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Archive for the ‘Mike Haridopolos’ Category

 

Take This Door And Shove It?

 

Well, he DID say “these doors are open.”

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, the self-proclaimed “open door policy” man and champion of tightening everyone’s belt but his own, has a brand new website! (And no, I don’t mean the new Mike Haridopolos Fan Site Florida Senate website.) It’s quite fitting for the guy who seems to aspire to personify the smarmiest character ever played by his lookalike William Devane.

No, the website DirtyHari.org is completely devoted to “opening the doors” to Haridopolos in all his hypocritical glory, and chronicles everything from those “silly” overlooked financial disclosures right down to every last measure  he voted to ban and subsequently sidestepped.

The new site was launched yesterday by Progress Florida and Florida Watch Action:

The site serves as an exposé “devoted to holding Senate President Mike Haridopolos accountable to the people of Florida, not just the banks, utilities, oil companies, HMO’s, big developers, and other corporate special interests who bankrolled his state senate campaign and rise to leadership.”

In conjunction with the site release, today at 11:00 AM members of Organize Now delivered hand sanitizer to attendees of a $10,000 a plate “private strategy meeting” in Orlando where Haridopolos was discussing his candidacy for the US Senate election in 2012 with wealthy supporters.  “Our message is simple: Sen. Haridopolos needs to clean up his act,” said Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director of Progress Florida.

That “sanitized” private strategy meeting reportedly raised $1 million for the U. S. Senate campaign that Haridopolos jumped into in less time than it took to remove those office doors after he was sworn in as Florida Senate President, the job which, according to Saint Petersblog,  Haridopolos told the crowd was his “political priority at least through the spring.” Just the type of statement you would expect from one of the elected officials who seek to thwart the will of the Florida voters who have the nerve to demand fair elections. Surely voters didn’t expect him to actually DO the job he was elected to?

If ever we needed to restore a little “Sunshine” to Florida’s ethically challenged backdoor politics it’s now when we have Gov. who ignores the people AND the press, and a Senate President with only part-term priorities who rips down office doors for the cameras, then holds his meetings privately in the president’s box at football games, the Governor’s mansion, and who knows where else?

Haridopolos didn’t want those office doors?

If he wasn’t “unhinged” before, he certainly is now.

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Gov. Rick Scott is sticking to his campaign promises for an Arizona style immigration policy even though other GOP officials in Florida say it would be very bad for business. Of course, Scott needn’t even rely on what other officials say. He need only look at what’s happened in Arizona to get a glimpse of what could be in Florida.

Nope. Scott doesn’t show signs of giving in, in spite of his claims to “run Florida like a business.” Unless he means to run it like he ran Columbia/HCA that is.

“Scott, who campaigned on the issue, said this morning that law enforcement officers should be able to ask for immigration documentation, including during routine traffic stops.

“The federal government needs to secure our borders. We need to have an overall immigration policy that is logical and that works and is fair to Americans and fair to people that want to come to our country that we invite to come to our country,” Scott told reporters this morning.

“At the same time, I also believe that if you’re in our country and you do something illegally, you should be able to be asked just like I get asked for my ID if I ever get a traffic ticket, they should be asked if they’re legal or not. I clearly don’t believe in racial profiling,” Scott said.”

In spite of his views, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, (R-Meritt Island) doesn’t favor the Arizona “papers please” style of immigration law, nor does Florida Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Putnam says not only would such a law be bad for business, but it would be really for tourism in Florida.

But hey, it’s not like Florida relies on tourism or anything to stay afloat…..

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Pop quiz:

If you’ve just been elected bought an election as Governor of a state that has an unemployment rate of 12% and state revenues $3.5 billion less than last year’s $70 billion budget, what is the first thing you would do before being sworn into office?

A. Throw an Inaugural Party costing upwards of $3 Million (so far), or

B. Launch a tour in two twin-engine private jets around the state that leads to Disney World?

I’ll give you a minute……

OK, to be fair, this is a trick question. Because if you’re Rick Scott, the answer is: BOTH!

