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Dems Call AGs Suit Political

March 25th, 2010 by flanews

Florida Democrats are outraged at Florida Attorney General Bill McCollums lawsuit to block new health care regulations.

McCollum filed his suit just minutes after the president signed the regulations into law. Democratic lawmakers held a news conference today to lambast McCollum for the suit. House Minority Leader Franklin Sands says McCollum, who is running for governor, is using his position and state dollars for political gains.

The Republican Attorney General says this in not political. Well if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to talk to you about, said Sands.

The Attorney Generals Office says outside legal fees for the suit are being capped at 50-thousand dollars. McCollum is also working out a cost sharing agreement with the 12 other states joining Florida in the suit.

Posted in Legislature, McCollum, Politics, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Mental Health Funding

March 25th, 2010 by flanews

Florida Ranks 49th in per capita spending on mental health programs and the situation could be getting even worse.

State funding for mental health and drug prevention services are facing drastically cuts to help meet the demands of falling sales tax collections. Advocates spoke out at the state capitol today, calling on lawmakers to fund their services. Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon says cuts now will lead to a higher prison population in years to come.

If you see our jail population, our prison population increase as a result of these kind of cuts in mental health and substance abuse, I think its a step back, said Sheldon.

Cuts to the mental health and drug abuse programs would leave 24-thousand Floridians without the service they need to function or beat addiction.

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

Health Care Costs Savings

March 24th, 2010 by flanews

Early estimates claim the new health care regulations will cost the state as much as a billion dollars by 2019. A bill allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled drugs could lower the cost of health care by millions, but as Whitney Ray tells us, Florida lawmakers have ignored the legislation for more than 15 years.

Health care may now be the law of the land, but the debate hasnt stopped. In Florida, Rep. Scott Plakon wants to let voters decide if they want to be covered by the national plan. The opt out could be on the November ballot.

We dont want to be forced to buy any particular product. We think it is unconstitutional, we think its wrong, we think its anti-liberty, said Plakon.

Attorney General Bill McCollum is suing to stop the mandate on coverage.
While some elected officials are trying to block the new health care regulations, others are working on a bill that would lower the cost.

Hundreds of nurse practitioners rallied at the State Capitol for the right to prescribe controlled drugs. Melissa Bailey, a Tampa nurse, says often times she knows what her patients need, but has to track down a doctor to write every prescription.

If a patient Im seeing needs medicines I cant prescribe, attention deficit meds or pain control, they wait while I consult with one of the physicians I work with, his patient gets held up, my patient gets held up, said Bailey.

The changes would allow more than 13-thousand nurse practitioners to write all prescriptions and serve a million more patients every year. Senator Mike Bennett says the changes would also cut medical expenses by millions.

We are actually looking into the numbers right now, but I think potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars, said Bennett.

Florida and Alabama are the only states where nurse practitioners arent allowed to write prescriptions for controlled drugs.

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

Rally for Vouchers

March 24th, 2010 by flanews

About 5-thousand private school students and teachers rallied at the capitol today asking lawmakers for more money for private school vouchers.

Most of these students use state-funded vouchers to help pay for their education. Millicent Demps, the principle of a private school in Pensacola, says without school vouchers her students couldnt afford to go to her school.

98 percent of our students are low-income. Theyre on free and reduced lunch. Their parents could not afford a choice to pay for their kids to go to a private school. So this gives them the opportunity to get a quality education in a smaller environment and guaranteed success, said Demps.

A new bill would increase the amount of funding for vouchers to just over 4 thousand dollars a student. The Senate passed the bill this morning, but the House still needs to vote on the measure.

Posted in Children, Education, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

FL Home Sales Buck National Trend

March 24th, 2010 by flanews

National home sale rates have plummeted even further, but Florida is bucking the national trend. New data from the Commerce Department shows national sales down more than two percent. But Florida home sales have been up every month for the past year and a half. John Sebree, with the Florida Association of Realtors, says many Floridians are taking advantage of low housing prices, with a median home price at just 131 thousand dollars.

People can feel good about the fact that they have a tax credit to take advantage of if they sign on the dotted line and theyre under contract by the end of April. We also have historically low interest rates. Interest rates are lower today than they were a year ago but they wont stay there forever, said Sebree.

