Staff Reports - 5/58 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

AFP-FL releases digital ad calling on Senate to ‘end corporate welfare’

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is continuing its efforts to try to put an end to economic incentives in Florida.

The organization launched a 60-second digital ad campaign Thursday, urging Floridians to “contact (their) legislator and tell them the game’s over: end this corporate welfare.” The release comes one day after the Florida Senate approved its 2017-18 budget, which included money for Enterprise Florida and economic incentive programs.

The House budget does not include funding for Enterprise Florida, and the House earlier this year voted to eliminate the agency.

“We’re glad that under Speaker Richard Corcoran’s leadership the Florida House is making good stewardship a priority this year so that we can ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are going to their best possible use,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement.

“It is not the role of government to hand our tax dollars to private companies – that’s not fair, that’s corporate welfare,” he continued. “The Florida Senate has a great opportunity to lead alongside the House, and show the rest of the country that by focusing on the real needs of their citizens and by doubling down on free market policies that work, they can propel Florida families and entrepreneurs into greater prosperity.”

The group has led the charge against incentives in recent years.

Florida hospitals created 900K jobs, new economic impact study finds

Florida hospitals were responsible for creating more than 900,000 jobs in 2015, according to a new economic impact study.

The study, completed by the University of Florida and sponsored by the Florida Hospital Association, found Florida hospitals were responsible for creating 901,674 full- and part-time jobs in 2015. The report also found hospitals generated nearly $128.4 billion in total economic contributions during the same period.

“Hospitals are the largest employers in many communities across Florida,” said FHA President Bruce Rueben in a statement. “Our member hospitals constantly reinvest in their communities and train new generations of health care providers.”

According to the report, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region had the most significant employment with 294,613 jobs in 2015, followed by the Orlando area with 215,321 jobs, and the Tampa-St. Petersburg region with 153,287 jobs.

Miami-Dade County also led the state in terms of hospital employment contributions, with 143,779 jobs in 2015, followed by Hillsborough County with 82,567, and Orange County with 81,984 jobs.

“Florida hospitals are stable and consistent employers across the state, and their impact continues to grow,” according to the report. “In 2015, the total employment impact of Florida hospitals was 2.65 percent higher than in 2013, and value added contributions were 0.83 percent higher in inflation-adjusted terms.”

The state’s 317 private hospitals, according to the report, paid more than $19.6 billion in employee wages, salaries and benefits in 2015.

The analysis was conducted using financial data from the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration and the Florida Hospital Uniform Reporting System.

“The data clearly demonstrate that Florida’s hospitals are creating jobs and contributing to Florida’s economic growth. Since 2013, the number of full-time equivalent hospital employees has increased by 6.87 percent,” said Alan Hodges, the report’s primary author, in a statement.

Denise Grimsley raises $260K in March for 2018 Ag. Commissioner bid

Sen. Denise Grimsley raised more than $260,000 in just one week toward her 2018 Agriculture Commissioner bid, far outpacing the only other Republican candidate in the race.

But state campaign finance record show Grimsley could face stiff fundraising competition from Rep. Matt Caldwell, whose political committee raised more than $224,000 in the same one-week period.

State campaign finance records show Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, raised a combined $260,756 between March 1 and March 6, the eve of the 2017 Legislative Session. Grimsley brought in $85,008 to her official campaign account; her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland, brought in $176,000.

Records show Innovate Florida, Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, gave Grimsley’s committee $50,000, making it the top contributor during the fundraising period. The committee also received a $25,000 contribution from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, which is linked to Associated Industries of Florida. Other top donors included the Florida Prosperity Fund, Costa Nursery Farms, OD-EYE PAC, and the Jacksonville Kennel Club.

Grimsley ended the one-month period with nearly $276,000 cash on hand in her official campaign account, and more than $450,000 cash on hand in her political committee.

Grimsley announced in February she was running for Agriculture Commissioner. A fifth generation Floridians, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. She was elected to the Senate in 2012, and easily won re-election in 2016.

So far the only other Republican to file to run for the seat is Orlando Republican Paul Paulson. State campaign finance records show Paulson raised no money in March.

Paulson, however, is far from the only Republican eyeing the race. In February, Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, said he intended to file to run for Agriculture Commissioner in August. That’s meant to honor a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran that members of his leadership team hold off filing to run for higher office until after the legislative session.

