Sunburn for 10/1 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

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OBAMACARE TAKES EFFECT TODAY

DUELING SPLASH PAGES

Defend Obamacare” on the DNC home page. “Dismantle Obamacare” on the National Republican Senatorial Committee homepage.

FINAL PUSH TO EDUCATE FLORIDIANS via Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press

With just 48 hours until the launch of one of the key components of the new federal health law, hundreds of health counselors and volunteers are fanning out across the state, knocking on doors, working phone banks and manning tables at concerts and sporting events to tell people how to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Susan Greene and Debra Leflore canvassed apartment complexes in West Palm Beach on Saturday for the nonprofit group Enroll America ahead of the scheduled launch of online health insurance marketplaces on Tuesday. It’s not an easy job. It’s humid, some people are rude and the language barrier in the largely Haitian neighborhood often makes it difficult to have an in-depth conversation, yet they persist.

IMPOSSIBLE TO BELIEVE POLL

A new Morning Consult tracking poll finds that just 7% of voters support delaying or defunding Obamacare. 

Think Progress notes that,  “On the other hand, 39% of voters want Congress to either let the law take effect or expand the law even further. Another 29% think that Congress should work on making improvements to Obamacare, but ultimately leave the law in place. By a two to one margin, the poll’s respondents said ‘the results from the 2012 presidential election represented a referendum on moving forward with the Affordable Care Act.'”

WORST EMAIL OF THE DAY: “The law of the land calls for defunding Obamacare” — Dr. David McKalip

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SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN

HOW 30 HOUSE REPUBLICANS TOOK CONTROL OF THEIR CAUCUS via Byron York

In the continuing resolution fight, it is the 30 most committed members, along with their 20-30 allies in the next-most-committed group, who are setting the House Republican agenda. The ones pushing for a fight over Obamacare, even if it leads to a shutdown, are controlling what the House does.

Which has led to the question: How can 30 Republicans beat 200 Republicans? How does that work?

There are two answers. One, the Republican majority in the House is fairly narrow. And two, Democrats have been extraordinarily unified in opposing GOP proposals.

MODERATE REBELLION FIZZLES

National Review: “The size of a bloc of GOP moderates ready to bring down a vote on the House floor over the government funding bill shriveled from 25 lawmakers on Saturday to just two when the House voted just now to pass the rule… The episode is a reminder of how congressional centrists aren’t as reliable as ideological warriors when it comes to keeping threats. But it also took a personal appeal from Speaker John Boehner and the particular circumstances of the vote to sway the group.”

HOW WILL THE SHUTDOWN AFFECT YOU? 

Washington D.C.’s economy could lose $200 million a day. Public workers, foreign governments and people with the flu will be among the first to feel the shutdown. And a handy interactive (here) from The Washington Post breaks down how each federal agency will be impacted.

POLL: MORE WOULD REPUBLICANS FOR SHUTDOWN

If the federal government shuts down on Tuesday, a new CNN/ORC poll finds that 46% of Americans say they would blame congressional Republicans, with 36% saying President Obama would be more responsible and 13% pointing fingers at both the GOP in Congress and Obama.

In a separate question, 49% of all people in the poll say that Obama is acting like a responsible adult in this budget battle, with 47% describing him as a spoiled child. Meanwhile, 58% say congressional Democrats are acting like spoiled children, with that number rising to 69% for the GOP in Congress.

THREAT OF SHUTDOWN IS A WINDFALL FOR FUNDRAISERS via the Los Angeles Times

The last week of standoffs and stalemates in Washington won’t help Congress’ dismal approval ratings. And the likelihood that most government programs will begin shutting down Tuesday already has started disrupting the lives of millions of federal government workers, contractors and their families.

But for one group — fundraisers who collect cash for members of Congress and those hoping to join the club — the shutdown threat is a windfall.

IF GOV’T SHUTS DOWN, ALL 535 MEMBERS SHOULD BE VOTED OUT, SAYS ALLEN WEST

Allen West is ready to challenge both Democrats and Republicans if the two parties cannot reach a compromise to keep the lights on in Washington D. C. and the rest of the federal government.

In an email to prospective donors to his “Guardian Fund”, the former congressman declares that shutting down the government is “the most unpatriotic thing Congress could do.” 

West then follows with a not-too-subltle warning shot. If “the government shuts down,” West writes, “every single one of the 535 members should be voted out in their next election.”

