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Nursing Home Cuts Worry Health Care Workers

March 31st, 2008 by flanews

Strict regulations on Florida’s nursing homes could be temporarily weakened to save money. The Florida House of Representatives just released its budget recommendations. As Whitney Ray tells us, health care workers fear weakening the standards could put nursing home patients at risk.

Hear it here: Nursing Home Cuts Worry Health Care Workers

Budget cuts have nursing home workers in a frenzy over the safety of their residents. Last week a house budget committee considered temporarily axing standards put in place to regulate quality care. Healthcare workers say the proposed cuts could shut down nursing homes across the state.

“The last time they had funding cuts so large you saw several providers go out of business and that’s what I fear now,” said Chuck Cascio the executive director of Heritage Health Care Center.

Nursing homes receive state money for meeting minimal standards. State law requires nursing homes to provide 2.9 hours of personal care to every patient every day. It also requires one certified nurse for every 40 patients.

The standards were written into law in 2001 in an effort to better regulate Florida’s nursing homes. Monday, after dozens of reports highlighting the negative impact of eliminating the standards, lawmakers decided to simply weaken the mandates instead of cutting them completely. The new House budget will require nursing homes to provide 2.6 hours of care a day instead of 2.9. Nurses say the cuts still hurt.

“That’s like 18 minutes per patient, in 18 minutes they could go to the bathroom, they could eat, we could talk to them. There’s a lot of things that could go on in 18 minutes, they could fall. It’s very serious,” said nurse Amy Runkle.

The new house budget anticipates a shortfall of nearly 5 billion dollars. Lawmakers suggest looking to health care to make up nearly a billion dollars of the deficit. House Speaker Marco Rubio says it wasn’t easy deciding where to make the cuts. If the house budget is approved, the weakened standards would be in place for at least two years. Last week lawmakers proposed eliminating a Medicaid program to help senior buy eyeglasses, hearing aids, and denture. In the new budget proposal, lawmakers found the 14 million dollars to save the program.

Posted in Health, State Budget, State News | 2 Comments »

Children’s Week at the Capitol

March 31st, 2008 by flanews

Kids from across the state will visit the Capitol this week to learn about state government and try to influence lawmakers. The United Way kicked off its Children’s Week campaign, Sunday, by hanging picture in the rotunda of the Capitol. United Way workers said it’s more important now than ever for kids to meet with lawmakers.

“We hope to remind legislators that it’s important to take care of Florida’s parents and kids. There’s a lot of budget cuts going on and cuts are pending and you know we are bringing thousands of advocates together right now to speak to lawmakers and remind them that these programs are important and we need to preserve what we can,” said Jason Zaborske the Children’s Week Coordinator

Later this week kids will set up a mock cabinet and hold a pretend cabinet meeting, they’ll also get to meet the governor.

Posted in Cabinet, Children, Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Budget Worse Than Predicted

March 31st, 2008 by flanews

The state House released its budget proposal for next year and lawmakers say the deficit is even worse that previously predicted. Earlier this year a revenue estimating committee forecasted a 3 billion dollar shortfall. The new budget proposal prepares the state for a 5 billion dollar deficit. House Speaker Marco Rubio joined speaker designate Ray Sansom to answer questions about their budget proposal.

“We have a pattern now of not generating a little bit less revenue than what was anticipated through our estimations, so if that’s the case then lest be reasonable,” said Sansom.

The new budget also gives the governor access to tap into a portion of the state’s rainy day funds.

Posted in State Budget, State News | 1 Comment »

Proposed Cuts Keep Thousands of Seniors from Affording Dentures, Glasses

March 28th, 2008 by flanews

Seeing better, hearing, and eating may soon become more difficult for thousands of Floridians on Medicaid. As Whitney Ray tells us, state lawmakers want health services to bare a third of the brunt of budget cuts.

Hear it here: Proposed Cuts Keep Thousands of Seniors from Affording Dentures, Glasses

Several times a week these pool sharks get together to knock around a few balls. Some of them couldn’t enjoy the crack of the cue striking the 11 or watch a shot drop into the corner pocket without Medicaid paying for their glasses or hearing aids.

