Addressing union workers, Fried says she makes Gov. DeSantis ‘nervous’ during FL Cabinet meetings
With Gov. Ron DeSantis canceling Florida Cabinet meetings, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried claimed on Thursday that she makes the Republican governor uneasy during the meetings because she forces him “to get in the conversation about true policy.”
Fried, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination against DeSantis this year, mentioned DeSantis’ demeanor during Cabinet meetings while addressing the Florida AFL-CIO convention in Orlando. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also seeking the nomination, addressed the convention, too.
“I make this a joke all the time — when I am in Cabinet meetings and I go to press my microphone to start talking, Ron starts to have this very weird twitch about him that he gets because I make him nervous,” Fried said.
“I make him nervous and I force him to not just get on his soap box and talk about nonsense, but I force him to get in the conversation about true policy,” said Fried.
The Cabinet comprises three members — Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — who are statewide-elected officials conducting the state’s business along with the governor.
Crist, meanwhile, alleged to union members that DeSantis “wants to bust your union.”
“The AFL-CIO is the backbone of our country and this state,” said Crist, a former Republican governor. “I am here today because union workers really are the essence of our society. You think back to the beginning of this pandemic, and it was you who held it all together.”
Endorsement to come
Although the labor union hasn’t endorsed either Fried or Crist, the union is expected to do so soon, said Florida AFL-CIO spokesman Michael Newberger. Read More
UPDATE: on Friday June 24th, the FL AFL-CIO chose to endorse Charlie Crist
The Hill: Hispanic super PAC releases gun control ad
The country’s largest Hispanic-oriented super PAC on Thursday released a Spanish-language ad linking Republicans to gun violence.
The ad released by Nuestro PAC, a group that promotes increased outreach to Hispanic voters, will air exclusively in Spanish, with a six-figure investment by the PAC.
“The frustration in the community started with the local Uvalde community not even being able to get information about the shooting in Spanish,” said Chuck Rocha, the Democratic political consultant who started Nuestro PAC.
“It made me think that if they can’t even get information about who’s to blame and what happened — on the shortcomings — in Spanish, then they don’t even know that they should be blaming Republicans for the lack of action on curtailing assault rifles,” Rocha added.
Rocha’s hope is that the investment will serve both to educate Spanish-speaking voters and to attract donors interested in running the ad in key congressional districts.
Hispanic voters will play a key role in several competitive districts in 2022, a novelty for a community that’s traditionally held most of its political power in safe Democratic districts.
Among the potential targets for Nuestro PAC’s ad are the South Florida district where state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D) is challenging Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R); the California district where Democrat Rudy Salas is challenging Rep. David Valadao (R); the New Mexico district where Democrat Gabe Vasquez is challenging GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell; and the Texas district where Democrat Michelle Vallejo is facing off against Republican Monica De La Cruz.
“We bought a six figure National Digital buy to target Latino voters and donors, to see if we can raise enough money to run this into individual congressional districts that have large Latino populations,” said Rocha.
“For the first time in American history, there’s a whole bunch of [districts] that are actually marginal and have a ton of Latinos,” he added.
Many of those districts are relatively near to sites of mass killings that shook entire communities.
In the ad, the narrator asks, “How many more children do we need to bury?” while the names of Columbine, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Parkland, Fla., and Uvalde, Texas, are displayed on screen.
“All of this is very localized where the shootings have happened. There’s large constituencies of Latino voters, who a lot of them consume information in Spanish where they’re not hearing anything from Democrats,” said Rocha.
“Latinos who consume MSNBC, Latinos that consume Fox News, they’ve already picked a corner. They’re already going to be with one party or the other. Right? Because they’re getting information in English. There’s just not a lot of information getting to our community in Spanish,” he added.
CBS Miami: Nearly 150 new laws set to go into effect in Florida on Friday
From a record $109.9 billion budget to naming a state dessert, nearly 150 laws that Florida legislators passed this year are set to hit the books Friday.
Some of the measures face legal challenges, such as a bill that would prevent abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and a bill that would restrict how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training.
In all, lawmakers sent 280 bills to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of that total, 149 that were signed or were awaiting signatures Monday had July 1 effective dates. Seventy-five took effect immediately when signed. Others are slated to take effect on October 1, January 1, or at other times.