Earlier on Monday, West took to Facebook to say he wishes leaders in Washington reflected on the Bible’s teachings as the federal government heads for a likely shutdown.

MARCO RUBIO GETS EARFUL via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

Rubio probably wished he was a face in the crowd rather than the face of Florida Republicans in Congress when he boarded his flight Monday morning from Miami to Washington D.C.

Passenger after passenger recognized Rubio and gave him an earful about the looming federal government shutdown being precipitated by Congress, a source on the flight tells us.

Except Rubio sought to downplay the issue and sympathize with constituents.

At one point, a flight attendant asked him if the partial government shutdown would, in fact, begin at midnight.

Rubio responded by calling the likely impasse “not really a shutdown, more of a slowdown — but not a good way to do business.” 

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APPROVAL OF CONGRESS HITS NEW LOW

A new CNN/ORC poll finds that just 10% of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing, an all-time low. And 87% say they disapprove of the job federal lawmakers are doing, higher than it’s ever been in CNN polling.

WHY U.S. HOUSE INCUMBENTS FEEL SO SAFE

A new FEC report shows House incumbents hold an 11-to-1 fundraising advantage over their 2014 challengers, Roll Call reports.

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ED RENDELL TO KEYNOTE FLORIDA DEMOCRATS’ STATE CONFERENCE — via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is bringing his folksy, blue-collar manner to the Sunshine State next month as keynote speaker for the Florida Democratic Party’s state conference.

In Rendell’s email announcement, he calls it an honor to address “the grassroots who are fighting every day to defeat Rick Scott.” 

After eight years as Pennsylvania’s chief, Rendell was “proud to be a Democrat who would work with anyone” to advance the state. They invested in the infrastructure for businesses and communities need to succeed, focusing on issues like investment in public education, colleges and schools.

“Unfortunately,” reads Rendell’s email, “Republicans like Rick Scott don’t agree.”

He feels that the conference in Orlando October 26 will be a boost for Democrats to “defeat Tea party Republicans like Rick Scott” by electing a Florida leader that will “stand behind the middle class.” 

SHOT: HERTZ, BIG SUGAR AMONG BIG DONORS IN SEPTEMBER TO RICK SCOTT via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

It’s been a big month so far for the political committee amassing a war chest for Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election bid.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, approaching an end to a key part of its exclusive gambling compact with the state, dropped $500,000 into the Tallahassee-based “Let’s Get to Work” committee earlier this month, while United States Sugar Corporation added another $100,000 this week.

And Hertz Corp., which is in line to land up to $84 million in incentives over 20 years by relocating its headquarters from Park Ridge, N.J. to Estero, gave $25,000.

The money is just some of the $2.31 million that has poured into the political committee since the start of the month. For the year, the committee has picked up $11.9 million.

… Missouri-based Isle of Capri Casinos, which owns Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park in Broward County, and Calder Race Course in Miami-Dade County both gave $20,000 to the “Let’s Get to Work” committee this month.

Other notable contributions from among the 247 recorded so far this month include: The Florida Chamber of Commerce, $100,000; Dosal Tobacco Corp., $100,000; HCA West Florida, $70,000, HCA East Florida, $30,000, and Florida Hospital Healthcare System, $25,000.

CHASER: TEA PARTY WISHES CLASH WITH GOP DONORS’ AGENDA via Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current

A tea party favorite when he won the governor’s mansion in 2010, Scott has drawn the ire of conservative groups for tacking to the middle on some issues and siding with companies making large donations to his re-election campaign.

… Some of those special-interest donors, such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, backed Scott’s opponent, former Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary in 2010. Since then, however, Scott has come around to the state’s main business lobby and advanced or signed off on many of their priorities.

The tea party versus donor clash could come to a head on a number of issues in the upcoming legislative cycle.

… Scott has already sided with big business interests over the tea party on immigration, dropping a push for an Arizona-style law cracking down on illegal immigration even though it was a campaign promise.

Tea party groups were further angered this year when Scott announced his support for expanding Medicaid, although Democrats complain he didn’t follow through when House leaders blocked the proposal.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott and several area leaders will hold a press conference to “call for an immediate fix to the unfair national flood insurance rate hikes on Florida families.” Pinellas Realtors Organization HQ; 4590 Ulmerton Road; Clearwater. 10:00 a.m.   

TWEET, TWEET: @JKennedyReport: It’s beginning to look a lot like campaign ’14 season. @FLGovScott to headline pro-life awards dinner in Oct.