Also to be fair, it’s not like Scott doesn’t recognize the problem here, right? Right?

When asked about the state’s money problems, Scott had this to say:

But a relaxed Scott on Monday appeared to take even that in stride. “I wish we didn’t have so much of a deficit,” he told reporters when asked what has surprised him most since his election last month.

Yeah! I mean, who could have predicted THAT?

But enough of the negative Nellie-ness here, Scott was spending the day at the happiest place on earth after all!

“Who’s ready to create 700,000 jobs?” Scott said, echoing his campaign refrain. “Who’s ready to get rid of all regulations that are killing jobs in this state? Who’s willing to use accountability budgeting to look at every state agency? Who’s ready to get that done?”

Yes, all those pesky job-killing regulations are the problem. Now who wants to jump on a thrill ride that’s currently still regulated, huh?

Now, I can’t help but wonder if Scott may just have crossed paths with another Republican Governor while he was vacationing in Disney World? You know, the one who left his state of New Jersey as it was about to be inundated with a blizzard? Surely the Lt. Governor stepped in, right?

Wrong. She was also vacationing, in Mexico.

A funny thing is going on in New Jersey. The state’s response to the massive snowstorm is being overseen by Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, in the role of Acting Governor — because both Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are vacationing out of state at the same time.

Luckily for the state of New Jersey, there was a Democrat who could step in and take charge during the snowstorm there.

Sure wish we had one of those in Florida as well, since our Republican legislature is busy with gerrymandering tactics and ripping office doors down in the name of transparency while actually conducting meetings during football games in skyboxes with doors and away from those without in Tallahassee, and our new Governor was apparently unaware there was a hefty deficit problem until after the November election.

Yes, a Democrat to take charge in Florida would look real good right about now…

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Shortly after he was elected Governor, Rick Scott proclaimed that Florida was “open for business.” He wasn’t kidding. Yesterday he spoke at his first meeting where he laid out his agenda. The meeting was itself open to business, but closed to the press, and therefore closed to the people of Florida.

In his typical hush-hush fashion, Scott met with business leaders from the Florida Council Of 100 at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. He chose to share his plans with businesses who are more likely to benefit from his policies than anyone else, and apparently sought to enlist their help to fulfill his promise in creating those 700,000 jobs he proposed during his campaign. It also seems to have served as a means to recruit the first recipients of those new jobs. Towards the end of the speech, Scott said this:

Finally let me tell you what I need from you.

I’m now looking for the best talent I can find to join my team in Tallahassee.

The meeting was private and closed to the press, but after the meeting Scott released a copy of his “prepared remarks,” so we can only assume those were the actual remarks delivered, and odd remarks they were.

It’s no secret that Scott intends to run the State like a business. He said as much during his campaign. However, the extent to those intentions becomes eerily clear after reading his prepared speech. I had to read it twice just to make sure I actually read it correctly, and I still came away thinking “whaa….??”

Before I explain why, I first want to address another alarming tactic Rick Scott practices: Secrecy. First there’s that whole Medicare fraud problem. While Scott was never charged with Medicare fraud, his former company Columbia/HCA is the record holder of Medicare fraud fines, to the tune of $1.7 billion, and Scott was at the helm when it occurred. However, Scott’s bio has kindly been “edited” on his new transition website. There’s no mention of the Columbia/HCA Medicare fraud. That history has been re-written: “when Rick Scott left Columbia/HCA in 1997 “it was one of the most admired companies in America.” (Well, sure if you admire fraud, or you’re writing a textbook on business ethics.) Also, during that investigation Scott took the fifth 75 times.

Then there’s Scott’s current company Solantic and that deposition he refuses to release. He’s also not a fan of public debate with political opponents, he’s loathe to talk with reporters, and famously refused to meet with even one newspaper editorial board during his campaign.