Many new homeowners are taking advantage of the federal tax credits for buying a new home. Sebree expects another surge in buying before those credits expire in April.

Posted in Housing, State News | No Comments »

Cities, Counties Fight Mandates

March 24th, 2010 by flanews

The Florida League of Cities and the Association of Counties are asking state lawmakers for more wiggle room in their budgets.

Mayors and County Commissioners say unfunded mandates like those on courts, pensions, and health care are breaking their banks. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks says the mandates are making it hard for the city to balance its dwindling budget.

The legislature, under some circumstances, requires us to take certain action and provide certain services, but they dont provide the funding for it. Its not to say those services and those acts arent important. We want to do them. We dont have a problem with doing them. We only have a problem funding pension plans and those kinds of things. We need the funding and the state should provide that and not put the burden on local taxpayers, said Marks.

Rodney Long, the President of the Florida Association of Counties says the state could help counties save millions of dollars by capping inmate medical bills at Medicaid rates.

What were trying to do is ask the state to do the same thing that they do for their inmates in the Department of Corrections, which is to allow us to have under ten percent of Medicaid. So if they were to do that, then wed have some predictability of what its going to cost us back home for inmate medical care, said Long.

The request to lift the mandates comes as cities and counties are dealing their fourth year of steep budget cuts due to reduced state funding and a drop in property tax collections.

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

Health Care Lawsuit Filed

March 23rd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

At 12:02 this afternoon, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed suit in Federal Court alleging the Health Care Reform Act is unconstitutional. The suit argues Congress exceeded its authority when it mandated Floridians must buy insurance or pay a penalty and because it requires the state to spend more than a billion on new programs. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, only one of the other 12 Attorneys General who joined the suit is a Democrat.

As Attorney General Bill McCollum ticked off the names of the 12 other Attorneys General who joined the suit to stop health care reform. He called it a bipartisan effort. But only one of the 13, from Louisiana, is a Democrat. And every one of the two dozen or so lawmakers surrounding McCollum was a Republican.

The people that we represent, that I represent in this state, deserve to have a determination on the constitutionality of this, ” McCollum said. “This is not lawful. It may have passed Congress, but there are three branches of government.

The Attorney General will likely be out of office by the time the suit is settled. Neither Democrat running for the job will likely keep the suit going.

Both of the Democrats running to be the next Attorney General have called the lawsuit politically motivated and grandstanding.

Alex Sink, the likely Democratic nominee for Governor, has been mostly silent on the issue until now.

We have four million people in Florida, one in four Floridians, with no health insurance,” Sink said. “So what we need to do is be about solving the problems that are in the best interests of Floridians

And while the Attorney General contends there is nothing political in the lawsuit, the former Republican congressman is hoping Democrats do lose their majority in November.

And give us a majority that would repeal this bill? Of course I would prefer to do that. It would save us a little bit of time,” McCollum said.

And the only certainty is that even the legislation is now law, the debate isnt over.

McCollum has hired a Washington lawyer from a firm where used to work to help with the suit.

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

Nurse Practicioners Rally

March 23rd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

The filing of the lawsuit comes just a day before hundreds of nurse practitioners will converge on the state capitol to demand a law change they say will lower health care costs.

The nurses have been battling the states medical association for more than 15 years over the authority to prescribe controlled drugs. Stan Whittaker has been a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years. He says giving Nurse Practitioners the right to prescribe controlled drugs will provide better patient care at a lower cost.

I think this is increasing the cost tremendously,” Whitaker said. “It can really affect the overall cost, just in Medicaid, in healthcare, in insurance. Well be able to just write that one prescription.

Only Florida and Alabama prohibit Nurse Practitioners from prescribing controlled drugs.

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

Health Care Plan Under Fire

March 22nd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Republican Leaders in Tallahassee are wasting no time preparing a constitutional challenge to the national health care plan. Attorney General Bill McCollum will argue Congress cannot force citizens to purchase a product. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, a suit with nine other states is expected to be filed tomorrow.

The House Health and Family Services Policy Council wasted no time nudging the Attorney General to attack the Heath Care plan in court.

The vote was predictably along party lines. Sponsor Eric Eisnaugle says the vote sends an important message.

The healthcare method includes individual mandate that require individuals to have health care insurance,” Eisnaugle said. “And if they dont, it charges them sometimes thousands of dollars in penalties. I dont think thats constitutional.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum will file a lawsuit Tuesday with nine other states, alleging the healthcare bill infringes on Floridas sovereignty.

