By Paul Henry
We were requested to research some data recently, and what we found was very interesting. The data in question was campaign donations made by red light camera vendor ATS as well as their use of lobbyists. According to Florida campaign donation records, ATS gave a total of $525,257 in campaign and other donations to political groups between 2008 and 2013. Florida has a relatively transparent system to see who is behind the groups, such as Committees of Continuing Existence.
The (cash) flowchart above can be more easily understood once this data is applied. Depicted above in the lower left is Matthew Montgomery. He’s the $75,000/year
legislative affairs (i.e. government lobbyist) person for the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles- the government agency that oversees red light cameras and issues an annual undocumented survey about them. According to Florida lobbyist records, before coming to the DHSMV, Mr. Montgomery worked for the Southern Strategy Group lobbying firm representing ATS from 2009 through 2012, when he left to work in the State job. State lobbying records show ATS, who used anywhere from 6 to 9 lobbying firms beginning in 2009 paid this firm as follows (lobbyists file reports in pay ranges, so if a firm was paid $2 or $9,000 it would be in the $1 to 9,999 range, and there are many lobbyists listed for this firm, so it is impossible to show individual compensation):
April 2, 2013
The Senate Select Committee on PPACA has announced their plan for dealing with the uninsured that would have been covered by the expansion of Medicaid. Obamacare requires every citizen to carry health insurance or pay a penalty by January 1st, 2014. Since the legislature has rejected both the state-run Health Exchange and expanding Medicaid, they felt they still had to address the problem of the uninsured that will not be covered by the Federal Health Exchange or current Medicaid.
The Federal Health Exchanges will help those who make 138 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For this year, that’s $32,500 to $94,200 for a family of four and $15,860 to $45,960 for individuals.
Those who make less than those ranges will be eligible for Medicaid. The problem for the legislature is that current Medicaid only covers:
·Low income families with children
·Non-citizens with medical emergencies
·Aged or disabled individuals
So this creates a gap of low income individuals that will not qualify for either the Federal Exchanges or current Medicaid. That is where the Senate Select Committee on PPACA came up with their plan to solve this dilemma.
The Senate Select Committee on PPACA created a committee bill (SPB 7038) which would create a new agency called “Healthy Florida” to provide a subsidy program for individuals who do not qualify for either the Federal Health Exchange or current Medicaid. Healthy Florida would require the following:
·The state would subsidize private insurance based on an income-based sliding scale
·There would be some co-pays paid by the uninsured.
·It would establish Health Savings Accounts and incentives for healthy living.
·The plan also would require 85 percent of premiums to go toward care, versus administrative costs.
This plan, if we just have to have one, is better than the expansion of Medicaid, but there are some areas of concern:
The bill creates s. 624.917, Florida Statutes, to provide definitions, eligibility criteria, enrollment, and benefits for the Healthy Florida program. The corporation is also authorized to make changes to the program to negotiate for the approval of the Healthy Florida program with the federal Department of Health and Human Services, if necessary.
Healthy Florida is dependent on same federal funding formula as the federal requirement for expanding Medicaid.
100%-first three years-2014-2016
95%-next three years- 2017-2019
We will not know the exact details of Healthy Florida until it is submitted by AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) and approved by HHS (Health and Human Services).
This bill will allow HHS to establish guidelines and eligibility for Healthy Florida. The federal government could totally change this law to create a bigger bureaucracy and possibly reduce the federal assistance funding formula. Because of this I feel Florida loses any control over the program. The plan would be to pass this bill, and then wait to see what the federal government will do to the plan. I think it is dangerous to pass a bill that gives the federal government the right to make changes at will and we will be stuck with forever.
HHS could approve plan and funding for now, and what if Federal money is withheld due to needed budget cuts in future years, Florida will have to pick up the tab. It is doubtful the program would be eliminated.
We are still waiting for the House to present their plan; they are talking about a similar plan, but would not be so dependent on federal money. As always, for a bill to pass the House and Senate, they will have to agree on the language. With an issue like this that is so big and far reaching, the chances are this will go to a Joint Conference Committee made up of both Senate and House members to try to come to some agreement. If the clock runs out for the regular session, this could go to a special session in the summer.
It is important that if this is to be a “Florida Plan”, then we don’t want the Federal government and Health and Human Services to dictate the details of this plan. We don’t need want their money with all the strings involved. Haven’t we learned from Race to the Top and Common Core that taking federal money means giving up our freedom?
I will keep you posted as more details come out.
Important Bills being voted on this week in Tallahassee!
- SB92 “The Freedom of Unwarranted Surveillance Act” (SUPPORT)
- SB320 “Repeal of the Florida Renewable Fuel Standard Act”. (SUPPORT)
Click here for a list of the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee members. Then click on each member for contact information.
