Staff Reports - 6/58 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

League of Women Voters says lack of openness still hindering constitutional rewrite panel

The head of the League of Women Voters of Florida said Monday that “a lack of transparency” still plagues the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

In a letter to chairman Carlos Beruff and commissioners, LWVF President Pamela Goodman added concerns over “potential roadblocks to meaningful public engagement, potential for leverage and influence over commission members, and a less than robust respect for the Sunshine Rules.”

The commission, which convenes every 20 years to hold public hearings, then review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document, still has not adopted final rules since its March 20 organization meeting.

“None of us can have confidence in the work of the CRC without having rules and a schedule to guide the Commission’s work and to assure the public that this will be an effort worthy of respect,” she wrote.

The League and other groups held a rally last month denouncing the commission. The group said the panel’s draft rules fail to provide timely notice of meetings, schedules too few public hearings, and lacks safeguards to shield commissioners from undue influence.

Goodman also asks a series of questions related to ethics, public input and the “power of the Chair.” The letter, just over three pages, is here.

Updated 4 p.m. — CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice writes:

“This is an open and transparent process. Over 900 Floridians have attended public hearings and nearly 300 individual Floridians have spoken before the CRC. Speakers have been heard on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we will continue to do so. All Floridians wishing to speak before the CRC have been given an opportunity to be heard.

“All meetings have been live-streamed and full transcripts will be made available online as soon as possible. The CRC plans to hold another round of public hearings to discuss proposed amendments and get public input. More information is available at FLCRC.GOV.”

House budget language would undermine Florida Lottery contract

Pending an appeal of a court order blocking a $700 million Florida Lottery contract, proviso language in the proposed House budget would appear to block officials from attempting to enforce its terms.

The language within the budget bill, HB 5100 (see page 329) pertains to a $26.6 million appropriation to operate game terminals. It would forbid officials from paying a vendor to “deploy, utilize, or lease” instant-ticket or full-service vending machines

The document would provide $5 million “only to pay to lease up to a maximum total of 1,500 instant ticket vending machines at a per-machine, per-month rate that must be specified in express terms in a vendor contract.”

A separate $2.9 million line authorizes leasing no more than 500 full-service machines, under a written contract with a vendor.

The disputed contract would boost the number of full-service vending machines to 5,000.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Lottery’s contract with International Game Technology for new equipment, agreeing with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency lacked budget authority to make the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

Gov. Rick Scott has supported the position of the lottery, which filed an appeal on March 29.

The contract in question would provide new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

Report: Carlos Curbelo target of attack ads over attempted Obamacare repeal

A progressive health care group has its sights set on Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

According to POLITICO, Save My Care, a coalition of progressive health care advocacy groups, has launched a seven-figure television ad buy in seven competitive House districts across the country, including Curbelo’s South Florida district. The ad campaign, according to POLITICO, targets five Republican lawmakers from districts won by Hillary Clinton.

Aside from Curbelo, the ad campaign will focus on California Republican Darrell Issa, Arizona Republican Martha McSally, Colorado Republican Mike Coffman, and California Republican David Valadao. The campaign will also target Florida Republican Brian Mast and New Jersey Republican Tom MacArthur. President Donald Trump carried both of their districts.

Save My Care, according to its website, brings together families, advocates and health care providers “to protect the health and financial security of all Americans.” The organization hosted a bust tour, traveling to 23 events to discuss why health are matters with people.

Curbelo is considered a moderate Republican who could be vulnerable in the 2018 mid-term election. According to the recent Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index, Curbelo’s district leans six-points toward Democrats. Mast’s district, the report found, leans five-points toward Republicans.

Vern Buchanan proposes pandemic response fund

Congress should create a rapid-response fund to combat deadly infectious diseases such as Zika and Ebola that threaten public health, Rep. Vern Buchanan said today.

Buchanan said this fund would allow the nation’s top disease fighters to respond immediately to disease outbreaks instead of waiting for a dysfunctional Congress to act. Buchanan’s home state of Florida was ground zero for the Zika virus last year and he had to fight for federal resources for nearly a year before funding was made available.

Buchanan led a group of 20 bipartisan members of Congress last week in sending a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies urging the creation of a $300 million fund designed to respond swiftly to disease outbreaks.

“We can’t afford to be caught flat-footed when a public health crisis hits,” Buchanan said in his letter, which was signed by 13 members of Florida’s delegation. “Every minute counts when it comes to saving lives and stopping the next pandemic.”

Similar to the disaster relief fund used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of a natural disaster, under Buchanan’s plan, the federal government should have a dedicated source of funding immediately available to mobilize a response to infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola and Zika.

The nation’s top public health experts strongly support the creation of this type of fund.