We’ve also witnessed the foreboding signs of things to come as far as transparency goes in the Sunshine State. While the new Senate President Mike Haridopolos grabbed a drill and made a great show of removing the doors to his office earlier in the week, it was little more than a photo-op disguised as an actual “open-door policy.” His office doors may be gone, but his first meeting to negotiate veto overrides with Rick Scott took place in the president’s box during an FSU-Clemson game on Saturday. So much for “government in the sunshine.”

Which brings us back to the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, where we find Rick Scott speaking to the Florida Council of 100, and where the press was not allowed. Even the details of who banned the press from the meeting are murky. Scott claims that no, it was NOT HIM who wouldn’t allow reporters in the meeting, certainly not! No, Scott blames that on the Council of 100:

(Scott) put the blame on the council for keeping reporters away. “It’s their decision and we’re respecting their decision,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said. “We respect the circumstances under which they invited us.”

The Council however, explained it this way:

Council of 100 President Susan Pareigis said Scott’s folks never asked for it to be open. “It’s a private membership meeting,” Pareigis said. “There’s no question-and-answer. It’s in-and-out and it’s pretty quick.”

Details aside, there’s no disputing that the meeting was very much a private meeting between the soon to be Governor and business leaders, and closed to the public and the press. That those businesses are privy to the Governor’s plans and the State’s future, but its citizens are not is cause for alarm in a climate where businesses and the candidates themselves are in a position to simply “buy” an elected office with little or no disclosure. When the entire Republican Party, from the newly elected Congressmen and women, to Governor, the Attorney General, and right on down to the State legislature are endorsed by the local and national Chambers Of Commerce, and essentially an arm of FOX, which may dictate policy and give them their marching orders, where if at all, do mere “voters” fit in? Where does it end?

Certainly not with yesterday’s meeting:

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and future House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, are giving closed-door speeches to the group on Friday.

So much for those missing office doors. It’s Rick Scott and Mike Haridopolos who are unhinged, forget the empty symbolism. That may sound harsh, but read some of those “prepared remarks” from the speech Scott gave before our new corporate overlords yesterday. You be the judge. Keep in mind the “run Florida like a business” mindset of Rick Scott – who was never charged but whose company was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud.

The Orlando Sentinel summed up Scott’s ideas for Florida (or “Florida, Inc.”) this way:

What’s perhaps more interesting in the speech is the tone — the simple, declarative sentences — and his analysis of state government as if it were a business. Putting aside any debate on the merits of that approach — state government doesn’t exist to make a profit, and a good chunk of its expenditures are entitlements that people rely on and can’t easily be changed — Scott’s assertions are fundamental corporate-speak. For instance:

  • “The State of Florida is like a lot of companies.
  • “Its overhead is too high.
  • “It has more mid-level managers than it needs.
  • “Its financial controls are too weak.
  • “It hasn’t been clear about its core competencies.
  • “It doesn’t measure enough.
  • “And it lacks a sufficiently focused strategic plan.”

He may have a so-called business plan, but does he have a vision? If he does will we ever hear about it before it’s too late?

You can read Scott’s prepared remarks here.

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Yesterday’s New York Times published an editorial on last Tuesday’s election results. While most of the “Monday morning quarterback” analysis of the election has been to focus on the Republicans gaining a majority in the House, the editorial focused more on state elections, and for good reasons.

State elections got less attention in the media before the election and they may well slip under the radar now. But they shouldn’t.

For starters, statewide elections were extremely important for one simple reason: redistricting. This cycle showed a big push to elect Republican governors that would allow Republicans to redraw districts which will be more favorable to.. (Surprise!) Republicans, and the push was successful. They gained 10 Republican governors seats, and they are now in control of 20 states compared to the previous number of nine.

From the Times editorial:

The changes in state government will have another long-term effect as states begin the redistricting process to comply with the population changes documented in the 2010 census. This means that Republicans will be in a position to consolidate this year’s gains by redrawing Congressional and state legislative district lines to their advantage.

Sound familiar? It should. Last week Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendments 5 and 6, which will prevent districts from being redrawn unfairly to the advantage of Republicans. More importantly, when the state legislature tried to undercut them with Amendment 7 last July, it was thrown off the ballot because it was misleading to voters, which of course, was the entire point of Amendment 7 in the first place.

