Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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The Buzz 5/12/11

SACRED HEART HIT WITH $9 MILLION CUT Negotiators for the Florida House and Senate finalized their cuts to the state’s healthcare budget and agreed to make major reductions in funding of the Medicaid program.
The Northwest Florida Legislative delegation championed guns and fertilizer, but not this area’s largest employers and its most vulnerable citizens.

Hospitals, especially those that provide the most care to poor and low-income families, will take the biggest hit, with long-term care facilities close behind. Legislators approved a 12 percent cut in the rates that the state pays hospitals. Long-term facilities will be paid 6.5 percent less by the state for care provided to Medicaid patients.

For Sacred Heart Health System, whose services include the region’s only Children’s and Women’s Hospital, the cuts will mean a reduction in revenue of approximately $9 million. That comes on top of smaller reductions in recent years. Medicaid reimbursement is already so low that its payments do not cover Sacred Heart’s actual costs of providing care.

“These are very significant decreases–larger than any cut we have faced in the past,” said Laura Kaiser, president and CEO of Sacred Heart Health System. “We will carefully decide where we will have to modify or reduce services to offset the loss of funding.”

“The Legislature’s cuts in Medicaid funding will have the greatest impact on hospitals such as Sacred Heart that provide the greatest amount of healthcare to the poor and vulnerable in our community,” Kaiser said. “However, I do want to commend and thank the Legislature for their decision to continue vital funding for the Meds Aged and Disabled program and the Medically Needy program, which subsidizes medical care for patients who are seriously ill but don’t qualify for Medicaid.” In the earlier version of the budget, both of those programs had been on the chopping block under the Senate’s budget plan.

Sacred Heart provides a number of key health care services in the community and the Medicaid cuts will impact payment for thousands of children, low-income women and seniors who qualify for Medicaid. With more than 4,500 employees, Sacred Heart Health System serves as an important economic engine through its leading healthcare providers and facilities located throughout Escambia County, Walton County and Gulf County.

ROCKER HAS INFLUENCE The power broker for appointments from Gov. Rick Scott wasn’t Jim Reeves, Lewis Bear, Collier Merrill, Garrett Walton or even Clay Ford. It’s Art Rocker, statewide chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former charter school leader.

The buzz is that Rocker is the one who got Jayprakash “Jay” Patel the latest appointment to the University of West Florida Board of Trustees, via Rocker’s relationship with Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Patel, 47, of Pensacola, is the chairman and chief executive officer of LHS Companies. He succeeds Jeanne Godwin and is appointed for a term beginning May 5, 2011, and ending January 6, 2016.

Before you feel sorry for Merrill and Bear, Gov. Scott slipped into Pensacola on Monday, May 9 to dine with the pair. It’s still too early to say who will have control of the local patronage under Scott.

LEAGUE STOPS VOTER REGISTRATION The League of Women Voters of Florida announced that it will cease voter registration in the state of Florida upon implementation of HB 1355. The bill, which is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature, calls for a massive overhaul of the election process in Florida.

The early voting period, which has been very popular statewide, has been shortened from two weeks to one. Voters can no longer update their address at the polls. They can vote, but their votes will be marked as provisional ballots. And their votes might be counted–if needed.

What caused the League to halt its voter registration drives are the stricter rules passed by the Republican lawmakers. Voter registration workers will need to sign sworn affidavits before participating in drives. The time groups have to return registration forms would shrink from 10 days to two.

The short turnaround gives groups no time to remedy incomplete applications. Not with the threat of steep fines for late voter applications hanging over their heads.

The League of Women Voters has asked Gov. Scott to veto the bill. Deirdre Macnab, League president, issued the following statement on Monday, May 9:

“It is with great regret that the League of Women Voters of Florida announces that we must cease our voter registration efforts in this state should HB 1355, the elections bill recently passed by the Florida legislature, become law.
“Despite the fact that the League of Women Voters is one of the nation’s most respected civic organizations, with a 91-year history of registering and educating voters, we will be unable to comply with the egregious provisions contained in HB 1355. Not only does the bill make it more difficult for voters to participate in our democracy via a decrease in early voting and new policies regarding address changes at the polls, it also imposes an undue burden on groups such as ours that work to register voters.

