Corizon, controversial prison health provider, walks away from Florida contract

Corizon, which has drawn heat for its prison health services, is walking away from $1.2 billion state contract
Corizon, which has drawn heat for its prison health services, is walking away from $1.2 billion state contract

Embattled Corizon Health on Monday terminated its $1.2 billion contract to provide health services in more than 150 Florida prisons and corrections facilities across the northern and central parts of the state.

The company is facing a federal class-action lawsuit from inmates over the quality of care they received. Corizon also has been fined almost $70,000 for failing to meet standards set by the state.

The five-year contract with Tennessee-based Corizon began in 2013, with a similar contract for the state’s southern tier of prisons also launched then with Wexford Health Sources. Wexford’s contract is worth $240 million.

In the breakup, Corizon said it will end its contract in 180 days. Corizon broke the news Monday in a meeting with Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones.

“In the coming months, Secretary Jones will work closely with the Department’s Office of Health Services to ensure that the appropriate staff and resources are available at our facilities to continue seamless delivery of appropriate medical care to our inmate population,” DOC said in a statement.

“While Corizon has terminated its contract with the Department of Corrections, we will continue our partnership with Wexford Health Sources and will work closely with their leadership throughout this process,” the department added.

A Palm Beach Post series has cited wholesale flaws in inmate health care – much of it involving the state’s private contractors. The Post also has reported that inmate death reports weren’t regularly submitted to the state by the private companies and medical exams showing whether inmates were injured by guards were missing in 2013 and 2014.

With scrutiny of DOC and its contracted health services heightening, Jones earlier this year said she planned to reopen bidding for prison contracts before the start of 2016.

In its letter to Jones, Corizon’s CEO, Karey Witty, offered no insight into why it was walking away from Florida. But Witty did say efforts would be attempted to assure a smooth transition.

“In the interest of continuity of patient care and stability of operations, we look forward to convening with your Health Services and other staff to begin the planning of a transition schedule,” Witty wrote. “We also seek to mitigate employee concerns regarding their future employment, to create a stable environment for safe and effective clinical care for the patients during this changeover.”

 

 

Florida Republicans, Democrats set candidate lineup for March presidential primary

Florida Republican and Democratic parties set lineup for March 15 presidential primary.
Florida Republican and Democratic parties set lineup for March 15 presidential primary.

The roster of candidates for Florida’s March 15 presidential primary is set, with Republicans offering a list of 14 names and Democrats, their three contenders.

The deadline for submitting the lineup to the Florida Secretary of State was Monday. The Republican roster includes their announced candidates — including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who recently suspended his presidential candidacy, but not former New York Gov. George Pataki, who is still running but failed to meet the state party’s qualifying standards.

The Florida Republican Party gave candidates three options for getting on the ballot: Attend the recent Sunshine Summit in Orlando; pay $25,000; or obtain 3,375 signatures from registered Florida Republican voters across the state’s congressional districts.

By contrast, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele said the party allowed all declared major candidates to get a spot on the ballot. That means Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley will be on the primary ballot for Democrats.

South Florida officials get ally in fight against effects of climate change

A park in the town of Palm Beach following a high tide last October.
A park in the town of Palm Beach following a high tide last October.

South Florida officials, who have been clamoring for years to get state help in countering flooding and seawater intrusion tied to global warming, have an ally in the Florida League of Cities.

The organization said Monday that it is supporting any legislation aimed at gauging the impact of rising ocean water and helping local governments coordinate among themselves to ease the problem.

Money?

“That’s what it’s going to take,” said Rebecca O’Hara, a league lobbyist.

For his part, Gov. Rick Scott in his $79.3 billion budget proposal released last week, calls for a relatively routine state government step.

Scott, who is among those mostly Republican elected officials who refuse to acknowledge that climate change is occurring, recommends spending $5.8 million for land acquisition near Biscayne Bay, $1 million for the state’s coastal zone management program and $25 million for beach renourishment.

South Florida water managers two years ago submitted a report that showed climate change causing sea level on the state’s Atlantic Coast to climb nine inches over the past century.

That rate is accelerating and could advance an at least an additional nine inches over the next 50 years, analysts have concluded.

Evidence of the changes are already being seen across South Florida, where regional flooding and saltwater intrusion is becoming common in area canals and waterways. Many coastal streets in Palm Beach County now flood during higher-than-usual ‘king’ tides and even normal high tides, officials said.

South Florida lawmakers, though, not only struggle to get fellow legislators to steer dollars or programs their way, they continue to work on convincing colleagues that the region’s problems have a statewide impact.

After long intra-party feud, Negron to be designated next Senate President this week

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, (left) is set to be designated Senate President this week. Sen. Jack Latvala (right) dropped his challenge to Negron's bid this month.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, (left) is set to be designated Senate President this week. Sen. Jack Latvala (right) dropped his challenge to Negron’s bid this month.