- SB1408 “Electronic Benefits Card (SUPPORT)
Click here for a list of the Regulated Industries Committee members. Then click on each member for contact information.
- SB306 “Economic Development” (OPPOSE)
Click here for the Rules Committee members. Then click on each member for contact information.
The following bills have passed their assigned committee stops and are added to “Second Reading Calendar”.
NOTE: When you see the bill status term “Added to Second Reading Calendar”, it is important to know that once a bill is added to second reading calendar, does not mean that the bill will be heard on the floor. The House has a special committee called the Rules and calendar Committee that will determine when and if a bill will be sent to floor for 2nd reading. These bills will be placed on “special order calendar”; it is then scheduled to be heard on the floor.
HB119: would prohibit any law enforcement agency from using unmanned drones to gather evidence or other information with the exception of countering a high risk of a terrorist attack. Also prohibits the use of any evidence to be used in a court of law in violation of this law. Added to Second Reading Calendar
HB4001: if passed gasoline distributors would no longer be required to sell fuel containing 9 percent to 10 percent ethanol. SB320 would do away with a law passed in 2008 and implemented on Dec. 31, 2010. The legislation passed in 2008 has really had some negative consequences. The move to use ethanol, which is made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, is a remnant of “the Charlie Crist era,” Gaetz said, a “feel-good attempt to use alternate energy.” Added to Second Reading Calendar
HM545: A Memorial Bill, which is a non-binding statement by the Florida House of Representatives which urges Congress and the President to protect the constitutional right of the people to keep and bear arms. Added to Second Reading Calendar
March 28, 2013
There are so many battles we all take on in Tallahassee, issues like stopping Common Core, Agenda 21, Corporate Welfare and many more. Our time is a precious commodity, we need to make sure our time is utilized productively on the most important battles and not wasted on issues that have no chance of becoming law. It is crucial we pick the right battles, there are 1,723 bills filed this year, and most of them are bad. So, how do we know which bills to take on at this point in session?
We are now through the first four weeks of a nine week regular session. As we track important bills, we start to see which bills are making their way through committees and we also start seeing bills that are effectively dead for the session. To know which bills are dead for the year at this point, it is important to know that committees rarely meet the last two weeks of session. So, at this point we only have three weeks of committee meetings and if a bill has not been heard in at least one committee it is effectively dead for the year, and even if the companion bill in the other house is moving. For example, CS/HB701 which stops food stamp recipients from using their EBT card for liquor, gambling and adult entertainment passed its second of three committees yesterday. With one more committee stop in the House, CS/HB701 looks solid to head the floor for a full House vote. But, here is the problem, the Senate companion bill SB1048 has not been heard or placed on the committee agenda in its first committee, it has three committee assignments, the committee staff has not done an analysis, which means the bill is dead for this year. Even if the House passes CS/HB701 and sends it over to the Senate in what is called “Messages”, the Senate will rarely take up a House bill in messages if the Senate companion has never been heard in a committee.
Another thing to look for when you are tracking bills is if it has become a Committee Substitute. When bills are being heard in committee, amendments to bill are voted on in every committee stop, when a bill has several amendments and changes the original version, the committee will adopt the bill as a Committee Substitute. That is when you will see a CS in front of a bill number, like the food stamp bill above is CS/HB701. The point is that if a bill is being amended for better or worse (usually worse) means the bill is being moved and has a chance to be voted on by a full floor vote.
Also, when you are tracking bills, look for the committee staff analysis. Each committee has professional staff members that research and analyze a bill. The staff will document the changes the bill proposes and what effects it will have if it became law. If at this point in the session, a committee staff analysis has not been done, means the bill is dead for the year.
To know when a bill is dead for the year at this point in the session:
·A bill has not been heard in at least one committee.
·If the companion bill in the other house has not been heard in at least one committee.
·If committee staff has not done an analysis, it is dead.
·If the bill is not a Committee Substitute.
EXCEPTION: If a bill has only two committee referrals and the companion bill in the other house is moving, that bill is still alive.
As always, never say never in Tallahassee. I have seen in my years at the Capitol a bill that was declared dead is brought back to life. But that takes an act of God (in this case the Senate President and House Speaker).
PS: To learn more about how things work in Tallahassee and my Bill Tracker, please visit www.johnhallman.org
SB878 violates our U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment’s “Right to Privacy” and places our children in a national database containing personal information, including religious affiliation, parents voter registration, and if a child is disruptive, like wearing a “Mitt for President” t-shirt. Below are excerpts from Dr. Karen Effrem, President of Education Liberty Watch.
SB878 is on “Special Order Calendar” this Wednesday (March 27), which means it has passed all committees and now will be up for a full floor vote in the Senate. Please call your District Senator and tell them to vote NO on SB878, it violates our constitutional rights and we don’t want our children’s private personal information for sale.