“Under the false pretext of reducing ‘fraud,’ Florida’s legislative leaders have instituted a law that will shut down the efforts of groups such as the League, the Boy Scouts, student groups, civic organizations and others who undertake the important task of helping citizens get registered to vote.

“While the League remains committed to empowering an active and informed citizenry, we cannot and will not place our thousands of volunteers at risk, subjecting them to a process in which one late form could result in their facing financial and civil penalties.

“By passing HB 1355, the legislature has declared war on voters. Effective immediately, the League will begin to explore legal remedies. In the meantime, the League urges Governor Rick Scott to stand up for democracy and veto HB 1355.”

NEW UNITED WAY CEO At Five Flags Rotary Club, the United Way of Escambia County Selection Committee announced Andrea Farage as the organization’s new president/CEO. For the past 10 years, Farage has served as the executive director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida, where her responsibilities included strategic planning, grant funding, organizational growth, federal regulation compliance, and marketing and public relations management.

Farage played an instrumental role in planning and executing the recent $5 million capital campaign that funded last year’s new construction of the Ronald McDonald House in Pensacola. Completed in August 2010, the 26-bedroom facility was successfully paid off within seven months of opening.

Besides Ronald McDonald House, she has volunteered her time to Grant A Wish, Crimestoppers, LeaP, United Way, Panhandle Bay Area Literacy Coalition and many other organizations. Farage currently serves as a board member for the Downtown Rotary Club and Central Credit Union and is a member of Liberty Sertoma.

She is a graduate of Florida State University and began her career as an English teacher at Tate High School. She then worked as the Newspapers in Education Manager for Pensacola News Journal before assuming her role as Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida.

WHAT’S IN A NAME Pensacola’s new Double AA baseball team found it much harder than expected when it came to narrowing down all the names submitted for its “Name the Team” contest. Trademark restriction hampered the process. The IN asked Quint Studer, team owner, about the six finalists: Mullets, Blue Wahoo, Redbones, Aviators, Loggerheads and Salty Dogs.

“These were the ones that were most mentioned. Many were eliminated due to trademark issues,” said Studer. “Thank you for letting people know. The key was finding six non-protected names.”
Studer said no decision has been made on the final name. “Due to people’s excitement there are people having fun with names, logos, etc. We have not done any samples yet.”

The voting runs May 5-15. It can be done at all Wendy’s locations in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties; Pensacola News Journal, 101 E. Romana St., downtown Pensacola; and the Northwest Florida Professional Baseball office, 41 N. Jefferson St. Suite 111, downtown Pensacola.

Voting ballots can be found in the Pensacola News Journal, Pelican community magazines and GoPensacola, or voting can be done online at pnj.com/baseball. Voters must be 13 years or older, and only one vote per person is allowed. The winning entry will be announced May 23 at Cordova Park Elementary School.

FCAT WRITING SUCCESS, SORT OF The Escambia County Public School District showed improvement on the FCAT writing, although less than half of the schools met or exceeded the state average. Only two schools failed to improve on their 2010 percentage of 4 or above scores. One of those was Ernest Ward Middle, which still bested the state average.

Of the 67 counties in Florida, Escambia County fourth graders are tied at 52nd; eighth graders tied at 47th; and tenth graders are tied at 22nd.

Only 27 percent of the 33 elementary schools in Escambia County surpassed the state average on the FCAT writing–nine schools. All the schools bested their 2010 percentage of 4 or above scores, except for McArthur. The biggest
improvements were Allie Yniestra, Navy Point, Montclair, O.J. Semmes and Lincoln Park. Ferry Pass, Longleaf and West Pensacola are still struggling, although Longleaf improved by 20 points.

Only four of the nine middle schools that aren’t charter schools scored higher than the state average on the FCAT writing (percentage 4 or above). However, all but one school improved their scores over 2010. Ernest Ward saw its score drop, but still exceeded the state average.

The most improved middle schools were Jim Bailey and Woodham, although Woodham still failed to best the state average. Ransom again surpassed Brown Barge, a magnet school.

The high schools did well on the writing. Only two, Pensacola and Escambia, failed to best the state average. The most improved high schools were Northview and Washington.