Sen. Joe Negron is set to be designated this week as the next president of the Florida Senate, with the event following the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast Republican lawmaker’s successful capping of a long intra-party fight for the top post.

The 26-member Republican caucus, which controls the 40-member Senate, is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m., Wednesday to formally select Negron as the chamber’s next leader.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, earlier set the date. But Negron’s claim remained clouded until earlier this month because of a challenge from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who had his own pack of supporters.

Latvala, though, abruptly dropped his bid for the presidency in the closing hours of a special session on Senate redistricting. In throwing his support to Negron, whose district currently includes northern Palm Beach County, Latvala was named appropriations chairman under his former rival.

In the exchange, Negron will rise to one of the most powerful posts in state government, provided that Republicans maintain their Senate majority following next November’s elections. Latvala gets arguably the most influential job beneath the Senate president.

Less clear, however, is where Senate districts fall — and whether Negron, who lives in Stuart, will continue to represent Palm Beach County.

Lawmakers failed to reach a consensus during the special session on redistricting, leaving it to Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds to sort through proposed maps, sending what he considers the best to the Florida Supreme Court, which will decide the matter.  A trial is set for Dec. 14-18.

In the map recommended to Reynolds by the Florida Senate, Negron’s district is pushed out of Palm Beach County. But in four maps proposed by a voters’ coalition challenging the Senate’s line-drawing, Negron would continue to represent a northern portion of the county.

 

Voters’ coalition urges judge to reject Senate plan favoring Republicans, adopt one that disrupts Palm Beach County incumbents

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds has scheduled a Senate redistricting trial for next month.
Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds has scheduled a Senate redistricting trial for next month.

The voters’ coalition challenging state Senate district boundaries shed some light on arguments it will make to a court next month which will consider four proposed maps submitted by the coalition and one by the Republican-led Senate.

In newly filed papers with Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds, the coalition urges him to endorse one of its maps while dismissing the Senate plan as still clouded by partisan politics.

The Senate proposal effectively combines two staff-drawn “base maps” considered during last month’s special session, which ended with the House and Senate failing to agree on a single legislative plan to submit to the court.

“The Senate will declare it to be a mere coincidence that Senate map 1 is more favorable for Republicans than any of the base maps,” wrote David King, attorney for the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause-Florida.

He added, “Purported coincidences benefiting the Republican Party have, of course, abounded in these proceedings.”

In its court filing, the coalition cites problems with the boundaries of many of the 40 Senate districts proposed by the chamber’s leaders.

Generally, the voters’ groups argue that lines were drawn to avoid pairing incumbent Republicans in the same district while casting boundaries that would assure the Republican Party maintained close to its current, 26-14-seat dominance in the chamber.

By contrast, in court documents the coalition said the four maps it has given the court to review are superior — led by one that splits fewer cities than the Senate plan and creates four districts likely to elect an Hispanic in South Florida, compared with three Hispanic seats in the Senate’s own proposal.

The coalition maps also narrows the Democrat-Republican voting split across the 40 districts to an  almost equal balance.

A trial is set for Dec. 14-18 for settling on a proposal that can be sent to the state Supreme Court, which has taken over the line-drawing from the Legislature.

Under the map proposed by the Senate, Palm Beach County would lose a Senate seat — the district currently held by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart — but retain three districts held by Democrats in close to their current configurations.

But those plans submitted by the voters’ coalition could cause more political disruption in the county.

The coalition maps keep a portion of Negron’s district in Palm Beach County and make changes to the three Democratic-held seats.

Negron would take in the county’s northwest area. But Sens. Joe Abruzzo of Wellington and Maria Sachs of Delray Beach could be forced to tangle for a district that includes portions of each lawmaker’s current district.

A western Palm Beach County district, including the Glades area, comprising much of Abruzzo’s district, would loop south into Boca Raton and Broward County, taking in voters Sachs currently serves.

Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth would mostly be unaffected by the coalition’s proposals, retaining most of the area he currently represents in the central county.

The third county Senate seat would include West Palm Beach north to the Martin County line, taking in part of the area Abruzzo now serves. For now, that looks like it could be up for grabs.

 

Jeb Bush to speak at Forum Club of the Palm Beaches on Dec. 28

Jeb Bush speaking at an October rally in Punta Gorda.
Jeb Bush speaking at an October rally in Punta Gorda.

The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches has added Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to its luncheon schedule.

Bush will speak Dec. 28 at noon at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Presidential hopefuls are a Forum Club tradition, dating to Democrat Jimmy Carter‘s appearance at the nonpartisan club’s first-ever lunch back in 1976.

Tickets for the Bush speech are $40 for Forum Club members, $50 for guests of members and $75 for the general public. Information is available on the Forum Club’s website.

Scott proposes — but will Legislature go along or dispose of spending plan, tax breaks?