State records show Caldwell’s political committee — Friends of Matt Caldwell — raised $224,980 between March 1 and March 6, the day before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. The committee received $25,000 from Six L’s Pack Company and $20,000 from Troyer Bros. FL.

The committee ended the fundraising period with more than $659,000 cash on hand.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam can’t run for re-election because of term limits. He’s widely expected to announce a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Behind the radio: A critical network component for Florida public safety

The power, resiliency and efficiency of digital radio and other next-generation services are driving the need to modernize public safety communications networks toward internet protocol (IP) and broadband.

In this new multi-service, all-IP era, backhaul, the critical communications links between first responders and the backbone network that connects all statewide public service agencies and command centers, is expanding to become a critical value-added component of this evolution.

In 2017, the State of Florida will begin to upgrade its Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) network to national Project 25 (P25) digital standards.

With voice support as the current focus, the new backhaul network also will have to be ready to connect other devices or sensors that are or will be used by law enforcement teams — for example, those for CCTV — as well as for interagency communications and coordination.

By deploying a mobile backhaul network that uses internet protocol/multiprotocol label switching (IP/MPLS), Florida’s public safety organizations will be able to address all current and future requirements for digital communications while controlling costs.

Reliably connect, prioritize and secure mission-critical traffic

A full IP/MPLS backhaul network will give Florida many powerful benefits. It will be able to securely route mission-critical data in highly efficient, digitized packets that can reach their destination via any number of different routes. This ensures that critical communications traffic will get through in times of natural disasters and other emergencies.

If one or more links are down, the network will detect the problem and reroute data in milliseconds using another path. It also will instantly prioritize the most critical services, such as voice communication, as determined by agency policy and best practices.

Additionally, IP/MPLS mobile backhaul will provide Florida with enhanced cyber security. For example, it will manage the encryption of the traffic to protect it from being spied upon, and will stop an illicit attempt by non-authorized people to access the network.

Multi-layer encryption for IP/MPLS, optical and microwave, and many additional cyber security capabilities, are built natively into Nokia mission-critical grade backhauling products, which were awarded Frost & Sullivan’s 2015 New Product Innovation Award for North American Cyber Security Solutions.

Keep operations and finance under control

Nokia IP/MPLS backhaul will streamline management as well. For example, Nokia’s single service-aware network management system with graphical user interfaces allows centralized management of all backhaul network components (microwave links, IP routers and eventually optical equipment).

This lets operators automate and simplify provisioning, monitoring and troubleshooting by giving them a unique end-to-end view of the whole network.

The new backhaul architecture can be the cornerstone to consolidate several aging government networks. Multiple agencies will be able to use the same network for any kind of traffic with full separation, prioritization and security, and the state’s microwave system will be more easily expandable.

All of this will create financial advantages, lowering overall operational costs for the state, while law enforcement and other public agencies benefit from improved network resiliency and speed.

IP/MPLS Mobile Backhaul for Florida

To best safeguard the health and security of its citizens, Florida needs a partner with a solid financial base, technological strength and unmatched innovation capability to support and scale these services for the long run.

Nokia backhauling solutions are designed in North America and deployed in many states and cities to serve public safety networks, and utilizing our renowned Bell Labs research arm, Nokia is #1 in worldwide in packet backhauling. In fact, for more than two decades, Florida has relied on Nokia backhaul technology.

There’s no doubt that Florida’s new packet mobile backhaul network will play a crucial role in maintaining advanced, efficient mission-critical communications services, available 24/7. Secure from hacking and cyberattacks, it will be a foundation for numerous future uses beyond simple voice communications. In short, it will be at the heart of the digital transformation of Florida’s public safety.

As Florida begins to modernize SLERS, Nokia will be there to support the transformation.

Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore files for re-election

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore filed campaign paperwork Tuesday in his re-election bid.

Moore, the founder of a medical supplies business which he later sold, was first elected in 2014 to represent District 2 and was selected in 2016 to be vice-chair of the Board of County Commissioners. He will also become chair in 2017.

“To build a small business or achieve other success in any area of life, you must set goals and then work tirelessly to deliver results,” Moore said in a statement. “Over the past two years, our community has set goals and we’ve worked together to accomplish them.”