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NEW STUDY PROVIDES STRONG CASE FOR A MEDICAID DENTAL CARVE OUT: HERE’S HOW FLORIDA GETS THERE via contributor Karen Cyphers

A new study, reported by the Wall Street Journal and conducted by UnitedHealthcare, suggests that regular dental care improves outcomes and reduces costs for persons with chronic conditions. Specifically, the study found that people with chronic conditions who received appropriate dental care had net medical and dental claims that were over $1,000 lower per year than for those who did not receive such care, even after accounting for the cost of the dental care itself.  Consider that people with chronic conditions account for more than three-quarters of total health care costs, and the potential for widespread savings become even more apparent. While the study’s findingsare strong, its conclusion is erroneous. The study suggests that employers and payers integrate dental benefits into health plans, however in practice, state Medicaid programs have discovered otherwise.

While providing any dental benefit is better than providing none, all evidence points to greater outcomes when dental benefits are offered through dental managed care plans versus through larger health plans. Multiple states have attempted to integrate dental benefits with Medicaid managed care, but later reversed course and separated dental benefits back out.  Why? Because dental plans have a singular, laser focus on dental benefits, ensuring that maximum benefits are provided.

Further, most medical managed care plans do not have the expertise necessary to perform the difficult task of assembling fragile dental networks, nor do they have the capacity to deal with the unique problems that arise as a provider of dental care. Therefore, they contract directly with a dental plan. In other words, why pay a health plan to pay a dental plan when you could pay the dental plan the same amount, resulting in more money being available for actual dental care and not a middle man.

United’s findings should be heeded in terms of states maximizing access to dental benefits. But to get there, paying dental plans directly is the best way to go for patients, for dentists, and for taxpayers.    That’s what Florida’s Medicaid program is currently doing (and with impressive results!) through the prepaid dental health program. But the effort is in danger and improvements will go by the wayside when it sunsets in October 2014.  At that point, dental services under Medicaid will become wrapped into the managed care health plans that cover all other health care services.

It won’t take much to ensure Florida continues boosting access to dental services for children with Medicaid plans, and most of the action is at the agency level.  The resulting savings will be measured not only in dollars, but in the improved long-term health, school grades, and quality of life for millions of Florida children.

POLICY NOTES h/t to The Florida Current and The News Service of Florida

Office of Insurance Regulation: Holds a rate hearing to consider the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s request for a 1 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance rates. The hearing will be held in Room 401 Senate Office Building at 9 a.m. Agenda here.

Job Fair with Rep. Berman: Includes employers from higher-education, health-care, financial-services and retail industries at 9 a.m., Lantana Road Branch Library, 4020 Lantana Road, Lake Worth.

Public Service Commission: Holds a commission conference to determine the 2014 nuclear cost recovery amounts for Duke Energy Florida, Inc. and Florida Power & Light Co. nuclear power plant projects. The meeting will be held at the Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way in Tallahassee beginning at 9:30 a.m. The case number is 130009 and the docket can be found here.                                             

AHCA in Union County: Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Liz Dudek and Sen. Charlie Dean to hold a meeting in Union County to discuss AHCA’s priorities and programs. 11 a.m., Hal Maines Community Center, 155 N.W. Third St., Lake Butler.

Agency for Health Care Administration: Holds a rule-making workshop to implement new Florida Medicaid Provider Reimbursement schedules. The new rule will be in compliance with Florida Statute, Section 120.54. The fee schedules will cover a wide range of services including midwife, dental and podiatry. The meeting begins 3 p.m. at 2727 Mahan Drive, Building 3, Conference Room D, Tallahassee. More information here.

Reps. Jones, Fullwood tout health marketplace: Jacksonville Democratic Reps. Mia Jones and Reggie Fullwood will take part in an enrollment fair to provide information about a new health-insurance exchange that is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Enrollment in the exchange, which is an online marketplace where people can shop for health coverage. 6 p.m., Bob Hayes Sports Complex Legends Center, 5130 Soutel Dr., Jacksonville.

Rep. Gibbons hosts forum on Affordable Care Act: Rep. Joe Gibbon will host a forum about the federal Affordable Care Act, including discussion on a new health-insurance marketplace and the impact of Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility, at 7 p.m., Koinonia Worship Center and Village, Pembroke Park.