In an August 2016 interview, then-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden said: “I think the big picture is, we definitely need something like this. It’s crucially important that we have resources to respond rapidly. Epidemics move at one speed — Congress clearly moves at a different speed.”

According to Dr. Frieden, “in a public health emergency, speed is critical. A day, a week, a month, can make all of the difference… Three months in an epidemic is an eternity.”

Full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro:

The federal government should be prepared to fight emerging infectious diseases as quickly as possible.

According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, an infectious disease expert and the former of head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “in a public health emergency, speed is critical.  A day, a week, a month, can make all of the difference… Three months in an epidemic is an eternity.”

In the last decade alone, we have faced serious threats from H1N1 in 2009, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014, and of course the deadly Zika virus last year. Even worse, many have forewarned of future epidemics that could be spread by airborne transmission and therefore be far more contagious than Ebola or Zika.

And just this month Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned that the African yellow fever epidemic could soon spread to the United States.

Furthermore, many experts have concluded that the world will face new infectious diseases with rising frequency due to the increased globalization of people, travel and food. As Ron Klain, the previous administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator, famously asserted, “From now on, dangerous epidemics are going to be a regular fact of life” – a scary thought to say the least.

This is not only an urgent public health concern, it is a matter of national security. As former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted, “infectious diseases and vulnerabilities in the global supply chain for medical countermeasures will continue to pose a danger to U.S. national security.”

A fund for federal emergency response is not a new concept.  In fact, for over four decades, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has drawn on the Disaster Relief Fund to help Americans quickly recover from hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. These funds allow FEMA to coordinate relief efforts and provide immediate aid and support to those affected.

The federal government should have a similar dedicated source of funding immediately available to mobilize a response to infectious disease outbreaks here in the U.S.

We cannot afford to be caught flat-footed or constrained in our ability to respond and provide aid in a timely and comprehensive manner when the next public health crisis emerges.

Therefore, as you begin work on the fiscal year fiscal year 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill, we respectfully ask that you provide $300 million in reserve funding for the federal government to be able to immediately access to contain and eradicate future infectious disease epidemics.

While it was never signed into law, we were encouraged to see that your subcommittee included funding for a similar reserve last year. We thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your leadership on the committee.

Americans for Prosperity launches ad calling on Congress to scrap border adjustment tax

A new ad from Americans for Prosperity is calling on Congress to ax the border adjustment tax provision included in House leadership tax reform proposals.

The organization launched the national, six-figure ad buy Monday. The ad 30-second spots are expected to air on cable news, and encourage the public to call on their lawmakers to scrap the provision.

“Imposing a massive 20-percent import tax is the wrong approach. A border adjustment tax would harm hard working families that deserve relief from the tax code, not a new consumer tax that would drive up the cost of everyday items,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, in a statement. “Congress needs to know this is not the change the American people signed up for. We have a significant opportunity to get the tax system working for every American, but we need to move on from this costly and misguided policy.”

The ad, according to the organization, is the latest in AFP’s effort to oppose the border adjustment tax, and comes on the heels of a new report, which detailed the impact the tax could have on state’s economies.

Ginger Delegal

Personnel note: Ginger Delegal selected as Florida Association of Counties executive director

Virginia “Ginger” Delegal is one step closer to becoming the next Florida Association of Counties executive director.

Delegal had been selected by the FAC Executive Committee in February, and confirmed by the Board of Directors this week. She has been interim Executive Director since Feb. 9.

President Kathy Bryant and Immediate Past President Barbara Sharief now will begin final contract negotiations with Delegal. The contract, when complete, will go before the Board for final approval.

Here’s more from Friday’s press release:

Ms. Delegal has almost 25 years of experience working with Florida’s local governments. She began her career at Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson where she was a shareholder and a member of the General Governmental Law Group. As a part of that group, Ms. Delegal’s practice represented local governments primarily on issues of finance and tax, home rule, and other constitutional matters.

Ms.Delegal continued her close relationship with local governments by joining the team at the Florida Association of Counties as General Counsel in April of 2003. During her tenure at the Association she has served as chief legal counsel, fulfilling the corporate legal needs of FAC. In addition, she has led several successful pieces of complex statewide constitutional litigation on behalf of FAC and the counties including the first Supreme Court argument for FAC in decades.

In addition to this direct legal work, Ms.Delegal has expanded the breadth of support FAC offers to counties by managing the Florida Association of County Attorneys and the Florida Association of County Managers—two successful affiliate organizations that provide forums for county professionals to collaborate and learn together for the betterment of Florida’s counties.

Ms. Delegal also is currently managing FAC’s support to the Florida Association of County Engineers and Road Superintendents and the Florida Regional Councils Association.