Moore added that he has worked tirelessly to improve the local economy and “bring good paying jobs to Pasco County.” He worked to accelerate improvements to county roads, parks and infrastructure.

He said the helped fund public safety “so residents are safe and secure.”

“We’ve targeted blighted areas and we are improving those areas, benefiting our entire community. We’ve accomplished all of this while working to keep taxes low, reduce wasteful spending, right-size our local government and improve responsiveness and customer service,” Moore added.

“While there is much to be proud of, there is still a great deal we still must do. With your support, I’ll continue to fight for our shared principles while helping lead Pasco County to an even better and brighter future.”

Among the various boards and committees Moore sits: Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, Circuit Conflict-Sixth Judicial Circuit, Dependency Drug Treatment Court Planning Steering Committee, Government Operations Committee, Insurance Selection Committee, Public Safety Coordination Council, Habitat for Humanity, CARES, the Boys and Girls Club and chair of the Homeless Advisory Board.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Moore to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council in 2014 and appointed by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs Advisory Council in 2014.

“He is not scared to jump into the stickier issues,” Weatherford said of Moore to FloridaPolitics.com. “A lot of politicians won’t do that, but Mike will roll up his sleeves and go to work. When I think of him, it’s like the old political saying – do you want to be something, or do you want to do something? He wants to do something.”

Moore lives in Wesley Chapel with his wife and three children.

Rick Scott declares emergency as wildfires burn and forecast looks dire

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Tuesday because of the outbreak of wildfires across the state, and the potential for additional conflagrations amid forecasts of hot, dry weather.

The fires have consumed 250 percent more acreage during the first three months of the year, compared to the same period in 2016, Scott said.

More than 100 fires are burning across more than 20,000 acres.

“As wildfires impact our state, our incredible firefighters and first responders have bravely rushed to aid our communities and worked tirelessly to protect our homes and families,” Scott said in a written statement.

“Last month I traveled to Collier County with (Agriculture) Commissioner (Adam) Putnam to see the impacts of one of these wildfires first-hand, and we have continued to monitor the growing number of fires across the state.

“I’ve continued to be in contact with Commissioner Putnam and local officials about the wildfires across the state and today I am declaring a state of emergency in Florida to ensure we are ready to respond to and prepare for these fires,” Scott said.

“From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire,” Putnam said.

“I thank Gov. Scott for signing this executive order, which will ensure we have every resource available to us to combat these wildfires to protect life, property and wildlife. May God bless our brave firefighters who are working tirelessly to protect us.”

Marco Rubio to headline Pinellas GOP Lincoln Day Dinner on May 19

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will be the featured speaker next month at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee’s 2017 Lincoln Day Dinner, one of the region’s premier political events.

The Miami Republican will keynote the event on Friday, May 19, at the Hilton Carillon Hotel in St. Petersburg’s Gateway community.

The annual event not only celebrates recent local GOP victories but has grown to become one of the key fundraising events to support future races.

Lincoln Day dinners are annual GOP celebrations held nationwide by various Republican Party organizations. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s conservative successes over the past year.

Certain for inclusion in the celebration is the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as Donald Trump’s first choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Pinellas GOP Chair Nick DeCleglie said in a April 7 Facebook post: “With the help of a Republican-controlled Senate, whose members stood up to the Democrats’ partisan filibuster, Donald Trump will successfully follow through on what I consider to be his most important campaign promise – to appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a jurist who will hold true to the Constitution, much like his predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I am proud of our Republican Senators who used the precedent set by Harry Reid and the Democrats in 2013 to end debate and confirm this qualified member of the legal community.

“It is a great day for the rule of law in the greatest country the world has ever known,” DiCeglie added. “God Bless Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump, and the United States of America.”

The event also traditionally announces the winner of the C.W. “Bill” Young Public Service Award.

Personnel Note: Governor’s top lawyer joining Constitution Revision Commission

William Spicola, general counsel to Gov. Rick Scott for the past year, is leaving to become top legal officer of the Constitution Revision Commission.

Replacing him as GC in the executive office of the governor is Daniel Nordby, a partner in Shutts & Bowen’s Tallahassee office.

Both job changes become official on April 17, the governor’s office announced Monday.