As of the end of last week, DeSantis had vetoed 11 measures passed this year.
Here are some of the bills that will become law Friday:
BUDGET AND TAXES
— DeSantis signed a $109.9 billion budget (HB 5001) for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which will start Friday. The record spending plan was bolstered by federal stimulus money and higher-than-expected state tax revenues.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging tax plan (HB 7071) that includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” on such things as back-to-school clothes and supplies and a one-month suspension of the state gas tax in October.
— Dubbed by DeSantis as the “Stop WOKE Act,” lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7) that restricts how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training. It has drawn a court challenge.
— Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 1048) to replace the Florida Standards Assessments testing program in public schools with a “progress monitoring system” that would test students three times a year.
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1054) that will require high-school students, starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, to take financial-literacy courses.
— Lawmakers passed a bill (HB 1467) to place 12-year term limits on county school-board members and to increase public scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials.
— In an issue that fueled a national debate, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 1557) that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade and requires that such instruction in older grades be age-appropriate. It has drawn a court challenge.
– Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 7044) that requires state colleges and universities to change accreditors at the end of each accreditation cycle and revamps the process of reviewing professors’ tenure.
— Amid national legal and political battles about abortion, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 5) that prevents abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law faces a court challenge.
– Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1950) that will help set the stage for the Agency for Health Care Administration to award billions of dollars in Medicaid managed-care contracts.
– As the use of telemedicine has increased, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 312) that expands the authority of physicians to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging Department of Health bill (SB 768) that will prevent renewal of licenses for medical-marijuana businesses that have not started to grow, process and sell cannabis.
— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bill (HB 3) that includes offering $5,000 bonuses as a tool to recruit law-enforcement officers from other states and provides $1,000 bonuses for law-enforcement officers and other first responders in Florida.
— Lawmakers approved a plan (SB 226) that will cover veterinary costs of retired law-enforcement dogs. Handlers of retired dogs will be able to receive up to $1,500 in reimbursements for annual costs.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND SPECIAL DISTRICTS
— In an issue stemming from Walt Disney Co.’s opposition to a new law involving instruction in schools about gender identity and sexual orientation, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 4-C) that will dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which plays a key role for Disney. The law takes effect Friday, starting the clock on the June 1, 2023, dissolution of Reedy Creek and five other special districts in the state.
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 105) that will allow cities and counties to restrict smoking at beaches and parks that they own. They will not be able to ban smoking unfiltered cigars.
— The Legislature passed a bill (HB 7055) that made a series of changes related to cybersecurity, including prohibiting local governments from making ransom payments when hit with “ransomware” attacks.
WATER AND INFRASTRUCTURE
— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1038) that will give Putnam County until July 1, 2024, to have a feasibility study to determine if a port could be created on the St. Johns River in Palatka.
— With the state threatened by rising sea levels, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7053) that creates a new resiliency office directly under the governor and expands the Resilient Florida Grant Program.
JUVENILES AND FATHERS
— Lawmakers passed a measure (HB 195) that will expand the ability of minors to have arrest records expunged if they complete diversion programs. The law will not apply to arrests for forcible felonies and felonies that involve the manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, possession or use of firearms.
— In a priority of the House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, lawmakers passed a bill (HB 7065) that includes creating the “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative” within the Department of Children and Families.
— In a nod to the strawberry industry around Plant City, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 1006) that designates strawberry shortcake as Florida’s official state dessert.
Health Care — Florida COVID fight ramps up
Tonight, Beyoncé is dropping her first single in two years. It’s called “Break My Soul.” Are you ready?
As COVID vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers start rolling out, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) picked a fight with the White House by not pre-ordering doses ahead of time. We’ll look at some of the implications.
DeSantis escalates feud with White House
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is escalating his feud with the White House over the COVID-19 response as he positions himself for a possible presidential campaign in 2024.
DeSantis has been taking heat from infectious diseases experts — as well as state and national Democrats — for his decision not to preorder from the federal government COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young kids.
- “The state of Florida intentionally missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest kids,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters Friday.
The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available for states to preorder.
Having a small stockpile of doses on hand meant shots can start being administered as early as June 20, if states were able to distribute them quickly enough.