When Amendments 5 and 6 passed last week, the will of the people won out. Unfortunately, the day after the election, a suit was already being filed to undo Amendment 6, which would declare it invalid and prevent it from being enforced. Amendment 6 sets the rules for drawing Florida’s congressional districts.

Today Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolous (R-Merritt Island)) announced that Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin) will oversee the redrawing of Florida’s district lines based on the 2010 census.

If the name Gaetz sounds familiar to those who followed the debate over Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called “Fair Districts” amendments limiting the legislature’s ability to gerrymander districts that passed a statewide vote on Nov. 2, that’s because Gaetz’s son, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, was a vocal opponent of 5 and 6.

In the week before the vote on Amendments 5 and 6, Matt penned an op-ed in theNorthwest Florida Daily News, urging readers to vote no on 5 and 6 because they would blunt “the conservative comeback” in Florida. The remarks were unusual, because anti-Fair Districts activists generally preferred to voice their opposition in less explicitly partisan terms. (Even if the Republican Party of Florida did largely fund the organized opposition to 5 and 6.) Matt’s argument was picked up by at least one tea party group, which included his op-ed in an email newsletter.

Voters in Florida may want fair districts, but the Republican controlled legislature is determined to change that as the above examples show.

Then there’s the fact that for some reason, a majority of voters in Florida elected Republican Rick Scott, who was not charged with Medicare fraud, to be their Governor. (But his company Columbia/HCA was fined more that $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. His current company which runs private clinics,  Solantic, is also facing accusations. As Governor, Scott may now appoint the agency head who will be investigating Solantic as well.)

Among the things that Scott ran under during the campaign was his goal of privatizing Medicaid, which would direct recipients to private clinics, like the ones Scott owns. Scott also led the push to defeat President Obama’s health care reform legislation by forming his non-profit organization Conservatives For Patients Rights. Add to that, Florida is also leading the lawsuit against the new health care reform laws filed by Bill McCollum and joined by other states as well. A majority of Florida voters also elected Republican and FOX-GOP spokesmodel Pam Bondi (also brought to you via Sarah Palin’s endorsement) as Attorney General, who vows to continue the fight to strip health care reform away from Floridians who might benefit from it.

Rick Scott also plans to slash spending by cutting government jobs and education, stripping away regulations, eliminating income tax for businesses, reducing property taxes, and many other cuts in order to “run Florida like a business.” (Recall again, Scott oversaw the company with one of the largest fines ever charged in a Medicare fraud case, which he was forced to leave, and so was never himself charged with Medicare fraud.)

Now it remains to be seen which of these goals Scott will actually be able to reach. They are lofty goals indeed and some might even say unrealistic given the realities Florida is facing. Making all of those cuts while promising to add 700,000 jobs at the same time may involve some tricky maneuvers. Scott may well be adept at tricky maneuvers, but it will take some doing in that he faces a veto proof legislature who may have different goals of their own. Campaign promises and wishful thinking don’t count.

Going back to the Times editorial:

There is no way that these newly elected Republican lawmakers and governors can follow through on their promises to erase huge deficits without raising taxes — except by making irresponsibly draconian cuts in critical state services, particularly for the poor and for education.

The states, like the federal government, need to get control of spending. That may mean dealing with out-of-control pensions. It may mean careful cuts in services combined with, yes, higher taxes. But with millions of people out of work, this is the worst possible time for the states to try to solve all their problems by simply slashing health care spending, spending on higher and elementary education, and services for the elderly and the poor. It would lead to tens of thousands of layoffs and even lower state revenues.

Many other states have little left to cut in government services. Nonetheless, as Monica Davey and Michael Luo reported in The Times this week, many newly elected Republican governors say they will balance their budgets that way. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and several state lawmakers have even floated the idea of dropping out of the Medicaid program and creating a low-cost insurance program for the poor.