Healthcare Exchange Enrollment Fair: To happen at 5:30 p.m. in partnership with the Urban League of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach County Healthcare District and other health care organizations at Mary V. McDonald–Wilson Center at Gaines Park, 1505 N. Australian Ave., West Palm Beach. Federally trained health care Navigators, health professionals and local nonprofits will be on hand to help answer questions about enrollment in theAffordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

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BILLS WOULD BAR DISCRIMINATION BASED ON PREGNANCY

House and Senate lawmakers have filed bills that would seek to protect pregnant women from discrimination in issues such as employment and benefits. Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, filed the Senate version (SB 220) on Monday, while Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, filed the House version (HB 105) on Friday. The bills would add pregnancy to a law that bars discrimination based on such factors as race, religion, sex, national origin and age. Along with barring discrimination against pregnant women in employment practices, the bill also addresses discrimination in public lodging establishments, public food-service establishments and public accommodations. The bills are filed for the 2014 legislative session.

DON’T PUT THE EISNAUGLE BEFORE THE CART JUST YET Full blog post here

It seems a fait accompli that Representative Steve Precourt will be named the next executive director of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, thereby allowing former state Representative Eric Eisnaugle to return to the Legislature by winning a special election for Precourt’s seat.

… Put aside the fact that Eisnaugle would be angling to be Speaker during the 2021-2022 legislative sessions, which is akin to Florida State naming an eleven-year-old on some Pop Warner team its starting QB eight years from now, and consider how premature it is to put the Eisnaugle before the cart. Especially when you consider the caliber of the incoming legislative class of which Eisnaugle would be a member.

… Someone who is certainly Speaker-worthy, in my estimation, is House District 65 candidate Chris Sprowls. Actually, Sprowls may be the most impressive figure in his class, at least in terms of potential. The Pinellas-Pasco state attorney has charisma to spare and would be an intellectual force in the House, if he can unseat Democrat Carl Zimmerman. 

… I guess that’s the point: the incoming freshman class of lawmakers is as impressive as any to enter the Legislature during the current Republican era.

Considering that, it would be a mistake to prematurely coronate Eisnaugle.

DRIVING THE DAY — STUDY: GAMBLING WONDERLAND WILL DO LITTLE FOR FLA. ECONOMY via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Doubling down on gambling by turning Florida into the next Las Vegas would have just a minimal impact on the state’s economy and wouldn’t do much to create new jobs, according to an analysis by Spectrum Gaming Group set to be released Tuesday.

“Overall, Spectrum believes that the expansion of casino gambling, whether on a small scale or very large scale, would have, at best, a moderately positive impact on the state economy,” according to a draft report obtained by The News Service of Florida on Monday and set to be released in its final version on Tuesday.

Lawmakers plan to rely heavily on the economic analysis by The Spectrum Gaming Group to craft the state’s gambling landscape during the 2014 legislative session.

the Spectrum findings paint a somewhat bleak picture of a widespread expansion of gambling, a marked departure from claims made by the same company two years ago in an analysis performed for Resorts World, the Malaysia company linked with The Genting Group, one of the out-of-state casino operators trying to establish a footprint in Florida.

… The 460-plus page report also appears to debunk earlier claims by Spectrum for Genting that a convention center/casino-style proposal in Miami-Dade County could bring 100,000 permanent jobs and generate up to $400 million in state revenue.

… The Spectrum study also found that an expansion of gambling likely won’t increase the current gross social costs, which it estimates at $258 million to nearly $1.2 billion per year.

And the report rejects arguments by anti-gambling groups and the hospitality industry that casinos steal business away from existing restaurants and hotels.

Legislative staff rejected a preliminary draft report from Spectrum because it failed to consider that a compact with the Seminoles Indian Tribe, allowing the tribe to operate card games like blackjack and baccarat, is set to expire in 2015. Spectrum was asked to revise its analysis to include scenarios under which the money from the card games — about $233 million a year — would go away.

“The substantive conclusions reached in the report are reached independently by Spectrum. Our responsibility has been to make sure Spectrum complied with the methodology set out in the contract,” Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford, said of the request to rework the analysis.

FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY: “So as of tomorrow you can no longer use EBT cards at strip clubs or casinos… Dammit.” — Chelsa Lauren

FINAL PARTS OF GAMBLING STUDY TO BE RELEASED TODAY via James Rosica of the Tampa Tribune

The second and third parts of a report commissioned by the Legislature on gambling in Florida will be released today.

Those parts of the report will be an “assessment of potential changes and economic effects” and an examination of the “statistical relationships between gaming and economic variables for communities,” according to the Legislature’s website.