“A lot of elderly folks can’t afford it,” said Bruce Boone, a Medicaid user.

Lawmakers want to save 32 million dollar by cutting a Medicaid program that pays for glasses, hearing aids, and dentures. Mary Smith has been paying into Medicaid for decades. She needs dentures and fear the cuts will leave her eating soup. Medicaid isn’t the only program on the chopping block. Lawmakers are also looking at cutting metal health services, providing less funding for county health departments, and eliminating the state’s only hospital for tuberculosis patients. Representative Luis Garcia says the proposed cuts are atrocious and should send a message to his colleagues across the isles.

“The last time it rained this hard Noah built an arc,” said Garcia.

Garcia wants to dip into the state’s four billion dollar rainy day fund. Democrats say the cuts wouldn’t be so sever if corporations paid their fair share. Sunday the state House will release its budget cut proposals on its website at www.myfloridahouse.com.

Posted in Health, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Young Commissioner Receives Award

March 28th, 2008 by flanews

A member of a group charged with coming up with ideas to revamp the state’s juvenile justice system was awarded for his work. 26 year old Alexander Arnold served on the Blue Print Commission, with some members twice his age. Earlier this year the commission offered recommendations to improve the state’s juvenile justice system. Arnold heard about the commission and though he could help, because less than a decade ago he was serving time in a juvenile detention center.

“I did have a past. I once was in the system,” said Arnold. “I felt it could be beneficial for other youths to hear from someone who had been in the system, to actually know and relate to what was going on. I felt that my views and my points were very, very, very important.”

Arnold works for DHL. The delivery company gave Arnold the award and made sure he had time to attend the Blueprint commission meetings.

Posted in Children, Criminal Justice, State News | 4 Comments »

AARP Taking Campaign to the Streets

March 28th, 2008 by flanews

The AARP is taking the state’s budget battle on the road. Lawmakers want to cut Medicaid programs that help senior citizens. Today in Tallahassee, the AARP unveiled its Champ-mobile. The audio-video booth on wheels will allow people across the state to record their concerns about issues that affect them the most. Florida AARP members pin pointed several of those issues today, including the proposed budget cuts and concerns about a lack of affordable health care for seniors.

“Something serious is wrong in America when a lifetime of hard work and achievement can be wiped out by one serious illness. Something is wrong in America when a lifetime of contribution to your company and to your community can count for little or nothing when you are older,” said Lori Parham the Florida AARP Director.

The Champmobile is part of AARP’s Divided We Fail campaign. The campaign’s goal is to convince lawmakers to abandon partisan politics and focus on the needs of seniors.

Posted in Health, State Budget, State News | 1 Comment »

US Senator Wants Electoral College Abolished

March 27th, 2008 by flanews

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is proposing a massive election reform package.
It includes abolishing the Electoral College by amending the constitution to allow a direct election of the president, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the plan does nothing to make Florida’s democratic delegates count.

Hear it here: US Senator Wants Electoral College Abolished

Addressing the Florida Senate, the Democratic U-S Senator Bill Nelson was blunt.

“This election has provided further evidence that our system is broken,” said Nelson.

Nelson’s fix is to ban touch screen voting machines nationwide. He sets up six regional primaries. That ends the mess Florida is in for breaking party rules by voting early. Nelson also creates early voting nationwide, and abolishes the Electoral College.

“All of this has come to a head because here we are in Florida, over
1.7 million Democrats turned out on the Presidential primary, and now
the party is not honoring that vote,” said Nelson.

Nelson is pushing National Democrats to follow their own rules and seat half of the states delegates, so far with no luck. The next step is another federal lawsuit, filed this time by delegates and people who voted.

Negotiator and State Senator Steve Geller worries up to 10 percent of the state’s Democrats will vote GOP or not at all if the delegate issue isn’t settled.

“Not only are we going to lose the state in the presidential election, I’m afraid we’ll lose congressional elections and other seats. This issue must be resolved,” said Geller.

Another worry for Democrats is that without resolution to the delegate issue, Florida could find itself at war with the national party again in just four years because Florida’s legislature isn’t going to move the primary back. Sources say the new lawsuit will be filed next week.