Issues with Florida SB 878 – Data Warehouse Bill
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President, Education Liberty Watch
Executive Summary – SB 878 is a huge danger to the data privacy of Florida’s children and their families for the following reasons:
1) It is being written to comply with the longitudinal data system requirements of the Stimulus bill in general, the Race to the Top grant program, and the No Child Left Behind waivers so that the state can receive funds, not on behalf of the students of Florida and their families.
2) The bill aligns Florida’s data system with the National Center for Education Statistics National Data Model which contains hundreds of data items on each and every child in the state that include both academic and non-academic data, such as religious and political affiliations, mental health data, medical data, bus stop and bus route description, and even DNA sequence. The federal and state governments have no legal or constitutional right to this amount and detail of information on innocent American citizens, especially since it is being stored without parental consent.
Therefore, this very sensitive, private data will go to outside parties and many government entities without parental consent.
SB878 combines the K-20 Data Warehouse with the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Wage Record Interchange System so that all of your child’s personal and private data will follow them not only throughout their academic careers, but throughout their work lives as well.
The Data Elements from the NCES include:
· Religious Affiliation
· Bus Route, Bus Stop, and Arrival Time
· At Risk Status
· Disease, Illness, or Health Condition
· Voting Status
The U.S. regulations associated with the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) say that the definition of biometric data includes:
“Biometric record,” as used in the definition of “personally identifiable information,” means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.”
To think that the federal government or a private corporation would have access to this type of sensitive data should make everyone think long and hard about allowing this bill to pass.
SB 878 uses the phrase “organizations or authorized representatives” at least twelve times in the body of the bill. Because of the significant weakening of FERPA regulations that occurred in 2011, there are many people who have access to a student and their family’s sensitive individually identifiable information described above. Here is the definition of authorized representative in the federal regulations:
“Authorized representative means any entity or individual designated by a State or local educational authority or an agency headed by an official listed in § 99.31(a)(3) to conduct-with respect to Federal- or State-supported education programs-any audit or evaluation, or any compliance or enforcement activity in connection with Federal legal requirements that relate to these programs.”
Then, in the list of exceptions under which schools will release you and your family’s sensitive personally identifiable information, it lists all of the parties that act as authorized representatives or school officials that all of your child’s personal and private data will follow them not only throughout their academic careers, but throughout their work lives as well.
The system provides individually identifiable data, including all of the very personal data and more described above, without limitation of any kind (lines 295-297)
The data may be accessed at the “department’s headquarters or by other secure means as agreed upon in writing by the parties (Lines 298-299),” which means that your child’s data could be floating on the internet on lots of different servers. Once it is passed on, security is far from assured.
March 25, 2013
Three Bills being heard this week in Tallahassee:
HB1097 “School Safety.” This bill would allow School Principals to designate teachers that after training could carry a firearm on school campus. HB1097 will be heard this Wednesday (March 27) in the K-12 Subcommittee. Call Committee members and ask them to support HB1097.
Click here for a list of the K-12 Subcommittee members. Then click on each member for their contact information.
HB4001 “Repeal of the Florida Renewable Fuel Standard Act.” If passed gasoline distributors would no longer be required to sell fuel containing 9 to 10 percent ethanol. HB4001 will be heard this Wednesday (March 27) in the Regulatory Affairs Committee. Call Committee members and ask them to support HB4001.
Click here for the Regulatory Affairs Committee members. Then click on each member for their contact information.
CS/HB701 “Electronic Benefits Card”. This bill would prohibit EBT (Food Stamps) cards from being used to purchase liquor or visiting strip clubs and gambling venues. CS/HB701 will be heard this Wednesday (March 27) in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. Call Committee members ask them to support HB701.
Click here for the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee members. Then click on each member for their contact information.
By John Hallman
I have been seeing e-mails circulating claiming that the issue of expanding Medicaid in the Florida legislature has been settled. The House Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did vote this past Monday to reject expanding Medicaid to an additional one million Floridians. The expansion of Medicaid needs approval of Governor Scott, the Florida Senate and House. This means if the Florida House holds firm, expanding Medicaid cannot happen. But, the Senate Select Committee on PPACA has not made their final decision as of yet. I had several meetings this week with the Committee members staff and unfortunately it appears the PPACA Senate Committee will move forward to recommend the expansion Medicaid, maybe as early as next week. Republican John Thrasher of Jacksonville has pledged his support of expanding Medicaid and has said he will use his influence on House Leadership to change their mind. So what is going to happen is that the Senate will eventually pass a bill to expand Medicaid and then send the bill to the House, where Speaker Weatherford has signaled that he will allow it to be placed on the House Calendar to be debated and then a full vote of the House, after which Governor Scott has said he will sign into law with great excitement. The bottom line is Obamacare and expanding Medicaid is still very much possible and we need to keep the calls going to every legislator. I will keep you posted.