… Lawmakers will use the full report, as well as information gleaned from a series of public workshops, as Florida’s blueprint for growth when it comes to gambling.

… All parts of the report will be available for download at www.leg.state.fl.us/GamingStudy. 

FRED GRIMM COLUMN: PUTTING THE CON IN CONSTITUENT via the Miami Herald

There’s nothing a state rep loves more than a captive audience. Except for a captive constituency. North Florida pols have packed their state House districts with a particularly low-maintenance category of citizens. The kind who don’t show up at townhall meetings clamoring about too much traffic or lousy parks or crumbling bridges or under-funded schools or the need for more cops on the beat. They never, ever complain about too few cops. Best of all they don’t go around town grumbling that folks should vote for that other candidate. They can’t. They can’t vote. They’re state prisoners.

They’re the great gift urban counties ship up to state representatives in Florida’s rural prison belt, whose districts encompass Sumpter or Bradford or Baker or Hardee or Calhoun and other counties where incarceration is a major local industry and inmates represent a sizeable chunk of the local population.

Come time to redistrict, every 10 years, those inmates — most of them big city homies — are counted along with the local population, making prisoners a valuable political commodity and consigning elected officials, particularly state reps, political power out of whack with their actual voting constituency.

Peter Wagner, who as director of Prisoner Policy Initiative has led a 13-year national crusade against prisoner-based gerrymandering, cited a couple of particularly egregious house districts in the Panhandle. He said the rural House Districts Five and Seven include the state’s largest inmate population.

“Districts are supposed to have about 156,677 people,” he said. “But District Seven met that target by including 19,825 people in correctional facilities, and District Five used 12,915. That’s 12.6% and 8.2% respectively. So every 87 people in District Seven are represented in the capital like 100 people somewhere else,” he said. And in District Five, 92 people have the same political influence in the House of Representatives as 100 citizens down in Miami.

New York did away with its infamous prison-based gerrymandering in 2010. So has Maryland. But Wagner noted that the districts in Florida are even more warped.

Imagine then, if inmate counts distort state House districts, how they must be skewing district representation for rural city and county governments. After the 2000 census, the Prisoner Policy Initiative found a county commissioner in Calhoun with 48 percent of his constituents behind bars.

In Jefferson County one commissioner had 29 percent of his district behind bars, while 25 percent of a commission district in Baker County, and 20 percent of another in Hardee County, wore prison jumpsuits.

Continue reading the implications of this here.

SEN. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO BILL WOULD PROHIBIT SALE OF E-CIGS TO MINORS

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto filed a bill on Monday that would prohibit sales of popular electronic cigarettes to minors.

The proposal by the Ft. Meyers Republican will add e-cigarettes, also known as personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine delivery systems, to the current prohibitions on purchases of cigarettes and tobacco products by minors.

Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found e-cigarette use among children from grades six to twelve has doubled since 2011.

“This bill is necessary to ensure that we are proactive in regards to protecting the health of children in our state,” Benacquisto said in a statement. “These products are capable of delivering a strong dose of nicotine with the potential to create long-term nicotine users.”

“It is troubling to me that we are seeing such a significant increase in the use of these products among young people. We need to work now to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors,” she added.

There currently no state or federal age restrictions on e-cigarettes, unlike those on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

SEN. MARIA SACHS FILING LEGISLATION TO STRENGTHEN NEW TEXTING LAW via Kathleen Haughney of the Sun-Sentinel

On the day the new texting while driving ban becomes law, a South Florida state senator will be announced legislation to change it.

Sachs and Mike Jackson, Chairman and Chief Executive of AutoNation Inc., will announce  legislation designed to strengthen the law.

Florida lawmakers passed a texting while driving ban this past spring after several years of failed attempts. But, to get it through both chambers, lawmakers had to significantly water down the measure.

A driver cannot be pulled over for texting. Instead, it’s a secondary offense. The driver would have to be pulled over for another offense and ticketed for texting as a secondary issue. Also, an officer cannot ask to see the cell phone unless the driver accused of texting seriously harms or kills another person in an accident.

The press conference will be at 11 a.m. at the AutoNation building in Fort Lauderdale.

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AN OBITUARY FOR MY FRIEND, COMMITTEE OF CONTINUOUS EXISTENCE, 1973-2013 Full obit here

Committee of Continuous Existence, a colorful figure in Florida’s world of campaign finance regulation, died yesterday after the Florida Division of Elections revoked all CCE certifications in compliance with legislation passed earlier this year by state lawmakers. Committee of Continuous Existence had just celebrated his fortieth birthday.