But Florida was the only state that decided not to place an order. Read More
Research Provides Further Evidence that Pensions are Superior to 401(k) Plans
A new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found that retirees are exhausting their 401(k) savings at an alarming rate, providing further proof that 401(k) accounts do not provide the same level of retirement security as pensions.
Since the transition towards the 401(k) over traditional pensions in the 1980s, workers are increasingly responsible for saving for their retirement themselves. However, retirees with 401(k)s are drawing from their savings at a much faster rate than those with pensions. By age 75, 401(k) savers had $86,000 less than those who had a pension.
Financial experts and senior advocates stress that 401(k) plans do not offer the guaranteed income that pensions do. In addition, 401(k) accounts do not offer the monthly payments and withdrawal calculations of pension plans, leaving retirees to make difficult financial decisions on their own.
Now that Americans are living longer than ever before, the risk of depleting retirement savings becomes ever more concerning. About half of retirees are living past the age of 85, but many are in danger of entirely exhausting their savings before then.
“This study shows why Alliance members fight for traditional pensions,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Too few American workers are on track for secure retirements. Replacing defined benefit pension plans with 401(k)s fails workers and retirees.”
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Rule Requiring Return of Medicare Overpayments
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Medicare requirement by UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday, effectively upholding the government rule requiring Medicare Advantage insurers to promptly return any payment that was based on an unsupported diagnosis.
UnitedHealth took issue with applying 2014 law’s application to private Medicare Advantage plans. They unsuccessfully argued they were unfairly audited because Medicare Advantage plans were being treated differently from traditional Medicare. At stake were billions of dollars that Medicare Advantage insurers are now obligated to return to the federal government.
“This outcome prevents private insurers from padding their profits by pocketing money they were paid in error,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This decision is a big win for retirees who paid into Medicare with every paycheck they earned.”
New Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Limit Insulin Prices for Patients
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that promises to curb the rising cost of insulin.
The result of months of negotiations, this compromise would cap insulin costs at $35 per month for all insured Americans while eliminating some authorization hurdles that previously complicated insurance coverage of the drug. Patients with private insurance as well as those enrolled in Medicare would not be charged more than $35. However, patients without insurance are not protected by this bill.
Although Sens. Shaheen and Collins claim bipartisan support for the bill, House Republicans argue that a price cap could harm research efforts. Top Senate Democratic leaders are pledging a vote on the bill, but its fate is
uncertain with Democrats’ narrow margin in the Senate. The House passed H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act, on March 31.“Passage of this bill would be a step in the right direction. However, Congress must quickly build on it with additional legislation that lowers drug prices,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It is not a substitute for more substantial reforms, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for other drugs and limiting the overall out-of-pocket costs seniors pay for their medications.”
New Flu Vaccines Recommended for Older Americans
A CDC panel announced recommendations for older Americans to receive new, “souped-up” flu vaccines that are more effective in preventing flu-related hospitalization. The recommendations are based on findings that certain flu vaccines might offer more or longer protection for seniors, whose weakened immune systems don’t respond as well to traditional shots.
These newly-recommended shots include Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad with an immune booster, or Flublok. Although the research is still relatively new, these special flu vaccines have already proven popular, with roughly 80% of Medicare beneficiaries choosing the souped-up vaccines each year.
“Minimizing hospitalizations is important. The flu can lead to death,” said President Roach. “Particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should take advantage of the precautionary measures recommended by the CDC.”
Kaiser Health News: 100 Million People in America Are Saddled With Health Care Debt
By Noam N. Levey
Elizabeth Woodruff drained her retirement account and took on three jobs after she and her husband were sued for nearly $10,000 by the New York hospital where his infected leg was amputated.
Ariane Buck, a young father in Arizona who sells health insurance, couldn’t make an appointment with his doctor for a dangerous intestinal infection because the office said he had outstanding bills.
Allyson Ward and her husband loaded up credit cards, borrowed from relatives, and delayed repaying student loans after the premature birth of their twins left them with $80,000 in debt.
Ward, a nurse practitioner, took on extra nursing shifts, working days and nights.
“I wanted to be a mom,” she said. “But we had to have the money.”
The three are among more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows. Read more here.