Posted in Elections, Politics, State News, Voting | 16 Comments »

Tuition Battle Rages, Some Say Because Lawmakers Are Power Hungry

March 27th, 2008 by flanews

A bill to give the legislature control over university tuition cleared the state Senate Thursday. Lawmakers are upset the Board of Governor’s, which oversees universities, is attempting to raise tuition without their approval. As Whitney Ray tells us, many lawmakers say the bill is about providing better education, but some say it’s simply about power.

Hear it here: Tuition Battle Rages, Some Say Because Lawmakers Are Power Hungry

There’s a battle in Tallahassee over who controls the state’s university system. Lawmakers have fast tracked a bill to give the legislature control over tuition. The Board of Governors claims the bill creates unnecessary competition among the state’s 11 universities.

“It would pit our schools in the system against one another, because depending on who’s in power in the legislature, or where the school is located, those schools are going to try to get the best thing for themselves,” said Sheila McDevitt, Vice Chair of the Board of Governor.

Senator Arthenia Joyner said the bill is about ego, not providing better education.

“Some say its about tuition, but ultimately it’s about power. It’s about control,” said Joyner.

The Board of Governors and the legislature both voted to raise tuition. A court battle is underway to decide who really has the final say. Florida already has the worst student to faculty ratio in the nation with 30 students to every tenured professor. University presidents say they need a tuition hike to hire more faculty. The University of Florida needs the extra money just to keep the lights on.

“We need it to pay our bills so our students will have teachers in classrooms to give them the education they want,” said Bernie Machen, President of the University of Florida.

Students are caught in the middle. They want a quality education, but not everyone wants to pay more to get it. Lawmakers want to raise tuition six percent. If the hike is approved, students would be paying an average of 200 dollars more a semester.

Posted in Education, Legislature, State News, Voting | 1 Comment »

A New Systems Warns People When a Sex Offender Moves Near By

March 27th, 2008 by flanews

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local agencies unveiled a
new sex predator notification system Thursday. Currently, people can go on-line and view where predators and offenders are living nearby, but the system depends on people checking regularly. Starting Thursday, you will now be able to register online and when a predator moves into your neighborhood, you will be notified immediately. Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell said the new system should make people feel safer.

“It gives the community the opportunity to track where predators and offenders move almost immediately. That’s one thing with the system we’ve been operating on, they have a little bit of time, going one place to another, before we actually knew where they were,” said Campbell.

The notification is free. To register, go online at www.floridaoffenderalert.com

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | No Comments »

Hall of Famer Wants To Keep Florida’s Kids out of Jail

March 27th, 2008 by flanews

The state’s new Secretary of Juvenile Justice brought a hard hitter to the Capitol Thursday to pound home his message. NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown joined Secretary Frank Peterman to talk about improving the state’s juvenile justice system. Brown is the CEO of Amer-I-Can, a program amid at teaching kids life management skills and keep them out of trouble.

“Always remember that your greatest power is in your education, your wisdom, your knowledge, the information that you have, and pursue that education and you’ll always be able to make decisions for yourself and be a successful citizen,” said Brown.

Fourteen schools in Florida began using Brown’s Program at the beginning of the school year.

Posted in Children, Criminal Justice, State News | No Comments »

Two Plans Limit Florida’s Cities and Counties Abilities to Raise Taxes

March 26th, 2008 by flanews

Two plans to limit local governments taxing abilities are on the table in Tallahassee. Lawmakers will decide the fate of one of the proposals. The other could be left up to voters. As Whitney Ray tells us, city and county leaders were at the Capitol Wednesday to oppose the plans.

Hear it here: Two Plans Limit Florida’s Cities and Counties Abilities to Raise Taxes

Florida’s City leaders are fighting two battles in Tallahassee, to keep control of taxes and fees, like those on trash services. On one side is the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission and on the other front, lawmakers who want to make it harder to increase taxes.

“When its a tough budget time for the state, then it’s a tough budget time for home owners, it’s a tough budget time for families and so we want to make sure that before we ask them for more money, that everyone knows what they’re voting on and there should be a consensus on that,” said state congresswoman Anitere Flores.