As recently as last week, McCollum made it clear the suit was forth coming.

As far as Im concerned, theres no good in this bill,” McCollum said.”I cant conceive of any good in this bill.

McCollums Deputy, Joe Jacquot spent the day fine-tuning the suit. Still undecided was where it would be filed the federal court in Tallahassee or Washington.

Were still considering that,” Jacquot said. “We havent determined final venue yet.

Constitutional expert Sandy DAlemberte is the former president of FSU and the former Dean of its law school. He calls the suit grandstanding with little merit.

Congress tells me what speed limit I can drive,” D’Alemberte said. “They tell me in time of war that I can be subject to the draft.

The suit is expected to cost tens of if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Opponents of the health care reform plan say the 3.8 million Floridians without insurance shouldnt be forced to buy coverage.

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

Walk in My Shoes

March 22nd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

A young woman who was sexually abused will walk 500 miles in the coming weeks to invite others to walk in my shoes. 25 year-old Lauren Book-Lim says she will take to the streets to bring awareness to sexual violence and as part of her own healing process.

My own abuse, in my home, occurred at the hands of a trusted caregiver, my nanny,” Lauren Book-Lim said. “Who was like a member of my family. She traveled with us, she loved us. Or so we thought. It started when I was 10 years-old, and lasted for more than six years.

Her father, Lobbyist Ron Book, is working to change sex offender laws to make sure offenders cant be near kids during the day. He says the abuse takes a toll on the entire family.

Until youve been a parent of a victim, until youve had a child who has been raped, molested, and beaten, urinated on and defecated on as a control mechanism, you cant walk in my shoes,” Ron Book said. “We want people to come walk in our shoes because we want them to understand that to end childhood sexual abuse in Florida and in this country, its about awareness education.

The 500 mile walk begins in Aventura on April 2nd and ends at the State Capitol on April 20th. To learn more, you can click on www.laurenskids.org.

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

Health Care Debate to Continue Through November

March 22nd, 2010 by flanews

The general election is more than eight months away, but look for opponents of the health care reform bill to use its passage to try and oust Democrats. As Whitney Ray tells us, Florida politicians are already looking for ways to reverse the legislation and earn votes in the process.

What happened in Washington late Sunday night will follow Florida politicians through November. CFO Alex Sink, a Democrat running for governor, used the passage of the health care bill to break her silence on the issue, calling it better than nothing. Her likely Republican opponent is using his office to fight the changes.

Attorney General Bill McCollum plans to file a lawsuit as soon as the President signs the bill, meanwhile Governor Charlie Crist who is running for US Senate, says if elected hell do everything he can to repeal the legislation.

We just need to get it right and do it right, and do it right for the people, said Crist.

Preston Scott, a conservative radio talk show host, says his audience is outraged at the way the deal went down.

I think anybody who voted for this has got a target on them from a voters standpoint. I think that anybody, regardless of their party, if theyre not basing their convictions on the convictions of their constituents they are in trouble, said Scott.

The Republican Party of Florida plans to pull voting records.

I think people who voted for it, who didnt listen to the American people, are going to be very susceptible to defeat in November, said RPOF Vice Chair, Deborah Cox-Roush.

The Florida Democrats say the immediate impact of the bill will win them votes.

Right away small businesses will get tax credits, children who have pre-existing conditions can not be dropped from insurance, right away. Caps are removed, said Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Florida Democrats.

The emotion surrounding the debate isnt expected to wane before voters make it to the ballot box, giving both sides plenty of time to put their spin on the changes.

Crists primary opponent in the US Senate race, Marco Rubio, is circulating a petition calling on Congress and the President to repeal the legislation and start over.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Child Abduction Prevention

March 22nd, 2010 by flanews

Half of all abducted children are taken by one of their parents.

Legislation aimed at stopping parents going through divorce from abducting a child out is being discussed by state lawmakers. The Child Abduction Prevention Act would require divorcing parents to both sign a notarized letter before either one of them could take their child across the state-line. Carolyn Ann Vlk from St. Petersburg Florida has a four year old at high risk of being abducted. She says the legislation would help reduce the risk.

