Florida Five: School choice boosted by election, Respected political writer canned

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

school-choice (2)
Watchdog.org file photo

Election altered balance of Florida’s school choice debate – The state representatives who lost their seats last week had more in common than their political party. Three of the six Democrats were classroom teachers who supported the teachers union — and opposed plans to grow the school voucher program. Voucher advocates say they invested “substantial” resources into toppling the three incumbents — former state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel of Maitland, Mark Danish of Tampa and Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor — as well as former state Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando. The advocates’ political committee, the Florida Federation for Children, spent $1.31 million on political races in Florida in 2013 and 2014, records show. Read more

Report: Florida hospitals could lose billions without Medicaid expansion – Florida legislators’ refusal to expand the eligibility criteria for Medicaid as called for under the Affordable Care Act might cost billions of dollars in lost funding for hospitals that treat many uninsured patients, according to a report released Monday by Florida Legal Services, a nonprofit legal advocate for the poor. The financial impact would be felt most acutely by so-called “safety net” hospitals statewide, and in Miami-Dade, particularly by the taxpayer-owned Jackson Health System, according to Florida Legal, which estimated that Jackson could lose more than $570 million a year. Read more

Tampa Trib lays off venerable political writer William March – Bad news for Florida politics: The Tampa Tribune yesterday afternoon suddenly and apparently without warning laid off its well-respected political writer William March, who had been with Tampa Bay’s smaller newspaper since 1984. He began covering state politics in 1994 when a young GOP activist in Miami named Jeb Bush had the gumption to think he could win the GOP nomination for governor against much more experienced candidates. Read more

Visit Florida offers $2.5M in medical tourism grants – Florida’s official tourism marketing organization Visit Florida has announced a new $2.5 million grant program to assist state businesses in promoting themselves as a medical tourism destination. Funded by the Florida legislature, the program consists of two grants: one for medical tourism destination promotion and a second for medical meetings and training promotion, according to a news release by Visit Florida. The grants aim to help increase awareness of existing medical tourism products and services in the state, as well as strengthen Florida as a preferred destination to host medical conferences, meetings and training programs. Read more

Orlando effort would replace ER visits with housing for homeless – When outreach workers begin placing chronically homeless people in free apartments next year, it won’t be hard to figure out who makes the list. The plan to bring enough permanent supportive housing to Orlando to cut the area’s chronically homeless population in half will target the relatively small group of people on the streets who have frequent flier status at the area’s hospital emergency rooms. “We absolutely will be targeting those who have the most disabilities, the most mental illness,” said Andrae Bailey, CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. “Many of those people are dying on our streets every day.” They’re the chronically homeless people who cost taxpayers and hospitals the most, with repeated expensive visits for which they cannot pay. That’s one reason Florida Hospital announced Tuesday its pledge of $6 million to address homelessness. Read more

Bonus: Real ‘fighting owl’ terrorizes neighborhood

For more Florida political news, visit BPR’s FLORIDA NEWS page

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