Committee of Continuous Existence, or CCE as he was known to both friends and enemies alike, had courageously struggled for his life for the better part of the last year while complications from a common form of the disease known as hypocrisy plagued CCE’s health. State lawmakers, many of whom raised money for their friend Committee of Continuous Existence, voted to pull the plug on CCE as part of a series of ethics and elections reforms which, in the end, will likely do little to keep money out of politics. 

The man many blame for Committee of Continuous Existence’s health problems was himself a close, personal friend of CCE.

State Senator Jack Latvala, who chaired the committee which dealt with the legislation affecting Committee of Continuous Existence, at first did not want to lose his longtime companion CCE. Latvala and Committee of Continuous Existence enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Latvala having raised about $1.8 million for CCE during the 2012 election cycle. Latvala initially suggested lawmakers take a more modest step towards reform — preventing using the funds for personal purposes.

That was before a dire prognosis which ended up giving CCE little time to live. 

In September of last year, Dr. Steve Bousquet revealed that former state Representative Chris Dorworth relied on Committee of Continuous Existence for all but the most basic of life functions. The “Dorworth Syndrome”, as the ailment would come to be known in Tallahassee, shocked lawmakers into action.  

FMR. PUERTO RICO GOV. LUIS FORTUNO ENDORSES BOB CORTES IN HD 30

“All of Central Florida and especially the Puerto Rican community will benefit from the leadership of Bob Cortes,” said Fortuño. “We can count on Bob to work for more jobs and better schools, but more importantly, we can count on him to be a leader who tells the truth and puts people first.”

JEB BUSH WEIGHS IN ON HD 36 SPEC. ELECTION, ENDORSES BILL GUNTER

It’s not a surprise that former Republican governor has endorsed Republican Bill Gunter in the special election for House District 36.

It’s just surprising that Bush would weigh in on a legislative race. Endorsements from Bush in such races are a rarity. What convinced Bush is Gunter’s commitment to education. 

“Bill understands how important education is to strengthening our communities,” said Bush in a release. “(He will work tirelessly to ensure our children receive a world-class education that will prepare them for success in today’s global economy.”

Gunter will face Democrat Amanda Murphy on October 15. 

RAY PILON DRAWS CHALLENGER IN HD 72 via The News Service of Florida

Sarasota Democrat Gregory Thomas Para has filed paperwork to challenge Rep. Ray Pilon next year in House District 72, according to the state Division of Elections website. The paperwork, filedFriday, will allow Para to start raising money. Pilon, who has served in the House since 2010, had raised $4,250 through June 30 and will file his third-quarter numbers by Oct. 10.

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OTHER NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW…

DISNEY PARKS FACE ROUGH OUTLOOK

New research released by financial services firm Morgan Stanley hints at a possible slowdown in growth at Walt Disney Co. parks, which — along with its cable TV networks — from 2011 to 2013 accounted for about 85 percent of the company’s growth in earnings before interest and taxes, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

HCA HOSPITALS SEEK REHEARING IN TRAUMA BATTLE via The News Service of Florida

Hospitals affiliated with the HCA health-care chain are seeking a rehearing in the 1st District Court of Appeal after a ruling this month cleared the way for challenges to the continued operation of trauma centers at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County.

Documents filed Friday also request that the appeals court send two questions about the case to the Florida Supreme Court — a process known as certifying questions of “great public importance.”

Four hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas have waged long-running legal battles against the trauma centers at the HCA hospitals in Manatee and Pasco. The Florida Department of Health allowed the trauma centers to open in 2011, despite a ruling by an administrative law judge that the department had used an invalid rule in approving the facilities. The department later denied an attempt by the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals to challenge the approvals, saying those hospitals did not have legal standing. But the 1st District Court of Appeal this month rejected the department’s position and said the challenges should be heard in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hospitals — Tampa General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and UF Health Jacksonville — have long operated trauma centers.

In the documents filed Friday, HCA attorneys took issue with decisions made by a three-judge panel of the appeals court. One of those issues involves the impact of the new trauma centers on the older facilities. “It is inevitable and unavoidable that the opening of a new trauma center will divert some trauma victims to a newly established, closer facility; by the same token, those very trauma victims receive trauma center services more quickly than they would otherwise,” one of the documents said. While the HCA hospitals are seeking a rehearing, the Department of Health did not file any similar motions before a Friday deadline, an agency spokesman said in an email.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.