Most recently, Ms. Delegal has also led the Association’s contractual management responsibilities to the Gulf Consortium, a local government entity created by the 23 Gulf Coast counties to fulfill statutory responsibilities on behalf of Florida under the RESTORE Act, a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation passed in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Throughout her time with FAC, Ms. Delegal has also served the membership by filling in as interim Enterprise Director and interim Legislative Director during past times of organizational transition.

Finally, Ms. Delegal can frequently be found providing educational sessions for the Florida Counties Foundation’s Certified County Commissioner programs and in BoCC chambers around the state.

Ms. Delegal is a summa cum laude graduate of Salem College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1989 and a cum laude graduate of Mercer University School of Law, receiving a Juris Doctor degree in 1993.

She married Mark Delegal, currently a partner with Holland & Knight, in 1993. They have three teenaged daughters: Mary Katherine, a freshman at the University of Florida; Elizabeth, a junior in high school; and Caroline, a freshman in high school.

Bill Nelson raises over $2 million in first quarter

Florida’s sole statewide elected Democrat is off to a strong start in his bid for re-election, according to first-quarter fundraising numbers released today by his campaign.

 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, will be reporting more than $2 million raised from more than 4,500 individual donors during the first three months of the year.

The $2 million-plus haul is on top of the nearly $1.8 million Nelson had in the bank before January 1, giving the state’s senior senator more than $3.6 million cash on hand.

The numbers released today come on the heels of several recent polls showing Nelson with a solid lead over his likely GOP challenger.

A poll released last month by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed Nelson leading Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 matchup by 6 points, 48 — 42.

Another poll released late February by the University of North Florida showed Nelson leading Scott by the same 6-point margin, 44 — 38.

Candidates’ first-quarter fundraising reports are due April 15.

 

Bill to regulate Uber, Lyft headed to Senate floor

A bill that would create a regulatory framework for transportation network companies in Florida cleared the Senate Rules Committee, teeing it up for a vote in the full Senate within the coming days.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, the bill (SB 340) would require Uber and Lyft to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While a rider is in the vehicle, they are required to have $1 million worth of coverage.

The proposal also calls on companies to have third parties conduct local and national background checks on drivers.

“Today’s vote signals a major milestone in the effort to ensure every Florida resident and visitor has access to ride-sharing,” said Stephanie Smith, the senior manager for public policy at Uber Technologies, in a statement. “At Uber, we are focused on connecting people and communities, increasing mobility, and this vote brings us one step closer to achieving this.

The bill cleared the committee on a 10-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

This legislation will give Florida’s residents and visitors easy access to an affordable and reliable transportation option, ultimately providing the state with increased economic opportunity,” said Chelsea Harrison, the senior policy communications manager for Lyft, in a statement. “We look forward to passage by the full Senate.”

A similar bill (HB 221), sponsored by Reps. Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant, unanimously passed the House Wednesday.

Daphne Campbell’s son back in jail for using fake ID

Gregory Campbell, son of Miami Democratic State Sen. Daphne Campbell, is back in jail.

Campbell, 34, was recently freed from jail while awaiting a new trial on Medicaid fraud.

But that changed, according to the Miami Herald, when he tried to buy a ring for his wife at Aventura Mall, where he allegedly used a fake driver’s license to open an account at Kay Jewelers.

Gregory Campbell faces arraignment on charges of forgery and possession of a fictitious ID. If formally charged, the Herald reports Campbell could be in jail until June, when his Medicaid trial begins.

Originally convicted of Medicaid fraud in 2013, a court sentenced Campbell to seven years in prison before an appeals court reversed the conviction, forcing a retrial.

Marco Rubio working ‘behind-the-scenes’ to shape Donald Trump Cuba policy

After calling for a review of U.S. policy toward Cuba, the Donald Trump administration is considering several options, with no clear favorite as of yet.

However, the Miami Herald reports that Sen. Marco Rubio spoke with Trump “three times about Cuba.”

“We’ve been walking through all these issues with the president and his team, figuring out the right steps to take and when,” said the Florida senator to El Nuevo Herald.

Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, continued: “I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us to be doing business with the Cuban military.”

According to a spokesperson, Rubio and his staff have worked “behind the scenes” on Cuba policy.

Cuba’s state-run Granma newspaper recently criticized Rubio for his increasingly vocal attitude toward U.S. policy for Latin America, particularly his calls for the Organization of American States to condemn Venezuela’s human rights record.

But the Herald notes that the Granma article “carefully avoided insulting Trump.” And the Raúl Castro government has been quiet about the Trump administration, waiting for the results of the review of U.S. policies toward the island.

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