That is an irresponsible, and counterproductive, way to try to close the state’s $25 billion deficit. It would mean giving up the federal government’s 60 percent share of the Texas program’s $40 billion annual cost. And for nearly four million participants, it would reduce the level of health care far below a minimum standard.

No matter what the politicians have promised, there is no sound way to balance budgets, protect the most vulnerable people, and the states’ own economies, without some tax increases.

There’s also the matter of the stimulus money, which Florida is getting a big chunk of for high-speed rail projects. Scott has waffled on his support or the lack thereof for high-speed-rail. While other Republican Governors have talked big against the stimulus while accepting those very funds and taking credit for receiving them at the same time, yesterday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that any states which refuse to proceed with high-speed rail projects will lose those stimulus funds. If that condition holds true for Florida Scott will have to walk a fine line. If he stands in the way and blocks plans for high-speed rail in Florida, he’ll also be blocking an estimated 23,000 jobs, not to mention stimulating business development that will boost Florida’s economy which is sorely needed.

NY Times:

The Republicans’ big wins in Washington will make the states’ plight even worse. As part of their campaigns, Republican members of Congress have vowed to cut discretionary spending, much of which goes to state capitols. Meanwhile, federal stimulus money — decried by the Republicans — is drying up.

Rick Scott made a lot of big campaign promises to voters, and apparently they believed him, given his history with business and Medicare fraud. He portrayed himself to be an outsider, when in fact he lined up rather quickly with Republican cronies in a now veto proof legislature. He has to keep them and voters happy all at the same time, or risk the wrath of both. That in itself should be interesting to watch.

NY Times:

These highly partisan exercises in self-aggrandizement go on every 10 years, but the unusually large number of states with both Republican legislatures and governorships will sharply reduce the ability of Democrats to bring a little balance to the process.

States have long been in the paradoxical position of being closer to the lives of voters than the federal government, while receiving far less scrutiny and attention. But if Republicans begin abusing the privilege they have been handed, imposing unconscionable cuts and claiming an unfair partisan advantage, they may find the public’s outrage turning back on them in a hurry.

In Florida it’s in fact quite safe to say that Republicans will “begin abusing the privilege they have been handed.” They already have. They began abusing that privilege in less than 24 hours after the election last Tuesday by filing suit against Amendment 6, which will go against the will of the voters and stack the deck against them and in favor of Republican lawmakers.

All this before Governor elect Rick Scott, who was never charged with Medicare fraud, is even sworn in.

So I have to ask those voters who chose Rick Scott a question: I know it’s early, but has “voters remorse” started to kick in yet?

 

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Florida’s soon to be Governor Rick Scott-who was never charged with Medicare fraud-has a brand new transition website up and running.

Funny thing about that website is his “bio” page. If you read that bio page, and you’ve followed the news concerning Scott’s Columbia/HCA history, you’re likely to notice what’s missing.

The website addresses Scott’s departure from Columbia/HCA in 1997, but there’s no mention of the circumstances of his departure, nor is there any mention that the company “was fined by the government for Medicare fraud with more than $1.7 billion in fines and settlements” after Scott’s 1997 departure. During his campaign, Scott glossed over these facts by saying things like he “accepted responsibility” acknowledged that the company “made mistakes” and that he was “never charged with Medicare fraud.”

Well, apparently the days of “glossing over” are gone now that Scott is the Governor-elect. Those dark days from Columbia/HCA history are nowhere to be found on Scott’s new website. The bio page says, among other glowing details, that when Rick Scott left Columbia/HCA in 1997 “it was one of the most admired companies in America.” No mention of Medicare fraud. That’s it, and then we skip on to the next chapter with America’s Health Network which merged with FOX Entertainment to become The Health Network and then Discovery Health followed by Solantic, the private urgent care clinics Scott now owns.

So as a “candidate” Scott admitted the scandal but tried to explain away the details. Now as “Governor-elect,” Scott isn’t even glossing over the details. He simply “erased” any mention of the Medicare fraud scandal all together.

