman, Diaz was first elected to the Florida House in 2010. He is currently the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and has been the chamber’s point person on gambling legislation in recent years.

Diaz most recently earned the Chamber’s backing in 2016, when he ran for re-election in House District 116. The 37-year-old Miami-Dade Republican has resigned his House seat, effective Sept. 26, to run in the special election.

“If you ask the residents of District 40 what their biggest issues are – the answer is clear – jobs and the economy. The Florida Chamber of Commerce represents the biggest job creators in Florida, and I am honored to have their support for my State Senate race,” said Diaz in a statement. “I am proud of my record in support of low taxes and a responsible regulatory environment that both promotes sustained economic growth and protects consumers.”

The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26.

Personnel note: Dale Swope named president of Florida Justice Association

Tampa attorney Dale Swope has been named the 58th president of the Florida Justice Association, the group announced in a press release Monday.

Swope

Swope took the presidency at the Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach last week. The group is the only statewide professional association dedicated to trial attorneys and their clients in the state.

“I’m honored my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead the Florida Justice Association at this consequential time for civil justice in our state and country,” Swope said after being sworn in.

“We are the trusted advocates every day Floridians turn to when they seek justice after they are hurt by rich and powerful insurance companies and corporations,” he added. “We will continue our work from the courthouse to the statehouse to protect access to justice for all.”

Swope, 63, is the managing partner of Swope, Rodante. He succeeds Tallahassee attorney James “Jimmy” Gustafson, a shareholder with Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley as president for a one-year term.

Others elected to leadership positions include Lake H. “Trey” Lytal III, of West Palm Beach, who will serve as President-elect. He practices law with the firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.

Leslie Mitchell Kroeger, of Palm Beach Gardens, will serve as Treasurer. She is a partner with the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Eric Romano, of Lake Worth, will serve as Secretary. He is a partner with the Romano Law Group.

Rick Scott signs nursing home reimbursement changes into law

Changes to how the state’s nursing that accept Medicaid are paid are coming down the pike.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a wide-sweeping health care bill (SB 2514) last week that, among other things, moves the payment system to a cost-based system to a prospective payment system. The law delays the move from cost-based system to a prospective payment system by a year, giving health care officials and providers additional time to study and prepare for the shift.

“LeadingAge Florida and our high-quality, mission-driven members appreciate that the Legislature delayed implementation of the prospective payment system for a year,” said Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida.

The shift to a prospective payment plan, which reimburses nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated on several different components, was one of several behind-the-scenes food fights this year.

Officials with LeadingAge, which represents about 400 senior communities through the state, expressed concern that the initial proposal would shift money from high-quality nursing homes, threatening the quality of care offered in facilities across the state. But Bahmer said the group “never opposed the shift to a PPS approach.”

“However, we have consistently opposed ill-conceived plans that would damage Florida’s highest-quality nursing care providers,” said Bahmer. “The Legislature wisely delayed the implementation of the PPS to allow the further study of this important issue. Looking forward to 2018, we will work with AHCA, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to ensure that the payment system truly rewards high-quality providers.”

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents about 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers, was generally supportive of the recommendations proposed during the 2017 Legislative Session, but did seek to make some changes.

Emmett Reed, the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association, said he appreciated the organization appreciated Scott for “recognizing that a stronger reimbursement system is best for everyone involved.”

“The prospective payment system will put the focus on quality care and quality of life for Florida’s nursing center residents, and for the first time in Florida’s Medicaid history, will link nursing center reimbursement to quality outcomes,” said Reed. “On behalf of the thousands of long term caregivers working in our member centers, we commend Governor Scott for supporting PPS so they can achieve their goals of providing exceptional care and services to our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

Bob Gualtieri, Chris Nocco endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County are endorsing former Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody for Attorney General.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Attorney General Pam Bondi during my tenure as Sheriff. Her commitment to protecting our state from pill mills, drug traffickers, and those who prey on seniors through identity theft and scams has made us all safer. We need to continue these aggressive, common-sense initiatives and there is no one better suited to do that than Ashley Moody. She is a proven prosecutor and experienced leader in the legal community. She knows what it takes to protect our state and she has my full support,” Gualtieri said in a statement Monday.

Moody responded: “Sheriff Gualtieri is one of the most proactive and engaged Sheriffs in our state. He is constantly taking the fight to those who seek to do us harm and works with neighborhood and community leaders to ensure the safety of those he and his deputies have sworn to protect. He is also a leader in advocating for a stronger and smarter criminal justice system.”

“As sheriff, my top priority is the safety of my community and the brave men and women who risk their lives each and every day to keep our streets safe,” Nocco added. “I’m supporting Ashley Moody for Attorney General because she shares my priorities and has the experience, knowledge, and determination to keep our state safe and support our law enforcement community and its quest to protect Floridians.”

“Sheriff Nocco is one of the most highly respected and trusted Sheriffs in our state,” Moody said. “As the wife of a law enforcement officer I know just how important it is that our men and women in law enforcement have leaders who constantly look out for their safety and best interest.

“Sheriff Nocco has a proven track record of taking the fight to criminals who seek to do us harm and supporting those who keep us safe,” Moody said. “I can’t thank him enough for his support and I look forward to working with him, and all our Sheriffs, to keep Florida safe.”

Moody spent a decade as a circuit judge in Hillsborough County, resigning abruptly in April. After Moody’s resignation, Bondi, a longtime friend, encouraged her to run for attorney general. Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jay Fant and Democrat Ryan Torrens of Tampa have already entered the race.

Ashley lives with her husband, Justin, a federal law enforcement agent, in Tampa, with their two sons, Brandon and Connor.

Nat’l Democrats release new digital ad taking aim at Rick Scott over health care

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda.

The committee announced Monday it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families.

“Rick Scott cannot escape the toxic impact his health care proposals will have: spiking costs, sabotaging care and stripping coverage for hardworking families in order to give another handout to himself and big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC. “This week the stakes for middle class families could not be higher — if Scott has his way the consequences for Floridians who actually work for a living will be expensive and horrific. We are standing with voters in opposing a plan that is deeply unpopular in Florida, and will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his actions.”

The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen.

The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy.

Scott is believed to be preparing for a run against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

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