Gov. Rick Scott getting fitted with a microphone before speaking to the Manufacturers Association of Florida recently in West Palm Beach.
Gov. Rick Scott getting fitted with a microphone before speaking to the Manufacturers Association of Florida recently in West Palm Beach.

Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his $79.3 billion budget proposal this week — but soon it will be the Legislature’s turn to crack into it.

A host of legislative panels are slated next week to review Scott’s spending plan, topped by the full House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and its Senate counterpart the next day. Scott budget director Cynthia Kelly is the likely presenter on behalf of the governor’s office.

Panels covering education, transportation and economic development, health and human services and other areas also get to dissect Scott’s plan over the course of the week.

Scott’s $1 billion tax-cut package, which is directed chiefly at slashing business taxes, is scheduled to be reviewed Tuesday by the House Finance and Tax Committee.

The House actually proposed an even bigger tax-reduction plan than the almost $700 million pitched by the governor last year, only to have both efforts scaled back by the Senate to the final $429 million mark.

Voters’ coalition drops pair of Senate maps, leaving court with five plans to review at trial

David King, attorney for the voters' coalition
David King, attorney for the voters’ coalition

The voters’ coalition that challenged Florida Senate district boundaries dropped two of the six proposed maps Tuesday that they submitted in advance of a trial next month.

The proposals withdrawn kept a minority-dominated Senate district in Hillsborough County, without crossing Tampa Bay to include black neighborhoods in Pinellas County.

In his filing with Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds, David King, attorney for the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause-Florida, said abandoning the effort to avoid crossing the bay was intended to “narrow the issues for trial and ensure that African-Americans retain their ability to elect candidates of choice.”

The state Senate has submitted proposed boundaries. And the voters’ group now has four maps for Reynolds to consider. A trial is set for Dec. 14-18 for settling on a proposal that can be sent to the state Supreme Court, which has taken over the line-drawing from the Legislature.

Palm Beach County would lose a Senate seat — the district currently held by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart — but retain three districts held by Democrats in close to their current configurations, under the map proposed by the Senate.

But those submitted by the voters’ coalition could cause more political disruption in the county.

The coalition maps keep a portion of Negron’s district in Palm Beach County and make changes to the three Democratic-held seats.

Negron would take in the county’s northwest area. But Sens. Joe Abruzzo of Wellington and Maria Sachs of Delray Beach could be forced to tangle for a district that includes portions of each lawmaker’s current district.

A western Palm Beach County district, including the Glades area, comprising much of Abruzzo’s district, would loop south into Boca Raton and Broward County, taking in voters Sachs currently serves.

Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth would mostly be unaffected by the coalition’s proposals, retaining most of the area he currently represents in the central county.

The third county Senate seat would include West Palm Beach north to the Martin County line, taking in part of the area Abruzzo now serves. For now, that looks like it could be up for grabs.

 

Valeche latest county official to endorse Scott’s pitch for economic development cash

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche weighed in Tuesday supporting Gov. Rick Scott’s pitch for the Legislature to give him $250 million for economic incentive efforts.

Valeche, a Republican, joins fellow Commissioner Steven Abrams and West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio in echoing Scott’s proposal. The local government officials say that beefing up available cash for the economic development partnership, Enterprise Florida, could help lure companies and jobs to the county.

Scott has been asking local officials to sign letters mostly aimed at prodding the Florida Senate, which has resisted his pitch, into giving him the money next year.

“Having previously served as a board member of Enterprise Florida, I am acutely aware that the State’s partnership with Palm Beach County has been integral in creating great jobs in our community, in fields such as marine industries, manufacturing and the high tech sector,” Valeche said.

Scott’s plan was included in his $79.3 billion budget proposal released Tuesday. The approach gives lawmakers a role — requiring legislative leaders to sign off on any incentives topping $1 million. It also is intended to toughen the job-creating standards for companies seeking the incentive cash to relocate or expand in Florida.

Democratic power broker Murray Kalish, 1918-2015

Murray Kalish, founder of the United South County Democratic Club, at one of the club's meetings in 2012. (J. Gwendolynne Berry/The Palm Beach Post)
Murray Kalish, founder of the United South County Democratic Club, at one of the club’s meetings in 2012. (J. Gwendolynne Berry/The Palm Beach Post)

Murray Kalish helped former Democratic U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler and Ron Klein, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and several other Democrats launch their political careers.

 

The retired garment manufacturer, whose endorsement on a palm card was coveted by south-county Democratic politicians for decades, died Friday of natural causes in west Delray Beach. He was 97.

 

“Old power brokers never die,” said longtime Delray Beach political operative Andre Fladell, who worked with Kalish on bringing a courthouse to Delray Beach and the South County Civic Center to Jog Road. “The new power brokers simply take credit for the things that the old guys did.”

 

Read more about Kalish and what Wexler, Klein and others had to say about him by clicking here.