“Will has been a valuable member of my team and has done an outstanding job leading efforts to appoint qualified judges to the bench, including our newest Supreme Court Justice, Justice Alan Lawson,” Scott said in a written statement.

“The CRC only comes once every 20 years, and it is an incredible honor that Will has the opportunity to serve in such an important role for the future of our state. I have enjoyed working with Will over the many years he has served in my administration and know that he will do a tremendous job in this leadership role at the CRC,” the governor said.

Before joining Scott’s office, Spicola was a veteran of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, where he had served as general counsel, director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, and chief attorney in the Division of Pari-Mutual Wagering.

Nordby has practiced election, constitutional, and administrative law at his firm since 2014. Before that, he served stints as general counsel to the Florida House and the secretary of state’s office.

Scott named him to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission in 2012.

The commission is holding public hearings around Florida as it considers changes to the state’s charter.

Presiding over the 37-member board is Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder and unsuccessful Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this is the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans.

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Floridians for Government Accountability launches mail campaign targeting Anitere Flores over AOB

Floridians for Government Accountability is launching a direct mail campaign targeting Sen. Anitere Flores over insurance premiums.

The direct mail campaign comes about a week after the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial that indicated Flores, the chairwoman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, would be to blame if insurance rates increased.

“Paying too much for insurance? The Wall Street Journal says Flores is at fault,” reads one side of the mailer.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week heard a bill (SB 1218 ) by Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer from Broward County, aimed at addressing assignment of benefits abuses. The proposal was not the one favored by the insurance and business community. That bill (SB 1038), but Sens. Dorothy Hukill and Kathleen Passidomo, would have barred third parties holding holding assignment of benefits agreements from collecting attorney fees if they sue insurers.

“Senator Flores said she would lower our rates, not raise them. Senator Flores is endangering the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and is sending our premiums skyrocketing,” the mailer reads on the other side. “We must stop her.”

The mailer encourages recipients to call Flores at her Tallahassee office and “tell her to keep her promise.”

Florida Justice Association denounces House workers’ comp package

Trial attorneys issued a denunciation Monday of the workers’ compensation reform package now headed for a House floor vote.

HB 7085 is “a handout to the insurance industry and its big-business allies – one that does little to benefit injured workers or most employers,” the Florida Justice Association said in a written statement.

“The plan wipes out countless injured workers’ ability to afford legal help when insurance companies wrongfully deny benefits, without providing other new benefits to offset this added burden,” the organization said.

Real reform would allow workers some choice in their doctors, a “mid-level” tier for benefits, competition between insurers on rates, and “reasonable” attorney fees, said Richard Chait, chairman of the workers’ compensation section.

“The eventual outcome of the current approach will be that more injured workers will receive inadequate health care treatment to help them recover,” he said.

“Injured workers will be hard-pressed to return to work with their employer, and this will put an additional drain on government social programs. In the end, the burden for those costs will be shouldered by Florida taxpayers.”

The House bill passed it’s final committee stop Thursday. It would retain a fee schedule for attorneys who prevail in benefits challenges, but would allow them to charge insurers as much as $150 per hour on approval by a judge of compensation claims.

Insurers would be spared paying fees for claims upon which they prevail — meaning the workers would have to pick up the tab.

Senate legislation, SB 1582, is friendlier toward the trial bar.

“The (House) bill in its current form misses an opportunity to enact true, balanced, and comprehensive reform to make the system better for injured workers,” Chait added. “The only people smiling about this proposal are the corporate and insurance special interests who received a windfall at the expense of workers.”

House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee chairman Danny Burgess has defended the bill as striking a balance between the needs of injured workers, employers, and insurers.

“There’s no question that the injured worker is one piece of the heart of the balance of the grand bargain,” Burgess said in an interview last week.

Update: Later, Associated Industries of Florida released its own statement on behalf of Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida.

“Contrary to the trial lawyers looking out for their own self interests, Florida’s employers and employees are at the top of mind with the newly amended workers’ compensation legislation,” Bevis said.

The House bill “addresses key measures that allow for a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system for injured workers,” he continued.

“The trial lawyers plain and simply do not like this legislation because it does not allow them to get richer on the backs of injured workers. On behalf of Florida’s business community, we look forward to seeing this legislation advance so Florida’s employees are able to get healthier at reasonable rates to Florida employers.”

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