It serves to educate the family court system as to what risk factors exist in a particular case and then gives a selection of preventative measures that can be utilized on a case by case basis, said Ann VLK.

The legislation also would allow a judge to require a parent who is at a high risk of fleeing the country to post a bond before taking a child to another state or out of the country.

Posted in Children, State News | No Comments »

Caregiver Background Check

March 19th, 2010 by flanews

Tougher restrictions on companies providing care to children, seniors and people with disabilities are moving through the Florida legislature. The legislation bans caregivers from going to work before passing a background check. As Whitney Ray tells us, the plan was drafted after a thorough search found thousands of felons working with kids, the disabled and the elderly.

77-year JoAnn Starr depends on her caregiver, Christine Garrison, for help with activities, getting around, and entertainment.

Shes a lovely person. I love to hear her sing, said Starr.

Christine began working as a caregiver 27 years ago. She says trust is important.

I am like a walker for stability. I have to be here to lean on. And you know we lean on each other and they have to trust me, said Garrison.

But trust was broken by some working in Florida. Since 1990 more than 35 hundred convicted felons have worked as caregivers.

Legislation prohibiting caregivers from working until a background check has been completed is moving in Tallahassee. It would also require additional checks every five years. Elder Care Services approves of the changes. The senior assistance agency already keeps people off the job until the checks are through.

That again assures the public and assures the clients and their families that nothing has happened intervening since the initial screening that everyone has to go through in order to qualify for these kinds of positions, said James Croteau, President of Elder Care Services in Tallahassee.

The bill also provides some exemptions for people who older non-violent felony convictions. If the legislation becomes law parts of the background checks and results would be submitted electronically in order to speed up the process.

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

Allen Boyds Vote

March 19th, 2010 by flanews

Florida Congressman Allen Boyd is one of about a dozen undecided votes that could make or break the national Health Care legislation.

Pressure from both sides has been mounting. Around two dozen opponents of the legislation held signs displaying Boyds phone number at a busy intersection near the state capitol Friday. Protester Irene Parker didnt want to spend Friday standing on Monroe Street, but says she felt she had to let Boyd hear her voice.

Ive never seen passion among people like in here today. And Ive never seen the fear- I trembled for my country. Im afraid for my country. People like Congressman Boyd that are supposed to be representing me-No, said Parker.

Its really nothing short of tyranny. If theyre not going to listen to us- The majority of the American people dont want this, but theyre gonna do this anyway. Thats the definition of tyranny in my book, said Parker.

Boyds office has been bombarded with calls from both sides, with an estimated one thousand daily. The House could vote on the Health Care legislation as early as Sunday.

Posted in Health, State News | No Comments »

Energy Saving Rebates on Horizon

March 19th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

The state energy office has seventeen and a half million dollars to start handing out to people who buy energy saving appliances in mid April. Six appliances, gas tank-less water heaters, clothes washers, refrigerators, dishwashers, room air-conditioners and freezers, qualify for rebates of twenty percent, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the money is expected to go fast.

The rebates will be for energy saving appliances purchased during a ten day window, beginning Friday, April 16th.

The phone at the state energy office has been ringing off the hook with people looking for more details.

Some are still being ironed out.

Were just directing people to check out our website in the next upcoming weeks, and more information will be available, Sandra Bustos, with the energy office, said.

Customers must first purchase the appliances, then get on line to reserve their rebate.

The state expects to have enough money for about 66,000 rebates and they expect them to go very fast.

Recycling your old appliance will also net buyers an extra 75 dollars.

It will be written on their receipt, saying deliver new appliance, take the old appliance to be recycled, Rebate Program Administrator Brenda Buchan said. So we will have evidence of that and thats perfectly good for us for this purpose. Theyll get the extra 75 dollars.

Many stores are expected to offer special deals during the ten-day-long event. Retailers like Mark Munroe expect a big boost in sales.

I know that if they dont get in on that front end of that ten days, they may not have the money there to get, Munroe said. So I would encourage people to get in here on the early side of that.

The rebates will come in the form of credit cards with a balance, and the hope is the extra cash will be used for dinners and other things that will also stimulate the economy.

The rebates are not retroactive. The appliances must be purchased during the ten-day window beginning Friday, April 16th, and ending Monday, April 25th. Check out myfloridaclimate.com for more information.

Posted in Business, Environment, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

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