Flores is sponsoring a bill to require a supermajority vote from county and city boards in order to raise taxes or fees. Representative Eduardo Gonzalez said a majority is enough.

“If you’ve got a majority vote, you don’t need a super majority. You still have to get 4 out of 7 or three out of five, so at the end of the day, that’s well enough,” said Gonzalez.

A plan in front of The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission would require voters to approve any new taxes. The commission is calling the plan that would also cap government spending, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Colorado did the same thing more than a decade ago, but later suspended the plan. Mayor of Pembroke Pines Frank Ortis said if a Taxpayer Bill of Rights is approved, there would be little need for city leaders.

“To say we’re going to cap revenue is just tying our hands. Here’s the keys you run the cities. And you think people are going to be happy about that? I don’t think they are,” said Ortis.

Governor Charlie Crist admits, he hasn’t taken a good look at the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, but based on the name, he said it sounds like a winner. If 17 of the 25 members of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission approve a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, then the plan would be placed on the November ballot.

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Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Baseball Legends Meet With Governor

March 26th, 2008 by flanews

The hallway to the Governors office looked more like the hall of fame Wednesday. Governor Charlie Crist met with hall of fame baseball players Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer. “Mr. October” and the gang were at the capitol to talk about keeping spring training teams in Florida. The Los Angles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians will leave at the end of the season. Jackson, who spoke on behalf of the New York Yankees, said the team isn’t going anywhere.

“The Steinbrenner Family as well as the Yankees, love Florida, we love our stadium, we love our facilities there in Tampa. And recognize that Florida is the place where spring training is most recognized and we’re happy to be part of what the state’s trying to do,” said Jackson.

Next year just 16 teams will train in the sunshine state. Crist said he’ll do everything he can to stop the exodus.

“Showing that appreciation and continuing to express our gratitude. Whether we can do so economically is a little challenging this year, but we’re going to do everything we possible can. Tax breaks can help,” said Crist.

Florida’s biggest spring training rival is Arizona. Fourteen teams will host their spring training games in Arizona next year.

Posted in Charlie Crist, State News | No Comments »

Florida Apologizes For Slavery

March 26th, 2008 by flanews

Wednesday, Lawmakers apologize for a shameful chapter in state history. Florida is the 6th state to offer some form of apology for slavery. Both the house and the senate approved a resolution calling for reconciliation. The first slave laws were passed in Florida nearly 200 years ago. Governor Charlie Crist was on hand when lawmakers voted.

“It’s always the right time to do what’s right. It’s the right thing to do because the transgressions of the past need to be addressed and we need to seek redemption, and I think that is what was attempted,” Crist said.

Lawmakers hope the measure will help improve race relations in the state.

Posted in Legislature, State News | No Comments »

CFO Helps Seniors Collect Rebate Check

March 26th, 2008 by flanews

There maybe a 300 dollar check with your name on it. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said 1.5 million seniors, low-income workers, and veterans may qualify for a 300 dollar rebate from the IRS and not even know it. Only people who file their taxes are eligible for the rebate. Sink is teaming up with the AARP and the IRS to offer “Super Saturday” free tax filings to help people receive their rebate.

“Just because you’re filling out this form doesn’t mean you’re subject to paying taxes. It’s just a way you have to do in order to be eligible to get these stimulus payments,” said Sink.

Super Saturday tax services will take place on March 29th. Over 30 sites statewide will be offering voluntary tax filing services.

Posted in State News, Taxes | No Comments »

Pending Home Sales Up In Florida

March 26th, 2008 by flanews

Despite dire predictions and months of declining home sales, the tide seems to be turning for realtors. Pending home sales for this year are up 30 percent. Realtors credit amendment one for the increase. The amendment cut property taxes on average by 300 dollars a home.

“Recently, we surveyed our members. One-Third of them, that’s 50,000 Realtors say Amendment 1 is already making a difference in the market place,” said Chuck Bofigglio, the President of Florida Realtor’s Association.

Governor Charlie Crist campaigned for amendment one. It passed in late January.

Posted in Property Taxes, State News | No Comments »

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