The Buzz on Florida politics

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Latest Buzz on Florida politics

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

Hollywood police said Thursday in a news release that 94-year-old Martha Murray died Wednesday. They said her death was related to the problems at the facility following Irma. The first eight patients from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Sept. 13, three days after Irma struck. The ninth died Tuesday.

From the perspective of Florida Gov. Rick Scott and relatives of those at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, criminal charges are warranted. But under Florida law, a prosecution might be difficult. Two of three ex-state prosecutors contacted by The Associated Press had doubts as to whether Dr. Jack Michel, the home’s owner, or any of his employees will be charged.

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TALLAHASSEE -- As mountains of garbage piles up from Hurricane Irma, counties across Florida say that companies they hired to remove debris won’t show up because they can make a lot more money doing the work in South Florida.

Officials in six counties -- Alachua, Hendry, Indian River, Manatee, Orange and Sarasota -- all complained to the state Thursday about problems with companies that refuse to haul debris.

“We‘ve also been told that our contracted rate of $5.50 a cubic yard is not going to cut it with the subs (subcontractors),” Hendry County Administrator Charles Chapman said, “and  we may be looking at a price, or a change order, being presented to us for as much as $8 a cubic yard. It would be nice if we had cash to play, but we don’t.”

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WASHINGTON - Democrats are using online search ads in an attempt to link Gov. Rick Scott to the latest GOP Obamacare repeal effort.

People searching for “Jimmy Kimmel” or “Jimmy Kimmel test“ will trigger ads that assert the governor, and likely 2018 Senate candidate, “wants to gut preexisting conditions coverage.” The Google ad contains a link to a video.

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After failing numerous times this summer to fulfill their nearly decade-long promise to repeal former president Barack Obama’s signature health care bill, Senate Republicans might be on the brink of a breakthrough.

A proposal sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) would overhaul the current system under the Affordable Care Act by sending revenue from ACA taxes to the 50 states in block grants. The states would be allowed to apply for waivers of current ACA regulations that require all health plans to cover certain “essential health benefits” such as maternity care.

The bill would also end Medicaid’s status as an open-ended entitlement, placing a cap on the program that would cut it by tens of billions of dollars over the next decade. 

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Just how important is a win next week for Florida Democrats in the competitive special election for a state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County?

Important enough that former Vice President Joe Biden recorded a campaign call for Annette Taddeo in an effort to give a late boost to the Democrat’s candidacy against Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Taddeo’s campaign announced Biden’s endorsement — and the phone call he recorded for her — on Thursday afternoon, five days before the District 40 election will be decided on Tuesday. Voting early in person and by mail has already started.

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WASHINGTON - Health Secretary Tom Price, facing scrutiny for using expensive private planes, made a trip to Florida on Monday, raising more questions about his travel.

Price joined Gov. Rick Scott in the Keys to see Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. How he got there is unclear, but if practice holds, there’s a good chance he did not fly commercial.

Several requests by the Tampa Bay Times for information have been ignored by the Health and Human Services.

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Suspected Russia propagandists on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year’s election, The Daily Beast reports.

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

The Aug. 20, 2016, events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!” and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. It’s difficult to determine how many of those locations actually witnessed any turnout, in part because Facebook’s recent deletion of hundreds of Russian accounts hid much of the evidence. But videos and photos from two of the locations—Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs—were reposted to a Facebook page run by the local Trump campaign chair, where they remain to this day.

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WASHINGTON - The federal government will soon begin making payments to victims of Bernie Madoff, according to a letter sent to Rep. Vern Buchanan.

“The Department of Justice appreciates your concern about the lengthy nature of this process, which is a function of the size and scope of the fraud that, as you know, touched thousands of victims all over the world,” reads the letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd.

“I assure you that we have been working very diligently at this process to ensure accurate payment to eligible victims … The Department recently notified victims whose petitions have been approved and is poised to issue initial distributions from the Assets Forfeiture Fund by the end of the 2017. These distributions will represent the largest return of forfeited funds to victims in the history of the Department’s asset forfeiture program.”

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President Donald Trump this morning praised Florida’s hurricane response.

“Florida was, they were hit hard,” Trump said, nothing he’d spoken with “great” Gov. Rick Scott.

“They were hit hard. But they are doing very very well. Ahead of schedule. The power’s back on almost for the most part outside of the Keys where you have a devastation problem but even there we’re working very hard. But Florida’s working very hard. Texas, Florida, we give it an A plus.”

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From our friends at the Miami Herald:

Sen. Marco Rubio and former University of Florida quarterback turned New York Mets minor league baseball player Tim Tebow will distribute food (and likely some autographs) to Hurricane Irma victims in Big Pine Key this morning. 

The duo will begin handing out food around 11:15 am today at the Coca-Cola Plant at 30801 Ave. A in Big Pine Key, according to a press release from Rubio’s office.

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Ten days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida, about a third of the state’s 167 state parks remain closed as the state Department of Environmental Protection deals with the damage done by the storm.  The reasons for closure vary depending on the park, a DEP spokeswoman said.

“We’re seeing things from heavy debris to building damage,” .DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in an e-mail Wednesday. “We’ve also got some parks closed due to flooding or lack of power, which is used to operate the water and septic systems at certain parks.”

The list of parks that are currently closed includes Hillsborough River State ParkCockroach Bay Preserve State Park and the Ybor City Museum State Park in Hillsborough County. Honeymoon Island State Park in Pinellas is open but its nature center is closed. Some parks are open only for day use, not camping. Check ahead before you go.

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The Republican Party of Florida announced in a Wednesday release that the party has flipped two counties, Polk and Volusia, that were once majority-Democrat to majority-Republican.

“For several election cycles, we have tirelessly worked to train and empower our grassroots leaders of the Republican Party because they are the lifeline to expanding our party,” state party chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a release. “The momentum is building, and Polk and Volusia counties are continued proof that the RPOF remains hard at work, even during an off-year.”

In 2016, the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, beat the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by 14 points in Polk County. In Volusia County, the margin was 13 points.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday toured areas of Florida hit by Hurricane Irma and pledged to aid in the recovery.

“We'll work together to ensure resources are in place for rebuilding,” Ryan said on Twitter after a stop in Jacksonville.

A photo showed him surrounded by a bipartisan group of Florida House members, local officials and Sen. Marco Rubio.

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