10:26 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Jeb Bush Offers Some Rare Criticism of his Brother

“I think that in Washington, during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money,” Jeb Bush said. “I think he could have used the veto power — he didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C.”
Jeb Bush on Thursday put a bit more space between himself and his brother, part of a slow-motion and seemingly reluctant distancing effort as he moves toward a White House bid. After being asked by a questioner at a sports bar here whether there is any "space" between the Bush brothers on issues, Jeb Bush pointed to the scale of government spending during the George W. Bush presidency.
News
9:24 am
Fri May 22, 2015

Fed LIP Offer Aims to Solve FL Budget Mess

Gov. Rick Scott

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 9:38 am

The Obama administration offered Thursday to extend Florida's hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year — a deal that might help fill a $1 billion state budget hole and resolve a legislative stalemate.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

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Off The Base
7:46 am
Fri May 22, 2015

A Fallen Member of an All-Female Team

1st Lt. Ashley White was a member of the all-female Army Cultural Support Team. She was killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011 while supporting a Ranger night mission.
Credit Ashley White Family / Memorial Page

Among those who will be remembered this Memorial Day is 1st Lt. Ashley White, a member of an all-female, all-Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

White is buried behind her family’s church in Ohio. It’s the same church where she was baptized and where she married Capt. Jason Stumpf six months before she was killed.

The family had the option of burying Ashley at Arlington National Cemetery,

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Environment
4:52 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Nelson Moves to Extend Gulf Oil Drilling Ban

Bill Nelson addresses the Senate, next to a picture of workers cleaning an oil-soaked beach in hazmat gear

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson today filed a bill that would extend the moratorium on oil drilling off Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast. The move comes the day after the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill. 

The bill would extend the moratorium on drilling at least 125 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast until 2027. The ban currently is in place until 2022, but last week, another senator from Louisiana moved to repeal it. The bill by Sen. Bill Cassidy would allow oil rigs at least 75 miles closer to Florida's western coastline.

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The Two-Way
4:31 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Fla. Mailman Who Flew Gyrocopter Onto Capitol Lawn Appears In Court

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 5:00 pm

Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET

The Florida mailman who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the Capitol last month appeared in court today and pleaded not guilty to all six charges against him.

Douglas Mark Hughes was charged Wednesday and faces up to 9 1/2 years in prison.

NPR's Peter Overby reported on the charges against Hughes:

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It's All Politics
3:51 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

Gyrocopter Pilot On His 'Incredible' Flight Onto Capitol Lawn

Doug Hughes said he sees his future as working for "the cause of getting a Congress — not more liberal, not more conservative — but a Congress that is working for the people."
Peter Overby NPR

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 8:39 am

Florida postman Doug Hughes made headlines last month for landing his gyrocopter on the lawn in front of the Capitol building.

In an interview with NPR, Hughes said he "made every effort to send word ahead" about the flight, but also knew he would be taken into custody. He made the flight anyway, he said, to "get a message to the American people — not that there's a problem with Congress but that there are solutions to the problem."

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Breaking
11:16 am
Thu May 21, 2015

FL Could Get Low Income Pool Funds

Vikki Wachino, director of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a letter dated May 21 that Florida can likely expect $1 billion in the budget year that begins July 1 for the Low Income Pool.

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 4:51 pm

The Obama administration has made an offer that it hopes will resolve Florida’s $1 billion state budget stalemate over health care funds for poor people.

Federal health officials agreed to extend Florida’s hospital funds for another two years, but only at about half the amount the state received last year. That means Florida lawmakers may have to dip into the state budget to fill the gap or state hospitals will get less money in the coming year.

In a letter Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott, federal officials stressed that they would not use Low Income Pool hospital funds to cover anyone who could be covered by Medicaid expansion, but they also acknowledged the loss of those funds may be difficult for the state. The current hospital funds are $2.1 billion dollars, put up by the state and federal government. The administration’s preliminary offer drops that to $1 billion for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and to $600 million the following year.

The proposal is still subject to a formal review but federal officials said they wanted to work with the state in good faith, recognizing that the Legislature needs to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a state government shutdown.

“The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a state option … (R)egardless of whether a state expands Medicaid, uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in Medicaid expansion,” federal health officials said in the letter.

The funds, which are part of a federal program that covers the hospital bills of uninsured and Medicaid patients, were supposed to end this year as President Barack Obama’s health care program grew. Patients covered by the low-income pool were supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the Florida House and Scott have balked at expanding it.

The bitter standoff between the Republican governor and the Obama administration tore apart the state legislative session, with the House abruptly adjourning three days early last month. Scott sued the Obama administration, comparing federal officials to the TV mobster show “The Sopranos” and accusing them of withholding the hospital funds because the state wouldn’t expand Medicaid.

The dispute created a $1 billion hole in the governor’s budget that should now be much easier for lawmakers to address when they return for a special session June 1.

Scott pressed for the extension for months, even visiting Washington twice and blaming the Obama administration for ruining his budget and ignoring his timeline even though he’s known for more than a year that the funds were ending. He waited until mid-April to submit a proposal, although the months-long required public comment period made it impossible to get an answer before the Legislature adjourned last month.