Also in the news is the new agenda for the veto proof Florida legislature and they are moving ahead rather quickly on several issues. Among them is a push to privatize Medicaid which would benefit clinics just like the ones owned by Rick Scott:

House and Senate leaders today said they will use a special legislative session this month to try to override Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto of money for Shands teaching hospital and to “send a message” about overhauling Medicaid.

Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon outlined a series of issues they hope to address during a brief session Nov. 16 when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for an otherwise ceremonial meeting.

Overriding the veto of $9.7 million for Shands has long been discussed. But Haridopolos and Cannon also said they want to pass a resolution that would express their intent to revamp Medicaid and seek more leeway from the federal government about how the program is run…..

….Though details were not immediately available, that could involve moving to a statewide system of requiring beneficiaries to enroll in managed care — an issue the House proposed during this spring’s session.

Then we come to another issue from Scott’s campaign: limiting lawsuits against doctors, and guess what? They aren’t wasting any time with that one either:

One other idea that Haridopolos and Cannon said could be part of the resolution is expressing support for limiting lawsuits against doctors who serve Medicaid beneficiaries.

So the Republicans in Tallahassee went from saying that Scott’s scandalous past was a “liability” and that he should have withdrawn from the race for Governor, and that Scott wasn’t a “real Republican,” to not only accepting him into the Party despite his company’s Medicare fraud scandal,  but helping him act on his policies, perhaps to benefit Scott’s own private clinics.

Now your new Governor, who invested $73 million of his own money for his campaign, can have his cake and eat it too, with the help of the Republican controlled Florida legislature.

Nice work if you can get it.

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In spite of the state ban on “double dipping” where state employees collect a paycheck while also collecting a state pension, incoming Republican Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Drill-Baby) has announced that he has hired three veteran staffers to come on up to Tallahassee and double-dip anyway!

High unemployment rates? Who cares! He’s the Senate President and you the unemployed are not. Just to rub your nose in it, they’ll all be making six figure salaries too.

Oh, and then there’s this, from the Florida Independent:

Criticism has been leveled against Haridopolos before, most notably for working for the University of Florida as a guest lecturer in their Department of Political Science at a starting salary of $75,000, nearly double the $40,000 average for the position. UF faculty and the Democratic Party of Florida cited his lack of academic credentials or input by faculty prior to his hiring, as well as perceived conflict between his obligations as a state senator and an employee of the university.

That seems to be going around. Does the name Marco Rubio ring a bell? How about Florida International University? They should, to the tune of a salary of $69,000.

Haridopolos has been a busy man firing and hiring before he takes over. I would dare say there won’t be a Democrat within spitting distance of the capitol if he has anything to do with it.

Haridopolos has also become Rick Scott’s new BFF along with the rest of the Republican Party of Florida. Do we really want to let the Republicans keep control of the State of Florida? Cause they’ve done a bang-up job so far. Just look at the numbers. Although if you live here, you have no need to look.

Here’s a look at the State’s newest double dippers:

Terry Rhodes, a 30-year veteran of the Department of Agriculture, who will become a special assistant to the president and staff director of the Committee on Ethics and Elections at a salary of $150,000. She will also collect a state pension of $6,448 a month beginning in April and collected $404,657 in deferred compensation when she retired last April.

Craig Meyer, a former deputy commissioner of agriculture with 26 years of experience in state government, was hired in June to run a new Senate budget office. Meyer was chief of staff for Senate President Bob Crawford 20 years ago. He’s being paid $155,000 a year. He will also collect a $3,588 pension beginning in April and collected $10,688 in deferred compensation this past April.

John B. Phelps, former House clerk who retired in 2005 and has been working in the Legislative Research Center and Museum, will become staff director of the Senate Rules Committee. He’ll be paid $139,152, the same salary he has been making doing historical research. He collects a monthly pension of $6,260 and collected deferred compensation totaling $350,482 when he retired in 2005.

Did I mention there’s a state ban on double dipping? Yeah, I thought I had.

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