The Obama administration and hospitals want the governor to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians and will not spend federal hospital funds on those who would be covered by Medicaid expansion. That’s because federal health officials say it’s more efficient to use the money to give people health insurance than to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured retroactively.

But Scott and Republican House leaders refuse to accept any money tied to the Affordable Care Act - including Medicaid expansion. They even snubbed a Senate proposal that would eventually take billions of federal dollars and allow the Medicaid expansion recipients to buy private health insurance - a solution that Scott has fought for in the past.

The House and Senate recently announced they would discuss Medicaid expansion during the special session, snubbing the governor’s call to focus only on the budget.

Senate leaders had prepared to move ahead with a health care coverage plan during the upcoming special session, but the announcement from the federal government bolsters the argument of House Republicans who maintained that the state would continue to receive a decent chunk of the hospital money without having to expand Medicaid.

During a recent closed-door session, House and Senate budget chiefs discussed the House’s objections to the Senate’s current proposal. Senate budget chief Tom Lee agreed there were “reasonable” concerns raised about the Senate plan.

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Politics
10:05 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Gov. Scott Still Wants Tax Cuts, School-Funding Increase

Credit Mark Wilson / Getty News Images

Florida Gov. Rick Scott resumed his push Wednesday for a massive tax-cut package and a “historic” increase in school funding, downplaying a call for agency heads to prepare for a bare-bones budget.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a good special session,” Scott said when asked about the state having to scale down to its critical needs if lawmakers fail to hammer out a budget before July 1.

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News
9:14 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Hospital Commission Echoes Scott's Agenda

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 9:21 am

Gov. Rick Scott's hospital commission held its first meeting Wednesday, overwhelmed by mounds of data but intent on determining whether hospitals that receive tax money are being managed efficiently.

"What are we paying for and what's the result of what we're paying for? Do patients have access, is it quality care and is it affordable?" said Dr. Jason Rosenburg.

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Health News Florida
9:14 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Punishment for Fatal Error a Tough Call

Justin Solnay with family poodle
Courtesy of Solnay Family

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 9:13 am

  Two years ago, a little boy with a leaky heart valve was rolled into the operating room at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando.  Before starting surgery, as required, the team took a “Time Out.”

Doctors and nurses made sure they had the correct patient on the table – Justin Solnay, age 11 – and were planning the right procedure – replacing Justin’s weak aortic valve with a mechanical implant. They ran through the list; check, check and check.

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Environment
9:08 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Scientists Link Dolphin Deaths in Gulf to 2010 BP Spill

Researchers recorded data and photographed a dead dolphin stranded along the coastline at Port Fourchon, La., in 2012
Credit ouisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

In a new study, a team of scientists says there’s a definite link between the massive BP oil spill in 2010 and a record number of dolphin deaths along the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The scientists said large numbers of dead bottlenose dolphins found stranded along shores since the spill suffered from lung and adrenal lesions caused by swimming in oil-contaminated seas.

The research paper backs up previous findings linking dolphin deaths to the oil spill.

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Environment
5:24 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

USF St. Pete, Duke Energy Flip Switch on $1M Solar Project

The new 6,600 square foot, 100 kW solar array on top of the USF St. Petersburg parking garage is made up of 318 panels and will provide all the power for the garage's lights, security cameras and a pair of electric car charging stations.
Credit USF St. Petersburg Office of Sustainability

USF St. Petersburg and Duke Energy have "flipped the switch" on what they're calling one of the largest and most efficient solar arrays in the city.

The system sits on top of a seven-story campus parking garage on Fifth Avenue South. The 6,600-square foot, 100-kilowatt canopy is a "net zero" system, meaning the power it generates will be used to run the garage's lights and security cameras, as well as a pair of electric car charging stations.

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Child Welfare
1:22 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Florida's In The Middle For Foster Care Youth Placement

A new study from The Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that 13 percent of Florida's 18 thousand foster youth are living in group homes instead of with a family.   That's just under the national average of 14 percent.

WUSF's Lisa Peakes spoke with the foundation 's Tracey Field about Florida's ranking.

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Education
10:49 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Math Tests for Nearly 550,000 Students Won't Count

Credit AP Photo

The Florida Department of Education says that the math tests taken by nearly 550,000 students won't count this school year.

The department sent out a memo this week to school districts telling them the results from end-of-course exams in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II will not be available until September.

State officials told districts to calculate final grades without the test grades. The tests are supposed to count for 30 percent of the grade.

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The Two-Way
10:32 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Wanna Go To Fit City? List Ranks America's 50 Fittest Metro Areas

People exercise along the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; the metro area was ranked as America's fittest city for the second year in a row.
Andrew Harnik The Washington Times/Landov

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 9:44 am

The new American Fitness Index is out, with some good news and bad news. Five metro areas fell five or more slots; nine others rose by five or more places. The rankings tally several criteria, from rates of smoking, diabetes and obesity to access to parks.

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